Walmart Apologizes For 'Perfect Wall Art' Of Japanese Internment Camps

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The retail store originally suggested the artwork would be "perfect" for any home or office space decoration. They have since removed the product.

If you’re looking for redecorating tips for this holiday season, please try to avoid this suggestion from Walmart.

The retail giant recently made a recommendation on its website that artwork depicting Japanese internment in the United States during World War II would be the perfect piece of decor for your living room.

“The perfect Wall Art for any home, bedroom, playroom, classroom, dorm room or office workspace,” the artwork caption read.

The images first grabbed the attention of social media users after author Jamie Ford sent out a tweet last week. Ford asked why Walmart was selling these images and profiting from them, including an image in his critique of a child waiting to be taken off to an internment camp.

Walmart immediately removed the images from its product line and issued a statement apologizing for the mistake. The company reached out to the Japanese American Citizens League, which posted its apology on their Facebook page.

“The description used for these products was beyond tone-deaf, and unfortunately it wasn’t caught by us or the marketplace seller who listed these products on our site,” the apology reads.

Companies that sell generic artwork for living spaces oftentimes scour public domain images for their products. They use these images as prints, disregarding who is depicted and what the context of the photographs may be. Retail stores then sell them, often without asking about the background or history the image depicts.

The problem isn’t just at Walmart.

“The sale of images from Japanese-American incarceration camps can be found on a variety of marketplaces, including Amazon, among other sites,” said Natasha Varner, communications director at Densho, a Japanese-American nonprofit dedicated to educating the public about internment camps during World War II.

Walmart's apology seems sincere, but more should be done. Monitoring of images that get posted to Walmart’s site, or sold in its stores, must be more vigilant. These types of artwork are important to remember history by — but when they are sold to make a profit by a retailer, with the significance behind them forgotten or ignored, a grave injustice occurrs.

Walmart should rectify this situation by pledging to be more cautious about what types of art it posts and sells. Their swift response is admirable, but it's hardly enough.

 Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Daniel Becerril

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