Politics, Philosophy, Polemics

Archive for the ‘Discrimination’ Category

On Bookstores, Single Men, and Collective Guilt

In Discrimination on June 7, 2012 at 12:00 PM

My interest has been piqued by the following news item from June 3:

A Scottsdale man is claiming that a Barnes & Noble bookstore discriminated against him when an employee forced him out of the store because he was a male shopper alone in the children’s area.

Omar Amin, 73, said store worker Todd Voris told him that a female shopper had complained about him being in the children’s area May 4 in the store at Shea Boulevard and Loop 101 in Scottsdale.

Amin, who was alone at the time, said he was in Barnes & Noble to buy books for his two grandchildren who live in Wisconsin.

“Men alone cannot be by themselves in the children’s area,” Amin said he was told, adding that Voris said other bookstores had encountered problems with child molesters.

Voris, when contacted by The Arizona Republic on Thursday, referred the call to a district manager.

Mary Ellen Keating, a Barnes & Noble spokeswoman in New York, said in an e-mail response: “We have no comment on the store matter you called about. We believe we acted appropriately.”

Following the press attention, Barnes & Noble have put out a statement where they apologised:

We want to apologize to Dr. Amin for a situation in which Dr. Amin was asked to leave the children’s section of our Scottsdale, Ariz., store. We should not have done so. It is not our policy to ask customers to leave any section of our stores without justification.

Those people in favour of the free market would say that Barnes & Noble should have the right to serve anyone they wish to serve and the right to refuse to serve, or request to leave their premises, anyone else. I concur with this view, but that is an aside. The reason why Dr. Amin was asked to leave the store was because he was an unaccompanied male. The logic was that there had been problems with child molester in bookstores, and, I presume, that these molesters were unaccompanied males, hence it was deemed that it was an appropriate response to escort unaccompanied males from the premises.  The problem with this logic is intuitive: even if it were true, and it is not, that all child molesters were unaccompanied males, it does not follow that all unaccompanied males are child molesters. Cafe Mom blogger Jeanne Sager makes the point effectively:

I am sick and tired of the tired old “man around kids must be a pedophile” reaction. It’s unfair to the millions of males in this world who wouldn’t dream of such base and disgusting actions.

Had a store escorted a black male off the premises because there had recently been a spate of thefts linked to black males, or had a car showroom refused to allow a woman to test drive a car because it took the view that women were bad drivers and more likely to crash, there would be uproar.  The actions of Barnes & Noble employee Todd Voris should be considered in the same light.

Hat Tip: Martin Robb