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Activists ask eBay to remove items

©Associated Press
February 22, 2003

Activists on Friday asked the Internet auction giant eBay to stop listing items they say are racially offensive and demeaning to blacks.

The Southern California groups said eBay is violating its policy that discourages sellers from listing items that promote racial intolerance.

The groups displayed cast-iron banks they said were examples of items listed on eBay. One was a caricature of a black person, with large red lips, dark skin and rolling eyes, that had been described on eBay using the n-word.

"This is what they think of us," said Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Inglewood, Calif.-based National Alliance for Positive Action, a racial and social justice public advocacy group. "This shows the absolute utter contempt many in the society still have for African-Americans even today."

eBay spokesman Kevin Pursglove said he was unaware of the alliance's efforts to reach the company. eBay removes listings using words in ways that are "abusive or offensive or degrading or in any way disparaging," Pursglove said.

But it doesn't strike listings that use such words to describe items. For example, some book or album titles use a racial slur in their titles, Pursglove said.

"What we've always tried to do is strike a balance between the sensitivities of eBay users with the desire of eBay users to buy and sell merchandise," he said.

But Hutchinson and others say it's especially painful to find listings for books, prints, card games, antique glass sets, tobacco tins and other items that use a racial slur and are sometimes described as "cute" or "adorable."

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