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Confessions of a Mall Rat

4,316 words

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I’m not sure why, exactly, but I have always loved malls. I’ve always enjoyed people-watching, so I’m sure that’s a fairly significant contributor. I enjoy the snacks in the food court, the music, and taking in the designs and brand concepts of many different stores all in one place. Although I still enjoy the mall and frequent them often, there has been a noticeable shift over the years. This ever-present gnawing feeling that something is off and perhaps slipping away.

The decline of the American mall is often attributed to online shopping, which came to prominence many years after several of my local malls had been struggling once the local white population moved away and was replaced by nonwhites. Although online shopping represented about 16% of total retail sales in 2019, the highest it has ever been, this does not really tell the whole story of the death of the American mall [2]. Malls in certain areas have been struggling since online shopping had a mere couple of percent of the total retail sales — and in some places, even before that. Some online-only stores have moved to brick-and-mortar, and the nature of retail itself has shifted towards the “experience economy,” meaning the answer to why some malls fail cannot be attributed summarily to online shopping [3]. Brick and mortar stores still command over 80% of the retail market. Moreover, that 16% of online retail does not necessarily represent a direct 16% loss to brick-and-mortar stores due to overall growth trends and the shift towards the experiences economy mitigating losses caused by online shopping.

Blaming online retail for why some malls fail is a rather clumsy attempt to explain retail and demographic trends that people may not fully understand. Similarly, I often see comments by people who think arcades failed because of home video game systems. It simply does not tell the entire story, and fails to account for “arcade bars” in mostly white, often gentrified, areas that are doing very well.

Some malls have closed due to the overbuilding of retail spaces and cannibalizing each other, others did not adapt quickly enough to the experience economy. More and more, we see malls anchored with high-end gyms, salons, spas, restaurants, theatres, fresh-format grocers, and bars.

You can learn a lot about the health of a community and a nation by walking through its malls. Do single women, teenagers, and the elderly feel safe going there and walking around for a while in the evenings? Or do they fear what may await them in the parking garages? I know women who won’t go anywhere out at night out of fear, a sure sign social capital has broken down significantly.

There are many ways one might measure what we could call “anti-social capital.” Social capital being the measure of social cohesion, community involvement, interpersonal trust, how well you know your neighbors and community members, how many friends you have, safety and security, that sort of thing; anti-social capital being metrics that track a breakdown in all of that. One of the more fascinating measures of anti-social capital I have come across is security guard employment figures. From 1960 to 1980 to 2000, the number of security guards in the United States increased from around 250,000 to 600,000 then to over 1,000,000, respectively — more than doubling in the twenty years from 1960 to 1980, then an increase of about seventy percent in the next twenty years. In the last ten years, America has added another 100,000 security guard jobs [4]. If you’re familiar with national demographics, you’ll know that the overall percentage of whites has been declining in the United States since the mid-1960s after the drastic change in immigration law, and accelerated over time with further changes to border and immigration policy.

This all says quite a few things about society as a whole: we are less trusting and more paranoid about crime and security. According to the data on social capital, the primary reason is the increase in racial diversity. The more people in our community that are dissimilar and the less they have in common, the more social capital breaks down. Rather intuitive; the less you have in common with a person or a group, the less you can agree on, the fewer shared experiences you have, the more difficult it is to create and maintain meaningful relationships.

City Lab’s article on anti-social capital included data on security guards per 1,000 residents across 53 U.S. cities. While scrolling through the list I thought I had noticed a pattern — that the cities with a lower percent white population (based on my personal knowledge of national and regional demographics and travel) had more security guards. To test my hunch, we [1] [5] charted the security guard data by city, then found the white percent of the population and ran an analysis that found statically significant results.

As the white population in a city declines, the number of security guards hired increases. This cannot be merely a function of larger metropolitan areas needing more security guards per capita, as similarly sized cities have different needs for security. The answer is something most will not discuss openly: as the nonwhite population increases, so too does the need for enforcement of social norms we take for granted.

This data and revelation made me think of my own local malls around town. There used to be five malls in the city, in the north, south, east, west, and downtown. Of those five, only one remains, and it’s nearly empty. Each of the five had problems with crime, shoppers feeling unsafe, and their surrounding area turning from mostly white to mostly nonwhite. Three new malls were built further from the city, along the outer belt in the suburbs. One of the malls began to have serious crime problems — rampant retail theft, muggings, people abducted in parking garages, shootings, and gang fights. In response, that mall hired a small army of security guards and started to enforce curfews and dress codes where they would ask groups of “teens” who were not accompanied by adults or wearing certain clothes to leave. Of course, the curfew was not needed to police white teenagers. It is quite clear the original five malls closed as white people fled diversity and are willing to move further out to have pleasant shopping experiences. People simply will not go shop and eat and relax where they are afraid to go.

Upon the closure of a long-standing mall in Virginia, a local newspaper reported [6] that the mall was a common destination for decades, but began to change in the 1990s as demographics changed. “Cloverleaf’s best customers, women, began staying away from the mall, fearful of the youth who were beginning to congregate there. People [said a former Cloverleaf manager] started seeing kids with huge baggy pants and chains hanging off their belts, and people were intimidated, and they would say there were gangs.” If I have heard this sentiment once, I’ve heard it a thousand times (and, just to be clear, I have indeed heard it a thousand times).

You can tell more about the health of a local economy by its mall than by the GDP or stock indexes. You really get a feel for how the white working class and their children are doing — the group that arguably matters most to the overall health of our nations.
Malls that have remained strong generally have two major features. The first is favorable demographics. The second is that they have made the transition towards what is called the “experience economy.” Both of these elements are necessary. Good demographics, but with stale brands that are failing or an over-saturation of retail spaces that compete fiercely, can kill a mall; by the same token, an otherwise great mall with solid anchors can be destroyed by downward-trending demographics and the crime that inevitably accompanies this. Countless articles written by urban planners to university professors discuss the decline of the American mall. While they fail to reach a consensus as to the reason(s) some malls die and others flourish, they all somehow manage never to mention what I believe to be the key factor: That certain demographics of people attract and promote business growth, while others drive away businesses. Their omission is so glaring and obvious that, regardless of the (predictable, tiresome, and cowardly) excuses therefore, we may fairly presume it to be intentional. [2] [7]

Younger generations tend to spend more money on “experiences” than on things. You might notice that a mall that once housed several shoe stores perhaps now has fewer shoe retailers, but an increase in bars, restaurants, spas, gyms, theatres, and comedy clubs. Some retailers are offering in-store yoga classes; others offer cooking lessons. This is what is meant by the shift towards the “experience economy.” Retail spaces are increasingly turning into something more, a destination unto themselves.

It is not my contention that the malls which have declined or died did so solely due to diversity. It is, however, my contention that racial demographic changes are a significant and obvious factor that is nauseatingly tiptoed-around by city planners and retail experts. Further, the mall experience itself — along with the corner store, gas station, the arcade, the fast-food restaurant, and many other day-to-day experiences in our society — are negatively affected on an unfathomable scale by the presence of alien races. Their mere existence among us feels like terrorism — a subtle form of terror that serves as a constant reminder that not only are you replaceable, you are being replaced.

It is clear from crime data and news reports that there are segments of society that cause a disproportionate amount of discord. In what the media are (absurdly) calling “flash mobs [8]” or “organized retail crime,” gangs of blacks are going into stores and ransacking the merchandise. In Wisconsin, ten blacks looted a North Face store in broad daylight, stealing $30,000 worth of goods. Four black women did the same [9] in an Ulta Beauty store in California, looting colognes and perfumes in a pack and then running off. These brazen criminal acts are happening more and more frequently, to the point that they are no longer making national, or even local, news — it’s simply written off as the cost of doing business with diversity. Adding the cost of shrinkage, or theft, onto the paying consumers is estimated to cost an extra $423 per American household [10]. The additional cost of security guards is just another of the litany of “diversity taxes” whites must pay as they are factored into the costs of doing business. Shoplifting, more car wrecks, property crime, etc. — all of these costs are ultimately carried by white society. We have to pay more just to live our day-to-day lives and to buy everyday things, all because of forced racial diversity.

We shouldn’t have to live this way. 

Nor will realistic solutions to such problems be afforded to whites. Mega-retailer Walmart, for example, came under heavy journalist and social media attacks for the practice of keeping certain beauty and hair products locked behind glass or in a cage — beauty products specifically used by blacks and found in the “multicultural hair care” section of the store. Walmart was accused of “racism” [11] and “racial profiling.” After waiting for an employee to unlock a product, a black customer in New York asked an associate why black hair products were under lock and key, causing her to wait several minutes to have them unlocked, but not hair products for white people. The associate replied, “Well, people have been stealing.” To which the black shopper replied, “It’s just not right that I have to wait for a key to get shampoo and conditioner and my fellow [white] shopper does not.” Of course, white shoppers are clearly not stealing at the high rate black shoppers are, but it is not as though such a patently obvious thing would be acknowledged by these people.

https://twitter.com/Kadia2_/status/955284663064342528?s=20 [12]

Many social media comments expressed anger and outrage at the idea that products that are stolen more frequently would be locked. So, to recap, the clown-world situation here is that (1) blacks were stealing hair care products at such a rate that in order to keep costs down, (2) stores took steps to mitigate theft losses, and then (3) blacks screamed racism and demanded that everybody be as inconvenienced as they are due to the poor behavior and criminality of their own race. None of those upset seemed to grasp the key issue was, in fact, black theft (or, perhaps, none of them were willing to admit that was the key issue — either way, nobody should consider their complaints worthy of anything but mockery). Instead of a modicum of introspection at the behavior of their race, they decried “racism” and demanded that we all suffer due to criminality so common amongst their race that it caused Walmarts all over the nation to have to find a solution. One black customer sued Walmart [13] for damages due to her alleged “pain, sadness, and humiliation” caused by Walmart locking up the ethnic hair care products.

In an increasingly diverse society, a once-routine mall excursion that we all took for granted can quickly turn into a hostile and dangerous experience. Leisurely afternoons enjoying a giant pretzel and people-watching are being eroded and replaced with concern of exotic diseases or finding yourself a bystander to, or victim of, a violent crime.

If you don’t feel comfortable with letting your kids, wife, girlfriend, parents, or others you care about go to the mall without you, then you probably don’t live in as “free” a country as you might have thought. We now have to worry that our child might get thrown off a balcony [14], breaking limbs, fracturing his skull, and needing fifteen procedures and surgeries. You might find yourself ducking for cover in the midst of a gang fight, a murder, machete and knife fights, or dodging an SUV as one barrels through the food court. Thousand-person mall riots are not even unheard of anymore in this circus tent of a country. In 2019, after being let out of school early, around 1,000 teens (from the video footage, it appears almost all were nonwhites) went to a nearby mall in Queens, New York, where they rioted [15], fought, shoplifted, destroyed the food court, threw things from balconies, and robbed people. All compliments of diversity.

Ever since I read the headline “Moviegoers in California potentially exposed to measles at “Avengers: Endgame” screening [16],” I now have even more concern when I find myself in physical proximity of alien peoples. I wonder if sitting down at a theater will end up causing me to transport home bed bugs to deal with, a problem that wasn’t an issue in the U.S. until migrants started bringing them along [17]. Zika, West Nile, Ebola, Measles, tuberculosis, Dengue Fever, COVID-19, and more are a direct result of migration. One study [18] found that over 80% of tuberculosis cases were due to newly arriving immigrants. I would venture a guess that the other 20% are people the immigrants infected upon arrival. We now cannot go to the theatre without worrying about catching some once-eradicated disease, as if we had just been exploring the Amazon Delta or backpacking through Nigeria.

People in Los Angeles are finding that leprosy has re-emerged. In Central and South America, leprosy is still widespread; there are over 20,000 diagnoses each year. A study [19] by the University of Southern California found that most of the patients treated with leprosy came from Mexico. Open borders necessarily means being exposed to once-eradicated and new strains of viruses and disease while going about your day-to-day life.

I wince a bit hearing people in America drone on and on, endlessly, about their “freedoms.” Being in public is now like living in an open-air prison camp — absolutely filthy conditions, gang fights in the food court, infectious diseases abound. What about the freedom to go to the mall and be around people like ourselves? What about the freedom to let your kids go to the mall and not worry that they’ll get robbed, shot, or thrown off a balcony? What about our freedom to have a nice, safe, white nation? Why does that never come up in the endless talks of the “freedoms” we are losing?

The once-pleasant mall outing now feels a lot like being in a low-security prison — cameras everywhere, having to find a salesperson to unlock fitting rooms to try something on, security tags on even low-dollar items, security guards patrolling. It is such a stark contrast to the experiences I had growing up. At one of the last movies I saw, the theater was doing “bag checks” and pat-downs Friday and Saturday nights “for customer safety.” I can’t recall this happening before the area became more diverse.

You can have a white society that doesn’t need security cameras everywhere and locks on every item, or you can have racial diversity, but you can’t have both. You will never, ever be able to have both. You have to choose. And just to be clear: If, for whatever reason, you refrain from making a choice, the latter will continue to be chosen for you.

If a mall can collapse by the demographics changing in the area, so can an entire society.

I recently had two very different encounters that represented a crossroads — a “which way?” type of moment — for us as a people and for our society. In the first, I was walking through the mall when I saw an incredibly foreign-looking woman, wearing what must have been traditional attire in Somalia or somewhere similar, screaming in a foreign tongue at one, or several, of her six, incredibly dark-skinned children. Two of these little brown children were wearing shirts that read in very bold, capital letters, “WE ARE YOUR FUTURE.” Quite frankly, it felt like a threat of sorts. I do not want the future they represent. Nobody ever asked me if I was okay with my childhood hometown one day looking like Mogadishu.

The second encounter was at a restaurant in the food court at the same mall. The cashier was a very pretty young blonde woman, about university age. She had long braided hair, and was very friendly. The entire staff was white; we had no issue communicating or exchanging subtle cultural cues. The food came out properly, other customers around were friendly and amicable, everything was exactly “normal” — though not for today, not for multicultural America. This simple experience stood out as so significant because in a society where the people with whom I have less in common increase in number, it was so very nice to be around just my own. Wanting that experience all the time, for all white citizens in our homelands, shouldn’t place my politics into the “radical” sphere.

Much of the Western world is experiencing what is being called a “loneliness epidemic”; we have fewer friends and fewer meaningful interactions than ever before. Issues of loneliness are being treated as a health crisis, as social isolation is generally recognized to be quite harmful to a person’s health [20]. It has been widely researched and concluded that the increase of racial diversity destroys social capital, making it more difficult to make friends and to have meaningful social interactions, among an array of other undesirable outcomes. As diversity increases, people tend to simply stay home to avoid less-than-pleasant interactions with alien peoples. Even when malls are not dying, but instead filled with an increasingly diverse clientele, they become places whose social function is destroyed. No longer places to congregate and meet socially, they have been reduced to places where you rush in and out in order to avoid the unpleasantness of forced integration.

During my teenage years, I spent many weekends with friends at the malls and the local arcades. We would spend time together, talk, window shop, get something to eat, maybe run into others or make new friends. Now, where can young people of our stock go to enjoy and congregate? It’s no wonder millennials are the loneliest generation [21] and so many struggle to find any meaning in life, with younger generations following right behind. The social capital of their nations has been all but obliterated. The opportunity costs of having Somali women walking around the mall in hijabs with their nine children is, in fact, profoundly high. Instead of the chance to meet a cute person your age that is like you, now there are only very alien peoples rudely bumping into you, speaking languages you do not even slightly recognize. As diversity in the mall increases, the inevitable outcome is the destruction of yet another place our people can safely congregate and have the chance to talk with each other, to meet new friends, to find a relationship.

As a people and civilization we used look ever upward and forward, sights set high and aiming towards eternity. That’s what I want for my people again. And I believe if it is to be done, it will be done by reclaiming the small things that have always been taken for granted. The possibility you might spend time with old friends or fall in love on a Friday night walking through the food court is something that should not be relegated to stories and memories, or accessible to only those living in the most elite parts of the country that are still mostly white.

Nearly every Friday night, I still get that euphoric sense of relief and excitement, but I fear it may not be long for this world. There is a rush of feelings, a sense of what was lost. Friday nights are usually the first time through the week I can relax and slow down for a while, and it’s when I start to think about what was lost, what was taken, what was destroyed, and about what we must find, retake, and build again. I think I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to chase and recreate that Friday night vibe.

Occasionally, I take day trips to dead and dying malls with a childhood friend of mine. There is one in particular of which we are especially fond. One arcade and a gym remain amid the two-million or so square feet of this once-thriving mall. Most of the lights are off, but you can walk around the entire space freely, even backrooms, if you check for unlocked doors. There is something sublime about the grand ornamentation that has been left to decay. Ghost signs and label scars are remnants of its past life. The terror and beauty of the structure is almost apocalyptic. I can’t help but get the feeling that what I’m looking at as we saunter past empty halls and falling ceiling tiles is a future that creeps ever near.

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(i) There is a criticism of the mall, in that they represent halls of conspicuous consumerism and materialism, as well as a trapping of modernity totally deracinated from tradition. I disagree entirely with these views. The modern mall was preceded in time by medieval markets in town squares, by the Grecian Arcades, Agoras, Stoas, the Roman Loggia, and places like the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II of the nineteenth century. The concept and use of an enclosed space out of the elements where a variety of shops and dealers were housed is something that dates into antiquity. The suburban mall is merely that same concept: A place to meet, buy food and products, see entertainment, and socialize in an era of white flight and forced racial integration. The American mall is the spiritual successor to the forum and agora of before. It is, of course, arguable that the previous town square markets are superior to the suburban mall, but it is important to note that the mall is the reaction to forced racial integration and the reality of white flight. There is no incentive to building beautiful cobbled pathways with fountains and marble-clad structures when you’re worried that, within twenty years — maybe more, maybe less — your entire base will be forced to flee to the next suburb down the interstate where the “schools are better.”

[1] [23] Special thanks to my friend and fellow mall-rat Joe, for his discussion about the retail and demographic trends in our city; Max, for his work on data collection for our security guard and demographic chart; Robin, for sharing the wonderful stories of her mall experience in a time I never knew; and to all the mall-rats who remember what was stolen from us.

[2] [24] Boylan, Dan. “’Amazoning’ of America Leaves Malls as Crumbling Monuments to the Past.” The Washington Times, The Washington Times, 2 Oct. 2019, www.washingtontimes.com/news/2019/oct/2/amazon-leaves-shopping-malls-crumbling-monuments-p/ [25] [http://archive.is/4yykO [26]]. (Blames saturation of retail spaces and delivery services like Amazon);

Glancey, Jonathan. “Culture – The Death of the US Shopping Mall.” BBC, BBC, 11 Apr. 2014, www.bbc.com/culture/story/20140411-is-the-shopping-mall-dead [6] [http://archive.vn/Mv8MI [27]]. (Cites economic declines and online shopping);

Danziger, Pamela N. “The Fall Of The Mall And How To Make Them Rise Again.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 14 Oct. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/pamdanziger/2018/10/14/the-fall-of-the-mall-and-three-ways-to-make-them-rise-again/ [28]. (Cites convenience of online shopping as the primary reason for decline along with shifting lifestyles);

Bhattarai, Abha. “Malls Are Dying. The Thriving Ones Are Spending Millions to Reinvent Themselves.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 22 Nov. 2019, www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/11/22/malls-are-dying-only-these-ones-have-figured-out-secrets-success-internet-age/ [29] [http://archive.vn/ucZh5 [30]]. (Discusses economic downturns, overbuilding of malls, and some markets not shifting to more upscale and experience retail);

Sanburn, Josh. “America’s Malls and Department Stores Are Dying Off.” Time, Time, 20 July 2017, time.com/4865957/death-and-life-shopping-mall [31]/ [http://archive.vn/efqAn [32]]. (Cites economic downturn during the 2008 recession and online shopping);

Wired Magazine. “Architecture Professor Explains Why Malls Are Dying.” YouTube. June 28, 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBEajQWy-LU [33]. (Decline due to overbuilding of malls, fewer households with kids, and online social media used for socializing)