A Boycott Culture Isn’t What America Needs
Enjoy waffle fries, or don't. Shop at Target, or don't. Drink Starbucks coffee, or don't. Just don't guilt other people into joining you.
“If you really love LGBTQ people, you just can’t keep eating Chick-fil-A.” That’s what a headline at Huffington Post stated Tuesday.
Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey caused a stir Saturday when he tweeted about eating Chick-fil-A. He was immediately criticized for patronizing the company during June, which is Pride Month.
Chick-fil-A makes no bones about its Christian roots and affiliation. Most famously (or infamously), Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy ignited protests in 2012 after claiming the company supports “the biblical definition of the family unit.”
As a result, the food chain earned the ire of many in left-wing and LGBTQ circles. (Case in point, this recent New Yorker article lamenting “Chick-fil-A’s creepy infiltration of New York City.”) Thus the backlash over Dorsey’s indulgence.
In Huffington Post, editorial director Noah Michelson is incensed that some in the LGBTQ community actually defended Dorsey — and Chick-fil-A. He notes Chick-fil-A’s donations to Christian organizations, like Salvation Army, as further proof of why the restaurant should be avoided.
“It’s time to choose where your loyalties lie — with your community or with your stomach,” he says.
The Boycott Frenzy
Conservatives will likely find Michelson’s argument ripe for mocking. He writes, “If you care about queer people — or you yourself are queer — you have absolutely no business eating at Chick-fil-A. Ever.” Isn’t that a little dramatic?
The fact is that, relatively speaking, Michelson isn’t that dramatic at all.
Conservatives are famous for boycott campaigns. In the recent past, Starbucks, the NFL, Target, Keurig, and others have felt the brunt of right-wing indignation. Usually the boycotts are a reaction of a company’s support of liberal causes, or open opposition to President Donald Trump.
In his article, Michelson linked to the Human Rights Campaign’s “Corporate Equality Index,” which ranks corporations that are friendly to the LGBTQ community. Many conservatives rely on organizations like 2ndVote, “the conservative watchdog for corporate activism.”
So can we blame Michelson? Is he really off-base in his call to boycott a company that he feels opposes his values? No. In today’s America, that’s normal.
With Us or Against Us
While it’s normal, it’s problematic.
It’s no secret how divided our nation is today. We’re becoming less and less likely to forge friendships with those of differing political views. We scoff at and demean each other, basic decency be damned. Rather than simply living our lives, we constantly react to what the other side does, allowing those we disagree with to determine our actions.
In short, you’re either with us or against us. Any fraternizing with the opposite side means criticism and perhaps excommunication from your tribe.
Constant boycotting only feeds this detrimental divisiveness. It panders to the Us vs. Them paradigm. And in the end, it doesn’t accomplish much. Sometimes protesters get the weak satisfaction of a browbeaten apology from a company CEO. Other times they celebrate a dip in the offending company’s ratings or sales.
But is anyone’s mind actually changed? Probably not. The opposite is more likely. One side’s vitriol galvanizes the other side’s enthusiastic support of the company in question. Everyone gets further entrenched in their positions. We despise each other even more.
The Last Thing We Need
I’m not saying boycotts are never in order. Everyone should be able to consume goods according to their conscience.
But I believe the best way boycott is to do so discreetly. Don’t force people to join you, as Michelson did Tuesday or as conservatives have done in the past. By reinforcing the with us or against us mentality, you exacerbate division. You shove people into corners they don’t want to be in. You guilt people into stands their conscience isn’t compelling them to take.
A better way to truly make a difference is working quietly and faithfully for the causes you care about. And hey, get this: If you befriend people you don’t agree with and they see you working faithfully for those causes, they might just have a change of heart. If you’re truly concerned about where your money is going, give directly and more often to charitable organizations that align with your values. Especially ones in your local region.
And then go on with life. Enjoy waffle fries, or don’t. Shop at Target, or don’t. Drink Starbucks coffee, or don’t. If you want to raise awareness about a particular company’s values, do so. But don’t threaten to label those who don’t share your passion as enemies. That’s the last thing our bleeding nation needs.