To help understand the point I'm going to make today, we need to do a little imagining.
For the purposes of this illustration, we're going to say that you are white and Christian, so if you aren't, just pretend for a moment.
First you're going to get in a time machine and go back to the 1950s. You are still you, with all the same things you know about the world and about history, with the same friends, and the same neighbors, and the same coworkers.
The time machine drops you off in a little town somewhere in the middle of the United States.
You're hungry, so you go looking for a place to eat, and you come upon a little cafe selling sandwiches. You're about to go inside when a sign in the window catches your eye.
It says, "No Dogs, No Blacks, No Jews Allowed."
So my question to you is: Do you go in and eat there?
Just stop and think about that for a minute. What if you knew there were other places in town that did not have such signs, where anyone could eat? Would you save yourself the trouble of walking around to find another place, and just eat here? No one's going to stop you.
I'm going to guess that most of you would say no, you wouldn't eat here. You wouldn't give your money to a place so that so overtly discriminates against people different from you.
Now let's say you see your friend Steve sitting at a table in this cafe. (Steve also has a time machine.) And you go in and you say, "Steve, man, what gives? Didn't you see the sign on the door? These guys are total racists."
And Steve says, "Hey, listen, these sandwiches are delicious. That's all that matters to me!"
Now how do you feel about the restaurant? Any different?
How do you feel about your friend Steve now?
[No offense intended to any actual Steves out there.]
OK, come on back to 2012 now.
So, you're wondering, what's the point?
This is the point:
(Apparently she's not alone in these thoughts, as this was promptly retweeted several dozen times.)
In case you're not aware, Chick-fil-A has a long history of discrimination against the LGBTQ population, from refusing to hire gay workers to donating millions of dollars to blatantly anti-gay organizations. Most recently, the family that owns the company has made public statements against same-sex marriage, and as a result, Chicago's mayor Rahm Emanuel and a local alderman are attempting to prevent Chick-fil-A from opening a store in Chicago.
To be clear, I am NOT saying:
- that boycotting is always the most effective strategy for making change.
- that I will hate you if you eat at Chick-fil-A.
What I take issue with is the notion (as voiced by Ms. Renaud and others) that people should always spend their money on the items they want, regardless of whether that money is supporting bad business practices or blatant discrimination.
As I've said again and again, each of us can only do so much. If I wanted to boycott every single company that had some practice or other that I disagreed with, it would be really difficult to spend my time doing anything other than researching companies and occasionally succeeding in buying guilt-free food or clothing. Avoiding meat from CAFOs is enough of a daily victory for me. (And we don't buy bananas because of this film Mike saw in college.)
But I also don't want to ignore the reality that customers' money funds the way companies run. And I'm not about to tell anyone that the only thing that should inform whether they buy that shirt or that sandwich or that banana is whether they like that shirt or that sandwich or that banana. That's not only an incredibly self-centered and short-sighted way of viewing our entire economy, but it's also an idea spoken from a position of privilege.
When you don't have to worry about making a livable wage... when you don't have to hide things about yourself for fear of getting fired or deported... when you don't have to worry about other people voting on the legitimacy of your family... when you don't live in fear of dying in unsafe working conditions or getting raped by your boss... then yeah, you can shop pretty much wherever you want, and it won't ever affect you.
Unless, you know, you care about other people.
Look, whether or not you boycott Chick-fil-A or any other place is between you and God, but don't try to tell me that the deliciousness of a chicken sandwich ought to outweigh any concerns I have about supporting a company with discriminatory policies.
Are there companies, organizations, or products you boycott? In what situations, if any, does it make sense to "vote with your money"?