“The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.”
Protesters gathered today to object to a Chick-fil-A store planned to open in Mountain View, but it is San Jose that will have the dubious distinction of having the first Chick-fil-A in the Bay Area. If we’re lucky, it will close down within a month.
Whether the food is any good is not the question. At some point conscience must control a person’s pocketbook. Donald Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, is an admitted bigot. He uses money reaped from the legions of chicken consumers to fund anti-gay organizations and promote a “Christian Agenda” that real followers of the Jewish carpenter should find offensive and repugnant.
Certainly Mr. Cathy has a right to free speech. There is no argument with his right to even promote hateful speech. But a major benefit of the First Amendment is the ability of the populace to reject that speech, to firmly repudiate those ideas with their own decision not to engage in commerce with bigots.
The public relations disaster befalling Chick-fil-A based on their stated philosophy has had huge consequences. First, Kermit the Frog and company dissed them publicly. Their longtime spokesperson suddenly died, allegedly over the stress he endured from the fallout. The company has been linked to a false Facebook page which pictured a stock photo of a “wholesome” teenager who defended Chick-fil-A. It took all of a few hours to expose that hoax. Finally, Mayors from Boston to San Francisco have made it clear, Chick-fil-A is not welcome in their communities
Some people disagree that official government policy should be used to prevent businesses from opening based on a person’s speech. It is a slippery slope and the courts clearly prevent government from disallowing a business based on speech. As such, governments cannot prevent Chick-fil-A from locating in their town. That said, they can make it very uncomfortable.
But the better way is for an informed consumer to actively avoid businesses that are antithetical to the views of the community. To see Chick-fil-A run out of town based on consumer choice is really the act of an informed democracy.
In the final analysis, the boycott of Chick-fil-A is about people. The LGBT community is among the last to experience institutional inequality in these United States. Our nation is a history of the march forward for equality for all. Women, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Latinos, and many others had to fight for institutional equality. And though cultural inequities still exist, the first step in freedom are laws on the books that groups that have suffered persecution must be treated equally. As long as there is a law that is not being applied equally among the common populace, we will never arrive at the promise that is America.
Chick-fil-A should not get a single dollar from those of us who advance the cause of liberty and reject the voices of bigotry. Every dollar we don’t spend at Chick-fil-A advances the cause of liberty and equality.
To paraphrase Cesar Chavez, it is not about the chicken. It is never about the chicken. It is about the people.
Rich Robinson is a political consultant in Silicon Valley.