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Several years ago, contoversy erupted in South Carolina over the Confederate flag that flew over the State House. Some people decided to boycott the state, not taking vacations there or stopping for gas when driving through.

Eventually, officials moved the flag to a location in a less visible place. The boycotters must have congratulated themselves for a job well done, even though the actual racism in the state remains as strong as ever.

In most areas of the state, whites and blacks have done little to no integration of their neighborhoods; blacks still comprise a much greater percentage of the poor; blacks face much harsher criminal penalties for crimes similar to what whites commit; the public education system still grossly underfunds schools in majority black districts; and the attitudes of many of the white residents are still openly racist.

The flag boycott did nothing to improve any of these situations. It merely made the people who went to Panama City instead of Myrtle Beach, or who waited to stop for lunch until they reached Georgia - it merely made these folks feel as if they were fighting racism, when in fact they were not. A flag flying on top of the State House might be an offensive symbol to some, but it is a red herring in the long and difficult struggle for racial justice in the South.

Which brings us to Chik-Fil-A. Is this boycott and its backlash similar to the protest over the South Carolina flag? Whether one eats at Chik-Fil-A, or goes acrosss the street to Wendy's, does it really make a difference in the debate over gay marriage? Or is it a red herring that makes people feel like they are doing something significant, when in fact they are avoiding the real work and the real sacrifices being made by those on the front lines of this issue?

Those on the pro-gay marriage side will contend that the owners of Chik-Fil-A have chosen to be vocal on this issue, and give a lot of money to anti-gay causes - warranting a public protest. Those on the other side do not wish to see business leaders that they admire taking a public drubbing. Others simply don't like activists telling them what they should do.

Either way, I can't see how the Chik-Fil-A episode will bring our country closer to resolution on this very divisive issue. In a week or two, it will fade from national headlines. And in a few months, it will be forgotten by all but the hardcore activists on either side.

My hope is that more people can resist the temptation to bite at the red herrings like the "Battle of Chik-Fil-A," and can dedicate themselves long-term to a cause that requires more hard work, more sacrifice, and more perseverance than the decision of what to eat for lunch.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Our gay son agrees (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    glorificus, Noddy

    I asked him about the Chick-Fil-A controversy. He was somewhat aware of it but basically found it annoying.

    At the end of the day he figured "it's just a fast food chain, who cares?"

    There are people losing jobs or lives because of their sexual orientation. That's where the energy should be he figured, not going after a fast-food chain because of their beliefs or where they put their charity money.

    I don't necessarily agree that calling out bigotry and prejudice isn't important in and of itself, but felt it interesting that the thrust of your diary pretty much coincides with our son's opinion.

    Blue is blue and must be that. But yellow is none the worse for it - Edith Sidebottom

    by kenwards on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 07:02:02 AM PDT

    •  My question is this (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      glorificus, Noddy, fiddler crabby

      If the boycott manged to run Chik-Fil-A out of business, would that bring full equality any closer? I don't think so. It would just make a lot of people bitter.

      •  This boycott has been going on (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        AuntieRa, SYWTSAR

        for well over a year. It's not a matter of wanting to put someone out of business, but of refusing to participate in CFA's support of groups like the Family Research Council.

        Anyone who thinks this is supposed to lead toward resolution of the marriage equality issue hasn't been following the conversation.

        Beware the man of one book.

        by fiddler crabby on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 07:23:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I question the value of such boycotts (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fiddler crabby

          Several years ago, a lot of people boycotted Taco Bell because of tomato practices. The boycott is now over. Did it change the tomato industry? Are tomato pickers now making a fair wage? I don't think so.

          IMO - Transferring business from one company to another - which is probably doing unjust things in other ways - is not very fruitful.

          If we want to change corporate practices that are unjust, I think we need to dramatically lessen our support of corporations altogether.

          •  Here's the value: (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            AuntieRa, prfb

            In one easy step I'm not providing dollars for the Family Research Council or Exodus International.

            I'm under no illusion that this makes a larger political statement or that it will cause CFA to stop donating to these groups.

            Not every personal political act will be earthshaking. In some cases it's just a matter of taking a small step toward not participating in one's own oppression.

            It's not an either/or, either. Boycotting Chick-fil-A doesn't mean other, more significant, actions won't happen.

            As we speak equality is being fought for in the courts, through civil disobedience, through education, and through lobbying.

            And none of these are about CFA.

            Beware the man of one book.

            by fiddler crabby on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 07:34:28 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  As long as your involvement (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              fiddler crabby

              goes beyond things like where to eat lunch, I have no beef with you.

              But I do know people who really thought they were fighting racism because they didn't stop for gas while driving through South Carolina.

              •  What kind of action *could* (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                get rid of racism?

                The Montgomery Bus Boycott was successful in getting buses integrated. That didn't end racism in Montgomery.

                The NAACP spent fifty years carefully building case law to finally bring about Brown v Board of Education. That didn't end racism, either.

                Small steps -- which may seem insignificant at the time -- can lead to much bigger things down the line.

                I agree there are plenty of slacktivists out there, and any who think their votes on Facebook can change the world are naive, at best.

                But the small steps, especially those that don't take away money or energy from larger steps, can be useful.

                Beware the man of one book.

                by fiddler crabby on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 07:53:23 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  Actually there's been real progress (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            in the Coalition of Immokalee Workers tomato Fair Food campaign, and the Taco Bell boycott  was a linchpin.  As reported by the CIW:

            In March 2005, following a four-year campaign, Taco Bell agreed to meet all of our demands. This victory established several crucial precedents for farm labor reform, including:

                The first-ever direct, ongoing payment by a fast-food industry leader to farmworkers in its supply chain to address sub-standard farm labor wages (nearly doubling the percentage of the final retail price that goes to the workers who pick the produce);

                The first-ever enforceable Code of Conduct for agricultural suppliers in the fast-food industry (which includes the CIW, a worker-based organization, as part of the investigative body for monitoring worker complaints);

                Market incentives for agricultural suppliers willing to respect their workers’ human rights, even when those rights are not guaranteed by law;

                100% transparency for Taco Bell’s tomato purchases in Florida.

            Once Taco Bell folded its opposition, rolling up the rest of the fast food industry came pretty quickly.  It's a long-term, broad-gauge campaign, in which different industries are being taken on in stages.  What that did was set the stage for the really big showdown, which is ongoing right now, between the CIW and certain supermarket chains.  Once the supermarkets can be moved, no, tomato pickers will never be well off, but their wages and means of living will be substantially enhanced.  If you go from making $12K a year to $17K a year, that's meaningful, even if still poor by American standards it will represent nearly a 40% increase in incomes to the workers.

            Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?

            by ActivistGuy on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 08:25:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I agree that CFA is just a symbol. I had a short (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    discussion with a couple of old men about this, where one said he thought CFA was being treated unfairly.

    I used my capitalism speech, wherein if they are providing a product people want to buy, they will be fine.

    Later I thought I should have used religion, asking him if he was a Christian, and asking him what Jesus said was the most important commandment and the second.

    The second is very broad, with no qualifiers about race, sexual identity, height, weight, hair length or nail polish color.

    Always think of these things too late.

    However, the CFA frou-frou may have legs (not just drumsticks). I've seen where Dan Cathy has been invited to dine at a lesbian household.

    This is, of course, the difference between republicans and human beings. - Captain Frogbert

    by glorificus on Fri Aug 03, 2012 at 07:27:55 AM PDT

  •  I get your point, I believe (0+ / 0-)

    but I (gently) disagree.

    As others have pointed out, there may be many paths to glory. Symbols and tokens play their part, too, in changing the culture. Easy little boycotts and so forth may or may not be optimally constructive, but it is definitely not a good thing to sneer or criticize people who are willing to contribute any mite of effort toward a good cause.

    Encourage them to do more, fine. But please don't be discouraging about them doing anything at all.

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