The Prideful, Arrogant President of Chick-fil-A

That’s the title of Jesse Bering’s angry, honest, must-read Slate essay:

There was a time, not so very long ago, when business owners in Southern states proudly poured their riches into segregationist causes. These investment strategies (and the political fruits they bore) helped keep “Negroes” in their place as second-class citizens. And just as we’ve been seeing with the enthusiastic support for Chick-fil-A by the “moral majority,” the racist business models of those segregationists rallied local social conservatives. Like the WinShape Foundation’s shameless use of Chick-fil-A proceeds to support the efforts of the Family Research Council, as well as many other anti-gay outlets designated as official hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a wealthy white citizen’s public segregationist stance back in, say, 1960 Mississippi or Tennessee, and his decision to put his company’s proceeds into racist political causes, was not only perfectly legal but hailed by most of his customer base. After all, just as same-sex marriage is today, the rights of blacks were a “political issue.” People spoke of “personal beliefs” about whether blacks should vote, marry outside their race, drink at public water fountains, swim in public pools, attend schools with white students, or sit in the front of the bus. Those whose “personal belief” was that blacks should be socially quarantined from whites felt absolutely no reason to apologize. People were “entitled to their opinions.”

Fortunately for African-Americans, the U.S. government, which grows sluggishly, if incrementally, in its social conscience, eventually joined them and threw its weight into their tireless crusade against bigotry and prejudice. Federal civil rights laws effectively obviated the “personal beliefs” of those who continued to view blacks as lesser beings, making these people’s “opinions” completely irrelevant as to what African-Americans should or shouldn’t do in our society. In other words, the racists were stripped of their democratic voices—and a very good thing that was, too, as it’s clear even today that many white Americans remain of the opinion that blacks are inherently inferior to them. Racism persists, but at least racists have been formally politically defanged. Homophobes, meanwhile, have not.

10 Comments

  1. I am not defending the homophobes. I simply believe that we can not fully grasp the situation if we do not define it properly. When the ” wealthy white citizen” put his money into racist hate groups, those groups targeted people for who they were–not actions that they did. Granted, homosexuality is a state of being, not an action, but the people who condemn them are likely assuming that homosexuals are practicing homosexuals. Thus they will try to claim that the comparison is not legitimate because Negros, Caucasians, Asiatics, and Native Americans did not CHOOSE their status. Furthermore, they could not change their status under any conditions nor with any actions of their own. Such is not (really) the case with homosexuality.

    The problem, of course, has to do with believing that any group of people is inferior. Dignity and tolerance are supposed to be Christian values. In addition, they are values of many other religions. When we deny that dignity to anyone, we deny it to everyone.

    This is true of hardened criminals, terrorists, mass murderers, rapists, and bigots. We must provide them with the same dignity we want them to provide to others. Therein lies the rub.

  2. Conservatives tend to believe EVERYONE is beneath them. They demonize everything and everyone that does not follow their own party line.

  3. “he racists were stripped of their democratic voices—and a very good thing that was, too”

    No. Racists are still free to express their views, vote, give to whatever cause they choose, and own and operate businesses without fear of government retaliation for their views. They are not free, however, to implement racist policies in their businesses. Since Cathy is not accused of discriminating against homosexuals, the analogy doesn’t work.

    But the cynic in me tells me that maybe Bering’s intent was not to present an accurate argument, but rather to promote the view that those who oppose same-sex marriage are equivalent to racists. I can’t know for sure though, but I can’t believe he doesn’t see the obvious flaw in his argument.

  4. Cathy is accused of contributing to organizations that discriminate against homosexuals – to the point of death in Uganda. That’s as close to racism as I care to get.

  5. “This is true of hardened criminals, terrorists, mass murderers, rapists, and bigots.”

    I’d like to point out that you’re comparing gay people to criminals, terrorists, etc. It’s pretty disgusting.

  6. TO,

    I haven’t been following that angle closely, but since your brought it up I tried to get familiar with it.

    The Family Research Council says it didn’t lobby against the bill, it lobbied to change some of the wording it didn’t like, wording not related to the part about executions. Can you point me to some evidence that that isn’t true?

  7. [In early 2011, Chick-fil-A came under fire for its donations and political ties to a number of anti-gay groups. Though Chick-fil-A continues to deny supporting an anti-gay agenda, the company has donated over $3 million to organizations like the Family Research Council and Exodus International between 2003 and 2009. And in 2010 alone, Chick-fil-A donated over $1.9 million to anti-gay causes, more than any other year for which public records are available.]

    http://www.latimes.com/busines.....0372.story

    [The best-known example of these efforts is Uganda’s Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Introduced in the fall of 2009, the bill imposed the death penalty for certain homosexual acts and criminalized human-rights advocacy on behalf of sexual minorities. It grew directly out of a well-attended conference, the “Seminar on Exposing the Truth behind Homosexuality and the Homosexual Agenda,” that took place in the capital, Kampala, in March. To put on the conference, the Uganda-based Family Life Network, which is supported by U.S. Christian-right groups, teamed with two leading anti-gay activists from the States, Holocaust revisionist Scott Lively and Dan Schmierer of the ex-gay group Exodus International. The seminar attracted high-profile religious leaders, parliamentarians, police officers, teachers, and concerned parents.]

    http://prospect.org/article/ex.....y-movement

    These groups are shocked, shocked, that the Ugandan government should have taken them seriously enough to pass such a law and are now condemning it, but the damage has been done. So far the law has not been passed, but several sources have noted endemic homophobia in Uganda has been exacerbated by the bill and the associated discussions about it. American evangelicals have also been accused of taking advantage of social and economic circumstances in Uganda to export the American culture war to Africa. In April 2009, a local Ugandan newspaper printed the names of suspected homosexuals, another printed tips on how to identify gays for the general public. On 26 January 2011, Uganda’s most prominent gay activist, David Kato, was found bludgeoned to death.

    Don Schmierer addressed, and defended, his role in the controversy directly, calling the incident “horrible” in the New York Times. “Naturally, I don’t want anyone killed,” he said, “but I don’t feel I had anything to do with that.”

  8. TO,

    I’m perfectly willing to say that those groups go too far in their anti-gay zeal, if the articles you link to are accurate, but I think there’s too many degrees of separation between Chick-fil-A and the Uganda bill, which as you noted is universally condemned by those groups, to place responsibility for that on Chick-fil-A. Just my view though.

    In any case, that’s tangential to my main objection to the piece that I described in my first comment.

  9. I understood your main objection to be: “They are not free, however, to implement racist policies in their businesses. Since Cathy is not accused of discriminating against homosexuals, the analogy doesn’t work.” Perhaps I was mistaken.

    If his corporate foundation’s money ($5 million) to organizations that discriminate against gays does not translate to corporate discrimination for you, perhaps his hiring practices do. But I hesitate to refer to them since you seem to doubt even the Los Angeles Times is being accurate in its reporting and I am at a loss as to just what reporting would be convincing. And you can research those hiring practices as well as I if you are so inclined. It seems we are at an impasse with each of us accepting or rejecting information according to our inclination.

  10. TO, you’re reading too much into my semi-parenthetical. My entire response was predicated on the assumption that the article is true. I added a note of caution because I tend to be cautious about anything I read, from whatever source, especially if it is politically controversial, if I don’t have the means or time to independently verify it. That’s not the same as dismissing it, and it’s certainly doesn’t imply that I reject information according to my inclination.

    Making an assumption about people’s motives also contributes to impasse, which I agree we are at so I’m content to move on also.

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