24 Jul

 “What do you think would happen first: a hamburger on the menu, or a Chick-fil-A opening on a Sunday?” Ad Age writer Ken Wheaton quizzed Chick-fil-A Vice Prez of Marketing David Salyers back in 2010.

“Definitely a hamburger on the menu. Not even close,” Salyers replied.

“There are more important things in life than just selling another chicken sandwich, or making another dollar.”

A company where a marketing executive can say unflinchingly that honoring the Sabbath is more important than the bottom line definitely stands out from the crowd.

I toiled several months in a mall with a Chick Fil-A in the food court. Though I admittedly didn’t eat there often (their line was always wrapped around the corner and they didn’t have a mall employee discount), I remember warmly the days when a grinning Chick Fil-A employee would bring platters full of their latest creation around to mall employees. Sure, they were promoting their product (Mmmm. . .spicy chicken) and could easily write it off in marketing expenses, but the act was still well-taken. In a glass-caged world where salespeople were part-time slaves, with feet-throbbing, faces frozen from smiling and throats parched from small talk, something as small as a free chicken sandwich is grounds for life-long loyalty. Is it wrong if I mention that many of the mall’s store managers and employees alike are openly gay? Just saying.

That’s why the recent bashing of the company doesn’t sit well with me. Of course, a privately-owned company with deeply entrenched Christian roots believes that marriage should be defined in the traditional sense. That’s no surprise. It was no surprise that the Catholic Church reaffirmed its belief that marriage is defined as between one man and one woman.

But this oft-quoted declaration in the Baptist Press by President Dan Cathy has been taken as a warcry by many LGBT proponents. The mayor of Boston, a city that made gay marriage legal in 2004, has vowed to fight Chick Fil-A’s proposed entrance into their market. Let’s talk about the irony. To this day, Boston remains one of the most segregated cities in the nation. Read The Discomfort Zone by The Boston Globe. I received countless warnings before my first flight to Beantown to attend a Boston college. But all of a sudden it’s the American symbol of equality for all? Give me a break.

Jim Henson has severed a partnership to provide Muppet toys for the company’s kids meal. Countless others have taken to Twitter, Facebook and blogs like mine to vow to never give Chick Fil-A another cent as they point to the company’s $2 million donated to organizations against LGBT rights and the audio clip where Cathy says gay marriage will incur the wrath of God.

Politics and religion will never be dinner conversations. And definitely shouldn’t never be served on a platter to any media outlet. But by boycotting who are they hurting? Not Cathy himself. Sure, his bottom lines may shrivel and he may be scared into silence. But instead, the teenagers saving up for the prom, car or college, college students making a few extra bucks between class, the people on the front line on the organization, behind the registers just trying to survive will be the hardest hit.

Whether I agree or disagree with Chick Fil-A’s stance is irrelevant. When our founding fathers fled from their home lands to form the U.S., they built a nation where the right to free speech and religious tolerance was fundamental.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances,” The First Amendment to the Constitution says.

It works both ways. One group is not more entitled to voice its beliefs than another. Conservatives must tolerate the beliefs of more liberal human beings and vice-versa. Christians must tolerate the viewpoints of those believing in other religions or none at all. But the opposite should also ring true: That the president of a privately-owned, and I repeat, privately-owned company, expressed his personal definition of marriage, a ceremony that is just as much religious as it is legal, should be perfectly fine.

He doesn’t have to believe in gay marriage. He doesn’t have to support it.  Creating a culture where people are bullied into silence or worse, into submission, does not help anyone. It will not foster dialogue. Doesn’t make the world a more tolerant place. Instead it makes it worse. It cuts off honest dialogue and stalls debate and pushes people back into an “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all” state of mind.

Some people will read this and wonder who the heck I think I am. As a Black woman, a double minority in some eyes, I should understand—right? Those calling the fight for gay rights the new civil rights movement would be appalled. Back in 2003, Coretta Scott King stated, “”I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people. … But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ I appeal to everyone who believes in Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream, to make room at the table of brotherhood and sisterhood for lesbian and gay people.”

In college, I wrote an essay about this statement, called “The Unwinnable Race” that explored the irony of women rights, gay rights and minority rights’ advocate running their respective races individually and not banding together to join in one another’s battles.

I talked about Bayard Rustin, the 0penly gay man who organized MLK’s legendary March on Washington. MLK ultimately had to distance himself from Rustin due to allegations from the religious community.

But I also understand that bullying people whenever they utter the slight quiver of dissent with the threat of public scandal, lost revenue and brand deflation will –at the end of the day—change nothing. If someone thinks less of me because of my color or gender, they’re going to continue to think so whether I blackmail them with the threat of the NAACP and civil rights activists protesting outside their doors or not. They just may be quieter about it.

We shouldn’t want a world of sheep. Allowing actual exchange where people from all walks of life share their experiences and have the freedom to disagree is the best way to promote equality.

A smart, hilarious homegirl that I attended middle school and high school with is now married to a woman.

Two great, kind, smart, homegirls of mine from college are now dating.

I like them and respect them. I always have and I always will — not because of their sexual orientation, but because of the people behind the label society offers. Knowing them–not the yelling, the boycotts and the threats–have made me, a southerner from a conservative Christian background a firm  believer in the right of all to determine their own destinies.

But I am not willing to give up my own in return. Will I one day be discriminated against for being heterosexual? To force people to censor themselves, to coerce people into support or silence for a cause, to force companies to join a politically correct bandwagon is a slap in the face to the foundation on which our country was founded.

Ironically, that very notion is what Cathy sited as his infamous interview drew to a close:

“We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

If he only knew.


2 Responses to “Chikin”

  1. Taelyr C. Roberts July 24, 2012 at 8:27 pm #

    Extremely well-written. thank you. Keep up the great work.


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