The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday January 21st

Column: Will boycotting Chick-fil-A make a difference?

Following reports by Think Progress which exposed Chick-fil-A’s continued donations to anti-LGBTQ+ organizations, many are up in arms against the fast food giant once again. 

But, perhaps it is not surprising that a restaurant which only offers about four variations of fried chicken does not value diversity. 

This is particularly sad news because I love Chick-fil-A’s food. The inspiration for this column came to me earlier today when I was having a personal moral crisis over whether I should eat Chick-fil-A for lunch between class — a once sacred ritual of mine. There’s almost nothing that lifts my spirits more during the midday class grind than using a waffle fry to sop up the extra ranch which has overflown from my spicy chicken sandwich. However, Chick-fil-A’s renewed commitment to supporting anti-LGBTQ+ groups makes it harder for my lunch to go down.

Back in 2012, Chick-fil-A faced its first round of anti-gay criticism when their then president, Dan Cathy said, “I pray God’s mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.” 

Following this outbreak, I remember being mad at Chick-fil-A for all of about five minutes, accepting their softball apology and reverting to my old habits of the occasional spicy deluxe lunch just a few weeks later. After this controversy, Chick-fil-A had reportedly made moves away from any anti-queer activity. However, now that they’ve been exposed for going back on their word and doubling-down on their homophobic stance as a corporation, the grammatically-challenged cows may be a little harder to forgive. 

In 2017, Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm gave $1,653,416 to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which prohibits “homosexual acts” even for married couples; $150,000 to the Salvation Army, which has a long anti-gay history, including a claim by one media relations director at an Australian branch that gay people deserve death; and $6,000 to the Paul Anderson Youth Home, a Christian residential home that teaches young boys that same-sex marriage is a “rage against Jesus Christ and His values,” according to a Vox article. Chick-fil-A even has family ties to WinShape, known to support groups which advocate for conversion therapy.

All of that said, I’m not certain whether my individual choice to consume Chick-fil-A for lunch every now and then implicates me in their homophobic tirade. 

I don’t necessarily believe that in our current capitalist economy, individualistic, consumer-based activism is all that effective. The marginal impact is just too small for any one person’s decisions to impact the market in any meaningful way. As someone who studies public policy and sociology, I come at this with the perspective that a more effective alternative is one which involves collective action and leads to more impactful policy change.

Furthermore, in the U.S. we are socialized to value rugged individualism, even when it comes to our consumption. So when our responses to corporations like Chick-fil-A follow suit with this individualism, our protests place heavy responsibility and blame on individual behavior and do little to address the corporate policies that truly dictate where corporations’ donations go.

When it comes to enacting change in the sphere of large corporations, I am of the opinion that voting with your feet isn’t all that effective. And while it’s not entirely relevant in this case, it’s important to note the implicit equity concern which comes with protests which define one’s morality by their spending — some people cannot afford “more ethical” substitutes. 

In order to really put pressure on the pockets of corporate giants like Chick-fil-A, we would need to see hefty government sanctions or an unprecedented drop in demand — neither of which will come from me and a handful of angry LGBTQ+ allies opting out of Chick-fil-A lunches. 

While my pessimistic views on making large corporations more progressive have dominated this piece, there is definitely something to be said for putting your money where your mouth is. Through airing out my less-than-optimistic qualms about boycotting Chick-fil-A, I think I have actually resolved my aforementioned dilemma. I am going to abandon my lunchtime ritual. 

I know that my own reduction in consumption will do nothing to sway Chick-fil-A’s charitable spending, but I think that the symbolic value of siding with the LGBTQ+ community is more valuable. Will I cave and eat Chick-fil-A every now and then? Absolutely. Please know, however, that neither your nor my decision to consume Chick-fil-A defines your allegiance to queer folks. What’s really important is how you vote, how you show love to your queer friends and how you live out your support of the LGBTQ+ community on a daily basis, not just where you have lunch.

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