Remember back to the olden days of the culture wars, when the LGBTQ community united in opposition to a company that was anti-gay marriage and beat them in the court of public opinion with a successful boycott?
No? Neither do I.
Many of us have vague fond memories of the media storm that surrounded the comments made by the president of Chick-Fil-A, the popular restaurant chain run by a Southern Baptist family from Georgia. For a hot second, all of our allies on MSNBC, in the political sphere, even our gay friends who rarely followed the news seemed aware that going to Chick-Fil-A was verboten.
white girls who posted black squares on instagram after being told to boycott chickfila and starbucks pic.twitter.com/fmFyjWDYRJ
— local guide (@smellby_smaws) June 13, 2020
What really happened is as follows.
In the summer of 2012 (these things always seem to happen during a presidential election year, to fire up the political bases for both the FOX News right and the MSNBC left), the president of Chick-Fil-A Dan Cathy said in a series of interviews and subsequent tweets that he was against marriage equality. Specifically, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, “We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage”. 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.”
Okay, whatever. It almost seems quaint looking back on his comments, given all that the Trump years unleashed on us like a firehose.
Growing up in the South, I remember that Chick-Fil-A was always closed on Sundays, the “Lord’s Day,” in respect for the Sabbath. It just made our lunch choices at the Augusta Mall food court a bit easier without their availability as an option, and we knew that the company was run by conservative Christians. We didn’t think anything more about it.
So it wasn’t exactly a big news flash to learn that the company was also against marriage equality. But suddenly everyone was up in arms because of Cathy’s comments. LGBTQ groups organized a boycott, while Arkansas Governor (and perennial FOX News guest) Mike Huckabee led a counter-boycott that supported Chick-Fil-A.
Guess which side won?
In the short term, Chick-Fil-A’s sales spiked. Christians and conservatives flocked in support of the chain, and the restaurant became a kind of political signal of the looming cancel culture that would later develop as the left held individuals and institutions accountable for their words and actions.
In the medium term, marriage equality obviously became the law of the land thanks to the Supreme Court Obergefell decision in 2015. Chick-Fil-A’s support of “traditional marriage” faded as it tried to refocus on its business and withdraw from the media spotlight as a symbol of a losing crusade. But it remains a company deeply influenced by its Southern Baptist founders and corporate board.
Recently Business Insider reported on who the average customer is today for Chick-Fil-A. I imagined that after nearly a decade of public scrutiny and as a symbol for the political right, their customers would reflect the demographics of the typical Trumpist / FOX News viewer (angry old white people).
I was mistaken.
The typical Chick-Fil-A customer is a Gen-Xer in the suburbs with a high income who only eats there around 11 times a year, but eats fast food almost every other day. According to their research, “The typical Chick-fil-A customer is white and between 45 and 54 years old, according to data provided by analytics firm Numerator. These customers tend to be either adult couples, or large, young families. They likely live in the suburbs, with a high income and a full-time job.”
It added, “Although the average customer is white, a Chick-fil-A customer is more likely to be black than the typical quick-service customer overall.”
Ouch. So here we are, nearly a decade after this negative spotlight on a company that everyone knows is anti-gay, and nothing has changed.
I’m not a Chick-Fil-A customer, even though I fall within that demographic checklist. Yeah, their waffle fries are great, and they have a great chicken sandwich. But I don’t want to give my money to any company that views me as a threat, as antithetical to “God’s design” or civilization. Yes, the list of companies we are supposed to boycott is never ending, with Amazon at the top of the list but I fail even that easy abstinence with each e-book I purchase for my Kindle. So I’m not above being called a hypocrite.
However, I’ve made a decision that I can forgo Chick-Fil-A (and Cracker Barrel, for that matter) for the larger picture, to support” the gay agenda” so to speak. Boycotting in and of itself is not a bad thing, but don’t fool yourselves into thinking that much, if anything, will change from it other than making you feel righteous.
“This post is solely the opinion of this contributing writer and may not reflect the opinion of other writers, staff, or owners of Instinct Magazine.