Polarizing: Love and Hate and Chick-Fil-A

By Emily D. Irvine: 9-6-12

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Cherry flavored ice cream. The Iraq War. The Twilight series. Hybrid cars. Barak Obama. Global Warming. Gay marriage… The unlimited list of things people find polarizing, issues, objects and concepts with no middle ground in the public perception. There is only love or hate, for or against, no room for open mindedness, no chance for change or reconciliation of beliefs. To this list, add Chick-Fil-A.

Not in recent memory has a fast food restaurant so dramatically gained its fifteen minutes of fame. One comment by a founder unearths a company history of donations to a polarizing cause. The verbal endorsement by one conservative politician leads to an unofficial holiday honoring an corporation for its founder’s “courage”. Millions of conservatives flock like moths to a flame to purchase a meal in the name of “freedom of speech,” the right of everyone to speak their mind against the rights of others. The irony is too much to bear.

Does Chick-Fil-A have a right to, as a corporation, show support to organizations who seek to destroy the rights of others? Yes. As much right as anyone with $6 and an appetite has to eat there. But to call this a defense of “freedom of speech” is a gross miscalculation. Rewind the chain of events leading up to Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, examine where the company has unabashedly made clear where your money is going, and what this restaurant’s patrons are defending is the perpetuation of prejudice against a segregated group of people. The right to make statements like Dan Cathy’s is not in question, rather the ethics and morals of such a viewpoint. To do business with Chick-Fil-A on the grounds of the defense of freedom of speech is to say “but only MY freedom of speech and those who agree with me.”

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Those who support the chain have claimed that it never refuses employment on the basis of sexual orientation and never discriminates against gay customers. I am sure this is true as the former is illegal and the later is poor business sense. But I ask you to imagine this scenario. I am a woman, and women before me have worked for hundreds to years to ensure that I have a fighting chance for equality in the business world. Though women with more power and courage than myself have managed companies and run countries, there are still plenty of people in this supposedly progressive country that believe women to be secondary to men, and ironically, the majority of these people are believers in “traditional family values,” Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day’s largest body of clientele. Imagine you are a woman and the founder of the corporation you worked for stated he believed in traditional family values, including the importance of women staying home with their children, her abilities best suited in her own kitchen rather than a restaurant’s. But he still hired women, because by law he has to, and still lets them buy his food for their family rather than making them dinner themselves. What if the CEO said he felt black people were untrustworthy due to their involvement in crimes. How would you feel as a female or black employee or customer of this company? A customer can obviously cease to be one, personally boycotting the chain and taking their hard earned money elsewhere. But what about an employee, an employee who, in this economy cannot risk to seek employment elsewhere. Imagine a hardworking gay employee of Chick-Fil-A in the coming months. Perhaps he or she is passed over for a promotion, or perchance a coworker receives a raise instead. How is this working American supposed to react? Would they be delusional to wonder if their exclusion had nothing to do with merit and everything to do with the companies beliefs? What is there to make this individual feel valued at the company they work for, to inspire them to work harder? Dan Cathy’s statements and his company’s actions are legal. No crime has been committed by this company, no business malpractice. But just because actions are legal does not make them ethical.

From this moment henceforth, I refuse to give Chick-Fil-A my business in defense of freedom of speech and in defense of a non-hostile work environment. I believe in equal rights for all, women, people of all colors, and those of all sexual orientations. I believe the merits of an individual are determined by their contributions to society and the compassion they show others. I believe a family is defined by the amount of love shared between its members, not the archaic and stagnant definition Chick-Fil-A and its proud customers are choosing to perpetuate under the guise of “freedom of speech.” I do believe in their right to speak as much as I believe in their right to exist in the box of a “traditional” family. Though personally, I choose to speak for diversity and hope for a world where diversity of belief can still allow room for acceptance of those we differ from. I choose to fight for a country where love between two people is never publicly silenced by the legality of its definition, for there is already enough shortage of love in the world. I choose not to support a corporation known to strike down these values with the money they earn. I support their right to, but they will never receive my financial help in doing so.

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