When it first came to my attention that Dianna Hobbs was offended by my article, “An Unholy Alliance: Black Folks & Chick-fil-A,” I initially chose to ignore it for a couple of reasons.

1.)    I’ve come to learn that people will find fault with whatever you say, so there is no need to defend yourself.

2.)    The fact that she took the article out of context suggested that her critique was disingenuous and not worth the time it would take to craft a response.

Then I realized that this is what often happens in public discourse. Intolerance and bigotry become cloaked in freedom of speech and religion, thus rendering any dissent mute for fear of being viewed as hypocritical or a Christian-basher. Well, I for one have never been fond of staying silent in the face of blatantly false assertions meant to shift context away from my views and toward territory that allows people to feel more comfortable in their own – and I’m not about to start now.

Hobbs asserts that she was “both upset and saddened” at the “defamatory” and “vicious” portion of my article that was published on TheGrio.com under the talking point “Blacks supporting Chick-Fil-A: Is eating chicken as an expression of religious faith taking things too far?”

What Hobbs failed to realize is that the article and original title had little to do with Christianity at-large or fried chicken, and everything to do with black Americans supporting a corporation that perpetuates intolerant laws meant to subjugate the LGBT community and treat them as second-class citizens. The fact that black people have been on the receiving end of such laws, yet have no problem vocally supporting the same disenfranchisement for another group, is absolutely pathetic.

Hobbs even goes so far as to speak for all Christians, before claiming that she just speaks for herself, and assert that the protest was about – you guessed it – freedom of speech and the need for Christians to speak out in support of Dan Cathy’s right to express his views without retribution.

Hobbs writes:

When the LGBT community responded with their own nationwide “kiss-in” protests at the chicken chain just days later, they were well within their rights to do so. Openly showing same-sex affection was their way to make a statement.

Supporting Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was ours.

This is America. We have the freedom to support and protest whatever we choose and however we choose to do so, as long as we do it peacefully and non-violently.

Why, yes, yes it is. This would be a valid counter-point to my alleged misunderstanding of that aspect of the issue if I had not also written in my article:

I support Chick-fil-A’s — and Dan Cathy’s –right to free speech, completely and in its entirety. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and what I cannot and will not support is bigotry in the form of legislation. Especially from a regional fried-chicken peddling company whose ideas simply mirror the Bible Belt area in which it predominantly resides.

So what was the point of presenting the argument as if it were an epiphany of some sort that had never even crossed my mind? Of course Cathy has a right to his opinion; I also have the right to call him out for what I personally believe to be unethical business practices.

It is nothing less than horrific that we have a man who will gladly accept the money of the LGBT community with his left hand and use that money to funnel support to political organizations that fully support their classification as second-class citizens with his right hand. It is even more problematic that many in the black evangelical community conveniently turn their back on that truth in favor of the simplified argument, “Oh, this is just about freedom of speech.” While Hobbs repeatedly asserts that I’m insulting the intelligence of those who feel this way, I would respond that it’s equally insulting to frame an argument in a way that completely ignores nuance and parses through sentences until one is found that can be construed as insulting when not placed in context.

This is no different from sifting through the Bible and deciding which scriptures are literally palatable and which should be viewed as metaphorical. One has to look at an entire argument – and present it honestly – to even begin to formulate a response that makes sense. And, unfortunately, in Hobbs’ quest to paint me as “vicious,” she zeroed in only on the aspects that made her go, “Wow.”

Including, but not limited to, the following paragraph, which was in response to my statement that it was ridiculous to buy fried chicken to show how much some evangelicals disapproved of homosexuality:

While some surely enjoyed the fried chicken on Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, I’m sure there were also those health-conscious black Christians (such a thing exists) who chose other options available on the menu, like: grilled chicken wrap, salad, hearty breast of chicken soup, or a fruit cup. They may have even opted to just have bottled water, a cup of coffee, or orange juice.

Just stop it.

There were no reports that Chick-fil-A sold out of healthy food items, coffee, orange juice, or fruit cups. They did, however, have record-breaking chicken sandwich sales. Even FOX News, that great bastion of free and honest speech, weighed in on the mystique of the world famous fried chicken sandwich in the wake of the controversy. I’ve seen with my own four eyes black people on Facebook not only holding Chick-fil-A fried chicken sandwiches and talking about Chick-fil-A fried chicken sandwiches, but chuckling because they went to their local Chick-fil-A and the fried chicken sandwiches were sold out.

Mike Huckabee, known for his racially motivated views on President Barack Obama, welfare, health care and – surprise, surprise – being the catalyst of Chick-fil-A day, had this to say about the menu:

“People are voting with their feet today,” the former Arkansas governor said. “I guess you could also say they are voting with their faces; they are stuffing them with chicken sandwiches, those lovely chicken sandwiches from Chick-fil-A.”

That is where my opinion on the matter stemmed from. I do not buy into nor perpetuate stereotypes as ignorant as watermelon and chicken, as is referenced in my article, “Fried Chicken, Black Fear, and White Stereotypes.” The point that I did make, very clearly, was that it was the height of hypocrisy for some of the same black people who criticized Mary J. Blige for “coonery” when she sang about crispy chicken to now pose and grin with fried chicken like it was a Civil Rights rally. Furthermore, my interest in that curious phenomenon had nothing to do with stereotypes, rather compromising physical health to make an unhealthy socio-political statement. If Hobbs would like to present pictures of black people standing in line for hours to buy a fruit cup, I’ll be happy to apologize for the generalization. Until then, we’ll just have to agree to disagree that it is not the most productive course of action for the most physically unhealthy ethnic group to eat fried chicken just to make a point. If that is offensive, I think I’ll be able to sleep tonight.

Why? Because it wasn’t about fried chicken at its core; on that we agree. It was about a human right to existence and a civil right to equality. Not once did I say, though Hobbs clearly insinuates, that my central issue was that black Christians were the only ones in support of Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day; in fact, I said the scope of the controversy was extraordinarily complex and broad:

“It’s a conflagration of hypocrisy, extremism, and greed. We have corporate America and its influence on political agendas. We have the narrow scope of religion and its place in civil rights.”

Even though I chose to focus, as a black woman, on the complexity of Chick-fil-A’s support from a faction of our society, those of us I did see in media reports were not the majority, but appeared to have crashed a KKK meeting – which should be Exhibit A in the case to prove that there was something more sinister at play than “freedom of speech.” I have never once said that the black evangelicals who actively vote to suppress the rights of their fellow citizens are the system, but rather that many of them are buying into a political system meant to oppress the LGBT community in the exact same manner that black people have been since the first slave ship docked.

Note: The doctrines of one religion have no room in collective civil rights.

Just as it appears to be Hobbs’ truth that denying people civil rights is the Christian thing to do, it is my truth that a corporation that funds political initiatives meant to bar a certain segment of American society the right to freely exist, even as they travel overseas to protect and die for this country and pay taxes in this country, is abhorrent. Though some black people, after generations of having that same religion and corrupt political system justify our status as slaves, flocked to support it — which is their right –, I will continue to vehemently oppose blatant shows of bigotry which manifest as reflections of selective religious intolerance in a narrative where religion need not even be present.

In response to my assertion that it is extremely shortsighted for black Democrats to support financially an organization that gives money to GOP candidates, Hobbs had this to say:

What’s wrong with black Democrats doing business with Republicans? Why all the hostility? Many of the corporations we rely on for our sustenance don’t have Democratic leaders. Should party affiliation always be a prerequisite for determining where we invest our consumer dollars?

As a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ, my greatest source of identity is my faith, not my blackness — though I celebrate and love being an African-American woman. For me, aligning my faith and values with people who don’t look, think, talk like me, or have the same political views is healthy and necessary. If they share my faith in Jesus Christ, we automatically have something in common.

The problem here, Hobbs, is 1) there is no hostility; those were facts, and 2.) I am not a Democrat; I’m an Independent, so to suggest that business segregation along party lines was my point completely misses the mark. The statement was in reference to the cognitive dissonance that Democrats must face when aligning themselves with a business that supports candidates who not only share their beliefs that religion should inform politics, but also have negative records on issues that disproportionately affect the black community. If you’re perfectly fine with that, since you’re Christian before you’re black, then this statement in my article may apply to you:

“It is true that there are many blue-dog Democrats whose evangelical ideology does not align with their official party platform, instead mimicking all things conservative unless it pertains to economic equality — or as their fellow GOPers prefer to call it, handouts for welfare queens and thugs. In that case, though I’m sure the cognitive dissonance is deafening, please by all means stand by your beliefs – and pray that the proceeds from that large Arnold Palmer don’t go to the campaign coffers of an anti-Obamacare conservative.”

And that statement was made with complete –albeit, sarcastic — sincerity.

What was conveniently left out in Hobbs’ response was that the foundation of Appreciation Day — and the LBGT response — was framed around the suppression of equality, not the presence of equality.

Think Progress reports:

Gay and lesbian employees of Chick-fil-A had perhaps the most disheartening reaction to the day. An Alabama gay staffer named Andrew described the day as “hater appreciation day,” calling it “very, very depressing.” A gay employee at the company’s headquarters in Atlanta heard a customer say, “I’m so glad you don’t support the queers; I can eat in peace.” Another in Colorado had customers telling him, “I support your company, because your company hates the gays.” Many report experiencing homophobia not just from customers, but from fellow employees as well.

“Journalist Mark Krzos of The News-Press in Fort Myers, Florida, wrote on Facebook that covering Chick-fil-A yesterday was incredibly disheartening:

“I have never felt so alien in my own country as I did today while covering the restaurant’s supporters. The level of hatred, unfounded fear, and misinformed people was astoundingly sad. I can’t even print some of the things people said.”

What would Jesus do?

That is what is “vicious and defamatory” here. There are some black people who think we own the patent on pain. We do not. There are those black evangelicals who feel that evoking God clears them of any culpability when it comes to aiding and abetting sustained hatred toward other human beings. It does not. There are those black Christians – not all — who feel that their personal religious beliefs should inform political policy. They do not.

Hobbs spoke several times about what defines America, so let’s close here speaking about America.

One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, had this to say about the separation of church and state:

“The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. … Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.”

The Christian faith guides Chick-fil-A’s politics against the LGBT community. Period. That is the corporation’s right, and I fully support their right to freely practice faith; however, when that faith is used to suppress the civil rights of other human beings, it is only responsible that socially conscious people stand up in protest.

The United States of America is a republic rooted in democracy, not a theocracy rooted in exclusion.

That is the symbolism that was front and center of the Chick-fil-A controversy, and to minimize that fact is a disservice to us all.

 

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  • Paul

    The irony in these “rights” “battles” between gay activists and Christian fundamentalists is that both are groups who HAVE always been more protected than REAL minority groups, but yet we have blacks who more concerned to speak in behalf of their “cause” than our own.

    Homosexuality is different to race in that unlike skin colour, homosexuality it is an invisible difference. Homos were not subject to slavery, jim crow or another of the other race based hatreds and discriminations that STILL limit the lives of blacks and other non-white ethnic groups today.

    The only “rights” issue that the white LGBT community have confronted is the right to express (or practice) their sexuality openly without fear of retribution. That goal has been accomplished.

    But let’s not forget that prior to that they still enjoyed the same white privilege as every other white. They went to the best schools, lived in the most affluent neighborhoods and occupied the highet positions of influence in society.

    J Edgar Hoover, the man who ordered the destruction of the Civil Rights Movement was a homosexual who “rose” to a position of power that made him more powerful than the president.

    Nah – the gay “struggle” aint one that I could take on as my own. It doesn’t satisfy the critieria that I use to decide whether cause is just,

    which are as follows:

    Does the cause advocate RESPECT and PROTECTIION for the environment, bio-diverity and animal rights?

    Does the cause advocate a changes to the status quo that are intended to raise the condition the most oppressed?

    Is the cause anti-capitalist, anti hierarchy, anti privilege for the few, anti-war anti mainstream media, and against all instutitions of oppression and coercion – eg the police, military, prisons, and government as its currently constituted to serve only business interests?

    Is the cause anti white supremacy, anti racism, anti misogyny and anti MISANDRY?

    Is the cause secular in outlook and scientifically rational in method?

    If your beef doesn’t satisfy this basic test then you aint on nuttin.