Sometimes the spoils are just being able to look at yourself in the mirror
I have friends and family who think I am silly for boycotting companies, states or whatever I choose to take a stand on. They feel that I am only injuring myself or depriving myself of making purchases that are easier on my pocketbook. A similar view is held on my self-imposed travel ban. Honestly, I don’t mind depriving myself of visiting a state whose racist, bigoted, pro-gun government won’t do squat to change things in that state for the better.
But let’s look a little more closely at some of the achievements over the last years where taking a boycott stance has made significant impact. Most movements start small, with just a few incensed people, but eventually grow to a groundswell of people objecting to what only a crazy person, or maybe a garden variety Republican, would not find objectionable.
Remember Jan Brewer? She’s the former governor of Arizona who famously pointed her finger in President Barack Obama’s face on the tarmac as he arrived for a visit to her state to a manufacturing site.
In 2014 the legislature in her state sent to her desk what was basically an anti-gay bill calling for segregating LGBT citizens. The outcry trickled in at first but grew swiftly, with many local businesses threatening to boycott the previously scheduled Super Bowl in Phoenix. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce chimed in, encouraging a veto, as did both of Arizona’s representatives in the United States Senate and the mayors of Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson and Mesa, Arizona. Brewer, never known for leaning left on any issue, vetoed the legislation.
The NAACP’s boycott of South Carolina, which had been in place for fifteen years in protest of the Confederate flag flying on the statehouse grounds, is another example of a slow-simmering boycott that, in all candor, seemed to have limited effect.
But if you take a moment to really look, you know that what the NAACP instituted fifteen years ago did have meaning. Republican Governor Nikki Haley supported the flag’s removal after nine South Carolinians were murdered at their church by a man who worshiped the rebel flag and its hideous meaning. Haley’s actions were influenced by the boycott, unfortunately it took a tragedy to make her understand the NAACP’s grievances.
When Jenny Horne, a Charleston representative to South Carolina’s legislature, stood passionately before that body, as a Republican descendant of Robert E. Lee and called for the flag’s removal, that was the moment we all hoped, and for which the NAACP worked so long and hard.
Of course, pleading to a legislative body’s decency doesn’t always get you the results you might have hoped for. It is not surprising then, that Jenny Horne needed to bring in the potential loss of business to the state if South Carolina seemed intent to proudly continue to show their racist colors by continuing to fly that flag.
So, yes, I will continue my long line of boycotts. I will continue to boycott the fast food chicken restaurants that persist in their bigoted ways toward the LGBT community. I will continue to boycott the craft store, aka cheap Chinese product store, that insists that they have a right to regulate the birth control choices of the women who work for them. I will continue my boycott of the states where they pass laws that allow easier access to guns with practically no restrictions on carrying them in public.
Over the years, boycotts have been very successful. From ending Apartheid in South Africa to getting General Motors to stop using animals in crash tests, the list is impressive. Am I going to put any of these businesses or states’ tourism industries out of business? No. But there is another key benefit to these kinds of boycotts: I can look myself in the mirror.