The Sexuality and Gender Diversity Faculty Council released a statement on Aug. 26 condemning the University of Kansas’ continued relationship with Chick-fil-A, a corporation whose founding family and affiliated charitable foundation have repeatedly supported anti-LGBTQ+ organizations. The restaurant is, as the statement said, “a bastion of bigotry.”
It’s also one of the most popular dining locations on campus.
Here’s what I don’t understand about Chick-fil-A. We know it’s bad. It’s been bad — publicly, unapologetically bad — for almost a decade, and it doesn’t seem to matter. For every boycott and petition to remove a Chick-fil-A franchise, two more pop up to save it. There are memes about how nice the employees are. The food is genuinely popular; the NBC sitcom "The Good Place" summed up the Chick-fil-A controversy with the line, “There’s this chicken sandwich that if you eat it, it means you hate gay people. And it’s delicious.”
Why do we keep eating at Chick-fil-A? And does it matter that we do?
Let’s take this one step at a time. First of all, homophobia is bad. Therefore, supporting organizations, corporations and individuals who are homophobic is harmful. Chick-fil-A, as far as it can be defined by its founders and its charity, is homophobic. Therefore, supporting Chick-fil-A is harmful. So, we should stop eating at Chick-fil-A.
Here’s why we haven’t stopped eating at Chick-fil-A: Once you acknowledge that supporting harmful corporations is in itself causing harm, it becomes harder to suppress the knowledge that on some level, every corporation is harmful.
When it comes to choosing between eating a chicken sandwich and reckoning with the suffering inherent in our society’s structure, most of us are going to choose the sandwich.
As the old saying goes, “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism.” It’s hard to deny. Most corporations in this country are doing harm, either by pumping tons of pollutants into our atmosphere, using sweatshops to assemble their products or funding Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Even if a corporation isn’t doing any of these things, it still perpetuates a system that steals wealth from the working class, preventing them from reaping the benefits of their labor.
But we live in a society. It is unrealistic to expect us all to avoid giving our money to capitalists because it is unrealistic to expect us all to starve. Just because ethical consumption isn’t possible, it doesn’t mean thoughtful consumption is similarly out of reach. The only way to escape capitalism is to dismantle the system entirely, but until that day comes, the least we can do is think about the ways in which we participate in this system to decrease harm wherever we can.
You’re not a bad person for eating at Chick-fil-A, but that doesn’t change the fact that if none of us ate at Chick-fil-A, they wouldn’t have any money left to fund anti-LGBTQ+ causes.
I stand with the Sexuality and Gender Diversity Faculty Council and its condemnation of the University. As much as it matters that we examine our own individual actions, it's also important to remember the University chose to renew its contract with Chick-fil-A in 2014, according to the Kansan, which was years after the company's bigotry became public knowledge.
The University, while not a corporation, still has more power than any one of us, and it’s important to remember while boycotts are important, the real responsibility lies with those, like the University, who enter into contracts with corporations like Chick-fil-A. Whether it wants to admit it or not, the University sends a message with these contracts, a message that says there’s a part of this university that prioritizes its relationship with a corporation over the well-being of its LGBTQ+ students, staff and faculty.
I’ll remember this message when I see the Chick-fil-A coin toss at every home football game.
Then I’ll buy my chicken somewhere else.
Jamie Hawley is a senior from Salina studying English, political science and communication studies.