But if you are a major American brand proud of this record of tolerance and inclusiveness, then please stop talking out of both sides of your mouth:
Nashville, TN – Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Randy Boyd joined Lowe’s in announcing the company will locate a new direct fulfillment center in Robertson County.
The home improvement company expects to invest approximately $100 million and create up to 600 jobs in Coopertown, northwest of Nashville.
Yes, this is huge for this community north of Nashville. And yet, Robertson County’s two representatives to the state legislature (Republicans, ‘natch) — State Rep. Sabi Kumar and State Senator Kerry Roberts — both supported the discriminatory anti-LGBT counseling bill. Both voted for it; in fact, Roberts serves on the Health And Welfare Committee which could have stopped this bill in its infancy, but every single Republican moved it forward. Shame.
This is the same bill which has caused the city of Nashville so many problems: the loss of conferences, backlash from celebrities and the like. Nashville, the first city in the state to pass an anti-GLBT discrimination ordinance, forbidding the city from contracting with companies that discriminate. Nashville, whose Democratic reps have opposed discrimination. But we’re the ones who pay, while Robertson County is rewarded for its intolerance.
I’ve mentioned it before (notably here), but boycotts don’t work if they don’t hurt the people who are doing wrong. Boycotts and bad national PR don’t work if they hurt your allies, not your enemies. And maybe we’ve reached a point where boycotts just don’t work, period (a position I have certainly stated before).
I don’t have the answer. I do know that claiming you’re pro-tolerance and pro-inclusion while rewarding the people who vote for bigots sends a mixed message. What are we to do?
Last year I had a conversation with a Very Famous Person™ who is generally regarded as a “forward thinker” on a lot of this stuff. He told me he sees the utter collapse of industry as we know it and the emergence of a new industry, one that is driven by these smaller communities. New products that aren’t harmful to the health or the planet will be created by members of the community. He told me social connectivity is the game-changer. Yes, walls are being put up, but as fast as they do people build ladders around them.
And I see this happening around me in a hundred different ways. We homeschool our kids, we buy food at the farmer’s market, we have 500 different channels to watch on TV instead of 10, we get our news from blogs and Tweets not just the corporate fish-wrap and Villagers in Washington. We’re starting down the path of decentralization, it’s only just begun but a profound societal shift has been put in motion.
This idea still resonates with me today. If Home Depot personifies right-wing evil (pro-tip: it does!) and Lowe’s personifies political hypocrisy, I guess the answer is for me to find that cute little liberal mom-and-pop hardware store where everyone who works there agrees with me 100% of the time. Good luck to me.
The alternative is to try to root out the intolerance and bigotry the old-fashioned way, and just turn off all the other noise. The conundrum is that it isn’t just noise: you can’t check out of a national conversation on justice and civil rights and human rights; if someone is going to spout some intolerant BS, don’t expect me to remain silent about it.
I point all of these things out because I feel like we live in very complicated times, where the old rules about social action no longer apply. I have friends who live in Robertson County, I’m sure these jobs will uplift some really good people. But by the same time, these rural counties need to stop sending crazy people to the legislature. Because we all end up hurting in the long run.