Tuesday, 10 August 2010

A thought on the Target Kafuffle and past records

I am casting my beady eye over the recent Target kafuffle. Now, most people have seen it now, while I’ve been dying horribly – but a brief summation. Target gave lots of money to a group that supported a particularly nasty homophobic candidate. In the face of boycotts, uproars and general Not Amusedness, Target apologised

This has largely been covered well, but I have my 2 cents to add on one aspect of this.

Part of the drama llama surrounding this has been that numerous GBLT people and allies announced a boycott of Target

And some in Target or speaking for Target quickly spoke up with “but look at Target’s record, they’re not homophobic!” And they’re right in that, as far as large corporations go, Target’s record on GBLT issues isn’t awful.

And my response to that is – and?

See, this is part of my point when I earlier spoke about Rainbow-washing. It is often easy to line up gestures without any true dedication – to give a few tokens to keep us onside and smiling without really caring or acting.

Is that what Target’s intentions were with their past record? I don’t know, I’m not going to speculate and, in truth, I don’t think it matters.

What I do think matters is this idea that past niceness justifies present day shitness. I reject the notion – you cannot store up brownie points and then play them as a Get Out of Bigotry free Card.

And part of the reason I reject the notion is because I feel it feeds into the annoyingly pervasive idea that we should be grateful when someone isn’t a homophobe. That we somehow owe someone for not being a homophobe. Not being a homophobe should not be a praiseworthy state, it should be a standard state. not being an arsehole isn’t something that should be hailed – it is something that should be expected (and I’ll probably explore this later in another post).

Having a general good record cannot be used as some kind of bank to excuse something inexcusable. They can’t give us cookies and expect us to ignore it when they then slap our faces. We cannot – or should not – be bought or brought to a point of unquestioning loyalty by simple gestures – nor do I feel we should be placated by any amount of gestures – or even substantive actions – that would

Target, in my mind, does not have an excuse good enough for what they did. They funded and supported a virulent homophobe who actively works against GBLT rights. They have no claim of ignorance or honest mistake – and saying that they supported the candidate’s business policies doesn’t excuse the support they end up giving to the homophobia – in fact, it shows an incredibly dismissive attitude towards it, since it’s something they can not only casually overlooked but did not even consider.

No, i cannot see any amount of gestures or even concrete actions that would make this ok, would make this acceptable or protect Target from criticism or boycott. To say it does is risky, methinks. Risky because it says we can be bought, because it says we can be distracted and because it says that homophobic can be justified, paid for or excused. It cannot.

A brief disclaimer: None of this is to say that I think we should completely ignore a good record. Far from it – if someone has shown themselves time and again to be friendly and an ally then, in my opinion, they are due some benefit of the doubt and is due some investment in time and energy and tolerance if and when they say or do something that causes accidental sporking.

Of course the key there is “accidental” – and further clarified by needing to be understandable as well – an understandable mistake, an honest ignorance in an ignorant, privileged world.

Please note the “due” here – that doesn’t mean I think that such tolerance of sporking is OWED (beyond the fact we owe our friends a degree of tolerance and understanding we do not accord to strangers – because I think everyone owes their friends that much regard) but because it is practical and sensible. I think a friend and/or genuine ally is worth the investment in time, energy and spork endurance to be gently corrected when they accidentally flail around with the lemon-soaked sporks of privilege near our unprotected eyes.

But such a regard, in my view, is usually going to take either an epicly well known record or PERSONAL interaction (which also means that while one person may endure the sporking and engage in gentle correction, other’s may not feel the need to do so and may be far more concerned with the damn spork in their eye). And, yes, this is another topic I’ll expand upon another time.