The last time I shopped at Target in South Philadelphia, I ran into several gay people I know because it seems gay people – like many folks – really like to shop at Target. Despite the boycott that was being talked about all over Facebook just a few months ago, it was business as usual at the superstore. The aisles were packed with people plucking items from gay designers like Isaac Mizrahi and getting ready to celebrate the holidays.
But admittedly, it left a bad taste when I found out recently, via The Awl, that even after apologizing to LGBT groups who voiced upset over Target donating money to the PAC MN Forward in its home base of Minnesota earlier this year, the company CEO continued to fund anti-gay politicians. It gives new meaning to “the down low.”
The revelation is at odds with the statement CEO Gregg Steinhafel released in August in which he apologized for funding these anti-gay politicos, saying, “We remain fully committed to fostering an environment that supports and respects the rights and beliefs of all individuals.”
But even after the remorseful statement was made (and only after LGBT activists threatened to boycott the chain via email, blogs and on social networking sites), The Awl uncovered documents filed with the FEC as late as October revealing that Target continued to donate to several anti-gay candidates via the PAC.
“These donations,” reports The Awl, “even included some of the same anti-gay politicians the company had already been criticized for supporting.” Of the $41,200 in donations, $31,200 went to support PACs that endorsed some very gay-unfriendly candidates in Minnesota, says The Awl.
Admittedly, when I first learned about Target donating to a PAC that shared funds with politicians who are anti-gay, it was disappointing, but seemed a bit round-about (the PAC did the doling out of money, not Target, right?). I also questioned whether boycotting the chain would really be a smart decision given all the good Target does in communities well beyond Minnesota. The chain, after all, supports LGBT designers, the arts and community efforts that impact LGBT people around the country each day and each week. Next year, the company is even expected to sponsor the Twin Cities Pride, surely an attempt to assuage any further boycotts – and a controversial one at that if you visit the Twin Cities Pride website.
The facts are funny in this situation. Fact is Target’s CEO has funded anti-gay initiatives on at least two occasions (one of which came after apologizing for the first time). But since 1946, Target has also given five percent of its income to enrich communities. Today, that equals about $3 million every week. This year alone, money was donated to disaster relief, childhood hunger relief and the arts. Friday nights at MOMA in New York City are free to the public thanks to a Target sponsorship. I know because last time I was in Manhattan I happily took advantage of the opportunity. And so did plenty of gay people who were standing in galleries featuring plenty of gay artists.
So is it worth boycotting a company that donated a small amount of money to a PAC that, in turn, supports anti-gay politicians? Maybe. But does it matter how much Target donated compared to how much fuels gay-positive initiatives? Or is the problem really with corporations getting involved in grassroots politics in all the wrong ways? Are there ever really right ways?
It’s easy to boycott something that is theoretically anti-gay, especially when the apparent misdeeds outweigh any good ones. Anita Bryant and her oranges come to mind. So does the Domino’s Pizza CEO who contributes to anti-gay and anti-abortion groups. But when a company like Target – imperfect as it is thanks, sadly, to its two-faced leadership – donates millions of dollars to community groups that foster LGBT and other important issues around the country, the gray area becomes, well, even grayer.