Share and Follow
As companies and colleges face a sudden surge in online and legislative attacks against diversity, equity and inclusion programs—the latest in an anti-”woke” political movement on the right—online critics are zeroing in on targets including, somewhat bizarrely, Christian-affiliated restaurant chain Chick-fil-A.
Many companies and universities have made commitments to a diverse and inclusive workplace, especially since the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements of the last decade, with every Fortune 100 company voicing a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and an estimated 83% of companies working to implement DEI programs, according to a WorldatWork survey of 656 companies.
DEI programs have faced backlash from right-wing critics, who have moved to boycott companies who make commitments to diversity—most recently Chick-fil-A, which became the target of right-wing backlash on Tuesday when its years-old announcement of its commitment to DEI and its hiring of a vice president of DEI resurfaced on Twitter.
Though the backlash is new, Erick McReynolds has served as vice president for DEI since November 2021, and was previously executive director of DEI since June 2020, according to his LinkedIn.
Chick-fil-A’s critics were further outraged by a resurfaced three-year-old video of chairman and former CEO Dan Cathy shining a Black man’s shoes onstage in an Atlanta church during a discussion about racism, a gesture meant as a means to “put words to action” in repenting for racism, that was criticized as “bizarre” at the time.
On Monday, both chambers of the Texas state legislature passed a ban on DEI programs at publicly funded universities, two weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) signed a bill into law defunding DEI programs at Florida public colleges and limiting how race can be discussed in classes. At least 20 states have introduced various bills targeting collegiate DEI programs, diversity in hiring and identity-based preferences for admission, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, though some of these bills have failed.
Conservative commentator Charlie Kirk, criticized Chick-fil-A’s DEI commitment on Twitter to his 2.2 million followers. He accused DEI initiatives of being “anti-white, anti-American, and anti-Christian,” as well as a “Marxist Trojan Horse with a sweet sounding name.” Conservative Blaze TV host Lauren Chen tweeted to her 500,000 followers there is “no legitimate, non-woke reason for any company to have a ‘DEI’ department or program” because “individuals will be rewarded or penalized on the basis of race, gender, or sexuality.” DeSantis, a high-profile DEI critic, has previously suggested the acronym instead stands for “discrimination, exclusion and indoctrination.”
McReynolds stated Chick-fil-A’s mission of “ensuring mutual respect, understanding and dignity everywhere we do business” on the company’s DEI webpage. The Chick-fil-A DEI statement commits to promoting equal opportunity for employees and cites its work with universities and organizations like the Women’s Foodservice Forum, National Black MBA Association and Association of Latino Professionals of America to hire talent. Democratic politicians have also defended DEI from right-wing attacks, including Ohio State Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson), who tweeted: “Good for @ChickfilA!” Texas Democrats, including State Rep. Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (D-San Antonio), defended diversity as “not a threat but a strength” after the Texas House passed a bill banning DEI programs in public universities.
Right-wing outrage against DEI programs follows increasing attacks on companies deemed to be “woke” for their marketing campaigns that include LGBTQ people or their Pride Month product lines. Bud Light faced a boycott and criticism from conservative pundits after it sent transgender TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney a custom can with her image on it in early April. Since then, a long line of companies have faced online backlash, including Target and Kohl’s for their Pride Month products, as well as The North Face and Jack Daniels for marketing campaigns featuring drag queens. Some of these marketing campaigns are old but have been dug up and recirculated on social media by angered conservatives, including a months-old Miller Lite marketing campaign that originally aired in March for Women’s History Month but went viral on Twitter more than two months later. Attacks on DEI in education also follow several states’ efforts to ban “critical race theory” in schools and books in schools and libraries.
The conservative backlash to Chick-fil-A’s DEI commitment is a stark contrast to its history of tension with the LGBTQ community, which has prompted some LGBTQ supporters to boycott the company and conservatives to readily embrace it. Chick-fil-A vocally abides by Christian values, stating its corporate purpose is to “glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.” The company famously closes its restaurants on Sundays according to the wishes of its founder, Truett Cathy, who wanted employees to rest and worship if they choose. Chick-fil-A has long faced criticism from the left wing because of Dan Cathy’s statements opposing same-sex marriage in 2012, and the company’s charitable foundation’s history of donating money to anti-LGBTQ groups. Some conservatives have supported the company because of Cathy’s religious beliefs and anti-gay marriage stance: in 2012, former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-Ark.) declared August 1 to be “Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day,” and praised Cathy on Facebook for “his view that the Biblical view of marriage should be upheld.”
Kohl’s Becomes Latest Target Of LGBTQ Culture Wars: Here Are All The Others—From Bud Light To Target (Forbes)
Molson Coors Slaps Anti-‘Woke’ Critics—Like Joe Rogan And Ben Shapiro—And Defends Miller Lite Women’s History (Forbes)