Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Art of a Boycott (Arizona)

I had to do some thinking about boycotting Arizona. Initially, I was mixed on it because while I felt it's necessary to send a message that will be heard, I didn't want to punish good businesses that didn't support the law.

Then I started thinking about why boycotts work. The most effective ones serve a clear purpose to demand better treatment - there's a target and there's a clear message sent us against them. You send a message to the target that you will not support them as long as they practice something that irks you personally.

(And Ye Olde Webster Says): To abstain from or act together in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion

Back in the 1930's, my paper had a campaign called "Don't Shop Where You Can't Work" - encouraging Black citizens of Los Angeles to not shop at stores where they couldn't be hired or faced discrimination. And we all know about the Montgomery Bus Boycott where Blacks protested being forced to sit in the back of the buses.

I like boycotts that send a direct message against something. You want to see where someone's true value lies, follow the money (to quote All the President's Men) or the passion. That's what you target. You don't boycott abstract ideas, you stick to your principles against something that threatens it.

Arizona knows boycotts well. I had thought that the state was only boycotted in 1992 for their stance on the Martin Luther King holiday but it turns out the state had been under boycott off and on since 1987. The parallels are striking in that link and if you read it, there's a lot of similarities in public perception of the state.

Why support a state who's government AND citizens that wouldn't respect the holiday in honor of a man who wanted to teach people to love their fellow man? Even the NFL said no and moved the Super Bowl to Cali. AZ lost $300 million and the government did the right thing by reversing their decision.

Here we are in 2010. Should we boycott Arizona again for SB1070? Critics say why support a government that has passed a bill that will unfairly targets innocent people and hearkens back to Nazi/apartheid tactics.

Those against say it won't accomplish anything - it unfairly targets businesses that might support their cause and punishes all citizens who don't deserve it.

Here's a hypothetical situation. Let's say that we don't boycott Arizona. We continue to support the state with our dollars. What do we say by that? What do we tell the American citizens or Mexicans on vacation who will be illegally harassed? With our funding of the government, what message are we sending?

Ask yourself if the U.S. did financial business with a country that has some red button issues. Ask yourself if we consumers supported a company that has human rights issues or treated their employees wrong. Is it just about the end result (the benefit of our support) or do we care about the means to that end?

Now what if Arizona was boycotted again? If people used their biggest sign of power, their $$$, to make a statement, what does it say? As we are climbing out of a recession, is it fair to punish Americans who want to make an honest living in addition to the government?

Ultimately, it comes down to this. What's the best way to voice our opposition - are words merely enough or should we do even more. Send a message with our wallets and people will listen.

Boycotts that impact critical funds are powerful because money makes the world go round. They prove a point because it goes from words to action. So Arizona, it's time to watch the money dry up and maybe it'll make you rethink of a better solution to this problem instea

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