Lowe's hits new lows in corporate responsibilityDecember 14, 2011 11:12 AM
As of this week, I'm not buying my screws from Lowe's anymore, though there must be a surplus of loose screws back at the home office.
The home improvement chain sure has a strange way of celebrating America's diversity.
"Duck and cover" may have worked in the 1950s for air raids and earthquakes. It's not supposed to be the way a modern company addresses the New America--which last I checked is home to between five and eight million Muslims.
The move by Lowe's to pull its ads from TLC's reality TV show, "All-American Muslim," is such a strange response from the corporate giant. It's so retro and closed-minded in its avoidance of controversy.
Of course, it's Lowe's, not the United Nations. All it wants to do is sell a few screws, right?
And all it took to get Lowe's to pull its ads was a little pressure from those known Islamaphobes, the Florida Family Association. The Tampa-based Christian group claimed the show was "propaganda" to counter the Association's own narrow-minded propaganda that Muslims are promoting Islamic fundamentalism and Sharia Law.
Have you seen the show?
It's not exactly a Ken Burns documentary, but it's not "Jersey Shore" either. It's a glimpse of life most Americans don't see. Just the thing to balance the righteous ignorance of xenophobes like the Florida Family Association.
In that sense, the show's more public service than anything else. Unless you're planning a trip to Dearborn, Michigan, say to visit to the Arab American Museum (which I did this past summer). Then you can have the American Muslim experience first-hand.
Don't you want to know your Muslim neighbors? The show is no more proselytizing than what is becoming a normal NFL scene on TV on Sundays: Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow taking a knee and looking to the skies after a last-second victory.
The TLC show merely sheds some light.
But Lowe's doesn't want to provide the bulbs.
It's surely not the fight it wants. It's into home improvement, not societal improvement. Race relations? Sorry, not in that aisle.
Lowe's is mostly big-time into its own capital improvement. It doesn't want to upset anyone. Shareholder value is all that matters, and that means duck any controversy by any means necessary.
Lowe's response has been surprisingly meek with a modern non-apology on the place for passive commitments, Facebook:
"Lowe's has received a significant amount of communication on this program from every perspective possible. Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lightning rod for many of those views. As a result, we did pull our advertising on this program."
How's that for the cowardice of capitalism? Although what did you expect, Lowe's trotting out a company spokesperson named Al Jazeera?
I'm not much for boycotts, but this does call for a bit of selective shopping. How else do you debate corporate style? You either own stock shares, and disrupt the annual meeting. Or you're a consumer and you vote your conscience---with your wallet.
It's interesting that the most outspoken public voice on this so far has been California State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance). He's right to go amok on this, calling Lowe's decision "bigoted, shameful, and un-American."
But interestingly, there are too many others in America who echo the Florida Family Association.
To rise above the din, we must shop elsewhere.
And while you're at it, why just focus on Lowe's?
The Muslim Public Affairs Council has a full list of companies that the Florida Family Association claims have pulled ads from TLC because of "All-American Muslim:" http://www.mpac.org/issues/islamophobia/action-alert-stop-bigots-from-pressuring-advertisers-for-tlcs-all-american-muslim.php
The list includes companies like Dell, Capital One, Honda, HTC phones, Ikea, JC Penney, Estee Lauder (Clinique), McDonald's, Nationwide Insurance, Petsmart, Old Navy, to name just a few.
This is the debate corporate America would rather fight. To them, it's just dollars and sense.
To communities of color, it's so much more.
So put Lowe's at the bottom of your list.
We don't need the screws.
Updates at www.amok.com. Follow Emil on Twitter, @emilamok.