Target makes a donation to bigotry

August 17, 2010

THE TARGET chain store's recent donation of $150,000 to Minnesota Forward, an organization supporting Republican state Rep. Tom Emmer, a Tea Party favorite, for governor of Minnesota, has left many erious questions about the company's professed commitment to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. LGBT rights groups are now calling for a boycott of Target to demand the company stop donating to bigots.

Emmer, who was first elected to the Minnesota legislature in 2005, has made a career out of supporting racist, sexist and homophobic policies. He stated in his 2010 gubernatorial campaign literature that he opposes equal marriage rights for same-sex couples, opposes a woman's right to choose abortion and supports Arizona's racist, anti-immigrant law SB 1070.

Emmer also has close ties to You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International, Inc., a Christian evangelical hard-rock band that performs in public schools and has proclaimed the morality of executing gays and lesbians.

This stands in stark contrast to the image that Target has tried to create for itself as an ally of its LGBT employees and customers. Target is a regular sponsor of the Twin Cities Pride Parade and Festival, and frequently touts its policy of offering domestic-partnership benefits. However, this donation shows that there is a huge gulf between Target's image and the politics it supports.

When corporations support events like Pride and make other seemingly friendly overtures to a particular community, we need to consider their true motivations. Target sees the LGBT community not as an oppressed group that it should support, but as a market it wants to attract. Pretenses a corporation puts forward about having a social-justice agenda, due to the nature of a corporation, are subordinate to its need to constantly increase market share.

While the hypocrisy is certainly staggering, it is not at all surprising. It is simple for Target to ignore the implications of its donation to Minnesota Forward for the LGBT community, because it is simply not a priority when compared to Target's business interests.

This is an important point to make because of the implications it has for the LGBT movement. Much is made of trying to persuade corporations to be "friendly" toward the LGBT community, as if convincing them that LGBT people's money is as good as straight people's equates with equality and liberation.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It is relatively easy for a corporation to pass the LGBT establishment's litmus test. For example, Target, which sports a 100 percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index, donated somewhere in the range of $15,000-$25,000 to sponsor Twin Cities Pride.

When this is compared to the $150,000 Target donated to Minnesota Forward, it is clear that what Target really supports is not the LGBT community, but its own corporate interests.

Due to a recent Supreme Court decision opening the door for greater corporate involvement in campaign politics and the failure of Congress to pass campaign finance legislation, we can expect to see more and more corporations trying to play both sides of the struggle for LGBT rights in the coming years.

We must send a very clear message that we will not tolerate, and will not support by shopping in their stores, their abetting of bigotry. However, we must also realize that corporations will never truly be our allies.
Chance Lunning, Minneapolis

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