“We don’t cater to you people.”
That was the incendiary reply from a Hobby Lobby employee when a Jewish customer recently inquired about Hanukkah merchandise.
To be clear, the problem (to me) isn’t that the annoyingly Christian Hobby Lobby doesn’t stock Jewish paraphernalia. I’m pretty sure the 561-store chain doesn’t sell glittery pentagrams and cute Ramadan calendars, either. There’s no law that says a store owner has to cater to all demographics, religious or otherwise. (Think of it this way: If I were to open a craft store, as an atheist, wouldn’t I be well within my rights to decline selling decorative plastic crosses or scrapbooking supplies featuring angels?)
However, “you people” has long had an enormously dismissive, pejorative ring to it. The phrase is tinged with its own racist past. Anyone who interacts with customers, especially, would do well to avoid it.
It’s par for the course that a lot of loyal customers are drawn to Hobby Lobby for its tireless promotion of its so-called Christian values. Others shun the chain for the same reason. It’s all fine. In the open marketplace of ideas, everyone has the right to vote with their feet — and their wallet.
On that front, a commenter at the Raw Story has interesting personal news to report:
My Mom is an artsy-craftsy type of woman. Plus she is Christian. We have a running dialogue on religion/spirituality. (I am an atheist.) When I brought [the Hobby Lobby / Hanukkah story] to her attention, she did something surprising to me. She declared that she would no longer shop at the local Hobby Lobby as long as this policy is in place. Do I have a great Mom or what?
I remain unconvinced that Hobby Lobby did anything wrong here (other than hiring an employee who addressed a customer with a highly inappropriate term). But if boycotting the store floats people’s boat, I certainly support their freedom to do so.
P.S. Actually, as my friend Erik S. (who sent me the story) pointed out, you can find legitimate fault with Hobby Lobby for apparently saying that
Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values.
Of course, Jesus Christ was a Jew. In Erik’s words, “Pretending that your holy book didn’t say that Christ specifically was talking to Jews is just silly.”