Goya Away! Boycotting Brands Is a First Amendment Right by Chris Thompson

Goya Away! Boycotting Brands Is a First Amendment Right

A few weeks ago when I saw the hashtag #GoyAway trending, I thought that perhaps this was a new action by my Jewish family to rightfully ask gentiles to leave them alone for a minute. Because let’s be honest: gentiles have been bothering the Chosen People for a good 4,000 years in some way or another. Then I quickly learned that #GoyAway is a portmanteau of “Goya Away”, since the company’s CEO full-throatedly endorsed donald trump in a speech on the White House lawn, during a summit that also included the Mexican President. So if anyone is in the need for a few cans of beans or some Sazon, I have some that I would like out of my house, because I will not have Goya products in my house.

Before I get into why I’m boycotting Goya, Let me explain how absurd it is for Goya to be in the same room with the presidents of Mexico and the USA. The meeting was meant to endorse a North American trade agreement. Because despite all of the demonization trump has done of Mexican people from day one of his campaign (or rather anyone he thinks is Mexican), the US and Mexico have a long history of inter-border trade of goods and labor, both over and under the table. This is because we share a border, and the US has done a lot to shape that border, including annexation. Regardless, here we are, and it is foolish to think that trade will not happen. It is better to have a policy in place than to simply foment enmity between two bordering countries. So the big question is why was anyone from Goya there? Goya is not Mexican. It is an American company, founded by white Spanish immigrants. Sure, you may find a can of Goya pinto beans or a bottle of Adobo in a lot of American Latinx homes, but they didn’t bring those in from their home lands. Goya is as American as rice in a burrito. It seems that the only reason anyone from Goya was there is because trump and his inner circle are so ignorant that they assume that all “Spanish” = “Mexican”, Goya appeals to Spanish speakers, and this is a Mexican-US trade deal. Either that, or the administration, knowing his base, is using Goya to ventriloquize his talking points so as to clumsily deflect accusations of anti-immigrant racism, much like his base uses Candace Owens and any other “free thinking” Negro to prove that they are not racist. Regardless of the intent, I have two free boxes of Sazon in the cupboard, free for the taking.

A violation of Free Speech?

Now that the word is out that Goya is run by a trump supporter, the call to boycott was swift. Good. Despite the CEO’s claim that a boycott is a violation of his First Amendment rights, it is not. Boycotting IS a First Amendment right. People seem to think that speaking your mind means also freedom from social consequences from what they said. EVERYONE has a right to free speech, including people with whom you do not agree. I am not legally compelled to buy a bottle of Adobo if I do not wish to do so. I can forego that and purchase the salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, oregano, and cumin and mix it myself. It is also interesting that people claiming that a boycott is a violation of free speech are also the same people who burned their Nike gear after they penned an advertising deal with Colin Kaepernick.

But what about the employees?

Whenever say I no longer patronize a business, whether big or small, I get met with this statement in some form or another. When I swore off Chick Fil-A, Starbucks, Yuengling, but even more so when I promised to not set foot in locally owned establishments. What about the employees who are just trying to get by? This is just concern trolling, as vapid as the “ambulance” argument put to protesters who may block an intersection. No one who brings up the “poor employees” actually cares about the welfare of the employees of a business where I no longer spend money. If they did, they would be more concerned that employment is so tenuous. They should be asking why there isn’t a good enough safety net for the community so that a job loss wouldn’t upend someone’s life so drastically. Instead, they are using them as hypothetical baby rabbits over a wood chipper to try to get me to feel guilty about choosing how to spend my own money. All the while, they are likely treating those “poor employees” like trash.

They never treated ME unfairly.

I don’t care. When a local bartender threw racial epithets at two of my friends and then kicked out all of the black people in the bar, while the owner watched it happen and didn’t lift a finger, I promised to never go to that bar again, and I told everyone I knew about their horrid service. Plenty of folks chimed in to say that they had never seen such behavior at the bar, so it couldn’t have happened. None of those folks were at the bar that night, nor are they Black women, so why WOULD a racist bartender treat them poorly? It is very “Allegory of the Cave” to claim that something isn’t a certain way just because you personally have not experienced it. When a minority group speaks, perhaps listen to them.

So you’re swearing off [X] because of this one thing? Isn’t that immature?
A friend of mine refused to go to a pho restaurant for 4 years because one day, the server mixed up his order of extra noodles on the side. Another friend will not go to an ice cream shop because she claimed the server gave her “an eye”. In college a guy would somehow find a reason to complain about the service of the big box chain pub we would go to weekly. People stop going to stores and restaurants for a myriad of reasons. That an owner compared Black folks to monkeys or sexually harassed customers or supports a queerphobic organization seems like a pretty good reason to not want to ever go there again. I appreciate respect as a human over your missing extra straw or whatever.

Boycotts don’t work anyway

I could point to the Montgomery bus boycott to prove that wrong. It lasted 15 days, and in that time, not only did the bus company desegregated its buses, the action inspired hundreds of more boycotts throughout the South and other segregated areas of the country. The Civil Rights Movement was fueled on actions like this. That was 1956, though. In modern times, Boycotts have pressured companies to cut ties with the NRA, designers have foregone using real fur in their products, Ivnake trump’s fashion brand has been pulled from shelves, Seaworld stopped breeding Orca whales in captivity and stopped its dolphin shows. Boycotts work.

The power of the wallet can resonate as loudly as a picket line. Sometimes, in the times between when we can make our voices heard through voting, this pocketbook activism can be the most we can do to make our voices heard. No one can force you to from a business, and there should be no shame in investing the money you earned into places that invest in (or divest from) issues about which you care.

About Chris Thompson

(he/his/him) Chris Thompson is an engineer, writer, comedian, and activist who made Rochester, New York his home in 2008. In addition to his role as Contributor for 540Blog he currently writes and regularly posts on his own on Instagram and Twitter at @ChronsOfNon. Chris is also a regular contributor for Rochester City Newspaper. His blog is http://www.chroniclesofnonesense.com

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