In 1865, slavery was permanently abolished in the United States with the passage of the 13th Amendment, which reads:
Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Slavery officially became illegal 152 years ago. There are no living survivors of slavery, in spite of the fact some activists have called for “reparations” to be paid by the descendants of former slave owners, to the “descendants” of former slaves.
Consequently, it seems rather silly to suggest that even a social justice warrior would find a way to be triggered by a few decorative cotton stalks protruding from a glass bottle, but that’s exactly what one woman has claimed on social media.
Naturally, rather than asking to speak with the store manager, this outraged activist posted the following complaint on Facebook: “This decor is WRONG on SO many levels. There is nothing decorative about raw cotton… A commodity which was gained at the expense of African-American slaves. A little sensitivity goes a long way. PLEASE REMOVE THIS “decor”.”
To her credit, she did say please as she “shouted” her demand in capital letters.
The comment has generated thousands of reactions that ranged from “What do you expect from HL? NEVER shop there!” to pragmatic questions such as “do you wear cotton?”, various explanations of basic capitalism, and serious questions like “This isn’t the Onion?”
Legitimate question — could someone become sincerely offended by a few cotton stalks in a glass vase? Even better question — even if someone is offended, should the general public be expected to care?
For that matter, why should any business capitulate to demands of one individual customer? Another Facebook user pointed out that the same decorations can be purchased from Michaels, Joann’s Fabrics, or Walmart.
So why pick on Hobby Lobby?
Cynics (like me, for example) could be convinced that Hobby Lobby is the real focus of this activist’s complaint, not some decorative cotton arrangement sold by the store. Hobby Lobby most recently made news by winning their lawsuit against the contraception provisions of the Affordable Care Act, their case hinging on their argument for protecting the rights and religious freedom of the Christian family that owns the retail chain of arts and craft stores. Could that fact have some bearing on this complaint? It isn’t that big of a stretch of the imagination.
Clearly, Christian businesses have been targeted by secular activists for persecution, whether they happen to bake cakes or sell craft-making supplies. Anyone who publicly acknowledges their religious beliefs could suddenly face public pressure or even come under attack if they are perceived as “anti-gay”, or as some symbol of oppression.
Was this person even sincere in her demand, or merely seizing an opportunity to draw attention to herself? If she was serious, why would she expect Hobby Lobby to take action?
Perhaps she read this article about the university president who apologized to his students that were offended by the same “cotton” decorations and expected equal consideration.
Everyone has a right to get offended.
However, they do not have a right to demand appeasement, and more importantly, others have every right to ignore them when they become so easily offended.