Very little seems surprising any longer when the outrage machine fires up, even if it means boycotting a food company that has an extensive history of charitable giving. But in this case the backlash against the backlash seems to be having a bigger impact.
Maybe it's a sign people are fed up with cancel culture.
It all started last week when Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue had the temerity to praise President Trump when speaking at an event where Trump signed an executive order for the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative. The executive order is part of an initiative to "improve access by Hispanic Americans to education and economic opportunities" by making taxpayer support available for private and charter schools.
Goya Foods is the largest Hispanic-owned food label in the U.S.
At the White House event, Unanue had the audacity to offer words of praise for Trump.
"We're all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder," he said. Those simple words were enough to set off calls for a boycott led by the likes of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D.-NY, and one-time Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro.
Celebrities joined the chorus and started posting #BoycottGoya and #GOYAWAY on Twitter, calling on people to buy products instead from Goya's competitors. However, unlike far too many other companies easily cowed into submission, Goya's CEO pushed back, calling the boycott effort "suppression of speech."
“We were part of a commission called the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative and they called on us to be there to see how we could help opportunities within the economic and educational realm for prosperity among Hispanics and among the United States,” Goya's CEO told the hosts of "Fox & Friends."
He noted he had also previously been invited by Obama to the White House for a celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month.
"So, you're allowed to talk good or to praise one president, but you're not allowed to aid in economic and educational prosperity? And you make a positive comment and all of sudden, it's not acceptable," Unanue said.
He said he would not apologize nor would he turn down future invitations much as he would not have turned down Obama.
His backbone and refusal to back down caught the attention (and likely the admiration) of others who responded by showing their support and urging others to do likewise by purchasing Goya products at the supermarket.
Republican U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz tweeted their support of Goya and its CEO. Trump supporters took it from there, proceeding to buy Goya products. It wasn't just conservatives – or even Trump supporters – as noted Trump critic and "The View" co-host Meghan McCain hit the nail on the head with her tweet:
"It seems weird & callous to boycott a company who supplies food to the masses and employs 4,000 people during a pandemic. No matter what your politics, who wants more people out of work? Almost every CEO, boss, & person I interact with and consume products from disagrees with me."
On more than one occasion, I can think of discovering my disagreement with a company's political leanings. However, beyond shaking my head and thinking "that's unfortunate," I did not seek to destroy the company. That's the adult thing to do, as opposed to having an online temper tantrum like a 4-year-old being denied a Popsicle right before dinner.
One person even started a GoFundMe campaign to seek funds to buy Goya products that would then be donated to food banks. Casey Harper set a modest goal of $10,000. However, at the time of this writing, it has raised over $267,000 from over 7,400 donors.
"I'm not surprised we have raised so much because people are tired of having to walk on eggshells in political discourse," Harper told Fox Business. "Also, Americans are fundamentally generous people, so a chance to feed the hungry and stand up to cancel culture was an easy win."
Donating food is not new to Goya. Its website touts Goya's charitable giving, including donating 1 million cans of chickpeas and 1 million pounds of food to U.S. food banks.
The upshot of all this? The misguided attempts to browbeat a socially responsible food company into submission have proven to be an utter failure.
People are becoming awakened to the hateful cancel culture that has taken hold in our society. They are pushing back in the best way possible, not through threats or intimidation, but through tangible expressions of support.
How refreshing. I may even have to find a way to do my part and start liking chickpeas.
Ruthenberg is a multiple award-winning columnist and writer for the Enid News & Eagle. Contact him at email@example.com.