December 13, 2011; Source: Washington Post | Some nonprofits don’t behave all that well toward people who aren’t your “typical” “Leave It to Beaver” Americans. The TLC Network has a reality show about the day-to-day lives of five regular families in Dearborn, Michigan—except that the regular families are Muslims. “All-American Muslim” confronts the hostility and discrimination that Muslim families face, and TLC should have expected that bias toward five normal Muslim families would turn into bias against the “All-American Muslim” show itself.
The Florida Family Association, a Christian evangelical nonprofit based in Tampa, Florida may be a small organization, with annual contributions shrinking from $239,000 in 2006 to $172,000 in 2010, according to its 990 filings with the IRS, but it obviously has some clout with the corporate sector. Its website says that the “Florida Family Association is an organization that is made up of THOUSANDS OF SUPPORTERS across America who share in the same goal of improving America's moral environment”. According to the Washington Post, the Florida Family Association called on its “members to target the show’s advertisers” because the show portrayed Muslims in a generally positive light, prompting Lowe’s home improvement chain to pull its ads. The Association’s website cites an e-mail from Home Depot saying that it too will not run future advertisements on “All-American Muslim”.
A show depicting the positive lifestyle of Muslims in Dearborn is scary? The quick collapse of moral fiber at Lowe’s, Home Depot, and other advertisers no longer providing advertising support to the show is what’s really scary. As nonprofits, we have to be particularly concerned, because the philanthropic arms of both Lowe’s and Home Depot have been long-time respected participants in the world of corporate philanthropy. The Lowes Educational and Charitable Foundation gave out $19 million in grants in 2010, and the Home Depot Foundation distributed $74 million (including from suppliers and employees) in 2009.
Particularly galling in light of the Family Association’s pressure on advertisers and the advertisers’ rapid collapse are statements on both firms’ websites. On Home Depot’s site, the company pledges to “leverage inclusion as a business priority.” Equally troubling is this statement from the Lowe’s 2010 social responsibility report from the chapter on “Diversity and Inclusion:” “Lowe’s dedication to diversity and inclusion grows from the steadfast values of our employees and extends to every corner of our company. We draw upon the strength of collaboration, bringing together many unique individuals in the workplace and the community to better meet the needs of our employees and our customers”.
It looks like both firms are open to diversity and inclusion that might conceivably involve American Muslims—but only so long as some right-wing nutcase organization doesn’t pop up to complain that thinking of Muslims as normal isn’t . . . normal.—Rick Cohen