The Red Hen’s Woke Inhospitality
What Stephanie Wilkinson, the owner of the Little Red Hen restaurant, did to White House press spokesman Sarah Sanders and her party was appalling — but she’s not backing down:
As she made the short drive to the Red Hen, Wilkinson knew only this:
She knew Lexington, population 7,000, had voted overwhelmingly against Trump in a county that voted overwhelmingly for him. She knew the community was deeply divided over such issues as Confederate flags. She knew, she said, that her restaurant and its half-dozen servers and cooks had managed to stay in business for 10 years by keeping politics off the menu.
And she knew — she believed — that Sarah Huckabee Sanders worked in the service of an “inhumane and unethical” administration. That she publicly defended the president’s cruelest policies, and that that could not stand.
“I’m not a huge fan of confrontation,” Wilkinson said. “I have a business, and I want the business to thrive. This feels like the moment in our democracy when people have to make uncomfortable actions and decisions to uphold their morals.”
Wilkinson had no regrets about her decision.
“I would have done the same thing again,” she said “We just felt there are moments in time when people need to live their convictions. This appeared to be one.”
One thing I learned on that story: Sarah Sanders was not the one who broke the news about her eviction from the restaurant. An employee of the restaurant did, on his Facebook account.
If you are someone who believes that Masterpiece Cakeshop ought to have been forced to bake a cake decorated for a gay wedding, but you think that Stephanie Wilkinson was right to kick Sarah Sanders out of her restaurant because she hates Sanders’s politics, then you are an unprincipled hypocrite.
I believe that Masterpiece Cakeshop has that moral right, and I believe that the Red Hen has that right too. Whether they have that legal right is a different question, and whether they should act on that moral right is another. But there’s an important distinction here.
Masterpiece did not try to deny service across the board to gay customers. Its owner only wanted to deny them a custom-made wedding cake, because it violated his religious beliefs. Red Hen denied service across the board to Sanders and her party because they hate her politics. If Sarah Sanders had asked the Red Hen owner to cater a Trump party, that would have been a closer analogy. And if the Masterpiece Cakeshop owner had refused to serve gays at all, that would be a closer analogy.
Are we really going to be the kind of country in which businesses drive those whose politics offend them out of their premises? Are we really going to be the kind of country in which activists enter restaurants and drive particular customers out, because of their politics?
Who does this help? I’ll tell you who: Donald J. Trump. Conservative people see this, and they imagine themselves being thrown out of a restaurant, either by the owner or by left-wing protesters, because they are conservative. They see themselves being driven out of the public square by the left — which all the while congratulates itself on its superior morality — and it makes them furious. For the woke left, even trying to eat out with your spouse and your friends at a restaurant is now political, and must be punished.
A Washington Post caption under a photo of the restaurant reads:
A placard quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. — “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” — sits in the window of the Red Hen, which opened in Lexington in 2008.
They don’t believe that at the Little Red Hen. They like to think they do, but they don’t. I wonder how things might have gone if Wilkinson had asked Sanders for a private word after dinner, or had sent over a round of dessert, and come by the table to talk. I don’t think it’s a restaurant owner’s place to address the politics of their customers, but at least that would have been better than throwing them out. (And yes, I would feel exactly the same way if a right-wing restaurant owner had treated Hillary Clinton’s staff so rudely.)