Why I Admired Kohler Before I Learned They Pay for Hate

Having lived overseas and traveled all over the world for most of my young life, I am uniquely proud to be an American. Maybe it’s something about “absence makes the heart grow fonder…”

I’ve also been fortunate to travel all over the U.S., and one my favorite places to spend time is in Kohler, Wisconsin. The whole town feels like a Norman Rockwell painting brought to life. Cheerful, friendly kids riding bikes or playing pickup baseball games until the last bit of daylight disappears over the horizon. Happy neighbors waving hello and content to spend 20 minutes talking about nothing in particular. The pace is more relaxed and a feeling of contentment pervades almost every interaction.

Kohler Company headquarters in Kohler, Wisconsin (Creative Commons 2.5)

This is in large part due to the largesse of the Kohler family. Founded in 1873 by John Michael Kohler, the manufacturer perhaps best known for quality bathroom fixtures has done incredible work contributing to local communities, not just in Kohler itself but in the surrounding areas. My son spent several summers attending art camp at the John Michael Kohler Art Center in nearby Sheboygan and made some lifelong friends in the process.

So try to imagine what it’s like to write a letter to executives of Kohler (a company I admire and who clearly cares about the welfare of their employees and the greater community) to let them know they are funding hate speech through their advertising in A360 Media magazines which spew bigotry and bias about my religion, its members and its leadership, only to receive deafening silence in return.

People are paying attention to corporate responsibility as never before. 

While fellow advertisers acknowledged our concerns and have chosen to reach their audience by supporting more responsible and fair-minded publications, Kohler has chosen to do nothing.

This while Kohler fixtures can be found in our very churches. The craftsmanship and quality of their work is perfectly at home in facilities like our Ideal Churches designed and built with such care.

Kohler store front
Photo by TonelsonProductions/Shutterstock.com

It’s a strange experience trying to figure out exactly what to say to someone to get them to understand that a simple business decision can have a profound impact on an entire group of people. Every company has the right to advertise and to ensure their investment has the best possible return. But with so many options and the ability to track metrics, the decision not to directly fund bigotry and hate speech should be an absolute no brainer.

Shouldn’t it?

People are paying attention to corporate responsibility as never before. My hope is that sooner than later, Kohler will wake up and do the right thing, investing their advertising dollars in more deserving publications that don’t violate all their company says it stands for.

But the fact that I even have to ask is still hard to get my head around.  

Wil Seabrook
Musician, writer, business owner, human rights advocate, aspiring Renaissance Man.