Should Outed Racists Lose Their Jobs? The Internet Responds.
In the wake of the riot in Charlottesville, a lot of racist protesters have been outed on the internet. Some have lost their jobs, and some have even been turfed out by their families. Quora users tackled the question of whether or not this is a good idea. What do you think?
Remember Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player who refused to stand for the National Anthem?
All this guy did was kneel. He didnt really say anything, other than to respond to questions about his actions. He certainly never beat anyone up, was never a threat to anyone other than the team he was playing against, or said anything against anyone. But this simple action got him a lot of grief from people who felt that it wasnt appropriate. Some people even thought he should have been fired just for kneeling.
He is now having problems finding another team to play for, in part because of this action. For kneeling. Im being generous in assuming this action is not the only reason, but from what I understand, his performance isnt an issue. Hes considered to be, at least, a passable quarterback by people who know about these things, and he isnt at the end of his career — hes only 29.
But you know what? I dont hear a lot of people defending him. People are saying that teams have the right to not hire him, and that they have the right to fire him if his actions are costing them revenue from disgruntled fans. He made his choice, and now he is paying the piper.
So, in answer to your question…
If a business thinks an employee who showed up at a rally, beat people up, waved a Nazi or Confederate flag, and was caught on CNN shouting sieg heil or go home is going to make them look bad to prospective clients, and will cause problems with other employees in the company, then I submit that just maybe that business has the right to fire that person.
I will go further than that. If a business has an employee who has views that are known that go against the values of the company, and those views are widely known and causing strife within the company because clients dont want to work with them, and other employees literally dont feel safe being around someone like that, the company absolutely DOES have the right to fire that person. In fact, it has a DUTY to fire that person.
Business is business. It cuts both ways.
Im a Canadian veteran. Here in Canada, we have a pretty white military compared to the US. In fact in Afghanistan, US troops used to tease us, saying, So thats what happened to all the white South Africans, they joined the Canucks.
Our guys (mostly guys, because try as we might, we can still only achieve a 85%/15% gender split) are corn-fed white boys from the Prairies or the Maritimes, often following in their fathers and grandfathers footsteps.
Now, you might think that would be fertile ground for the KKK, Nazis, the Alt-Right, right? (continued...)
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Wrong. If any Canadian military member is identified in the media or social media footage as having participated on the wrong side of the battle of Charlottesville, sporting a white hood or a Swastika tattoo, he or she will be expelled from the Canadian Armed Forces so fast and so hard that there will be a smoking hole where they used to be.
The only thing left of them would be their pension contributions, because I cant imagine any scenario where this wouldnt be a dishonourable discharge.
Its not just racism either. You blog about how women dont deserve the same opportunities as men? Smoking hole. You like waving Bibles in the faces of gay people and showing up at Mosques sporting a 9mm to exercise the right to be a jerk? Smoking hole. You tweet about how transgender service members should be banned from the military? Id say smoking hole.
In a liberal democracy, one hopes not just the military, but other major employers would represent and uphold their societys values. One would certainly expect this of America. One would NOT expect Charlottesville. One would NOT expect the election of someone who sends a wink and nudge to Nazis with his on every side speech a few weeks after sword dancing with the worst dictators and despots on Earth.
Im not encouraging sedition here, but do something to show the rest of us in the world you are still the country of Samuel Clemens and Abraham Lincoln. The same country that TWICE elected a black son of an African immigrant whose vaguely Muslim name no one could pronounce and who wasnt even born on the continental USA.
THATS the America I know and love.
I have staff and clients who are Jewish and black. Exactly what do you think I should do if I find out one of my employees is a KKK member? I will keep my staff and clients safe and not subject them to a known risk. If I dont, what am I telling my staff and clients?
If you want someone who has political beliefs you don't like to go from being someone you don't agree with to being someone isolated, angry, with little to lose… Then sure, target all your political enemies by ruining their lives. (continued...)
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Honestly, people not associated with the racist factions of the Alt-Right who were at Charlottesville are being doxxed and threatened, not just with losing their jobs, but with violence. Im not sure if you guys know that that is actually how terrorists are made.
That is how you create someone who gets on the internet, looks up how to make a bomb, and then does it. Weve been fighting fundamentalists for decades now, so surely we recognize that this is exactly how fundamentalists are made.
And then lets address the fact that if you live in a world where people can be fired for having a bad idea, then we also live in a world where you can be fired because someone thinks you have a bad idea. The thing about threats and intimidation is that you better be prepared for this new low in civic conduct to be something that you are willing to endure yourself.
There is only 8 years between one presidency and another, and your ideas might be deemed wrong-think next. Do you really want to empower the world to make you suffer what youve visited upon others? If not, then apply the basic arguments that people are allowed to say things that you disagree with without using nasty tactics to ruin their lives.
It serves no legitimate purpose and only seeks to destroy someones life in an act of poorly-thought -out political vengeance. The people doing it now may not want it known what they did a few years from now.
One of my favorite authors, Peter David, who is Jewish himself, advocates not firing them, provided they behave at the office. He hopes to help them overcome hatred.
Im very inspired by stories like this one about a Rabbi who opened his heart to racists:
"When he was a cantor in Lincoln, Neb., Rabbi Michael Weisser confronted diehard Ku Klux Klan leader Larry Trapp, befriended him and eventually inspired the life-long racist to renounce hatred and speak out publicly against bigotry."
But I also know if a store hired a KKK member, I wouldnt feel safe walking in.
So Im torn.
Youre free to go to a white supremacy march. Youre free to write horrible things on the internet about women. Youre free to rant about Jews. Youre free to explain why gay people are natures mistake. Youre free to run your mouth about the horribly- discriminated-against vanishing white guy and insinuate that blood will flow if necessary to save him. But… (continued…)
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But everyone in society around you is free to refuse to hire you, free to fire you, free to turn their backs on you because they find your behavior and views dangerous and repulsive. Its especially true because not a few of your chosen group are crazier than outhouse rats, and armed, and powder-kegs waiting for an excuse to blow.
Thats the way it works. Not all ideas are equal. You do not get to control other peoples reactions to the things you do and say.
To put it inelegantly, if youre going to take a crap on the table, dont expect to be invited to dinner.
Oh, sweetheart. You dont get to be a Nazi on Saturday afternoon — kicking the guts out of people in parking garages, running down protestors, marching in the streets armed to the teeth — and go back to your small sad life on Monday as a Congressman, a courier, or serving lemonade to retirees, pretending everything is all fine and dandy. You dont get to dodge the consequences for your actions.
You know why? Nobody forced you to march in this parade of pants-wetting manbabies. Nobody waterboarded you until you proclaimed that people who arent exactly like you are subhuman. You did your research, and this is the political ideology you decided was right for you and your needs. You chose to hang out with Nazis, waving your creepy little flags, chanting your stupid slogans, and now you reap your reward.
The kinds of people against whom the alt-right are openly advocating discrimination, violence, and genocide — Jewish people, black people, Asians, LGBQ people, women — dont ever get to take off their identities. I dont ever get to strip off my face like Arya Stark and not be a bisexual Asian woman.
I never asked for this, never chose this. But from the day I was born until the day I die, this is who I am, and there will be people who think Im inferior for that, that my family and I, and anyone vaguely resembling me deserve to be terrorized, enslaved, gassed, and dumped in mass graves. There are people in real fear for their lives out there.
And Im supposed to feel sad that some idiot lost his job at Pizza Planet because he was very publicly witnessed at a gathering he chose to be at, of his own free will? Screw that. If I have to have a politicized identity 24/7, so do you. Stand behind your crappy beliefs, you coward. You joined a movement because you wanted change — and this is the change the free market has decided you deserve.
Freedom of speech means that the government cant tell you what to think or say and cant punish you for expressing your views. So if you are a neo-Nazi or part of some other hate group, youre entitled to your beliefs and cant be punished by the state for expressing them, no matter how repugnant or unpopular they may be.
In other words, the government can't deny you a public forum open to others, can't fine you, and can't put you in jail just because you hold unpopular beliefs.
But thats all youre guaranteed. (continued...)
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Freedom of speech does not mean that everyone is free to speak their minds without suffering any repercussions, such as in employment or personal relationships. It does not give you the right to be the proverbial bull in a china shop and then demand others clean up your mess.
If I say something hateful to a client or friend, theyre not obligated to say, Well, thats just Ty being Ty, and I must accept his views as the price of living in a free society. No, I run the risk of losing a job or a friend.
As a general matter, I think that there should be a line drawn between ones work and private lives. My law firm, for example, is very diverse, including political perspectives, and this is a great thing; it is actually possible for people to treat each other with respect and work well together even if they fail to agree on every issue under the sun. I dont want to work in a cult and promote some kind of creepy conformity by telling my colleagues how they should think or conduct their lives outside the office (unless theyre doing something illegal).
I also dislike the increased purity tests that many—both inside and outside of businesses—have demanded of employees, such that everywhere I buy a cup coffee, pump my gas, or eat a sandwich must adhere to a certain worldview. I have no interest in peering into the private lives of employees who are getting the job done in the workplace.
But theres a difference between being a busybody and simply becoming aware of an employees extracurricular activities because those activities were done in public, and in some cases, were done in the hope of garnering publicity.
Like most people, I have to work for a living and am part of a for-profit business that sells a service (legal representation) to customers; Id like to continue feeding my family and servicing my mortgage. Further, we live in a world with social media and hundreds of millions of camera phones floating around. Thus, people must recognize that what we do outside the workplace can very easily wind up online for all the world to see.
This may not just be embarrassing personally, but hurtful to others as well. If your conduct outside the workplace materially damages my ability to make a living or to keep good employees, customers, and friends, you can bet your butt youre getting fired.
People pictured at a white supremacist rally certainly fit the bill. No one made those people go to Charlottesville, spew hatred, and look for trouble. These were people who chose their actions, knowing fully well that most of the country detests their views and that the media, both professional and amateur, would be watching.
Just because you have freedom of speech, does not mean that you have a freedom from consequence for your speech. Especially if you are in a position where you are publicly visible, being an asshole has consequences.
This doesnt just happen to alt-right racists either:
Context is somewhat important here. (continued...)
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I dont really feel sorry for the Chick-Fil-A guy, a well-paid executive who made a point of being publicly identified berating some poor kid. He created a situation, walked into it, and was quite proud of himself about it until he got fired.
In part, there is some difference here between public and private acts, and weve seen more and more businesses start with purity tests. These (while legal) I find to be extremely disturbing. When people are being fired for countering groupthink (see: Google), thats really problematic. This is the sort of action that really divides the country and continues to send us down this road that we are on.
Of course, going to a rally thats clearly being organized by a bunch of no-doubt racist white supremacists? Yeah, thats a pretty public act that comes with consequence.
Getting a guy fired who worked as a pizza cook? I mean, come on, doesnt this seem just a touch petty?
More to the point, what lesson does this send? Does it really say dont be a racist or does it just push people marginally attached to groups like the KKK straight into their open arms? Im gonna suggest that this guy hasnt had an epiphany and headed down to DNC headquarters to volunteer.
Let me turn this around and look at it from another direction.
If you are an employer and you found out that one of your employees has been publicly broadcasting their support for ethnic cleansing would you consider that a detriment to your organization?
Would you feel comfortable putting that person on a team with other coworkers? How about in a public facing position where they might be recognized?
What would you do if a hundred people called your company in a day to say they would boycott you if you kept that employee on staff?
Are you going to subject your other employees to that kind of hostile work environment? Are you going to risk driving away customers? Are you really going to let that person threaten your business?
No, you aren't. Out the door.
Edited for clarity.
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