Should Small Business Owners Get Political?

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I don’t have the most professional presence on social media, or anywhere online.

I mean, I would hazard a guess that most people who read this blog with any frequency are going to know a heck of a lot about my personal life. I have a filter, but I also have a bad case of not giving a fuck. I let my freak flag fly.

Sometimes, I worry it will impact my career. I mean, a cursory Google search of my name will turn up all sorts of seemingly dramatic experiences that I’ve survived (I would rather not ignore the fact that I’ve talked about them mostly in the hopes that my honesty and vulnerability will help someone find connection and perhaps get out of their own shitty situation, but I do acknowledge that most people probably will ignore it).

Plus, I have a really foul mouth and a pretty bizarre sense of humor. It’s not promising.

Case in point: I laughed at this for 10 minutes last night to the dismay of my very sane boyfriend.

But I also get political.

I guess that’s what I want to talk about more than anything.

As a side note, this post isn’t getting edited. I’m publishing it immediately after writing it. I’m writing it immediately after spending the entire morning reading about several different cases of police brutality, including bitch-ass Amy Cooper calling NYPD and accusing an innocent black man of threatening and intimidating her, knowing full-well that she could have ended his life, because he had the nerve to tell her to put her dogs on a leash in a public park. Amy Cooper? Go fuck yourself. Fuck you, fuck your apologies, fuck your racist ass. You knew exactly what you were doing and I hope you get exactly what you deserve.

If you’ve read anything about me, you know I’m an out-loud and proud gay man. I always will be. I will never hide that. I will always make it clear.

I will never introduce my boyfriend as my partner because that’s not what he is to me. I will name the bars I go to by name because they’re gay bars and thus they are my safe space. I will make an obscene amount of references to Legally Blonde because it is my favorite movie and I have no shame. I will tell people that I’m dreading turning 30 in two months because I’m pretty sure I’m going to disintegrate into a cloud of glitter while “Proud Mary” plays from an unseen jukebox. I will compliment your heels, your scarf, your highlights, your brows, your nails, and anything else I wish I could pull off.

I also don’t give a shit if any of that comes off as stereotypical. I like what I like. I’m not a masculine gay. I will never be and will never pretend to be.

I’m also incredibly hurt and disgusted by the continuous, constant news of yet another police officer murdering yet another unarmed black man. I cannot believe that we have made absolutely no progress as a society over the last decade. I cannot believe how many friends and family members I have that simply can’t recognize the very real problems here – the ones who say shit like “all lives matter” (oh god, or “blue lives matter”). I can’t believe how ignorant people have chosen to be. It is 2020, and there are still white people out lynching black people.

And I care about that, so I speak out about it.

That’s political, from a public view.

I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment, though. I don’t consider police brutality to be a political issue. It has certainly been politicized, but I don’t think it’s political. Civil rights shouldn’t be divided on political lines because human lives shouldn’t be a matter of politics. The safety of black men and women in our society shouldn’t rest on who our President is or which party has the majority in the House of Representatives. They should always be safe, because we should all be working to guarantee safety for all people at all times. That shouldn’t be a political statement; it should be an obvious one seen as a kindergarten truth, along the lines of, “Don’t take things that aren’t yours without permission,” and, “Don’t pull peoples’ hair.”

I don’t understand why speaking out against police brutality makes me a liberal. I think it should be considered a litmus test for sanity and human decency.

So with that said, should I, as a small business owner, concern myself with voicing my opinions? Should I make sure that I say their names? Or should I neuter my views to better fit in with my customer base? Should I commit the crime of silence and complacency while innocent people are being murdered in the streets?

Can I sleep at night while that’s happening?

And I guess that’s where we make our choices.

I am afraid that speaking out against police brutality will impact my ability to continue to do business. I am afraid it will make me a target for racists. I am afraid it will get me blacklisted by potential business partners. I am afraid it will limit my ability to be successful.

I’m also afraid that going on feminist rants about the pay gap, sexual assault, and objectification will alienate people I’m close to. I mean, I’ve lost contact with most of my family over the last few years because of how liberal my views and ideals are and how conservative theirs are, and that’s a really lonely feeling for me.

Hell, it was half of the reason why I took the shootings at Pulse Nightclub so hard. I had lost touch with so many people in my life because of their inability to give a shit about racism or sexism, it seemed obvious to me that a big group of gay and trans people getting shot down in their safe space would also make no difference to them, so I didn’t even know how to reach out to them for support.

And for some of you, maybe a lot of this rings true. Maybe you’re afraid, too.

But I have to tell you the same thing I tell myself every time I hesitate in speaking out: the struggle of a failing business owner comes nowhere close to touching the very real pain felt by every single one of my black friends damn near every time they read the news, leave the house, hop on social media, or otherwise interact with the outside world.

I’m afraid for the personal consequences I may experience for speaking out, but I know that those consequences are nowhere near the consequences to other people if I choose to remain silent, censor myself, and ignore what’s happening.

We all make our choices for how we want to live our lives and operate within the world. I choose to try. I choose to help. I choose to speak out because I would rather lose a friend to my ranting than lose a friend to police brutality. I can bring myself to walk a lonely path, but I can’t bring myself to attend a funeral, knowing I could have done something to stop it.

I can’t lie in my deathbed someday knowing I was a highly successful individual that casually watched millions of lives being destroyed by racism.

I just can’t.

So I won’t.

I’m going to speak out. Sometimes, that’s going to mean speaking out on this blog. If that’s not for you and you don’t like it, then I’m so sorry that your opinion doesn’t matter to me. Please feel free to read the thousands of other small business blogs on the internet that appeal more to your tastes.

And I encourage you to do the same.

Let people know who you are. Whatever you believe in, tell people, unabashedly. If you’re a racist, be clear about it so the rest of us don’t have to be surprised when it slips out. If you’re a firm supporter of Black Lives Matter, be vocal about it. Whatever your belief.

And I say we shouldn’t keep it out of our businesses.

Maybe you’ll lose some customers. Maybe you’ll gain some. Maybe people won’t care at all because they don’t understand a particular political issue well enough to even know what you’re talking about.

To be honest, I’d guess that’s going to be 90% of the time. We’re not the most informed bunch.

I think about the Dixie Chicks a lot, nowadays. I think about them getting told to, “Shut up and sing,” because they said things that most of America now agrees with. At the time, they were hated. It destroyed their music careers because they spoke out about something and most of their audience disagreed with them because of blind, ignorant patriotism. People have silently changed their minds since then.

So I say we should be like the Dixie Chicks. I’m going to teach y’all how to run a successful small business and inspire you to do great things with your lives, but I’m also going to occasionally tell you about some major bullshit I see happening in the world. I’m not going to shut up. I choose to be on the right side of history. I don’t see a future where anybody will be thanking god for all the unarmed black men who were gunned down in the early 2000s. I only see a future where we kick ourselves for letting it continue for so long.

So I’m gonna get right now. Not 20 years from now. Right now.

I would encourage you to do the same.

Live fearlessly so that you can afford that privilege to others who don’t yet have it.

Use your voice to bring justice to the world.

And keep being your same, bad-ass self as a business owner.

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