I was a closeted political activist.
In fact, I advised other small business owners to never publically support politicians because it could hurt their business’s brand. I’ve been saying this for the past 3 election seasons. Never put policial stuff on Facebook, put up pro-candidate signs on your front lawn, and never tell your clients you’re a Democrat or Republican.
I thought it was a business sin.
In Business Sin Warning: Beware Election Fever!, I said:
“Perhaps you would rather do business with people who have the same political views as you. But can you afford to lose clients over this? I respect your views and believe you have the right to express yourself (within the confines of the law). However, I would advise you to be very careful about who you could be offending.“
And in 3 Reasons to Stop Supporting Political Candidates and Start Supporting Causes, I helpfully added:
“Sharing your political views could damage your reputation and your business brand. I’m not suggesting you can’t do this. Rather, I’m suggesting you stop and reconsider how much damage you could do to your bottom line by publicly supporting any political candidate this year.”
At this point, I was still in the “it could hurt your business” camp.
During the Election
I started off the 2016 election cycle saying the same thing: stay out of politics. But that changed when Trump said this about Mexicans:
“They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
I couldn’t turn a blind eye to that. And when he said “Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything”, I wrote my first public piece against Trump, Bizarro World: Trump, Clowns, and Self-Defense:
“Some will say this is locker room talk or this is a political endorsement of Hillary Clinton. It is neither. This is a clear example of someone misusing power to get away with sexual assault. It isn’t political, it’s illegal. And no one in their right mind should tolerate men trying to “grab them by the p——.” It doesn’t matter who they are. It’s wrong.”
Note that I said this isn’t a political endorsement because I wouldn’t publically say that at the time.
The Tipping Point: The Women’s March
If anyone had been paying attention, seeing me march in Washington D.C. shouldn’t have been a surprise. I officially came out of the closet the day I changed my Facebook profile picture to this:
I didn’t care anymore about my business’s brand. I was done trying to be quiet and non-controversial. I came out loudly when I wrote Why Human Rights Are My Top Business Priority In 2017:
“I still believe that supporting controversial issues can be a bad business move. Yet, equality and human rights are everything that I want my business to stand for. There will be those that won’t support me or my vision. That think I’m making a mistake and should remain quiet. However, I can’t do that and neither should my business.”
Not only did I out myself personally, I also outed my business. And I’m never turning back.
Are You Out or In?
Looking back, my political journey wasn’t inevitable. If anyone other than Trump would have been the nominee, I would have happily kept to my “no politics” rule for businesses. Yet, I can’t breathe unless I’m standing against Trump, his admirers, and his agenda. Maybe it’s self-preservation, but I can’t stay quiet. The only path forward for me is action.
Your situation may be different. You may be facing a hostile co-worker, family member or neighbor. You may be worried PTO moms will label you as “one of those”. You may not have the professional freedom I have and can’t make any political pronouncements at work. Or you may simply want to avoid confrontations. These are all good reasons to stay in the closet.
Except you don’t need to come out swinging. You just need to stand up for what you believe in.
Stand for Something
Regardless of what the right-wing extreme says, the following are NOT controversial:
- Human rights
- Climate change
- Environmental protections
- Refugees and immigrants
- A free press
I’ll stand up anywhere at any time and support these issues. They are not political and should be supported by the vast majority of people on the planet.
And I’ll gladly stand up against:
Again, these are not controversial issues. They are issues that many Republicans agree are wrong. Proclaiming that you’re against Trump’s racist remarks or that you believe Russia shouldn’t interfere in our elections doesn’t make you a crazy liberal. It makes you a conscientious human.
Maybe you’re not ready to be loud, vocal or public with your activism. Maybe you’re not ready to put up lawn signs or protest. And that’s okay. Just call out injustice where you see it. Stand up for those that can’t speak out. Don’t let anyone get away with sexism, racism or lying about things that Trump said. That doesn’t mean you have to be confrontational. It does mean that you take responsibility for your part in this mess and commit to making things better.
And if you can’t do it alone, find a friend, group and surround yourself with like-minded people. It took me a long time to come out of the political closet, and your journey will be different. But you have a place in the Resistance. Figure out that place and get to work.
Because we need you.