Should Your Politics Interfere With Your Career?
A couple of days ago I saw friends on Facebook encouraging a boycott of Firefox/Mozilla due to their appointment of Brendan Eich, a man who publicly opposes gay marriage. When Eich resigned a day or so later, there were some fist pumps and celebration across social media. I however stayed quiet. I didn’t see any glory in even discussing the matter…much less celebrating it.
It is not that I agree with or feel sympathy for Mr. Eich. However I am a person who hold some unpopular political and social opinions. It makes me wonder, how safe are you from professional backlash when you make these opinions public? Not very it seems. And today, with it being so easy to stalk people online and research anything and everything about them, the times are particularly perilous when you have an opinion that is not a popular one.
And let’s be perfectly honest here…the gay marriage issue is really that of opinion…not of morals. If you compare gay marriage and interracial marriage, most people today are not opposed to the legal prohibition of interracial marriage….unlike public opinion of 50 years ago. And although I personally support interracial marriage, I will admit that there is some validity to the opposition of those who do not support it. For example, there is an inter-cultural gap that even when the couple can cope with it, their families, community and children may not be able to. Additionally, and interracial marriage can subject one partner, or both, to an increased amount of discrimination that will negatively affect them the rest of their life. For people who like to protect the American cultural ideal of our country’s populace being a “salad bowl” instead of a “melting pot”, interracial marriage is a big no-no. Norman Rockwell never portrayed the everyday American family as having a Black father and a White mother…or anything of the like. It is inaccurate…and short sighted. But it is a viewpoint that people hold. That is something that really can’t be denied, whether it is “right” or “wrong” (I hesitate to say that anyone’s viewpoint it outright “wrong”…viewpoints and facts are not synonymous…and facts do not always translate well when it comes to social norms).
In spite of my personal opinions, I do not feel threatened by the existence of organized racist organizations (i.e. the KKK, The Church of The Creator, etc.), or anti-Semitic organizations, or anti-feminist organizations. This feeling extends to the people who support them. As long as you are not terrorizing other people, you should be free to speak about, donate to, and work to support whatever cause you wish.
Trust me, I get it in regards to the notion that you represent your company. If you hold controversial views, then your company is at least tolerating these views when they put you into a position of power and influence. And it does vary…from company to company…what your views can encompass. But with Eich’s resignation, we also have to face that we have not yet reached a point in time where a White man with dreadlocks who supports the recreational use of marijuana could be a Silicon Valley CEO. Or a Muslim woman who covers her hair and speaks publicly about the imperialistic ways of the US military. Who among us is always right all of the time about everything? Somehow, I just can’t bring myself to celebrate the effectiveness of pushing someone out of their professional position because of their unrelated personal views.
P.S. – to those who question if I would work for/support a racist CEO, the answer is yes, I would. However who knows how practical it would be, because I would insist that the person not allow their racist beliefs to interfere with my own role at the company. And I figure that the chances of that would be pretty small.