As a PR professional, I know that it is not necessarily a good idea to speak out about things that could later get you in trouble. PR is all about image and following the mission of the organization/person being represented. Maintaining the image of a company is a tricky thing – you don’t want to upset your consumers, investors, or the general image of your company because that may affect sales/perception. On that note, I think it is important for people to remember that their actions do affect others.
That’s why I am (sort) shedding my PR role right now in order to give you my opinion on a big PR issue going on at the moment. What happened is this:
The TV channel TLC, known for it’s controversial shows such as 19 Kids and Counting, Sister Wives, Toddlers & Tiaras, and My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, came up with an all new show this season – All American Muslim. The creation of this show caused a major advertiser – Lowe’s – to pull its advertising from the program. Needless to say, this caused an uproar from liberals, conservatives, progressives, Christians, Muslims, Lowe’s shoppers, TLC watchers, and many more. Many comments, letters (and here), and opinions have chastised Lowe’s for its discrimination of Muslims and their heritage; however many have also come out in support of Lowe’s decision to remove advertising from the show. Since the announcement of the removal of its advertising, Lowe’s has posted an apology on Facebook which was subsequently taken down due to disrespectful and harshly worded comments. Lowe’s then posted a follow-up comment that can be seen below:
self-taken screen shot from Lowe's Facebook page
Anyway, the purpose of this post is not to chastise Lowe’s for making a (what I believe to be poor) business decision. This post was sparked by an article I read earlier today (or yesterday?) about the 25 Dumbest Comments on Lowe’s Facebook Page and was infuriated by what people said and how ignorant they are, the purpose is to call out the people who are supporting Lowe’s decision with the argument that it is in “America’s best interest” and that Muslims are not “true Americans.” My questions for them is: what, exactly, is a “true American”? Is it somebody who is born in the United States? Does it depend on the color of your skin? Your religion? How long your family has been in the States? The amount of education you have? I’m serious, what exactly is a “true American”?! Would you consider me a true American? I am white, Christian, and pay American taxes. What if I told you that I was second generation American? That my grandparents came from Germany and England – one leaving Germany out of fear for his family with Jewish roots. Am I still a true American in your eyes?
I know we have all heard this before but I will say it again: this country was founded, amongst other things, on the freedom of religion. In case you forgot, here are the words written on the Declaration of Independence – a document written by our Founding Fathers after white christians left Europe and fought against the British for their freedom of religion and independence from prejudice. They wanted to create a country where people could practice the religion they wanted – without being persecuted. Just to refresh your memory, here are the first words written on the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Now, I’m not going to give you a lecture (anymore than I have) on what the Constitution and Declaration of Independence have to say about the American people’s right to freedom. What I am going to say is that sometimes I am sorely disappointed by the people I call neighbors and fellow Americans. All of us came here from somewhere, at some point. Just because you have lived in the United States longer than others does not make you any more or less patriotic than somebody who moved here ten or twenty years ago.
Perhaps I will be labeled as the “classic liberal,” but I think that there is something to be said about being open minded and listening to other people’s opinions. Before you argue with me, I do realize that being open minded also includes understanding that not everybody is as open minded as me and that other people will have different opinions, but that doesn’t mean that those people have to impart their opinions on me and others. Just because you think you are right, doesn’t mean you are. Yes, I know, that means that I could be wrong. I am willing to risk it.
Here is a little insight on the roots of my beliefs:
The other day I got into a conversation with my dad about what I was like when I was little. The first thing he said was that I was sensitive (surprise, surprise – the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree). The second thing he said was that I didn’t see color, religion, or sexual orientation. I didn’t care whether someone was black, white, green, Christian, Jewish, atheist, straight, or gay. As long as they treated others well, everybody was the same to me. In fact, when I was 3 and attending preschool in El Cerrito, CA, I was exposed to a lot of ethnicity: the main preschool teacher was Sikh, another teacher was white, and another was black. My dad said I didn’t pay attention to their skin color – instead of saying “my white teacher” or “my black teacher,” I said “the teacher with the light hair” (meaning my white teacher) and “the teacher with the dark hair” (meaning my black teacher).
As I thought about that story, I got wistful for those days of innocence, for the days when no prejudice based on color or religion clouded my opinions of people. I try to keep myself from pre-judging people, but sometimes it is hard. Sometimes I find myself thinking about other races and applying stereotypes to them, or looking at other Christians and judging them for their extremist views, or vegetarians for their judgmental comments. At those times I have to step back and remind myself that everybody has a right to be who they are and believe what they think is true. It is not my right to get in their way.
I suppose the best I can hope for is that, by the time I have grandchildren, they will live in a world (or at least an America) where people aren’t persecuted for their beliefs. An America where the Constitution and Declaration of Independence are actually followed.
Finally, I will leave you with a quotation from Nazi opposer Martin Niemöller:
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out — Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out —Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out —Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.
And now that I’m done with my (not-so) mini rant, have a wonderful night.