• Vernon C. Lindsay, PhD

What Do You Think?


Can you imagine this scenario? You are scrolling on Instagram and come across a video of a friend who is talking about an important issue. At the conclusion of this video, your friend leaves the information for an event that is designed to address this mutual concern. You are not scheduled to work that day, so you decide to attend the event that turns out to be a rally organized by a group of people who share your interests. Due to your prior understanding of the event's controversial and political purpose, you are certain not to wear clothes or accessories that could indicate where you work.

The event is well attended by people like you who document their experiences via social media. Although you made the personal decision not to use social media during this political event, other supporters, as well as a counter group of protestors, decide to use Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to capture every moment. While filled with a surplus of emotion and adrenaline during the event, you don't think about the possibility of a photo or video of your participation reaching your employer. You only feel empowered for engaging an activity in response to your beliefs. After the event ends, you part ways with your family, friends, colleagues, and associates with the intention to return to work on Monday.

When Monday arrives, your boss hands you a pink slip and terminates you from your job for participating in a political rally that does not reflect the values of the company. Someone who attended the event sent photos of you to your employer who decided to terminate your position, because of your role in a highly-publicized and controversial rally on your off day. You are extremely angry because you don't believe that your actions conflict with your ability to do your job.

This scenario is similar to what happened to several white supremacists who attended last week’s rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. As reported by The Atlantic, social media has been used to identify protest participants, contact employers, and get them fired from their jobs. Many of the white nationalists in attendance did not cover their faces or take any additional measures to conceal their identities. Without shame or concern for repercussions, they proclaimed their absurd viewpoints and contested the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue at the University of Virginia's campus.

The rally fueled by racism resulted in the death of one protestor and injured others. It has now turned out also to cost some white supremacists their jobs. Others will likely lose their jobs as marches take place in Boston, New York, and other cities around the United States.

Is it fair to terminate someone from their job for participating in a political rally on their off day? The easiest answer is no. However, if you add that the political rally was in support of white supremacy or another hate group, I believe the answer is yes. Sure, as a person of color and an advocate for diversity and inclusion, my response is biased. I believe it is important for employers to respect all employees, including those with extremely different political views. It's also important that we take a stand against hatred. How can we strike a balance in the workspace?

Let’s have a conversation in the comments via my Instagram account.

#diversity #whitesupremacy #racism #political #inclusion #socialmedia