When Your Family Tree Includes Bigotry

Up until recently I had two Facebook profiles. One was my ‘public’ page. (You can find it here at http://facebook.com/jackcameron.) The other was my ‘personal’ page. Much of my family does not share my political or religious views and they do not much like it when I share what I think about these topics but I try to do the family thing and keep in touch. So I made a page where I can update them on family stuff without offending their delicate sensibilities.

A few weeks ago I chose to take down my personal Facebook page. This was the result of accepting something fundamental about much of my extended family and I feel like I should share it.

My grandfather on my mother’s side once trained his black lab dog to bark at black people. Growing up I heard relatives use racial slurs in conversation without any discomfort. I didn’t have a black friend until high school. Neither my brother nor I have ever had a long-term romantic relationship with someone who was another race.  I come from a white family that has been and in some cases still is entirely comfortable with racism.

This is not to say that we are all racists. There are those of us who recognize the mistakes of past generations and have moved past the bigotry that was commonplace in society in the previous century. I have family members who I love very much who have managed to become more open to other races, cultures, religions, sexual orientations, and lifestyles. I have other family members I love who are unable to move on and remain bigoted. They likely will remain bigoted the rest of their lives.

So when I called my brother out on my personal page for his endorsement of a bigoted candidate, I was met with a fair amount of hostility from some family members because I had previously said I would not talk about politics. It struck me that they were more upset about this than they were about my brother spouting his support for a racist Presidential Candidate. They were more comfortable with racism than they were with conflict.

From one perspective, they were right. I said I would not talk politics and religion and I did. It was then that I realized as a vocal liberal Democrat and atheist my social media page should reflect those values. My personal page was not really personal at all. It was a placeholder to placate people I’m related to by blood but who have very little in common with me. If they weren’t related to me, they wouldn’t be my friends. In other words, my personal page was essentially a page to make the bigoted members of my family comfortable with my online presence. As soon as I realized that was what I was doing, I took the page down.

It’s okay though. The family members I know and love I keep in touch with online and offline. The others are just people I’m related to. I’m under no obligation to make them comfortable. This is especially true for the bigots. I am me. I won’t pretend to be somebody else. If that offends anyone, I don’t much care.

– Jack Cameron

I’m With The Brand Part 4: Your Boss, Your Mom, Or A Cop

I spend a lot of time online. So I suppose it’s not entirely surprising that I see people make Personal Branding mistakes every day. Many of these people would be quick to point out that they aren’t interested in Personal Branding and that they’re simply sharing their lives online with friends and relatives. That may very well be true. It doesn’t change the fact that some things shouldn’t be shared online. Ever.

A common piece of dating advice is that you not talk about your ex. There are reasons for this. Some will say that it’s because they’ll think you’re still hung up on your ex. I say it’s because they are picturing you talking about them after the relationship. No woman likes it when you call another woman a bitch. And yet, if you go to any random Facebook, you will see people trashing their exes or having actual online fights with someone they’re dating.

Another common mistake is trashing your place of employment. Sure, you might work with a bunch of people who make brain damaged monkeys look like the control room at NASA.  You might be the only one there who isn’t on drugs. Or maybe just the job itself sucks. We’ve all had the shitty job with the stupid coworkers. Some of us have had that job for years. Complaining about it online may be cathartic, but it’s not going to help you get your next job that’s not as shitty.

Yes, it’s cathartic to just go off on a rant about all of the ways you’ve been wronged both personally and professionally. It feels good to get some of that off your chest. But trashing other people is never the way to get past them in the long run.

This does not mean you shouldn’t share your bad day with the world. There are ways to do it that aren’t going to hurt your future relationships or jobs. All you have to do is use this rule of thumb: Don’t post anything online that you wouldn’t say to your boss, your mom, or a cop.

If someone is being a moron at work and making your job difficult, it’s better to say, “Managed to make some progress on the project despite challenging obstacles.”  Really, when it comes down to it, Personal Branding is just good personal public relations. What you’re trying to do is say what you want to say without causing any unintended problems.

It’s fine to have an opinion. It’s fine to be angry. Just be sure that you’re in control of that anger and use it wisely. Count to ten. Then figure out the most creative way to say what you want to say.

This is the fourth part of my Personal Branding series. If you’ve come this far, you’ll want to read tomorrow’s fifth and final post where I point you in the direction of the Personal Branding geniuses. I know quite a bit about Personal Branding but it’s all due to reading and watching these guys. See you tomorrow.

–          Jack Cameron