Business Musings: Speaking Out

Business Musings: Speaking Out

Finished my morning routine an hour or so ago, thought a lot about what I was going to write for my weekly blog, and grabbed the laptop, heading to one of my favorite chairs. I set the laptop down so that I could take the teabags out of the cup of tea that I had prepared for this moment, and glanced at a new news notification on my phone.

An actor whose name I did not recognize was just fired from a show I no longer watch because of racist and misogynistic tweets he made before he joined the show. Usually these things wash over me, because it’s become common to see someone getting fired for their assholery since the #MeToo movement fired up.

But my reaction this time was oh, no. I sat with it for a moment, then realized I wasn’t reacting to the actor, but to the character, which was one of the few I loved in the last year I watched that series. Honestly, that character was what kept me watching the series for another year.

I had to remind myself that while the actor was an asshole (and the tweets are awful), the character wasn’t. In fact, the character was the right kind of heroic, someone who was learning how to believe in himself and gaining confidence.

I felt as disappointed as I would have if an acquaintance had done something similar. And acquaintances have done similar things. I unfriend many of them, and a goodly number have gotten themselves blocked for repeating anti-science talking points about the virus or saying really racist shit about…well, most anything going on right now.

I’m glad the rocks are being turned over, and I’m even happier that the light is being cast on this filthy darkness.

The darkness extends to some favorite authors of mine. A writer who supported my work heavily and whose work I’ve loved since I was a young writer broke my heart a few years ago with his homophobic statements. And just this past week, another writer whose work I like made some breathtakingly transphobic statements, which make me feel icky just thinking about them.

These people aren’t characters, but they’ve written some characters I adore.

I’m not opposed to reading books from people who have a different worldview than I do. When I was in college, I read spy thrillers written by a conservative columnist and learned a lot about a worldview I didn’t have access to at the time. In fact, I still read spy thrillers by writers whose politics are to the right of mine, and I’m still learning things about that worldview that I didn’t know—including the fact that we can agree about things, such as our reaction to current politics. Who knew that someone that far to the right would have similar feelings to me?

Well, I had hoped they would. You know, people with an IQ, and all of that. But even thinking isn’t assured these days.

Also, this morning, I had just read an article about post by Jeff Bezos of Amazon fame on his Instagram page. Amazon has a message that supports the Black Lives Matter movement on its main page, and also on its Fire TV’s home page. Amazon also pledged millions last week to groups supporting social justice and equity issues.

Bezos has gotten hate mail because of it, including threatening letters. The letter he posted on his Instagram page from some racist named “Dave” (last name redacted) told Bezos he would lose customers if he continued supporting Black Lives Matter. The letter is breathtaking in its racism.

And Bezo’s response ends with, “Dave, you’re a customer I’m happy to lose.”

Yes, I know. Amazon has a ton of problems of its own, from bad contact tracing to underpayment of employees to a whole host of other issues I’m entirely unaware of.

But the words stuck in my head. Because in the last six months, I’ve lost Patreon supporters due to my political opinions. I’ve also lost Twitter followers, and most likely, Facebook followers, although I don’t keep track of that.

The Twitter people usually leave with a nasty huff. The Patreon people are asked as they leave by Patreon why they’re going. Most are polite, but some aren’t.

All  of them told me, in the weeks/months before they left, that if I kept my mouth shut, they would continue to support me.

I could have my opinions. They just didn’t want those opinions expressed somewhere.

Whoops. That’s not how I’m made. I speak up. I do try to keep these posts focused on writing and publishing, because I’m trying to help as many people as I can.

And that’s the key phrase: as many people as I can. But there are people in the world, like that Dave guy above, who believe they are the only ones who deserve help and support. They’re the overt racists and misogynists, the ones whose speech we were told to deal with because we had to in order to stay in business.

But the people who bother me the most are the folks who, for economic or  political reasons, can ignore the racism and hatred that spews daily from the White House or from a friend or a boss, because it’s in that person’s best interest to ignore the nasty crap and focus on the “good stuff,” whatever that might be.

I can’t. I’m not built that way.

And I learned as a young woman that speaking out—however painful—is preferable to keeping silent. Silent allows the nasty shit to continue. Speaking up is what leads to change.

Which comes back to business. I know some of the people who left my Patreon account. Some were big supporters, who seemed, until they revealed themselves, like kind people—at least to 60-year-old white me. I have no idea how they treat the people of color in their lives or if they even have people of color in their lives. I do know that their support of system that I loathe makes them customers I’m willing to lose.

As some of them leave, though, I find myself reacting like I reacted to that actor this morning—with disappointment and sadness. Only with these supporters, I can’t pivot and say, well, I still like the character they created. Because, unlike actors who recite words someone else wrote, these people are writing their own words.

They might not be as offensive as the words of that Dave guy Bezos dealt with, but in some ways, their carefully phrased shut your mouth is more offensive.

Shut up, go along. I’ll give you money. I’ll be your friend, if you turn your back on your principles.

Nope. Sorry. Not going to do that.

So here’s the writing lesson, the business lesson.

Your opinions are yours. They’re also your choice. It’s a fallacy to believe you can be something to everyone or that all people will like your work. You will never appeal to everyone.

You might appeal to people whose politics differ from yours. That’s cool.

And you might lose people who used to love your work because of your politics and your beliefs. That’s cool too, because I’m certainly letting go of writers I loved because of their beliefs. They own those beliefs. I don’t have to support them.

The problem comes in when you’re maintaining a silence because you’re afraid you will lose someone whom you would not tolerate in real life.

America has been divisive for years now. When Dean and I started running in-person workshops over twenty years ago, we asked our students not to discuss politics or religion with each other for the duration of the workshop because we wanted the students to get along while the workshop was happening. It’s been a good decision, and one that will continue, because people are learning to see each other as human beings.

The ones who don’t see others as human beings reveal themselves in other ways, and several have been asked not to return.

We’re not asking our students to be politics-free in their lives or their writing or anything else. And most of them express themselves quite clearly most of the time. And if this were a normal time, where people treated each other like human beings with differences that could be resolved or lived with, we wouldn’t have a no-politics rule at our in-person workshops. But that’s not the world we’re in.

And…full disclosure…the person who has the most trouble maintaining a politics-free environment is me.

My work has never been politics-free. My politics pervades everything I write. Because I trained myself to speak up and remain blunt.

I try to balance two things in life and in my work: I want to respect everyone, even if we differ. But I draw the line at hatred, racism, and bigotry in all its forms. I can’t respect a bigot. I don’t want to be near a racist.

I hate it when someone I respect reveals themselves to be someone I can’t respect. I’m sad, not because they’re leaving my life, but because they’re someone other than who I thought they were.

I’m glad the rocks are being turned over. I’m glad the light is finally penetrating the darkness that has coated this country since its founding. I’m cautiously optimistic that the shift we’re seeing now will continue.

If this post makes you feel the urge to write me a screed or tell me that I should tolerate the bigots for the sake of unity, please do me a favor and just leave.

I’m going to continue with my policy in these weekly business blogs of being somewhat politics free. If the world situation has an impact on the writing business or on business in general, the way it is right now, well, then, I’m going to comment. Because it’s relevant, and important to writers.

In my fiction, on my personal social media accounts, and in my life, I will continue to speak up as I always have—or maybe I’ll be a bit louder right now.

The moment calls for it—and I will not be silent.

“Business Musings: Speaking Out,” copyright © 2020 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch. Image at the top of the blog copyright © 2020 by  Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

 

 

20 responses to “Business Musings: Speaking Out”

  1. Murees Dupé says:

    More power to you for speaking up. You are so right when you said you can’t be everything for everyone. I try to steer clear of politics for exactly that reason. The aggression that comes with it. I think you are so brave for not having others intimidate you into silence. I applaud you.

  2. Lyn Worthen says:

    I’ve always been proud to count you among my friends, and never more so than now.

  3. Rose says:

    You don’t need me or anyone else to tell you to keep speaking up, but seriously, keep speaking up. The world needs more positive voices to help drown out the hate and ignorance. Reading this made me feel less alone and, honestly, a little less stressed. It’s a drop in the bucket, but to me, a pretty big deal.

  4. LindaB says:

    Keep doing what you’re doing. The bigots don’t censor themselves, and I don’t see see anyone telling them to stop. Those who tell you to do so are wrong. Let them take on the bigots, but they won’t. They come after you because you’re an easier target. Yes, you have a product to sell, but there are billions of readers out there. For every one who falls away, you’ll find another, and maybe a few more, too. Keep on keeping on.

  5. Kat says:

    Thank you for this, Kris. Please do keep speaking out.

    I’m too overwhelmed by life to add more at the moment, but I justed wanted to add my voice to the support for your stand. (And my husband tells me I should up my Patreon pledge g).

  6. Gunnar says:

    Thanks for this Kris.
    I believe we live in a time when staying silent is no longer an option. I am glad to have read this, and I am going to share it.

  7. acflory says:

    ‘My politics pervades everything I write.’

    Thank you. I’d pretty much gathered what your politics are from your writing, but it’s good to have it confirmed. Our writing is our legacy, the only immortality we’re likely to have. To be of value, that legacy has to be honest.

    You won’t be losing this reader any time soon. 🙂

  8. This is a very good post. I am particularly glad that you’ve called out the recent bout of transphobia — that particular form of hatred seems to be rearing its head a lot at the moment, even among people who are very good at seeing other forms, and I’m glad you’re not one of those. I don’t back you on Patreon as I can’t afford a regular payment, but I’ve backed every Kickstarter and craft bundle you or Dean have put together for about a decade, and this makes it even more likely I’ll continue to do so.
    I run a music history podcast. I have several times had people tell me that they would enjoy my podcast more if I stopped talking all the time about the historical injustices meted out to black people in the music industry, as if it would even be possible to talk about the music of the fifties without discussing that. Some people seem to think that it’s possible to create art that doesn’t reflect the creator’s worldview, or to create art without having strong opinions at all. It isn’t, or if it is I don’t want to read or listen to or watch that art.

  9. SeanR says:

    I am not one of your Patreon supporters, nor have I been, although I did support you on a couple Kickstarters. If I were to quit supporting all of the Patreon creators I (am likely to) disagree with, I’d probably be down to five bucks a month.

    I can see both sides, to a degree. First, it’s your voice, and no one has a right to tell you what to say, or not say. Especially in your own venue.
    That said, it can feel like you’re supporting someone’s political positions when you support their work. The work that you like. You said yourself that you will be dropping a couple authors who surprised you with their homophobic statements. Although, I understand it’s because you don’t want to support them, not their platform.

    Frankly, storytelling, and most art, seems to be a somewhat left-of-center career choice. I’m sure there are a sizeable number of right-of-center creatives out there somewhere…maybe doing ad copy, but they’re just not as visible as the liberal ones. This creates a visible gap in the quality of the voices arguing for, or against, a particular cause or position, even where it seems the number of people on either side should be more evenly divided, or at least appear to be so on election day.

    In a world where words can change minds, and the words of celebrities have more potency than those of others, even in areas outside their competency (re: Jenny McCarthy and childhood vaccinations), it can feel like you’re giving ammunition to your opposition when you continue to support them as an artist or a business, but they oppose you politically, often within their art. This was the basis of the Chick-fil-a “boycott”, (which backfired tremendiously), and what I perceive as the fall of the Dixie Chicks from near the top of the Country Music charts back during the Bush II presidency. (They opposed the Middle Eastern wars before it was socially acceptable to oppose the Middle Eastern wars. If they’ve reached a parity on the Adult Contemporary chart to where they were on the Country chart, I’ve not heard it.) Supposedly, it’s why many otherwise good actors can no longer get work in Hollywood. Not because of what they did or for spewing vitriol, but because of the stances they take on political issues.

    So I can see someone wanting you to, well, NOT “take a knee”, and instead just do your job. The one they’re paying for. I’ve felt that way myself about most of Hollywood.
    But again, I’ve long since accepted that the voices I enjoy listening to are simply not going to agree with me, most of the time, on many issues. Issues which effect my vote.

    Frankly, I’ve been expecting you to re-run your NAACP investigator “Mr. West” short for the last couple weeks. That or the one with the gas station on the edge of divorceville.

    https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2018/03/16/593593501/invisibilia-inspired-by-american-idol-somali-tv-show-aimed-to-change-the-world
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_music_and_the_fall_of_communism

  10. emmiD says:

    Privilege.

    That’s a four-letter word. I don’t consider myself “privileged”, yet I’ve gradually come to realize that I’m slotted into that category. P-people can say or post or do or be with only a few people denigrating or disabusing them for it.

    That’s not the case for PoC, especially BIPoC.

    Back in the 1990s I fought the battle against prejudice with colleagues and friends and some family members. My home community was static at 96% homogenized milk for decades upon decades, then an influx of Hispanic workers changed the demographics. In little more than one decade that homogenized community reached 50% Hispanic, 45% white, and less than 5% Black. Still, after that transition ended, one colleague went out of her way to be hateful to Hispanic students and another called every Hispanic “Mexican” even though they may have come from Guatemala or Honduras or Puerto Rico or Miami or even the Philippines.

    And I patted myself on the back because “I’m not prejudiced. I’m not racist.” I wasn’t a P-person.

    We may rail against the willfully and unconsciously blind, yet all of us–especially me–still need more enlightenment … which is the reason that you, Kris, must continue speaking up.

    For example, take my response to your 6/3/2020 post on “Book Promotion 2020”. I showed your blog and my comment to a wise writer friend. First she said, “Wow, you’re a little heated there.” Then she said, “What do you mean by acceptable ‘trends’?” I started a diatribe about the cozy vampires since the Twilight era and the Divergent convergence and more. She let me run down then said, “That’s not what it sounds like.” … “Whaddya mean?” Then I knew. My casual words can be easily misconstrued. I put on blinders and thought only of the publishing world, not the world beyond my cloistered sphere.

    Privilege allowed me to have that single thought without considering consequences beyond.

    And that’s not the case for BIPoC in America, which is supposed to be the home of the free, equal justice for all. I’m appalled at every continued racial injustice, and this spring I have grieved over the senseless deaths of Ahmaud Arbury and Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

    And that is the reason that we all have to speak up, no matter who we lose as friends or supporters, because our words may cause someone to stop, to think, and finally to cast off those blinders.

    So, Kris, don’t dampen your political commentary. Someone somewhere needs blinders removed. Someone somewhere needs to look outside that cozy little cloistered sphere. Most of us aren’t the wordsmith that you are, to communicate clearly the truth that needs to be said.

  11. Kelby Baca says:

    I’ve been reading your blog and following you on Twitter. Thank you for speaking out against bigotry and staying true to yourself. I plan on doing the same, too, loss of profit be damned! I’d rather starve than take bigots’ money anyway. I consider it the same as blood money. Extreme? Actually, no, not when you think about the deadly impact of bigotry (think George Floyd and SO MANY OTHERS killed in hate crimes.)

    Sorry to write a whole essay here, but the biggest reason I came to that thinking (besides cough Fox News cough):

    I watch YouTube a lot, and unfortunately I’ve seen YouTubers that cater to the bigots, telling them everything they want to hear. (I’m talking about anti- social justice, anti-BLM, anti-feminist crap videos full of bad-faith arguments and excuses for bigotry.) Do they genuinely believe this stuff? I don’t know, which is scary! Maybe some do and some don’t. Anyway, they’re grifters, through and through. Unfortunately they’re raking in the dough because they’ve become very popular, and bigots support them on Patreon, Superchats, affiliate programs, wherever. Unsurprisingly, comments on all their videos are generally horrible hateful trash.

    YouTube has yet to do anything meaningful about it, because they have no backbone and they’re afraid of losing money and views from these people. They’re afraid of being accused of “censorship,” which is laughable BS since they’re a private business with terms of service they’re legally free to enforce.

    Sure, those YouTubers have it made financially. But at what cost? Selling their souls. And the death of human rights, human decency, honesty, sanity, maybe even democracy itself. When all of that is lost completely, there’s no money to be made, is there? And there’s no LIFE to have, period. Those YouTubers will be shipped off into a prison because they’re not “human” enough to certain people, or they said or did things that the people in charge just don’t like. And they’ll have helped that oppression become reality.

    In short: I HATE GRIFTERS, and I plan to never be one. There’s no excuse for it – there’s a WORLD of ethical ways to make a living. Appeasing or just tolerating bigots in your audience just for fear of losing their money makes you complicit in their bigotry. It makes you a grifter yourself.

    • G.B. Miller says:

      Beg to differ about YouTube not censoring creators. They do an outstanding job in censoring conservative voices like Steven Crowder (who has sat down with the heads of YouTube on numerous occasions to talk about their “censoring” of his channel) and Prager University, run by Dennis Prager, is currently suing YouTube in Federal Court over their “censoring” of their channel.

      YouTube can and does censors content creators that they don’t agree with, by changing the algorithms or by labeling the videos as questionable, demonetizing it or outright censoring them (they did that to a Prager U video about the ten commandments and were actually called out on it by a Senate hearing and they claimed that the word “murder” was the reason for the censoring).

      They also been known to outright yank/delete a video if it goes against known “accept” orthodoxy, most recently, those two e.r. doctors from California who said fears about COVID-19 were overblown. They yanked it the video (produced by an ABC affiliate) on the grounds that it violated their T.o.S. If you go through their T.o.S you’ll see that it didn’t by any stretch of any sensible person’s imagination.

      So yeah, YouTube censors, moreso than FB.

  12. Please do not be silent. The world already has enough bigots, racists, misogynists, homophobes, islamophobes, transphobes… to do enough damage until the end of time. There is a lot of hate out there. It is learned – babies are not born hating. I hope some of it gets UNlearned.

  13. James Palmer says:

    Great advice, as always. What always gets me about the people you’re talking about is that they never tell Ted Nugent to shut up and sing. They never try to silence the artists whose views they agree with.

  14. Kris, I couldn’t agree with you more. I have great respect for your work and your honesty. Thank you for being willing to speak out. I hope other authors do the same.

  15. M T McGuire says:

    I think I love you! Mwahahahargh. That’s brilliant. I am a Christian and as such, the central teaching of my faith – do unto others – pervades everything I do and write. When people who I know and am friends with say things that are, frankly, a bit off, it’s usually about lack of thought more than anything. I usually make a humorous rebuttal because I feel it’s less aggressive and therefore, folks are more likely to listen.

    While I’m here, I’d like to share a story which, to me, shows what load of complete bollocks racism is.

    Many years ago, during the second world war, my grandfather was in the Desert army. He got jaundice and ended up in hospital for six months – I think it was six, might have been three. A sod of a long time, anyway. I suspect the reason that grandfather was around when I was a nipper is probably because he was in hospital in Messina rather than at Monte Cassino with his fellows. In hospital he had many blood tests. Turns out he had a factor in his blood that is only found in men from a specific area in North Africa. It’s only passed down the male line. Essentially what it means is that he is directly descended from someone black and African, and, therefore, I am. My uncle has researched our family tree but it’s not possible to get back much further than 1000 years, which is about where he’s got to, where the family name appears in records of burials in some one horse town just outside Hull. Nobody black so far and it would have been notable at pretty much any point in history and mentioned, had the head of the family, or one of the kids, suddenly popped up black.

    My uncle is in a number of family history orientated forums and internet groups. He has discovered four chaps in America who have the same factor in their blood. They haven’t managed to get back 1,000 years, but their family names appear on graves in the same village church yard as ours. So, that would suggest that, maybe, number of people in that area had the same blood factor, so that would mean they were all related to the one person, perhaps. If you take it back another seven or eight hundred years, you meet the Roman legions. A lot of the Romans in Britain were in the Spanish Legion. The Spanish Legion had a lot of what they referred to as nubian troops in it. Many of them stayed here after the Roman government left … so basically, looks like my grandfather times about 40 was a black African Roman legionary, or legion hanger on.

    As far as I know, the male line in my grandfather’s family have been white for at least 1,000 years and of course, it can’t come into the family through the female line, it has to come from the actual man. So it just goes to show what a load of old tut racism is. Because there were black immigrants arriving in Britain over one thousand years ago and I’m descended from one of them.

    In repost to some racist comment I happened upon somewhere on facebook, I posted a selfie with the caption, ‘this is what the direct descendent of an African looks like after 1,000 years’. He – why is it always he? – reposted with ‘but you don’t count because you’re white’. Which was my exact point. Colour means zilch.

    So with you. Sometimes, you just have to dust the sand off your feet, give up on these people and move on.

    Cheers

    MTM

  16. Julie says:

    It’s great that you speak out, Kris. The more people speak up, the more it encourages other people to do the same.

    I live in Bristol in the UK, where demonstrators tore down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston and dumped it in the river. Now statues are being pulled down all over the place and people are calling for the renaming of streets and buildings that commemorate these people. I saw on the news this morning that in the US, the army might rename bases named after Confederates. All of a sudden, people can see what’s wrong with leaving these things in place.

    So individual actions multiply up. Thanks for being one of the people to act.

  17. Just before the Corona crisis broke out, there was a discussion on the Dutch TV channel RTL. Stand-up comedians Roué Verveer (of Surinamese descent) and Najib Ahmali (of Moroccan descent), both successfully active on stage for more than twenty years, discussed how quickly public opinion has changed in recent years.

    They spoke of a new prudishness; not only bad language, but also jokes, or funny remarks that they have made about each other’s origins for years, are sensitive today. Note that both comedians are very good friends, their comments are not meant to be racist, but are meant to discuss a sensitive subject in a fun way.

    They both confirmed that they are more cautious today than before. (The ‘Charlie Hebdo effect’). Before a joke is included in the show, they first consider whether that joke is ‘possible’ (acceptable) and what the consequences may be. Like many artists, politicians, etc., they too are regularly ‘treated’ with hate mail. (‘Hate mail’; a word that should not appear in any dictionary in a civilized society).

    I am happy that I live in the Netherlands. An open-minded, democratic country in which you are free to express your opinion. I also know that the Dutch are sometimes considered to be ‘too direct’ by others (including other Europeans). But here too a change is visible, noticeable and tangible.

    Is that a reason not to express your opinion? 75 Years after WWII there are still thousands of white crosses on, neatly maintained, cemeteries in memory of fallen Allies. Scattered across our small country, there are hundreds of memorial sites where fallen resistance fighters are honored. Our freedom (of speech) is hard fought. We are indebted to all those people who have sacrificed their lives to keep fighting for that freedom. On all fronts.

    Social media with their cookies, algorithms, etc. ensure that people almost exclusively see / read the opinion of like-minded people. News that is neatly ‘selected’ by AI software. As if we are imposing censorship on ourselves. Or…? How many people actually know that they only see a filtered piece of all the news? Thanks to photoshopping you can’t even trust your own eyes. What is true and what is not true?
    We have to keep asking questions.
    We must continue to speak out.
    Even if others disagree.
    That is our democratic right.
    Maybe even our democratic duty.
    Keeping silent is not an option.
    Stay true to your opinion!

    Well now. Sorry for the long post. (I had to look up the word ‘screed’. Can I still hide behind ignorance?) Anyway this is not a lament; more of a boost …

    Finally, just for the ‘fun’: Definitely check out this old Jeff MacNelly cartoon https://twitter.com/lennybendavid/status/943991533161807873

    Or my blog ‘War of the words’. https://skredch.blogspot.com/2020/01/war-of-words.html

    So, one more time (it cannot be said often enough): keeping silent is not an option.

  18. Gordon Horne says:

    One of the things I do is photography. I’ve photographed many events. I’m a fifty-something, overweight white male. Often at an event someone with a similar complexion to mine will lean towards me and say something along the lines of, “Isn’t disgraceful how _____ carry on. It shouldn’t be allowed.” The look of disgust and betrayal on their face when I tell them, “Dude, I’m not on your side. I’m with them,” is something to behold.

    I think they feel betrayed because someone they’ve filed in the same tribe as themselves isn’t. Their envisioned majority of right thinking people isn’t as large as they imagined, and might not be a majority. They’re confronted with the fact that other people don’t necessarily think like them.

    As for artists, there are some writers I no longer buy new work from as I know they use their earnings to support causes I oppose. I’m not going to throw out old books I bought years ago. I might buy something second-hand where no money goes to the author, but unlikely. Most of these authors have escaped their editors and become didactic in their work. I enjoy complex interactions between characters of different viewpoints. I can’t stand it when the universe in a work of fiction takes sides and certain characters succeed not because of their actions but because they have the correct ideology according to the author. I don’t even enjoy it when I agree with the ideology. It’s the tackiest form of wish fulfillment.

    Stay strong and loud Kris.

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