Yes, My Personal Politics Are In My Small Business
Some old business “wisdom” says that we should keep politics out of our business. Fuck that. Seriously. Fuck that. Especially now. We can’t afford to be silent.
The environment can’t afford it. Queer people, people of color, people who want clean water, people who want healthcare, people who believe that public education should work and justice should be just can’t afford it. People who don’t want to see a religious registry, a repeat of the holocaust, and the rise of a fascist regime can’t afford it.
What really gets me is the sentiment at the core of that “wisdom.” It is said that we should keep politics out of business because it has the potential to be bad for business. At the core of that is the idea that my profit, as a business owner, is more important than the health and welfare of the planet and everybody on it. My profit is more important than someone having access to medical care? My profit is more important than an entire city having access to clean water? My profit is more important than a family being able to stay together rather than being rounded up and deported? My profit is….
My profit means NOTHING compared to those things. NOTHING.
I am disgusted that anyone who knows me would even suggest that my value system could reflect that kind of wholesale greed. Because that kind of wholesale greed, that focus on self rather than the collective, is why we are here.
We are literally living under the jackboot of Fascism. I, for one, would not be able to live with myself if I didn’t fight to protect the people who need it, because I might lose some money.
And that is the ONLY reason people say to keep politics out of business.
Mind you, from the moment that we opened our doors 5 years ago, our politics have been front and center. We have rainbows all over the place, for chrissake, that’s a political statement. That statement says that regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, you are welcome with us. Which makes it pretty clear that if you threaten those things, we won’t support you.
That Black Lives Matter sign in our window? Yup, that’s political. It means we see the systemic racism around us and will fight against it. Not because every life doesn’t matter, but because we can step outside our white and privileged lives and see that some lives are at greater risk than others, and that’s not okay with us.
Hell, if you follow me at all, I am pretty much 24 / 7 politics. I call it social justice, but we live in a system in which social justice is administered or obliterated through our political system. As such, it is my moral obligation, as one with every privilege except a penis, to change that political system until it treats all people equitably and the planet protectively.
And I run a business. So why would my business not serve that same purpose? It does. It always has. The money we donate to charity comes from our business. The vocal community that we have built exists in our business.
So let me be clear, our business is serving our life-purpose of creating a safe and equitable world.
Sure, most of the money we donate we do anonymously and to seemingly non-political causes. Sending the local high-school theater team to Nationals isn’t overtly political. Except that it’s necessary because of our terrible education funding. Raising funds for a non-profit that serves transgendered youth isn’t overtly political. But it’s necessary because we live in a world in which one can still be fired for being gay, and trans kids commit suicide at a higher rate than any other population because of bigotry and lack of services. Sure, giving money to the medical fund of an immigrant who was hit by a car isn’t overtly political, but the fact that he had no access to services is.
This is who we are at our core. We’ve been quietly giving money to more causes than I can list here. We’ve done it as a business. We’ve held fundraisers at our business. We have been political since we opened our doors.
But these times, they are a changing. Our current administration is actively seeking to harm the people we have been working to protect since we opened our doors. Hell, since my husband and I were babies our families have been politically active defending the marginalized. This is our very lifeblood.
When I was younger, I always wondered what I would do, what I’d be willing to risk, to save the Jews during Hitler’s reign. I always suspected that I’d fight like hell. That I’d house people, devise plots to protect them. I’d be a powerful soldier in the resistance.
I never, ever, wanted the chance to find out for sure. But now I have that chance.
And I will resist.
With everything I’ve got.
Has it been bad for business? Nope. It’s been great for business. People drive past other gyms to come to Rocket. People are here because they follow us on social media and see what we stand for. Our overt sociopolitical stands have been great for business. They are a primary driver, actually. When we ask people how they found us, the two primary answers are that they have friends who suggested it, or they follow me on social media.
And I make my opinions very, very clear.
Have we lost some business because of it? Yup. We have lost a very few existing members. We’ve surely had people not join because of the BLM sign in our window.
And that’s okay. Our community is better when it doesn’t have people in it who are fighting against basic human rights for all.
Conversely, I am thrilled to give my money to business with whom I have shared values. If I find out that you support the current administration, I will not patronize your business. I appreciate, bigly, when I know that up front. I am pro-choice to my core, and that includes the right to choose what I support. When you give me access to data so that I can make an informed decision, I am all the happier.
I offer you all the same data. You know what we stand for. If it offends you, it’s okay, you don’t have to give us your money.
Yes, this last election has caused hard times in our community. But fighting is always hard. And we have a lot to fight for. I do not feel the need to make people who hold bigoted and racist and selfish ideals comfortable. People’s lives are literally on the line here.
There is no amount of money you could pay me that will mean more to me than liberty and justice for all.
The postcard pictured above is being printed as we speak. It will be on our front desk, with sheets of pre-printed mailing labels, just to make it easier for everyone to be heard by those in power. They were inspired by a group of our members who organized a series of meetings to make engagement easier. They inspire me. Daily. I will fight for them with everything I’ve got.