About a week ago invitations started popping up to join a private Facebook group called “I don’t support racist businesses”. My first thought was, “of course I don’t!”, but I didn’t click “join” because I don’t like all the notifications and posts from people I don’t know showing up in my feed.
Before declining the group, I started to see some of the posts and comments others were making and it shook me. The group wasn’t just a friendly place to share bad encounters with businesses – offering a heads up to others to avoid them. Their goal was darker – to attack businesses and professionals they thought were racist with the intent to harm them. While they weren’t promoting physical violence, the methods they wanted to use would cause loss of business or in the case of individuals the loss of their jobs.
Even more disturbing was the criteria they used to select their targets. A person or business could be classified as racist for a single post disagreeing with the riots on Facebook, or a shout out from the police department thanking a business that supported them. People were instantly targets if they supported political candidates the group didn’t approve of, like President Trump and a local Congressman.
I got chills when I heard a local woman was fired from her job within a day of being targeted by the group.
I found it interesting that a group siding with protestors looking to defund the police would enact their own vigilante justice on people and businesses with only their own opinions as guidelines for justice.
We’ve heard of “cancel culture” in reference to celebrities and giant companies, of course, it was only a matter of time before it arrived in our local communities.
It’s the devisiveness of groups like this that are ruining our country. Being American means you are free to have your own opinions – and not be attacked for them. This group has taken their FB Trolling offline with the intent to do major damage. Sadly, they don’t realize that their actions will not only destroy the people and businesses they target, but our communities as well.
Most businesses are a-political and happily serve any customer that comes in the door. They employ hundreds of local people making it possible for them to raise their families in Duluth. Not only that but they support local groups, programs, and fundraisers – because they love and are proud of their community.
I was surprised to learn that one of the local businesses targeted had employees in this group. Why would you attack your own employer? If you don’t like their politics, actions, or opinions, you’re free to find another job.
I’m saddened that people have been reduced to one-dimension these days – where they fall on the political spectrum. We have an amazing collection of people in the Northland. Talented, thoughtful, hardworking, loving, funny, generous, beautiful people and all that they do for the benefit of the community can be muted because they support the police, a conservative candidate, or disapprove of the violence and damage at the hands of looters and rioters.
To disagree with someone is your right. But to organize a group to terrorize, boycott, or attack them in real life or on social media is harassment.
MN 609.749 HARASSMENT; STALKING; PENALTIES.
As used in this section, “harass” means to engage in conduct which the actor knows or has reason to know would cause the victim under the circumstances to feel frightened, threatened, oppressed, persecuted, or intimidated, and causes this reaction on the part of the victim regardless of the relationship between the actor and victim
Did others who were invited and joined the group know what they were getting into? I sincerely hope not.
The majority of people oppose racism. In fact, I don’t know anyone who’s “pro-racism”. To assume that as a group you can judge, convict, and punish people you may not even know in real life is irrational and dangerous, and a really sad statement about who we are today.
This is not the “change” that you’re supposed to be making. Spreading fear, hate, and harm isn’t making anything better. Support businesses that support your views. Share your views and support your causes in a positive way. Then you can be proud of the change you’ve helped make.
If you are currently in this group, ask yourself – is this the person you want to be? How does hurting others help you? Who are you really helping by harassing and harming others? It certainly isn’t your political party, your thought leaders, or preferred candidates – they don’t want to be affiliated with these types of actions. These aren’t the actions that those of us stuck in the middle without a candidate can vote for.
Negativity and positivity are as contagious as COVID – which do you want to spread? You’ve connected a group of like-minded people, now figure out how to make smart, thoughtful, and powerful changes. Should the goal really be to close businesses and get people fired? What does that help? Your goal should be to educate, inform, and help others improve. It won’t be as easy as slandering and harassing people, but when positivity is promoted our communities will thrive. We’ll all thrive.