Watching the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend was exhausting. But the recent outpouring of anti-racist sentiment can help morale, especially when it comes to institutions and companies. On Friday, Nike’s CEO issued an anti-racist email memo to the entire company, making it known that racists aren’t welcome in-house. Nike’s CEO, Mark Parker, mentioned the Charlottesville violence and the terrorist attack in Barcelona in his email.
Words can help comfort people and ensure that they know they’re safe in the workplace. But action is more important. With his email, hopefully, Parker means that Nike employees are free to protest white supremacists and racists, and that racists are not welcome in the workplace. After the protests in Virginia, many of the of the Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members, white nationalists, and white supremacists who attended were identified; one left their university and others were fired.
It’s totally legal for a company to fire someone for their racist and hateful beliefs. In most states, private companies can terminate an employee for political activity (though some states have laws prohibiting companies from doing that). As a private company — not one run or funded by the government — Nike has made it known that it doesn’t stand with the far right. That’s a small, but useful step.
The only way to stop racism is to shut it down through official channels. Basically, make it really hard to be a racist. Losing your career is a pretty good sign that what you’re doing is wrong. However, it is a controversial practice. Much like there’s debate on the left about using violence to counter the violence coming from the groups that attended the “Unite the Right” rally last week, doxxing and firing people for being a white supremacist can be a slippery slope.
But speaking out against hate and racism is something most of us can do and support. So kudos to Nike for standing up. Now let’s just hope more and more organizations and companies follow suit.