A vendor sent me a racist cartoon

I was shocked and appalled at the ugliness of the image: Should I tell my boss?

Published August 3, 2009 10:20AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I recently received an e-mail from a vendor that really shocked me. I've never met this person and have had only vague "great weekend, we gardened," or "we're going on vacation for a week so please e-mail so and so" communications. We've never spoken on the phone so she doesn't have any idea where I'm from or who I might be. So to open my e-mail and see a very political, very racist, really ugly Photoshopped picture was shocking.

I don't know what to say to her. I don't know if I should send it to her boss and complain. I don't know if I should send it to my boss and complain. I really hate to send the photo anywhere; it should not see the light of day. I hate that I saw it.

In the past, I've made very vocal and not-nice comments to people who say or do things like this and it only hardened their opinion. What is a good response to this kind of ugliness that might actually open an eye or a heart?

Sick of Racism

Dear Sick of Racism,

I think a good response to this kind of ugliness is anything that stops it.

Racists don't need to be told that racism is bad. They need to be stopped from spreading racism.

Your problem is not how to open this person's heart. Your problem is how to stop such activity, acting as an individual citizen, without breaking any laws, and with the least consequence to yourself.

There is a code in business. By any standard, what this person did was what they call in the business world "unprofessional" -- not because it was immoral but because it violated standards.

"Professional" is an amoral category. It is about regulating appearances. The sending of an anti-racist cartoon could be branded "unprofessional" by the same standard.

So don't argue that this vendor should be fired on moral or political grounds. You might be labeled "unprofessional." Instead, stress how incredibly stupid and offensive it was. Stress that it is evidence of an unstable mind. Stress that being associated with this company may be harmful to your own business.

Blatant stupidity, offensiveness and instability are unprofessional. You don't want to do business with people who are stupid, offensive and unstable. They make mistakes and cause problems. It's bad for business.

That's the long and short of it.

There is no end to how deeply I feel about this. There are constitutional issues and historical issues and personal issues. But we are talking about a business situation. That is why I am trying to make this short and sweet.

Racist propaganda is bad for business. Bad things should happen to workers who send racist propaganda. They should be shunned. Their businesses should be shunned. There should be a high price to pay.

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What? You want more advice?


By Cary Tennis

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