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Walking on a Thin Line
7/5/2017 | Mike Schenker, MAS, Uncommon Threads

In the 20-plus years I’ve been writing for this fine periodical, I’ve walked a fine line between professional and whimsy, humor and hard-hitting. Post 9/11, I was angry like many Americans, and it showed in my writing as I took on the profiteers selling anything World Trade Center related on the streets of New York and in the global three-dub marketplace. In every instance, there was a relevance to the promotional products industry, and my publishers (first the fine people of Identity Marketing and now their remarkably good-looking corporate overseers at PromoCorner) have given me a lot of leeway as to what I’ve shared with you, Gentle Readers.

The mark of a good writer is to have a beginning and end to your piece already in mind before you sit down to compose it. I guess that’s what sets me apart from good writers. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m as surprised as you as I watch these missives unfold. 

Nevertheless, I sincerely thank and appreciate the powers-that-be who allow me to use this forum to whine, bitch, complain, and hopefully entertain and inform. I fear that I’m once again going to walk that fine line between industry relevance and me just being angry. It will be the mark of a professional if I can turn this into something business related.

On June 20 of this year, a nine-year-old girl from Bellevue, Washington, posted a video online after she had reached a breaking point… getting bullied on a daily basis at her new school. The video went viral; in case you’ve not seen it, here it is:

https://www.facebook.com/KIRO7Seattle/videos/1653062744713472/

If watching that doesn’t make you sad… if it doesn’t make you angry… if it doesn’t make you outraged… then you have a blacker heart than I could ever pretend to have and maybe, just maybe, you should stick with what the internet was originally created for: watching cat videos and proving that you can do a better job than politicians and baseball managers, all while being stuck in your minimum wage job. 

But I digress. That’s one constant always found in my columns.

My heart broke while watching Nasir Andrews tell her story via flashcards. Just how awful are people? How horrible? Who taught her classmates to hate so much?

On paper (or here on a screen), words look so harmless. So innocuous. And yet when they are shared over the internet by a beautiful, innocent nine year old… as painful as it was for her to repeat what had been said about her… a child who had the “misfortune” of being born black… these same words can be hurtful and flat-out evil. It makes me sad. And angry. And then angrier.

Then I get reminded that the people who taught Nasir’s classmates these awful things… these vile words... walk amongst us. Okay… maybe “slither” is a better word. If they are actually walking, chances are they’re dragging their knuckles while they do so. And yes… I suppose there’s a chance that they’re doing business with you.

Think about it for a moment: all those rallies, where hate is being shared and shouted at the people who have other points of view. The haters are there, selling or giving away imprinted t-shirts and whatnot. I see that happen and think to myself: who got that order? Who printed that job? Who had no trouble sleeping that night?

And then it digs deeper into my psyche: is it someone that I know? Someone with whom I’ve done business? Someone that I like

Would I take that order? No, I wouldn’t. I have to believe that whoever ran that job shares a similar philosophy with the person or organization that placed the order. 

And I could live with myself… but is it right? Dammit… is it even legal?

Remember back in the kinder, gentler days of 2015, when a bakery in Indiana refused an order for a wedding cake because it was for a gay couple, and the bakery didn’t support same sex marriage? I’m not here to celebrate that this bakery ultimately went out of business… I’m here to question whether or not it was their right to not make that wedding cake… just as I wouldn’t run an order of imprinted t-shirts for a hate group… or any group whose philosophy I found morally repugnant.

If you’ve read my columns or blog posts enough you know I don’t always have a point. Quite often they’re little more than navel gazing. In this case, my point is clear: don’t be a jerk. Don’t treat people differently because of their skin color, religious beliefs, or sexual preferences. Hate them because they’re Yankee fans. That’s legit.

When I first read of Nasir’s story, I shared it on Facebook and said that someone needs to tell this child that, while she has no friends in her school, she has one here. It seems that I’m not alone. The family has been inundated with contact from people who feel as badly, and strongly, as I. If you do, too, the family is welcoming mail at:

Nasir Andrews

P O Box 7113

Bellevue, WA 98008

Mike Schenker, MAS, is the executive director of the Gold Coast Promotional Products Association (GCPPA), as well as “all that” at Mike Schenker, Consulting. He is a promotional industry veteran and member of the Specialty Advertising Association of Greater New York (SAAGNY) Hall of Fame. He can be reached at mike@mikeschenker.com.

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