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Should I do work for a racist?
March 5, 2014 4:12 PM   Subscribe

I have been asked to some work for a racist, and I don't want to.

About five years ago, I designed a logo package for a privately owned optometry chain. Compensation was good and fair, $10,000.

Since that time time, I've seen the owner's Facebook posts, and some of them are, to me, very offensive. This is mostly tea-party crap, forwards from others, and, in general, ignorant BS. I de-friended him and moved on.

Now, out of the blue, I get a call asking if I could do some more design work. I am torn.

You know the old joke about if you would sleep with someone for $500,000? Yes? How about $5? We have already decided I'm a whore, we're just haggling over price.

That's how I feel. It's good money. A fair price. A good client. But he's an ass. Maybe it's not relevant, but I'm a corporate guy now. I pull in a regular paycheck and don't really worry about hustling clients.

I am proud of the original work and literally see it every day in either advertisements or signage, and I do miss that kind of satisfaction, but is it worth it?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (50 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
I have been asked to some work for a racist, and I don't want to.

Then don't.

Why do things that you would regret? You don't need the money. Why sell out your self-respect for a couple of extra bucks?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:14 PM on March 5 [5 favorites]


You have permission to not do work for someone you don't want to work for.

It's very relevant that you're pulling in a regular paycheck now, because it means that your choices aren't "work for an asshole and eat" and "don't but starve." You are in no way under any obligation to go into business with a person you don't want to do business with.

"Sorry, as much as I love seeing my work on your ads everywhere, I'm really too busy right now with Corporate Job."

If you know someone who'd be less bothered, or really needs the work, maybe refer it to them, if you'd be ok with that. But you 100% have permission to walk away from this.
posted by Tomorrowful at 4:16 PM on March 5 [5 favorites]


I'm of two minds about this.

On the one hand, by your metric, my mom is a racist. But she's my mom. I've chosen to continue to have a relationship with her for various reasons despite the fact that she has a really irritating tendency to share horrific things on Facebook.

On the other hand, I once gleefully turned down work for Newscorp, and it was one of the best feelings in the world.

I guess what I'm saying is that it depends where on the spectrum from "mom" to "faceless evil corporation" this person is.

If you enjoyed working with him before you knew his politics, and the work isn't offensive, and for any number of reasons you'd find it difficult to extricate yourself from the relationship, consider saying yes.

If he's just some former client you don't need, consider saying no.
posted by Sara C. at 4:16 PM on March 5 [14 favorites]


Could you consider doing the work, but donating the fee (minus what you have to pay in taxes on it) to some anti-racism or anti-tea party organization?
posted by Wordshore at 4:22 PM on March 5 [10 favorites]


Can you live with yourself knowing that work you create for this company could ultimately fund their racism and potentially racist acts?
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 4:23 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


I have a life guideline that says, "Don't do anything you'd be ashamed to tell your mom (or whoever's opinion you value) about." It's a corollary to "If you have to look around the room before you say something, don't say it." Working for racists would violate my Rule #1; I wouldn't want my name associated with promoting a repugnant viewpoint. I would decline.
posted by workerant at 4:23 PM on March 5 [4 favorites]


There are probably people at the corporation you work for that (publicly or privately) hold similar views. You are perfectly within your rights to say no, but you do not have to think someone is a good person to engage in a business transaction with them.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:24 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


You don't need the money. You don't want to do the job. Whether tea party folks can still be nice people, as pointed out upthread, is irrelevant (my parents are tea party types and I love them to bits, but if they weren't my parents I sure wouldn't want to work for them), and whether they might exist at your own workplace, as also pointed out upthread, is equally irrelevant (I know there are tea party types where I work, and I have no intention of quitting).

Under capitalism we don't always have a choice as to the terms under which we sell our labor, but sometimes we do. This is one of those times. So if you're looking for someone to give you permission to pass on the job, I give it.
posted by scody at 4:29 PM on March 5 [14 favorites]


This is part of the great thing about working for yourself: you can choose your clients.

Something to consider is quoting a much higher price, and if they accept it send the extra along to a charity of your choosing.
posted by ridogi at 4:32 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


This is so easy! Just say, "Hey thanks for thinking so highly of me, I'm afraid I'm totally booked with my current work. If you'd like, I can refer you to someone else?"

And then don't look back.
posted by amanda at 4:34 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


While I'm not a designer, my experience in accounting was that the Tea Party crowd was more than enough of a hassle just as clients to generally not be worth it. Conservatives, generally, tended to have more money and paid better, so clearly tempting. But the frothy right fringe people had a tendency of having unreasonable expectations, doing stupid things with their money, etc. I'm just saying--all you did was a logo before. If this is a quick thing? Double your usual fee, give the other half away if he takes it, feel like you did a good deed to offset his opinions. If it's going to be ongoing, I'd avoid it.

Most of the Tea Party types who're all up about how Obama is destroying their businesses were barely scraping by on some seriously unethical but not yet illegal practices to start with, and their losses generally were the inevitable result of not actually doing that well--that type especially does not make good long-term clients.

(Also, bosses, c.f. the post I made a bit back about the guy who apparently couldn't resist assaulting someone with his so-valued concealed firearm--that sort of person does not make good business decisions! He ended up running out of cash to pay me before I could quit.)
posted by Sequence at 4:35 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


My fist reaction was along the same lines as what These Birds of a Feather expressed.
Would you cringe if you'd have to see your new design work every day?
Like you mentioned, this stuff stays around for years, sometimes even for decades.
But I also like Wordshore's idea to offset this job by donating to a worthy cause.
posted by travelwithcats at 4:38 PM on March 5


What about charging him an additional Asshole Fee? If you seriously overcharged him, would you feel better about doing the work? You could also donate all or part of the Asshole Fee to the progressive charity of your choice. There's also nothing wrong with turning down the job entirely.
posted by mskyle at 4:39 PM on March 5 [9 favorites]


You won't be a bad person if you take the job.
posted by zscore at 4:50 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


Having been a freelance illustrator, I completely understand your sense of feeling torn. The money is temping, especially if it's an easy gig, and having your work out there is a very satisfying feeling.

But is it as satisfying if it becomes associated with the business owners' ideals? There's definitely a guilty-by-association dilemma to consider there. I, personally, wouldn't want to chance my reputation by having my work associated with racist people/organizations.
posted by stubbehtail at 4:51 PM on March 5


No. Solely based on a cold read of your language I'll restate: nope.
posted by chasles at 4:52 PM on March 5


You won't be a bad person if you take the job.

Seconded.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:54 PM on March 5


Just think, you do a great job, he makes more money because of it, guess where he gets to put that money?
posted by Vaike at 4:54 PM on March 5 [4 favorites]


It's good money. A fair price. A good client. But he's an ass. Maybe it's not relevant, but I'm a corporate guy now. I pull in a regular paycheck and don't really worry about hustling clients.

You don't have to, you don't want to, it sounds like there are no scarcity issues around money. Don't do it, you'll feel better in the long run. You'll feel lighter inside.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:55 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


I'd do it if the money is good and the job is easy. What's a purer way to stick it to an idiot than to take their money?
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 5:38 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's not relevant, but I'm a corporate guy now. I pull in a regular paycheck and don't really worry about hustling clients.

Totally relevant. I wouldn't say you're a bad person for working to support somebody like that when you don't actually need to, but I would suggest thinking about what you'd buy with the money. If you'll feel OK about yourself when you look at it and think, "my work for X bought me that," then go for it.

It isn't like you're doing logo work for an explicit white supremacy group here -- this is about whether you can meet your eyes in the mirror. Your call.
posted by asperity at 5:41 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Part of my family posts Tea Party type stuff on Facebook. But they're generally good people, just have messed up views on various situations.

So when you say this client is racist, I'm not convinced that the label is as dire as one would think. Might just be ignorant. Maybe a combo. Who knows? Like a said, part of family posts really messed up things to Facebook, but I know them and know that's not the sole defining feature of who they are.

So is the money good? Yes. Do you like the work? If so, then take the job and donate part of the money to a charity that helps the sort of people the Tea Party rails against. Laugh quietly to yourself at the twist you've done.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:50 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


"It's good money. A fair price. A good client. But he's an ass."

Your relationship with the client begins and ends with the job. Whether you take the job or not, I don't think anyone else is going to judge you for it.
posted by zippy at 5:56 PM on March 5


If you don't want to work for someone then don't. However everyone has their flaws, and sometimes we find those flaws to go against what we believe. Yet just because those people have flaws it doesn't mean they are bad people. I know many people who are racist, that is just one very small part of their personality. I do not agree with them, and a few of them know I am uncomfortable with their racism. Yet dispite this flaw they are for the most part good people.

I feel discrimination is not a good thing. However I came to a very uncomfortable realisation several years ago that altered the way I think of people who discriminate against someone for their colour, gender, sexual preference, religion or their beliefs and opinions. I was with a friend and her family. Her parents are lovely people, however they have a flaw in that they are racist. I realised that I was discriminating against them because of their beliefs and opinions, just like they discriminated against people because of their colour. Discrimination is discrimination, regardless of what you're discriminating against. I was just as bad as my friends parents as I was judging someone upon just one part of them. If we want to teach acceptance then we need to accept other people for who they are, yes we can talk about why we find their beliefs uncomfortable and why.

It's quite funny, as if this question was phrased differently then there'd be a totally different response. For instance if the OP was saying they didn't want to work for someone who was homosexual then most people would be posting that you shouldn't discriminate against someone because of a sexual preference. Yet because the OP is discriminating against someone because the potential client discriminates everyone is fine with it.

OP, if I were you I'd ask myself whether I'd be jumping at the chance to take this job if I didn't know the person involved had views that didn't match my own. If the honest answer would be that, yes, I'd love to do the job, then I'd take it. I don't see how doing work for someone who holds different beliefs to yourself is a bad thing. You're not condoning their choices or actions by providing them with a service.
posted by Ranting Prophet of DOOM! at 5:58 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


What evidence do you have of their alleged racism?

You mention only "Since that time time, I've seen the owner's Facebook posts, and some of them are, to me, very offensive. This is mostly tea-party crap, forwards from others, and, in general, ignorant BS. I de-friended him and moved on."

That is entirely your prerogative, as it should be. You should be able to choose who you want to do business with. It's your choice. But refusing to do business with someone because their outlook is different from yours seems a little extreme, doesn't it? Is their Tea Party sympathies what makes them offensive to you?

What if I was a baker, and I made the best cakes in town? And what if you had two homosexual friends who wanted to marry, and order a cake from me for their wedding ceremony? What if, because I didn't agree with their choice of lifestyle, I refused to make them the cake for their wedding ceremony? Would that be fair? Because I'm pretty sure there was a court case, plus some vetoed legislation in Arizona that dealt with something similar to this.

If you want to apply a standard, it should be applied across the spectrum, uniformly, and in every situation. That's the foundation of Kantian ethics.

And for the record, I am a staunch political conservative, but by no measure even remotely white (or racist). And I agree with you, that you should be able to deny your services to whomever you choose to, based on your beliefs or your perceived compatibility with the beliefs of your prospective clients. But again, that standard should be applied uniformly.
posted by Master Gunner at 6:20 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


We have already decided I'm a whore, we're just haggling over price.

Wait, what? No. Deciding you will offer services to all comers does not mean you've sold your soul. If you were talking about making a logo for a racist organization that would be selling your soul, but making a logo for a neutral business is neutral.

Don't help him if you don't want to, but you're not a bad person if you choose to do the work.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:23 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Ranting Prophet of DOOM!: "I realised that I was discriminating against them because of their beliefs and opinions, just like they discriminated against people because of their colour. Discrimination is discrimination, regardless of what you're discriminating against."

Yeah, no. There is no paradox of tolerance, and there is no obligation to tolerate intolerance. Doing so "must lead to the disappearance of tolerance".

OP, given how you've described the situation, I would turn down the job if it were me. If you have the luxury of not working for people whose beliefs and statements (and possibly actions) you find ethically unacceptable, don't work for them!
posted by Lexica at 6:25 PM on March 5 [25 favorites]


Accepting the job, providing your services and taking his money doesn't mean that you are endorsing his views. And, if you declined the job arguing that you are booked, how are you letting him know that you disapprove of his views? Because, it seems like that would be something you would want to accomplish by turning down his business.

I get it - I really do. I work for people whose worldviews are 180 from mine, but business is business and my turning down work does not change their minds. Nor does it make me feel better about my views.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 6:35 PM on March 5


If your only data point about his racism is terrible Facebook posts… I mean… I have to hide the feeds of some truly decent, loving, honest and upstanding people because they post the most loathsome stuff on Facebook. I don't know why it is, but people really do post stuff that is dumber/meaner/shallower/crueler than is reflective of their actual values and actions. I see it all the time.

I'm saying that because I think this question would be very different if you were asking if you should accept work for the Westboro Baptist Church, you know? This guy is probably just a guy with a dumb FB feed.

But if you just don't want to have anything to do with him, that's 100% ok too! It's nice to have options. Either way is good.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:41 PM on March 5 [2 favorites]


Do the job, get paid, do such an outstanding job and be such an outstanding person that it throws him for a loop at your awesomeness so much so that the seed for change in him may begin to grow - because you showed him how to behave and how to treat others in an upstanding and classy way.
posted by Sassyfras at 6:41 PM on March 5


If it makes you uncomfortable to work for this person, then by all means give it a pass. But I'd like to second what others said that it wouldn't make you a bad person to take the job and your working for this person does not in any way condone their political opinions. In a capitalist society the vast majority of workers may not share the political opinions of their employers. I work for a health insurance company but I find the American health care system abhorrent and immoral. I find other things about my job to value and to make it worth coming in every day. If you value doing good design that's widely seen, consider what that's worth to you.

You also shouldn't feel obligated to defend your judgment about whether or not this person is an Actually Existing Racist--that's completely immaterial. Trust your gut.
posted by zeusianfog at 6:46 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Tell him that you appreciate his business, but that you are really busy with your full time job. Recommend three other designers that can help him. (and make sure that not only are they competent, but also in the demographic for which he has been racist)
posted by Sophont at 6:57 PM on March 5


be such an outstanding person that it throws him for a loop at your awesomeness so much so that the seed for change in him may begin to grow

This mostly only happens in movies.

We're all haggling over the price, more or less. If you take the job, you're not endorsing the client's opinions, but if you don't, you're not really taking a stand in opposition to them, even if you say "I can't do any more work for you because you post ranty political crap on Facebook."
posted by holgate at 6:58 PM on March 5


If you are uncomfortable doing paid work for someone because you are uncomfortable with their beliefs, let your conscience be your guide.

But if you are still torn, look at it this way-will your work directly endorse Tea Party politics or racism, making you a direct participant?

If not, then I gently point out this might make YOU discriminatory.

However, if your work did directly endorse something that violates your standards, in my opinion you are well within your rights to turn it down.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:04 PM on March 5


I try not to help people whose goals I disagree with. So, if his mission is to be a great optometrist (and he just reads tea party web pages in his spare time), I'd feel okay helping him achieve his goals of assisting people in need of that service. But if I thought he was doing optometry to fund his tea party activities, I couldn't help.
posted by salvia at 7:07 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


Yeah, this is actually tough. You've said you don't like their politics, but that you also find that kind of work satisfying in a way you don't get much of lately (working so hard to smother the instinct to make a Rolling Stones pun).

It feels like you're asking the question so that we can talk you into doing the work. I'm okay with that. So: random internet stranger gives you permission to do work you find fulfilling but under someone with whom you disagree politically. Actually, that probably describes 80% of Americans (and also probably 80% of the rest of the world-ians).

Also, I have come to the belief that everyone on Metafilter has parents who support the Tea Party (and post about it on Facebook). Myself included.
posted by guster4lovers at 7:41 PM on March 5 [1 favorite]


Part of the reason why it's so easy for racists to go on living their happy racist lives is because people around them make excuses for them and don't confront them. That's what's happening in this thread when people say oh, probably he's not really racist in his heart, he just happens to post racist things on facebook. Seriously? Communicating racist ideas - and particularly publicly endorsing racist viewpoints - is exactly what makes a person a racist. I don't want to make life easier for racists. In your situation I would tell the guy that you're not willing to work for him because he's racist.
posted by medusa at 8:54 PM on March 5 [6 favorites]


So right now you're wasting energy worrying about this guy's racism while trying to figure out if you want to work for this jerk.

Are you going to be wasting energy worrying about his racism while you're actually trying to produce something for him?

If so, don't waste your energy on it.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:04 PM on March 5


If it bothers you, don't do it. However, don't take this the wrong way but, it's just a logo. He's going to buy a logo from someone regardless. It's not like you have to deal with him or really work at helping his business succeed. And it's not like his business is an extension of his stupid kooky conservative attitudes -- he's just an optometrist, right? If you need/want the design work for your portfolio or the money, do it.

Maybe you can counter-offer asking for more money with the feeling like, if he agrees to it, you've squeezed some money out of someone you don't like, but if he shuts you down, you don't care anyway.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:15 PM on March 5


If you can't laugh at this, don't take the job.

Personally I try to make a point of avoiding working with, and especially for, people whose company I don't enjoy.
posted by flabdablet at 9:34 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


You won't be a bad person if you don't take the job, either.

Gut feeling is a good thing. I'd skip that client.
posted by Namlit at 11:29 PM on March 5 [3 favorites]


If you don't need the work, and you don't want to work with this guy, then don't.

If you like the money, and the project sounds interesting, then take the job.

As for what people put on Facebook...it doesn't mean very much. Tea-party folks can be simple, and sometimes complex things come out looking...horrible.

I am sick to death of people dogging the president too. But money is green and who knows what horrible, hidden opinions the people I work with everyday hold.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:16 AM on March 6


You don't have to take work you don't want to. But, really, you're designing a logo, not handing out Tea Party pamphlets. I don't want to live in a society where people who disagree politically refuse to interact with each other. So my suggestion is that you not be a part of creating such a society.
posted by Dasein at 7:33 AM on March 6 [1 favorite]


You won't be a bad person if you take the job.

Yes you will.
posted by devnull at 8:08 AM on March 6


I am a pragmatist. My goal in life is to make the world better, using whatever means is necessary.

If you do take the job, you will have the money from the job. You can donate some amount of the money to organizations that make the world better. The world will be better, and the optometrist will have less money (which is good).

If you don't take the job, you will not have the money from the job. That said, the need for the job will not go away. Someone else will end up with the money from the job, who may or may not (probably not) use the money to make the world better. The world will probably not be much better, although the optometrist will still have less money (which is good).

Unless you can make better money somewhere else, then the beneficial thing to do is to take the job and use the proceeds towards organizations you support. If you can make better money somewhere else, you should decline the job, make more money, and then use more proceeds towards organizations you support.
posted by saeculorum at 10:41 AM on March 6


Many people on here have said something like "You don't have to work for someone if you disagree with them." But the uproar over the recent Arizona and Kansas law proposals have shown that many people *do* feel like you need to work with someone if you work for the public, even if you disagree with them.

I agree with Ranting Prophet of DOOM!: If you would be against a cake baker discriminating against a gay couple, the answer to your question should be pretty clear.
posted by tacodave at 3:16 PM on March 6 [1 favorite]


Flip a coin; if it tells you to do something you don't want to do you'll know about it.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:23 PM on March 6 [2 favorites]


You won't be a bad person if you take the job.
Yes you will.

posted at 8:08 AM on March 6
You wouldn't be a bad person per se, but you would be choosing to make a conscious choice to help a racist*--someone whose disgusting, wrong-side-of-history worldview you despise--get more money (that is, more business for himself). Money which will probably give his diseased thoughts a greater voice in the world.

* because he would give you money (that you admittedly don't even need) to turn your back on your conscience.

This is a laughably easy no-brainer.
posted by blueberry at 7:47 PM on March 6


Whoa. The optometrist is an ignorant asshole, yes. But he is not rounding up minorities for lynchings. Anyone here who is claiming OP would be "a bad person" for designing a logo for this guy's optometry practice should really take it down a notch.
posted by AppleTurnover at 2:37 AM on March 8


Of course you're not a bad person if you take the job. But I'd respect you more if you didn't take it, especially sine you don't really need the job. Of course, my respect doesn't mean anything to you, and it doesn't pay your bills.

Tea party politics are disgusting to me, so I'm biased, but it wouldn't matter to me if he directly or indirectly supported tea party issues. Life is short, and if you have the ability to make a living, while standing for your beliefs, I say go for it.

There's only one restaurant in my city that sells a certain type of food. I went there once and loved it. Went home and pulled up their website to look at the menu, and found the owners blog. All hateful, tea party rhetoric. I've never been back (been 4 years). I'm not hurting him. That kind of conservative hate will bring him customers in my town. But I'm not supporting it, and I have no guilt. The food wasn't good enough to make me forget I'm giving money to a hateful man.

As far as the thought that you're somehow showing the same discrimination as they are, that 'discrimination is discrimination', that's complete nonsense. Not accepting to support someone because they're racist is not the same as not baking a cake for a gay couple. The difference is obvious, and I can't believe someone would even claim those situations are similar.

That's how the far right plays though. If you don't accept their racist, homophobic views, you're infringing on their rights. Don't believe it.
posted by justgary at 6:30 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


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