50 Shades of Don’t Do That.

Updated: Nov 19, 2019

We’ve all heard the warnings: the internet is forever. By now nearly everyone has seen at least one instance of Twitter run amuck and they’re well aware of the dangers of posting something that is highly offensive. What many of us don’t consider is that what’s inoffensive today won’t necessarily be inoffensive forever.

If you’ve been watching the news then you know that this unfortunate truth has left Prime Minister Justin Trudeau out in the cold (definitely not a pleasant experience in Canada). For those of you who need the Cliffnotes: old photos resurfaced of Trudeau wearing blackface on not one, not two, but at least three occasions. We don’t know if more will be surfacing anytime soon because the prime minister claims not to remember the incidents — if you can believe that. Trudeau made a public statement condemning his past behavior and explaining that he now understands why his shade of makeup was inappropriate. Here’s the thing: it wasn’t always.

Blackface used to be commonplace in the performing industry. It also used to be fine to call working women “sugar plum”. And once upon a time parents weren’t shy about asking teachers to spank their kids!

We say it constantly: Time’s are a-changing, but are we actually listening to what we’re saying? When’s the last time you considered whether or not the thing you’re doing right now will be socially acceptable in 5 years? 10 years? 20?

Unfortunately, we aren’t fortune tellers. But if you know one, we’d like to request next week’s lotto numbers. Seriously though, as much as we speculate we can’t actually know how cultural attitudes will shift. What you can do is acknowledge that this may become an issue for your company in the future and create a crisis plan to guide how you’ll react. While it’s too much to cover in detail here, give us a call and we can help you put one together so that you are prepared in the event of a future snafu.

Another thing that your company may have to consider is whether or not to pivot on its viewpoints. We’ll be covering that later this week in part 2...stay tuned.