I grew up in North Carolina and spent the first 23 years of my life there, and I’ve been following what is happening with HB 2 with a deep sense of dismay. I was born and raised in Greenville, educated in the Pitt County public school system, and proudly graduated from D.H. Conley High School in 1990. The North Carolina where I grew up had an optimistic, forward-looking point-of-view, supported by one of the best university systems in the world and innovations in education including ground-breaking programs like Governor’s School of North Carolina (which I attended in the summer of 1989) and The North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics.
Twenty-six years ago, I gave a speech to my high school that reflected on my experience at Governor’s School and our obligation as citizens of a great state that had given us so much:
There are institutions in our society that seem unjust that are actually unjust. I challenge you to find those sources of injustice in our society and to do something about them. The sources of injustice are on your back doorstep and it is your duty to find and exterminate them.
Twenty-six years later, I feel obligated to follow my own advice and speak out against the injustice of HB 2. HB 2 is an egregious and unnecessary attempt to allow discrimination against the LGBTQ community and it must be repealed and replaced with a bill that protects their rights.
It doesn’t reflect the North Carolina I know, a state historically recognized for its progressive voice. In the same month in 1963 that Alabama Governor George Wallace gave his infamous “segregation forever” inaugural speech, North Carolina governor Terry Sanford courageously called for an end to job discrimination against African Americans. It troubles me that today my home state is being portrayed as sliding into the dark place of politics driven by fear. Some of my friends and colleagues without North Carolina connections see what is happening today and think that this law reflects the people of North Carolina at large. But I know it doesn’t, and I’m not alone. Daily, conscientious North Carolinians have been tweeting with the hashtag #WeAreNotThis to make sure their forward-looking voices are heard.
There are a variety of ways that businesses are showing their solidarity with the LGBTQ community by opposing HB 2. I believe it is time to double down on our support for those who need us most in North Carolina, not to abandon them in this moment. I am inspired by people like Grayson and Tina Haver Currin and their NC Needs You campaign which is urging musicians to come to NC instead of boycotting their shows. Grayson explains why boycotts are problematic:
We need help fixing these problems. We need artists to show up and turn events into opportunities to raise awareness and, when it makes sense, money. Sure, shows will continue to generate tax dollars for a corrupt regime, but I worry more about what happens in the absence of these opportunities. We need smart people with big ideas to challenge us to think more and do more amid this poisonous political climate. We need to show that North Carolina is not just a locus of bigots with backwards beliefs, because it is not. When there is a ground game that must be won or, at the very least, contested, boycotts — especially in regard to cultural events — begin to feel like passive activism, a show of support with an underlying order to fix it ourselves.
I couldn’t agree more, so I won’t be boycotting. I got in touch with EqualityNC and asked them how I could help raise awareness about HB 2 and help them raise the money they need to fight the law. A group of local musicians have banded together to put on a show on May 15: Stand Against HB2 — North Carolina Musicians United for EqualityNC. 100% of ticket sales will go to EqualityNC and QORDS. I decided to personally help sponsor the event to cover the costs related to putting on the show. I’m doing this as a private citizen and concerned native North Carolinian.
As the CEO of Etsy, a global online marketplace, it’s important to me that businesses provide an inclusive and comfortable environment for everyone. In our offices around the world, we encourage all employees, regardless of their gender, to use the restrooms that feel most comfortable to them, and this transition did not lead to disruptions or conflicts. Our experience is a working, pragmatic antidote to the alarmist rhetoric being thrown around by the proponents of HB 2.
I invite any and all legislators to visit us at Etsy and see our gender-inclusive restrooms in action. I know from over twenty years of experience working all over the world that inclusive environments are also the most innovative. Inclusion is good business, plain and simple.
I’m proud to support the people of my home state as they fight against the injustice of HB 2 and my deepest hope is that the May 15 show will ultimately be a celebration of the law’s repeal. I’m looking forward to being there in North Carolina to show my support directly. See you at the show on May 15.