Column: Your business is everyone’s business

Riley Sharp, Business & Finance Editor

If you went back right now and opened up your high school yearbooks, what would you see? Probably some outdated jokes on past trends and funny inside remarks on teachers.

If I opened my yearbook right now, I would be reminded of all the boys I had kissed or wish I kissed, crushes I had and inside jokes with all my pals. What you wouldn’t find are racial slurs or seemingly “funny” jokes about rape or getting absolutely smashed and hurting someone emotionally or physically.

I really do not care what gender you identify with, “I was young,” really cannot be an excuse anymore. I have handfuls of guy friends who definitely would be guilty of saying some pretty nasty things in their yearbooks. For them, it’s too late to go back and erase those things. The same goes for business and political leaders.

You may not be able to change or alter the past, but you can confront it. I don’t believe that every remark or snide comment made as a juvenile should be punishable for life.

We all say and write things we don’t mean as young folk. But what is not permissible is covering yourself in black face and then proceeding to deny your attachment to the yearbook photo that is quite literally placed in YOUR personal section of the book. That doesn’t fly.

The same goes for any comments about raping one of your fellow classmates or racial slurs targeted at the minorities of your graduating class. We get it, the times may have been different, but that is no excuse to be an absolute coward and deny the faults of your youth. The legacy of a man is measured by the life he lived, right? Own it.

And to be quite honest, I stand by my belief that “I was young” is no longer a permissible excuse. Great, you were 23 years old and you painted yourself with black face to mimic someone of the opposite race? You had a great run as governor, see you later. Let’s bring in someone with a straighter moral compass. Individuals owning, running and representing national brands and companies and those in the political spotlight need to be held to a higher standard than most.

Friends of mine have been turned away from law or graduate schools because of things they had said on the internet years ago, Why aren’t we holding our public officials and business leaders to the same standard?

I simply cannot agree with the argument that “oh it was the time in which we were living.” If you get caught, own it. There is nothing more cowardly than throwing the blame for your own mistakes onto other people or other establishments and institutions.

Business leaders need to check their rear view mirrors and make sure nothing is trailing behind them. Hold yourself accountable. If you know you had a tendency to be an asshole in high school and your yearbook would reflect that behavior… get ahead of it. Make it known and self-reflect.

I am so sick and tired of opening the news every day and seeing another top business CEO or CFO being fired or under review for past mistakes and watching them come onto public television or social media and lie to the world. I understand the media in this day and age has the tendency to overgeneralize and make hasty accusations. There are some exceptions, some people really are probably telling the truth.

But there is a difference between saying rude or crude remarks in your high school yearbook about a girl or boy you had a crush on or a teacher you didn’t like and then painting yourself with blackface.

If we can take anything away from all of this drama, it should be to check yourself before you wreck yourself. Maybe you don’t agree with someone on Facebook or Twitter, don’t start spewing hatefire on their personal life.

Think before you post.

Everything and I mean everything, is out there and is able to be pulled up and used against you in the future, and more often than not, for good reason. Just because something may seem funny at the moment does not mean it’ll look great plastered on every major news outlet in the nation 20 years from now.

We live in an age of constant communication where everyone can get on their phones and tweet whatever they feel without too much repercussion.

That does not necessarily mean you are safe and protected from the repercussions of your peers or colleagues.

Again, check yourself, before you wreck yourself and if you did in fact wreck yourself, own up to it.

Don’t be a Ralph Northam.