October 6, 2020
By Ken Mercer
I have had the privilege of sitting on and forming many advisory councils with carriers throughout my career. It has given me access to the best and brightest in the channel, from key individuals at the best agent companies to the most powerful and influential executives within the carriers.
Ten or 15 years ago, one of these people that I hold in very high regard asked me if I felt gay marriage should be legal. I knew he was an openly gay man married to another man. I adore this person and met with him and his team almost every quarter for years, and saw him at all the industry events.
My response, which I thought was positive, was, “I don’t care.” In my mind, telling him I didn’t care was telling him I approved. He quickly and passionately said, “You are part of the problem.” By not caring, by not doing, by not speaking about injustice, I was not picking a side and standing by it.
He asked me if I felt he and his spouse should get health insurance benefits, tax benefits and many other common things married couples get — that we don’t understand a gay couple are not recognized for.
Even having conversations about his day-to-day life with his husband would be ridiculed behind his back from others that were clearly not comfortable about it.
Channel Partners and Channel Futures commit to fostering an atmosphere of diversity and inclusion in the channel and the technology community as a whole. Thus, we are featuring news articles, first-person accounts and strategies around topics of race, diversity and inclusion to spur discussion of these important subjects. Visit our webpage dedicated to the topic.
That conversation was a watershed moment for me. It can also apply to race, economic status, religion and other differences that I, as a white middle-class man, was either not aware of, or “don’t care about” because I was not informed.
What is ironic – and I never considered – I am in a mixed-race marriage, and I never thought twice about it.
Taking a Stand
From that moment I took a stance. All human beings deserve the basic right of humanity, consideration and compassion.
It can be applied to people dealing with age, sex, handicaps, addictions, stereotypes — even the smallest thing out of the old-school society norms.
We need to care. We need to support and voice our opinion. And we need to stand up and defend when others are not watching or listening.
Because of this wonderful person’s brave push to confront my answer, I started caring in that very instance. I try to incorporate it in everything I do, and I still have room to grow, but at least I am trying.
Apathy and staying quiet blocks everyone from the basic right of all humans — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Apathy does not mean you support equal opportunity to all. Please put yourself in someone else’s shoes and look at the obstacles they have to overcome just to get to the base line of decency.
Try to care about everyone.
Ken Mercer is a channel account executive at Telesystem.
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