Let Me Define This For You

Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, is not only a philanthropist, he chivvies and chides other major corporations to give to philanthropic causes as well. He is also very concerned about civil rights.


Therefore, he was one of the MANY corporate bigwigs to sign a letter drafted by civil rights organizations protesting the “bathroom law” in North Carolina that was created for the sole purpose of discriminating against transgender individuals. Moreover, Benioff has been active in encouraging other business to put economic (and thus political) pressure on NC to take that foul law off the books.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Benioff, who has spoken out against other state laws (in Indiana and Georgia) that discriminate against gay and transgender people and pressured other business leaders to do the same, has done it again in North Carolina — including helping along Deutsche Bank’s decision to freeze plans to add 250 jobs in that state. Among the CEOs quoted by the WSJ about Benioff’s activism was Dow Chemical’s: “Marc rallies CEOs when business and trade groups are much slower to act, particularly on noneconomic issues,” Andrew Liveris said. Also, this from Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman: “[Benioff] creates air cover for the rest of us so we feel OK about speaking out.”

It is for this reason that Dan Forest, the lieutenant governor for North Carolina, has declared that Marc Benioff is a big ol’ meanie. Forest whined that, ““The Salesforce CEO is a corporate bully. One or two executives from San Francisco call their buddies, and then we’ve got leftist groupthink tarnishing North Carolina.”

dan forest NC

With all due respect to Dan Forest, he clearly doesn’t understand the definition of bully or the difference between bullying and conflict, so out of the goodness of my heart I will explain it to him. Actually, I will let the NYC Department of Education explain it, since they have rendered it very simple: 

Conflict is a struggle between two or more people who perceive they have incompatible goals or desires.
Conflict occurs naturally as we interact with one another. It is a normal part of life that we will not always agree with other people about the things we want, what we think, or what we want to do …  In a conflict people may get frustrated and angry … In the heat of the moment, one or both people’s emotions can escalate a conflict . All of us have know of conflicts in which people have said things to hurt one another which they later regret … Bullying behavior is very different from conflict. It is behavior that is intended to cause some kind of harm … There is always an imbalance of power (physical or social) or strength between the person doing the bullying and the target of the behavior … It is aggressive behavior by one individual (or group) that is directed at a particular person (or group). The aggressive behavior is unwanted and negative. It is deliberate and unprovoked.”

You see, Mr. Forest, that the NC law is the bullying behavior here. Transgender people were not provoking or harming you by going potty in the bathrooms of their gender. The lawmakers of NC, with the power of the state behind them, passed that law to single out, humiliate, and disenfranchise transgender people who can be jailed or fined or otherwise punished if they don’t obey you. THAT is bullying.

What Benioff and the other CEOs are doing is in response to YOUR bullying. This is conflict. You, Mr. Forest, are just tied up in knots because the CEOs are powerful enough to make the state reconsider the law. They cannot be pushed around the way transgender people who aren’t powerful CEOs can be. When someone is strong enough that you cannot bully them and they can cause negative consequences in response to your bullying, that is conflict. You aren’t being bullied — you are mad because you might lose. You cannot bully with impunity and that just irks you something fierce.

The cohort of NC politicians who backed the bathroom law are also calling the Department of Justice a “bully” for enforcing civil rights.

Republican leaders in North Carolina on Thursday refused to back down from a law regulating which restrooms can be used by transgender people after the federal government told the state the law violated the U.S. Civil Rights Act. The state’s leading Republican lawmaker, House Speaker Tim Moore, told reporters in Raleigh that North Carolina would not be “bullied” into meeting the U.S. Justice Department’s Monday deadline to change the law.

However,  the Governor of NC, Pat McCrory, said the state would, “Definitely,” meet the DOJ deadline. Probably because McCrory understands enforcing federal regulations on civil rights isn’t bullying … it is legally winning a conflict.

Frankly, it appears that certain elements of society have learned that the word “bully” is a bad word. Therefore, when they want to verbally attack someone they accuse that person of being a “bully” the same way they would call them “stupid” or “ugly”; the word as a slur decontextualized from its definition. It’s right up there with “intolerance” and and “literally” in terms of words being used incorrectly. This misuse of words is annoying and I would like it to stop.  

Ergo, I hope I’ve been able to help all the idiots out there who cannot quite grasp the difference between being bullied and having someone fighting back against your bullying.


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