I like to keep a positive attitude, but 2020 is trying my patience. But I'll say one good thing about the year so far: People seem to be more open about sharing their opinions.
I know what you're thinking. And yes, sometimes it gets to be too much. We've all seen lots of unfriending on Facebook and endless fights on Twitter. Some folks even take a complete break from social media to get away from the constant stream of other people's opinions.
The arguments about plastic straws and impeachment a year ago were nothing compared to the battles we see now about wearing face masks and opening barber shops.
The willingness to share opinions is obvious on the Plastics News editorial page, too. Before this year, we frequently ran little teasers in the space under the Viewpoint letting readers know about exclusive content on our website. Lately we've had no room for teasers. Every week, we're using that space to share letters to the editor on topics of interest to our audience. And we have a big backlog of columns waiting to run.
For every letter we publish, we get a half-dozen more from readers who just want to share their opinion, but not necessarily with our 45,000 subscribers.
All this opinion sharing is great. I like to hear from readers, whether they agree with my opinions or not. And I hope you enjoy reading my opinions, even when you don't agree. Writing columns probably takes up about 5 percent of my time, but it's one of the best parts about my job.
I say all this because I want to encourage you to read Brennan Lafferty's "What Keeps You Up at Night" column in this week's issue and listen to the accompanying podcast. He interviewed Karen Carter, chief inclusion officer and chief human resource officer at Dow Inc. in Midland, Mich.
With protesters demanding justice and police reform around the world, Carter is charged with advancing diversity at Dow. It's not the kind of role that most plastics managers can relate to. Obviously the same can be said about her perspective as a Black female executive. I challenge you to name five others in the plastics industry.
Her job isn't just to share her opinion with the CEO and board of directors. Carter also plays a key role in fostering discussion and seeking opinions from Dow's global team.
My favorite part of the column was Carter's response to a question about how to handle an awkward situation in the workplace where someone says something racist or insensitive, like an inappropriate joke.
Carter says it's the responsibility of people like me to speak up and address issues of discrimination, bias and hate.
"We can no longer be observers. We can't be silent. And it's not just enough to say, 'I'm not a racist.' You have to be an anti-racist, which means you have to take action," Carter said. She cited some resources that can help with these difficult discussions.
When I first listened to that podcast, those words made me think of times growing up when I was in exactly that position and I didn't speak up. It made me uncomfortable.
I was lucky enough to grow up in a home that had no room for racist jokes or language. Mom's threat to wash our mouths out with soap was real, although it rarely happened. My dad set a great example, no doubt influenced by his experiences in athletics and the Marine Corp. But I was exposed to racism aimed at others on the playground, on the bus and even at some summer jobs.
I hope kids today feel comfortable confronting those attitudes and taking action. And I hope that all of our Plastics News readers will listen to what Carter has to say and that it helps to wipe out racist attitudes that still exist today in their businesses, in their communities and in their own hearts.
Loepp is editor of Plastics News and author of the Plastics Blog. Follow him on Twitter @donloepp.