Luke Visconti is the founder and CEO of DiversityInc. Although the title of his column is meant to be humorous, the issues he addresses and the answers he gives to questions are serious — and based on his 17 years of experience publishing DiversityInc. Click here to send your own question to Luke.
I was at the supermarket yesterday and I could tell from her garb (and accent) the middle-aged woman bagging my groceries was a Muslim immigrant. She asked if I needed help to my car and, when I heard the kindness in her voice, my grandmother popped into my head so clearly, it was as if she hadn’t died 45 years ago.
My grandmother literally ran for her life as a 12-year-old refugee, as an invading army was raping and slaughtering its way to the sea. She lived because she had a place to run to: America. She worked hard, married another refugee and built a life, raising thee children, two who became college-educated. My grandfather, a dignified, gentle man, was a waiter. I told the woman helping me that I was deeply sorry for what was going on and ashamed of our president. She put her hand over her heart. I had to compose myself before I could drive home.
The Muslim ban, selectively not including places where Trump enterprises do business, is likely unconstitutional. It is absolutely un-American. Our Constitution applies to all people within our borders. With documents and without — the same constitutional protections apply. Further, our Constitution codifies the fact that the rights we have are given by the creator, not by the government, and that we the people allow the government to administer certain functions — and that is all. This is not a “Christian” country. Many of the “fathers” of our country were not Christians; they were deists (Thomas Paine, in particular). Many of the people who first came to this country from Europe were fleeing religious persecution. Violent protest was the founding of our country — starting with the slaughtering of our (then) country’s troops in 1775.
As the chaos unfolded at airports this weekend, stories of people handcuffed for 12+ hour detentions, children separated from parents, interpreters and other people who helped us during our two ridiculous wars of the past decade being detained and scientists and other knowledge workers coming here to help us grow our GDP being swept up have been widely reported. Un-American.
Significantly, the Muslim Ban was enacted on Holocaust Remembrance Day — the White House statement did not include the words “Jew” or “Jewish” for the first time ever. This was no oversight. The president’s campaign was peppered with neo-Nazi retweets and Bannon, the person who has declared my profession to make me a member of the “opposition party,” is beloved by the KKK and neo-Nazis.
As a baby boomer I grew up in a town that had many descendants of immigrants. We were taught to memorize the poem written by Emma Lazarus to finance the construction of the Statue of Liberty. I had a high school teacher who had a concentration camp tattoo on her forearm. Most of that generation is dead. Most young people have no personal memory of those who had everlasting gratitude to come to a country where rights were acknowledged to have been given by the creator, where the First Amendment ensures that the people will be protected from a state run religion and religion will be protected from the state.
Since we are a business publication, I will connect values in a business sense. This country grew from nothing to become the world power because of immigrants. We prevailed in World War II, even though we were outnumbered and unprepared, because of innovation by, in many crucial areas, immigrants. Until now, our country’s rights outnumbered our wrongs and we prospered as a result. We have enjoyed the world’s largest GDP for most of the last 100 years and a GDP per capita that the Chinese won’t be able to touch for decades, maybe ever. Because of immigrants.
We are not the America in decline or under threat that our president painted in his inaugural address. Statistically speaking, there is no threat from refugees. Since 9/11, more Americans have been killed by televisions falling on them than by the wildest interpretation of people acting out in “Muslim extremism” (an offensive term). More undocumented Mexicans are leaving our country than coming in (a trend that started in 2008) — and there are more Asian “undocumented” than any others. So, if the Trump vision for America prevails, the “wall” really needs to be built around our international airports. Considering the president is using H1B visa people to work at his Mar-a-Lago “winter White House,” rather than American citizens, he well knows of the productivity of people coming here to labor to feed their families back at home.
And this is the real point. Companies embracing diversity management pour increased money and effort into management programs that cause us to work well together (mentoring, resource groups) and give us equal access to the information needed to be successful. Our Top 50 list expressed as a stock index beats the market on a short- and long-term basis. Nothing can beat the productivity of liberated people.
As a veteran and proud American, I apologize to every person affected by the Muslim ban and to every person living in increased fear as a result of the hostile environment created over the last nine years, culminating in this recent election. Most Americans don’t believe this to be the correct course of action.