Corporate Leaders Must Take a Stand

Charlottesville changes everything.

REUTERS

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.

In a previous column, I advocated for CEOs to speak with this president. I take back what I said based on President Trump’s behavior over the past six months. The breaking point came this weekend in the aftermath of Charlottesville.

Equating neo-Nazis with Americans counter-protesting white supremacy is beneath contempt.

This is a defining moment for CEOs. What do you stand for? How do you communicate with the people who work for you? Better think about it quickly; after today you’re too late.

There’s no time for focus groups or your head communications person to read the tea leaves. You have to go with your gut — it got you to where you are; you need to take stock of what you stand for and communicate.

Perhaps what happened in Charlottesville did not reach your social circle’s attention over the weekend. Clear your calendar for 20 minutes and read up. The president’s base of support is not the sweet spot of whom you are trying to hire — the overwhelming majority of people you are trying to hire are people who did not vote for this president.

That’s why the president hedged his words by condemning the violence “on all sides” in Charlottesville. Your investors, suppliers, employees and those who shape the public will, which in turn shapes the will of the regulators — they are all watching.

You cannot stand next to a neo-Nazi equator without appearing to be a neo-Nazi equator. Not a good look. But it’s not too late. There is a proverb so old that it cannot be attributed: fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

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6 comments


  • Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey

    That’s “equating”, not “equivocating”, Luke.

  • He hedged his words to distance his decades of discrimination and his campaign of bigotry from the outcome of vehicular manslaughter: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama.This has been going on for a long, long time.” Not Donald Trump????? Who said it was Donald Trump? His guilty conscience. Not Barack Obama? Why invoke his name at all? Nobody thought this was a strange and bizarre ad lib off his prepared doublespeak? I’m just surprised he didn’t break out into the chorus of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start The Fire.” You really, really, should have your people do a timeline of every time he threw white supremacists some red meat, blew on a dog whistle or invoked violent action. And don’t forget Don Jr.’s stump speech in Philadelphia Mississippi https://virallysuppressed.com/2016/07/31/wetting-his-dog-whistle-donald-trump-jr-on-the-campaign-trail-in-mississippi/. And don’t forget the Jewish star that was s “sheriff’s badge” and don’t forget the skittles. Or the “paddy wagon.” Or the “second amendment folks.” Or the “rapists and murderers.” Or the time he refused to disavow David Duke to Jake Tapper, and called a Black man attending his rally a “thug” https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2016/11/01/the-kkks-official-newspaper-has-endorsed-donald-trump-for-president/?utm_term=.bc4aa9ab1089. Or the time he said a BLM protester should be “roughed up” http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/22/politics/donald-trump-black-lives-matter-protester-confrontation/index.html. Or the time he said he didn’t know who Duke was even though he’d identified him as kkk years earlier http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/donald-trump-and-the-ku-klux-klan-a-history. Or the hundreds of other examples of who his is. If NYT can print a full page of his lies, then you can print a full screen of all the ways he has emboldened and legitimized these groups, just like the VA governor said. Neo Nazis wear red suspenders or red shoelaces. What color tie does he wear? The color of blood on his hands. History matters to you. Connect the dots. All of them.

  • Evidently Ken Frazier , CEO of Merck Pharmaceuticals, was listening. He quit 45s’ manufacturing council on Monday, stating that he had to follow his conscious. Also, Mr. Frazier is one of the few African – American ceo’s of a fortune 500 company. Like President Obama, he is also a Harvard trained lawyer. Of course, almost immediately, 45 was tweeting about what a bad person Mr. Frazier was. Funny how 45 could immediately tweet this, but it took him 2 days to say something specifically about the alt-right. And now, following Mr. Frazier, at least 2 more CEO’s have pulled out- Under Armour and Intel.

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