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Can a Weekend of Chaos Lead to Clarity?

January 30, 2017, 8:52 PM UTC

The executive order issued by President Trump on Friday that bans refugees and other travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries hit the business community squarely between the eyes over the weekend. The move left many leaders scrambling to understand how the order would affect their employees, partners, and customers.

Some were very clear from the beginning.

The CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, Google and Apple all issued strong statements against the ban. Google created a crisis fund of $2 million with a provision for an additional $2 million in contributions from employees, for four organizations: the American Civil Liberties Union, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, International Rescue Committee, and UNHCR. It’s Google’s largest crisis campaign to date. Google co-founder and Alphabet president Sergey Brin even showed up at a protest at the San Francisco International Airport.

J.P. Morgan’s operating committee issued a memo to staff, affirming its commitment to its international employees. Mark Parker, CEO of Nike issued a strong and emotional statement to employees, denouncing the ban in no uncertain terms. Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz vowed to employ 10,000 refugees globally over the next five years, landing the company in the middle of another tweetstorm. Even the conservative Koch brothers opposed the ban.

Ride-hailing company Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green pledged to donate $1 million to the ACLU over the next four years, offering a sharp counterpoint to competitor Uber, whose CEO Travis Kalanick has been roundly criticized for his ties to the Trump administration. When he allowed Uber drivers to break a strike conducted by NYC cab drivers in support of protests at JFK’s Terminal Four, a lively #deleteuber campaign quickly followed.

Academics gathered at MIT and took to the streets with signs and chants for inclusion. Tech investors Chris Sacca, Fred Wilson and Mark Pincus were among many who pledged monetary support for the ACLU. (The organization confirmed to raceAhead that it received 356,306 donations totaling nearly $24.2 million over the weekend.)

Travel company CEOs weighed in as well. Expedia’s CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who is an immigrant from Iran, left nothing open to misinterpretation: “The President’s order represents the worst of his proclivity toward rash action versus thoughtfulness. Ours is a nation of immigrants. These are our roots, this is our soul. All erased with the stroke of a pen.”

But for others, the math is not so simple. My colleague, Geoff Colvin, describes the conundrum many executives now face, in today’s must-read Power Sheet:

What do you do if you’re a famous CEO, and the president of the United States has asked you to serve on his Strategic and Policy Forum, and you’ve agreed to do so – and then the president issues an order forbidding some of your employees from entering the U.S., or from returning home if they live here and were out of the country?

It is an unforgiving position for business leaders. I expect versions of this conundrum to continue, unabated for the foreseeable future. It’s already dredging up some other challenging conversations, like the tech industry’s complicated relationship with immigration policy by virtue of its support of the H-1B visa program. These conversations, combined with the larger issues of diversity, and bringing “your whole self to work” at a time at a time of bans and protests seems like a tall order.

But one thing is certain: The revolution will be leaked and tweeted and discussed. As painful as they are, these conversations are about who we are as citizens, employees, colleagues, community members and friends. Nothing ever gets solved by not talking about it.

Clarity, which feels in short supply in chaotic times, may be the most important corporate value of all.

On Point

Border agents are using Facebook to screen travelers per Trump orderThe reports are credible and continuing, say experts associated with the American Immigration Lawyers Association. In response to President Trump’s executive order restricting travel from some mostly Muslim countries, U.S. border agents are reviewing Facebook feeds of holders of legal U.S. green cards to evaluate their politics. In some reports, people detained were also handcuffed.Fortune

An increasingly diverse LAPD worries about Trump’s new immigration rules
Enforcing immigration laws are not in their job descriptions, say many beat cops and detectives, and it’s counterproductive to the work they need to do. The value of transforming the LAPD into a force that looks more like the communities they serve is being lost, insiders tell the Los Angeles Times, because people now see them as an extension of Trump’s government. “[I] can’t get justice for people, because all of a sudden, I’m losing my witnesses or my victims because they’re afraid that talking to me is going to lead to them getting deported,” says one detective.
LA Times

Six worshippers killed in attack on Quebec mosque
Authorities now believe it was an individual terrorist, not a group, who opened fire during evening prayers last night at the Centre Culturel Islamique de Québec, in Québec City. The shooter has been identified as Alexandre Bissonnette, a university student. No motive has been given for the attack. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons in Ottawa: "Make no mistake, this was a terrorist attack," and followed with a message of love and support for the country’s Muslim population.

Meet the freshman judge who stayed the Muslim ban
She’s barely a year on the federal bench, but District Judge Ann Donnelly has just become one of the most famous judges in legal history. After an ACLU executive tweeted directions to her Brooklyn courthouse, she was the first judge to hear and rule against the immigration-related executive order issued by President Trump. Sending travelers back could cause “irreparable harm,” she stated, and issued a stay Saturday night, around 9 p.m. EST. Donnelly’s most famous case before this was as a government attorney, prosecuting the fraud and larceny trial of Tyco’s L. Dennis Kozlowski and his former chief financial officer.
Washington Post

Imelme Umana becomes the first black woman president of the Harvard Law Review
If Twitter is any indication, her peers are hoping she will follow in the footsteps of another famous first, Barack Obama, who became the first African-American man to be elected to lead the HLR in 1990. She’s certainly got the chops. Umana, who is a member of Harvard Law School class of 2018, studies the intersection of government and African-American studies and is exploring how stereotypes of black women sway political action and thought.
Clutch Magazine

The Woke Leader

Focus on high-achieving students of color to change the system
John Rice has written a stirring essay that calls for a radical re-think of how we support youth of color: Invest in the high potential achievers, kids who don’t have access to the “playbook” that helps kids from white, privileged families navigate the world. “Developing these graduates into high-impact job creators, social entrepreneurs, political leaders, and philanthropists should be an obvious priority if we want to reduce inequality, improve social justice, and provide all young people with confidence that they can live happy, long lives,” he says. Rice, a former member of Obama's Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans, says that minimizing the bad outcomes, like when a low-income kid stays out of jail is insufficient.“Maximi[ze] the best outcomes,” he says.

On Chinese New Year, the emotional menu gets complicated
NPR’s Kat Chow has a poignant piece on the mixed feelings she has about hosting a shorter than usual version of her family’s annual New Year dinner; and  wonders aloud how to make the meal, which is rich with ritual and symbolism, meaningful for her aging father and still relevant for her more Americanized self. “All across the country this weekend, major cities with established Asian populations will roll out Lunar New Year parades with great fanfare,” she writes. “I will be in my old Brooklyn apartment with my dad, burning incense on my fire escape.” Like all good journalists, she asked experts to help her understand the history of the celebration, which evidently includes a tradition of inter-generational conflict.

Why diversity programs fail
Don’t just check the box, advises Elise James-Decruise, vice president of the New Marketing Institute at MediaMath. Think about equality, instead. Not everyone is coming to the workplace with the same experiences, and not everyone is given the same opportunities. “Ask yourself questions like: Do employees in other regions have access to the same resources in their native languages? Are managers giving their employees access to opportunities in a way that is culturally relevant to their background? Is everyone in every office onboarded in the same way?” A one size fits all approach guarantees that you will leave some people behind.


Run from what’s comfortable. Forget safety. Live where you fear to live. Destroy your reputation. Be notorious. I have tried prudent planning long enough. From now on I’ll be mad.