By Beth Monaghan, special to the Observer editorial board
My son and I have a recurring debate about who really runs this country, business or politics. We’re each firm in our belief and there’s valid justification for both schools of thought.
But at Charlotte’s Pride Parade last month, not only did I feel overwhelming pride for our LGBTQ community, I also felt a strong sense of pride for our business community. It might be apparent which side I pull for in our debate.
I found myself beaming as each float came down Trade Street. Seeing all the logos, t-shirts and employees proudly supporting their company’s stance on diversity and inclusion, I felt lucky to be a part of an afternoon perfected by acceptance and love.
In my experience, business has always led this thinking. I grew up in North Carolina in the sixties and seventies; it wasn’t my parents, my church or my school that first opened my eyes to discrimination based on gender, race or sexuality. It was my employer, during the eighties, who first encouraged progressive thinking through a training session focused on cultural sensitivity and bias awareness. While our Charlotte business community might not be perfect, its leadership and insistence on diversity and inclusion is unwavering.
When HB2 attempted to undermine our city’s commitment to equal rights, many businesses took a stand against hateful and unsubstantiated rhetoric emanating from Raleigh. Unfortunately, this disconnected piece of legislation cost our city and state millions of dollars as employers remained steadfast in their support of the LGBTQ community.
We could have watched an undoubtedly beautiful PayPal float make its way down Trade Street as part of the parade. More importantly, we could have had an initial (and minimum) 400 new jobs in Charlotte and millions of dollars in new tax revenue in our community from PayPal, a $9 billion company. Revenue that could have gone to fixing our upward mobility problem, creating a much more positive impact on our community than HB2.
I’m not sure if my son and I will ever agree on who runs this country, business or politics. We have different filters. He’s 22, gay and a liberal Democrat; I’m 57, straight and a moderate Republican. He recently graduated from college and is starting his career in politics, working in Washington, D.C. I’ve lived the majority of my life in Charlotte, where I created a business, built it and after almost two decades, sold it.
Perhaps the duality of our thinking is at the root of the debate; maybe the best answer will come when business and politics work together.
However, it seems in order for that to occur we might need some different leaders representing us in Raleigh. We need more folks who embrace non-dual thinking; more folks who don’t focus on Republican vs. Democrat, Charlotte vs. Raleigh, but instead on what’s in the best long-term interest for North Carolinians.
And North Carolinians will have a chance to make that change in 2018.