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In the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim countries, corporations have been coming out in support of immigrants and refugees. Starbucks pledged to hire 10,000 refugees in the next five years. Lyft said it’d be donating $1 million to the ACLU. And now Budweiser has a pro-immigration ad that’ll air during the Superbowl. Which is great. But it’s also nothing to call them heroes over.
Budweiser’s ad chronicles German immigrant Adolphus Busch, who came to America in 1857 and eventually started Anheuser-Busch. Let’s put aside the fact that even though German immigrants faced discrimination when they arrived, they could become citizens since they were white. What’s problematic is the ad’s Disneyfication of the issues we’re facing. The message is “Remember, we’re all immigrants!” instead of dissecting the nature of who is being banned right now and why.
Not that Budweiser needs to make their ads treatise on modern politics (in fact, the ad was in the works before the immigration ban was announced and not meant to be political), but putting money and jobs where these companies’ mouths are is being treated as an act of heroism. It’s certainly commendable, especially when it a sizable portion of its demographic may be Trump-leaning, and if these companies take any positive reinforcement from it and continue to speak out, cool.
But treating a corporation as somehow brave or better because it made a pro-immigrant ad rewards a behavior that should be assumed. A CEO being pro-immigrant or pro-worker should be the rule, not the exception.
In a capitalist society, corporations naturally have power, and the bottom line will always be a motivation. Who knows if Budweiser will continue to support immigrants if its sales plummet? Who knows if Lyft will cut ties with Trump’s special adviser on regulation, Carl Ichan?
So yes, we can reward businesses for doing the right thing. But we should also look beyond these measures and raise our expectations.
Jaya Saxena is a lifestyle writer and editor whose work focuses primarily on women's issues and web culture. Her writing has appeared in GQ, ELLE, the Toast, the New Yorker, Tthe Hairpin, BuzzFeed, Racked, Eater, Catapult, and others. She is the co-author of 'Dad Magazine,' the author of 'The Book Of Lost Recipes,' and the co-author of 'Basic Witches.'