After speaking at the Mortgage Bankers Association inaugural Diversity Conference in Washington, DC, it became obvious that the business community generally uses the wrong lens when thinking through the issue of diversity in America.

Commendations to the MBA for holding this conference, and focusing their lens properly. But it did make me wonder: How many other prominent businesses and business organizations see diversity as a straight-ahead business issue?

Freedom To Do Business Supports Diversity

America is the largest economy in the world, and it also happens to be the most diverse place on the planet. Every race can be found here in the United States. And why do they come? According to one of my Pakistani drivers in DC:  freedom.

When I then asked him why he ran a small-business car service, as it would never make him rich (though he could make a very good living at around $90k per year), his answer was equally quick in response: freedom.

So let’s dig a little deeper on what freedom means to the American business objective called prosperity.

The largest economy in the world is also the most ethnically diverse.

The two largest economies in the US — California and New York — are also the two most diverse states in the US.

The city of Los Angeles is one of the top 15 economies in the world, and one of the world’s most diverse cities, with more than 140 different ethnic groups calling Los Angeles home.

Los Angeles is home to the largest population of Koreans outside of Korea, and half of all Chinese in America live in either California or New York. Still think this is an accident, coincidence, or somehow not tied to American prosperity?

Business Needs Diversity To Thrive

The reality is, we don’t do business with countries or communities or companies or groups — we do business with people.

And so, America enjoys great trade and great commercial relations with South Korea, Taiwan, China, Israel, South Africa, Nigeria, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Germany, England, India, and so many other places in the world — because we have people who call America home, who are from all of these places. Often, with deep and growing family ties back at home (their home country).

Interestingly enough, the lack of this sustained and deep cultural connection back to mother Africa is but one of the reasons the African-American community here in America continues to suffer a strategic commercial and economic disadvantage.

Resisting Diversity Is A Bad Economic Decision

The American Civil War was as much about the South resisting economic domination from the ethnically diverse, industrializing and growing North as anything else. The North was growing economically in lock step with increasing diversity from all the immigrants streaming into Ellis Island.

Even today, a state like Mississippi represents a movement toward less diversity. In fact, in recent years, some politicians there have actively campaigned against increased immigrants in the state. Today, Mississippi is the poorest state in our country.

Fighting demographic changes is like fighting gravity itself. Fruitless.

What we should be doing is working to strengthen every possible edge of our American fabric, so that we can compete with our real challengers of the future — China, Africa, Brazil, India, and others in the world that rightly so want our vaulted place at number one.

Diversity has the double-edged benefit of both feeling good, and being good. Good for business that is.