Toward Racial Equality: The Most Important Things The Business Community Can Do

Leo E. Strine Jr., University of Pennsylvania


In this address, former Chief Justice Strine kicked-off an important series, the Conference on Racial Equity in Corporate Governance, co-sponsored by the Millstein Center for Global Markets and Corporate Governance, Columbia Law School; the Institute for Law & Economics, University of Pennsylvania; the Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Stanford University; and the Stanford Center for Racial Justice, Stanford Law School.

The address explains the importance of institutional investors and corporations contributing to ending the persistent inequality suffered by black Americans. And it focuses on the reality that we would have made huge strides toward closing the race gap if our corporate governance and political systems during the last forty years had encouraged corporations to: 1) continue paying workers their fair share of productivity gains, because black people were so much more likely to be among the working and middle classes; 2) help black people gain wealth by providing them with good wages and support toward their 401(k); 3) promote the hiring of black graduates and white students of limited means by recruiting at public universities, community colleges, and historically black colleges; 4) pay their fair share of taxes toward the public schools, upon which black students rely; 5) locate and invest in communities where black people live; and 6) never lose sight of the special obligation our nation has to redress what we did to black people, and to avoid using the critical goal of overall diversity to obscure the need to remediate discrimination against black people as a first priority.

Finally, the address underscores that the tough question is not what our corporate sector can do to help black people in the United States achieve equality, the question is whether we have the moral commitment to make these things happen.