The summer of 2022 marks the two-year anniversary of the dramatic rekindling of the #BlackLivesMatter movement because of the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other unarmed Black people at the hands of police. The summer of 2020 saw cities in the United States and around the world erupt in protest, with calls to dismantle racist policies and practices both in the criminal system and within the broader society, with a particular emphasis on policies and practices impacting Black people. The summer of 2022 also marks the two-year anniversary of the visible and somewhat surprising avalanche of corporate statements proclaiming solidarity with the Black community, condemning racism and bigotry, and pledging to help eradicate racist policies and practices within their own institutions. Corporations and their brands inundated the public with black squares, #BlackLivesMatter signs, and emphatic insistence that corporate leaders would “not be silent about our fight against racism and discrimination,” and that they would “do more . . . and do it now.”
Most commentators viewed these corporate statements with severe skepticism, characterizing them as “cheap talk,” a “marketing ploy,” or “an outright lie.” Relying on original empirical research, this Article refutes that skepticism and demonstrates that, just one year later, many corporations followed through on their talk with actions aimed at promoting diversity and eroding racist and discriminatory practices. This Article makes three critical assertions with respect to these corporate statements. First, this Article uses original empirical research to reveal that the vast majority of the corporate statements made in the summer of 2020 embodied a commitment to actively work against racism and discrimination and actively promote diversity and inclusion. Second, this Article draws upon original empirical research to refute critics and demonstrate that, on the one-year anniversary of these commitments, many corporations followed through on their speech with concrete actions, at least with respect to their boards. Third, after examining the impact of structural limitations and other roadblocks, this Article sounds a note of caution about whether and to what extent we can expect long-term changes in corporate behavior that meaningfully moves the needle on improving racial diversity and equity in the corporate sphere.
Corporate governance, board diversity, racial equality, discrimination, Black Lives Matter movement, BLM, empirical legal studies, diversity, equity & inclusion, DEI
Columbia Business Law Review
Fairfax, Lisa, "Racial Rhetoric or Reality? Cautious Optimism on the Link Between Corporate #BLM Speech and Behavior" (2022). Faculty Scholarship at Penn Carey Law. 2865.
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