Thirteen attorneys general, almost all of whom are white, have some thoughts on corporate diversity efforts.
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High-ranking Republican officials in more than a dozen states are leaving no doubt that they view the recent Supreme Court decision that did away with affirmative action in college admissions as a clarion call to combat inclusivity and diversity programs elsewhere in society.
In a letter to the CEOs of Fortune 100 companies, the attorneys general of 13 GOP-controlled states, all but one of whom are white, imply that the recent decision in the university admissions case may also apply to private enterprises.
“[The] Supreme Court’s recent decision should place every employer and contractor on notice of the illegality of racial quotas and race-based preferences in employment and contracting practices,” the Republican officials, 11 of whom are male, write.
Many legal experts disagree that, at this moment, the ruling also applies to businesses. However, they think the Supreme Court decision will spur other lawsuits challenging various systems put in place to provide minorities with better opportunities.
In any case, that does not stop the attorneys general, from threatening US businesses with repercussions if they continue to pursue programs that allow them to reap the many tangible benefits of diversity in the workplace.
“If your company previously resorted to racial preferences or naked quotas to offset its bigotry, that discriminatory path is now definitively closed,” the attorneys general, more than half of whom represent states in which at least 85 percent of people are white, wrote. “Your company must overcome its underlying bias and treat all employees, all applicants, and all contractors equally, without regard for race.”
Experts are quick to point out that affirmative action in admissions is very different from diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) programs in the corporate world.
Even in terms of individual hires, it would be difficult for any court to prove that the hiring decision was based predominantly on race.
The attorneys general acknowledge that there are “lawful” ways for “responsible companies” to support underprivileged individuals and communities. However, they leave no doubt that they think race, which has historically been one of the determining factors of who is underprivileged in the US, should not be a consideration.
“[Drawing] crude lines based on skin color is not a lawful outlet, and it hurts more than it helps,” they wrote.
And, to be fair, in this matter, many of the attorneys general who signed the letter can offer some special expertise.
After all, the states that they represent made up more than half of the Confederacy, which was all about drawing crude lines based on skin color.