Virtual Special Issue on Eradicating Structural Racism: What is the Role of the Corporation?

Paul T. Harper, PhDNew Content Item
University of Pittsburgh

Robbin Derry, PhD
University of Lethbridge

Gregory Fairchild, PhD
University of Virginia


Corporate leaders are making public announcements and financial pledges with the stated aim of eradicating of structural racism. Their statements of solidarity have been prompted by the increased momentum and visibility of the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd by police officers. Leaders are asking how to prioritize and target resources among their internal and external stakeholders to understand how racism and racial biases are propagated by corporate policy, structure, and culture. 

The continued presence of structural racism in business and educational institutions poses a challenge to popular definitions of justice in our field and the implicit assumptions for those forms of justice to be viable; e.g. integrative social contract theory may be reexamined through the lens of racial justice . The reconsideration of traditional theories of justice with an eye toward systemic problems like racial exploitation or the abuse of power could yield new insights. Harper (2019) points out the ways that moral imagination can be a driver of predatory behavior.

Critical perspectives on business ethics offer to make the field more inclusive and open new avenues for theory development. Scholars working in intersectional theory have elaborated how social justice can be better achieved by recognizing the interaction of simultaneous axes of oppression and marginalization. The article by Karambayya, for example, provides insights into the paradoxical experiences of women of color, demonstrating the arguments of intersectionality.  

The study of racial justice lends itself to interdisciplinary perspectives, and studies like Logan’s ) that compare the development of the legal personhood of corporations and rights of black people are persuasive because they display crucial historical data. Findings of significant racial bias in automated decision-making technologies used in high-stakes settings leave us with continued concerns regarding the ways business leaders separate ethical considerations from management practice.

Finally, diversity and inclusion has been the hegemonic approach to racial justice in recent decades. Lozano and Escrich provide a valuable overview and assessment of the structural shifts required as this movement emerged. They raise important questions about how our organizations might move beyond minimal tolerance toward more genuine respect and collaboration.  As the failures of the diversity movement are scrutinized, we may benefit by reviewing its evolving focus and arguments.

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