Understanding Racial Inequity in a Time of Corporate Power Dominance

December 2, 2019

New report explores why we must curb the power of corporations with policy changes that account for the hidden rules of race


New York, NY—Since its founding, the US economy has been structured on rules that privilege or exploit people based on race: from chattel slavery and inheritance laws that permitted generational wealth accumulation primarily for white men, to redlining and the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which privileges existing wealth and corporate power over establishing new wealth and racial inclusion.

To understand how corporate power has contributed to and reified racial inequity today, the Kirwan Institute Executive Director Darrick Hamilton and Roosevelt Institute Director of Advocacy and Policy Madeline Neighly released The Racial Rules of Corporate Power: How Extractive Corporate Power Harms Black and Brown Communities and How Race-Conscious Solutions Can Create an Inclusive Economy. The report explains how the rules of the economy and the hidden rules of race are compounding: the racialized policy choices and economic rules of the past and present continue to ensure disparities between people of color and their white counterparts. The report concludes by calling on policymakers to institute new, race-conscious solutions that can work to curb outsized corporate power.

Key Policy Suggestions from the Report:
  • Reinvigorate antitrust and competition policy in ways that account for racial inequity by requiring pre- and post-merger review to determine the impact on communities of color;
  • Reform corporate governance to ensure that workers share equitably in profits and that corporate boards reflect the racial demographics of the company’s workforce;
  • Implement audits and enforcement of civil rights and other laws with tangible consequences to proactively combat racial discrimination; and
  • Require racial impact statements on proposed legislation, budget requests, and rule-making.
Insights from the Authors:

“Our policies must be grounded in an understanding of the ways in which Black and brown communities have been strategically targeted and excluded from equitable participation in our economy,” said Darrick Hamilton, Kirwan Institute. “The government has a moral responsibility to right the wrongs of the past and to live up to its mandate to promote economic inclusion and social equity.”

“Over the past several decades, the rules of the economy have been rewritten to benefit those at the top of the economic hierarchy at the expense of everyone else. This has had specific and outsized harms on communities of color that have long struggled under the hidden rules of race,” said Madeline Neighly, Roosevelt Institute. “We need concrete policies that put race at the forefront of our fight to curb extractive corporate practices, or we risk replicating and reifying past inequities.”

About the Roosevelt Institute

The Roosevelt Institute, a New York-based think tank, promotes bold policy reforms that would redefine the American economy and our democracy. With a focus on curbing corporate power and reclaiming public power, Roosevelt is helping people understand that the economy is shaped by choices—via institutions and the rules that structure markets—while also exploring the economics of race and gender and the changing 21st-century economy. Roosevelt is armed with a transformative vision for the future, working to move the country toward a new economic and political system: one built by many for the good of all.

To keep up to date with the Roosevelt Institute, please visit us on Twitter or follow our work at #RewriteTheRules.

About the Kirwan Institute

From publishing original research on racial disparities in a variety of domains (including food access, economic security, the criminal justice system, and health) to offering community and professional development trainings on bias and civic engagement, the Kirwan Institute utilizes an asset-based approach to analyze and offer solutions to the long-term impacts of structural and systemic racism. Learn more. 

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