According to a Microsoft blog post, the Trump DOJ recently sent Microsoft a letter asking it "to prove that the actions we are taking to improve opportunities are not illegal race-based decisions." The actions in question are Microsoft's recent pledges "to double the number of Black and African American managers, senior individual contributors, and senior leaders by 2025."
The DOJ is threatening to punish Microsoft by withholding government contracts, if the company attempts to improve its current numbers, which, according to the company's most recent year-end Diversity and Inclusion Report, show that 4.5 percent of Microsoft employees and 2.7 percent of Microsoft executives are Black.
The DOJ's complaint is apparently based on the notion that hiring decisions should be "race-blind" because taking race into account supposedly discriminates against White candidates. The idea here is that structural racism against Blacks doesn't actually exist and therefore any attempt to correct for it is discriminatory against Whites.
I'm not going to pull my punches here.
Anyone who believes that structural racism against Blacks doesn't exist is a White supremacist.
They may not think of themselves as White supremacists, but that's only because they haven't bothered to think things through. Consider:
- Blacks comprise 12 percent of the U.S. population.
- Blacks comprise 1 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs.
There are only two possible ways to account for this disparity: 1) Structural racism has blunted the education and careers of Blacks, or 2) Blacks are inferior to Whites, which is why they can't compete on a level playing field. It's a binary thing.
It hardly needs to be said--to anybody who's not an ignoramus--that there is absolutely no valid scientific evidence underpinning the notion of White superiority and there is a huge amount of scientific evidence that structural racism is real and potent. The real question, for intelligent executives and entrepreneurs, should be not whether structural racism exists, but rather how to overcome it within their own organizations.
This has nothing to do with fairness. It isn't even about optics. It's simple corporate self-interest, because insofar as structural racism influences hiring decisions, it closes off access to top talent.
Any subconscious bias toward hiring Whites rather than Blacks will inevitably result in White new-hires who are less talented and less qualified than the Black candidates who would otherwise have been hired. The inevitable result--and a common enough one--is a corporate culture that's less intelligent, less flexible, and more intellectually limited.
An inflexible culture is an existential threat for companies like Microsoft, which, because of its huge size and monopolistic market position, find it horribly difficult to innovate. Inflexibility is even more of an existential threat to smaller firms that don't have the luxury of deep pockets to keep themselves alive while more diverse companies run rings around them.
Microsoft's pledge to increase Black representation in the top ranks is, in fact, a savvy business strategy, because if Microsoft succeeds in overcoming the negative effects of structural racism, it will increase the company's overall corporate IQ and market competitiveness.
One might question, of course, whether Microsoft is serious about that pledge. If so, the company will need to pay qualified Black candidates significantly more money than they'd pay equally qualified White candidates, simply because the cumulative effect of structural racism in society at large has made such candidates less common than otherwise might be the case.
What's sad, although not surprising, is that the Trump DOJ seems determined to force Microsoft to ignore the adverse business impact of structural racism as a way to keep less-qualified and less-talented Whites on top.