“Change was never going to happen overnight,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, a racial justice nonprofit that works with private companies. “So many of the corporations that spoke up have deep systemic challenges that can’t be solved with a tweet, a statement, a diversity committee.”
Floyd’s murder changed Black Lives Matter from a controversial social justice movement to an almost ubiquitous corporate mantra almost overnight. Fortune 1000 companies poured billions of dollars into programs designed to address systemic racism and committed to fulfilling quantifiable racial hiring quotas after decades of resisting them.
The Local Initiatives Support Corporation, the nation’s largest community development financial institution, says it set a new fundraising record last year, enabling it to invest $2 billion into historically undeserved communities, both rural and urban.
“We raised probably two and a half times what we’ve raised in other years,” said Beth Marcus, EVP of resource development for LISC. “We saw Corporate America step up in some unprecedented ways. We were able to make grants to 12,000 small businesses. More than 80% of those are owned by minority individuals.”
A steep hill to climb
A recent analysis from consulting firm Creative Investment Research found that only $250 million of the estimated $50 billion US companies have pledged to racial equity causes within the past year has so far been spent or assigned to a specific program.
“What’s key is that we have to keep that momentum going and we have to make sure it’s sustained,” Marcus said.
But recent data shows that most of those diversity gains have gone to women and Latinos, not Black Americans, according to Mike Hyter, president and CEO of the Executive Leadership Council, a national organization for current and former Black CEOs and senior executives.
“I think there is still a stigma about Black executives talent and abilities that needs to be addressed,” Hyter told CNN Business. “The perception of limited ability as compared to others is still prominent in spite of the incremental gains, which is why we need to remain vigilant.”
Robinson also emphasized that companies need to commit to independent diversity audits instead of merely evaluating themselves.
“That’s like a police department saying they’re going to do an investigation and it’s only internal and we’re supposed to trust it,” the Color of Change president said. “Some companies are doing better than others, but they all have a long way to go. There is no ‘mission accomplished’ here.”