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Northwestern University Law Review



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Race, corporations, quotas


It is common scholarly and popular wisdom that racial quotas are illegal. However, the reality is that since 2020’s racial reckoning, many of the largest companies have been touting specific, albeit voluntary, goals to hire or promote people of color, which this Article refers to as “racial targets.” The Article addresses this phenomenon and shows that companies can defend racial targets as distinct from racial quotas, which involve a rigid number or proportion of opportunities reserved exclusively for minority groups. The political implications of the legal defensibility of racial targets are significant in this moment in American history, where race relations have become polarized and the conservative, pro-business U.S. Supreme Court may weigh in on the legality of voluntary goals set by some of the largest companies in the country. Large companies have historically been granted discretion to choose their strategies for paving the way toward equal employment opportunity for people of color. The Article grapples with whether this corporate-discretion ideal would inform the legal posture of racial targets.

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