Illinois House Approves Bill Requiring At Least One African-American on Corporate Boards

There were heated debates and of course, allegations of racism thrown around but the Illinois House of Representatives passed HB 3394. The bill requires all publicly held corporations headquartered in the state to have at least one woman and African American on their corporate board. The bill's primary sponsor was Rep. Chris Welch of the state's 7th district, which covers portions of Chicago's western suburbs.

The legislation is controversial, to put it mildly, but not entirely new in concept. California passed a similar bill on corporate governance but that bill only mandated the inclusion of women, not Blacks. The Illinois bill takes the additional step of explicitly requiring Black inclusion. The bill only applies to companies who have their principal executive offices in the state of Illinois. Companies have until the end of 2020 to comply with the new legislation or they are subject to fines up to $300,000.

The move is important in that diversity can help ameliorate the worst impulses and blindspots of corporations. The recent "blackface" controversy surrounding Gucci provides a good example of what happens when companies lack diversity. Still, this shouldn't divert our focus on the imperative of building up Black owned companies -- diversity isn't the same as ownership or power.

When a company is diverse it naturally means a few more Black people are hired. It also means those Black people can help the company better position itself to cater to Black consumers and ultimately, secure the Black dollar. We should applaud diversity but still keep a laser focus on Black institutions that are invested in building up Black communities and don't need to be taught not to parade their bigotry. Celebrate diversity but let's still keep our focus on buying Black.

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