Lauren’s article about what happened when she emailed top Twitter executives to talk about the r-word (race) is great insight.
When Lauren interviewed me we talked about incentives to discriminate. The evidence about the extent to which the market will penalize companies that discriminate is mixed. One new article from sociologist Devah Pager suggests that firms that discriminate go out of business more frequently than those that don’t. Different studies have shown mixed evidence that this is true.
The bigger point is that the market is not an efficient way to manage statistical discrimination. This becomes even more crucial when the market is delivering services that are inherent to civil liberties: the freedom to move across the nation (transportation); the right to dignified, safe work; the right to free speech AND freedom from tyranny; or the right to access housing and accommodations.
These are the areas that tech companies seem focused on disrupting. These are also areas of life where law, custom, and social movements have determined that race and racism are critical considerations.
If tech companies are engaged in these businesses then they are engaged in public works and they are beholden to the same laws and customs.