Federal Court’s Block Of The Fearless Fund’s Grant Program Sparks Fallout And Outrage

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Source: Fearless Fund

Jun. 6 2024, Published 1:04 p.m. ET

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According to reports, a federal appeals court has blocked the Fearless Fund, an Atlanta-based investment firm, from continuing to offer a contest that grants awards to Black women entrepreneurs while the remainder of the lawsuit is being litigated. This signals another blow to diversity and inclusion efforts that have been under recent attack.

In a statement to CNN after the ruling, Fearless Fund CEO and founding partner Arian Simone called the ruling “devastating.”

“I am shattered for every girl of color who has a dream but will grow up in a nation determined not to give her a shot to live it,” Simone told CNN. “On their behalf, we will turn the pain into purpose and fight with all our might.”

The Court of Appeals for the 11th District ruled 2-1 in favor of American Alliance for Equal Rights founder Edward Blum, a prominent opponent of affirmative action. Blum claimed the Fearless Fund’s Fearless Strivers Grant Contest, which awards $20,000 to Black women entrepreneurs, violates the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits racial discrimination in contracts.

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‘Longstanding And Irrefutable’ Discrimination

After the ruling, Fearless Fund lawyer Jason Schwartz said the Fearless Fund is now evaluating its options. “The discrimination in access to funding that the Fearless Foundation seeks to address is long-standing and irrefutable,” he said, according to theWall Street Journal.

Blum issued a statement saying, “The American Alliance for Equal Rights is grateful that the court has ruled that the Fearless Fund’s racially exclusive grant competition is illegal.”

Reactions to the ruling have been that of outrage for DEI advocates and supporters. Acclaimed actor Wendell Pierce responded to the ruling in an interview on CNN, saying, “It is not only ironic, it is insidious and bigoted… We have to make sure people understand that this insidious, racist decision is a Pandora’s box that will open up more opportunities to memorialize discriminatory law.”

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Former Georgia State Representative Stacey Abrams called the ruling “part of a cynical ploy to restore barriers to the American Dream, misusing civil rights laws to roll back progress.”

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Human rights and civil rights lawyer Alphonso David, president and CEO of the Global Black Economic Forum, issued a statement following the ruling, saying, “We disagree.”

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TikTok creator and money and business coach Ellie Talks Money highlighted the use of an 1866 law and spoke directly to Black women: “Despite this ruling, we will not stop fighting for what we know is right… This is for every Black woman who has had a dream of starting a business.”

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Rachel King, chief people officer at nonprofit, responded to the ruling saying, “As an organization, we’re committed to equity in the venture capital space and are disappointed to see this attack on the Fearless Fund.”

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Attacks On Diversity Efforts

The ruling comes amid a number of lawsuits targeting DEI efforts, including two large law firms who changed their fellowship programs designed to recruit underrepresented law students after facing Blum-backed lawsuits, according to the Wall Street Journal.

A federal judge recently dismissed a lawsuit against Hello Alice, a financial technology platform that connects small businesses to capital and resources, marking a win for diversity. The lawsuit, brought by America First Legal, headed by former Donald Trump administration adviser Stephen Miller, targeted Hello Alice’s commitment to provide equitable access to capital and support for underrepresented entrepreneurs.

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By: Gillian Smith

Gillian Smith is a professional communicator by day and night, leveraging more than a decade in the news industry to share stories that have a positive impact on society. Gillian believes everyone has a story worth telling, and she has made it her professional mission to tell those stories in a responsible way. Gillian received a BA in journalism from Ithaca College and a Master's in Journalism Innovation from Syracuse University. She is currently the director of external communication and media relations at Suffolk University.

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