By Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
Photos: YouTube Screenshots
Washington, DC–The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed an amicus brief Friday in American Alliance for Equal Rights vs. Fearless Fund Management LLC, defending remedial programs designed to combat longstanding, systemic discrimination and pushing back on claims that such programs constitute unlawful racial discrimination against white business owners.
The American Alliance for Equal Rights, one of multiple craftily-named entities founded by ultra-conservative, anti-civil rights crusader Edward Blum, filed the underlying lawsuit against several defendants under the umbrella of Fearless Fund, which operates a grant program to support Black women entrepreneurs. Fearless Fund describes its mission as “bridg[ing] the gap in venture capital funding for women of color founders.”
The program awards $20,000 grants to small businesses owned by Black women who, despite their skills and track record of success, have long struggled to attract investments amid the well-documented discrimination and racial imbalance in the U.S. venture capital market.
The brief filed by the Lawyers’ Committee, along with pro bono co-counsel Crowell & Moring LLP and six other prominent civil rights groups, argues that such programs are plainly lawful under a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 known as Section 1981. Regarded as the nation’s first civil rights law, it was adopted during the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery.
Section 1981 was explicitly designed to further the aims of the Thirteenth Amendment by creating a remedy for discrimination against Black people that hampered their ability to enter into contracts and fully participate in the nation’s economy. The amicus brief explains that this federal law indisputably authorizes programs such as Fearless Fund’s, which serve to strengthen Black citizens’ rights to participate equally in the marketplace.
“In the face of persistent, systemic discrimination against Black people and all people of color arising from our country’s long history of racism, Ed Blum and his recently-created front group are bent on dismantling programs benefiting the Black community. They seek to kneecap any effort to undo entrenched racial inequalities and further cement the status quo of inequitable market access,” said Damon Hewitt, President and Executive Director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“If charitable efforts to advance equity are undermined, this will cause serious harm to Black communities and other communities of color. This case contributes to the ongoing fight to prevent and eradicate systemic discrimination, including in the marketplace.” stated Keith Harrison, partner at Crowell & Moring.
Other organizations joining the amicus brief include the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Action Network, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (“NAACP”), National Urban League, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to mobilize the nation’s leading lawyers as agents for change in the Civil Rights Movement. Today, the Lawyers’ Committee uses legal advocacy to achieve racial justice, fighting inside and outside the courts to ensure that Black people and other people of color have the voice, opportunity, and power to make the promises of our democracy real. For more information, please visit https://link.edgepilot.com/s/a0d56376/dFgDcPicV06pBccS_lb_Mw?u=https://lawyerscommittee.org/.