Author: Stacy M. Brown     Published: 10/2/2023        Washington Informer News

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Senior U.S. Judge Thomas Thrash has ruled that Fearless Fund, a venture capital firm based in Atlanta, can continue its grant program exclusively tailored for Black female entrepreneurs.

Senior U.S. Judge Thomas Thrash has ruled that Fearless Fund can continue its grant program exclusively tailored for Black women entrepreneurs. (Courtesy photo)Senior U.S. Judge Thomas Thrash has ruled that Fearless Fund can continue its grant program exclusively tailored for Black women entrepreneurs. (Courtesy photo)

The judge said the lawsuit challenging the practice, which argued it unlawfully excluded individuals of other races, was unlikely to succeed.

Fearless Fund, while a relatively small player in the global venture capital market, has come to symbolize the broader debate surrounding corporate diversity policies. However, the lawsuit against the organization may set a precedent as discussions on race considerations evolve within the workplace, particularly in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling in June ending affirmative action in college admissions.

Edward Blum, an anti-affirmative action activist well-known for his involvement in the Supreme Court’s June college admissions cases, is the head of the nonprofit American Alliance for Equal Rights, which requested the preliminary injunction. Blum has expressed plans to appeal the decision, claiming that civil rights laws prohibit racial distinctions based on overrepresentation or underrepresentation.

The Fearless Strivers Grant Contest, which awards $20,000 to Black women entrepreneurs, remains at the center of the lawsuit. Blum argues that this contest violates a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, which prohibits racial discrimination in contracts. He claims that members outside the specified racial category are excluded.

Judge Thrash contended that the grants constituted “charitable donations” aimed, in part, at acknowledging the discrimination faced by Black women business owners. He asserted that such donations are protected as “expressive conduct” under the First Amendment. The judge criticized the alliance’s attempt to alter the fund’s intended message.

Gilbert Dickey, an attorney for the alliance, pointed out that the grant program does not extend to other racial minorities, including Hispanics. He argued that privileging one race over others violates First Amendment protection.

Fearless Fund maintains that its objective is to remove the obstacles that keep companies run by women of color from getting venture capital funding.