Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Smithsonian Latino Museum sued for “pro-Latino discrimination” during internship

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The conservative activist who helped end race-conscious college admissions sues the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino, alleging its internship program engages in “pro-Latino discrimination.”

The case is the latest in a years-long campaign by Edward Blum to eradicate racial preferences in academia and the workplace. Blum’s American Equal Rights Alliance filed lawsuits against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that led the Supreme Court to ban the use of race-based admissions in June , thus setting back decades of precedent. This is part of a series of legal challenges against diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs that have arisen after Harvard’s decision.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in D.C. seeks a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction prohibiting the museum from closing its application window and selecting interns. The deadline to apply is April 1.

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“Large programs like these, which limit participation to only certain races and ethnicities, are unfair and illegal,” Blum said in a statement Friday.

A Smithsonian spokeswoman declined to comment, saying “we never comment on litigation.”

The suit alleges that the Smithsonian’s program, aimed at increasing the number of Latinos in museum professions, excludes non-Latinos in violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. He says the program has never hired anyone who isn’t of Latino descent.

The internship “is a museum career pathway program designed to increase hands-on training opportunities for Latina, Latino, and Latinx-identifying undergraduates interested in careers in art museums,” according to the site Program web.

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Only 5% of “key museum positions” are held by Latinos, the museum notes, citing a 2022 Mellon Foundation survey that found that more than 80% of “some key roles continue to be held by White, and gains among staff who are Black or Indigenous remain limited overall.

Although the program does not explicitly prohibit non-Latinos from applying, the lawsuit alleges that its application asks students to indicate whether they identify as Latino or Hispanic, which it claims constitutes a form of ” pro-Latino discrimination.” The lawsuit also highlights the Smithsonian’s marketing of the program and statements by museum officials that the internship is intended for Latino students.

The internship began in 2022 and hired 30 interns over its two sessions, according to the lawsuit.

The alliance alleges that one of its members, a student whose mother is white and whose father is black, is unable to apply because the museum “only hires Latino interns.” The student is identified only as “member A” because “she fears that the Museum will accuse her of her involvement in this trial during the selection of interns”.

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Blum’s lawsuits against Harvard and UNC overturned more than four decades of precedent that allowed universities to consider an applicant’s race during the admissions process. The court left open the issue of race-based admissions to military academies, prompting Blum to file lawsuits against the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and others.

In February, the high court denied an emergency request asking West Point to change its race-conscious admissions policies.

Since Harvard’s decision, Blum and other conservative groups have challenged diversity and affirmative action programs in the private and public sectors. Blum’s alliance seeks to block a venture capital firm for women of color from making grants to black women, and her lawsuits against diversity grants at major law firms have forced some to modify or completely abandon their scholarships.

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