US court suspension of black women fund a ‘pushback against diversity’


Shafi Musaddique


A US appeals court’s decision to suspend a black-led fund is a warning signal that philanthropy faces a new pushback against diversity and inclusion, according to progressive groups. 

The Atlanta-based Fearless Fund has been taken to court, accused of being discriminatory by the conservative American Alliance for Equal Rights (AAER).  

The federal court ruled that there was a plausible case of discrimination; the AAER says the Fearless Fund’s programmes and grants ‘exclude certain individuals because of their race’. 

Akilah Watkins, president of membership organisation Independent Sector, told Alliance that the court decision against Fearless Fund ‘threatens the charitable sector’s ability to address unmet needs and to strengthen communities in a diversity of ways’. 

‘By undermining the First Amendment’s protection of philanthropy as expressive conduct, this ruling endangers our sector’s efforts to support historically marginalised groups and to advance equity and justice,’ said Watkins. 

She warned that the US judicial green light ‘signals that pushback against diversity, equity, and inclusion in our sector will likely persist, and possibly intensify. Now, more than ever, nonprofits and philanthropy must advocate for equitable policies and systems that help build a nation where all people thrive.’ 

The appeals court consisted of two judges, one appointed by former US president Donald Trump and another by former president Barack Obama.  

Judge Robin Rosenbaum, the Obama appointee, likened AAER’s claims to football players deceiving a referee by ‘flopping on the field, faking an injury.’ 

Fearless Fund CEO and founder Arian Simone described the ruling as ‘devastating’, particularly for the community of black women it seeks to help in addressing racial funding disparities. 

‘The message these judges sent today is that diversity in Corporate America, education, or anywhere else should not exist,’ she said in statement. ‘These judges bought what a small group of white men were selling.’ 

Alphonso David, Fearless Fund’s legal counsel and president of The Global Black Economic Forum, told media that all options were being evaluated to continue fighting the lawsuit. 

Civil rights groups have been watching closely how courts in future will judge funds and grant makers working on racial equality and with marginalised communities.  

The Council on Foundations, a non profit membership organisation working alongside Independent Sector, has warned that the court decision could make charitable giving harder.

‘The last thing we want to see is a legal environment that further restricts how private resources can be dedicated to the public good. That’s why we’ll continue to stand for the First Amendment protected right to give charitably according to our values. At the end of the day, we want to make it easier to give – not harder,’ said Council on Foundations president and CEO Kathleen Enright.

Shafi Musaddique is the news editor at Alliance Magazine

Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *