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Groups blast conservatives’ attempt to stop Smithsonian Latino internship

By 37ci3 Mar19,2024



Latino organizations and national civil rights groups have denounced conservative activist Edward Blum’s lawsuit to end an experiment at the Smithsonian Institution designed to attract more Latinos to museum research and work.

Groups say in court mate, or amicus, short that the selection criteria for the internship do not include race or ethnicity, and that the application materials do not restrict access to any race or ethnicity.

The selection process is completely race- and ethnicity-neutral, the groups said in a brief. The groups are opposing Bloom’s request for a preliminary injunction to end the practice program. The trial is set for April 8.

Blum, president of the American Alliance for Equal Rights sued director Last month of the yet-to-be-built National Latin American Museum. He argued the program was unconstitutional because it was “not equally open to non-Latinos.” Blum won the court case in this regard effectively ended affirmative action.

Blum did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The groups said Blum is asking that the equal protection clause, which is part of the 14th Amendment, be used “as a strike to prevent equal opportunity.” The Equal Protection Clause, which guarantees “equal protection before the law,” has been the basis for court decisions prohibiting discrimination, such as the landmark desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education.

In addition, the organizations said Bloom lacks an understanding of Latino identity and ignores the historical “under-inclusion” of Latinos in the American workforce.

“This lawsuit attacks efforts to eliminate racial discrimination and is part of an assault on civil rights progress,” Katy Youker, director of the Economic Justice Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Act, said in a news release Friday.

In the two classes of interns hired in 2022 and 2023, no one identified as Black, Asian or white, and at least 25, or about 90%, were Latino during those two years, Blum said in the lawsuit. No interns are non-Latino, she said.

But Latino and civil rights groups noted in their brief that Latinos are racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse.

“Many are indigenous, others are of African descent, and many are not. Many speak Spanish, many do not,” said Francisca Fajana, director of racial justice strategy for LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

Latinos make up about 5% of the total Smithsonian workforce of more than 6,300 employees, the groups said, citing federal documents.

“What we do know is that unequal educational opportunities for Latinos persist. The Latino Museum equips students with the technical knowledge and skills to enter and succeed in the museum workforce,” Fajana said.

The brief was also submitted by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee on Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on behalf of the Afro Latino Forum, ASPIRA National and Hispanic Federation.

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