On Saturday, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a conservative group’s request to temporarily block a Black-owned venture capitalist firm from awarding grants exclusively to Black women entrepreneurs. In a tight 2-1 decision, judges approved the motion for an injunction stating that Fearless Funds’ practices are “racially discriminatory.” This injunction will temporarily halt the Fearless Fund from awarding its $20,000 Fearless Strivers Grant solely to Black women.
This decision marks a reversal of a lower court ruling issued just last week, which had determined that the grant could proceed under the protection of the First Amendment.
The lawsuit challenging the grant was filed by Conservative activist Edward Blum, the founder of the American Alliance for Equal Rights. The Alliance has asserted that the grant’s exclusivity violates Section 1981 of the U.S. Code. This statute ensures equal rights for all individuals to create and enforce contracts within the United States, without regard to race.
Attorney Von Bryant, who represents the interests of the venture capitalists firm, has argued that the Alliance fails to take into account the longstanding disadvantages faced by people of color in the entrepreneur industry. Bryant stated, “In the context of historically systemic racism, what the Fearless Fund grant is really trying to do is be a beacon for people who have historically and presently faced an uphill battle for funding. This program is attempting to address that.”
The temporary injunction now sets the stage for further legal proceedings and has sparked fierce debate over the intersection of equal rights, affirmative action, and the ongoing efforts to rectify historic disparities.