Wealthy extremists attacking funding for Black women entrepreneurs are desperate, by Marc H. Morial
9/14/2023, 6 p.m.
“In the face of persistent, systemic discrimination against Black people and all people of color arising from our country’s long history of racism, Ed Blum and his recently created front group are bent on disman- tling programs benefiting the Black community. They seek to kneecap any effort to undo entrenched racial inequalities and further cement the status quo of inequitable market access.”— Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
In recent years, women entrepreneurs of color have started companies at more than four times the rate of the overall population.
In 2021, 17% of Black women were in the process of starting or running new businesses, compared to 10% of white women, and 15% of white men.
While Black women represent 14% of the female population, they account for 42% of net new women-owned businesses.
Black women business owners who apply for funding are rejected at three times the rate of white business owners. Only 3% of Black women-owned companies mature and survive longer than five years. Last year, only 0.1% – one tenth of 1% – of venture capital funds went to Black and Latino women founders.
Anti-racial justice activist Edward Blum, backed by wealthy, dark-money foundations, contends the system is rigged – in favor of Black women.
Mr. Blum has filed suit against the Fearless Fund, a venture capital firm that has awarded $26 million in investments and $3 million in grants in the last four years to more than 40 businesses led by women of color.
Mr. Blum, who was behind the lawsuit that resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended affirmative action
in college admissions, is on a well-funded and increasingly successful crusade to preserve systemic racial inequities and the advantages they afford people like himself and his backers.
As if to add insult to injury, he is suing under a post-Civil War law intended to protect Black Americans from racial discrimination.
His lawsuit – like his many others – makes a mockery of both the law and the very idea of racial equity.
The National Urban League has joined in filing an amicus brief in the case, along with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Action Network, NAACP, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and LatinoJustice PRLDEF. As the brief explains, Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 was explicitly designed to further the aims of the 13th Amendment by creating a remedy for discrimination against Black people that hampered their ability to enter into contracts and fully participate in the nation’s economy.
Programs like the Fearless Fund, that strengthen Black Americans’ rights to equal participation in the marketplace, are indisputably authorized under federal law.
Fearless Fund founders Ayana Parsons and Arian Simone, both Black women with deep experience in business, estimated they took 300 meetings with potential investors before getting their first $5 million in funding.
Blum and his extremist backers apparently don’t think 300 is enough.
The writer is president and CEO of the National Urban League.