Home Business Smithsonian’s Latino museum settles with affirmative action foe

Smithsonian’s Latino museum settles with affirmative action foe

Smithsonian’s Latino museum settles with affirmative action foe


The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Latino has promised to make it clear that its undergraduate internship is open to all ethnicities — not only Latino students — after the museum was sued last month by a prominent affirmative action opponent who accused the program of “pro-Latino discrimination.”

In a settlement agreement filed Tuesday, the Smithsonian agreed to add a statement to its application that the internship is “equally open to students of all races and ethnicities” and that officials “should not give preference or restrict selection based on race or ethnicity.”

Though the application process did not explicitly bar non-Latinos, activist Edward Blum’s American Alliance for Equal Rights alleged in its Feb. 22 lawsuit that all 30 interns since 2022 were Latino. Such results suggest a racial preference, which would violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause, the group alleged.

“Every student who is interested in this area of museum studies should have the opportunity to compete for an internship without their race being a factor,” Blum said in a statement Wednesday. “Corporations, law firms, academia, and cultural institutions must end these kinds of unlawful, racially exclusive programs and policies.”

In an email, Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said she would “let the settlement speak for itself” and declined further comment. In court documents, the museum said it has never considered race when reviewing internship applications.

Federal diversity efforts have come under fire in recent years, especially since the Supreme Court last year upended race-conscious college admissions. In March, a federal judge in Texas ruled that the Minority Business Development Agency, a 55-year-old federal program created to assist minority-owned businesses in accessing capital and government contracts, could not limit services to only Blacks, Latinos and other racial minorities. Last year, the Small Business Administration was forced to overhaul its program for minority contractors after a Tennessee judge ruled that it could not base admittance on race.

Last week, the U.S. House Office of Diversity and Inclusion, created in 2020 to build a workforce reflective of the nation’s demographic makeup, was dissolved as part of the government spending bill signed into law Saturday.

Dariely Rodriguez, deputy chief counsel for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed an amicus brief in the Smithsonian case, said the organization is “pleased that the internship program will proceed as it was designed — open to all applicants while specifically addressing the underrepresentation of Latinos in the museum industry.”

“Given that only 5 percent of key museum positions are filled by Latinos, programs like the Smithsonian’s are necessary to help eliminate systemic barriers to opportunity,” Rodriguez added.

Before the settlement, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said in its brief, filed along with a group of Latino organizations, that the plaintiffs were using the equal protection clause as a “bludgeon to deter equal opportunity.”


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