The court’s ruling to shut down the Fearless Fund is failing Black women

Fearless Fund CEO Arian Simone listens to a speaker during a rally outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on Thursday, March 14, 2024. Fearless Fund, a venture capital firm run by women of color, invests exclusively in technology and consumer products. commodity-based businesses owned by women of color. Credit – Tom Brenner – The Washington Post/Getty Images

asa Black woman in America, I am used to people in power making decisions that are not in my best interest. But on Monday, June 3, a federal appeals court’s decision to block a grant program for Black women entrepreneurs in Georgia was on a level that even the most jaded among us are not accustomed to. It stems from a lawsuit claiming the program is “racially discriminatory,” led by Edward Blum, who also was behind the Supreme Court’s 2023 decision to overturn affirmative action in college admissions. In reality, however, this is a significant setback to efforts to build a just economy, a goal that benefits us all.

This ruling jeopardizes similar programs aimed at creating a level playing field for Black women, such as the program I run to support Black mothers living in extreme poverty in Jackson, Miss. Like the Fearless Fund, I am using private dollars to solve the public problem of systemic inequality. in our economy that black women are left behind. It is incumbent on all of us who believe we are all created equal to resist this latest assault on righting historical wrongs—a necessary start to building a future where everyone has equal access to opportunity.

Black women in the United States have long been pushed aside, especially when it comes to the economy. The Fearless Fund was created to combat a notable outcome of this marginalization: lack of access to financial resources. Recent figures from The Fearless Fund show that less than 1% of venture capital-raised companies were founded by women of color, and the fund offered $20,000 grants to companies owned by Black women.

The court’s decision put the grant program on hold while the case works its way through the legal system. It’s a stark reminder that despite our contributions and potential, Black women are still excluded from opportunities readily available to others, even though we have the highest female labor force participation rate. Our hard work is not paying off in the same way as our peers, with the average salary among top positions held by Black women being $50,000 less per year than the average salary among top positions held by white men. This gap represents a collective loss of $36 billion among Black women – an exclusion that is not just about money; but about the continued undervaluing of black women’s labor, ideas, and leadership.

Read more: It takes black women in the US 20 months to earn what white men earn in a year. Here’s the history behind that wage gap

Targeted efforts like those offered by the Fearless Fund and the program I lead, Magnolia Mother’s Trust, are essential to bringing balance to our economic structures. Such initiatives recognize the unique challenges that marginalized groups face and provide the specific support needed to overcome these barriers.

Pilots targeted at a specific group are also how many widespread programs get started. I started distributing money to Black mothers living in poverty in 2018. By the time the pandemic hit in 2020, the positive results of my program—from improved prospects for their future to increased savings—helped provide evidence to support the transition from the extended child crisis. Tax Credit, which provided almost every parent in America with a guaranteed income.

Blocking targeted programs under the guise of promoting fairness is a profound misunderstanding of equality versus equity. Equality means that everyone receives the same resources, regardless of context and specific circumstances. Equality is often illustrated by showing a short and taller person behind a fence trying to watch a baseball game. Despite being given a block of the same size, only the taller person can see.

Equity changes the picture by giving the smaller person a bigger block, so both can now see. Equality means recognizing the different needs and starting points of individuals and providing the necessary means to achieve an equivalent outcome.

The court’s ruling not only halts the Fearless Fund’s crucial grant work, but also sets a dangerous precedent that could jeopardize other equity-building initiatives across the country. The efforts to end these programs coincide with conservative-led fights to dismantle guaranteed income programs in the US, long seen as a tool to promote economic and gender justice. The combination of these attacks could deter organizations from creating or continuing programs designed to support underrepresented groups for fear of legal consequences. The broader impact could have a chilling effect on the movement towards a more inclusive economy.

Americans must recognize and correct the systemic barriers that marginalized groups face, and supporting targeted programs is an essential part of this process. Black women are among the most entrepreneurial demographics in the U.S. and are more likely to start businesses than other groups, despite facing significant barriers. We create jobs, stimulate innovation and contribute to economic growth; promoting a more inclusive and robust economy. Investing in Black women specifically is not just a moral imperative, but a strategic economic decision that benefits everyone.

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