The Fearless Fund aims to lift up Black women business owners – and for that, it’s getting sued.
A new lawsuit has been filed against the Atlanta-based firm, because its funding programs are exclusively geared toward women founders of color. It’s been brought by Edward Blum, a conservative activist who has, for years, pursued legal attacks on affirmative action, or active efforts taken by companies and institutions to better include and uplift marginalized individuals.
Black women entrepreneurs certainly have it harder than most any other group of business owners, especially when it comes to securing start-up or growth capital. Black women receive less than 1% of all VC dollars doled out in a given year, research shows. And while there was a brief bump in overall support of Black-owned businesses following the 2020 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, that backing has largely waned as time has gone on.
Then again, there have always been hurdles for Black women looking to launch. Fearless Fund co-founder and Korn Ferry inclusion board leader Ayana Parsons noted in a press conference on the lawsuit that “women such as ourselves have been overlooked. We’ve been marginalized. We’ve been underfunded and unsupported.”
And Black women, she added, routinely “lack access to capital, access to resources, access to strategic networks and the education needed to scale their businesses.”
Yet Blum alleges that programs attempting to negate these ongoing inequities are guilty of “explicit racial exclusion,” the Post reported. And his case can’t simply be waved aside – he most recently fought against the inclusion of affirmative action practices in college admissions processes before the U.S. Supreme Court, and won.
He also recently filed two other suits against corporate law firms who run fellowship programs specifically geared toward students of color and those who are members of the LGBTQ community. “Laws must apply equally to every racial and ethnic group in the country,” Blum said in a comment about the lawsuits to the Post.
Legal experts are concerned that Blum’s suits, fueled by racist ideologies, may be the start of broader attacks against corporate diversity initiatives. “Conservative litigators are going to be looking for ways to kind of extend the reasoning and rationale of the affirmative action cases into new contexts,” David Gans, a director at the Constitutional Accountability Center, a nonprofit law firm, told the Post.
The Fearless Fund has backers like finance giants Bank of America and Mastercard, and well-known brands like cosmetics company The Lip Bar and restaurant chain Slutty Vegan in its portfolio. To date, it has given out over $26 million in investments, and $3 million in grants.
But now, it must hold back from announcing its newest group of grant winners, which it had planned to do ahead of Labor Day weekend, and instead invest in the upcoming legal battle.
Fame civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who will be assisting on the case, referred to Blum and others like him as “enemies of equality” at the Fearless Fund’s press conference. He also posited that the Fearless Fund was chosen as Blum’s target because “he thought they would be the easiest ones to pick off.”
But, Crump added: “Oh, was he wrong.”