Court of Appeals Rules Against the Fearless Fund

Ayana Parsons

By Asia Nail
The Truth Reporter

In the shadow of a gavel’s strike, the 11th Circuit Court’s ruling echoes through the corridors of justice, reverberating with a familiar yet insidious resonance. The decision to halt the Fearless Fund’s venture capital Strivers Grant program for Black women entrepreneurs is a manifestation of the same forces that have historically sought to stifle the progress of marginalized communities. We now find ourselves at another crossroads.

The lawsuit against the Atlanta-based Fearless Fund was initiated by the American Alliance for Equal Rights, spearheaded by Edward Blum, a prominent conservative figure known for his involvement in legal challenges, notably the affirmative action case in college admissions. Blum welcomed the court’s decision, arguing against programs that he perceives as excluding individuals based on race.

Arian Simone, the indomitable force and co-founder (along with) behind the Fearless Fund, poignantly described this ruling as devastating, and rightly so. For the message conveyed by these judges is not one of justice, but of maintaining a status quo where the scales remain forever tipped against equality. In their decision, they bring a narrative peddled by those who fear the rise of a truly diverse and inclusive America, a narrative designed to keep us divided and subdued.

The echoes of this ruling resonate in the hearts of every Black woman who has ever been told she is not enough or that her dreams are too big for the confines of her skin. The Court’s decision, steeped in the rhetoric of so-called equality, dismisses the lived realities of Black women who, despite systemic challenges, still dare to dream and build.

The fortress of venture capital has often shut its gates to women, while mainstream financial institutions have left communities of color to fend for themselves, offering little in the way of support for entrepreneurial endeavors. For centuries, race and gender have been wielded as tools of exclusion, erecting barriers that prevent women and people of color from accessing opportunities that many take for granted. The scars of these policies are still fresh, particularly for Black women, who remain a mere 1.4 percent of the C-suite.

The fight for the Strivers Grant Fund and similar initiatives are crucial steps toward rectifying historical inequities. Fighting for these types of programs is a fight for our future, for the generations to come, and for the realization of a world where our children can dream freely and achieve boundlessly.

The Black community is more than aware that the dismantling of affirmative action was never just a consequence of misguided judgments; it was a calculated objective from the start.

Affirmative action was the only tangible, enforceable mechanism that held institutions accountable, compelling them to take concrete steps toward genuine equality. It was the hammer that cracked the shell of systemic discrimination, and those who benefit from the status quo understand this all too well.

The eradication of affirmative action was a successful strategic move by those in power to remove the very tool that mandated businesses, universities and other institutions to strive for a level playing field. It was the only administrative apparatus with teeth, one that could be enforced and measured, ensuring that opportunities were distributed more equitably. Without it, the push for diversity, equity, and inclusion risks becoming a series of hollow promises, devoid of the structural support necessary to make real change.

Still, Fearless Fund, a beacon of hope for Black women entrepreneurs, stands accused of discrimination. Yet, what is truly being challenged here is the audacity of Black women to dream, to build and to thrive in spaces historically denied to us. This decision, cloaked in the ‘language of equality,’ is a gross misrepresentation of justice.

It’s as if someone were to argue that a lifeboat designed for those left stranded at sea is unfair to those already safe on shore. The Fearless Fund’s grant program for Black women is that lifeboat, a necessary and targeted effort to uplift those who have been systematically denied opportunities. Blum’s argument is like saying that providing this lifeboat is unjust to those who don’t need it.

This legal development underscores the broader conflict between efforts to foster diversity and the pushback from conservative groups advocating for what they see as ‘color-blind policies.’ It raises fundamental questions about the interpretation and application of civil rights laws in contemporary society for specific ethnic groups.

Yet, we remain undeterred.

The belief in scarcity, in the zero-sum game, is a relic of a bygone era, a tool of division wielded by those who fear the loss of their unearned privilege. We must reject this outdated notion embracing the truth that the world is rich with potential, that our collective prosperity is not diminished by inclusion but enhanced.

As the National Fair Housing Alliance (NFHA) articulates in their recent statement, this ruling is a deliberate attempt to unravel the fabric of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) that so many have fought tirelessly to weave.

Nikitra Bailey, the Executive Vice President of the NFHA, aptly captures the essence of this judicial maneuver: “The 11th Circuit Court’s decision is part of a larger unwise attempt to dismantle Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) programs nationwide and hinder decades of Civil Rights progress.”

It is no mere coincidence that the same architects behind the Supreme Court’s anti-affirmative action ruling in 2023 are the same hands guiding this decision in 2024. Still, Bailey’s words ring with a truth that cuts through the fog of confusion:

“The reality is advancing racial equity is the rising tide that lifts all boats.”

The U.S. economy, often touted as the land of boundless opportunity, stands to grow by $5 trillion over the next five years if we effectively address the discrimination that has long targeted Black communities. This is not just about moral justice; it is about economic practicality.

It is a cruel irony to now insist on race neutrality, denying race-conscious solutions that seek to remedy centuries of injustice. The court’s decision, misguided and disheartening as it is, cannot quench the flame of our resolve.

Truth-telling is an act of love, arising from a place of deep compassion and solidarity. It is a recognition that the wounds of injustice are not borne by the few but are a collective scar on our national conscience. People should never be mere cogs in the machinery of profit. We are all invaluable, irreplaceable, and deserving of every opportunity to thrive. When we speak out against racism, we affirm the humanity of those who have been systematically dehumanized. We declare, unequivocally, that Black lives matter.

The selective outrage is telling. There was no uproar when the Paycheck Protection Program funneled over 90 percent of its initial $350 billion to White-owned businesses, leaving Black and Latino business owners to grapple with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. 40 percent of Black-owned businesses and 32 percent of Latino-owned businesses closed their doors in those early, chaotic days. Yet, when an initiative like the Fearless Fund’s Strivers Grant dares to level the playing field, the forces of regression spring into action, cloaking their intentions in the language of equality.

To confront the harsh realities of capitalistic division is to demand a reckoning with an economic system that has, for far too long, placed profit over people. It is to challenge the false narrative that equates worth with wealth, to expose the lie that the market is a neutral arbiter of value. In truth, the market has been shaped by policies and practices that prioritize the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few, while the many are left to struggle and strive, often in vain.

Speaking truth to power is an act of courage, a refusal to be silenced in the face of oppression. It is to say, with the clarity of conviction, that we will not be divided by the false distinctions of race and class. We will not be pitted against one another in a zero-sum game of survival, but will join hands in the struggle for a more just and equitable society.

There is a myth that expanding opportunities for one group necessarily takes from another, as though the bounty of the world were a finite, piecemeal ration to be doled out sparingly. This is deception, a shadow cast by those who would have us believe in scarcity, in the false arithmetic of zero-sum gains. But let us cut this illusion with the sharp blade of truth, and let us understand that the world is abundant, that opportunity, like love, multiplies when shared.

Imagine, if you will, a vast and fertile garden. It is a place where every seed, when planted, does not merely occupy space but contributes to the richness of the soil, to the vibrancy of the ecosystem. In this garden, the flourishing of one plant does not stifle the growth of another. Instead, the diverse array of flora thrives symbiotically, each one enhancing the beauty and progress of the whole. This is the reality of opportunity—when nurtured and spread, it enriches us all.

To believe that giving opportunities to the historically marginalized somehow diminishes the prospects of others is to misunderstand the very nature of progress. It is to overlook the truth that our society, our economy, and our humanity are not static but dynamic, ever-expanding. When doors are opened for Black women, for people of color, for those who have been systematically excluded, we do not merely redistribute the existing wealth of opportunities. We create new avenues of innovation, of creativity, of growth that benefit everyone.

Let us not be dismayed.

In this moment of systemic adversity, we must remember the lessons of our ancestors who faced even graver injustices with unyielding courage and tenacity. We must channel the spirit of Angela Davis, who once declared:

“I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

The spirit of resilience in our community is undiminished. Now, more than ever, we must channel our energy into creating and advocating for new laws that can carry the torch of equality forward. Here are some key DEI areas where we can focus our efforts:

  • Strengthening Anti-Discrimination Laws
  • Implementing Transparency Mandates
  • Supporting Minority-Owned Businesses
  • Advocating for Comprehensive Equal Opportunity Policies
  • Enforcing Pay Equity
  • Enhancing Civil Rights Enforcement
  • Promoting Inclusive Economic Policies

To speak truth to power in this landscape is to engage in an act of profound love and defiance, a testament to the unwavering belief in the inherent dignity and worth of every human soul.

The recent ruling against the Fearless Fund by the 11th Circuit Court is a stark reminder that the battle for justice and equality is far from over. Instead, it is a clarion call to every soul who carries the legacy of resilience, resistance, and renaissance within them.

We must also engage in the legal and political arenas with the same fervor that drives our entrepreneurial spirits. We need advocates and allies who understand that true equality is not a win-lose situation but a shared journey toward a more just society. Organizations like the National Venture Capital Association have already stepped forward in defense of the Fearless Fund, recognizing that diversity is not merely a box to be checked but a foundation for innovation and growth. DEI professionals must expand these alliances, build robust networks of support, and invest in our futures with unwavering resolve.

James Baldwin reminds us that “Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” In this spirit, we can confront the uncomfortable truths of our history and our present. We can face the legacy of slavery, segregation, and systemic racism that continues to shape our society in the relentless pursuit of profit.

Our friends, our children—they know when we lie. They sense it in the hesitance of our words, in the disconnect between what we say and what we do. When we lie to ourselves, we become frauds, actors in a play where the audience sees through our masks. The Black community is not fooled by this latest act. They see the truth, the bitter irony of being told that efforts to rectify centuries of oppression are somehow unjust.

The myth of statistical quotas of equality is another illusion. We are flooded with data showing the stark divides in wealth, education, and opportunity. Yet, we are asked to believe that addressing these divides is unnecessary, even harmful. It’s like standing in a desert, being told there’s no need for water, while the mirage of an oasis shimmers just out of reach.

The Black community is wise to this deception. We all know that true equality is not achieved by ignoring the disparities but by confronting them head-on.

Remember, the promises of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion are not mere words to us. They are lifelines, lifeboats in a sea of historical inequities. In 2020, we witnessed a tidal wave of pledges, a surge of voices declaring that Black lives matter, that the time for change was now. A majority of Americans stood with us, echoing our cries for justice. And now, as the powerful attempt to rewrite the narrative, we must remind them—and ourselves—that we are the authors of our destiny.

As we navigate our new world toward equality, may we all remember the power of collective action. The powerful may try to shift the story, but they cannot shift our collective spirit. They cannot dim the light of our resolve. As we move forward, let us carry with us the unwavering belief that we are all enough, that we deserve every opportunity, and that our fight is righteous and just. We shall not be moved, for our roots run deep, nourished by the waters of ancestral struggle and resilience. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and our vision is clear. Together, we shall overcome.