Groups blast conservatives’ attempt to stop Smithsonian Latino internship

Groups blast conservatives’ attempt to stop Smithsonian Latino internship

Latino organizations and national civil rights groups blasted a lawsuit filed by conservative legal activist Edward Blum to end a Smithsonian Institution internship designed to draw more Latinos into museum studies and jobs.

The groups say in a friend of the court, or amicus, brief that the selection criteria for the internship do not include race or ethnicity and that application materials do not limit entry to any race or ethnicity.

The selection process is entirely race- and ethnicity-neutral, the groups say in the brief. The groups oppose Blum’s request for a preliminary injunction suspending the internship program. A hearing is set for April 8.

Blum, president of the American Alliance for Equal Rights, sued the director of the yet-to-be-built American Museum of the National Latino last month. He has alleged the program is unconstitutional because it is “not equally open to non-Latinos.” Blum won the legal case that effectively ended affirmative action.

Blum did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The groups said Blum is asking that the equal protection clause, part of the 14th Amendment, be used “as a bludgeon to deter equal opportunity.” The equal protection clause, which guarantees “equal protection under the law,” has been the basis for court rulings that prohibit discrimination, such as the landmark desegregation case Brown v. Board of Education.

In addition, the organizations said Blum fails to understand Latino identity and ignores historical “under-inclusion” of Latinos in the American workforce.

“This lawsuit attacks efforts to remedy racial discrimination and is part of an assault on civil rights progress,” Katy Youker, director of the Economic Justice Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in a news release issued Friday.

Blum had said in his lawsuit that in two classes of interns hired in 2022 and 2023, no one had identified as Black, Asian or white and that in those two years, at least 25, or nearly 90%, had identified as Latino. He said no intern identified as non-Latino.

But in their brief, the Latino and civil rights groups noted that Latinos are racially, ethnically and socioeconomically diverse.

“Many are Indigenous, others are of African ancestry, and many are not. Many speak Spanish, and many others don’t,” said Francisca Fajana, director of racial justice strategy at LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

The groups, citing federal documents, say Latinos are about 5% of the total Smithsonian workforce of over 6,300 employees.

“What we do know for a fact is that unequal educational opportunities for Latinos endure. The Latino Museum equips students with technical knowledge and skills to enter and succeed in the museum workforce,” Fajana said.

The brief was also filed by the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs on behalf of the Afro Latino Forum, ASPIRA National and the Hispanic Federation.

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Suzanne Gamboa

Suzanne Gamboa is a national reporter for NBC Latino and

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