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Smithsonian settles discrimination lawsuit with affirmative action foe

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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 officials “should not give preference or restrict selection based on race or ethnicity.”

The lawsuit, filed in February by conservative legal activist Edward Blum’s American Alliance for Equal Rights, alleged that the internship gave preference to Latino students in violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause.

“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 considering 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 business in accessing capital and government contracts, could not limit services only to Blacks, Latinos and other racial minorities. Last year, the Small Business Administration’s was forced to overhaul a program for minority contractors after a Tennessee judge ruled it could not admit businesses based 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 make up, was dissolved as part of the government spending bill signed into law Saturday.

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