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The Court Ruling to Halt The Fearless Fund Fails Black Women

5 minute read
Nyandoro is the founding CEO of Springboard to Opportunities, a Jackson, Miss. non-profit that has pioneered a “radically resident-driven” approach to ending generational poverty

As a 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 female entrepreneurs in Georgia was a level even the most jaded among us are not accustomed to. It stems from a lawsuit claiming the program is "racially discriminatory,” spearheaded by Edward Blum, who also was behind the Supreme Court’s decision in 2023 to overturn affirmative action in college admissions. In reality, however, this is a significant setback for efforts to build an equitable economy, a goal that benefits us all.

This ruling jeopardizes similar programs aimed at leveling the playing field for Black women, like the one I run to support Black mothers living in extreme poverty in Jackson, Miss. Like the Fearless Fund, I use private dollars to solve the public problem of systemic inequities in our economy that leave Black women behind. It is incumbent on all of us who believe that we are all created equal to stand against this latest attack on righting historical wrongs—a necessary start to building a future where everyone has the same access to opportunity.

Black women in the United States have long been cast aside, particularly when it comes to the economy. The Fearless Fund was established to combat a glaring result 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 are founded by women of color​, and the fund offered $20,000 grants to businesses owned by Black women.

The court’s decision has suspended the grant program while the case makes its way through the legal system. It is a stark reminder that despite our contributions and potential, Black women continue to be excluded from opportunities that are readily available to others, even though we have the highest labor force participation among women. Our hard work does not pay off in nearly the same way as our counterparts, with the average salary among the top positions held by Black women clocking in at $50,000 less a year than the average pay of top roles for white men. This gap constitutes a $36 billion collective loss among Black women—an exclusion that is not just about money; but about the persistent undervaluing of Black women's labor, ideas, and leadership.

Read More: It Takes Black Women in the U.S. 20 Months to Earn What White Men Make 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 faced by marginalized groups and provide the specific support needed to overcome these barriers.

Pilots focused on a specific group are also how many widespread programs begin. I started distributing cash to Black mothers living in poverty in 2018. By the time the pandemic hit in 2020, the positive results of my program—from improved outlook regarding their future to increased savings—helped provide evidence to support the passage of the expanded Child Tax Credit, which provided a guaranteed income to nearly every parent in America.

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

Equity changes the image by giving the shorter person a taller block, so that now both can see. Equity means recognizing the different needs and starting points of individuals and providing the necessary resources to achieve an equal 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 coincides with conservative-led fights to dismantle guaranteed income programs in the U.S., long seen as a tool to promote economic and gender justice. The pairing of these attacks could deter organizations from creating or continuing programs designed to support underrepresented groups, fearing legal repercussions. The broader impact could be a chilling effect on the movement toward a more inclusive economy.

Americans must recognize and rectify the systemic barriers that marginalized groups face, and supporting targeted programs are a vital part of this process. Black women are among the most entrepreneurial demographics in the U.S., launching businesses at higher rates than other groups despite facing significant barriers​. We create jobs, drive innovation, and contribute to economic growth; fostering 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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