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Legal strategist Edward Blum sues Smithsonian museum director over a Latino-focused internship program

Parts of the American Latino exhibition of the National Museum are seen at the Molina Family Latino Gallery in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Astrid Riecken/The Washington Post/Getty Images via CNN Newsource)

By Nicquel Terry Ellis, CNN


(CNN) — Edward Blum, the legal strategist behind the Supreme Court case that dismantled affirmative action in college admissions, has filed a lawsuit against the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Latino and the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services over an internship program that strives to increase Latino representation in key museum roles.

In the complaint, filed Feb. 22 in the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., the American Alliance for Equal Rights, which is led by Blum, claims the museum’s Latino Museum Studies Program undergraduate internship violates the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit states that in the two years the internship program has operated — 2022 and 2023 — “the museum has never hired an intern who identified as non-Latino.”

“Its consideration of race and ethnicity harms Americans, like Plaintiff’s members, who want to participate but have the wrong DNA,” the lawsuit states. “It should be declared unlawful and enjoined.”

The plaintiff’s members are not specifically named in the lawsuit.

The 12-week internship program, according to the museum’s website, is “designed to increase hands-on training opportunities for Latina, Latino, and Latinx-identifying undergraduate students interested in art museum careers.”

Plans for the National Museum of the American Latino building are still being developed, but its gallery is on display at the National Museum of American History.

David Coronado, a spokesman for the museum, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“We are unable to provide a statement regarding this complaint,” Coronado said in an email. “As a matter of policy, the Smithsonian does not comment on litigation.”

CNN reached out to Blum for comment and he shared a news release containing a statement on the lawsuit.

In the statement, Blum called it “unfair and illegal” to reserve participation in programs like the museum’s internship for specific races and ethnicities.

“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 determining factor,” Blum said.

“It is our hope the Smithsonian Institution ends these discriminatory programs and allows all students, regardless of their skin color compete for these important internships.”

The Smithsonian lawsuit is among several legal challenges Blum has filed since he successfully brought a case before the Supreme Court that gutted affirmative action last year. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court rejected a request from Blum’s group, Students for Fair Admissions, to temporarily block the U.S. Military Academy at West Point from race-conscious admissions, CNN previously reported.

Blum is currently in a legal battle with the Fearless Fund, a Black women-owned venture capitalist fund, over its grant program that offers funding exclusively to Black women entrepreneurs. In August, Blum also sued two international law firms over their diversity fellowships, but he later dropped one of the lawsuits after the firm decided to open its fellowship to all associates.

The lawsuits come amid a string of attacks against diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs in corporate America, schools and higher education in recent months.

Black business leaders and DEI experts told CNN in previous interviews that Blum’s lawsuits stand to undo decades of progress toward leveling the playing field for Black and brown people is various job fields. DEI programs, they say, are being created to foster safer, more inclusive work environments for people of all races, genders, sexual orientations and religious identities.

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