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Smithsonian Opens ‘Latinx’ Internship Program to All Races in Face of Legal Challenge

The Smithsonian’s Latino history museum will no longer use race to evaluate applicants for its prestigious internship program, according to a settlement agreement released yesterday, the latest in a series of legal blows to race-based diversity initiatives in the wake of the Supreme Court’s ban on affirmative action.

The internship had been reserved for “Latina, Latino, and Latinx-identifying undergraduate students.” In February, the American Alliance for Equal Rights sued the museum, which explores Hispanic-American history and is located in Washington, D.C., alleging that the program violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

Rather than fight the lawsuit, the museum agreed to open the internship to all races. It changed the scoring rubric used to evaluate applicants, telling reviewers that they “should not give preference or restrict selection based on race or ethnicity,” and added similar language to the museum’s website.

“The Undergraduate Internship is equally open to students of all races and ethnicities,” a new disclaimer on the site reads. “The Museum does not use racial or ethnic classifications or preferences in selecting awardees for the Undergraduate Internship.”

The Smithsonian is the latest institution to buckle in the face of lawsuits targeting racial preferences. Several prominent law firms, including Morrison Foerster and Perkins Coie, ended or modified their diversity fellowships after the American Alliance for Equal Rights sued them for excluding white applicants. The alliance, which was founded by Edward Blum, the man behind the lawsuit that ended affirmative action, has also sued an investment firm, the Fearless Fund, over its race-based grant program.

Similar complaints have been filed by America First Legal, the group led by former Trump adviser Stephen Miller, and by the American Civil Rights Project.

Though last year’s Supreme Court decision applied only to universities, some lower courts have used the verdict to strike down racial preferences in other contexts. One month after the decision came down, U.S. District Judge Clifton Corker enjoined a minority set-aside program run by the Small Business Association, citing the affirmative action case as precedent.

“The facts in Students for Fair Admissions, Inc. concerned college admissions programs,” Corker wrote in a footnote, but its reasoning is not limited to just those programs.”

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