Edward Blum, the man who targeted affirmative action, says he wants equality, but his actions are anti-Black

OPINION: Blum, who is now going after affirmative action in the workplace, seems determined to dismantle everything that levels the playing field in America for Black people.

EdwardBlumSupremeCourt - diversity lawsuits
Edward Blum, the affirmative action opponent behind the lawsuit challenging Harvard and the University of North Carolina's consideration of race in student admissions, leaves Supreme Court back in October. Blum has now filed a lawsuit in Atlanta focused on the support Black women business owners receive. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Many people may just now be hearing the name Edward Blum in the news. 

If I were asked to describe what Edward Blum does, I would say he uses his wealth and influence to dismantle public policies that were put in place because Black people in America were being discriminated against. He actively goes after policies that level the playing field for Black Americans. 

In his own words, Blum says, “I am focused on one area of public policy, and that is race and ethnicity.”

If you don’t know, Blum is the person behind the pair of lawsuits that led to the Supreme Court striking down affirmative action in college admissions, which declares that colleges may no longer take race into consideration when making admission decisions.

The lawsuits he brought against both Harvard University and the University of North Carolina used Asian Americans as the face of those suits and made the claim that giving preference to Black and Latino students made it more difficult for Asian students to gain admission. 

It wasn’t his first time trying this lawsuit. He did it before in 2012 with a white girl, Abigail Fisher, who didn’t get into the University of Texas. That case flopped, and Blum obviously set out to find a more sympathetic face to use for his cause. 

Blum was also the architect behind Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court case that essentially dismantled the Voting Rights Act. 

Blum recently filed a new lawsuit in Atlanta that targets Fearless Fund, a venture capital firm that provides $20,000 grants to Black women who run businesses. 

Blum is now actively going after affirmative action in the workplace, and it shouldn’t be a shock because last month, 13 Republican state attorney generals wrote a letter to 100 CEOs of the biggest corporations in America telling them that the recent Supreme Court ruling could also apply to hiring in the workplace as well. Blum also has the financial support of a legion of “anti-Democratic,” “big money” backers who have, as Slate put it, “regressive” goals. 

More from Slate:

The Democratic Policy and Communications Committee has bluntly called Blum’s organizations “fronts for corporate mega-donors seeking to change the law through the courts.” Following the money, as education analyst James S. Murphy does, reveals that from 2015-2020, Blum’s two main non-profits, Project on Fair Representation and Students for Fair Admissions, received $11.2 million in contributions, with Blum receiving more than $900,000 in pay. Significant donations have come from prominent conservative funders Searle Freedom Trust, the Scaife Foundation and Bradley Foundation, alongside at least $3 million from Donors Trust, which has been called the “dark money ATM of the right,” with the Koch and DeVos families among its major contributors. On top of this are the hundreds of millions of dollars flooding the judicial nominations process and shaping a radically conservative Supreme Court favorable to causes like Blum’s.

The kicker in this new lawsuit is that Blum is using a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 to do his dirty work. 

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was put in place in response to laws Southern states put in place during Reconstruction that were “designed to restrict freed blacks’ activity and ensure their availability as a workforce.”

The act said that anyone born in the United States was entitled to the same rights of citizenship “in every state and territory of the United States” regardless of race, color, or “previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude.

In his lawsuit, Blum is using a section of that act that prohibits racial discrimination in contracts. Blum’s nonprofit, American Alliance for Equal Rights, is making the claim that some of its members have been discriminated against and excluded from the grant fund because of their race. 

Read that last part again. Edward Blum is co-opting a law that was put in place to make sure Black people weren’t discriminated against and using it to make a “reverse racism” claim.

Please note that there is no such thing as “reverse racism” in America. Racism is a power construct, and the only group holding that level of power in America has always exclusively been white people. 

Blum is using wordplay to make the claim that he is just trying to make things equal for everyone when in actuality, his actions are anti-Black at their very core. He is actively ignoring the history and current state of America in defense of whiteness. 

When asked by the New York Times to explain his work, Blum said he believes race and ethnicity should not be used to “help” or “harm” anyone “in their life’s endeavors.” He said that includes job applications, voting, and college admissions. 

He also makes the claim thatthe vast majority of Americans, in poll after poll, Jews, gentiles, African Americans, Hispanics, don’t believe that a student’s race should be an element in college admissions.”

I’m not sure who Blum has been speaking with, but I can guarantee it is not the vast majority of Black people who have been faced with inequality in America for centuries, going all the way back to the days of enslavement. 

Blum told the Times that he spends three hours each morning looking through local newspapers to find “misdeeds by various actors who are discriminating on the basis of race.”

Look at the wordplay. There are many misguided and uninformed (white) people in America who would read that and think Blum is some kind of crusader who is doing a good thing. He is not. 

The Times reporter pointedly told Blum that affirmative action had a positive effect in diversifying student bodies on college campuses. 

Blum responded by saying that when people talk about diversity, they are really talking about “skin color diversity.”

Diversity is absolutely about skin color, among other things, and it’s that way because as I (and many others) have previously explained, the entire social construct of race was invented by white people as a classification system. Now that whiteness is not always working out the way they want it to, they want to move the goalposts, but it’s too late for all of that. 

When there are still policies in place that allow Black people to be discriminated against, that’s a problem. As long as implicit bias against Black people in every facet of our lives is still a thing, that’s a problem. 

Notice you don’t see Blum championing the causes of anything that would make things fair for Black people in America. 

It’s because he doesn’t want things to be fair for Black people in America. He wants to center whiteness. He wants whiteness at the forefront. Everything Blum is doing is enabling, defending and uplifting white supremacy — because doing nothing maintains the status quo. 

Some of his comments come off as extremely prejudiced and bigoted, including this one:

… an African American growing up on West 145th Street in New York City is going to be a very different person than an African American growing up in a multiracial suburb of Atlanta, whose father is a dermatologist and her mother is the principal of a high school. All that those two people probably have in common is that they have similar skin colors. They’re not interchangeable just because they’re Black.

I quite literally heard the hard “ER” as I read that even though it wasn’t anywhere in that sentence. He is making the distinction between “good Blacks” and “those other blacks.”

Blum knows what he’s doing. He’s been doing this for a long time. He’s filed more than two dozen lawsuits of this type, and eight of those lawsuits have reached the Supreme Court. 

Blum has made these types of statements before. In a 2017 interview with the New York Times, Blum egregiously conflated racial profiling with affirmative action by saying, “Most Americans don’t want race to be part of your application to college. They don’t want the police to use race as a profiling tool to prevent crime. They don’t want prosecutors to use race in the makeup of a jury.”

It’s a disingenuous statement at best. The only people who benefit from a type of privilege based on their skin color in America are white people. Everyone else “may” get a special consideration so as to not be discriminated against, but that’s not the same thing as a preference, and that needs to be made clear here as well. 

What Blum is fighting against is a consideration put in place to make sure everyone gets a shot, but he’s framing it as a fight against privilege. Black people don’t have privileges in this country. White people do. 

In that same 2017 interview, Blum tried to explain away why he wanted to dismantle the Voting Rights Act by making the same claim so many other white people do — the constant refrain of “times have changed.”

The Times said Blum actively searched “for localities that had recently come under Justice Department scrutiny, and then cold-called Frank Ellis, the county attorney of Shelby County, Ala.”

Once the Supreme Court struck down the law that required “preclearance” of laws that would impact voting (for Black people) in southern states, those same states began enacting laws that made it harder for Black people to vote. It was likely his intended result. 

As noted in that same 2017 Times article, Blum’s first lawsuit was based on the fact that he ran for Congress in Houston in 1992 and lost. He said he was bothered by the shape of the congressional district because it was “designed to make it easier for a minority candidate to win the seat.”

This country is built on the foundation of equal representation and that equal representation seems to be bothering Edward Blum. 

Make no mistake; each time he has a victory, he is going to up the ante. Blum is openly engineering a movement that is going to do direct harm to Black people specifically. 

He doesn’t really care about things being fair. He just wants to be white right. 

Monique Judge is a storyteller, content creator and writer living in Los Angeles. She is a word nerd who is a fan of the Oxford comma, spends way too much time on Twitter, and has more graphic t-shirts than you. Follow her on Twitter @thejournalista or check her out at moniquejudge.com.

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