The Oregon Cares Fund, part of a COVID-19 state stimulus relief fund, set aside $62 million of taxpayers’ money for black individuals, black-owned businesses, and black community organizations. Three Oregon residents say their government is violating their constitutional rights.
The three business owners — one woman of Mexican descent and two white men — filed lawsuits against the state over the set-aside fund.
An excerpt from the New York Times:
The dispute in Oregon is the latest legal skirmish in the nation’s decades-long battle over affirmative action, and comes in a year in which the pandemic has starkly exposed the socioeconomic and health disparities that African-Americans face. It has unfolded, too, against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, with institutions across America — from corporations to city councils — acknowledging systemic racism, and activists demanding that meaningful steps be taken to undo racial inequities.
In reference to the “decades-long battle over affirmative action,” colleges and universities across the country have discriminated against non-black students for decades under the so-called affirmative action scheme. To make up for past racial discrimination, so the argument goes, the government must be allowed to use race as a factor in admissions. That means some applicants are denied admission based on their race. Racial preferences are a double-edged sword. A government that discriminates in favor of blacks also has the power to discriminate against them.
Wasn’t the point of the 1960s-era civil rights movement to stop government-mandated racial discrimination?
The Center for Individuals Rights (CIR) represents Maria Garcia, owner of the Revolucion Coffee House in Portland. She requested money from the fund, and the state denied her application. CIR contends that setting up a racially exclusive government fund “violates the Fourteenth Amendment and federal anti-discrimination law,” and filed a lawsuit on her behalf against the state’s Department of Administrative Services, and two Oregon non-profits that established the COVID-19 relief fund.
But for now, no money will be dispensed. Oregon Live reported that the state has suspended the fund and turned over the remaining $8.8 million to a federal court while the case is pending.
The Oregon Cares Fund agreed to deposit its remaining money with the court Thursday after plaintiffs challenging the fund’s constitutionality asked U.S. Judge Karin Immergut to issue a preliminary injunction or restraining order to stop the fund from distributing money on the basis of race.
Observers have said it is unlikely that legal challenges would force Black Oregonians who received assistance to repay that money, even if the fund and its supporters ultimately lose in court.