Just the News is reporting today that Oregon Legislature Emergency Board has declared that $62 million of a $200 million government fund to help small businesses hit by COVID-19 could only go to black-owned businesses or black families.
The article reports:
Maria Garcia, owner of the Revolucion Coffee House in Portland, applied for some of that $62 million allotment, called the Oregon Cares Fund, but was denied because she doesn’t “identify as Black.” Under the program, black families are reportedly eligible for up to $3,000 and black-owned businesses for up to $100,000 in government funds.
She was reportedly denied relief because her business “does not meet the criteria because 0% of its owners identify as Black,” prompting Garcia to sue in federal court, arguing the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause has been violated.
James Huffman, professor and dean emeritus at Lewis & Clark Law School, told Just the News he has communicated with Garcia’s attorney about the case, and Huffman wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed supporting Garcia titled “Oregon’s Segregated Covid Relief Fund Is Blatantly Unconstitutional.”
…“It violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution that requires that people who are similarly situated be treated similarly,” Huffman said. “And she is clearly similarly-situated to a black-owned restaurant. She has her own coffee house, and she’s been denied denied funds explicitly because she does not qualify as black.”
Huffman said while Oregon has a compelling interest to end any state discrimination against black Americans, he said the Oregon Cares Fund has not proven that all blacks and black businesses have been discriminated against by the state, especially relative to businesses owned by people of other races.
We can never undo the damage done by racism and discrimination, but penalizing white business owners for things they had no part in does not help anyone. We need to go back to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., and make judgements on merit–not skin color. Discrimination against any race is wrong. Simply changing the race you discriminate against does not solve anything.