City agrees to end discriminatory ‘black-only’ grants, scholarships in lawsuit settlement

From: Daily Planet

The City of Asheville recently settled a federal civil rights lawsuit after agreeing to remove all racially discriminatory provisions in a city-funded scholarship program. 

The city also agreed to remove racially discriminatory eligibility provisions in a related program that provides grants to educators. City Council approved the settlement on Jan. 11.

In October 2021, the lawsuit was filed by Judicial Watch in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina on behalf of a North Carolina citizens group, WNC Citizens for Equality Inc., whose members include high school students who were ineligible for a scholarship program only because they are not black.

The verdict was termed a “Judicial Watch victory” in the organization’s recent newsletter. (Judicial Watch bills itself as a “conservative activist group that files Freedom of Information Act lawsuits to investigate claimed misconduct by government officials.”)

In summarizing the case, Judicial Watch reported the following:

“On May 5, 2021, the City of Asheville entered into an agreement with the Asheville City Schools Foundation to establish and administer the City of Asheville Scholarship Fund.

“According to the agreement, the City of Asheville Scholarship is ‘awarded in perpetuity to black high school students within Asheville City Schools, with special consideration given for black students pursuing a career in education.’ (In July 2020, Ashville’s City Council unanimously approved what is called a ‘reparations initiative,’ that provided ‘funding to programs geared toward increasing homeownership and business and career opportunities for black residents.’)

“To settle our civil rights lawsuit, on January 11, 2022, Asheville’s City Council approved a resolution that removes the racial criteria for the scholarship:

“[T]he scholarship will give preference to applicants whose household members, including parents and/or guardians have a high school education or less, these applicants representing ‘first-generation’ college students.

 “The City Council also removed racially discriminatory language for a scholarship program for educators and staff of Asheville City Schools.

“The scholarship agreements were also amended to prohibit discrimination based on race and other categories.

“Our clients, a group of Asheville residents, including high school students, courageously challenged this blatantly discriminatory and illegal scholarship program in federal court.

“Thankfully, the City of Asheville did the right thing in quickly ending these indefensible race-based scholarship programs.

“This federal lawsuit and the resulting remarkable settlement should serve as a wake-up call to those activists and allied politicians pushing the extremist leftist agenda to segregate and discriminate based on race,” Judicial Watch stated.

Meanwhile, the Daily Planet called Dr. Carl Mumpower, one of the local citizens involved in the case against the city, on Jan. 16 for his comements on the case.

Despite being sick with COVID-19, Mumpower, who writes a regular opinion column for the Daily Planet, agreed — albeit a bit hoarsely —  to share his viewpoint.

“I think, in addition to the students’ parents who stepped forward at risk and great courage, I think we’ve got two people who deserve the lion’s share of appreciation for their efforts,” Mumpower said.

“They are the ones who made it happen, — and I come in a distant third.”

Specifically, he recognized Asheville-based attorney Ruth Smith, “who demonstrated great conviction and maturity,” and John Miall — “a former city employee who knows how ‘it works.’” While Miall is retired, he remains “very much engaged” in politics, Mumpower emphasized.

So how does Mumpower feel about such issues with the city going forward? the Daily Planet asked.

“Well, unfortunately, its just the beginning,” Mumpower, a psychologist, replied. “In how they handled the outcome, the city demonstrated their lack of sincerity. That means they didn’t learn — and then they tried to avoid public accountability and input.

“We’ve already got a (another) suit (filed against the city) for releasing misinformation. So we think there’s going to be a series of opportunities — unfortunately for us — to get their attention and hold them accountable. We’re just normal people. We’re not wealthy….”

On the bright side, Mumpower said, the recently settled case shows the city that “yelling, getting mad and throwing rocks doesn’t work.

“The fact that they surrendered within a week of us filing it, and didn’t even send a brief to the court … and contacted us, tells everyone that they know” they had no case.

Mumpower added, “Smart people ‘own’ and learn from their errors. Foolish people hide and deny their errors. You can’t learn like that.

“The city’s indifference to how they put us at risk — I found that disturbing, too.”

Despite suffering from COVID-19, Mumpower stoically concluded the interview by noting that the recently settled lawsuit involved “three (local) people standing up and putting themselves at risk, as ‘point men,’” and winning against a city government wielding money and power.

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