An exhibit at the National Museum of the American Latino in Washington.

An exhibit at the National Museum of the American Latino in Washington. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

A conservative activist is suing the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Latino, alleging that its internship program is carrying out “pro-Latino discrimination” in violation of the Constitution.

“Important programs like these that restrict participation to only certain races and ethnicities are unfair and illegal,” according to an announcement Friday from Edward Blum, the activist whose case against Harvard University culminated with the Supreme Court upending race-conscious college admissions in June. “Every student who is interested in this area of museum studies should have the opportunity to compete for an internship without their race being a determining factor.”

The lawsuit is seeking a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction that bars the museum from closing its application window.

A Smithsonian spokeswoman declined to comment Friday, noting, “We never comment on litigation.”

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, joins a wave of legal challenges against diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programs in the aftermath of the Harvard decision. That includes multiple lawsuits by Blum’s American Alliance for Equal Rights, which has targeted fellowships at law firms, as well as a venture capital fund for women of color.

The National Latino Museum’s program, aimed at boosting professional Latino representation in museums, excludes non-Latinos in violation of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under the law, the lawsuit alleges, saying that the program has never hired someone who is not of Latino descent.

The Latino Museum Studies Program Undergraduate Internship “is a museum career pathway program designed to increase hands-on training opportunities for Latina, Latino, and Latinx-identifying undergraduate students interested in art museum careers,” according to the program’s website.

Only 5 percent of “key museum positions” are filled by Latinos, the museum notes, citing a 2022 Mellon Foundation survey that found that more than 80 percent of “certain key roles continue to be held by White people, and gains among staff members who are Black or Indigenous remain limited overall.”

The full-time, 12-week program does not explicitly exclude non-Latino students, according to its requirements. But the lawsuit alleges that its application asks students to indicate whether they consider themselves “part of a Latino/Hispanic subgroup,” which it claims is a form of “pro-Latino discrimination.” The lawsuit also points to the Smithsonian’s marketing for the program, as well as statements from museum officials, that indicate that the internship is targeted at Latino students only.

The alliance alleges that one of its members, a college junior whose mother is White and whose father is Black, is unable to apply because the museum “hires only Latino interns.” The student, a woman, is identified only as “Member A,” because “because she fears that the Museum will hold her involvement in this lawsuit against her when selecting interns.”

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