NPR, of course, did an interesting and upsetting piece about ACTUAL discrimination in the USDA, something that many, many minority farmers hope will be highlighted following the Shirley Sherrod debacle because tens of thousands of minority farmers have reported discrimination. Tens of thousands.
Here is the part of the story that had me in tears in the car:
Those tens of thousands of claims come from minority farmers, mostly blacks, but also Latinos and women. They charge that they’ve been discriminated against over the years by the USDA, denied timely loans to buy seeds and equipment — loans that were granted to white farmers.
“This is what we call the last plantation,” said John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association. “It’s the last federal arm in this country to integrate, the United States Department of Agriculture. They filed lawsuits in federal court to prevent black workers from coming to work once they integrated. That’s the history of the United States Department of Agriculture.”
Boyd traveled from his farm in Virginia’s Mecklenburg County to the Capitol to lobby Congress. In 1994, he was denied loans by a USDA agent in Richmond, Va., by the name of James Garnett.
“He was found guilty of discrimination, and he kept his job,” Boyd said. “When I watched that thing with Miss Sherrod on television, I said, ‘Look how fast they got rid of her when the allegation was her discriminating against a white farmer.’ And when Mr. Garnett spit on me, tore my application up … nothing happened.
“So that can be very frustrating for a black person who’s been out here 26 years fighting discrimination.”
The idea that a government official SPIT on this man, was found guilty, and kept his job. It was too much for me to get my brain around. My heart got it, though, and it hurt.
Here are some other links if you want to read more about the discrimination that is apparently rampant in this branch of the government:
- Some Find Irony in Shirley Sherrod’s USDA incident (The Washington Post) [Could the Post have seriously made that title any more water-down. Irony? Incident? Puh-lease]
- The USDA has a whole website where people can claim discrimination, track their claim, read about past resolutions, etc. I think I am just so surprised because I was so ignorant about this entire issue. I know that what happened to Sherrod was horrendous but, for me, the silver lining is learning about all this shit in the USDA.
- Obstruction of Justice: A Century of USDA’s Institutionalized Racism Subjects African American Farmers to Dramatic Land Loss (Environmental Working Group)
- Native American farmers hopeful about suit involving USDA loans (at CNN, posted on July 9, 2010)
- Hispanic Farmers Fight to Sue UDSA (from NPR, posted on October 12, 2009)
- USDA Offers $1.3-Billion Settlement to Female, Latino Farmers Who Claim Discrimination (from CNSNews, via AP, posted on May 26, 2010)