Cue the circus music. Rep. Steve King of Iowa stood on the floor of the House of Representatives to discuss President Barack Obama's sponsorship of the black farmers' settlement. Not only did King state that Obama was doing it in order to run for president, but he was giving them reparations for slavery. Memo to King: Obama is the president. We know the fact that a black man holds arguably the most powerful position in the free world scares you and assaults your psyche, but it is indeed true. Jan. 19, 2011, will mark two years in office for the president, so you might want to get used to it, at least for this term.
As for the lawsuit, in the 1999 case Pigford v. Glickman, the USDA agreed to pay 16,000 black farmers $1 billion after a judge held the federal government responsible for the decline in black farmers. This was well before Obama was even a senator. Critics argued that more than 70,000 farmers were shut out of the lawsuit. So in 2008, then-Sen. Obama and Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley got a law passed to reopen the case, and the settlement talks moved forward. It was your fellow Republican Grassley and then-Sen. Obama who got that ball moving. The timeline that was put in place by Congress — including your fellow Republicans — mandated that the settlement be paid by 2012, which means it had to happen under President Obama's tenure or the government could be sued. We're not sure that benevolence has anything to do with it, but certainly the pressure of deadlines and threats of lawsuits do.
Final memo to King: Compensation for discrimination is not the same thing as reparations. Since you need an example, here it is. For more than half a century, the USDA delayed or denied loans and subsidies to black farmers, causing thousands of them to lose their land and livelihoods, according to the settlement. That is called discrimination. One billion dollars would not scratch the surface of what is owed to descendants of slaves in this country, and we're well aware of it, so please don't insult black folks by suggesting that a paltry $1 billion would suffice. Nice try with invoking racism and fear, but in the words of Joe Friday, we'll stick to "just the facts." Let us know when you return from plantation Fantasy Island.
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