Do it right, even if cost is high: What black farmers deserve
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Jul 29, 2010 | 2221 views |  6 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
In all the controversy over out-of-context videotaped remarks made by U.S. Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod, the public seems to have lost focus on a bigger issue.

It's an issue both parties say needs to be resolved — but will be set aside for another year, nevertheless.

For decades during the era of segregation, America's black farmers were systematically denied funding that routinely went to whites. Local loan committees were dominated by a good-ol' boy network that funneled money to white farmers, leaving little or none for African Americans.

This racism and discrimination was also prevalent in hiring. Because most Agriculture Department officials were a product of this system, black farmers' needs and complaints usually went unanswered. All this is well documented in the department's records.

Sherrod, a former civil-rights activist who worked to help black farmers and sharecropper descendants in the 1970s, eventually helped a white Georgia farmer save his farm. That vital part of her videotaped speech was edited out by the blogger who began the Sherrod firestorm.

Regardless of who does the discriminating, it does not make it right. Sherrod's story and that of America's black farmers puts it all in perspective.

Democrats and Republicans agree that black farmers should be compensated for this discrimination, and both agree that the $1.2 billion figure should do it.

That is where the agreement ends.

Last week, the U.S. Senate stripped the money from an emergency spending bill because Republicans refused to go along if it added to the deficit. That can't be avoided unless there are cuts to offset it.

Granted, a lot of this is election-year politics. When voters are upset about government spending, politicians get frugal — especially politicians who have become 11th-hour budget hawks. The Shirley Sherrod episode is an example of the political maneuverings that go on in election years.

Both parties would be willing to cut government spending, but there is no agreement on where to cut. Democrats would be happy to trim corporate subsidies and get rid of tax breaks that favor the rich. Republicans are all for cutting benefits to the long-term unemployed and trimming social services.

While the two parties argue over how to best advance their programs and protect their constituencies, black farmers will have to wait another year for what the parties admit is just compensation.

There are times when the government should do what is right, regardless of the cost. This is one of those times.
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Do it right, even if cost is high: What black farmers deserve by The Anniston Star Editorial Board

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