November 30, 2010, 7:24 pm
Black Farmers Settlement Approved
By ASHLEY SOUTHALL
The House has given final Congressional approval to a bill that would provide more than $4.55 billion to settle tens of thousands of longstanding claims brought by African Americans farmers and American Indians.
The bill provides $1.15 billion to African Americans left out of a 1999 settlement of a lawsuit, Pigford v. Glickman; in that settlement the federal government agreed to compensate black farmers and would-be farmers who said Agriculture Department officials denied or cheated them out of federal aid. To be eligible for money now, claimants must have farmed or attempted to farm between 1981 and 1986, have filed a discrimination complaint before July 1, 1987, and have filed a claim after the deadline in the original settlement.
The bill provides another $3.4 billion to American Indian plaintiffs who claim that Interior officials mismanaged royalties from leases of tribal land used to harvest oil, minerals and timber. Plaintiffs will receive $1.4 billion directly, while the government will use $2 billion to repurchase Indian lands broken up under the Dawes Act in the late 19th and early 20th century. Another $60 million will fund scholarships for American Indian students.
Representative James Clyburn, the majority whip, said the bill helped right historic injustices.
“Today we removed the stain on our country’s history and rectified these injustices,” he said, thanking several Republicans for helping with the bill. “What happened to our nation’s African American farmers and Native Americans was wrong, and we have made it right.”
The vote in the House was 256-152. President Obama is expected to sign it soon.
In a statement Tuesday, Mr. Obama applauded the bill’s passage, and pledged to continue efforts to resolve similar claims brought by women and Hispanic farmers. “Yet, while today’s vote demonstrates important progress, we must remember that much work remains to be done,” he said.
Well, it's past time, but it happened. Finally.
And to Republicans like Rep. King of Iowa, who has this to say:
He then said the claims -- which stem from discrimination against black farmers in the 1980s and 1990s -- are "slavery reparations."
"We've got to stand up at some point and say, 'We are not gonna pay slavery reparations in the United States Congress,'" he said. "That war's been fought. That was over a century ago. That debt was paid for in blood and it was paid for in the blood of a lot of Yankees, especially. And there's no reparations for the blood that paid for the sin of slavery. No one's filing that claim.
The Pigford claimants, he said, "They're just filing a claim because they think they can get away with it." Standing up against the settlements, while unpopular, he said, is "a matter of justice and equity."
Go somewhere, sit down, and STFU.