President Joe Biden recently signed into law a $1.9 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill, which includes a $5 billion provision that will go toward forgiving debts of minority farmers in an attempt to repair historical racist discrimination on the federal level. Conservative media are now lashing out at the provision, arguing that it is tantamount to reparations and that it is racist toward white farmers while ignoring the well-documented racism that led to it -- including that the aid provided to farmers by former President Donald Trump’s administration as a result of his trade wars went almost entirely to white farmers.
The effort to include the provision was led by Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA) and aims to repair over a century of discrimination from the U.S. Department of Agriculture toward Black farmers. Black farm ownership has decreased significantly in the past century, and today only 2% of U.S. farmland belongs to Black farmers. The federal government’s discrimination has been deeply systemic, as The Washington Post recently reported:
Black farmers in America have lost more than 12 million acres of farmland over the past century, mostly since the 1950s, a result of what agricultural experts and advocates for Black farmers say is a combination of systemic racism, biased government policy, and social and business practices that have denied African Americans equitable access to markets.
Discrimination started a century ago with a series of federal Homestead Acts that offered mainly White settlers deeply subsidized land. Since then, local U.S. Department of Agriculture offices charged with distributing loans have frequently been found to deny Black farmers access to credit and to ignore or delay loan applications.
Experts have called the bill the “most significant piece of legislation” for Black farmers since the Civil Rights Act. Abraham Carpenter, a Black farmer from Grady, Arkansas, recently told the Post:
“We have been held hostage by the USDA for so many years,” he said. “Most people don’t realize how it feels to be mistreated. They don’t know what it feels like to be placed in a position where you cannot help yourself or your family.”
The USDA under the Trump administration perpetuated the agency’s long history of racism; aid provided to farmers through a subsidy program as a result of Trump’s foreign trade wars was found to have “almost exclusively benefitted white men and their families, who appear to be disproportionately upper middle-class or wealthy.” The funds were “large enough to constitute the single largest source of subsidies for farmers,” and the USDA “funneled more than 99 percent of bailout funds to white operators.”
But now, right-wing media are predictably lashing out at the provision, continuing their attacks on government efforts to provide aid to non-white farmers. Many have attacked the bill as part of right-wing media’s yearslong resistance to any form of reparations, which aim to rectify decades of systemic, government-imposed discrimination that has led to stark racial disparities. (Some have also noted that while this provision is significant, describing it as “reparations” is a misnomer as a $5 billion allocation represents a mere fraction of the wealth lost through decades of systemic discrimination.)
Others in right-wing media have also complained that the bill is unfair and racist toward white people while almost entirely obscuring the historical racism at the federal level experienced by minority farmers. One Fox & Friends segment featured a white farmer who complained that the program “targeted just the Blacks” and argued that he doesn’t “think that they should get breaks like that” because “everybody should work themselves out of debt.”
Here are some examples of conservative media demonizing government reparations and complaining that this provision is racist:
- Fox News co-anchor Bill Hemmer asked Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) about the provision, asking, “Why would that fly?” Scott said that the aid is “antithetical to the progress that we hoped for and that we've seen in America,” while Hemmer added that this is the “beginning of reparations, I think.”
- Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade interviewed a white farmer from Georgia, Darrell Kay, to talk about the bill, asking him: “How shocked were you to find that the color of your skin would be working against you when it came to your job?” Kay admitted that he himself has no debt, but said that he doesn’t “think that they should get breaks like that” and that working off one’s debt “make[s] people appreciate what they're doing better.” Kay also complained that the provision “targeted just the Blacks,” even though the aid applies to other minority farmers as well.
- FoxNews.com published an article on farmers’ reactions to the bill, which included one farmer from Tennessee quoted as saying: “Just because you’re a certain color you don’t have to pay back money? I don’t care if you’re purple, black, yellow, white, gray, if you borrow money you have to pay it back. … Where did common sense go?”
- RedState cited Fox’s article in a piece titled: “‘Where Did Common Sense Go?' Farmers React to Biden's 'COVID Relief' Favoring Black Farmers.”
- Conservative pundit Carmine Sabia tweeted:
- Breitbart boosted Sen. Lindsey Graham’s (R-SC) criticisms of the provision: “Lindsey Graham: Democrat COVID Stimulus Includes ‘Reparations’ for Black Farmers.”
- Newsmax anchor Greg Kelly cited Graham calling the bill reparations, saying that the provision seems “potentially pretty unfair for folks who are not people of color.”
- Right-wing commentator Todd Starnes complained that “white farmers get nothing,” adding, “They say it's reparations, but it's not. It's racism.”
- A Townhall article, published in late-February when the bill was still being debated, was titled: “It's a Racist Plan, Not a Rescue Plan.” Discussing the provision giving aid to farmers, the article said it is “an amazing offer -- but white men need not apply” and called it “discrimination.”
- Fox News contributor Liz Peek asked: “Is it legal to make aid for farmers dependent on skin color?”
- Right-wing radio host Joe Pagliarulo tweeted:
- Washington Examiner’s Will Ricciardella tweeted: “Anyone going to ask why white farmers who are struggling are forced to subsidize black famers? I guess the civil rights act and the equal protection clause are meaningless now. Great job, racists.”
- Fox News contributor Karl Rove complained on America’s Newsroom that the provision means “there will be money ending up in your pocket through the tax system simply because of your race,” adding, “That's racial reparations."
- Turning Point USA’s Jillian Anderson tweeted:
- Washington Examiner’s Will Ricciardella tweeted: