Volume 3, Number 15                             September 12, 2000

The Farmer


Slaves to 2 parties

by Dr. Ridgely A. Muímin Muhammad

At the Redeem the Dream March on August 26, 2000 we participated in what turned out to be a pep rally for Al Gore and the Democratic party. The speakers including Rev. Al Sharpton castigated America for the behavior of her police in brutalizing Black people, but did not implicate the Clinton/Gore administrationís 8 year reign in the White House as being a part of that conspiracy. The theme was that we can not let the Republicans take the White House even though we lost affirmative action, welfare and the majority of us got relatively poorer under Clinton and Gore.

Here we have an example of the poor slave torn between leaving one slave master that treats him bad to another one who treats him worse. The Democrats promise much but deliver crumbs and the Republicans just whip that head. When the Democrats get in office they tell Black folk that they can not deliver on all of their campaign promises because of the "white backlash" that would take them out of office in the next election. When the Republicans get in office, they say that they donít owe Black folk anything because they did not vote for the Republicans.

The history of how Black farmers fared with these two parties can give reason for pause before enthusiastically endorsing either "massa".

The Republicans under Lincoln emancipated the slaves. They promised the ex-slaves 40 acres and a mule but did not come through, blaming the Democratic southern power structure for blocking that promise.

A Populist third party movement flourished in the 1890ís which scared both the Democrats and Republicans. The "Peopleís Party" was a "cooperative crusade" that united both the farmers and factory workers, the "plain people", against the bankers, credit merchants and railroad barons. The Democrats waved the emotional flag of "Negro domination" to rally the white southerners against the Peopleís Party. They used the methods of bribery, intimidation, and overt violence to scare Blacks from the poles. The KKK went on a rampage of terror and the white "plain people" sacrificed their freedom from "big money" domination for the "god" of racism.

In the mist of all of this after slavery up to the Great Depression Black farmers had bought at least 15 million acres of land through their own blood, sweat and tears. The white farmers down south were economically devastated after the Civil War. They did not have operating capital nor free labor. They could not operate the plantations because they did not have operating capital nor free labor. Agriculture was still a labor intensive industry and the Black farmers had large families which gave them a comparative advantage.

However, after the Great Depression the Democrats under President Franklin D. Roosevelt set up the New Deal. Within this New Deal package was a set of institutions to jump start the agricultural industry. However these New Deal agricultural programs were administered on a local level by "county committees". Roosevelt and everybody else knew that those white boys in the southern states were not going to do justice by their former slaves. Therefore these county committees in the southern states took tax payers money to step by step run the Black farmers off the land. At the same time tax money was used by the land grant universities to develop new labor saving technologies that required capital to purchase. The white farmers were given access to the capital and the Black farmers were left out.

In the late 1970ís the USDA under President Carter set aside special low interest loan money targeted towards Black farmers but did not touch the delivery system. Therefore that money wound up right back in the hands of white farmers down south. Black farmers and Black people in general voted for Jimmy Carter again in 1980 but Reagan won. Now the Republicans retaliated against Black people and Black farmers in particular.

Congressmen Edolphus Towns of New York presented a report on May 3, 1983 from the Civil Rights Commission on "The Plight of the Black Farmer" . He read this report to get support to strengthen the Civil Rights Division of the USDA which the Reagan administration was threatening to remove. Let me present excerpts from the Congressional Record:

"In a memorandum brought to the publicís attention during a Presidential news conference in February of 1983, it was learned that USDA Office of Minority Affairs Director Rodriguez was suggesting that all USDA regulations be "purged" of any reverse-discrimination aspects..." Rodriguez went on to assert that the Administration has not been supported politically by the groups which benefit from civil rights policies and that "non-ethnic" groups which have not received special benefits are making it clear in a number of ways they are tired of ethnic favoritism." (CR May 3, 1983)

Al Gore, Democrat, was there that day representing Tennessee. Dan Glickman, Democrat, was there that day representing Kansas and was a member of the House Agricultural Committee. Neither said a mumbling word to support Congressman Townsí attempt to rally support for Black farmers and the Civil Rights Division of the USDA was not strengthened but terminated.

When President Clinton was elected in 1992 he made Mike Espy his Secretary of Agriculture, the first Black ever to hold that post. Secretary Espy opened up the can of worms in terms of USDA discrimination against Black farmers. He was immediately scandalized and removed from that post and an old friend of now Vice-president Al Gore, Dan Glickman was brought in to put the lid back on that can.

The Black farmers under the leadership of Gary Grant established the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association to fight against continued USDA discrimination and demand "reparations" for the Black farmers. A class action lawsuit, Pigford vs Glickman, was filed. Six lead plaintiffs were awaiting word from class council Al Pires on the status of their test cases. Al Pires had not consulted with them for three months before November 3, 1998. On that day "Black Tuesday" Black people came out to vote in record numbers and all of a sudden a "deal" was struck between Al Pires, the lawyer for the Black farmers, and the Justice Department lawyers defending the USDA. The farmers sent Al Pires to get the land back and instead he brought back "toilet paper", $50,000, with loop-holes for the USDA.

The Black farmers protested against the Consent Decree. The media was no longer interested in telling their side of the story. After suffering 40 percent denial rates the Black farmers in a desperate attempt to get their voices heard, stormed the USDA building on March 6, 1999. None of the major media was there, though they were invited. From September of 1999 through July of 2000 the Black farmers have rallied in numbers in Washington, DC each and every month.

The Republicans through a bill put forward by Congressmen Dickey from Arkansas and Watts from Oklahoma tried to force the USDA to expedite the process of relief to the Black farmers. However, the Congressional Black Caucus voted against the resolution claiming that it was just a publicity stunt. The bill failed and the Congressional Black Caucus was angry with the Black farmers for voicing their disapproval of how the CBC voted.

We have fared no better on the foreign seen. I was at Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Harlem to see Zimbabwean President Mugabe on Thursday, Sept. 7. He said that an agreement was reached in 1979 after 3 months of negotiations that the British government would pay the white farmers for their land and give it back to the Zimbabweans. Prime Minister Thatcher made the agreement backed up by Pres. Jimmy Carter. Britain reneged, Carter loss to Reagan, America reneged, and nobody gave Zimbabwe any money.

This article just talks about how Black people have fared in this "two party" system as it relates to economics and land. Maybe we have fared better in other arenas. But as Homey the Clown said, "I donít think so."

Solution: 1.Join Minister Louis Farrakhan on the Washington Mall on October 16, 2000 for the Million Family March and letís flex a "Third Political Force". 2. Read the "National Agenda" on http://www.millionfamilymarch.com . 3. Fight for "Proportional Representation" in local, state and national legislative bodies.