Is the ‘Pigford’ Pushback a Case of Resistance Against Reparations for Black Farmers?

By Brentin Mock May 06, 2013

Ten scholars from major universities have risen to the defense of black farmers who were accused in a [New York Times article]( of exploiting and defrauding a settlement made to remedy decades of discrimination in financial lending. In a letter to the editor, the group professors [wrote that the New York Times]( article: > "underplays the history of racial dispossession, uses cherry-picked examples, and creates needless antipathy to the lawsuit and the settlement with black farmers. Focusing on fraud and invoking familiar, racially freighted stereotypes of undeserving opportunists serve to throw into question all payouts rather than explaining why they were ordered in the first place." > A letter from Ralph Paige, executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, was also published in the Times, where he said their article: > "does not offer historical context of the vast scope of discrimination in rural areas throughout the country by the Agriculture Department. It does not mention the decades of studies by the Commission on Civil Rights and the Agriculture Department itself that confirm discrimination against black farmers. It also does not mention the countless black farmers who worked diligently on farm plans only to have their loan applications thrown in the trash can right in front of them by the Agriculture Department’s county supervisor."

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The plight of the black farmers was also featured on a segment of the Melissa Harris Perry show this past weekend. Rep. Terri Sewell, a Democratic congresswoman who represents large rural swaths of Alabama where black farmers live and work, called the Times article a "gross mischaracterization of the entire process." The Nation executive editor Richard Kim said on the show, "If we think of this as reparations, the point of reparations is actually to be historically minded and to understand the many times in which discrimination impacted this group of people. And that’s probably the best way in which to frame this, as a historical inquiry and about justice."