PRESIDENT OBAMA SIGNED BILL H.R.4238 that takes these racially offensive words out of all federal laws: “negro,” “oriental,” “Indian,” “Eskimo,” among others. The bill was sponsored by Congresswoman Grace Meng who is Chinese-American and from Queens, New York. It was co-sponsored by all 51 members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
In the last few years, the country’s taken down confederate flags, argued the naming of historic buildings after white supremacist leaders, and placed the first black woman on the $20 bill. This bill follows the hopeful pattern of the United States finally taking action toward making amends for its past.
Read the full article on the bill in The Root here.
A: The basic principle that should guide discussions not just on affirmative action but how we are admitting young people to college generally is, how do we make sure that we’re providing ladders of opportunity for people? Race is still a factor in our society. And I think that for universities to say, “we’re going to take into account the hardships that somebody has experienced because they’re black or Latino or women. ”
A: I think that’s something that they can take into account, but it can only be in the context of looking at the whole situation of the young person. So I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think that it can’t be a quota system. Source: 2008 Philadelphia primary debate, on eve of PA primary Apr 16, 2008
Segregated schools were and are inferior schools. We still haven’t fixed them, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.
Legalized discrimination-- where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions--meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth & income gap between blacks and whites, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities Source: Speech on Race, in Change We Can Believe In, p.222-3 Mar 18, 2008
Still, he has clearly benefited from affirmative action. American universities impose this policy on black students with such totalitarian resolve that even blacks who don’t need the lowered standards come away stigmatized by them.
What began to separate Obama from this stigma was his editorship of the Harvard Law Review. Here was something that required genuine merit. Here was a position he had to gain through competition rather than through the suspension of competition. Obama’s fame began precisely with this achievement because it distinguished him from the general run of black students who carried the stigma of having been pulled forward by lowered standards. He was special because he was clearly more than an “affirmative action baby,” someone who could succeed without the ministrations of white guilt. Source: A Bound Man, by Shelby Steele, p. 13-14 Dec 4, 2007
But Obama is not race blind, and neither is his ideal of affirmative action, which would combine both race-based and class-based preferences. He said, “I don’t think those concepts are mutually exclusive. I think what one can say is that in our society race and class still intersect, and there are a lot of African American kids who are struggling, that even those who are in the middle class may be first generation as opposed to fifth or sixth generation college attendees, and that we all have an interest in bringing as many people together to help build this country.“ Source: The Improbable Quest, by John K. Wilson, p. 65-66 Oct 30, 2007
Women are majority owners of more than 28% of US businesses, but head less than 4% of venture-capital-backed firms. Obama encourages investing in women-owned businesses, and reducing discrimination in lending. Source: Campaign website, BarackObama.com, “Resource Flyers” Aug 26, 2007
“Any solution to our unemployment catastrophe must arise from us working creatively within a multicultural, interdependent economy,” Obama said. “Any African Americans who are only talking about racism as a barrier to our success are seriously misled if they don’t also come to grips with the larger economic forces that are creating economic insecurity for all workers.”
His steadfast beliefs made him less than a unifying force in Chicago’s black community. The idea of building bridges to people of all races was anathema to many old-school black leaders who still sounded a voice in Chicago’s African American community. Source: From Promise to Power, by David Mendell, p.113 Aug 14, 2007
Photographer: Angela Weiss/AFP
Photographer: Angela Weiss/AFP
In 1920, 14.7% of American farmers were Black. A century later, only 1.4% are — and they earn less money, receive less government support, and occupy smaller farms on average than do their white counterparts. Of the many ailments afflicting rural America in 2020, these racial disparities are some of the most enduring and under-discussed. Is that about to change?
Last month, Senator Cory Booker introduced legislation intended to support Black farmers and encourage more African Americans to enter agriculture. It envisions a new system of land grants, better oversight of government farm aid and remedies for decades of discriminatory policies. More ambitiously, it also attempts to reimagine the farm work of the future. “This can really help with farm innovation, the farming of tomorrow,” Booker told me in a phone call. “Whether it’s organic farmers, or new creative ways of growing food in this country.”
He’ll have his work cut out for him. The disparities in the U.S. agricultural economy were centuries in the making. After the Civil War, General William T. Sherman’s famous bequest, often remembered as “40 acres and a mule,” was quickly overturned by President Andrew Johnson. The Southern Homestead Act was passed in 1866 with the goal of passing land to freed slaves and others, but few of the region’s impoverished Blacks could take advantage of it.
Despite these obstacles, determined Black farmers had made considerable progress by the early 20th century. Between 1890 and 1910, the number of Black farm owners in the South nearly doubled, from 113,580 to 207,815. Unfortunately, that turned out to be the high water mark. From 1910 to 1997, Black Americans lost about 90% of their farmland. They weren’t alone, thanks to federal policies that boosted large farms (“get big or get out”), small-farm owners of all races lost land during this period. But Black farmers lost far more: Had they left agriculture at the same rate as whites, there would be at least a quarter-million more Black farmers around today.
Several factors account for the harsh toll. First, because only 23% of Black Americans have wills, their estates often become “heirs’ property,” meaning that fractional interests in their real-estate assets are passed down to multiple relatives. Over time, the ownership interests increase, and the estate becomes vulnerable to developers and speculators who can use legal loopholes to acquire it.
Another factor has been disparities in government assistance, dating back decades. In 1965, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights issued a report on farm programs in which it noted, regarding the (now defunct) Farmers Home Administration: “Poor whites receive FHA assistance to acquire or expand their farms, to stock and equip them, to improve their housing or financial position. This is rarely ever the case for negroes.”
Such inequities were widespread. “Because of certain practices, like giving loans out when it was too late to get the kinds of resources you needed to harvest crops, they were ultimately cheated out of their land,” Booker said, referring to Black farmers. “It has hurt African Americans dramatically in this country.” As recently as 2019, the Government Accountability Office determined that “socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers” received “proportionately fewer loans and farm credit overall” than did those who were better off. It cited discrimination as one potential factor.
Booker’s Justice for Black Farmers Act offers a bold template for remediating such abuses. Among other steps, it establishes an independent Civil Rights Oversight Board at the Department of Agriculture and boosts funding for a program that assists in the resolution of property-succession issues. If enacted, both initiatives would make a real difference to Black farmers and their families.
But Booker doesn’t just want to remedy the past. He wants to ensure that African Americans play a role in farming’s future. Since 2014, locally and regionally produced food has been the fastest growing sector of U.S. agriculture. Some is organic, much is grown using sustainable methods, and almost all is marketed through channels such as farmers’ markets and community cooperatives. Thanks to the pandemic, and a growing interest in sustainable food generally, those locally focused producers are poised to make significant gains in the years ahead.
Booker’s bill could place Black farmers at the vanguard of this revolution. It authorizes the USDA to spend up to $8 billion a year acquiring land and granting it in 160-acre plots to Black farmers. (There is precedent: The 1862 Homestead Act gave away 270 million acres in 160-acre increments, mostly to white settlers.) In return, the grantees must undergo training focused on “regenerating the soil, ecosystem, and local community.” To help such small farms compete, the bill increases funding to existing programs that promote locally focused agriculture, such as farmers’ markets and the producers who supply them.
It’s an expansive vision, and one that won’t be easy to enact. Nonetheless, Booker has reasons to be optimistic. During the 2020 campaign, President-elect Joe Biden appealed directly to Black farmers, promising to address racial inequities in agriculture, and he’s likely to follow through at the USDA. Meanwhile, the House Agriculture Committee just elected its first-ever Black chairman, Representative David Scott, who has already expressed support for Booker’s idea.
Passing the bill would be a major victory for racial justice. It also just might herald big changes ahead for rural America. “I think there is a potential for a real food revolution to come about,” Booker told me, “and have farmers lead it.”
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.
“We are big and vast and diverse, a nation of people with different backgrounds and beliefs, different experiences and stories, but bound by our shared ideal that no matter who you are or what you look like, how you started off, or how and who you love, America is a place where you can write your own destiny.” President Obama, June 26, 2015
Since taking office, President Obama and his Administration have made historic strides to expand opportunities and advance equality and justice for all Americans, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Americans. From major legislative achievements to historic court victories to important policy changes, the President has fought to promote the equal rights of all Americans — no matter who they are or who they love. That commitment to leveling the playing field and ensuring equal protection under the law is the bedrock principle this nation was founded on and has guided the President’s actions in support of all Americans. And the progress the Administration has made mirrors the changing views of the American people, who recognize that fairness and justice demand equality for all, including LGBT Americans.
The Obama Administration’s record on social progress and equality includes:
Preventing Bullying and Hate Crimes against LGBT Americans
Supporting LGBT Health
Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Ending the Legal Defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
Protecting LGBT Americans against Discrimination
Taking Steps to Ensure LGBT Equality in Housing and Crime Prevention
Advancing and Protecting the Rights of LGBT Persons around the World
Recognizing LGBT History and Contributions