By, Marti Oakley
**Note: The article from “YES” magazine, referred to in this article, was dated July 6, 2016. Just two days before farmers from 18 states protested the USDA and its discriminatory practices in front of the Supreme Court. The article was a carefully timed and crafted propaganda piece. All information, data and statistics were obviously provided by USDA and simply compiled to make it appear that legitimate research had been done, when obviously, it had not.
As for the protest, I was left wondering just where all these civil rights icons were? What? No Jesse Jackson? No Al Sharpton? Where the hell was the NAACP?? (BIG)Blacks in Government? No?
Sometimes while I am researching one thing, I come across valuable information on another topic. This was the case recently when an article in Yes! Magazine caught my eye. Since last year I have been doing Whistleblowers! broadcasts which included black farmers discriminated against by USDA and they have a very different story to tell than the one relayed in YES!. And, they have the documents to back up what they have to say about their treatment at the hands of USDA..
These farmers never asked for special treatment. They are demanding only to be treated with as much respect, and with access to the same programs as others are.
The title “For Decades, the USDA Was Black Farmers’ Worst Enemy. Here’s How It Became an Ally” nearly made my head explode. I wouldn’t swear to it, but I think at that point lightening sparked here in my office. I read the article with interest, but realized it was a propaganda piece, carefully constructed with information most likely provided directly by interests at the USDA. Obviously no actual research had been done. Had it been done, the article would have read quite differently and would have linked to relevant documents and resources. There were none.
The first half of the article was a glowing report concerning one black farmer; a woman whose family had been in farming since the mid 1800’s. But, it was the second half of the article that left me choking down vomit. Propaganda hit pieces are seldom delivered with the skill exhibited in this one.
Regardless of the glowing contrived report in the article, the USDA office of civil rights has allowed thousands of complaints to languish to allow the statute of limitations to run out.
And now for a word from your black farmer-friendly USDA
Dred Scott is alive and well at the USDA!
With more than 14,000 mishandled complaints, (meaning complaints intentionally left unanswered to allow the statute of limitations to run out) an additional 3,800 were determined to have merit. ( Meaning the statute hadn’t run out and they were forced to address them) USDA’s new team that is investigating these cases will be on the road! With 2.5 million in taxpayer funding to travel on!
(Page 2 USDA Document)
“And to ensure that a backlog like the one he encountered will not occur under his watch, Secretary Vilsack set a policy to resolve all complaints either in formal closure and/or a settlement before the expiration of the statute of limitations. To meet this standard, we restored ASCR’s travel budget of $2.5 million for those investigating the complaints (the budget had been eliminated) and Vilsack’s USDA has doubled the number of employees working to process program discrimination complaints.”
See! They can fix everything if you just give them a few million more! Nevermind that they conveniently never mention the more than 14,000 complaints that they had never responded to in a timely manner as they were required to do. Apparently, the statute of limitations conveniently expired for these while they lanquished on a shelf somewhere deep in the bowels of USDA and in the USDA this apparently means that they never existed.
USDA IS the Last Plantation
Please bear in mind that Secretary Vilsack is the same man who cut off all communications with whistleblowers earlier this year. He, nor his staff nor his under secretaries will accept emails, phone calls or faxes from anyone blowing the whistle on the corruption, fraud, waste and discrimination occurring within the USDA agency. And this is how you create plausible deniability. You refuse to hear any information which counters the image you are trying to create. That way, when asked you can say…”well I haven’t heard anything about this!” . Or, you can claim that complaints are down considerably without ever letting on that you fudged the numbers and just kind of trashed many thousands of complaints that were never responded to.
Or, you can plant a public relations piece in a popular magazine and include quotes that are obviously meant to be humorous, such as the one I include here.
Dr. Joe Leonard, USDA Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights:
“I’m calling [farmers of color], and the administration is calling them and telling them how we can help,” Leonard says. In the past, “too often we waited for customers to come to us, but under [USDA Secretary Tom] Vilsack’s leadership, it was important for us to go to them, especially the members of the class action suit.” (Stop laughing!)
Now who among you out there, really believes that phone calls are being made by Assistant Secretary Leonard to anyone of color except possibly a few carefully selected individuals? Or that the administration is making any such calls? I can guarantee you that not one of those black farmers who came in from 18 states to protest ever got a phone call from anyone!
The discrimination at USDA is pervasive in nearly all departments and offices, and is not limited to just black farmers. The discrimination is leveled at Hispanics, women, Indians and anyone who does not fit a certain stereotype.
This is a Cspan video from May 13, 1996 View video HERE
“Department of Agriculture Discrimination Participants from several minority organizations briefed reporters on discrimination within the Department of Agriculture and its impact on employees and services. They called for institutional changes and an overall “zero tolerance” within the department for discrimination of any kind. The USDA Coalition of Minority Employees was founded in 1994 to advocate such changes.”
Ten years have passed since this testimony was received, and nothing has changed to any degree. USDA is the Last Plantation, regardless of how many fluff pieces are planted in the public arena to try to condition the public into thinking otherwise.
In the end, nothing is going to change at USDA until someone honestly acknowledges the problems in the agency which have been present for decades. Shuffling papers and skewing the numbers and planting PR stories, while trying to reinvent your sullied image is not the answer. The USDA has substantial and severe problems at its core and we have no one willing or able to address these problems in a productive and fair manner. The best solution might be to close this agency down in total. The costs to the public to repair the ongoing damage caused by decades of mismanagement, and the refusal of the administration to deal with ongoing issues in a timely manner will be paid for by the public.
February 27, 1997
REPORT FOR THE SECRETARY ON CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUES – PHASE I