One Million and a Half Black-Owned Farm Acres Being Looted by USDA While Farmers Wait for Justice
by Cynthia McKinney
[USDA Secretary] Secretary Vilsack admitted in a press conference today, "I did not think before I acted." It is clear from Agriculture Secretary Vilsack's press conference today that he failed to do his job appropriately in his treatment of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) employee, Shirley Sherrod.
Sherrod was fired after her superior, USDA Deputy Under Secretary Cheryl Cook asked Sherrod to pull over on her drive from south Georgia to Athens, Georgia and quit her job after a speech made by Sherrod to the Coffee County NAACP was aired on a Douglas County TV cable access channel and then posted on the internet by Andrew Breitbart, a known conservative, activist blogger.
Sherrod, a veteran advocate for Black Farmers, who the USDA admits have been discriminated against, was fired because the White House feared that Glen Beck was going to discuss her alleged racist remarks on his TV show that night. It turns out, however, that the tape of Sherrod's remarks had been badly doctored and the doctored version had been posted on the internet. Glen Beck and the entire Fox News operation were reacting to the doctored internet posting. Ms. Sherrod was fired without having an opportunity to explain her side of the story and before the White House and Secretary Vilsack had even bothered to look at her entire speech. "The White House and Secretary Vilsack threw Shirley Sherrod under the bus before they had the facts," said [2008 Green Party presidential candidate] Cynthia McKinney, who knows Sherrod and has spoken often at the Coffee County NAACP.
Unfortunately however, Secretary Vilsack has also thrown Black Farmers under the bus. To date, despite abundant headlines to the contrary, Black Farmers, including the named plaintiffs in Pigford v. Glickman (1997), Lucious Abrams and Cecil Brewington have not even had a meeting with USDA, to settle their discrimination claim. Others who did receive settlements were then harassed by the Internal Revenue Service and had their bank accounts frozen and their Social Security payments offset by any government payments, including stimulus payments. "The actual so-called settlement of the lawsuit was worse than the discrimination that the USDA has admitted to and discrimination is continuing at this very hour," said Pigford plaintiff Black Farmer Eddie Slaughter.
"The President is meeting with everyone except those who brought forward the lawsuit and those who suffered discrimination and the violation of their Constitutional rights," said Lucious Abrams. Eddie Slaughter and Lucious Abrams met with Secretary Vilsack and apprised him of the current situation, but the Secretary to date has failed to act.