Sen. Lindsey Graham shouldn’t need an explanation as to why Black farmers get extra debt forgiveness in the COVID relief bill, but he got an epic one from Tiffany Cross about the massacre of Black farmers in Elaine, AR in 1919.
March 13, 2021

Sen. Lindsey Graham shouldn’t need an explanation as to why Black farmers get extra debt forgiveness in the COVID relief bill, but he got an epic one from Tiffany Cross about the massacre of Black farmers in Elaine, AR in 1919.

It speaks volumes that Graham whined about Black farmers getting too much debt forgiveness in the COVID relief bill, rather than showing any concern as to whether any white farmers need any. Obviously, he was using race-baiting to attack the wildly popular COVID relief bill. “What has that got to do with COVID?” Graham “asked.”

If he cared about substance over right-wing messaging to whites, he would have known that Black farmers have not only struggled with discrimination and debt in the past, in the present they are “dealing with a disproportionate share of COVID-19 infection rates, hospitalizations, death and economic hurt,” Tom Vilsack, the nominee to head the USDA, said in his support of the bill.

As an example of the past discrimination and debt, Cross cited the 1919 massacre of Black farmers in Elaine, Arkansas:

CROSS: In this small town on the Mississippi river, Black sharecroppers were being shaken down by white landowners. Each season, the landowners would demand obscene percentages of the profits and they would never present the sharecroppers detailed accounting and would trap them with alleged, cooked-up debts.

So, the Black folks knew joining a union would be their only way to survive it. It was the evening of September 30th when the sharecroppers and their families gathered in Hoopsville church to discuss joining the progressive farmers and household union. They also aimed to buy the land they worked and had planned to hire a white lawyer to represent them with the landlords. But news of their plans leaked.

At around 11:00 p.m., a group of local white men, some of whom are likely affiliated with law enforcement, fired shots into the church. With their wives and children inside, Black men like these, later dubbed Elaine 12, were not just going to just lay down and die, they returned fire and a white man was killed. So then rumors that an organized insurrection against white residents rapidly spread across town.

The governor at the time called for 500 soldiers to round up the heavily armed “Negroes,” he called them. The troops, along with white vigilantes were under orders to shoot and kill any Negro who refused to surrender immediately. But, obviously, no one was given an opportunity to surrender, which, let's keep it real, would of course, have meant death anyway.

So, for five days, they embarked on a killing spree, hunting Black people within a 200-mile radius. By the time the chaos ended, the white mob had murdered more than 200 African-Americans indiscriminately. Men, women and children were all slaughtered. Not one white person was ever held accountable for any of those deaths.

Today, Elaine is a majority Black town where many of the residents live below the poverty line. So, you can imagine how infuriating it might be to hear Lindsey Graham say this about a small portion of the COVID relief bill that provides a $5 billion fund for disadvantaged farmers, about a quarter of whom happen to be Black.

Oh, wait a minute, only a quarter are Black? So why, then, is Graham calling them out, and suggesting they are the recipients of some kind of undeserved handout? I think we all know why.

GRAHAM: Let me give you an example of something that really bothers me. In this bill if you're a farmer, your loan will be forgiven up to 120% of your loan, not 100% but 120% of your loan if you're socially disadvantaged, if you're African-American, some other minority. But if you're white person, if you’re a white woman, no forgiveness as reparations. What has that got to do with COVID?

The fact is, as Cross pointed out, the money is a pittance compared to what Black farmers deserve in reparations.

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