Bigots and Jolly Bankers

You’d think this claim brought by bigots would be laughed out of court, but the case has gone to a hyperpartisan, right-wing judge.

Amazingly, the agricultural commissioner of Texas is the one top official in my state willing to take a bold stand against racial discrimination.

Sid Miller is his name, and he proudly went to federal court in April in an effort to stop a new government aid program that he considered discriminatory against a particular disadvantaged group of agriculture producers — namely, his group: White farmers and ranchers!

Yes, Sid asserts that the program — which directs some long-overdue loan relief to Black, Latino, Native American and other food producers who’ve been routinely and grossly discriminated against for generations by agricultural lenders — now demands that privileged Whites like him get an equal piece of the money.

So, Sid, a former rodeo performer who owns a Texas ranch, is braying and snorting through his big white cowboy hat that the way to stop racial discrimination is to let White discriminator bigots also get anti-discrimination money from the feds. That’s what passes for logic when you’re wearing a $1,000 hat like the one Sid struts around in. But, as a real cowboy once told me, “It ain’t the hat; it’s the head.” And right there is Miller’s problem — he’s got a thousand-dollar hat on a 10-cent head.

However, he’s not the actual “thinker” behind this screwball legal claim. That distinction goes to another Miller, one named Stephen. He’s a former Donald Trump political operative, an anti-immigrant extremist and a fanatical promoter of White nationalism — one who specializes in frivolous lawsuits. Indeed, Stephen wrote Sid’s plaintive legal plea to provide “racial justice” for rich and powerful White ranchers like him, and just days before filing the suit, Stephen set up a political front group called America First Legal to push the case.

You’d think this ridiculous racial bigotry would be laughed out of court, but the case has gone to a hyperpartisan, right-wing judge who has backed such Republican legal ploys in the past. So, yippity-yi-yo, off to another right-wing rodeo we go!
Woody Guthrie had a lot to say about the greed of fat-cat bankers who make crop loans at usurious interest rates to hardscrabble farmers and then foreclose on them when they can’t pay off the loans, leaving thousands of farm families homeless. Woody mocked them with a sarcastic anthem to their bottomless avarice, singing, “I’m a jolly banker/ jolly banker am I.” He also penned a stinging verse in another song about their thievery: “Some’ll rob with a six-gun/ And some with a fountain pen.”

But even this populist poet of the people would be astonished by the shameless grabbiness of today’s group of powerful agribusiness lenders. At issue is President Biden’s administration’s excellent effort to provide some amends — at long last — after decades of systemic, scandalous discrimination by bankers against Black and other minority farmers. It is moving to pay off the onerous level of long-term bank debt that has shackled these good farmers and thus give them a fair shot at getting ahead.

“Oh, no!” squawked the American Bankers Association and other groups of ag lenders. Why? After all, they’d be getting back the money they loaned out. Yes, say the fountain pens, but then we would lose the interest payments each of those farmers would have had to send to us over the months ahead. We want American taxpayers to cover the total interest income we would’ve gotten from gouging Black, Latino, Native American and other minority farmers. They insist that their profits and the financial interests of their rich investors must take priority over the needs of a bunch of non-White dirt farmers.

Wait, the bankers’ greed intensifies! If the government doesn’t fully compensate them for their so-called “lost interest income,” the ag lenders (backed by Wall Street barons) are openly threatening that they will cut off future loans to farmers and ranchers of color.

So, the jolly bankers’ drumbeat of rank discrimination keeps pounding. To help stop it, connect with the National Black Farmers Association.

Jim Hightower