Racism in COVID Relief, Part 2

AP Photo/Alex Brandon

In late 2021, lawyers with the Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) noticed that a crudely defined descriptor in the American Rescue Plan (ARP) led to discrimination against white farmers seeking COVID relief. As PLF attorney Wencong Fa wrote in The Washington Examiner:


The path of opportunity, one would think, should be open to all of these farmers. But the act defines “social disadvantage” in a crude way. That term is not defined by any objective criteria such as a farmer’s income, experience, or losses suffered as a result of the pandemic. Instead, it is based solely on one’s membership in a racial group. Minority farmers are considered “socially disadvantaged” and are entitled to a payment — no matter their circumstances. White farmers, such as Pacific Legal Foundation clients Julie Owen, a single mother in Virginia, and James Dunlap, who works two jobs and 100-hour weeks to provide for his 1-year-old in Oregon, are categorically excluded.

Why? Less than two weeks after the program was signed into law, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack explained his view that the law was necessary “to address long-standing equity issues” and “respond to cumulative impacts of systemic discrimination.”

Ultimately, Fa notes, federal courts in four states — Florida, Wisconsin, Texas, and Tennessee — rejected the Biden administration’s attempts to offer perks to some farmers over others on the basis of race, notably finding that these new measures failed to remedy “past discrimination” from the Department of Agriculture or that “past discrimination lingers in agriculture today.”

For those of us who believe everyone deserves equal treatment by the government regardless of their racial identity, race-based loan forgiveness is a mistake. In attempting to make up for the department’s past discrimination, the government has reinstituted one of America’s worst and most illiberal traditions: treating citizens unequally on the basis of race.


Democrats eventually stripped the race-related language from the provision as white farmers filed discrimination lawsuits.

Now, PLF has set its sights on another program under the ARP: the Housing Assistance Fund (HAF), which uses the same murky language to allow states like Georgia and Oklahoma the dubiously legal ability to provide assistance to homeowners in a certain income bracket relief if they have the right skin color.

Writing at The Hill, PLF attorney Glenn Roper writes that the same poorly defined standard of being “social disadvantaged” is being used by state bureaucracies to discriminate in provision of grant relief for homeowners.

The federal government is giving away billions of dollars in taxpayer money to help Americans nationwide who are struggling to pay mortgages. But in Georgia and Oklahoma, whether homeowners are eligible for assistance depends on their skin color. In both Atlanta and Oklahoma City, for example, a couple making $95,000 a year can receive tens of thousands of dollars in federal funds to help pay their mortgage if at least one is a member of a racial minority group. However, if they are both white, they are categorically barred from receiving relief.

There is no doubt that the U.S. federal government has discriminated against her minority citizens in the past. It’s a shameful reality, and Roper told me personally it’s right for the government to address those cases and pay reparations for misdeeds when legally appropriate.

But the pandemic affected all Americans — all colors, classes, and backgrounds. So discriminating with relief funds does not fit the above bill. As Roper writes:


Based on my experience successfully representing business owners in Colorado and farmers in Florida and other states in fighting for their right to equality before the law, this is one of the more egregious examples of government-sponsored racial discrimination being enforced today. Equality before the law is a foundational American principle and the government must treat people as individuals, rather than as members of racial groups. Yet Georgia and Oklahoma are applying racial distinctions that violate the constitutional rights of white homeowners who are penalized because of their race.

It’s a strange thing indeed for a government to decide, based on skin color, that one is “socially disadvantaged.” What does that tell people who, prior to being assigned that label, thought they were as capable of success borne of their own intelligence, determination, and grit as the next guy?


Join the conversation as a VIP Member

Trending on RedState Videos