Justice delayed is finally coming to two groups of minority farmers who were discriminated against for decades by the federal government. The Senate has approved a $4.6 billion payment to settle claims by African American and Native American farmers who alleged that racial bias and mismanagement by government agencies cost members of both groups their land.
The action is a welcome sign of bipartisan cooperation. Senate Republicans had repeatedly blocked legislation that included funding to settle the lawsuits. The House will likely consider the legislation when it returns next week. It should approve the overdue settlement that will resolve two class-action lawsuits.
The government’s debt, rooted in prejudice, can never be fully repaid. Meanwhile, Latino and women farmers who have made similar discrimination claims are still waiting for justice.
Under the settlement, Native American landowners who said the Interior Department swindled them out of royalties for years will get $3.4 billion. Black farmers, who suffered discrimination in loan programs and subsidies provided by the Agriculture Department, will get $1.2 billion.
Sadly, some of the farmers wronged by the government are now elderly or died while waiting for their compensation. The government’s discriminatory practices contributed to the decline of farms operated by blacks and Native Americans. The government can never make up for all that was taken from them — their land, livelihood, and heritage. But the are an important step toward closure.