Three Cases on Racial Discrimination

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Three cases have brought attention to the practice and legality of racial discrimination in the United States.

The first dates back to the 1990’s when Black farmers won a discrimination lawsuit against the U. S. Department of Agriculture. After suffering decades of discrimination by USDA officials who denied them the loans necessary to work their farms, they were promised debt relief from the federal government. Many, however, never received it. They have been fighting for decades to receive the aid promised them after decades of discrimination. Finally, the most recent COVID relief bill included $4 billion in debt relief and another $1 billion in assistance. Still, it almost did not happen. Forty-nine senators, mostly Republicans, voted to reduce the aid or voted against giving any aid at all, citing that the bill on which they were voting was for pandemic relief, and the money owed these Black farmers had nothing to do with the pandemic. While that is true, who cares? The money was promised to these farmers decades ago and never delivered. What difference does it make that the money will be distributed as part of the pandemic relief bill? Plus, these farmers certainly suffered hardship as a result of the pandemic, so what is the problem with including this relief as part of the package for pandemic relief? The U. S. government has owed this money to these farmers for decades. Why did it take so long for the government to pony up the dough? Could it be … racism? Hmmm …

The second case is also related to pandemic relief. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 authorized $29 billion in aid to restaurant owners who experienced economic losses because of the pandemic, to be distributed by the Small Business Administration, first-come, first-served, to those businesses that apply for assistance. But, for the first 21 days of the application process, the SBA will only consider those businesses that are at least 51% controlled by women, veterans or the “socially and economically disadvantaged,” which the government defines as those who have been “subjected to racial and ethnic prejudice” or “cultural bias.” A lawsuit was filed claiming illegal racial and sexual discrimination and expressing the concern that the $29 billion set aside for aid would be used up before anyone other than women and minorities received any aid, regardless of the level of hardship suffered from the pandemic. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 ruling, granted an injunction against the use of sex or race preferences in the processing of applications and distribution of aid. Judge Amul Thapar wrote the majority opinion. He was joined by Judge Alan Norris. Judge Thapar wrote, “This case is about whether the government can allocate limited coronavirus relief funds based on the race and sex of the applicants. We hold that it cannot.” Thapar went on to quote Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who famously wrote, “The way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” Judge Bernice Donald dissented, citing historical racism and the claim that minority-owned businesses disproportionately suffered greater hardship from the pandemic than White-owned businesses. I am with the majority in this case. It is perfectly reasonable to acknowledge that minority-owned businesses suffered disproportionately from the pandemic. It is unreasonable to claim that every minority-owned business suffered more than every White-owned business, which is basically what the SBA is claiming in their consideration of applicants. If Judge Donald is concerned that the aid address the reality that minority-owned businesses suffered disproportionately, the government can base the aid allocated on how badly any particular restaurant suffered. That way, it will still be true that the majority of restaurants receiving aid will be minority-owned. But, White-owned restaurants may also receive aid if it is shown that any particular White-owned restaurant suffered more than any particular minority-owned restaurant. The bottom line is, if the point is to offer aid to those restaurants that suffered economically from the pandemic, than who receives the aid ought to be based on how badly any particular restaurant suffered economically. Race and sex ought have nothing to do with it.

The third case involves the practice of Uber Eats, Postmates and Door Dash in Arizona providing free delivery to customers who order from Black-owned restaurants. The promotion was started last year after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis as an effort to promote Black-owned businesses. The three food delivery services faced consequences on the basis of violating the Arizona Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race. All three services denied any wrong-doing and denied that their practice was illegal, but did agree in a settlement to no longer base promotions on the criteria of race, national origin, or ancestry. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said, “Even with the best of intentions, corporations can do the wrong thing. Altering the price of goods or services based on race is illegal.” This should be basic. Surely there are other ways these services can promote Black-owned businesses than charging customers more for ordering from White-owned businesses.

Race has been consuming much of our national dialogue in recent years, and it is only becoming more dominant. I am not sure this is a good thing, because so much of the dialogue is regressive rather than progressive. The dialogue focuses on punishing people for what they did in the past, pushes to the headlines smaller problems to the neglect of larger ones, identifies as racist things that no one would have given any thought to only a few years ago, encourages minority activists and so-called “allies” to call out racism where there is none, promotes racism as a way of ending racism and, perhaps most damaging, emphasizes what divides us rather than what unites us. This is no way to heal a nation of any wound, much less the wound of a racist history. If we allow race to become the foremost quality of a person, we will neglect or never even recognize other qualities that are far more defining. That would be a tragedy, because that is precisely the ill-effect of racism: we disrespect the intrinsic dignity of a person and deny him or her and ourselves the benefit of what each can offer because we reject any particular person on the basis of race.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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