race and space

Gardening By the Good and Evil

Despite the consumption that has rocked the nation and the planet over the last fifty years, the United States is a nation of farmers. When indigenous tribes ruled the lands, they followed the patterns of the earth and killed only as they deemed it necessary, sustaining their communities in the process. The lower class Europeans were brought over to work the lands for punishment, then for permanence when they arrived. African slaves were brought over to work the land to such an extent that the idea of land still permeates the Black community as the “true” source of wealth. Why, then, do people insist on self-determining who is entitled to the skills of working the land?

Picture chickens in an urban environment. In lower income communities, they are a symbol of irresponsible people unable to divorce their current surroundings with their “home” countries. In upper class neighborhoods, keeping chickens is an intriguing hobby designed to inspire others to do the same. Consider this: the chickens are kept for the same reason under each circumstance: to make a household more self-sustainable in the event that money is harder to acquire. Therefore, assigning a value to the individuals who raise chickens is not only morally irresponsible, but a trait of the dominant narrative. They are only birds that people can raise; they have no further value or lack thereof.

Lawns are the bane of the existence of multitudes in the United States for several reasons, not least of which being that human beings do not eat grass. Gardening is finally increasing throughout the country even though homeowners associations and neighborhood associations have varying input on the matter. However, not everyone has a yard, nor should they; consequently, community gardening is also increasing since the rise of the term “food desert.” More people are interested in growing food for themselves and community members to decrease the distance from farm to table.

Unfortunately, even gardening is seen as something to which only people in the upper echelons can aspire. People of color rarely own enough property to install urban agriculture, but sadly, they are rarely able to enjoy community gardening for one reason: people have ideas about who should actually be in public gardens. The dominant narrative rarely makes space for people of color being in public spaces, and with the rise in police intervention, many populations will not be able to enjoy the asset of community gardening because of systemic injustice.

The rebirth of Detroit is the reason why behavioral assignation is particularly insidious. Many people have left the city while many people have discovered “cheap” real estate and decided to make a profit off of the area. Some of the long-term residents turned to community gardening because they chose to use abandoned lots as a service to the neighborhoods rather than seeing it as “blight.” Sure enough, when the White population began to increase, people began to wonder why Black people were out in public without specific destinations and without feeling out of place. Ironically, Detroit has always been known as a Black city, so the newcomers are demonstrating their ignorance by being wary of Detroit’s population.

This is the problem with the environmental movement: if any movement does not include people of color, it cannot accurately be described as a movement. In the year 2018, there is no more racial or cultural isolation; all types of people live in all kinds of places. It is incumbent upon society to orient itself accordingly, because harassing someone for the dastardly “crime” of participating in urban agriculture is intolerable. There is no excuse for punishing someone for respecting the land when cultivation is the origin story for all cultures.

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