Learning from Black Lives Matter

In recent weeks there has been a big push to make the Black Lives Matter movement even more visible. Although I spoke about this a lot on my personal social media, I didn’t do anything to raise any sort of awareness through this platform. This was wrong of me. Typical behaviour of a person who doesn’t have to confront these issues day to day, and I am sorry. 

If you do not know what Black Lives Matter is, please refer to their website and do some reading. 

What does Black Lives Matter have to do with peas? Why am I writing on a gardening blog about this?

I think that the media around gardening and growing is not welcoming to Black people, and that the institutes that shape our thought around gardening and growing are built on racial inequality. The pinnacle of British gardening, the Royal Horticulturist Society, has at its roots an entanglement with eugenics and much of white gardening is an expression of colonialism (I will write more on this later). These elements have built an environment that is homogeneous and exclusionary. 

To throw this back into gardening terms. Monocultures are good for industrial growers, but not for bees or the environment. They don’t really exist in nature and so need to be reinforced by chemical agents. We have a monoculture in British gardening and because we are in the middle of it we struggle to see the damage it causes. 

Gardeners are always learning about the invisible connections between different systems and how they affect each other, we need to realise that we too are living things who are just as connected to wider systems as our tomato plants are to the bees. We are not separate from nature, and just as we try to shape and control the forces around our plants we too are shaped and controlled by forces larger than ourselves.

Black Lives Matter has caused people to rush out and buy books to educate themselves about how systemic racial oppression exists in everyday life, and to try to understand what they can do about it. We are becoming more aware of what our lives of convenience are built on, and the terrible cost of the advantages that we take for granted. I only inhabit a small space online, with the tiniest contribution to social media – but I want to use it to say that I can see that things need to change here. I don’t fully understand how to make that happen, but I’m learning. 

Gardening for me is spiritually and mentally soothing, and brings me a calmness I don’t get from anything else. Having that connection to the land brings me joy. Not everyone is going to feel the same way about it as me, but everyone should have the chance to. Growing your own food and making your land welcoming for wildlife can be a radical political act which links into building communities, environmental action and food justice. If something is radical it has to be accessible to everyone, and right now it isn’t. By learning from Black Lives Matter I hope we can start to see the systems that exist that result in inequalities and exclusion in a whole variety of areas and learn how we can proactively dismantle them. 

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