The “8th Day” of which Paul Harvey speaks, must have occurred in the 1950s and 60s with the end of (widespread) sharecropping.
Last night, I was quite offended by Ram’s “God Made a Farmer” commercial during the Super Bowl. Well-meaning as it may have been, this commercial – airing during Black History Month, no less – made no mention whatsoever of the American Institution of Slavery. How could such an oversight be made?
Industrial farming was built on the backs of African slaves. And while critics have duly noted the lack of mention of temporary immigrant workers on whom industrial farming presently relies, it’s even more offensive that no one – including critics – have mentioned the omission of American slaves.
You see: an accurate depiction of American History would note that “God made a farmer,” but that farmer became greedy – became (Western) capitalist – degraded the humanity of the African and made a slave…imported slaves…traded in slaves.
I’m not saying Paul Harvey was entirely wrong…but his quote seems a bit misguided. God may indeed have said that He needed someone “to get up before dawn…and work all day in the fields…,” but like President Lincoln stated in his Second Inaugural Address: “[i]t may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces…”
But, God made a farmer…and that farmer made a slave.
The problem with this advertisement is more than simply some overly sensitive Black man seeking every opportunity to inject race. No, beloved…this oversight is the underlying source of the problem which led to critique from supporters of immigration reform and the rights of temporary workers.
If society can ignore the glaring reality of the American Slave and sharecropper, their importance to industrial farming and the need to promote the rights of the slave, sharecropper and descendants, how can we expect anyone to truly show concern and compassion for the Temporary Worker and the rights of that worker?
Yes indeed, God made a farmer…and that farmer made a slave.
That farmer also aided in the creation of the market for Temporary Workers that immigrate legally and illegally to the United States looking for opportunity. So, in some respects ignoring the slave dooms America to repeat the egregious mistake of dehumanizing another of God’s children…wringing their bread from the sweat of other disinherited men and women.
Again, the people at Ram likely didn’t intend to offend. Yet, we must be true to history if we are to have any hope of making progress in society. The efforts are noble – even if unknown. Ram has partnered with Future Farmers of America to raise money for its Feeding the World – Starting at Home initiative. The initiative is designed to raise awareness on domestic and global food insecurity.
I’m definitely supportive of efforts to raise awareness to issues of food insecurity. Matter of fact, I recently preached a sermon to children about meeting the needs of other hungry children (I Will Share the Lord’s Bread). But, the glaring omission of any mention of those who are victimized by industrial farming begs the question: how can any initiative serve its purpose if it is blind to the existence of those it claims to serve?
In other words, how can Ram, FFA and the Feeding the World initiative benefit those who suffer food insecurity if they ignore the contributions of those Black and Brown who actually labor to plant and harvest the crops of which they – themselves – are unable to eat?
God made a farmer…and that farmer made a slave.
For any initiative to work in alleviating food insecurity, we must acknowledge the realities of those who live with those insecurities. We cannot pretend that the people who actually did and do the labor are nonexistent. We have to acknowledge the existence of the Other, so that he and she might be brought out of the shadows and coerce the larger society to compassion.
God made a farmer…that farmer made a slave…and the resultant economy keeps that slave – that temporary worker – hungry and marginalized in society. But, when we acknowledge that the slave and the temporary worker are the ones who actually till the soil, then we can lovingly integrate them into Society.
What if Jim Crow didn’t die in the 60’s?
[amazon_link id=”1595586431″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ][/amazon_link]That’s the question you come to grips with when reading Michelle Alexander’s first book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. Written for the children and grandchildren of those who lived, fought, died and survived the Civil Rights Movement of the late 1950’s, the 1960‘s, and the early 1970’s, this book challenges those of us who feel we’ve “arrived” to question the notion of a “Post-racial America.”
In [amazon_link id=”1595586431″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The New Jim Crow[/amazon_link], Ms. Alexander gives an historical account of America’s love affair with systems of racial control and their importance to the American economy. From the Institution of Slavery to Jim Crow Segregation to Mass Incarceration, Michelle Alexander demonstrates how the idea of racial caste did not die. Rather, the way caste was implemented and maintained was tweaked in order to better fit the changes in Society. As Ms. Alexander says:
The fact that some African Americans have experienced great success in recent years does not mean that something akin to a racial caste system no longer exists. No caste system in the United States has ever governed all black people; there have always been “free blacks” and black success stories, even during slavery and Jim Crow.
Rather than being satisfied that racial caste has ended, Ms. Alexander argues that “it may have simply taken a different form,” and that mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex comprise the new front in the Civil Rights Movement. There are several comparisons to highlight her claim:
- “More African American adults are under correctional control today – in prison or jail, on probation or parole – than were enslaved in 1850…”
- Legalized discrimination that exemplified both Slavery and Jim Crow are a reality for the incarcerated and formerly incarcerated.
- Despite the fervor behind reauthorizing the Voting Rights Act and vigilance against voter disenfranchisement, “Felon disenfranchisement laws have been more effective in eliminating black voters in the age of mass incarceration than they were during Jim Crow.”
- “The combined effect of race-based peremptory strikes and the automatic exclusion of felons from juries has put black defendants in a familiar place – in a courtroom in shackles, facing an all-white jury.”
Worst of all, Michelle Alexander asserts that “…mass incarceration defined the meaning of blackness in America: black people, especially black men, are criminals. That is what it means to be black.” This is proven by the endless bent of black culture – depicted by music, sports, film and reality TV, and enacted on inner city streets – to prove its toughness.
So what if Jim Crow didn’t die in the 60‘s?
What do you think? What are your initial reactions to these comparisons?
If you buy these comparisons then the idea of a “Post-racial America” is only a myth. The enduring struggle for Civil Rights becomes a tangible one that moves away from the nostalgia of the historical Civil Rights Movement and beyond a simple protection of Voting Rights and clamoring of our bourgeois notions of disparity (mine too).
The claims made in The New Jim Crow are well-founded and tough to dispute. Yet, the work is heavy on the facts and data. At times, it is too academic. Moreover, the issue being dealt with in this work is tough to stomach. It is hard to accept that living with all the opportunities that we (I, myself) have, there could still exist a system of racial caste right beneath our noses! Because of this, The New Jim Crow can be difficult to read. Honestly, it took me a couple months to make it all the way through (I was still in Seminary at the time and still reading for my classes…don’t judge me! :))
Despite the difficulty of facing the material and the heaviness of the facts and data, The New Jim Crow is extremely informative and eye-opening. Ms. Alexander has strung together the facts in a very compelling and revealing way. The title is bold and you might wonder: “Is the comparison to Jim Crow a valid one?”
It certainly is valid, and if you doubt that then I challenge you to read this book. What if Jim Crow didn’t die in the 60’s? What if we are still living with a veiled system of racial caste? Can people who love Justice afford to take that chance? What do you say?