I've been reading most of the articles and garden blogger attempts to counter the article by Caitlin Flanagan, that I think is a hilarious burn, in The Atlantic. Most of them seem to be emotionally based reactions with lots of pom poms, but offer very little of the defense the titles promise.
After speaking briefly with Michael Thompson, of the Chicago Honey Co-op, at a recent event I came away wanting to be drawn into the camp of the people who are up in arms over Caitlin Flanagan's attack on school gardens.
I came across an article that I thought would finally show me that Caitlin Flanagan was wrong.
Today, someone I follow on Twitter retweeted a link to another "defense" of the school garden program, this time on Treehugger. I was pleasantly surprised by the job the guest author did in the first half of the article. I found myself thinking, "now that's a defense" until I got to this section.
Right above the paragraph of the article that accuses Caitlin Flanagan of "condescending" to Hispanics, is a pretty neat picture of a school garden. As an amateur photographer, blogger who likes to use original photography in posts and casual student of semiotics; this picture jumped out at me. What does a charming photo of Cambodian kids, in a Cambodian school garden, have to do with the a response to an article that "attacked" a school garden in California and putting the kids of Hispanic immigrants to work the school's fields instead of teaching them English, math & science?
Granted, most people who look at the article and accompanying picture will probably not notice that the kids in the picture are not Hispanic, but I can. The inclusion of this picture is symptomatic of the colonial mindset found in some in the locavore movement that Caitlin Flanagan touched on in her article.
The Treehugger article begins to loses me and goes down hill from there. It loses me completely when it makes an argument I've seen repeated elsewhere. Somehow Caitlin Flanagan is dismissing the idea of food deserts. Really? What she's really doing is dismissing the patronizing beliefs held by many locavores, activist, gardeners and foodies. She starts with her friend's statement,
"There's only 7-Eleven in the hood."
Then visits an empty Ralphs in Compton and contrasts the grocery chain with the bustling Superior Super Warehouse where many of the customers are Hispanic buying traditional food items. The comparison of the two grocery stores isn't suppose to dispel the food desert theory, but dispel the elitist views of "the hood" and the shopping habits of the poor and minorities who live there. As a resident of "the hood," that was my favorite part (besides the mean-spirited Alice Waters snark) of the article. For once, someone was talking about food deserts and didn't need to perpetuate the stereotype of the ignorant minority victims of the biased grocery store industrial complex.
It is sad that someone like Caitlin Flanagan can see food desert dwellers not as hapless victims but active participants; capable of making good food choices, while some others are married to the view of the contrary. Why is that?
Until some of these well-intentioned: gardeners, activists, locavores and foodies can see the people they are supposedly defending and trying to help as equals and not an interchangeable mass of brown, not much progress will be made.