Thoughts, Musings and Reflections

What Gardening Taught Me About Racism

Earlier this year, I planted two Colocasia Esculenta, also known as Elephant Ears. I used the same pots, soil, water, and placed them in the same location in the sunlight. As the weeks went by, I noticed only one of them was growing. I continued to water them and watched a little green leaf form in Pot #1. Each week it got a little bigger until finally, I had my first Elephant Ear. Success! The following week Pot #1 had two leaves, and today it has three leaves. As the leaves started to sprout, I knew it was time to repot the plant, and I moved it to a larger pot so it could continue growing. Pot #2 still has not sprouted; however, I water it daily and wait.

I firmly believe that if you listen, your garden will speak. Watching how these plants grew (or didn’t) made me think about racism, particularly having a conversation about racism with those who may not want to hear what you have to say.

When I planted the Elephant Ears, I could not tell them how to grow. I could not tell them when to grow. I just had to plant the seeds and trust that they would bloom when it was time. My job was to plant the seed. That is how you deal with having a conversation about racism. Your job is to plant the seed of truth in the hearts and minds of those who are racist. Your job isn’t to determine when that seed will grow. In fact, you don’t know if or when it will grow, but that is not your job. Your job is to be a seed planter. When you are having conversations about racism, that is you watering the seed. When you hear that friend or family member making racist jokes, and you shut it down, that is you pulling up any weeds around the seed. You are cultivating an environment for the seed of truth to take root and grow.

You must plant the seed and believe it will grow, even when you cannot see it. That is the beauty of gardening. I saw two leaves, and I knew it was time to repot the Elephant Ear in Pot #1, even when I could not see the roots. I saw what it was producing, so I got a bigger pot and filled it with soil. When I removed the elephant ear from the small pot, I could see multiple roots had taken shape. Some people will be like that when you discuss racism with them. They will be receptive to your lessons, listen to your teachings, get involved in the community, and focus on making this world a better place.

However, some people will be like Pot #2. No matter what you say or what you do, they just will not grow, and you have a few options:

  1. Accept the fact that the seed simply will not grow. And who knows why? Perhaps the seed was bad. Maybe it had too much or too little water. Perhaps it just wasn’t time for it to grow. You don’t know why it won’t grow, and you may never know. Why waste time trying to figure out why one plant won’t grow when you have an entire garden to tend to? You have done all you can, tend to the other plants in the garden. And know when one seed doesn’t grow, you don’t say, “To hell with this garden!” You continue working in the garden, enjoying all the other seeds that did grow. You don’t dedicate your time to a seed that just isn’t receptive to anything you may do to help it grow. If you neglect your garden, focusing all your energy on a seed that doesn’t grow, you risk the chance of not receiving a harvest. Move on and tend to your garden.
  2. Understand that you can only see what is on the surface when you plant a seed. We never know lies beneath. Perhaps the roots are forming in Pot #2. Maybe one day, I will go outside and see a little green sprout. I am not angry that it has yet not bloomed. I am not upset that it has not yet bloomed. I have done the work. I have planted the seed. I have watered it. And I must trust that it will bloom on its own time. Sometimes you cannot see the roots forming in people. You do not know when the seed of truth you have spoken will sprout. You have to trust that it is there growing. I remember having a conversation about race, and a man was very offended and sent me a very nasty message. I didn’t respond. I planted the seed and moved on. A year later, that same man came back to me and apologized. He told me, “What you said that day was the truth, and I didn’t want to hear it.” But the seed had been planted, and the roots started to form over the past year. And finally, that man began to bloom.   

My father once said, “I was a late bloomer, but bloom I did.” I believe there are many late bloomers when it comes to dealing with racism. Still, continue planting seeds and trust in their own time, roots will take hold, and the seeds will bloom.


8 replies »

  1. The one the that I know is that you are not born a racist,, someone planted that seed in you. You should now confront the person who watered that seed and ask them why? They new the world was full of Gods seeds.

    • Completely agree. No one is born racist at all. They are taught that. It would be an interesting conversation for someone to go back ask why did you teach me to hate?

  2. Beautiful. The concrete imagery of the plants resonated with me really deeply. Thank you, as always.

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