Op-EdOpinion

HARDING: The Dismantling of Institutionalized Racism

Institutionalized racism is a sickness based on the dogma of white supremacy. It’s a sickness that cannot be cured. It is eating America alive. The only way to get rid of institutionalized racism is to get rid of the institution, to tear it down and recreate it based on principles of social, environmental and economic justice.

Agriculture, the greatest innovation in the history of mankind, allowed us to become civilized. In the U.S. about 400 years ago, agriculture was thoroughly corrupted to create an institutional framework that would support slavery. The dogma of white supremacy was critical for the control of the slave and conducive to the normalization of slavery in general. It demanded that the slave be constantly reminded of the supremacy of whites. Since most slaves spent their days working the fields, reminders of white superiority had to be integrated into the institution of agriculture wherever possible.

Our current version of agriculture is damaging our atmosphere, terrestrial biodiversity, soil and the nutrient density of our food. Over the last 10 years, my company developed farming system that will mitigate or even repair much of this damage by capturing atmospheric carbon, eliminating waste, saving water and increasing farmer profits.

I am writing this article as a form of protest against the enduring legacy of white supremacy. I am also writing this article as a plea for consideration. My company has developed an integrated farming system to reinvent agriculture. It offers a tangible, testable, practical solution to several of the most pressing problems of our time including climate change. I have put this solution before many of my fellow Americans, Black and white, in search of support. Their response is the same: they feign their support, then stop returning my calls and finally they ignore me.

Given my academic credentials, they are unable to dismiss me out of hand and I believe I present a paradox they cannot reconcile because it challenges their belief system at its very core. If the notion of white supremacy is based on facts, how can a Black man figure out a solution to a problem that all the smart white people on Earth seem to be unable to solve?

As the realization comes that my proposal could actually, what comes after is the shut down and poof, I’m gone. Invisible.

To quote Ralph Ellison in his groundbreaking book “Invisible Man,” “I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me.”

The Rev. Ed Smalls from the MLK Center in Houston would characterize it as a case of 32 degrees.

“The white man thinks his ice is colder than the Black man’s, and a lot of times the Black man thinks that too,” Smalls said. “It is however a scientifically proven fact that ice freezes at 32 degrees. Thank God I know this to be fact. If I didn’t know this, I might be seduced by the lie of white supremacy. If I let this slip into my psyche and believe the lie, I too will cease to see me and the lie will have done its work. It will have killed me.”

Slavery’s contribution to creating America is well documented in historical fact. The damage done to Black people by slavery and the institutionalized racism it left behind is so great that some believe it is impossible to repair. I beg to differ.

There is a fair and elegant solution to repaying the debt owed the descendants of slaves for 400 years of oppression and exclusion.

An explosive economic disruption in agriculture created by slave labor changed the American economic landscape and created generational wealth for countless white American families. Climate change, a pandemic and the reintroduction of cannabis into the American economy have converged to create another explosive economic disruption in agriculture. This disruption is creating great opportunity.

However, the descendants of slaves find that they are being systematically excluded from these opportunities. America now has an opportunity to do right by Black folk but institutionalized racism continues to block justice. Justice could be delivered in the form of providing African Americans a license to grow as much marijuana, hemp and food in this country as they want, without restriction, limitation or taxation for the next 400 years.

This is what we should be demanding. This is what is owed. It is not only cannabis that’s on the table. All of agriculture – a trillion-dollar-a-year industry – is on the table. We put the current administration in office. Now they need to stand up for us.

The U.S. became a global economic powerhouse when it transitioned from subsistence farming to producing commodities with slave labor. It is only fair that the descendants of those kidnapped Africans use agriculture as a vehicle for establishing complete communities with a solid tax base, thriving business community and the opportunity so long denied, to lead a normal American life.

Harding is founder/CEO of Revolutionary Sustainable Technologies, LLC (rsustainabletech.com).

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