Yesterday, I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a post about an incident that happened in our school district. Students from a predominantly White and affluent school created a poster to be used at a football game against a school with a large Latinx population. The poster read “Ur dad is my gardener.” Though the poster never made it to the football game, a photo of it was circulated on social media, where its message reached a very broad audience and stirred up a lot of outrage.
I was thinking about that sign all day and thinking about my neighbors who, though the sign wasn’t directed at them, were affected by it all the same. Those students got their message across – not just the inaccurate stereotype that all Latinos are gardeners but also the presupposition that the role of a gardener is somehow inferior to them. We can try to explain this incident away as a joke or a silly high school rivalry, but instead I think we need to sit with the implicit bias that lies underneath. I think we need to examine the ways that that same bias runs through our district, our communities, our society as whole.
How do we assign value to ourselves and others? In what ways have we considered ourselves superior based on title, income, education, or race? Whose voices are we listening to most? Whose needs are we considering over others?
My faith compels me to see each person as an image bearer of the divine, created with inherent dignity. Each person has something to offer, something to teach me. And though I admit that at times the pervasive lie of social hierarchy influences the way that I see myself and others, I’m striving to see the beauty and goodness in each and every person I encounter and trying to teach my kids to do the same.
After dwelling on that poster all day long and considering my response, my daughter, Ava, who knew nothing of the incident, showed me something she had written that day. It was an expression of gratitude for nature with a shout-out to gardeners included…
I love nature. It makes me feel calm. I love nature because I like the food trees and bushes give us. I love the smell of flowers and the sun because it gives us light. Thank you to the gardeners, farmers, and workers who pick the food. They make me feel happy.
May we all have eyes to see like Ava.
To all the gardeners:
Your work is holy
You cultivate beauty
You sustain life
You dig your hands into the soil
And draw out the majesty of this good Earth
You steward creation
And support its flourishing
And in so doing
You help us all to thrive
Your work is good
Your work is needed
Your work is holy