“God Made a Farmer…” and that Farmer Made a Slave

February 4, 2013 at 20:28

Jah Bread

 

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.

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