Modified on: February 7, 2019
The root of racism is scarcity. The very idea of race—the fiction of it—was developed in the American colonies to pit white and black laborers against one another for finite privileges and resources, the better to control and exploit their work. We see this still in the fearmongering about our national borders and immigrant workers, meant to catalyze a disinherited base—all in a land of abundant opportunity.
Advocating for a marriage of conscience and science that would make any defender of the Enlightenment proud, Dr. Martin Luther King argued:
There is nothing new about poverty. What is new, however, is that we now have the resources to get rid of it…Why should there be hunger and privation in any land, in any city, at any table, when [humanity] has the resources and the scientific know‐how to provide all [hu]mankind with the basic necessities of life?…There is no deficit in human resources, the deficit is in human will….
(from Where Do We Go From Here?, 1967)
A hero of our nation, George Washington Carver, was born into this system of scarcity. He had little, and yet he discovered much. With an ingenuity matching the likes of Benjamin Franklin, Carver showed us what the combined power of knowledge and care can achieve. The historian Eduardo Galeano told Carver’s story with playful seriousness:
George Washington Carver dreamed about God.
“Ask of me whatever you wish,” God offered.
Carver asked Him to reveal the secrets of peanuts.
“Ask the peanut,” God told him.
George, a child of slaves, dedicated his life to resurrecting lands slain by the slave plantations.
In his laboratory, which looked like an alchemist’s kitchen, he developed hundreds of products made from peanuts and sweet potatoes: oil, cheese, butter, sauces, mayonnaise, soap, stains, dyes, inks, syrups, glues, talcum…
“The plants tell me,” he explained. “They’ll talk to anyone who knows how to listen.”
When he died…he was nearly eighty years old and still handing out recipes and advice, still teaching in an unusual university, the first in Alabama to accept students who were black.
(from Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History)
To fight racism, seek out the abundance of our world. It is everywhere. We can find it, and we can share it.
With all, for all—
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