I am addressing this directly to Sneha Jogi, who wrote A different view of agriculture in the July 2021 issue. Sneha, I really hope you might be willing to listen to the other side.
Your article initiated much conversation in my household. You began by saying you had been the object of many stares and assumptions. You concluded that those stares and assumptions were from a negative bias.
Perhaps interest and common curiosity were behind those looks. Friendly people ask questions to find out about who you are to get to know you. This type of conversation brings people together and is extremely humanizing in its attempt to know the person behind the face.
Not all are tactful or excel in communication, but that doesn’t automatically mean their intentions are racist or divisive. Place a white man on a farm in India, China or Kenya, and I’m sure locals would have plenty of questions for him! He would get questions because he is white.
Isn’t that where learning begins? If you would prefer others not make assumptions about you, how is it that you make assumptions about others?
I challenge you to take each person as an individual. Make no assumptions about white men, women, people of color or others. We live on a Hoosier Homestead farm. My husband’s family has improved this farm for generations, often living quite frugally. Most were Quakers who opposed slavery. Judging one’s “unconscious bias” without knowing the individual is ignoring their actual actions and words which clearly prove where their heart and mind are coming from. To be judged by unconscious thoughts which we cannot even determine ourselves seems to be unfounded and highly speculative.
Indiana farmers are historically generous and hardworking, even as they have often depended on the weather to determine if they make a profit.
Our country abolished slavery years ago by the democratic process of a free people. Civil rights laws were passed. Our country has made mistakes and corrected wrongs. But the freedom we citizens now have is the envy of the world. Hard work, technology, and the efforts of many — white men included — have made this true.
I know of no racist policies motivated by bias in Indiana that prevent any people from entering the agriculture industry. There are many hurdles anyone must face to get started. As in any industry, there will be individuals who are more pleasant than others.
Do not assume that it is the color of their skin or gender or color of your skin or gender that determines their behavior toward you. Get to know them. Ask questions and put some information behind your perceptions of who they are.
The book of 1st Thessalonians 4:11-12 says, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.” Those words describe many farmers. It is a good way of life in Indiana.
Conversations begin with questions. Sharing, listening and empathy begin with conversations. I challenge you to encourage the questions and to surprise a few people with your answers! As you continue in agriculture, I am confident that you will be pleasantly surprised by many Hoosiers.
Ferree writes from Jonesboro, Ind. Email her at [email protected].