Over the last week I’ve watched what is happening in America in horror and disbelief, largely of course because the systemic racism that exists across the world isn’t experienced by me. So, I watched, and began to educate myself and pledged to educate others. I posted a black square onto Instagram in solidarity, but I know there’s only so much social media hashtags can do. The black square was a start – a powerful acknowledgment and rallying call for action.
Words however I know are powerful and lasting.
I’ve seen lots of people asking for action and to add to voices, which is important. One thing I’d like to add to that is a call to listen. Listening is a difficult skill to get right and it begins – as a wise friend once told me – with listening to understand, not to reply. Truly trying to understand what people are saying.
This week I have been listening to the black community and the fear, anger and other emotions they feel. It extends beyond this one incident and the USA of course, and I’ve listened and I’m learning. I’ve learnt a lot more about systemic racism and privilege in particular.
It had me thinking about the gardening world. One thing I contemplated early on was to share a list of my favourite famous gardens created by black people. And that’s when you see the problem, gardens are a good case study for systemic racism and white privilege.
Of all the big famous gardens I’ve visited, of all the designs I’ve seen in the public realm, they are all created by white people, with the exception of gardens I’ve visited in Africa. Not due to me choosing not to visit but because they simply aren’t promoted in the same quantities as those owned by white people in the West.
There are a handful of show gardens created by people of colour but too few. Historic gardens we celebrate have almost always been created by wealthy white people. The only truly inspirational garden I can think of created by a black person is by our friend Wayne Amiel around the corner. I’m wracking my brains for more, please share any you’ve visited below in the comments.
Obviously this is a monumental problem, as an indicator of where society is at, and of elitism and discrimination. This lack of diversity is also a huge loss to the gardening world.
For me personally it leaves a hole of creativity, inspiration and experience I love to see from different cultures, backgrounds and a person’s point of view.
Regular readers will know I’m not a massive fan of the traditional garden look anyway, at least not without a twist. I’m interested in exciting, different and personal gardens. Gardens that exude the character of the gardener or owner. The only way to experience characterful gardens that are different to each other is with diversity.
If all we see is a garden created by people like us to a particular vision or style, just imagine what we are missing out on.
There is so much more that gardening can be if we pursue diversity in all forms. I’m going to start by seeking out beautifully designed gardens created by more people of colour.