Monday, January 18, 2010

Dr. King and the Study of Agricultural Law

In recognition of this day in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I would like to make note of our efforts in the LL.M. Program in Agricultural & Food Law to recognize the role that race, diversity, gender, and ethnicity have played in the development of American agriculture. While we celebrate the success of American agriculture and its unparalleled productivity, we take time to recognize that like many aspects of society, American agriculture also includes a story of great injustice and discrimination.
As Dr. King noted, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.”
In Agricultural Perspectives, we begin our study with a look at slavery in America and just last week, we viewed excerpts from Africans in America, America’s Journey Through Slavery. This week, we will view another award-winning documentary, Oh Freedom After While, the difficult yet inspiring story of poor black and white sharecroppers coming together to try to improve their lives.

And, we will view the documentary, Homecoming, about African American farming today, considering the words of Dr. King,
“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”
Last semester in Agricultural Finance & Credit, we studied past and present discrimination in agricultural lending, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and the ongoing struggles of African American farmers as evidenced in the Pigford litigation. Also addressed were the struggles of Native American farmers in the Keepseagle case, Hispanic farmers in the Garcia case; and women farmers in the Love case.

Again, we are mindful of Dr. King’s words,
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
As noted in a previous post, Professor Lisa Pruitt spoke to the Emerging Issues in Food Law class on the importance of rural women in providing food for their families worldwide and the impact of the CEDAW on the rights of women.

In Agricultural Labor Law, we address the law and policy of our use of migrant agricultural labor, and our study begins with the book With These Hands: The Hidden World of Migrant Farmworkers Today. Our class project will be to revise, edit, and post our course materials to encourage others to study this special area of employment law.

In recognizing both the diversity in agriculture and the injustice experienced by those with the least power, we can move forward to create a food system that reflects the goals espoused by Dr. King.
"An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity."

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