Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Princeton professor and fearless commentator, has a great post up over at The Kitchen Table about the media’s obsession with Michelle Obama’s new commitment to gardening at The White House. An excerpt:
In planting her garden Michelle Obama is drawing on traditions of American localism, a growing spirit of American environmentalism, and even a deep, black, Southern tradition of family farming. In this age of global commerce and interdependence, her vegetable garden is a symbol of self-reliance. As the economy declines, she is ensuring that something will grow. Planting food is always a symbol of hope because it requires faith in the unseen; the belief that something sustaining can emerge from a small seed. The new vegetable garden is a perfect political symbol for our country in this moment.
Gardens also have particular meaning for African American women. Alice Walker wrote of being in search of our mother’s gardens. Walker explains that gardens were creative outlets for black women whose labor and family obligations often frustrated their artistic genius and left them little opportunity for self expression. Michelle Obama’s garden manifests and makes concrete these black feminist tradition in such an inclusive and fully American way. It is as though she will symbolically nourish a nation from the deep tradition of black women artists while retaining her agency and personal power.