Thanksgiving Thoughts: My Tomato Privilege and What it has to do with Ferguson

When I was in Cuba I met and became friends with a guy who I’ll call Charlie. Charlie was very passionate and critical about the situation there. Although I noticed how people started to whisper when I asked them about the realities in Cuba, I was stuck on the romanticized Cuba because coming from the context of the United States the concept of free education and medical attention for all was amazing. Though the implementation of a very noble mission was not successful in Cuba for a number of reasons such as American imperialism and the greed for power on Fidel’s part, the idea of what Cuba could have been if this process was constructed and supported properly is still alluring. Yet while I still believe in the mission that the Cuban Revolution sought to accomplish before being corrupted, I am faced with the complicated realization of reality in Cuba and it relates to the tomato. See when I was speaking to Charlie, he informed me that tomatoes are not readily available to the Cuban population and if they are they are very small and very wrinkled. Coming from the US this was of course shocking I can guarantee that I probably showed my privilege and naivete when I mentioned that to him especially considering a young version of myself would have gladly shipped all the tomatoes I had to eat to Cuba. Yet the tomato is telling of more than just how people who live in America (There is a difference between this group and Americans) in comparison to people in Cuba. You see I have the privilege to eat or refuse to eat tomatoes and I could if I wanted to stay oblivious to the fact that many people in the world will probably never have that privilege. In the event that someone in a place where hunger is common came across one, they would eat it even if they do not like the taste because they do not have the luxury of refusing food. I used this as a simple analogy to explain how many people in the US have the privilege to ignore the events that occurred this week in Ferguson (The two can never be seen as completely analogous but this is just to illustrate privilege in a simple sense).

Many people on social media, black and white alike, have tried to focus on things such as black on black crime and have blindly argued that black people need to focus on that. Yet I say to them that the black community is doing what it can to address those problems and always have been. The privilege to deny the concerns and anger over police officers (typically but not always white) killing an unarmed person of color is very prevalent in the US today. Reports show that whites and blacks view the situation in Ferguson differently which affects the level of outrage needed for there to be serious change. The fact of the matter is that the no indictment of officer Wilson and him being able to profit off of the death of Mike Brown should be sickening to anyone who understands the larger context to this story. This event is not confined to Ferguson as we have already seen multiple instances where black men have been killed since Michael Brown at the hands of police officers, Tamir Rice and Akai Gurley are the latest to be added to this ever growing list.

On this Thanksgiving, as you spend the day with love ones think on if you are benefiting from a system where some people are automatically seen as criminal and discriminated against. Also, though I am all for being thankful, think of what this holiday represents to the Native Americans who suffered from a genocide as a result of European colonialism and US expansionism. We all have privilege in varying forms whether it be tomato privilege, white privilege, or the privilege to ignore how Thanksgiving was actually founded and what really happened to Native Americans while we eat our turkey. Just as I had to realize Cuba does have its problems by way of the tomato (I understood the problems before but the tomato really forced me to confront my romanticized Cuba), people with the privilege to ignore Ferguson need to wake up. In order to fix structural issues such as institutional racism, we have to be willing to open our eyes and refuse to be blind to injustices that are occurring around us. We can no longer put on our blinders and blame future Mike Browns for their demise because that is not only an attempt to distance ourselves from the victim, but it legitimizes and strengthens a corrupt system.

Peace and Love,

K. Gibson

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