“If it looks like we were scared to death
Like a couple of kids just trying to save each other
You should’ve seen it in color.
A picture’s worth a thousand words
But you can’t see what those shades of gray keep covered
You should’ve seen it in color”
— Jamey Johnson, “In Color”
If you are from the Plains region, your social media feed is probably filled with wheat harvest photos right now.
Hot, dry winds roll across fields of golden waving wheat. Friends and family come together to drive combines, grain trucks, “the old wheat truck” and “the new semi” late into the night to bring in the crop. Famous home-cooked meals are served out of the back of SUVs. Heavenly displays of color created by the dust-filled air as the sun sets over the heart of America.
However, the country song “In Color” is spot on that “seeing it in color” by living through an event is so much more powerful. A picture can’t quite capture an air of excitement, comradery of families and communities working together, or pride in an honest day’s work. No picture, black and white or color, can capture the true heart of the experience.
In recent years, farmers and ranchers have become frustrated with “city people” who have never been on a real farm because they can’t seem to understand that even though farming is truly a passion it is full of challenges.
For example, harvest is such a whirlwind because farmers are terrified if they don’t get wheat out of the field hail, fire or bugs could destroy it. An entire year’s income is tied up in each field and farmers aren’t actually rich, they just have larger bills than most other people. It’s not uncommon to go days or weeks without tucking their kids into bed, a proper night’s sleep or a moment of downtime. The seeds, chemicals and other scientifically developed farming practices we use are what we believe to be the best, safest tools to grow healthy food.
A city person scrolling through social media probably doesn’t appreciate (or maybe even care about) all my feelings about wheat harvest. Pictures are informative and can help tell a story, but they can’t provide context, background and first-hand feelings created by seeing the true colors of an experience with your own eyes.
Our national conversation is consumed with Black Lives Matter, protests, race and injustice. I see these stories and feel like an outsider looking at another family’s photo album. I can see what is happening and the emotions of the participants, but I can only guess at what they feel and have no understanding of each snapshots’ value. I am not part of their experience.
No matter how much I want to understand, I can’t wrap my brain around what it is like to be a black man living in America. However, I do understand some of their emotions: helplessness, frustration, fear and anger.
It’s OK if you aren’t a vocal participant in the national conversation. It is actually very appropriate if you lack experience with the topics. But please, do not dismiss these conversations. They are happening for a reason.
The world is not black and white. Taking a color-blind approach and ignoring race hides so many valuable things in the shades of gray. Our world is full of color and colorful people for a reason.
We have an opportunity to make it better. A moment to ask genuine questions and have uncomfortable conversations, raise our voices against injustice and show compassion for others’ struggles, and seek to understand the cultures of our fellow humans.
Don’t experience life scrolling through other people’s photos. Go see it in color.
“Insight” is a weekly column published by Kansas Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization whose mission is to strengthen agriculture and the lives of Kansans through advocacy, education and service.