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UK academic: Discussions on soil purity, invasive species racist, fascist

UK academic says gardening topics like soil purity "racist."
UK academic says gardening topics like soil purity "racist."
Gavin Kingcome Photography/Taxi/Getty Images

A liberal school principal once claimed she could spot racism in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Now, according to Dr. Ben Pitcher, a senior lecturer in sociology at the University of Westminster, discussions on gardening topics like soil purity and invasive species can be seen as racist, while promoting nationalist and fascist beliefs, the UK Telegraph reported Tuesday.

“'Gardeners’ Question Time' is not the most controversial show on Radio 4, and yet it is layered with, saturated with, racial meanings," he said in a discussion on Radio 4 program "Thinking Allowed." Pitcher, however, wasn't finished.

“The context here is the rise of nationalism," he added. "The rise of racist and fascist parties across Europe. Nationalism is about shoring up a fantasy of national integrity. My question is, what feeds nationalism? What makes nationalism powerful?”

He also claimed the “crisis in white identity in multicultural Britain” means people feel unable to express their views for fear of being called racist. To compensate, he added, they express their racial identity in other ways, like talking about gardening.

Lola Young, a former professor of cultural studies, backed up Pitcher's claim. She went on to compare rhododendron-bashing with rhetoric targeting those from Pakistan.

“I remember back in the late 80s-early 90s when rhododendrons were seen as this huge problem, and people were talking about going out rhododendron-bashing," she said. "That was at a time when Paki-bashing was something that was all too prevalent on our streets.”

Program regular Bob Flowerdew, however, dismissed the idea as so much rubbish. Calling the notion "ridiculous," he asked whether experts on the show “should stop using Latin names to avoid offending the Romans," the Telegraph said.

“People aren’t gardening because they have some narrow nationalist view of the world," he added. “They are gardening because they enjoy it and they like to be outside in nice surroundings.”

“We’ve been out in our gardens for more than 150 years so I don’t quite see how that fits," he continued. "I think it’s ridiculous."

Infowars' Paul Joseph Watson said it's important to know the issue "is not a piece of satire or a hoax." He went on to say that "academics in the UK have genuinely claimed that using mundane gardening terms is secret code for racism."

It's not the first time such a ridiculous claim has come from across the pond. In 2011, Anne O'Connor, an "early years consultant who advises local authorities on equality and diversity," actually made the claim that white paper can cause racism in young children. She also suggested replacing black pointy witches' hats should be replaced with pink hats.

"Finally, staff should be prepared to be economical with the truth when asked by pupils what their favourite colour is and, in the interests of good race relations, answer 'black' or 'brown,'" the Telegraph noted at the time. "The measures, outlined in a series of guides in Nursery World magazine, are aimed at avoiding racial bias in toddlers as young as two."

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