Happy Juneteenth! One-hundred forty-eight years ago today, slavery was declared abolished in Texas, two and a half years after the rest of the United States. This was an important landmark in our shared American history: African American as well as every other ethnicity; we are equal in value in spite of the color of our skin. No one person should ever be allowed to own another.
As we commemorate the end of slavery in America, let us remember that although we abolished legal slavery in America in the 1860′s, slavery still exists in America and around the world in the modern day. Even though you’ve probably never seen a restrained person laboring in Renton, you and I unknowingly pay for slavery to continue on a daily basis. Slaves harvest the cacao beans that are made into the chocolate that we eat in our chocolate chip cookies. Slaves produce the clothing that we purchase. Slaves mine the coltan that is used to make our mobile phones (watch the documentary online here). Slaves harvest produce grown in America that you buy at your grocery store, and raise the beef cattle that are processed into your fast food hamburgers.
It’s awkward to think about supporting slavery in our day to day lives. However, we can make choices that impact the demand for slavery produced products. We can:
- Eat food that has been produced with transparency. Moving production of our food and goods behind closed doors has led to a proliferation of human rights violations and abuses. Undocumented workers, under myriad threats of violence against themselves and their families, deportation, and exposure, work for little to no pay to produce much of the food we eat. We can call for more transparency in the production of our food and supplies by choosing to buy locally from producers we know are ethical. What is transparent? Can you visit the farm where your veggies are grown? Can you shake the hand of the person who harvested your food, and ask them what their wages are? Buy instead from: Whistling Train Farm, Top of the Hill Produce, Smoking Monkey Pizza,
- Choose coffee, sugar, chocolate that is “Fair Trade” or “Direct Trade”. Yes, you will pay a little more for these things. You are paying the people who produced it a little more, too. That is a good thing. Liberty Cafe uses coffee from Middle Fork Roasters. They purchase Fair Trade coffee as often as it is available, which is apparently seasonal.
- Buy clothing that has been produced ethically. This one is especially difficult. Most of the clothing we purchase has no history attached for us to view. The wages of the workers can influence the price of the final product, so that clothing produced ethically is more expensive than clothing produced as a result of slave labor. “Fair Trade” labelled clothing has added cost associated with being labelled “Fair Trade Certified”. Buying clothing second hand is a subversive way to “rob” money from the companies that produce unethical clothing. Buy Fair Trade clothing from Maya Whole Health. You can find second hand clothing at Chici Baby’s Consignment Boutique, and Little Quadoo Consignment Boutique
- Be prepared to pay a little more. The question always is asked, “How can I afford to pay more for fair wages, when I can barely pay for the food and goods that are produced unfairly?” Ask yourself, can you do more with less? Do you really NEED another pair of shoes? Can you eat a little less chocolate? Eat at home a little more frequently? We are so accustomed to living with excess. Try living simply, so that others may simply live.
- Share this information with others in your network. Spread the word. You may not be able to make a huge difference, but someone in your life may. Watch the video below and share it with everyone you know!