I have 56 slaves working for me.

I really had no idea that I actually employed slaves until a couple of days ago.

Sure, somewhere in the back of my mind I knew that what I purchased made a difference. Didn't I stop buying things at Wal-Mart to make a statement about how I wanted people to be treated? While raising money for Invisible Children back in 2006, I started looking into fair trade items, but didn't make the switch because it seemed inconvenient. I didn't really understand why it was so important, so it never stuck.

A friend from college, Kelly just wrote a blog post that linked me to an interesting site. By simply answering a couple of questions about items in your home you can see how many slaves are working to sustain the lifestyle you created. As an organic, green family, I thought there was no way we had that many slaves working for us. We don't own a television, don't use cosmetics or conventional bath products, and don't own that many clothes. Well, I was wrong. I wanted to change my answers to make my number lower, but that wouldn't change the reality that I have purchased items that are made by people who have been forced to do so.

Stomach drops.

Can't breathe.

Must act.

Discovering that number was like a punch to the gut. Could I purchase Easter eggs for my kids this Sunday, knowing that the chocolate used in them was picked by children my own kids ages who were taken from their parents and forced to do so? Could I pick up a cute, modest skirt for my upcoming trip to Uganda, knowing that the cotton used to make them was picked against someone's will? Could I drive through Starbucks and pick-up a treat of a tall caramel frappacino, knowing that the coffee beans used to make my drink were picked by a slave? I just can't do it anymore. I've been in a depressed, sluggish state the last couple of days wrestling with this reality.

I don't have a lot of answers yet, but I wanted to share this discovery because it has been eating away at me. Have you found out how many slaves are working for you? Take the evaluation here. Please do. As Christine Cain said,

"It is easy to ignore a number when it is nameless and faceless."

Find your number and give it a name. Only then will we change the world.

1 comment:

sa4grace said...

I recently read the book "Cheap" by Ellen Ruppel Shell that really gives a good picture of the true cost of our cheap consumer goods. It's pretty heady in the economics realm, but it was very humbling. Even companies such as IKEA that tout the green ideals is really about getting the cheapest product into the hands of the consumer. We've sacrificed well-crafted goods for cheap products made by cheap labor that we know will break apart in a few years- yet we accept that because that's life in America. I'd definitely recommend reading that one.

As you, now I feel I'm between a rock and a hard place. For where we are at this point, I think the best thing for our family is to purchase pre-owned. It's not the answer to helping others by purchasing free-trade clothing, etc., but it's not adding to the inventory already out there.