Answering YOUR Questions: Part 2

We answered several of the questions we got during the survey in Answering Your Questions, Part 1 back in February. That set of questions dealt with us personally and the blog itself. This week, we’re tackling the content questions!

What are some of the answers to these justice problems in your opinion?

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Michelle:  I’m not sure how answerable this question is, but I love it! This is what we answer in each post. From the beginning of Tuesday Justice, our model for most posts is “here’s the problem, here’s what’s being done about it, here’s how you can get involved.” Whether or not what’s being done is going to solve the problem is another story, but hopefully, it’s at least helpful on some level, and we do our best to vet those solutions before we publish our posts.

For a lot of what we talk about, the ultimate solutions would require equal treatment before the law, poverty alleviation, equality in education & opportunity, and other such development goals. But there’s an element of symptom treatment in some of this. While we want to fix the root causes of injustice, we also want to alleviate some of the immediate suffering people are facing. We have to use a both/and approach.

What situation have you been made aware of which had a “perfect storm” of factors such as poverty, slavery & immigration as the root cause?

Michelle:  I came across this report from Verite, Forced Labor in the Production of Electronic Goods in Malaysia, which included a case study that illustrates these three factors coming together. (You can find more info in the Research Findings section of the report, beginning on page 83.)

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The problems started when the factory asked their broker to raise the workers’ wages to meet the new legal minimum wage standard. The broker initially agreed to the wage increase, but was disingenuous with them about how many deductions would be taken from their base salary, having them sign a contract written in English and Malay, languages that none of the three understood. When the workers got their first payslips, they realized that their wages were much lower than they had agreed, and complained about it to the factory management. The factory apparently confronted their broker about the issue, because only days later, they were informed by the broker that they were being pulled from their jobs, that the factory was ‘throwing them away.’ Days later, they were made to pack their bags and move to a new housing area in Balakong, about 50 km away from their previous residence. […] After some time, the workers were informed that they must start working at a new, much less desirable factory. The workers knew this factory to have a poor reputation and objected to the new assignment, repeatedly asking the broker to return their passports to them, but the agent refused to give their passports back. At the time of the interview, the workers had not received pay for their final two weeks of work at the original factory, nor had they been paid at all since moving to Balakong. Instead of paying them their back pay, their broker offered to loan them money to cover their living costs. Since nothing had been resolved regarding the new factory job yet, while winding down the interview, the researcher asked them what they wanted to happen. They said that they were not asking for more than they deserved, and that they wished to remain in Malaysia to continue working since they had not been able to save money yet, due to spending their first two years in the country paying off their debts. They said that they do not want to run away because they wanted to get their passports back. They just wanted to be respected and protected by the agent, and if that was not possible, they wanted to be able to transfer to another agent.”

How do you build friendships with people of another race?

Channon:  I think the most important thing to remember is that people are just people! We are all human beings and are all on this journey called life. We all experience love, joy, sadness, pain, heartache, healing, etc., and if we can always remember that in the back of our minds, then it will be easier to relate to people, even if they aren’t the same race as you! Take for example me and Michelle:  cc7We met in the UK, doing the same Masters degree, learning more about a subject that we both are passionate about. And we instantly clicked and became good friends (and are still to this day)! We also connected through our shared faith and ultimately because Michelle is just a great person and someone who I wanted to have a lasting friendship with. Even though we are black and white, we don’t dwell on that, instead we choose to focus on our shared interests, passions and genuine like of each other! So focus on the shared and similar interests with someone from another race and not your differences or the fact that you’re from different races.

Michelle: Yes, yes, yes to what Channon said! There are times when I, as a white person, need to understand how Channon’s experiences, as a black woman, are different than mine. And while it’s important to recognize that, when it comes to beginning a friendship, we often connect with others based on our shared experiences.

What do you think the most important way to prevent social justice problems is?

Channon: I don’t think there is one single, important way to prevent social justice problems. I think a couple of things need to be implemented in order to find success in preventing these issues globally. First, we must acknowledge deep-rooted hurts from the past. Brokenness within certain communities needs to be dealt with and forgiveness and healing needs to happen. Safe spaces have to be created for underrepresented groups’ voices to be heard and their opinions and ideas acknowledged. Also, I believe policies and laws have to be more strict when it comes to dealing with issues such as trafficking, modern day slavery in all of its forms. Also, plans have to be put in place so that poverty can be eliminated, so that people can live their lives comfortably without having to worry about where their next meal is coming from or whether they can afford to send their children to school. Looking at all of these things that have to be done is a HUGE task and slightly overwhelming, but Michelle and I have hope that one day we will get there!

Do you feel people should do more due diligence on what is being reported on the news before forming opinions on the issue? Also, we sometimes have dirty grids from past hurts that skew our opinions. How can we separate opinions from facts to not make an immediate emotional judgment?

Michelle: To answer the first two questions, YES. Yes, we should all do our due diligence before forming opinions. And yes, we all have dirty grids. (I’ve never heard the term “dirty grid” before; I’m just guessing it’s meaning from context.) Depending on where you grew up, who you’re around, which news gets to your feed, it’s tough to separate fact from opinion and take varying viewpoints into consideration. No one is completely neutral, and we all need to start from the understanding that our viewpoints on social justice issues HAVE BEEN affected by a number of variables. That’s key in beginning to understand why things are the way they are and how others could be viewing the same situation differently than we are.

The media we consume plays a huge role in this (see here: Political Polarization & Media Habits from Pew Research Center). So, the next step, and answer to the third question, is to make sure that you’re getting input from “the other side” (if you have a particular bent left or right) or both sides (if you feel like you don’t belong on the spectrum at all or if you feel stuck in the middle). It’s important that wherever you’re spending time getting news and information, you don’t create an echo chamber. As a liberal person in a deeply conservative region, I don’t need to curate my timelines too strictly; it happens naturally for me, both online and IRL. If the people around you mostly agree with you, it’s easy to only see the facts that confirm your opinions. (That being said, I’m not above blocking someone who regularly posts vitriol or fake news.) If you’re getting your news from TV, switch channels once in a while. If you get your news online, go to multiple sites. If you get your news via social media, follow multiple (reputable) sources. (Also, check out these tips:  Five Ways to Break Out of Your Online Echo Chamber.) It does take some effort, but it’s incredibly important to see from multiple perspectives in order to have a well-rounded, compassionate view of the issues. 

I looked up some charts to find the best news sources on either side. Obviously, this is somewhat subjective, but I didn’t see huge discrepancies. (Google “media bias chart” to see what I mean.) News sources like The Economist, The Atlantic, and Wall Street Journal both scored very well in terms of fact-reporting and minimal bias across most of the charts I saw (see photos).

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I am always interested in what we can do to help and ways we can use the information you have given us to get involved. Now that my social justice flame has been lit by a post, tell me what to do with that flame. You do this already, but I am definitely for it! // How can I get involved in social justice in my local area?

Channon:  What a great question!! There are many ways in which you can get involved in social justice in your local area.

  1. You can volunteer your time at a local organization that is working towards a specific cause.
  2. You can donate your financial resources to organizations who are doing great work locally, nationally or globally.
  3. You can choose a book that discusses social justice issues and create a book club and invite friends, family, your community, and those who may be interested in learning more about social justice and how they can help. (Our resource list has some great options for this!.)

Michelle also wrote a great blog post titled, “2017: But What Can We Do?” which lists some more ways in which you can get involved in fighting for social justice in your community. If you’re looking for something specific, but can’t seem to find it, get in touch with us and we will do our best to point you in the right direction.

Michelle:  What Channon said, plus protest and most importantly, vote!


If you didn’t get to ask us that burning question back in August during the survey, don’t hesitate to ask us now! Comment below or shoot us a message on Facebook.

The Best of Tuesday Justice (So Far)

by Channon & Michelle 

As we look ahead into 2018, we wanted to reflect on some past Tuesday Justice posts: our most viewed, Channon’s favorites, Michelle’s favorites…. If you’re new to the blog or haven’t read any of the posts mentioned below, please take a look!

Most viewed post: Desktop6-001History or Hate? The Confederate Statues of New Orleans” Written by Channon in May 2017, the post has received over 300 views, most of which came after the attack in Charlottesville in August. The views came primarily from internet searches about Confederate statues. It’s a privilege that one of our posts could provide information to people seeking out a greater understanding of hot-button issues that dominate the news cycle.

Guest Posts: Desktop6-004We’ve also had four fantastic guest posts this year, and we hope to have more in 2018. (Let us know if you’re interested or have an idea for a great guest post!)  Our most viewed guest post was “When They Get the Story Wrong: Muslims, Ideology & Terrorism” by Tom Pettinger. 

 

Channon’s Favorite Post by Michelle: “White People, Let’s Fix This

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What did you learn?

Reading through the many blog posts we’ve done since October 4th, 2016, I must say that my favourite post from Michelle is “White People, Let’s Fix This”. What I learned from this post is that empathy and education are the two things that helped the people Michelle spoke to, understand the plight and oppression of others and racial injustice. I also got to see Michelle’s and other people’s view of how they saw racial injustice and what they do and would do to help fight it.

Why did you like it?

I loved how Michelle talked about her family history, how she grew up and just brought that personal element to the post. After reading this post, I began to understand more why Michelle is the way she is (compassionate, kind, empathetic, amongst other great qualities 😊) and that she comes from a family who has always and continues to fight against social injustice, intolerance, racism and discrimination. I also really liked that she compared what was happening then, in the book “12 Million Black Voices,” in 1941 (racial oppression, etc. against black people), to what is still happening now in 2017 to black people, both in America and internationally. I also liked that Michelle shared her “woke” moment with readers – the moment her “eyes were opened” and she could connect with what was happening to black people. I also liked that Michelle took responsibility and urged others also to take action to do something about the racial injustice happening in the world today. Michelle said in her post, “The photo also reminded me that racism isn’t someone else’s problem. Those people were MY people, MY blood, MY history. And it’s my responsibility to undo the damage. Continually.”

I thoroughly enjoy Michelle’s posts every time she writes for Tuesday Justice! She is a talented and passionate person and that shows through in her writing. She is transparent when she writes and leaves you feeling empowered to take up the cause of whatever social justice issue she is discussing.

Channon’s Favorite Post by herself: “The Power of Peaceful Protest

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What did you learn?

What I learned from this post is how relevant and timely protests still are today in 2017. It also made me a bit sad when researching for this post to know that things have not changed very much from protests back in the 50s and 60s. It made me sad to know that we as black people are still fighting against the same injustices that we were fighting back then. But I was also hopeful when writing this post because I learned how powerful protests can be, when people unite together and have the same mindset, views and voice about a particular issue.

Why did you like it?

I really liked how I was able to do a compare and contrast with protests from 60 years ago (sit-ins, marches and freedom Rides of Civil Rights Movement) to protests now (Black Lives Matter, halting of the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, etc.). It put into perspective what has and has not changed about protests then and now. I also loved looking back and researching the Civil Rights Movement era and the different methods that were used to get their point across. Whether it was the non-violent approach of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. or the more violent approach like Malcolm X and the Black Panthers, black people have used the tool of protests for decades. Overall, I really enjoyed writing this post and doing the research for it!!!

It was a pleasure for me to write this post and I was happy to inform people (if they weren’t already aware) why protesting is so powerful, what it meant historically to groups of people and what it still means now to those same groups of people.

Michelle’s Favorite Post by Channon: “I’m rooting for everybody black.” The Importance of Supporting Black Businesses 

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What did you learn?

I learned more about the social and economic dynamics of black business within black communities. Channon was so thorough in this post with statistics about the economy within the black community, like unemployment and spending habits, but she also connected it on the social level with commentary on the (misguided) idea that black products are inferior. I feel like I understood the topic so much more fully after reading this post!

Why did you like it?

I saw several lists come across my timeline with titles like this one: “15 Gifts From Black-Owned Businesses Your Loved Ones Deserve This Holiday Season.” And I thought they were awesome, and I felt like it would be a great thing to support black-owned businesses during the holidays, but I was worried that if I shared those lists, people who think this was somehow anti-white. I wasn’t confident that I could articulate the truth until I read Channon’s post. It’s not about being anti-white; it’s about supporting the black community “in a system that is meant to keep [them] down.”

I often tell Channon that I want her posts to be more personal. She is so smart, but also she’s SO passionate about what she writes about, and I always want that to come out more. I feel like this post not only displayed her brains but also her heart and passion for the strengthening of the black community.

Michelle’s Favorite Post by herself:  “Racism in America and the Danger of Colorblindness

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What did you learn?

In researching for this post, I learned the importance of confronting racial injustice and inequality. The answer to ending systemic racism isn’t ignoring it or trying to be “colorblind.” Thinking and talking about race can be incredibly uncomfortable. Many of us were raised to believe that’s a taboo topic to be avoided at all costs, but the more I thought about what I’d read in preparation for the post, the more I realized that we have to confront the reality of the situation if we hope to make it better.

Why did you like it?

I think because of my own experience of “waking up” to racial injustice, I want to help others see it too. And working on this post helped me to think through and recognize how I can help others move forward, especially folks with kids. It’s hard to navigate how to talk to kids about race, and it’s easier to just teach them (and subsequently, ourselves) that race doesn’t matter and should be ignored altogether. I think this post helps me articulate why that line of thinking is ultimately unhelpful.

I was worried about what kind of negative responses I might get on this post. I start out by discussing the problems with an adorable viral video about some super cute kids! But I didn’t. People seemed to respond very positively to it, and I hope it helped others think through their views on race and racial injustice.

 

Desktop6But by far, one the best things we did this year wasn’t written by Channon or Michelle. It was written by the Tuesday Justice Community. It was our Freedom Post! Maybe it wasn’t our most popular post, but we are so thankful for all of you who have joined us on our journey for the full freedom of all people! 

 

Cotton, Sugar, & the N-Word: Why History Matters

Maybe the n-word is just a word, maybe cotton is just a plant, maybe sugar mills are just historical artifacts, but when a person is keenly aware of their history, IT. MAKES. A. DIFFERENCE. We cannot ignore historical context in modern discourse.

ON THE N-WORD

by Channon Oyeniran

“When I hear the N-word, I still think about every black man who was lynched—and the N-word was the last thing he heard.” – Oprah Winfrey

As I was scrolling through my newsfeed on Facebook a few weeks ago, an article caught my attention, “If you truly knew what the N-word meant to our ancestors, you’d NEVER use it.” I thought to myself, “That’s for sure!” I know the word is horrendous, and I have cringed every time I hear it and have been called it, but I still decided to click on the link so that I could learn a bit more about the origins of this detestable word.

768px-you27se_just_a_little_nigger2c_still_youse_mine2c_all_mine_28nypl_hades-610093-125607929The author of the article, Brandon Simeo Starky, said this about the n-word and why it was used: “The best explanation of what I gleaned, what social scientists called internalized oppression, describes the psychological trauma that ensues when a person from a stigmatized group believes those negative stigmas. White folk indoctrinated them into accepting their supposed inferiority. These [slave] narratives illustrate the success of this campaign of mental terrorism, and no word conveyed the depth of this internalized oppression more than ‘nigger.’” What was clear to Starky while reading these slave narratives was the self-perception that those enslaved had about themselves based on the use of the n-word. It was clear to him, and became clear to me as I read, that the primary purpose of the n-word was to dehumanize, demean and break the spirit of those hearing it. It was used every day, all day, 24/7/365 and has been around longer than the existence of the USA. For this reason, many of those who were enslaved, and their descendants, internalized the meaning of this word.

 

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Enslaved black people were called the n-word as if it was their name, and the word was found in literature, media, entertainment, comedy, marketing and advertising of products, etc. If I haven’t gotten this point across, know that this word was everywhere, used all the time to degrade the very souls of black people. Doing a slow, psychological work in them, causing deep emotional damage, passed down through generations, that will take many years and much work to undo.  

Some say that it’s okay for black people to use the word. I disagree. I get that they have tried to reclaim it and use “nigga” instead, but I just don’t think it’s necessary or warranted. Whenever I hear black people using this word, I say to myself, “Do they know all of the history behind this word, like really know….?” 10214542_1_xThis word was used as our name. Although we had names, we heard this word so much that we started to internalize it and believe that we were n*****s and nothing more, that we had no value.

To see what others had to say about the n-word, Michelle and I sent a series of six questions to black women and men of different ages. We got back four responses and many of the answers were quite similar. (Huge thanks to those who participated and sent responses back!)

  1. Is it ever okay for non-Black people to use the N word (in context, joking, repeating, etc.)?

The general consensus was a resounding, “NO!” But Subria had a great response to this question.

Subria: It is never okay for a non-Black person to use any variation of the word: nigger, nigga, or my nig. When non-Black people use it, it comes with a history of violence. If a non-Black person says it, they are demonstrating their complicity in that violence, it will never be their word to claim, no matter how many rap songs and no matter how many black friends they have. And the black friends that don’t call them out need a history lesson as to why it’s grounds to whoop that a$$. (Q: Can I say that last part?)

  1. Is it okay for Black people to use the word?

Gail: After really understanding where that word comes from, I don’t know why they would want to. I think it’s best to educate them and have them really understand the history of it. There are some great books and movies that will really hit home (12 Years a Slave, Birth of a Nation, etc). I feel like if black people really understood the weight behind it they would not use it so freely.

Subria: Yes, it is okay for Black people to use the word. It surprises me that, particularly among black academics, the choice is made to use “the n word” instead of writing out or saying the word “nigger”. It’s a hurtful word and it stings on our ears. Just like the violence of the word stung our ancestors and continues to do to their offspring. This choice to use the “the n-word” pacifies the continued reality of its violence and this upsets me tremendously. Adding an additional perspective, I’ve yet to encounter a black person who says the word nigger casually. When the word “nigger” is used by a black person [casually], it is usually in haste and a demonstration of a black person displaying anti-blackness. [Emphasis added.]

Shenaz: I am not particularly fond of black people using the N-word, although some would say that by using it as a black person it takes the power away from non-black people; however, the history behind the word never changes.

[Sidenote from Michelle: Scholars like James Baldwin and Ta-Nehisi Coates have used the n-word in its full form to great effect. Christian hip-hop artist Sho Baraka also used the word on his album, Talented Xth. I believe the word can be useful in particular circumstances, for particular purposes, by black artists, scholars, writers, etc. at their discretion.]

  1. Does it really matter? It’s just a word!

Gail: It’s not just a word because there’s a lot of history behind it. It may not mean anything to person who is ignorant of that history, but it can be hurtful to someone who does

Muna: It’s the intention behind it that matters more than the word. You can always tell when it’s ill-intention for the most part.

Subria: It certainly matters. Language shapes culture and culture creates norms.  It is still normal to inflict violence on black bodies because white supremacy and racism have deemed that black people are inherently “lazy, violent, brute, a burden, and niggers”.  Black people are loosening the noose on centuries of white-violent branding. Black people are replacing, reclaiming, and kicking racism where it hurts through languages. Shifting and rewriting the narrative through a Black perspective is liberation, and this is why language that concerns Blackness in its entirety matters.

In all of these responses, the history of the n-word and where it came from was mentioned — How it was used to dehumanize, degrade and oppress black people from slavery to the Jim Crow era. How this word was created to differentiate and then used solely to demean people because of the colour of their skin. This word was a tool of oppression to the enslaved, to break them down and to kill their minds and spirits, especially while working in the fields cultivating things like cotton and sugar that ultimately filled the pockets of those who enslaved them and meant privilege for their descendants.

ON COTTON & SUGAR

by Michelle Palmer

Desktop7-001For most people in my circle, the reasons why using the n-word is a bad idea may go without saying. But there’s another issue that may not be so clear: cotton. A friend sent me an email about the cotton display at Hobby Lobby and asked for my opinion.

On one hand, as a white person, I personally don’t see it as racist at all. I have white relatives who are cotton farmers and did a family portrait in front a field of cotton. I just saw it on my Facebook feed a few days ago and thought, “That’s so precious!” It was beautiful, it represented who they are as a family, I loved it. My sister-in-law has a cotton bud wreath that I think is gorgeous. It’s literally just a plant. It, on its own, is neutral, at least to me, a white person.

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That being said, I was at Kent House last weekend, and I saw something that turned my stomach. The thing that bothered me most was seeing a sugar mill, with sugarcane planted around it, and the sugar kettles on display. It turned my stomach because I’m keenly aware of the effects of sugar on slaves. I think about it every time I pass a sugarcane field. Desktop7-003I’d probably think about it if I saw it at Hobby Lobby too. Harvesting and refining sugar was one of the deadliest things a slave could do. I didn’t see any reference to that. In fact, there’s an event coming in November called, “Sugar Days,” where the whole process will be demonstrated. And I’m guessing the dangerous, life-threatening parts of the process will be omitted. I’m also assuming they won’t discuss the high death rates and low fertility rates amongst slaves associated with sugar production. The sugar is neutral, the kettles are neutral, but being SO in tune and aware of the history makes me feel sick to see it being displayed in that way.

Maybe to display cotton as décor isn’t inherently racist, but if this woman was as keenly aware of the history of cotton in America as I am about the history of sugar, I can sympathize with her reaction. Since then, I’ve talked to several others who had the same reaction as this lady. Desktop7She isn’t alone. Of course, I wish she had expounded on her thoughts more to help others understand the depth of her hurt and why it upset her so much, but when someone is triggered that way, we can’t expect them to do the hard work of educating the rest of us as well.

Maybe the n-word is just a word, maybe cotton is just a plant, maybe sugar mills are just historical artifacts, but when a person is keenly aware of their history, IT. MAKES. A. DIFFERENCE. We cannot ignore historical context in modern discourse.

So, fellow white people, here’s the deal: We can probably never do away with the n-word. We can probably never do away with cotton and sugar mills and all the things that conjure painful imagery for people of color. But we can acknowledge the pain of others. We can minimize the triggers. And we can definitely do better.

I saw this comment on the post from Lipscomb University by Kaitlin Hardy Shetler, and she said so eloquently what was in my heart as I thought about the issue:

“If you can only see this as an issue of being offended by cotton, instead of a deeper systemic problem, you will never be able to meaningfully connect with our black brothers and sisters. You will continue to drive a wedge in this already tenuous relationship by refusing to acknowledge the pain, racism, and microaggressions they experience daily. […]

Reconciliation must start with white people. You may say that’s racist, but let’s be intellectually honest here. Collectively, it has been our people who have systemically oppressed, intimidated, threatened, and subjugated black people in our country. We should absolutely be trying to bridge that gap and heal deep wounds passed down from generation to generation.

Again, if you are offended by other people’s offendedness, it is not about you. […]

We may make mistakes and be clumsy in our approach, but we pray God will give us grace as we learn what true respect and reconciliation looks like.”


For more information…

Wearing Justice: Confronting the Problems of Fast Fashion  

Back in May, I began working on a post about slavery in supply chains. I hoped to cover three big offenders, chocolate, phones, and fashion, and quickly realized I had been overly ambitious in that hope. (The resulting post can be found here, covering only chocolate.) In preparation for that post, before throwing in the towel on phones and fashion, I was able to gather a number of resources from a single source: Whole Cloth. It dawned on me that there was someone much better suited to tackle fashion justice. Our guest author is “radical homemaker, renegade Ph.D.” Bethany Hebbard. She began the Whole Cloth project (a blog and a community) to explore “the relationship between cloth, craft, and justice.” I’m so thankful that she was willing to share with our Tuesday Justice community about the injustices within the industry and steps to fight for justice in our own closets. – MP – 

Guest Post by Dr. Bethany Hebbard

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“I put on righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe…”

(Job 29:14 ESV)

What does it mean to wear justice? This question is as old as the Book of Job, one of the most ancient poems in the Hebrew Scriptures. Today, our relationship to clothing is entangled in the most significant questions of justice in our time: poverty, sustainability, race, slavery, and the meaning of work.

It can be overwhelming to discern where to begin in a conversation about clothing and justice. The most obvious starting point might be the prevalence of “fast fashion” in the global marketplace. “Fast fashion” refers to clothing that is sold at rock-bottom prices, encouraging consumers to purchase, wear, and dispose of clothing at staggering rates. The 2015 film The True Cost offers a highly-engaging introduction to this phenomenon, with a particular focus on the environmental and human rights problems it creates. If you’re interested in the history of fast fashion, Fashionista offers a helpful timeline here. Other resources focus on the environmental and social problems caused by consumer obsession with cheap clothing.

Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 7.50.23 PM.png.jpgHowever, fast fashion has only accelerated the ethical concerns already at play in global textile systems. Since the development of synthetic dyes in the 1850s, textile dyes have become a major source of water pollution. Fibers such as cotton raise concerns for their water usage and pesticides. Synthetic fabrics, such as polyester and “microfiber,” shed millions of tons of plastic particles into our water systems each year. And industrial textile production has always been notorious for poor labor conditions, from the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of 1911 to the Rana Plaza collapse of 2013.

How can we ever hope to clothe ourselves in justice, when the facts of global textile production are so bleak? One possible answer lies in the popularity of the phrase “ethical fashion,” which often pops up in articles about the best response to “fast fashion.” There are definitely some exciting developments in the realm of ethical fashion, but I’m reluctant to point to it as the solution for a few reasons. First, “ethical fashion” suggests that it is a subset of the larger “fashion industry.” This link limits its audience to people who are interested in fashion, trends, and style. People who aren’t interested in fashion per se may ignore the conversation, thinking it has more to do with design aesthetics than with basic consumer concerns. However, everyone (a few nudists excluded!) wears clothing, meaning that the ethical questions at hand are far larger than what happens during Fashion Week or on the cover of Vogue.Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 7.48.26 PM.png

More importantly, “ethical fashion” implies that there is a shared, global ethic of clothing, which simply isn’t true. “Ethical” means action rooted in a coherent set of moral principles. These principles usually come from our understanding of how the world works: what “the good life” looks like; who or what determines right from wrong; and how our personal desires intersect with our responsibilities toward others. To speak of “ethical fashion” as though everyone in the world (or even in the US) shares a common ethic simply isn’t accurate. For some people, environmental concerns might be most important. For others, labor conditions or domestic jobs might be paramount. For others, religious convictions come first. Particular concerns such as these tend to get lost in large-scale public discussions of ethics. This is a problem because an ethic that is vaguely defined and impersonal is unlikely to provoke meaningful action.

In my experience, the most effective answer to the enormous problems of clothing justice come through personal conviction and local action. Here are some ways to begin:

  • Reflect upon and articulate your ethic of clothing.
    • How does your understanding of personhood, morality, and work intersect with concerns about clothing? What sources or figures from your tradition offer guidance on this subject? What concerns do you share with others, and what are distinctively yours? For example, as a Christian, my own ethic of clothing is rooted in the beautiful and prophetic imagery of the Bible. I call it my “Whole Cloth Manifesto,” and it is a living document, constantly undergoing revision as I share and discuss it with members of my faith community.  
  • Make a plan for translating your ethic into action.Screen Shot 2017-08-28 at 7.53.12 PM.png
    • Personally, this has meant strengthening my sewing skills, avoiding all synthetic fabrics, and supporting my local fiber economy (Fibershed is a stellar resource for this) by purchasing Texas cotton and domestically produced clothing whenever possible. It is, sadly, nearly impossible to find an article of clothing that is completely free from the problems described above. For that reason, it is important to have a sense of priority when it comes to your values for clothing. If you have to choose, does your ethic guide you to purchase a shirt made with organic cotton–mitigating significant environmental concerns–or one made with conventional cotton, but grown and sewn in the USA–allowing greater confidence in fair labor conditions?
  • Practice solidarity with those who make your clothes.
    • Learning at least one hands-on skill related to clothing will help you value your clothing more, and also build empathy for those who create our clothing. You might try mending, sewing, dyeing, or something more in-depth, such as weaving. Learning these skills can also empower you to take steps out of the industrial supply chain, whether by prolonging the wear of your clothes through mending, or crafting your own goods in ways that accord with your values.
  • Begin public action within your own community and people.
    • While there is a time for large-scale industry regulations, the most significant problems in the clothing industry are fed directly by consumer demand. By working within your own community–with people who know and trust you–you have an incredible opportunity to change the hearts and habits of people with buying power. By beginning your activism among those with whom you share a worldview and economic background, you will be able to present a specific and compelling ethic of clothing. Within my faith community, this has meant trying to expand the Christian preoccupation with “modesty” to a larger concern with issues of pride, conspicuous consumption, and environmental stewardship as they relate to clothing.

In the spirit of “Tuesday Justice,” it is important to remember that everyday decisions can add up to a lifetime of profound witness and change. If we begin by challenging our own assumptions and practices, we will soon find ourselves speaking (or dressing!) prophetically, mobilizing our own communities and challenging systemic problems. Whether that means wearing organic cotton or “shopping” from your grandma’s closet, you’ll soon find yourself wearing justice like a robe — and that never goes out of fashion.


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All photos taken by Bethany and stolen (with permission) from her blog, Whole Cloth.

Pathways to Modern Slavery

 

by Michelle Palmer

 

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The reality is that most victims of modern slavery and human trafficking are not abducted or kidnapped. That can happen, and people should exercise reasonable precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe, but there are factors that create higher risk, or vulnerabilities, to enslavement. Many of these factors can only be fully alleviated by ending global inequality and extreme poverty, but don’t let that discourage you. While ending global inequality and extreme poverty is a noble pursuit that will take years, understanding these vulnerabilities will help us to understand more ways to fight back against traffickers in the meantime. These factors intersect and overlap and several can be present at once, but because each one can be tackled in different ways, each deserves its own look.

Poverty

“A bonded laborer named Haresh in West Bengal, India, once described to me how he took a loan of approximately $110 from the local landowner to get married to his beloved wife, Sarika. Two decades later, Haresh told me, ‘My entire family is still in debt to the landowner.  Sarika and I work in the fields, my sons and their wives work at the brick kilns.  One day my grandchildren will work for the landowner.  There is no way to repay these debts.  We will only be free when we die.’” – Siddharth Kara, CNN Freedom Project

Poverty overlaps with almost all of the other risk factors. Debt bondage, or bonded labor, is when a person exchanges their labor for a loan but ends up trapped by the employer, coerced into working long hours to pay off unreasonable interest rates. Often, the employer will provide minimal food and shelter and add these costs to the worker’s debt, resulting in a never ending cycle. 

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What happened to Haresh is not wholly uncommon in South Asia. Kara estimates “18.5 to 22.5 million debt bondage slaves in the world today, almost 90% of whom are in South Asia.” The ILO gives a more conservative estimate: 11.7 million slaves in the region, most of whom are bonded laborers. This form of debt bondage is illegal, but extreme poverty leads people to fall prey to these dubious lenders in times of desperation. Many of my examples are from developing regions, but this isn’t something that only happens “over there.” There are people in extreme poverty in the West, and their desperation could lead to situations of enslavement and various forms of forced labor.

Lack of Opportunity

“Nartey is the oldest of 10 siblings. His mother, Maria, is disabled. She cannot work in farming, the traditional and predominant occupation of the family’s indigenous people in a village in the Central Tongu District of Ghana. She had no way to provide for her children and could not afford school fees, so Nartey had to abandon his education at just 13. That is when Nartey was trafficked to a fishing community along Lake Volta.” – Anna Bengel, Free the Slaves

Thankfully, Nartey’s story doesn’t end with his enslavement. Because of Free the Slaves’ efforts alongside partners in Ghana, Maria learned about slavery and is working towards learning a trade so she can be financially independent despite her disability.

In 2015, I worked as a volunteer on a literature review for Free the Slaves on sex trafficking in Nepal. One of the recurring themes I came across was the lack of opportunity for women and girls in rural areas. Their desperation led them to seek work outside of their villages, and in some cases, women were trapped in sexual exploitation in Kathmandu or trafficked into India.   

rgq8JnWhen I was in grad school, I quoted Captain Jack Sparrow at the start of a paper on the concept of freedom. It was risky, I know, but I don’t regret it. In the first film, he tells Elizabeth Swann, “Wherever we want to go, we go. That’s what a ship is, you know. It’s not just a keel and a hull and sails; that’s what a ship needs. Not what a ship is. What the Black Pearl really is, is freedom.”  You see, if the Black Pearl is freedom, then a keel and a hull and sails are the tools needed to escape poverty and desperation. One of the primary tools people need for freedom is opportunity.

Lack of Access to Healthcare

“Impoverished and faced with impossible challenges, Setsofia’s sick mother arranged for him to be trafficked to a fishing village along Lake Volta. It was a desperate bid to get money for treatment for her protracted illness.” – Anna Bengel & Theodore Atsu Ameme, Free the Slaves

Stethoscope

As I said, many of these factors overlap. Anna and Theodore (quoted above) tell a story about Setsofia (spoiler: it has a happy ending!), and it sounds really similar to the story about Nartey. Nartey’s mother didn’t have opportunity because of her disability, and Setsofia’s mom was bedridden due to a sudden illness. The difference is that access to quality healthcare may not have helped Nartey’s mom, but it would certainly have made a difference for Setsofia and his family.

Lack of access to healthcare can also lead to debt bondage. “Lenders” prey on those who can’t afford a life-saving procedure or treatment for a loved one, and family members can become trapped by the debts obtained paying for medical expenses.

Violence/Lack of Law Enforcement

Millions of the world’s poor are trapped in slavery, because there’s no one there to protect them. In many places, the laws against slavery simply aren’t enforced by the police and courts—so slave owners and traffickers know they can prey on the poor without fear of any consequences at all.” – IJM

On duty

Anti-slavery laws are on the books everywhere, but those laws must be enforced. The American anti-slavery organization, IJM (International Justice Mission), focuses its efforts on this particular weakness. In fact, IJM CEO and founder, Gary Haugen, wrote an entire book on the issue; in The Locust Effect, Haugen argues that ineffective justice systems are hindering poverty alleviation worldwide. “While the world has made encouraging strides in the fight against global poverty, there is a hidden crisis silently undermining our best efforts to help the poor. It is a plague of everyday violence.” In regards to slavery in particular, whether law enforcement officers are not trained to spot human trafficking or they’re being bribed by the traffickers, effective law enforcement is a key component of ending the practice altogether.

War and Unrest

“Armed conflict and a weak government allow slavery to flourish in eastern Congo. Forced labor and sex slavery are widespread in mining regions—as is forced marriage.” Free the Slaves, Congo

121123110824-congo-crowds-fleeing-horizontal-large-galleryWar and unrest in a region create vulnerabilities to modern slavery in a number of ways. In Democratic Republic of Congo, which is remarkably rich in natural resources that are used in our modern technologies, men and children are forced to mine for these resources by groups of armed militants to fund their war. In other regions, children are forcibly recruited into the conflict. (See Channon’s post on Child Soldiers.) Refugees are also at a higher risk of being trafficked, simply because of the desperation of their situation. Without a home, seeking asylum, people may come to rely on traffickers to help them escape to what they hope will be a better, safer life.  

Migration

“‘I’d seen a lot of women in my village go abroad. I thought I could earn enough money and do something with it.’ Instead, for attempting to access the basic human right to a decent job, Seema was trapped as a domestic slave for more than two years.” – Survivor Stories, Free the Slaves

This particular vulnerability is closely connected to poverty, lack of opportunity, and war and unrest. Not all immigrants are vulnerable to trafficking. For example, Channon and I both immigrated to the UK for our studies. The difference is that we chose to leave our homes to study, not to escape a desperate economic situation or violence in our home countries. Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to being trafficked.migration1-537x350.png

I took the quote above from Seema’s and Kamala’s Survivor Story from Free the Slaves (another happy ending!). It’s a story I’ve come across all too often in my research (but not always with a happy ending):  No opportunity at home. Recruited for a job overseas. Arrive in a foreign country. Passports and visas taken by employers. Trapped and abused as a domestic slave. (Or a construction worker. Or a farmworker.)  

Runaway and Homeless Youth

“…people who may not be financially stable because of homelessness or a lack of job opportunities may be susceptible to manipulation by traffickers who promise safety, stability, a job, or a better life. Runaway and homeless youth, as well as victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, past violence or abuse, or social discrimination are also frequently targeted by traffickers.” –  Stay Safe, Polaris Project

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Many of the examples used previously have been about factors that are more common in, but not confined to, developing regions. However, this particular issue affects young people both at home and abroad, particularly those identifying as LGBTQ. According to Covenant House, “40% of homeless and runaway youth in the U.S. identify as gay or transgender.” If they are rejected by their families after coming out, LGBTQ youth may end up on the streets and be targeted for sexual exploitation. To a slightly lesser extent, this is true for other homeless and runaway youth as well. Without a home or a family, there is a desperation for stability and belonging.

I’m ending this section with another quote because it’s incredibly important in combating this particular risk factor.

“Sociological research shows that what makes people most vulnerable to being victims of trafficking is the same thing that makes people most vulnerable to being perpetrators of trafficking: an extreme need for belonging. Actual, sustainable trafficking prevention at its most foundational is, therefore, loving yourself, being yourself, loving others, and encouraging others to be themselves. Creating community and being connected is the safest way forward.” – Zhaleh Boyd

Lack of Rights Awareness

“In the Congo, for example, we support the broadcasting of anti-slavery messages over a network of community radio stations. In Nepal, we explain the risks of labor trafficking and how to migrate safely. We work with communities to organize anti-slavery committees that act as a neighborhood watch against slavery and as a bridge to the police and other authorities.” – Free the Slaves FAQs

00532006701_20150525Simply put, people just don’t know their rights or the dangers of modern slavery. Many who are trapped in debt bondage don’t realize that the lenders are violating the law. Seema and Kamala, whose story I mentioned earlier, now work to educate other Nepalese women about the dangers of migrating for work and help them determine if they are being tricked by recruiters. Rights education is an essential component of prevention.

 

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the causes of modern slavery, but I hope it sheds some light on the ways in which traffickers prey on people in desperate situations. By tackling these areas of vulnerability, we can begin to prevent slavery before it happens.


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Chocolate’s Impact on Modern Slavery

Most of the world’s cocoa beans come from West Africa, specifically Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. In 2015, Tulane University released a report that estimated that over 2 million children were involved in “hazardous work” in the cocoa industry in that region. Not all child labor is technically “slavery,” but “hazardous work” is one of the worst forms of child labor as outlined by the ILO. Exploitation is exploitation, and our duty to be conscientious consumers remains the same whatever form it takes.

REMEMBER: The blue underlined bits that lace all our posts (this one even more than most) are links to statistics, background information, examples, and other helpful info on the topics we cover. If you’re curious about something, click the surrounding links and dig deeper!

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Recently, a friend asked me to do a post on chocolate and slavery, a topic I wrote about years ago for my old blog. In that post, I discussed, without much research, the use of slave labor in the chocolate industry. At the time, I felt the only solution would be to boycott any chocolate unless it was certified some way as slave-free or fair trade. Over the years, as I’ve learned more about the complexities of the market, I’ve come to recognize that it’s really not that simple. Furthermore trying to avoid every item that may have been tainted by slavery or exploitative labor would be nearly impossible. I learned that slavery may have been used to build my cell phone, make my carpet and my clothes, harvest my shrimp, and mine my gold. And I also learned that “fair trade” isn’t always fair. carpet

In this post, I’m going to focus on chocolate and the complex nature of exploitation within the industry. But I will also focus on the hopeful side: what’s being done and how you can help.

Child Labor in the Cocoa Industrynino-cacao

Most of the world’s cocoa beans come from West Africa, specifically Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire. In 2015, Tulane University released a report that estimated that over 2 million children were involved in “hazardous work” in the cocoa industry in that region. Some of these children may be the children of cocoa farmers; others may have immigrated voluntarily from neighboring countries to seek work. This is where it gets complicated: Not all child labor is technically “slavery,” but “hazardous work” is one of the worst forms of child labor as outlined by the International Labour Organization (ILO). These distinctions are important when it comes to laws, law enforcement, data, and research, but exploitation is exploitation, and our duty to be conscientious consumers remains the same whatever the form of exploitation is.

What about Fair Trade?

cacao2In that years-old blog post about chocolate, I put a lot of faith into chocolate that was fair trade or otherwise certified to be made without exploitation. Unfortunately, the truth is that the ideals of fair trade are much loftier than their realities. Fair trade isn’t bad, nor is it the cure-all I thought it to be. In a review of The Fair Trade Scandal: Marketing Poverty to Benefit the Rich by Senegalese development economist, Ndongo Samba Sylla, The Economist sums up two major problems with fair trade:

“Among the problems has been a proliferation of labels and organisations that make a living from certification and licensing use of the labels. There are over 600 labels in Britain alone. This has blurred the definition of what qualifies as fair trade.

Worse, there is little evidence that fair trade has lifted many producers out of poverty, not least because most of the organisations that are certified tend to come from richer, more diversified developing countries, such as Mexico and South Africa, rather than the poorer ones that are mostly dependent on exporting one crop. […] According to Mr Sylla’s calculations, for each dollar paid by an American consumer for a fair-trade product, only three cents more are transferred to the country it came from than for the unlabelled alternative.”

chocolate-pour_wide-48aea73792ce34715bdb1ab4dd058f99a649b9a5-s900-c85Mr. Sylla goes further to explain the thesis of his book in an article for The Guardian: “The unequal distribution of the gains of Fairtrade (FT) derives in a large part from the characteristics of certification. The certification system presents a twofold bias against the poorest developing countries. First, there are considerations related to the costs of certification. These being the same everywhere, they are relatively more expensive for the most disadvantaged countries, all other things being equal. Then, due to its sliding-scale price structure, certification is less costly for large producer organisations than for smaller ones. Finally, the cost of compliance with FT standards (changes in agricultural and administrative practices that often lead to an increase in working hours) is higher for small organisations due to their lower productivity and lower economies of scale.”

(You can find another robust explanation of the flaws of fair trade, particularly in relation to coffee — but the principles carry over — in Colleen Haight’s article for the Stanford Social Innovation Review, “The Problem with Fair Trade Coffee.”)

So, what do we do?

If fair trade isn’t the answer, what is?

  • Do some research, find out which brands are committed to cleaning up their supply chains and/or operate on a direct trade (bean-to-bar) model, and share their stories. Many of them source their beans from South America; encourage them to expand their model to Africa.
  • Reach out to your favorite chocolate companies. Engage with them via social media. Hound them relentlessly about their corporate social responsibility and what they’re doing to ensure their supply chains aren’t tainted by exploitation and that they do their part to alleviate poverty in the places where they do business. Do the same with the International Cocoa Initiative and the World Cocoa Foundation. Remind them that voluntary self-regulation isn’t enough!  slavefreechocolate-300x300.png
  • Ethical Chocolate Companies, a list by Slave Free Chocolate – Some of these companies rely on certifications that may or may not be fair. Encourage them to reevaluate their methods and pursue direct trade models with more farmers in poorer countries.  
  • At the heart of the problem is poverty. Alleviating poverty and global inequality is key to ending many forms of labor exploitation. Support organizations who are working to make a difference, specifically in West Africa:

And if this seems overwhelming and you need some extra help or direction, contact me! Seriously, get in touch, and we can work on solutions together!


For More Information….

Cocoa:

Fair Trade:

Supply Chains:

History or Hate? The Confederate Statues of New Orleans

Seeing symbols like these around my city day in and day out would be greatly offensive to me and my heritage. Knowing what my ancestors had to go through and how they were treated for centuries and then to see these monuments would be a grave insult to my sense of identity as a black woman.

by Channon Oyeniran

It’s a topic of debate these days: removing memorials to the Confederacy…Is this the right course of action? A way to heal the deep-rooted pain that enslaved African-Americans and their descendants have endured for centuries? Surely this is a step in the right direction? However, not everyone thinks so. At last, some steps are being taken to dismantle symbols whose histories are steeped in racism. This is what the city of New Orleans is doing by taking down four monuments built following the Civil War. (Though not immediately following the war. Many Confederate monuments were erected during the Jim Crow and Civil Rights eras.) However, there are have been protests, as well as counter-protests, over the last few weeks in response to the imminent removal of the monuments. Desktop6The controversial decision to remove these monuments came in December 2015, six months after white supremacist Dylann Roof walked into a South Carolina church and shot dead nine black parishioners. These monuments were built by people who wanted to display that the Southern states should not feel any guilt for having participated in the war. While that point may be debated, it’s no secret that violent white supremacists cling to these symbols. When Roof committed his heinous crime, it sparked a debate about Confederate symbols across the southern states in America. (You may remember the moment Bree Newsome took down the Confederate flag that flew above the South Carolina capital only 10 days after Roof’s attack.) Many see these Confederate symbols as disrespectful, inconsiderate and extremely racist to millions of African Americans and their ancestors, who were forced to endure enslavement at the hands of white men and women for centuries.  

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said this about removing the four Confederate statues:  “Symbols matter and should reflect who we are as a people. These monuments do not now, nor have they ever reflected the history, the strength, the richness, the diversity or the soul of New Orleans.” 4-confederate-monuments-up-for-removal-in-new-orleans-flickr-ap-640x480As times are slowly but surely changing, cities and states around America are attempting to do what they can to rectify the wrongdoing brought against African-Americans in the period of slavery. Last week, under the cover of darkness, masks and police protection, workers began to dismantle the first of the four statues. This is to protect themselves and their families against possible retaliation for being part of taking down what some see as a heritage site. The city plans to move forward with the removal of the remaining three monuments after the New Orleans Jazz Fest concludes on May 7th. The city of New Orleans will seek out a museum or storage area to keep them. Approximately $600,000 has been raised, in private funding, to relocate the monuments.  

To understand the controversy,  we must first understand the history of these monuments, why they were erected in the first place, and what they represent.

Liberty Monument:

LANORbattle_ks03The first monument that was taken down was Liberty Monument. Built in 1891, the Liberty Monument was built to commemorate an uprising by white Democrats, who opposed racially integrating the police force and the Republicans who governed the state of Louisiana. Author Clint Smith commented on the importance of the monument on Twitter. (You can read the entire thread here.) He said, “The New Orleans government then erected the monument to commemorate the battle’s role in establishing white political dominance in Louisiana. All to say, the monument served both a symbolic & literal commemoration to white supremacy. It should have been taken down long ago.” If the history of the monument isn’t enough to convince you, consider this:  the inscription on a plaque that was on the monument from 1932 up until 1993 read in part: “[…] the national election of November 1876 recognized white supremacy in the South and gave us our state.” In 1993, a vote was taken to remove the statue, but instead a new inscription replaced the old one that said: “In honor of those Americans on both sides who died in the Battle of Liberty Place” and called it “a conflict of the past that should teach us lessons for the future.”

Statue of General Robert E. Lee:

A monument to Confederate General Robert E. Lee towers over a traffic circle in New Orleans

After raising the funds needed to build this monument, the statue of General Robert E. Lee was erected in 1884 in New Orleans Business District. Robert E. Lee was a general in the Civil War and was known for commanding the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia from 1862 until he surrendered in 1865. Although there are mixed accounts about whether Lee supported or opposed slavery in the southern states, under his command, troops were given permission to actively raid settlements during significant missions like in 1863 when his troops invaded Pennsylvania and were able to freely capture free blacks and put them back into the institution of slavery. New Orleans native, Wynton Marsalis said it best about the erection of Lee’s statue: “Robert E. Lee betrayed his sacred oath to support and defend the Constitution and instead chose to lead an army intent on its violent overthrow — and he lost. The Civil War was a costly victory for democracy, but long after it had been decided, the backwards thinking leadership of this city erected monuments to Confederate generals who had committed treason against the United States — and lost. Lee’s monument was erected to proclaim this arrogance across the ages, and reclaim as a victory what was lost on the battlefield.” Furthermore, Lee himself did not support erecting statues in honor of Civil War generals.

Equestrian statue of General P.G.T. Beauregard:

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Like Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard was a General in the Civil War. In fact, it was Beauregard who ordered the first shots of the war. Beauregard was first selected to be in charge of Charleston, South Carolina’s defenses during the Civil war and then was appointed the first Confederate general officer. He was then appointed to be a brigadier general in the Provisional Army of the Confederate States in March 1861 and then in July of the same year was promoted to full general in the Confederate Army. After the war, and perhaps surprisingly, Beauregard supported equal rights and unification. The statue, however, depicts Beauregard the Confederate general, not Beauregard the proponent of civil rights.”

Statue of Jefferson DavisStatue of Jefferson Davis:

Jefferson Davis was the President of the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. He was also a Democratic U.S. Representative and Senator from Mississippi, as well as the 23rd U.S. Secretary of War. But most importantly. and why the statute is controversial, is that Davis was a plantation owner who owned slaves and financially prospered from the institution of slavery.

Protests:

Although these statues clearly represent racism and white supremacist views to many, there are still those who believe these monuments are a cultural legacy and that they are about heritage and not hate. Harcourt Fuller, assistant professor of history at Georgia State University in Atlanta, said, “Supporters of the monuments see them as part of their ‘historical and cultural legacy’ that needs to be maintained and protected.” In a city that is predominantly African-American, these statues represent a time in American history where their ancestors were treated as less than human, as “property” and nothing more. Activistsconfederate_statues_new_orleans_44962-jpg-24013_83555476ae21103051ffca63afef3369-nbcnews-ux-2880-1000 opposed to the removal of the monuments have had vigils, written articles opposing the removal, been vocal on social media platforms and had intense public meetings to argue against taking down these statues. Things have been so intense that a car of one of the employees hired to take down the monuments was set on fire. As mentioned before, those taking down the statues have had to mask their identity for fear of reprisal against them and their families for their part in this.

Symbols like these statues, which cause emotional trauma to some, should be kept in museums, so that they are not forgotten, but also not in public for all to see. Taking down the statues doesn’t erase what happened, but it makes clear that what happened is not to be celebrated or memorialized with monuments in honor of “the traitors who fought against the United States to uphold slavery.” 

battle-of-liberty-place-monument-afcc3caf84bc7bc4jpg-75f3cf0dac746f00As a black woman, I totally understand why the people of New Orleans would want symbols such as these to be taken down and placed elsewhere (for those who still want to view them and who see them as cultural reminders). Seeing symbols like these around my city day in and day out would be greatly offensive to me and my heritage. Knowing what my ancestors had to go through and how they were treated for centuries and then to see these monuments would be a grave insult to my sense of identity as a black woman. It would be a constant reminder that I as a person am not valued or respected. It would feel like the leaders in my city didn’t acknowledge or care about me, my family, my ancestors and the contributions they made to build that city where we live. I applaud those in New Orleans who have worked so tirelessly to ensure these statues are removed, and I hope other cities soon follow suit. 

“After Hurricane Katrina, the support we received from people all over the world clearly demonstrated their appreciation of our culture and our character. The intensity of this love was demonstrated with unprecedented assistance of all kinds. We should transform the current Lee Circle into an inviting space that celebrates the communal intentions of the international community that helped us survive Katrina. This place would fill the heart of our city with something uplifting for us all and for all times. That, and not the stubborn echo of a shameful period of our history, should be the mythology we strive to teach to our kids and leave for our descendants.”

– Wynton Marsalis


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