Participating in Oppression
We don’t always think of ourselves in America as the lazy rich, lounging on couches and being fed grapes by servants. But this is just because luxury is commonplace here. Think coffee and chocolate.
These two products are luxuries that we can afford to have exported to us. Far too often, farmers who grow coffee in places such as Ethiopia aren't treated with fairness or justice. The wages industries pay them for their goods keep them trapped in a cycle of poverty, not being nearly enough to feed their families, send their children to school, or afford health care. Believe me, I see pictures and read the stories every day of the children who don't go to school, who don't wear shoes, and who share one egg with their brothers and sisters for their dinner so we can drink cheap coffee.
Over half of the world’s chocolate is made from beans harvested in C’ote D’Ivoire. 12,000 children have been trafficked (kidnapped and forced to work as slaves) into C’ote D’Ivoire on cocoa farms. The prices for coffee and chocolate are kept low on the back of the poor and children.
Are we implicated in the guilt of the oppression of workers and children in the production of coffee and chocolate when we buy these products? Perhaps if we really knew nothing about it. But we know now.
People say they just can’t afford the price of fancy (read: fair trade) coffee or chocolate.
But maybe that means we can’t afford these luxuries period. If we can't afford to pay farmers fairly for their coffee, then we can't afford coffee.
We suffer under the misconception that affordable chocolate and coffee is our right. It’s not. We won the geographic lottery being born in a country where we have access to luxury. A thin, thin line separates us from those born into a country where the prices our industries pay for their labor isn’t enough to buy the basic necessities.
Our places could easily have been switched. And if we switched places with these families trapped in poverty, we’d pray to God that they would be more merciful to us than our industries have been to them.
If the only way we can afford to maintain our lifestyle of luxury is to knowingly allow the continued oppression of children and poor workers in distant, distant fields on another continent, then we are the same as the haughty women of Zion.
Learn more about fair trade chocolate and fair trade coffee. (And look for the Fair Trade label you'll find on coffee bags at the grocery store by clicking on the fair trade coffee link. One of Starbucks coffees is certified fair trade.)