“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – MLK
It is the first day we’re outside for gym this year. The air has that chilly clean feeling- as if someone has left all the windows open while spring cleaning. But it’s sunny and warm enough for us all to be in short-sleeves, ready to play basketball or walk the endless quarter miles of a circular track. I have lucked out for the third year in a row- gym is last period for me and I have a solid group if friends to hangout with. We are sitting on the low wall near the outdoor basketball hoops waiting for the teachers to come out and take attendance. There’s about 120 kids milling about. Mostly upperclassmen, since three of the four gym classes outside are junior/senior gym classes.
Suddenly, there’s a murmur of chuckling. That electric feeling of “something is happening” runs through the crowd. A shifting of attention. I lean closer, anticipating a fight or screaming match. Instead I see her, a swimmer, who is popular enough and clever enough that people like her for making them laugh and not quite mean enough to be censored by anyone. “Oh my God, look at her shorts” she’s saying, loud enough for everyone to hear. “What a slut, I mean are they even covering her butt? And spaghetti straps? Really? I can see her nipples.” I glance to the girl who this diatribe is directed at and I freeze. Girl, is really the only word for her. A small freshman who is stoically pretending not to hear the hate directed at her- unfortunately her friends are inching away from her- understanding that being near this girl-at this moment- is akin to social suicide. And I flush red with her but I stay silent, rooted to the wall. As the words continue, there is more chuckling, a shifting as some guys try and get a glimpse of the “whore in gym class.” And I watch as waves of red creep slowly up her face and down her arms and legs. She has heard every word, she can’t stand up for herself, she is shrinking in on herself and still I am silent. The gym teachers come out and call their classes over, the spectacle is done. I am livid, I talk for the rest of the period about it- but the truth is I am talking to relieve the knot of shame in myself- the fear that kept me silent when I should have spoken, the hesitancy that caused me not to act when action was what was needed.
I’m not sure if this was a seminal moment- but I chose to remain silent while someone’s soul was shredded in front of me. I took an easy way out when I had nothing to lose. I still think of things I could have said- could have done- to stop that. I have come up with elaborate and creative ways to sail to that freshman’s rescue- dazzling retorts, long eloquent speeches- that overturn the system of injustice where the strong are allowed to prey on the weak. As much as we like to pretend that that only happens in high-school, that’s a lie. It happens every time a teenager kills themselves because they’re bullied for their sexuality and adults never lend a word of affirmation or comfort. It happens every time a woman is told to please leave and put on something more appropriate because she’s making men sin. It happens every time a minority’s concerns are dismissed, as they’re told they’re being too sensitive. It happens when we decide that chocolate chip cookies are more important than a child getting an education. Or that keeping up with trends is more important than making sure our clothes are not made at the cost of health and safety and freedom of women in the third world. “You have already been told what is good, what Adonai demands of you —no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your God.”
The issues of social justice can be overwhelming and discouraging. I’m not trying to pile on any guilt or shame, I believe that those run counter to the life that Jesus has gifted us with. Rather, I have some amazing siblings who through years of research have put together a comprehensive list of various ways to creatively work social justice into our day to day lives. It’s too hard and overwhelming to try and tackle all at once. The point of this list is to make information available to you- to help you realize that changing just one purchase is like placing a vote for a more just society. Maybe try to replace one thing, like your coffee, with a fair-trade alternative. Wait until it’s second nature, then pick something else to replace with a fair-trade alternative.
Equal Exchange, Green and Black, Divine Chocolate, Endangered Species Chocolate, Newman’s Own Organics, Dagoba Organic Chocolates (many of these brands are available at Hanaford’s and Shoprite.)
Also look for anything with the RainForest Alliance label or the Fair Trade USA label.
Green Mountain is the world’s largest producer of Fair Trade certified coffee. (Also available at Hanafords! I swear this is not a paid sponsor post) http://www.greenmountaincoffee.com/
Food, Gifts, etc.:
These websites have some pretty cool, unique things. It’s a lot of fun to pick out special food or accessories for friends and family member’s birthdays. Take some time to browse. Some of these stores even run awesome sales before the holidays and getting stuff on sale doesn’t affect how much the craftsman was paid!
http://www.etsy.com/ (depending on where people source their materials from but the great thing about Etsy is you can dialog with the seller before purchasing)
Stay tuned for more links and tips for fair-trading your life!