To the SC Assembly, Take Down that Flag.

confederate_flag

Today, our state leaders face a momentous decision. It’s been a long time coming. Today is the day South Carolina law makers will vote to (hopefully) remove the Confederate Flag from State House grounds. This cannot come soon enough.

As a native of South Carolina and Columbia, I have driven past the State House many times and seen the flag flying both above on the dome and below on the ground. It never ceases to disgust and anger me. There is no doubt in my mind the flag represents hatred, promotes racism, and is a painful reminder of a shameful past.

Yes, some claim it is a relic of history, a story of heritage, but is that the heritage we want to celebrate? Admittedly, many Christians, blinded by their own cultural narrative, twisted the Bible to suit their desires – and this was done to their own detriment.

If we claim Christ, we must let his words speak for us. Our ancestral narrative does not trump our narrative in Christ. When one member of the body suffers, we all suffer – regardless of our physical bloodlines.

We must continue to move beyond symbols and move to action. We must speak up when we hear racism, even seemingly benign, in conversation. We must advocate against the alarmingly high incarceration rates among black men. We must not mistake our situational advantages resulting from our zip code of birth for merit, reward, or favor. We must stand against unjust systems even when we are unknowingly the beneficiary of the systems.

The same fervor that drives us to fight for the rights of unborn children should drive us to stand alongside and fight for our African-American brothers and sisters. Symbols are powerful – just ask any Christian with a cross hanging around his/her neck.

If we want to remember our heritage, let’s remember our heritage in Christ; the shame, scorn, and humiliation that comes from hanging on a thief’s cross. Let’s claim the murderers, adulterers, poor, and outcast as our own. The unwanted, foolish, and illiterate are our friends. The orphans and widows are our family.

We don’t celebrate that which hurts our own. It’s time to remove a flag that hurts many and helps none.

Just Do It

Y’all, I am riding a social justice high right now. We had an amazing meeting two nights ago with our little task force. Our merry, merry band of abolitionists is fired up and ready to go! It is so encouraging to be with friends who are committed to fighting injustice. Though I’ve only known most of these women for a short-time, it felt more like a reunion rather than our first meeting. I left with the same energy as after meeting with an old friend for coffee. These women are smart, creative, passionate, and committed to making a difference in our community and around the world.

Social justice has always been a passion of mine ever since I was a little kid. In kindergarten, I led my class in a protest to save the sea turtles – their habitats were being disrupted by coastal lighting which caused babies to go away from the ocean after birth and then die – normal kindergarten stuff, no? Often times, this bent towards social justice can feel disjointed and exhausting. Each new cause brings an onslaught of hope and despair, passion and fatigue. However, with trafficking, the passion lines up with my passion for orphans and vulnerable children, particularly those in foster care, and a great wave of passion is born! I can simultaneously fight for trafficking (and potential trafficking) victims while also advocating for orphans locally and globally. I may not be in a position to foster or adopt right now, but I can support foster and adoptive families, purchase my Christmas presents from slave-free vendors, and I can raise awareness in my community.

One commitment I’m making this Christmas is to focus on the gifts I give and learning where they come from. If, to the best of my ability, the origins of the products or their materials are unknown or likely sourced from slave labor then I’m not buying. Yes, this means spending more and yes, this means planning more, but hey! one of my goals is to have all of my gifts by the end of November and that means I’m already on it!

The idea for this realignment came from a book I read in college, Everyday Justice by Julie Clawson. In it she states, “Justice, at its very core, deals with relationships – our relationships to God, to each other and to the world […] Whether we intent to or not, our everyday actions hurt others and damage those relationships. Through anger and malice, self-centeredness and greed, we deny the image of God in others […] using them as objects that can be exploited for personal gain […] or simply ignore them.” (Clawson 20)

The time for silence is over. I will not be silent this year. I will use my voice and my dollar to fight for justice and freedom.

We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. – Eli Wiesel

Modern Day Abolition

SONY DSCNot long ago, men and women fought to end slavery in the United States and British Empire. Heroes like William Wilburforce, Angelina Grimke, Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglas fought tirelessly against an unwitting society. Their efforts ended what we know as the trans-atlantic slave trade and improved the lives of millions of individuals.

Unfortunately, like many evils, slavery has manifest itself into another form. Be it sex slavery, labor trafficking, or white privilege, the devaluing of others still exists today and in many ways. There are more slaves today than there were during the trans-Atlantic slave trade and oftentimes slavery and trafficking go unnoticed. Hotels and internet chat rooms are the new auction blocks. Side streets and main street are the new cotton fields. Organizations like Slavery Footprint help you estimate the number of slaves working for you. For the record, mine was 43 – and that’s a conservative estimate.

Tonight, I am joining alongside 6 other women to fight child-slavery in our community. We will be discussing ways to raise awareness, educate children, and fight systemic injustice – all from my kitchen table, but we are fighting alongside thousands of other abolitionists through Love146. Love146 is an organization dedicated to abolishing child-slavery worldwide. They work alongside other incredible organizations like IJM to rescue, protect, and provide survivor care for girls and boys victimized by traffickers.

We are fighting to end child trafficking in our community and in the world. Will you join us?

My thoughts on Sandy Hook

By now, most everyone has learned of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary. Unspeakable emotions course through my mind as I try to comprehend the reality that children were murdered at school. In the coming days, more details will come to light – perhaps the shooter himself suffered unspeakable horrors, but that will not make our grief any less pointed.

There are legitimate questions being posed, as is always the case when our fragile and temporary existence is shattered. Where is God in all of this? How can something like this happen to innocent children? What do we do about it? How do we prevent this from happening again?

To the questions of what do we do and how can we prevent this from happening again, I have no answer. There is nothing about this situation that makes sense. Comfort feels far removed, a mere intellectual idea rather than a living thing. As is true in many situations, a great irony abounds. In this time when we celebrate the birth of Immanuel, God with us, we feel far removed from God or that He is far removed from us.

Yet, God is with us. The anger, sadness, and unspeakable grief that we feel is a reflection of God’s anger, sadness, and grief. Deep in our souls we know that this is not right. This is not how a perfect world should operate.

In a move that can only be described as miraculous, Jesus came down to meet us in this mess. This world where children, learning their A, B, C’s are killed; where millions of people die because of disease and famine; where women and children are sold into slavery for the pleasure of others. This is the world that God entered. This is the world that God died for.

In times of grief when God seems most far away, we often find him closest to us. Not born in a palace, but in a foul-smelling manger. Not exalted high as victor, but lifted up to die on a cross – closer identifying himself with us as broken, needy people rather than the most holy God that he is. Yet, he emerges victorious. We are assured that death has been defeated. We serve a King who grieves with us and has assured us of the coming redemption and restoration; when children are no longer buried, when tears no longer flow, and when senseless actions are put to death. This is our hope right now. We cling to the God who came as the most innocent of children and now lives as the mightiest of Kings.

…Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.”

Behind the Swoosh

As I continue to create continuity in this blog around an idea, theme or purpose I cannot help but focus on human rights and social justice. A passion for human rights and social justice has been a part of me for as long as I can remember. In kindergarten I did a presentation to my class on the protection of sea turtles on the coast of South Carolina. I realize that sea turtles are not humans, but the point is, I was acutely aware of social issues and injustices even at a young age.

As a soccer player, Nike is the premier supplier of all things soccer. From uniforms to practice gear to balls and everything else, Nike is the ultimate standard in style and function. The best teams and players are sponsored by Nike in just about every sport, especially soccer. Mia Hamm, UNC, Tiger Woods, the Yankees, the Braves, Georgia Bulldogs, Clemson, Lance Armstrong, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Abby Wombach, Roger Federer, John McEnroe, Michael Johnson, Allyson Felix, Ludacris, Kanye all have or have had Nike sponsorships. For a complete list check out Wikipedia.

Nike’s pervasiveness into the sports world is a large part of their success. Nike is synonymous with greatness and elite athleticism. They produce some of the most inspiring commercials and their simplicity in marketing, Just Do It, is brilliant. However, another reason for their success is exploitation.

The average pair of Nike shoes retails for over $100. The workers who make the shoes live on about $1.25 a day. Some will argue that this wage is much better than any other job they could find elsewhere. That the workers are “happy” and “thankful” for their job. I once thought this way. I was infuriated when, in my opinion, ignorant Americans argued that we should stop shipping “American” jobs overseas, that a global economy hurt us, that we should heavily tax and tariff all imported goods. I would wane profusely about the fallacies in these statements, about the overall expansion of our economy, the lower prices of goods and the economic benefits of free trade. All of this convinced me that of course, these workers must be happy. After all, in their economy $1.25 is like $40,000 in America, right? Wrong.

In Indonesia, in a workers slum outside of Jakarta, $1.25 will get you rice and beans for 1, some peanuts and a little dish soap. If you get sick and have to get asprin and juice, forget eating for the day. What about if you have kids? Well, I honestly don’t know. They certainly aren’t going to school. They will probably spend their days foraging in trash heaps to find scraps to sell to buy a little food, if they are lucky. Raw sewage lines the streets because this is a slum after all and with $1.25 a day, there is not enough money to pay for sewer drainage or trash pick up. Your slum is actually where the trash pickup goes to dump other people’s trash.

So what does all this mean for me, for you? For me, it means I will not buy Nike. I will not tacitly support any organization that abuses their workers. This also means I do not buy Nestle or any of its subsidiaries (to read more about Nestle’s child abuses click here or here). I use the Better World Shopper App to help me make informed decisions on the products I buy. I do not shop at Wal-Mart for the same reasons I do not buy Nestle or Nike, their workers around the world are not treated with basic human rights and the executives have willfully refused to change the situation. Many people have told me that they alone cannot make a difference. 1 pair of shoes not bought means nothing in the face of company worth 10.7 billion dollars, according to Forbes. However, to these people I would say that not doing something is selfish, lazy and immoral. I realize that not everyone will be as convicted as I am about this issue, but to those whose conscience is pricked, you have a responsibility as 1 person to do all you can. No great movement ever starts out with a million people. It starts with 1, then 2, then 5 and eventually grows.

If you would like to learn more about Nike and their factories in Indonesia please watch the short documentary Behind the Swoosh. I also encourage you to visit Better World Shopper for more information on which companies are financially and socially responsible and which companies are not. I realize that there are many companies that are not behaving in a humane manner that I do not know about. If you know of a company that is abusing basic human rights, please let me know, I want to be as educated as possible on this issue. The same goes for companies are making a positive difference around the world. My hope is that this post does not read as a diatribe against Nike, Nestle, or Wal-Mart but that it serves as a spark for discussion and thought provocation.