Day 3 has been the hardest. As I sat in the court room, hungry, I saw for the first time the man that killed my mom almost a year ago. The combination of hunger and seeing him made me think of how many other injustices there are in this world. Injustice is not just limited to one thing. I realized this six weeks after my mom died, when the factories in Bangladesh raged with fire, resulting in hundreds of workers dead. For today’s post, Day 3 of my Hungry for Change fast, I’m doing something a little different. I’m reposting a personal blog about injustice (slightly edited for the purposes of this blog). It’s not directly related to food, but again, hunger is just one of the injustices this world sees daily. Let’s become people who choose to see injustice, all of them, as much as it may hurt or as much as we don’t want to.
“6 weeks ago my mother was killed. She was on her way to work, just like any normal day when the driver of an oncoming big rig truck fell asleep at the wheel*, hitting her head on, killing her instantly. I lost my mother in an instant, and I am only twenty two. If that’s not injustice, I don’t know what is.
In the weeks since the accident, people have tried consoling me with cliche phrases. But they don’t know what it feels like. No one understands what I’m going through, no one. I thought.
And then one day, while working at Trade as One, I was directed to an article about a fire in a garment factory in Bangladesh. I read it. It made me sad, angry even, to hear about the workers who were locked in the factory and told to get back to work while a fire was raging throughout the building. I started sobbing when I realized they- family members identifying and picking up their dead sisters, brothers, and mothers, and children- know my pain.
I’m not alone in this, they know my pain.
This pain isn’t comparable to someone who lost their parent to a fight with cancer**. This pain isn’t the same as losing someone to old age. This is the pain of injustice. And people around the world feel it every day. The only thing I could say once I found out my mom was dead was “NO! It’s not true!” and “I want him (the truck driver) dead!” But having him dead wouldn’t do anything. Injustice killed my mom, and even if the man who fell asleep behind the wheel were gone, injustice is still alive, everywhere.
Martin Luther King Jr. said in a letter from Birmingham Jail “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” And he too, more that I, knew what injustice felt like.
And a prime example of injustice is this fire. The fire happened in a factory that makes garments for Walmart and Ikea, as well as others, yet neither of these companies are being held responsible. It’s a tricky system, you see. Companies that sell apparel (like Walmart) contract with garment companies who own the factories. So any one factory might be making clothing for five different apparel companies. And since the apparel companies don’t own the factories, and are not legally responsible for things like this fire (creating minimum public outcry), the garment factories continue with their unsafe working conditions so that our demand for their product is met. Because what’s a hundred dead bodies if they’re making millions of dollars, right?
And what’s even more of an injustice is not that it happens, but that we allow it to happen; we allow ourselves to disassociate with the pain that our consumerism and unethical buying causes people around the world every day. It’s easy to say “‘well, I don’t shop at Walmart or Ikea so I guess I’m good”. But what about Forever 21? What about Sketchers, and Fruit of the Loom and Express and Lacoste (just to name a few)? These companies are some of the worst offenders of human rights in the clothing production industry. We find philosophical loopholes to make it okay to buy from them— they give to charity, they’re a christian company, I can’t afford anything else. But they’re just that—loopholes, so we can continue buying the things we want, when we want, and without any ”guilty conscience” to get in the way.
And although I have no idea what it’s like to live in poverty, and I have no idea what it’s like working in a factory that makes clothes for stores in the U.S., I do know what it’s like to lose someone I love because of injustice.
I could rest in my anger, but anger without action would just leave me bitter and helpless. So, as a victim of injustice, and in an effort to move my deep, intense anger into action, I have decided that enough is enough. No more making the exception for that super cheap, super cute Forever 21 shirt. No more remaining blissfully ignorant about companies that blissfully ignore human rights***. It might be hard, but buying something from a company that hurts people is not worth it. It will never be worth it. Because injustice anywhere— from my mother’s death and factory fires, to choices in the clothing I buy— is a threat to justice everywhere.”
So today, I just want you to reflect. Reflect on the lives lost because of injustice, and how often times our overconsumption plays a big part in it. Reflect on how easy it is to complain about our lives when thousands–no, millions– are living a life beyond our comprehension. Reflect on what your action will be moving forward. Maybe that action is buying no more clothing from companies that offend human rights? Maybe, you’d rather start with food, and participate in the Hungry for Change fast? Start slow. Choose one thing. Make it your priority.
* We now know, that the driver didn’t just fall asleep at the wheel, but passed out due to driving while on a lot of drugs.
** I realize that not calling cancer injustice is incorrect. My intent was to express that it’s not a form of injustice that people inflict on one another. Killing someone, and letting factories burn while people are still in there, is.
** I can honestly say that all of the clothes I’ve purchased since writing the original blog almost a year ago have been from ethically made companies. I use the Better World Shopping Guide– it’s a wonderful resource, and they have an iPhone app, too!