Say what you mean and Mean what you say

One thing that has been brought to my attention recently is the way that language perpetuates social injustices. We’ve been talking about it in my Justice Studies class and I’ve been feeling really convicted about the way that I speak, and the words which I use. We don’t realize that by using words such as “lame”, “retarded, “racist” and “rape” lightly, we’re perpetuating the idea that our [unjust] social systems are okay. The problem is, in fact, that no one likes to think they’re a part of the problem. But even for those of us who are privileged, often one person’s privilege is another person’s oppression. So, here are a list of things that I have noticed that I, myself, say commonly, as well as things that I’ve noticed other people say, and could be leading to discrimination and inequality:

“That’s so retarded”: Mental Retardation is a handicap, referring to a group of people who are disabled, and because of their disability, do not receive social equality. By using the name of a disability to describe things our situations in a negative way is only furthering that their condition is below that of a fully abled person, and it’s discriminatory.

“That’s lame”: As if a synonym to “That stinks” we say “That’s [someone who has lost their ability to walk]”

“Oh my gosh, you’re gonna, like, get raped”: translation “you are walking home alone which probably isn’t the safest thing to do”. While rape is a real, scary, possible thing, this is usually said as a joke. Rape isn’t funny. Women are perpetuating the idea that rape is common and ok by joking about it. This in turn says “men can dominate over women”. #socialinjustice.

“He’s cute for a black (hispanic/asian/insert racial minority) guy”: Really? He can’t just be cute for a guy? period? Hokay.

“That’s gay”: Last year one of my best friends would always say this, and to make things awkward, I’d say “Yeah you’re right, how homosexual”. Because we don’t really mean homosexual when we say “that’s gay”, but that’s what we’re saying. And we’re saying it with a negative connotation that allows people to belittle others because of their sexual orientation.

With most of these things, anyone would say “oh, well I would never mean it like that”. That’s just the thing. We become comfortable. We begin to take the path of least resistance. We say things because they’re phrases and just things that people say to one another.

My freshman year in High School, I stopped saying “That’s gay” because my best friend came out of the closet as a homosexual male. He told me personally that he found this phrase hurtful and demeaning. Not only did I stop, but I called other people out, even if it was awkward. My entire family stopped saying it, and most of my friends. Not only did my [wildly conservative] family stop saying “That’s gay”, but their entire belief system on equality based on sexual orientation changed. Be the one to be different. Because we each have the opportunity to make a difference. If we change our speech, we change what is considered okay.

The Dangers of “Walking While Black”: Trayvon Martin

In his article “Driving While Black”, David Harris addresses a racism problem within our own Justice System, calling out law authorities who target African-Americans in arrests and traffic stops. This is a commonly recognized problem that demonstrates a flaw in the system. It demonstrates that Racism is still out there, residing in the very system that we trust to defend social justice.

So, we’ve established that according to local police systems, driving while black is considered legitimate terms for a traffic stop. What I want to look at in this post is the Trayvon Martin case, and the suspicions which now coincide with walking while black.

Let me first off say, that I literally cried while listening to the recording of the 911 calls made during Trayvon’s shooting. Anyone with ears can hear Trayvon screaming, or howling rather, “HELP”. The cries for help stop abruptly with a gunshot. Trayvon’s mother identified the sound of her son’s voice. The first call, made by Martin’s shooter, Zimmerman, explains the so called “self defense” of Zimmerman.

Based on Zimmerman’s call, the reasons why Trayvon appeared suspicious were the following: He was black, he was walking around, he was wearing a gray hoodie, and he was holding something (a pack of skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea). That’s funny. Now I’m not saying that Trayvon Martin may not have been “up to no good”, but he certainly had NOT committed a crime, or given a reason for Zimmerman to shoot him based on self defense. Furthermore, Trayvon has no police record, where Zimmerman himself actually does have a record. According to a 2005 Florida Law, if you have a reasonable fear to believe you are in great danger of death, you do not have the obligation to run, you can fight back. When Zimmerman called 911, he said “[Trayvon] is running” the dispatcher says “Are you chasing him?” and Zimmerman responds that he is, the dispatcher says “Ok, we don’t need you to do that.” Is this a matter of self-defense? Or a demonstration of our country’s deep rooted racism?.

The only thing good that can come out of this tragic shooting is a radical change in the way we see each other. This deep rooted social injustice doesn’t come from no where. It comes from fear advocated by our everyday racial slurrs, comments and jokes, even if they are “all in good fun”. Why should Trayvon have had to learn from his mother “don’t run in public”. WHY is that a message to be sent to black children? Why? What you can do now? Ask yourself why. Ask yourself what you can change in your daily speech and behavior.

Follow this link to sign the petition to arrest the murder of Trayvon Martin http://www.change.org/petitions/lets-get-justice-for-trayvon-martin#

“There’s a Smile in Every Hershey’s Bar”??

Warning: If you wish to continue in your consumerism and read a polite blog post about nature, or a trip to Europe, or love, this post….this blog, rather, is not for you. But if you want to have your eyes opened to the Injustices that break God’s heart, and  the solutions that ALREADY exist, read on, and find out what you can do about it.
Most of you have probably seen a commercial, or heard an advertisement on the radio, or passed a billboard that claims 

There’s a Smile in Every Hershey’s Bar.

Oh. So that’s what they put into their chocolate to make it so good? Probably not, actually. What is it, really that goes into Hershey Bars? Well according to Hershey’s website, what goes into their milk chocolate consists of: sweeteners, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, milk and flavoring. But the one thing that you won’t find on any label, website or wrapper, that ALSO goes into Hershey’s delicious chocolate, is forced child and slave labor.

So I know what’s going through your head right now, because as I at a table in my college dining hall, listening to one of my best friends describe his missions work in New York City, and the forced labor that goes into some of my favorite products, I tried to shrug it off. Because I probably love chocolate more than any soul on this earth, but unfortunately, that is the kind of attitude that perpetuates the social systems that serve injustice to people all over the world.

As it turns out, the cocoa business is a risky and dangerous one. The price of cocoa is often unpredictable, causing problems for the business, causing cocoa farmers to buy slaves to do the labor, to save the money they are using. And most chocolate companies (due to a little thing we call capitalism) are more than happy to turn a blind eye to this injustice, and buy from the farmers anyways. This is not limited to Hershey’s! In fact, unless a chocolate product says, on the label, fair trade, it was probably made using forced labor. 

SO this sucks, right? Not only are children and slaves being forced to harvest cocoa under bad conditions, all over the world, but now I feel guilty eating chocolate. False! There are many things that you can do about the situation, none of which include cutting chocolate out of your life!

What I can do NOW:

  1. You CAN start purchasing only fair trade chocolate. Some great companies that produce fair trade chocolate are Divine Chocolate, Theo Chocolate, Green America and Equal Exchange Chocolate. While it’s a bit more expensive (because it was not made for free by slaves) it tastes http://www.raisethebarhershey.org/take-action/! IF we decrease the demand for chocolate like Hershey’s and other main line chocolate companies, we decrease the demand, which decreases the number of slaves and child laborers being forced to work
  2. Make a call or write a letter! It doesn’t seem like this will help, but EVERYTHING COUNTS! Write a letter to your favorite company asking them to make the move toward fair trade!
  3. Raise awareness! As word spreads, our social systems begin to change.
  4. Go to http://www.raisethebarhershey.org/take-action/, a campaign called Raise the Bar, that promotes Fair Trade chocolate. You can donate or take action on this website!

For further information, see my sources:

http://ihscslnews.org/view_article.php?id=182

http://naturalpapa.com/activism/hershey-chocolate-child-labor-slavery/

http://www.awakenedaesthetic.com/2011/02/exposed-hersheys-chocolate/