How many slaves do you own?
The gut reaction to such a jarring question is: none! Me? Of course not! However, the sad truth is that all of us have a “slavery footprint” of some sort. The choices and purchases we make as consumers have an impact far beyond our own lives and borders. Like ripples on a pond, but with far darker consequences. As consumers, we are inextricably tied to the supply chains from which we purchase, whether we like it or not - or whether we are even really aware of it. The brutal fact is that slavery plays a role in many of the chains that provide our everyday items, and most of us have no idea.
The organization, Made in a Free World, is working to change that by shedding light on the dark reality of modern-day slavery’s connection to our everyday lives. Fueled by the belief that “a free market should come from free people,” it partnered with the U.S. Department of State to build the world’s first ever Slavery Footprint platform. Their online “quiz” takes you through a series of questions about various aspects of your life - from what you own to what you eat - and it reveals how many slaves work for you. Your total slavery footprint is calculated as the “number of forced laborers that were likely to be involved in creating and manufacturing the products that you buy.”
So, if you’re like me, you’re curious about how they determine that total number. Well, the organization started by investigating the use of slave labor in the supply chains of the most popular consumer products based on the most common places the raw materials originated. A complex algorithm assigned scores to each of the 400+ researched products to determine the number of slaves used to produce them. If you want a more in-depth breakdown of the methodology, you can read more here. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more!
Equipped with a little more insight, I knew it was time to hit, “Find Out,” to start the quiz. I admit I was hesitant to click the link at first. Usually, I’m the first to jump at any sort of quiz - from personality tests to Buzzfeed telling me what kind of potato I would be - but how many slaves I own? I wasn’t sure I wanted to know that about myself.
Going through the quiz questions made me acutely aware of the gaps in my own knowledge and understanding of slavery. While I knew makeup was an ethically contentious industry, I had no idea that, “[e]very day tens of thousands of Indian children mine mica, which is the little ‘sparklies’ in makeup.” And I may have had a basic understanding of raw materials, like cotton, being connected with slavery, but I couldn’t have told you that, “1.4 million children have been forced to work in Uzbek cotton fields [which is more than the number of children in the entire New York City public school system].”
At the end of this quiz, I found out that I have 57 slaves working for me.
Daunting numbers like the 40 million people in slavery can feel discouraging and impersonal. But 57? The number 57 is personal for me now. If you’re like me and find it overwhelming to think about fighting for the freedom of 40 million slaves, fight for your 57. Be an advocate in your everyday life. Seek to be informed and educated on the issue. Understand your influence on slavery. Make conscious and intentional choices and purchases. Use your voice to encourage companies to look into their supply chains. Vote with your dollar and reward companies that value freedom like you do.
Know that the fight is worth fighting and you’re not fighting alone. Start with your 57 and let’s choose to make the world a little more free.
It is not too late to be a part of the impact!
Right now, thousands of people around the world are taking on the creative challenge of wearing a dress or tie in the month of December. The reason? To bring freedom to the 40+ million around the world still trapped in slavery. Your donation or participation in Dressember 2018 is part of a movement to end human trafficking for good.
About the Author
Jacquelyn Chauviere Buss is a Diet Dr. Pepper addict with a deep love for people, especially babies. She recently graduated from Texas A&M University with a degree in Business Honors and a minor in Psychology. She is passionately hopeful to see slavery eradicated in her lifetime.