If Black Lives Matter, So Does Fair Trade

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If Black Lives Matter, So Does Fair Trade

Melanie Smith

If black lives matter, so does Fairtrade. In fact, if you say that black lives matter, and yet buy tea, coffee, sugar, bananas, chocolate or even cotton or condoms which are not fairly traded, you are walking in the footsteps of slave traders and slave owners. You are continuing in the subjugation of people already disadvantaged by the legacies of slavery. You may as well be worshipping at the foot of Colston’s plinth. You may as well be flying a ‘White lives matter’ banner. Harsh? I don’t think so.

The products I’ve mentioned are all grown in countries that were integral to the triangular slave trade. After that slave trade came to an end formally, it continued informally: workers had to remain on those farms or starve. Slave owners were compensated. Colonial enterprises continued to trade. We didn’t stop eating sugar when the slave trade stopped. Sugar came from the same places, with the same winners and losers. That distinction remains today. Most of the products we consume from the Caribbean islands, Africa and India are still produced by people who are living on or around the poverty line, with few labour rights and educational opportunities. Some of these products are made using child labour: slavery by any other name.

To put it simply, if you say black lives matter, and yet Wispa, then please shut up. You are exposing yourself as a hypocrite. If you don’t want to take a break from KitKat, as Nestlé, one of the most profitable food companies in the world, reneges on its already flimsy Fairtrade commitment, then take a walk away from #BLM. You have simply jumped on a bandwagon. If you put non-Fairtrade sugar in your non-Fairtrade tea, then you’re full of bile. If you find this a little harsh, then thank you. As a Christian minister, I take my lead from the line of Hebrew prophets and Jesus in setting out the stark challenge of justice. Now is the time to change the way you live, or stand accused of double standards. This is Gospel. This is good news for the poor…

Melanie Smith is Minister of Palmers Green, Ponders End and Winchmore Hill United Reformed churches in Enfield

This is an extract from an article published in the September 2020 edition of Reform Magazine

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