Fighting Slavery Through the Marketplace


Image depicting a storefront
Image depicting a storefront

By Tina Snieder

The holidays have consistently been an economically prosperous time for retailers all over the country. For example, this past Black Friday weekend brought in over six hundred billion dollars. If one thinks of what their money supports when they purchase Christmas presents, or materials in general, we might spend carelessly and forget to consider whether we actually want to support large corporations as opposed to local businesses.

However, these decisions are important because consumers often do not think about whether or not their dollars were spent on goods that can be traced back to slave labor. While the United States has a contextually low amount of individuals trapped in modern day slavery, America is economically involved with countries who directly use slave labor to harvest commodities and make products for use in the States.

We come into contact with slave-made products when we drink coffee, eat chocolate and sugar, drive cars, and purchase diamonds or gold. Most especially, the production of cotton for our clothes can be traced back to slavery. This is why Made in a Free World, an organization focused on ending slavery, focuses on the economic impact individuals can have on the system of slavery. It is the marketplace that has the most clout when it comes to fighting against slavery. The organization Made in a Free World encourages people to both shop ethically as well as invite clothing companies and brands to work towards using ethical labor and products. They propose that businesses will be the best leaders of a free world and consumers have the ability to push them in the right direction.

Ideally, shopping ethically would be easy and affordable. However, most stores that boast of ethical products and fashion are far above the average college student’s price range. One option is to shop at consignment and thrift stores. Doing this avoids benefitting stores with unethical practices, as well as helping to sustain local stores and missions. Next time gifts or new clothes are needed, be mindful of what your dollars support.