Have you ever had a day when you expected the “theme” for the day to be one thing, and it turns out to be something completely different?
Yesterday, we took my homeschooled daughter on a field trip to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta. So naturally, I expected the “theme” of the day to be race relations. But something else unfolded.
It started on the trip down. We were reading the American Girl book my daughter bought this week. It was about a privileged girl in the early 1900s who made friends with the new servant girl her age from next door. This girl had been working in the factories but had developed a serious cough, so her parents had sent her to this woman’s house to work as a servant. As we read, I talked to my daughter about child labor issues.
“We don’t have this happening anymore because there are laws to protect children,” I told her.
“Well, in America,” my husband added.
I pushed that thought to the back of my head, hating to think about what products I own that may have been manufactured by children in unhealthy working conditions. But at the MLK Visitor’s Center, the topic was forced to the front of my mind again.
Displays and movies emphasized that the civil rights movement wasn’t just about rights for black people but rights for everyone. In the center was an interactive area geared toward children applying the lessons of the civil rights movement to their lives. One lift-the-flap board asked, “Why should I care where my clothes come from?” When you lifted for the answer, it talked about children in other countries working in unsafe factories.
Again, I felt the guilt of wondering if—no how—I had contributed to this.
As we returned home from our adventure, we picked up the day’s newspaper. There on the front cover was a horrific picture of the factory in Bangladesh collapsing. I wanted to cry. My daughter noticed it too and was visibly impacted.
That evening she was full of lots of questions, “How did Mrs. King die?” “Where is Bangladesh?” “What kinds of accidents have factories in China had?”
She wasn’t the only one. Over and over again, I kept asking myself, “What can I do? How can I know if a product I buy was made under inhumane conditions? How can I keep from being a part of the problem?”
With a little research, I learned about Fair Trade USA. Through this organization, companies that demonstrate that they provide humane working conditions can place the Fair Trade logo on their products. To be honest, I’ve never noticed this logo before, but I’m going to start looking for it.
In my next blog, I’ll tell you what I find.