Most goods that are available to American consumers are made by the hands of slaves. Mass produced goods, whether via an online vendor or your area's nearest Big Box store, are usually sold at a price significantly cheaper than the labor it was made with- because the hands making those goods are under duress. Whether it's a cheap generic brand or a pricier "boutique" item- if those goods are produced overseas, there's a good chance they were produced by slave labor.
We could go on all day about the historical commodification of human bodies that China, India, and others, have continued to commit against their minority populations for decades. We could go on for another day, about the willful engagement into slave labor that an unregulated American economy continues to submerge itself in......and, we could probably go on for longer about the cultural negligence and apathy Americans have about consuming slave goods. The hard reality is that our Country's economic model is so entrenched in slave labor that most of us can't spend a day not consuming it. Let us not mention the immeasurable detriment that slave labor is on our global environment. However, there are so MANY easy ways, as consumers & producers, that we can disengage our dollars from human trafficking efforts.
A really fast and simple action is finding local, small producers for as many of the goods you consume as possible. Here in Tallahassee, we are so lucky for the robust farming community we have because it means we don't have to go to Big Box stores to purchase our food. From eggs, produce, meat (if you eat it😉) and shelf staples, all sourced within 100 miles, our family knows where our food comes from. We have relationships with our farmers and what we eat, which adds much more to our quality of life than we could have imagined. Tallahassee also has a wide variety of small businesses, and our family really only has to purchase things like paper goods and medicine from Big Box suppliers. It's taken us years of practice and building relationships with our neighbors to get our household to a point where less than 20% of our household consumption engages with slave labor.
Not all small businesses are created equal though. As human rights violations continue to be left unaddressed and advantages are reaped from human lives by global consumers, Indian & Chinese wholesalers became readily available to the small business owner. When we first started out, there was a moment where we had sincerely considered having some of our needlepoint designs digitally printed like a few other Makers in our industry have- but what most small business owners don't think about are how those goods are produced or that copyright laws aren't internationally regulated.
The biggest issue for us was that working with any wholesaler outlet meant we'd be profiting off the backs of slaves (gross AF), but also you don't really have license protections on your designs after you submit them for production. When independent artists share their designs to be produced, those productions get put into a portfolio by the Wholesaler that large Big Box companies can then browse when they contact Wholesalers for their product purchases. The original artist doesn't get paid or notified- and any kind of legal action is usually drawn out or unsuccessful. This second issue is just another branch of the slave labor tree- because while independent designers aren't being denied food, wages, medically sterilized or marched into concentration camps, an advantage is still being taken of them. Rather than contracting with artists directly & fairly, Big Box companies purchase a pricey design for pennies since they aren't hiring an artist for their time. The maliciousness that's felt around that action isn't targeted or intentional, but just an inherent part to a slave labor industry. The use of wholesale producers is not really an advantage for anyone. If the small business your purchasing from doesn't know where or how their goods are produced, those goods are probably made by the hands of slaves.
Ultimately, our biggest issue with Wholesale production was that hundreds of thousands of people are being denied a freedom, a name, and their inherent right to life, all for the sake of "cheap & easy".
Slave made goods are low quality and slave based economic systems are never sustainable. You notice how goods you find in Big Box stores don't seem to hold up like they used to? You find more textile quality in secondhand clothing than new these days too.
The use and practice of slave labor is a systemic issue across cultures and centuries. As society becomes more complex, it becomes the burden and obligation of the State to regulate economic practices and protect their peoples- but if your Government fails to act it becomes the immediate duty of the people to resist systemic violence because otherwise we will all fall victim to a slave economy...as slaves. One might argue we're seeing the results of our failures to resist a slave economy right now as the US struggles to resolve the issues this Pandemic has exacerbated in our system....and those currently struggling the most are the ones still of the mentality that slave labor consumption is inevitable.
When you purchase from a small business that takes the time and effort to craft their wares, to build intimate relationships with their producers, or offers quality secondhand goods, you are disengaging your dollars from an economic system based in slave trade....and that feels really fucking good. You become more connected with the community around you while building an economic foundation for this country that uplifts our people and environment out of the existential crisis we find ourselves amidst. Life is less lonely when you shop ethically. Life is less anxious. When your consumption is based on the connections you have around you, you find empathy in every moment. In slave labor there is no empathy. No care, no connection. Wouldn't that kind of life feel miserable all the time?
The more we consume ethically, the easier it gets and the process almost snowballs on itself. As consumer demands increase, the supply becomes more diverse. Over the decades, Tallahassee consumers have fostered such a want to consume ethically, that we now have hundreds of secondhand dealers, independent service providers, and more eateries than you could shake a stick at.
We take so much pride here at The Halfway Point to offer uniquely-produced artisan wares and be another local source of consumer goods free from human trafficking practices. By doing our part, it makes it easier for everyone to begin making the change in consumer practices. By doing our part, we hope to continue to foster conscientious consumer habits & lifestyle choices in our community. By doing our part, we hope to apply a direct effort to help end the practice of slave labor and human trafficking.