I have hated Valentine’s Day for many years. I’m sure if I were to troll through the archives of M.O.M I would uncover an ode or two to my disdain for this “holiday”.
I remember being a student at GIS, a school that was crawling with half-caste (as they were proudly and so politically incorrectly called in those days) and white girls, whose affections were unilaterally sought after by boys all over the city and within the confines of our school alike. Every year, massive bouquets, bottles of wine and cakes and confections of every hue and color would be delivered to these my fellow students by a band of underclassmen whose job it was to interrupt classes in order to drop off their packaged bounty. In the early 90s, light skin was so “in” (more-so than it is today, if you can imagine that) and I always felt a little ill when me and my darker skinned sisters were utterly and unapologetically snubbed by our equally dark skinned brothers in their favor. The year one ebony skinned girl named Anita trotted down the corridor with an obnoxious Valentine’s Day card sent by an admirer I nearly did a cartwheel. In your FACE!
You see folks – these are the roots of the ridiculous #TeamLightSkinned / #TeamDarkSkinned trends on twitter.
Now that I’m all grown up and married to an amazing man, I still have little reason to care for Valentine’s Day. My husband is uncommonly kind to me the majority of the year, and I like to think that I am to him as well. I don’t have to wait until February 14th to get a surprise gift, and in return, he doesn’t have to wait until the evening of the same night to be the recipient of toe curling, hot sweaty…you know where I’m going.
My dislike for this Hallmark has only been recently heightened by my discovery of something rather unsettling in regards to something that I enjoy virtually every month of the year: chocolate.
More specifically, there is blood – children’s blood – in a lot of the chocolate I consume.
I came across this article on CNN recently which details the horrors of modern day child slavery in West Africa’s cocoa fields: http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/12/chocolates-child-slaves/
The issue of the use child labor in Africa’s cotton, cocoa and cassava fields is nothing new. When we studied it in primary school, our teacher dismissively told us that this was the lot of children of farmers. It wasn’t “slavery” per se, but rather conscripted labor, and birthright. Politician’s children went to university and the children of farmers worked in the field. I believed him…but then as a third grader I was literally just born the day before. What did I know?
I do know better now.
Anytime a human being is sold by another to perform any task, be it farm work or prostitution, that is slavery. There is no prettier word for such an ugly practice, and everyone is complicit, from the uncle who steals and sells his nephew to pay a debt, to the farmer who works the lad on his farm, to the government who exports this cocoa, to the US/UK conglomerate who purchases it without vetting its source, to the consumer who purchases and eats it. There is blood on all our hands!
When I walk into a Publix and pick up a Snickers or a Godiva, I do so to satisfy a craving, rarely giving thought to the journey this small piece of chocolate has taken from seed to package. But after reading the CNN report, it’s hard for me to get the image of that beautiful 10 year old boy, legs crisscrossed with machete wounds and a broken smile out of my mind. Is a 55 cent piece of candy really worth his suffering? I think not. Particularly when he himself never sees a penny for his labor, or let alone tasted the proverbial (finished) fruits of his labor.
It will take decades before the practice of child slavery on these farms ends, particularly if we the consumer continue to demand chocolate sourced from these fields. The good thing is, if you care, you can vote with your wallet. Do your research on a chocolate brand/manufacturer and make sure that their practices line up with your world view, then buy that chocolate exclusively. I am a great lover of chocolate, but I am a bigger lover of humanity, and I can think of no better way of celebrating this Valentine’s Day than punishing the draconian companies who would have me join their legion of zombies.