The necessity of guilt

Matthew Snider | Op-Ed Submission

I’m writing this article to address a recent debate that has been raised over the brief absence of tomatoes on campus. In short, staff editor Randy Brachman was, and is, upset that certain food items had temporarily been removed from our menus on campus without student consent, and he did not quite understand why aforementioned items had been removed in the first place. He voiced his discontent in “Some things I don’t understand.” Shortly after, Dylan Suher attacked this article with “Tomato ban improves lives.” Suher wished to debunk the article due to Brachman’s lack of understanding of the issue. When I first saw Suher’s article, I was triumphant. Suher had perfectly expressed the feelings I had while reading Brachman’s article, but Brachman raised a semi-valid point in “On clearing our guilty conscience:” he truly does not have a strong understanding of the issue. Also, he asked why we should feel guilty for our privileges. He attributed Suher’s anger to “white guilt.”

First off, I need to address some mistakes in diction. There was never a tomato “ban” on campus. The word “ban” has certain negative connotations. In reality, Bon Appétit refuses to obtain tomatoes that are not Fair Trade. They ran out of their supply, and their supply is our supply. Therefore, we ran out of tomatoes, but there was never a ban on campus. Secondly, the term “white guilt” is simply repugnant and slightly supremacist. Please think before you write. I know you did not intend harm, but please consider the implications of your terminology; this disgusting term implies that only white people feel the guilt of wealth, which then implies that they are the only people who are wealthy.

I do not mean to be overly virulent toward any one article, but the point I wish to make is that we are all ignorant. I can never truly understand what it feels like to be the worker that receives higher wages because of the Fair Trade organization and neither can anyone who goes to Wash. U. Some of us may have debt, but none of us have to worry about where our next meal is going to come from. Our parents will restock our meal points if we run out. Many of the workers benefitted by Fair Trade are so poor that they earn only two dollars a day in their country. We make the argument that they make enough to survive, but many of these workers don’t have enough money to feed their families.

The worst possible trap that we can fall into is thinking that we can’t do anything to change reality. Plowshare Crafts, for instance, is a perfect example of a business that uses Fair Trade effectively. For those who are unaware, Plowshare is a store located on the loop that is associated with a larger organization called Ten Thousand Villages. The products sold at Plowshare are all Fair Trade Certified. In fact, many of the volunteers at Plowshare travel abroad and directly purchase the crafts found in the store. These purchases are based on artisan relationships that been built up over time. Therefore, these artisans have an income that they can regularly depend on. They earn their money as well as their dignity. This business has been successfully benefiting artisans for 25 years, which is proof that the system works. Plowshare isn’t charity; it is consideration, consideration for those who were not born as fortunate as ourselves.

Yes, I understand; we don’t want to give up all of our privileges and wealth, but we should at least be willing to take a walk to Schnuck’s for our tomatoes, even if all of our effort only helps one impoverished worker. In the end, we are just helping. We don’t need to debate such a miniscule change in our meals, and we should feel guilty if we are unwilling to give up our excess in order to feed those who have nothing.

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