It’s come to this:
A woman in Texas berated Hobby Lobby last week for selling cotton as a decorative home accessory.
Daniell Rider posted her complaint to the craft store’s Facebook page:
There is nothing decorative about raw cotton. A commodity which was gained at the expense of African-American slaves. A little sensitivity goes a long way. Please remove this decor.
The post received close to 15,000 shares and 160,000 comments. The user, Daniell Rider, then received backlash for her sensitivity and responded to her critics:
All those who are offended by cotton being a decoration need to quit buying any product made of cotton!
And other users quickly came to her defense, one adding:
What difference does it make if it’s a decoration or part of a product. You’re being hypocritical if your offended by cotton being a decoration and not offended by any product made of cotton.
Brutal grammar aside, these people are actually serious. They legitimately want consumers everywhere to stop buying cotton products because cotton “racist.”
Now perhaps these people didn’t get a proper high school economics education, so I’ll break it down quickly.
Cotton rules the economy.
It has for centuries. We fought a war about it. The Antebellum South exported lots of things, namely cotton, tobacco, and indigo. It’s true, these products were largely cultivated dependent on slavery, which was eradicated after the Civil War.
A hundred-some-odd years later, though, and the South still exports these things. Without slaves. Do you know how many things are made of cotton nowadays? You can’t go five minutes without coming into contact with something made of cotton. Most of our clothes are cotton byproducts. Bedsheets, rugs, coffee filters, even some fire hoses are made of cotton.
Is Daniell Rider perhaps suggesting we let houses burn down because fire hoses are racist?
I bet she was wearing a cotton product when she wrote the post.
So, because these are the times in which we live, maybe we should run down a list of things that were once made by slaves:
While slavery did not create a major share of the capital that financed Europe’s industrial revolution (profits from the slave trade and New World plantations did not add up to five percent of Britain’s national income at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution), slave labor did produce the major consumer goods that were the basis of world trade during the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries: coffee, cotton, run, sugar, and tobacco. In addition, the slave trade provided stimulus to shipbuilding, banking, and insurance, and Africa became a major market for iron, textiles, firearms, and rum.
Morality aside, the slave economy was ultimately unprofitable, and replaced by the growing forces of free market capitalism. But the real issue here seems to be anything that could have a historical connotation, so does this mean that clothing made with cotton is now racist? Not to mention cotton balls, Q-tips, etc. If everything is now racist, then what will be left to buy or wear?