I have a picture of my grandfather. Izzy Weinberg. Age 27. Here he is at Camp's Bay, South Africa, 1905.
Izzy is dressed formally in a black suit and vest, sporting a boulder hat, sitting in a cart. Instead of a horse however, there is a black man in shirtsleeves and bare feet, as the beast of burden. Even worse than this, one detail, over a hundred years later, still fills me with horror: this black man is wearing a set of horns, tied securely under his chin.
So, how much have things 'really' changed?
The macro history is simple. Colonial powers divided Africa, creating states. Resources were mined and exported. Tribal societies were fragmented in the march of progress toward the new world order.
We are sophisticated now. Now governments are involved in the diamond trade. No one wants a boycott- not even Nelson Mandela. Diamonds are a critical part of international trade and the economy of many a country.
It is undeniable that the Kimberly process is a huge step forward. If the world, because of Kimberly, could say: "NEVER AGAIN!," then at least there would be a modicum of redemption. But NGOs report conflict diamonds are still being bought and sold…though not a soul in the industry is "out of compliance."
So…who is in the cart, now? All of us in the jewelry industry, including myself, who sell diamonds are in the cart, to one degree or another. We have all benefited by DeBeers massive 'diamonds are a girl's best friend' campaign, which created the demand for diamonds, leading to these wars.
Some are in the cart sleeping, pretending the blood diamond issue is gone. Others are in the cart with the reins, in purgatory, fighting the NGOs tooth and nail with a public relations campaign saying "blood diamonds are no longer important". Let us just have business as usual because… no one is out of compliance with Kimberly.
Some have stepped in the cart without wanting to be in the cart, vis a' vis, the unwitting customer, who walked into the jewelry store some time in the nineties and with months of salary saved up to buy diamonds for their fiancé.
Do we not have accountability to these customers who purchased them and the African's who died in these bloody civil wars? We cannot correct the past, but we can build a future which does not repeat it.
We need a grass roots movement toward Fair Trade in all aspects of the jewelry business. This pressure to change must come from all directions, because we are all intimately connected in this problem.
In the words of Michael Franti, "We need a peaceful revolution…. that honors the past and attempts to correct the issues now."
Join the revolution by asking your jeweler for fair trade jewelry products. Demand full accountability for all diamonds. Ask him how he can be sure, 100% sure, that all his diamonds are conflict free.
GET OUT OF THE CART! GET UP, AND STAND UP BEFORE THE CART!
Izzy, by the way, struck out in the diamond fields. He moved to Boston and started a business selling furs… but that's a story for another day.