Dead White People’s Clothes

I ran across “Dead White People’s Clothes” last night. Basically, the author is making the claim that by sending used clothing to Africa, we are destroying their textile industry and taking away thousands of jobs from their people. Who would have thought that the simple gesture of donating clothing could have such an impact on a country? I can easily see how this could cause some conflict. For one, those of us in the more modern countries see the half naked, starving children in these third world countries and want to do something to help. On the flip side, the author is saying we are not only taking away jobs but also taking away from the culture of the people wearing traditional clothing.

Part of the problem is that younger generations no longer want to wear “outdated” traditional attire; instead, they crave the sort of sophistication and modernity promised in the pages of American and European magazines. They covet the styles they see on the latest television shows—Hollywood sitcoms and celebrity gossip shows imported by a fast-paced cable market. And the controversial used-clothing trade is quick in its attempt to fill each and every one of those fashion desires.

My question is this: is the author referring to the people in her country who can afford to buy the clothing made in their homeland? Is she neglecting to acknowledge that some people would have nothing without these donated garments? Or is my Western idea of thinking getting the best of me? I’d love to hear/see more research on this topic and maybe even hear the opinion of some of the people who receive these clothing donations.


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