There’s Uighur Blood on Your Nikes
I can’t wear my Nikes anymore. I used to love my Nike Free 5.0 shoes — they were lightweight and comfortable, hugging my foot to provide firm support while leaving adequate wiggle-room for my toes. But now, every time I wear them, I’m reminded that they’re so much more than mere running shoes; my Nikes are a reminder of the Uighur genocide in Xinjiang, China, a genocide Nike is fighting to defend and a genocide we’re all ignoring.
The New York Times reported that Nike — along with Apple and Coca-Cola — is among many companies lobbying against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, legislation that would ban imports from the Xinjiang region that capitalize on the forced labor of persecuted Muslims.
The House passed the bill in September with an overwhelming majority of 406 to 3. However, the bill threatens the economic interests of those companies, perhaps similar to how the Chinese Communist Party threatens any Uighur Muslim who exhibits the slightest hint of their religious identity, which endangers the uniformity of the Han Chinese majority. Therefore, consumer culture warrants — no, demands — that Nike, Apple and Coca-Cola invest their financial resources to stop this atrocity of a bill.
It’s not enough that Uighurs are kidnapped, blindfolded, tortured and detained in internment camps. Nor is it enough that Uighur women are raped, mandated abortions and forcibly sterilized. The organ harvesting couldn’t make any big-company executive bat an eye. People need their Nike shoes and their Apple watches, and Nike and Apple need their money, so the U.S. surely must reconsider this overreactive legislation.
According to the Washington Post, hundreds of Uighur workers in China’s Qingdao Taekwang Shoes Co. are forced to manufacture Nike’s popular sneaker lines, such as Air Max. Producing about eight million pairs every year, Qingdao has been Nike’s supplier for the past 30 years. Workers are workers, and whether or not they’re shipped straight from China’s internment camp makes no difference. Any professionally composed statement with strong language cannot repaint the reality: Nike puts profit above people.
Of course, this egregious demonstration of their dearth of basic moral values is not unique to Nike. Apple and Coca-Cola, too, are lobbying against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act. They, among many other companies, will sell whatever remnant of their soul remains to Chinese manufacturers in the hopes of furthering their profit. This is a global problem — the number of companies essentially standing in fiscal solidarity with Uighur oppression is overwhelming. In their eyes, in the clash of morals and profit, the latter will always beat out the former. It’s despicable and inexcusable.
Shlomo HaMelech spoke of an unfortunately timeless truth when he said, “There is nothing new beneath the sun” (Koheles 1:9). Human rights atrocities have stained the world’s history in recent decades, and each and every time we swear that next time will be different. We lament over how we should have acted differently, how we should have seen the signs and stepped in before it was too late. For the millions of Uighurs locked away in internment camps, “too late” was three years ago.
The US took a big step forward for justice when the Human Rights Policy Act of 2020 — which sanctions Chinese government officials responsible for human rights abuses — was passed over the summer. But this is just the beginning of the fight for Uighur freedom.
The time for action is now: Daven for change. Boycott complicit companies. Email your representatives. Learn about the Uighur genocide. We need to do something. We’re beyond the point of blissful ignorance or surprise. A genocide is underway as we speak, and we cannot stand for it.
To take action, email firstname.lastname@example.org and check out the Jewish Movement for Uyghur Freedom.
Photo Caption: Nike is one of many companies lobbying against the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
Photo Credit: Never Again Right Now