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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Do you know where Darfur is?

    Vanessa Valenzuelacolumnist
    Vanessa Valenzuela

    The consumerisation of social responsibility made Lance Armstrong’s Livestrong bracelets a nationwide trend, followed by a craze of bracelets in every color for every cause.ÿThe whole concept of bracelets-for-a-cause was quickly cheapened – you bought one as an accessory, not as a commitment to a cure or solution. That’s why I was shocked and almost disgusted when I first came across similar bracelets and, even worse, T-shirts that looked like they could be purchased at Urban Outfitters made in the name of raising awareness and money for Darfur.

    How could small, trendy bracelets and gimmicky T-shirts capture the severity of what is going on in Darfur? How could people use such nominal material items to represent the 400,000 people who have been killed, the 2 million innocent civilians who have been forced to flee their homes and now live in displaced-persons camps in Sudan or in refugee camps in neighboring Chad and the more than 3.5 million men, women and children who are completely reliant on international aid for survival?

    Maybe rampant ignorance calls for desperate measures.

    I asked 20 UA students two things: Do you know where Darfur is? Do you know anything about what is happening there? Sixteen of these students didn’t have to answer the second question because they couldn’t even tell me where Darfur is – a western region in the country of Sudan in East Africa – let alone what’s going on there.

    After each “”no”” or “”I don’t know, the Middle East?”” I realized that the bracelets and T-shirts exist because these “”gimmicky”” things are simply what works in a society filled with people who do not work to keep themselves informed. This is especially true of our age group, which includes a large number of students who spend more time on Facebook than watching CNN – that has been running both “”Save Darfur”” advertisements and stories from the region – or cracking open a newspaper.

    The fact that so many are uniformed in a “”globalized”” world is a subject for a different day, but people have realized that the only way to reach this group is through means like these.

    How could small, trendy bracelets and gimmicky T-shirts capture the severity of what is going on in Darfur?

    Trendy, material things are definitely the lesser evil to complete ignorance. And on the UA campus, these bracelets and shirts are two of the only ways the situation in Darfur is made known.

    Wendy Theodore, an assistant professor of Africana studies who helped bring the bracelets to the UA campus when she was an adviser for the UA Students for Darfur group, said she believes that the green “”Save Darfur”” bracelets are valuable. “”The bracelets serve three purposes,”” she said. “”To keep the person wearing it conscious of their responsibility to spread the word, they are an effective walking advertisement and elicit inquiries from others and they helped to raise money that was then sent to a group on the ground in Darfur.””

    And this is the key: These bracelets and T-shirts, regardless of how trendy they may become, are worth it if they help to inform even one more person. Because that is one more person who cannot claim ignorance on an issue like this one that is so important and has serious consequences for thousands of people.

    There are people in the world who depend on the rest of us to inform ourselves and take action to help those in need and who truly appreciate the fact that we do so. Peter Manyok Ayuen, a political science senior from Sudan, said he appreciates even the bracelets, “”because it tells me that people are concerned about the problem in my country and that they work hard to bring an end to it.””

    However, these material items are just the first step. We can’t do anything to help people in our own communities or across the world in Darfur before we actually learn about the issue.

    I left a more detailed explanation of what is happening in Darfur out for a reason: to leave you the responsibility of going to Google, turning on the news or opening a paper and finding out for yourself. Don’t let bracelets do all the talking. Lives are depending on it.

    Vanessa Valenzuela is an international studies and economics junior. She can be reached at

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