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An Indian politician says Britain owes reparations to its colonies, and his message is going viral.

While we can't change history, it's important that we acknowledge the facts of our colonialist pasts.

In the United States, independence from Britain is a distant memory that we celebrate with burgers and a beer. But in India, the wounds of colonialism are more recent — and more raw.

By the early 20th century, the United Kingdom ruled over one-fourth of the world. Most of those countries didn't gain independence until after World War II, a detail that tends to be overlooked in U.S. history books. And if you think European colonists in America had good reason to rebel against British rule, India definitely did.

Think of India like a big ol' apartment building. The Indian people have been living there for a while — centuries, even — before a new, oppressive, absentee landlord (*cough* Britain *cough*) came along and continually upped the rent while refusing to fix the toilet. Or the mouse problem. And by "toilet" and "mouse problems," I mean introduced violence, slavery/indentured servitude, and the destruction and theft of language and culture, all for profit.


And on top of that, the same terrible landlord didn't even give your security deposit back. I think you'd have a right to be upset. And that's sort of — in a very general, metaphorical way — how some Indians feel about the era of British colonialism.

GIF from the greatest speech ever written in the history of American cinema ("Independence Day")

There are people like Shashi Tharoor who believe that Britain should repay India and other former colonies for centuries of oppression.

Tharoor is an author, politician, and member of the Indian parliamentwho boasts such an impressive resume that I can hardly even begin to summarize it here. With more than 3 million followers on Twitter, he's also a bit of an academic celebrity.

In May 2015, Tharoor gave a speech that has reached millions of people — proving that his message has an audience.

The speech, which went viral on YouTube and Facebook, took place during a debate on reparations, just one in an ongoing series hosted by the Oxford Union, a prestigious society at the Oxford University.

Tharoor was the seventh out of eight speakers that night, and he totally brought the house down. Here are just a few of the highlights that made it such a hit:


All GIFs via Oxford Union.

Tharoor's speech not only shut down the opposition, but it also reinvigorated the conversation around colonialism and reparations.

At the end of the debate, members of the Oxford Union votedfor the more convincing argument. Thanks in no small part to Tharoor's passionate exhortation, the proponents of British reparations won the debate by a tally of 185 to 56.

The speech played well on the Internet, where the message resonated with younger Indians, a sign that the scars of colonialism don't fade away so easily.

There are people who subscribe to the belief that once something stops, it's over and done with. But anyone who was ever bullied or hurt by a close friend or relative will tell you otherwise. Now apply that same psychological scarring to a national identity, and make it last for centuries. You get the picture.

The historical impact of colonial oppression is still felt all across the world — from India to Africa, Asia and the Americas.

Even today, Britain retains a strong presence in India. And India isn't the only country that has struggled with the consequences of colonialism. Nor is the United Kingdom the only country that has systematically oppressed a group of people.

Tharoor's arguments against the benefits of "enlightened despotism" can easily be applied to America's treatment of black Americans and Native Americans. Like the minority outreach panel in 2013 where a participant defended slavery as altruism for giving food and shelter to black people, or literally any reference to Native Americans as being savage or uncivilized before they encountered Europeans.

Here we are, more than a century since the end of an "official" oppression against either group — and yet they still suffer from the effects of colonialism in ways both subtle and obvious (take a look at what's happening with Native Americans right now).

It's not just people of color, either. Speaking as an Irish American, I can point to the experience of my own ancestors, who were driven to migration by Britain's genocidal negligence in the face of the Great Hunger. And while I'm certainly grateful to have been born in this country, I'm also aware of how my name has been Anglicized thanks to Britain's campaign to replace the Irish language with English.

While we can't change history, it's important that we acknowledge the facts of our colonialist pasts — lest we are forced to repeat them.

It's not about the monetary amount Britain should pay in reparations,says Tharoor, "but the principle of atonement." And judging by the success of his speech, it seems this a sentiment shared by many people — in India and elsewhere.

The world is full of shameful histories, but the people in power are the only ones served by not talking about it. Even if Tharoor's speech doesn't lead to any direct reparations (which, unfortunately, isthe likely outcome), it's a good reminder that the harmful effects of power and oppression don't just disappear over time, and that the moral fiber of the majority is still swayed toward justice.

Watch Tharoor's full speech below (the whole thing is pretty great):

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

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via Pixabay

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All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

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