“A diamond is a girl’s best friend.” Or is it? The exceptionally hard, brilliant stone has been portrayed in movies and advertisements as the object of many a girl’s fantasy. Women in the US and increasingly around the world are told by the media to expect nothing less than a diamond ring as a token of engagement, and the message seems to work. In 2007, global diamond jewelry sales reached more than US $70 billion. But this symbol of eternal love has been tainted by the existence of bloody conflicts in African countries fueled by the global diamond trade. In 2002, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was established to reduce such conflicts, and to ensure that globally traded diamonds come strictly from “conflict-free” areas. Recently, significant criticisms of the KPCS have brought its effectiveness into question.
As I walked through Zurich’s old city to meet my friend Anne for a beer on a warm, late summer night, I paused at an intersection to wait for the signal to cross. A cyclist approached from across the intersection, and I noticed that he rode on the wrong side of the street. As he approached the corner on which I stood, he lifted his arm and shouted forcefully in the face of a man on a scooter, “Sieg heil!” Stunned, I turned toward the scooter rider, and noticed that he had dark skin. The signal changed, and I crossed the street as the man on the scooter rode away. Disheartened, I noted that this was not the first instance of open racism that I had witnessed in the city.