One of the most disturbing facts I learned while doing research for my book, Inheriting the Trade, is that slavery continues to flourish today. I was blind to it. I occasionally encountered stories about young women being forced into prostitution, or children working in overseas sweat shops, but I didn’t pay close attention. I didn’t make the connection to the word slavery.
Then I ran across an article in National Geographic (September 2003) that is deeply troubling. It begins:
“The headline below [21st Century Slaves] is not a metaphor. This story is about slaves. Not people living like slaves, working hard for lousy pay. Not people 200 years ago. It’s about 27 million people worldwide who are bought and sold, held captive, brutalized, exploited for profit.”
27 million people. Enslaved. Today.
Everything is connected. Where do the clothes I buy come from? What about the toys my grandchildren play with? In supposedly enlightened European countries where prostitution has been legalized, where do the young women come from?
From the All Africa article noted above:
“Annually, about 600,000 to 800,000 people mostly women and children are trafficked across national borders, which does not count millions trafficked within their own countries.
In a few cases, physical force is used, and in other cases, false promises are made regarding job opportunities or marriages in foreign countries to entrap victims.
In general terms, human trafficking is a multi-dimensional threat which deprives people of their rights and freedom. Not only is it a global health risk, it also fuels the growth of organized crime.”
And to think I once thought that the purpose of studying historic slavery was to try to understand the roots of modern-day racism. It is, of course, and it is so much more.