Slavery still exists in America
“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
The birthright of all Americans, as written into the founding documents of this country, is freedom. It is the solution that is found after adding up life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We were created to be a people who sought these things, taught them to our children, continuously passing them down.
But as these unalienable rights were being written, they were already being taken away. Slavery had already rooted itself in the foundations of this “so-called” free country. The reality of America did not coincide with the reality that was spoken of in the Declaration of Independence. Our birthright was taken from us before we could even take our first steps.
Later, we believed that victory came when the Atlantic Slave Trade was abolished with the 13th Amendment. As the abolition movement died and made way for “civil rights” we again believed that victory came when women and people of color were included in the right to vote. We believed victory came with the removal of Jim Crow Laws. We believed victory came when our schools were desegregated. We believed that victory came each time the people stood up to make the reality of our Declaration of Independence the true reality for our country. And while it is good to believe in victory, we have stopped fighting against, stopped even noticing what is truly keeping us from our victory.
Although now unlawfully, slavery still exists in America. We often times hear of trafficking and slavery existing abroad, and give thanks to the abolitionists who came before us so that the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade no longer exists.
Unfortunately, the work of the abolitionists isn’t done. It exists in our backyards. It exists in cracks in the walls and behind closed doors. It takes place Inside “Massage Parlors” and “Canteens”, on Backpage.com and in hotels. It takes place on a teenager’s computer. A father who uses his daughters to make some money on the side at home. Definitions change, culture changes, but the truth that slavery exists within the borders of the United States has remained the same since the birth of our nation. And it is now time to open our eyes and do something about it.
What are we up against?
There are two major forms of modern day slavery that exist in the U.S. today; sex trafficking and forced labor trafficking. According to a study done by the Polaris Project, Sex traffickers use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, and other forms of coercion to compel adults and children to engage in commercial sex acts against their will. Labor traffickers – including recruiters, contractors, employers, and others – use violence, threats, lies, debt bondage, or other forms of coercion to force people to work against their will in many different industries. There are close to 1 million people directly affected by the trafficking trade within the US, both foreign and native born citizens, according to the ASPE. The Polaris Project cited 8,042 cases of human trafficking in 2016, which was a 35% increase from the previous year. The ASPE predicts that over 300,000 American youth are at risk for sexual exploitation.
And the list could go on. The numbers can get more and more staggering.
Each city in America has its own culture and in consequence, its own trends in the trafficking “trade.” Examining the 'why' for human trafficking is like examining the 'why' for the darkest parts of our hearts -- the darkest depths of our selfishness, greed, and desire for power. That is where trafficking is found. Each trafficker, master, and sex purchaser may have personal reasons all their own, but underneath it is simply a desire to put ourselves above each other that leads to such inconceivable realities.
Such realities, however, cannot exist within the light of abolitionists. Within the light of those who believe in the victory of America, and the victory of the world we share with our fellow humans. We can do what we can with what we have. We can give to those who are equipped to rescue the enslaved. We can equip ourselves to testify, to prosecute, to provide resources and protection when it’s needed. We can simply wear a dress, and speak up for those who are alone and unprotected. And just like that, we will have power to change the world.
About the Author
Beth Woods is a lover of all things outdoors, animals, and random dance parties in the car. She lives in College Station, Texas where she is studying International Relations and French at Texas A&M University and hopes to continue advocating against slavery for her career someday.