By Kelsi Peace, Features Editor
Modern-day slavery always seemed distant to me – somewhere, across an ocean and in a world wholly different from my own, I knew people were living horrific lives as someone else’s property. But when the speaker at IJM’s Chapel forum last Thursday dangled shackles that are in use today, slavery seemed a little more concrete.
When did I become complacent and arrogant enough to think today’s world is so enlightened and advanced we are far beyond chaining our own and selling them for hard labor or sex? Maybe we haven’t advanced as much as we like to applaud ourselves for as we learn about slavery in the 1800s and scorn plantation owners for their cruelty.
No, I do not own slaves. But neither am I aware enough to decry what is happening to the 27 million people enslaved today.
The most embarrassing thing, I think, was that just when I began reading stories of modern-day slavery in India and Cambodia, I stumbled across the top three destinations for sex trafficking in the San Francisco Gate: the United States, Japan and Australia. While I look at other countries and think, “I should do something to help their enslaved,” my country is among the worst.
In October 2006, the Gate ran a shocking four-part series about sex trafficking, focusing on a Korean college student who, at age 22, came to America for what she thought was a decent job – and instead turned out to be a humiliating captivity in the sex trafficking market. According to the Gate, San Francisco is one of the largest commercial centers of the $8 billion sex trafficking industry, and most traffickers stop in California, New York, Las Vegas and Texas.
At www.iabolish.org, reports of human trafficking in the United States are disheartening. According to the Web site, the CIA estimates 14,500 to 17,500 victims are trafficked in the U.S. per year – and 22 of the 50 states have reports of slavery on the site.
In summer 2000, the site reported seven Houston residents were charged with smuggling women from Thailand and China for prostitution. In Mission, a couple brought two undocumented women into the country under the guise of good employment. Once the women arrived, they were used as slaves in the couple’s day care and home and reported working without pay and enduring harassment and threats. The couple was charged with human trafficking.
And apparently some have taken to enslaving U.S. citizens as well. WORLD magazine reported in its latest issue that a Florida man was sentenced for enslaving homeless men for his labor camps, which were part of a cocaine ring.
All the accounts of slavery I read saddened me, but what I found even more heart wrenching was my surprise. I think it’s time America removed the plank from her own eye.