Friday, January 9, 2009


When Sugar was younger, around 5-years-old, we read the American Girl Addy books. Sugar became interested in history, in particular the history of slavery in this country. We read other books about it and had a lot of discussions about slavery. Some of the discussions were surprisingly amusing - like when I told her that back then it had been illegal for people of primarily African descent to marry people of primarily European descent, and she said - "You and Daddy wouldn't have been able to be married?!?!" Of course that led to a conversation about how "Black" people come in all different skin tones. But, most of our conversations were serious and centered around how people sometimes forget their own humanity and can deny the humanity of others.

Always in these conversations we talked about slavery as a thing of the past. I've always thought of slavery as a thing of the past, as something that happened long before I was born. That had ended before the birth of anyone I know. Certainly, I understand the long lasting repercussions of slavery in this country - repercussions that reverberate throughout society today. However, the actual existence of slavery, the trafficking of slaves, the selling of people who are held and made to work without pay, against their will - that is something I really thought of as being something of the past.

It never occurred to me, as I talked to Sugar about slavery, that there are slaves in the world - in this country, this city, probably even my neighborhood - right now - today. I mean, I know that there are, individually, people who hold people against their will - make them do things they wouldn't otherwise do. But it never occurred to me that it was wide spread. That it was any more than an occasional aberration.

Then, the other night when I came out from putting the girls to bed, Law & Order was on. I wasn't going to watch it - though it's a show I've always appreciated - because I wanted to take the decorations off the Christmas tree. But I kept peeking at it as I went about my task and before I knew it, the decorations were piled on the coffee table and I was sitting on the sofa engrossed in the most eye-opening episode of the show I've ever seen.

It was about a couple, both divorce lawyers, who had been murdered. As the story went on it was discovered that the wife had represented a woman in a couple that were divorcing who had adopted a child from Haiti. It turned out that friends of the divorcing couple had a son adopted from Haiti as well. As the detectives delved further they discovered that the boy was not exactly a son - but more of a slave. Then he discovered that the boy's "parents" had arranged for many children to be bought from Haiti to live and work in the homes of their friends and colleagues. Many of the children purchased of the street for as little as $50.

Now, I know that most of Law & Order's stories are taken from the news. So, I couldn't help but know that this - they buying of children and transporting them to this country, this city to work as domestic help in people's homes - well, that's happening here, now.

I wanted to close my eyes and pretend I'd never seen this episode. I don't want to think that children. Young children. Children like my girls and their friends are living and working in deplorable conditions - are suffering and being neglected and hurt and even tortured - right here, right now.

But I couldn't, I can't. I went to the Law & Order website on NBC and found a link to an organization called Free the Slaves. And there I found myself overwhelmed with facts and statistics that astounded me.

There are 25 MILLION slaves in the world today.

1 in 10 children in Haiti are slaves.

14,500 slaves are trafficked into the United States every year.

50% of slavery in the US is in the commercial sex industry.

The average cost for a human slave around the world is $90.

There are more slaves in the world now than any other time in history.

I'm still exploring the website. Still trying to understand how this can be happening in the world today. Still trying to wrap my head around the enormity of this and what I can do about it.

One thing they suggest doing on the website is to write about it. So that's where I'm starting - here and now. The word about this must be spread. I'll keep thinking about what else I can do - but words - words are something I can certainly give freely.

Please take a moment and go to this site. See what's happening in the world. Think about what you can do.


professor said...

I saw this episode was very touching...there was a case in long island where a couple had two slaves but they were older...
it is deplorable that in this day and age we still have slaves...and it is even more deplorable that folk are doing this to children...I know of a gentleman, who is a grown man now, who was bought by his "parents" not to be a slave, but because his "mother" didn't have a son...he was taken from his real parents at the age of three...he vividly remembers it all...
it is sickening...

The Bear Maiden said...

I see I have to add you back on my list....

See, maybe I'm just a beeatch but the issue of slavery never surprised me, nor does it particularly bother me. Maybe cuz I remember reading the Bible and reading detailed laws about how slaves were to be treated. And maybe cuz in my family research I've read about Native American slaves and how their concept of slavery was very different from the Caucasian concept of slavery, and how Europeans actively sought to convince Native Americans to adopt Euro slavery, and how while some nations did, others didn't.

Slavery itself isn't the issue. It's been around since the beginning of time, just like every other aspect of human behavior. And like it or not, it will always exist.

What's unconscionable, is the treatment of slaves. Or rather the mis-treatment. And THAT definitely bothers me... the depraved indifference some human beings are quick to adopt towards other humans.

And that has nothing to do with slavery... and everything to do with Power and Control.

It's funny cuz I was talking to my new best freind (SD) tonight, and even though he's paid, his bosses still treat him, and other workers like slaves pretty much (except for being beaten but that's only cuz they can't get away with it). Cuz the bosses have a depraved indifference to their employees...