Some of the everyday words we use have racist connotations.
That was the focus of a July 7 article published by CNN, which asked readers to consider changing their vocabulary.
I don’t disagree, except for one problem: Masters and slaves still exist.
We still need the words to express the demoralization and scourge, which is human trafficking.
Human trafficking is slavery. It is profiting from the exploitation of another. It is treating a human being as though they are a commodity.
It is a business. It is a business that exploiters will work to keep in place at all costs. Not unlike it was in the southern U.S. during the days of slaveholding.
Slavery is an abominable epoch of our history. We must address the systems and the vocabulary that permit racism to continue.
But to address these systems and vocabulary without addressing the fact that we still have slaves and slaveholders in America is to once again support a system that commercializes human beings.
Why do we continue to allow such depravity? We have a disregard for the vulnerable.
Race is a vulnerability. Black girls and women were raped and used for breeding. Black people were cruelly subjugated to the master for oppressive labor.
Today, according to the FBI, 53% of juvenile prostitution arrests are of Black children.
Asians were trafficked for purposes of sex and labor during the railroad-building era, during the California Gold Rush and during various wars.
Today, East Asians are trafficked to more than 20 different countries. They are literally exported far and wide.
Historically, Latinos also have been sex- and labor-trafficked. Today, when it comes to labor trafficking, 67% of victims are undocumented immigrants and another 28% documented immigrants.
Polaris Project reported that Latinos make up the majority of those being exploited via labor trafficking.
Human trafficking is a racial justice issue.
Age is a vulnerability. The World’s Children organization states one in four victims of human trafficking are children. Child labor contributes to the production of 139 goods, such as fish, coffee and cotton.
During the pandemic, there has been an increase in accessing websites featuring child porn. Children who do not have the refuge that school affords are unprotected from those who would sell them, even “delivering” them or providing “drive-through” service.
Human trafficking is a child welfare issue.
Poverty is a vulnerability. World Vision puts the percentage of extreme poverty in the world at just under 9% of the world’s entire population. Just over 12% of the U.S. population lives at or below poverty level.
The Borgen Project asserts human trafficking is driven by poverty. Traffickers target those who are impoverished.
When hungry and unable to care for family, people will succumb to the wiles of traffickers who promise work that is too good to be true.
The need for economic stability leads to displacement, which increases the risk factor for trafficking. Parents crippled by poverty sell their children into labor or the sex industry.
Human trafficking is an economic power issue.
Gender is a vulnerability. Most victims of human trafficking are women and girls, some 71% of all trafficking victims, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.
The majority of the world’s poor are women. Women and girls account for 60% of the world’s hungry.
Women experience more violence – physical and sexual. Girls transitioning in the foster care system, and women and girls in transition as refugees do not have the benefit of a community support system offering help and safety.
The global disparity in wage earnings for men versus women places women in greater jeopardy for economic instability.
While women’s education in the United States is now catching up to men’s education, this is not true for most of the world.
Women make up two-thirds of the people who are illiterate in the world. This amplifies their economic fragility and thus their vulnerability to being trafficked.
Human trafficking is a gender parity issue.
There are still masters and slaves. Human trafficking – slavery – is still a race issue. It is also an age, an economic and a gender issue.
Correct emphasis has been placed on addressing the systems that permit racism to continue and, yes, part of this process must involve looking closely at the words we use.
To do this, however, while ignoring the masters and slaves in our world today is to allow slavery as an exploitive system to continue.
We must apply what we are learning as our country cries for justice to all injustices. Racism remains real. And sadly, so does slavery.
Editor’s note: This is the first article in a series this week for World Day Against Trafficking in Persons (July 30).
Nell Green, an ordained minister, has served as a career missionary since 1986 in Dakar, Senegal Miami, Florida, North and South Carolina and Brussels, Belgium. Currently serving with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship in Houston, Texas, Green ministers to the needs of refugees helping them resettle, providing educational programs, and social entrepreneurship. She partners with various agencies to raise awareness about and prevent human trafficking.