A Reflection of My Summer Course
“It is just like a fisherman going to fish. . . .If he don’t put out the bait, he can’t get a fish. So they tell the parents a lovely story, you know, what [their children] will encounter when they come to the United States. But behold, when they get into the United States the picture is completely different.” -Louis, witness of contemporary slavery in the USA (Bales 2007: Ending Slavery)
350 years of the Atlantic slave trade was only one chapter of human slavery but it was not the end of the story. Slavery still exists today. In fact, we currently have more slaves now worldwide than ever before in history. There is an estimate of 46 million slaves globally today, which is thrice the number of people taken from Africa during the Atlantic slave trade. And believe it or not, there are over 17,500 people brought into the United States every year – yes the United States, including Washington D.C. – and forced into agricultural work, prostitution, domestic service, or sweatshop labour. Perhaps you may think of these cases as those of poorly paid migrant workers and not slaves. However, there is no doubt that this is in fact modern-day slavery and nothing less.
This past summer, I took a course on Ending Slavery: Strategies for Contemporary Global Abolition from the University of Nottingham through a distance-learning online platform called Future Learn. The course was taught by Professor Kevin Bales himself (founder of the non-profit Free The Slaves) and Professor Zoe Trodd (director of the Rights Lab). Taking this course connected me with so much information which I was completely misguided about previously and it also opened up a gateway into sustainable living (saved for a future blog post).
There are 5 key things that I have learned from the journey this course took me on. This blog post is a reflection of that experience and the goal is to share knowledge that can be beneficial to others and in doing so, bring justice to the lives that are in bondage.
5 Things I Learned about Modern Slavery:
- To the general public, slavery ended the moment it became illegal – 1865 in the United States, and slowly after in other countries. Even though it is not legal to have ownership over other human beings in any country today, slavery still continues to exist (and grow). Usually modern slavery is categorized into different names such as child/forced labour, human trafficking, prostitution, temporary migrant workers, etc. etc…
However, modern slavery still shares the same central characteristics that defined it in the past: controlling a person through violence and exploiting that person’s financial and physical labour. We tend to dismiss the existence of slavery today because we fail to recognize it’s essence.
- History, to an extent, has misguided us. The way slavery has been defined and taught has pushed us into the image that it was a grave reality of the past. We begin to believe in the perspective that slavery was about racial discrimination – yes, this was true in the past and racism was used to justify and legalize slavery but it is not a sole characteristic that entails it – and thus, we fail to see it active in the world today.
While interacting with other classmates in the duration of the course, we began to compare and realize that world history was taught to us differently based on the country we lived in and only taught from the perspective of our country’s involvement. Therefore, its important to look beyond what history has told us and to examine the traces and development of slavery ourselves.
- Similar to the social factors that make a community collectively disadvantaged and therefore, more vulnerable to be engaged in criminal activity, conditions of extreme poverty leaves certain vulnerabilities that can then lead to slavery. These vulnerabilities (in a nutshell) are:
- Lack of awareness of rights
- Lack of awareness of risks
- Absence or weakness of protective organizations
- Household insecurity
- Inadequate legal protections
- Survivor vulnerability
- What is being done to end slavery? After decades of research and experiments, a 4 step community based-model was created for fighting slavery and it has shown to be the most effective:
- Conduct contextual research
- Increase organizational capacity
- Foster community resistance and resilience
- Sustain reduction in slavery
- Contemporary slavery can actually END WITHIN ONE GENERATION, if we want it too. If we make a global collective effort to change the way our market works, we can end modern slavery in our lifetime. You may think this is impossible and too big of an issue that is interconnected in multiple webs of political, social, and economic levels. However, research goes to show that slavery is actually not needed to keep our global economy running the way it is now. The decision lies in our hands whether we are willing to make some changes in our collective lifestyle.
If you want to learn more about modern slavery, I urge you to do your own research (a list of resources will be listed below) and make an effort to spread awareness to your networks. If we cannot understand the problem, we can never
find be the solution. Thus, awareness is key. My next blog post will discuss methods you can incorporate to live a sustainable life that does not support modern slavery.
Peace & Love ~
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