New Orleans Yes, I know many of you believe that slavery ended almost 150 years ago in an American-centric view of the world, but it’s a big world, and shockingly simple to exploit people by having them work for free, which is what slavery is all about. The US State Department estimates there are 27, 000,000, yes 27 Million!, people who fit this definition of slavery.
An organization called Slavery Footprint has come up with a methodology (and $20000 in funding from the State Department) to allow you to go to www.slaveryfootprint.org, and take a quick survey to determine how many “slaves are working for you?” Yes, you! It’s worth a good, hard look. Don’t wait for the weekend!
We stumbled on this reality almost a decade ago in the second Organizers’ Forum International Dialogue when we visited India and journeyed by bus several hours outside of Delhi, the national capital, and visited a compound that was schooling and training young adolescent and teenage boys in new skills, all of whom had formally been forced to work in unpaid, slave labor in mining in the area, largely impressed for their labor in exchange for contrived, historic debt to mine owners or labor suppliers, sometimes for generations. We felt not only shocked, but profoundly naïve for not having realized that so much of this kind of forced labor was still enduring in modern times just beyond our daily recognition in the silence of sweat, hidden from eyesight by thousands of miles.
Cases involving women from Eastern Europe shanghaied for years to the west as sex slaves grab headlines in the 21st Century. Factory workers report child sized handprints on imports from Asian on their assembly lines. Even in the United States wage theft and the kind of exploitation that finds immigrant workers at Hersey plants (see special on-line report at www.socialpolicy.org) and in Canadian agricultural fields, is really only a different distinction by a matter of degrees from such oppressive slavery.
Seems like this is something that we should be able to end completely, and if not, we should stop pretending that we stand for any kind of civilized society.