By i eated a cookie/flickr
Many anti-trafficking advocates take it for granted that, when it comes to sex slavery, culture change is the way to go. They argue that, in order to eradicate sex slavery, our culture needs to change the way it views sex. (Though I would argue this doesn’t go far enough. Many countries that have problems with sex slavery don’t have easy access to the most degrading forms of pornography, as we do in the US. I would argue the goal should be gender equity, across the globe.)
But sex slavery accounts for only half of the victims of human trafficking. Forced labor accounts for approximately the other half. Is culture change necessary to eradicate forced labor as well?
My answer is yes.
It is my contention that forced labor thrives in the US in part because of our views toward immigrants.
Hear me out here.
I believe there’s a direct connection between our views as advocates toward immigrants, and how successful we will be at preventing and addressing human trafficking. While I have not heard advocates speak ill of immigrants, we do not speak out as a movement, in solidarity with immigrants rights groups, when others do.
When we as advocates hear of foreign-born victims, we see them as victims first, not as immigrants. But many people who don’t know about human trafficking view victims as immigrants first (see exhibit A).
Think about the comments you hear about immigrants. Much is hate-filled, lacks compassion, and treats (non-European) immigrants as if they are fundamentally different than natural born citizens. That translates into how people view foreign-born victims of human trafficking.
If we go along with the general feeling toward immigrants, and don’t challenge the anti-immigrant culture, we are acting in direct opposition to our efforts as an anti-trafficking movement.
I want to be clear here: I am not saying that all anti-trafficking advocates must hold the same views regarding immigration policy. Rather, I am saying that all anti-trafficking advocates must hold the same views regarding immigrants as human beings because they are one of the most vulnerable populations to slavery in our society.
So what am I arguing for? The idea that we as anti-trafficking advocates must begin to be more vocal about another type of cultural change we need to see in order to eradicate modern day slavery: a cultural change in the way we view immigrants.
I realize that what I’m proposing is very idealistic. I also realize that I am proposing cultural change in the anti-trafficking community itself. Many of us have easily accepted that “porn culture” is bad. But given how ingrained in our culture (and our entire history) anti-immigrant sentiment is, I may be challenging how you yourself may view immigrants.
Ok, now sit for a moment, maybe re-read this post, and consider my proposition.
What do you think? Is this type of cultural change really necessary? Is animosity toward immigrants fostering their victimization or is it a completely separate issue?
I’d love to hear your thoughts!