Race and Human Trafficking

by Aly Swasey

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The reality of race and human trafficking is a mirror-like representation of history. People of color inherently targeted and sold into slavery, because of their race. The social construct of race is defined as “any one of the groups that human beings can be divided into based on shared or distinctive physical traits”. To look at it fundamentally and from recollection, it is admissible to blame history and its teachings for today’s continued slavery. Historically the subject of race began and still continues with the master narrative [pre-existent sociocultural forms of interpretation]; that specifically white men hold. The narrative being, teachings passed down over the years that white is equivalent to superiority. These teachings have led to this same thought process of racism and seeing people of color as less-than, still today in 2017. “Jefferson’s ownership of lands and slaves made him one of the wealthiest men in Virginia. Yet he continued to expand his slaveholdings. In 1805, he informed John Jordan that he was “endeavoring to purchase young and able negro men.” In a letter to his manager regarding a “breeding woman”, Jefferson referred the “loss of 5 little ones in 4 years” and complained that the overseers had not permitted the slave women to devote as much time as was necessary to care for their children.” (Takaki, pg. 62).  Jefferson (through narrative history) is painted in an image that is proud and honorable; when at the same time, he was one of the biggest slave owners and traders. By 1822, Jefferson owned 267 slaves, and was known for violently forcing them into labor. The video “Thomas Jefferson’s Roll as a Slave Owner Explored” , VOA news tries to uncover why it is that Jefferson being one of the most well-loved men and principle author of the Declaration, yet owned hundreds of slaves. This is one of the primary examples of the [white] master narrative painting even slave owners to be honorable men, acknowledging that it is permissible to behave towards people of color with a discriminative bias. Since slavery distributes profit to buyers and sellers, the work of victims is primary and inexcusably mandatory in slave work. Human trafficking is truthfully current day slavery, with the deliberate intention to traffic people of color.


In today’s culture, the media takes on the topic of race and the issue of human trafficking, as it is continually shaped and carried by the narrative and the intertextuality [shaping of text influenced by another]. Since today’s culture continually oppresses minorities in various ways. In response to this, traffickers view people of color as vulnerable or easily targeted. Almost anytime written works are published and consumed it involves a white person, writing about a white person; but if it so happens to be a person of color, it is usually written in a negative image. “The point I am leading to by this and the previous examples is that the concept of truth is intimately linked to the biases of forms of expression. Truth does not, and never has, come unadorned. It must appear in its proper clothing or it is not acknowledged, which is a way of saying that the “truth” is a kind of cultural prejudice.” (Postman, pg.22). There is a distinct bias against people of color, especially when it comes to human trafficking. When speaking with our community partner’s [Unbound Seattle] representative, she explained that a high number of the victims they work with are people of color, and that there are definitely ties between trafficking and race. In the film “Sold” a young a Nepalese girl is coerced into sex trafficking in India, after being told she could take a job offer. In many cases race/ethnic background, unfortunately can play a part in targeting. Vulnerability factors such as; illegal documentation, location, at-risk-youth, age etc. are seen as prime targets when it comes to trafficking.




One thing I did find to be both unique and helpful was that The National Human Trafficking Hotline and their resources. One of the major things they have done to help all victims, is create help hotlines, pamphlets, apps/widgets, in various languages. A big part of race and trafficking is providing the necessary tools to all victims, of all ethnicities. The videos to this link here provide a good understanding of just how badly human trafficking awareness is needed, and how to watch for the signs.


Works Cited:

cnn. (2017). human trafficking: the new american slavery.

Coorlim, L. (2017, March 14). Human Trafficking: The new American slavery. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com: http://www.cnn.com/2015/07/20/us/sex-trafficking/index.html

Health and Human Rights Journal. (2013, December 6). How social determinants affects human trafficking.

Homeland Security . (n.d.). Sex Trafficking Awareness Videos. Sex Trafficking Awareness Videos. USA.

Human Trafficking Awareness Pamphlet. (n.d.).

Human Trafficking Chart. (n.d.).

Jeffery D. Brown, J. K. (Writer), & Brown, J. D. (Director). (2016). Sold [Motion Picture]. USA.

news, V. (Director). (2012). Thomas Jefferson’s Roll as a Slave Owner Explored [Motion Picture]. USA.

news, V. (Director). (n.d.). Thomas Jefferson’s Roll as a Slave Owner Explored [Motion Picture]. USA.

Postman, N. (n.d.). Amusing Ourselves To Death.        

seethetriumph.org. (2014, June 22). Understanding Human Trafficking.


Takaki, R. (n.d.). A Different Mirror.


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