Call It Slavery

A powerful piece by John R. Miller, a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center, who was the U.S. ambassador at large on modern day slavery between 2004 and 2006 and a member of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus.

In his essay, Call It Slavery, he takes inspiration from William Wilberforce, the British reformer who led Parliament in the abolition of the slave trade in the British Atlantic:

In Wilberforce’s day, slavery was shrouded in euphemism by its defenders: “field hand,” “laborer,” and “houseboy.” Today, the news media and academics unthinkingly use words—“forced laborer,” “child soldier,” and “sex worker”—that have their own anesthetic effect, and along with others I have insisted on calling slavery by its right name. I have never understood why we constantly use the bloodless, bureaucratic term “human trafficking.”

Today’s slaves are not dragged off in chains, but they are just as effectively deprived of their freedom by force or threats. They are bought, sold, and leased.

… In most countries, what distinguishes the victims is not their color but their foreignness or otherness. Most of the survivors I talked to were attracted by the promise of a job in a distant land. Once there, they found themselves in unfamiliar surroundings and unable to escape. It is difficult to flee when you know neither the local language nor the geography, and when you have no friends or family outside your small world to turn to for help.

I strongly recommend you read the whole thing. It’s long but absolutely worth the while.


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