Praise for Busybodies

An editorial for The Star-News praises the watchfulness of busybodies in the case of little Shyima Hall:

Just 10 when a wealthy Egyptian couple–who had a written contract signed by her parents, brought her to America–Shyima Hall was abused, denied schooling and lived in squalor and darkness in a windowless garage. The State Department knows there are others, but modern-day slaveholders do a good job keeping their young maids hidden away. Many are well-to-do Africans who prefer to think of themselves as doing a favor for a lowly family back home.

Shyima, now a young adult, was rescued from her plight by an anonymous caller who alerted child welfare officials. The couple she was forced to work for went to prison and then were deported to Egypt, where they apparently continue to live high and enslave children. The fact that it’s illegal in most of Africa hasn’t deterred the practice.

It may seem odd to read this story six years after the fact, but by the State Department’s own admission there may be, conservatively, hundreds more children working as virtual slaves in the United States – right under the noses of neighbors and law enforcement. The children are too scared to run or to tell anyone out of fear of retribution. They’re not in school, so there’s no teacher to report suspected abuse. They rarely leave “home” and are, for all intents and purposes, invisible.

Watchful neighbors may be their best hope, but our mind-your-own-business culture discourages busybodies. In Shyima’s case, some faceless busybody was a hero.

Read Shyima’s story, via The Associated Press.

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