I took a class on human trafficking. Here is my response to the class. I read some of this in class, but got too much anxiety and go too scared to say it all.
This is not about the people who have come and speak and shared their stories. This is more about the overall structure of the class. But I feel there was a key element missing.
I just have to say that I am disappointed in this class. I understand that this is a two-day seminar and everything cannot be covered. However, the imagery and rhetoric that continued to be reiterated throughout the course I found had racist undertones and perpetuated a lot of harmful imagery on who was the victim and who was a perpetrator.
With coded language like all American family, upper middle class, suburban these all translate to mean white, which historically has been seen as worthier victims. While images of black and brown men were flashed on the screen as being the big bad wolves, who are doing all the trafficking. This is not saying that black and brown men don’t traffic but this rhetoric and undertones that perpetuate harmful stereotypes of black and brown people as predominantly the ones who do the trafficking and are the predators. A 2011 Department of Justice Report found that sex traffickers are white, Black, Hispanic, and Asian, with no one racial group forming a majority.239 Overall, research indicates there is no main prototype of a sex trafficker based on race, nationality, gender, or even age group.240
The anti-trafficking movement has continued to co-opt imagery and language of chattel slavery to human trafficking today while simultaneously marginalizing and leaving out communities of color, specifically women of color who are disproportionately affected by trafficking. However, I feel like this topic on race has been left out under the guise of learning about these policies that are designed to be color blind, meaning that they are supposed to help all survivors and prosecute everyone regardless of color. However, the very foundation of how institutional racism and systematic oppression work I know that this not the case. While I appreciate the people who took time to come and speak with us and their stories. I think that human trafficking and the problem of it cannot be talked about without also discussing or even reading about how racism takes a part in the disproportionality of who gets trafficked, who is seen as a victim and who is criminalized. I feel like it’s a very important topic that needs to be discussed in a class like this.
Statistical information taken from UCLA Law Review’s 2015 study on the Racial Roots of Human Trafficking by Cheryl Nelson Butler