Sunday, November 23, 2008


Slavery is one of the oldest, most controversial, barbaric, and widespread human practices. America fought a war with itself to end slavery, William Wilberforce led a high profile campaign for abolition in the British Empire, and the institution is illegal in every country in the world. Yet slavery continues to thrive in every inhabited corner of the world. From the brothels of America to the fields of India 27 million humans toil in bondage.

It would be easy and comforting to pretend that this problem doesn't exist. There is no strategic reason to confront modern slavery, we have nothing to gain from fighting slavery, and some of us are even its indirect and unwitting beneficiaries. But so long as slavery and oppression persist anywhere freedom will be incomplete anywhere. For me, freedom means the ability to be myself. So long as that freedom comes by virtue of being a white, middle class American it will be incomplete. Slavery separates us from our fellow human beings and in so doing deprives us of a piece of our own humanity. In the words of an eleven year old Rachel Corrie "they are us and we could as easily be them". I've always wondered how people can joyfully remember their own national struggles for freedom while forgetting their millions of fellow humans who are not free.

Perhaps if they knew they would change. Perhaps if they knew that there are more people being held in slavery now than at any time in human history they would change. Perhaps if they knew that people are being bought and sold every day for as little as $35 they would change. Perhaps if they knew many cheap imports are produced in Asian sweatshops they would change. Perhaps if they knew the stories of families being torn apart they would change. Perhaps if they knew that a slave in Ghana could be rescued for the price of a new iPod they would change. Perhaps if they knew that an end is within sight if we join together they would change. Perhaps if we told them they would change.

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