Tuesday, February 14, 2012

These Two Photos Have More in Common than You May Think

so it's funny how things seem to come to your attention in different circumstances.  I hadn't thought about Reconstruction and it's end since I don't know when they showed Roots on TV?  Or maybe when I read "The Warmth of Other Suns a couple of years ago.   But a few days ago I was listening to my Great Courses Lectures on Turning Points in History on that very subject.  How the experiment of Northern radicals and Black freedman to share power in the South didn't last too long and was soon brutally repressed, forcing blacks back into slavery for intents and purposes through peonage and convict labor.  

Then the next day on NPR there was a constitutional professor talking about how the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were able to be ignored for more than 50 years because the court chose to narrowly enforce simply the wording of those amendments, not the intent.

And then on PBS last night "Slavery by Another Name" on the very same subject.

And I thought about how there is still slavery with sex trafficking.  It struck me when the point was made about how convict labor was almost worse than slavery because at least slave owners had economic incentive to keep their slaves alive and in some kind of fair condition, whereas there was no such incentive for convict labor.  The same is true for young girls in the sex industry.  They sell for much less than the price of a slave in the antebellum south.  They die at about the same rate that convicts died.   You never want to compare suffering.  But here's your choice....days or weeks or months forced to work in a mine, in knee high standing dirty water, never seeing the light of day, and enduring beatings and mental abuse or....days or weeks or months tied to a bed, forced to have sex with up to a dozen men a day, never seeing the light of day and enduring beatings, torture and mental abuse?  Does one sound better than another?

In the south, if you were black and ran away from your sharecropping landlord, the law would arrest you and bring you back to work.  If you are a 14-year-old sex slave,  you will be arrested and put in jail.  Until your pimp bails you out.  Or maybe you'll be sent back to your home, which you probably were lured into the sex trade because you ran away from the sex abuse you were enduring at home, to begin with.  Different circumstances but the hopelessness of your circumstances is the same.

I hesitate to say this, because it may sound as though I'm trying to justify what happened to Blacks in the south or make it okay, because I'm  not, but there was something to show for their labor.  Roads, public buildings, railroad tracks,  the entire economic progress and development of the south was dependent upon their labor.  And at some point later, to some extent, many are now able to benefit from some of that development and progress.   What is there to show for men having sex with minors?  

Or maybe it's just a difference in our economies.  When we were an industrial society, slaves were exploited for that purpose.  Now our economy is based on services.  I guess sex with underage boys and girls is a service.  

The PBS program pointed out how the Federal Government was not much help despite a few attempts at reform when it came to the exploitation of blacks.  Part of this was due to racism and apathy.  But I think it was also the sense of being overwhelmed at how to take on something that the entire southern economy was based on.   I think we're just as overwhelmed at trying to take on the problem of sex trafficking.  I think a big part of the tourism economy is dependent upon it. 

I don't know what to do about all this.  I just know we watch can't shows about slavery on PBS and feel good about how much more enlightened and kinder we are.

1 comment:

  1. Amen. Although I'm shocked and demoralized to think "that a big part of the tourism industry" is really based on sex slavery. Which, given where I live (and some of the places I've been) is just naive, but there you go.