When I say Angelina Jolie what you do think? You probably imagine a strong, beautiful, excellent actress, right? What about Ashton Kutcher? You think of a hilarious, successful and good-looking actor, do you not? But did you know that these and other celebrities like Ricky Martin, Demi Moore, and Alicia Keys are also involved in organizations that provide support to people suffering from slavery at this very moment?
Because it’s really not publicized.
This past Thursday, March 26, was the first day in months that the temperature reached above fifty degrees and it felt like spring outside. But instead of enjoying the weather, I instead found myself sitting in a room listening to professor and author James Brewer Stewart’s lecture on modern day slavery called “What Would Frederick Douglass Do?” It was not really the ideal Thursday afternoon for me, but Stewart’s discussion on how slavery is still VERY much alive got me thinking:
Why are we allowing this to happen?
“Ending modern slavery today is like chasing shadows.”
– James Brewer Stewart
Did you ever hear the saying, “If I can’t see you then you can’t see me?” That’s exactly how slavery operates today. We don’t see them, the approximately 36 million kidnapped victims that are smuggled across countries and forced into doing unspeakable actions. And they can’t see it, since they are locked away in windowless prisons. They can’t see us and scream, beg, and wave for help.
But maybe it’s a good thing they can’t see us, because then they can’t see majority of the human population
doing absolutely nothing to stop these inhumane acts from occurring.
In America during the early 1800s, slavery was rampant, abusive, and unfair. But it was also obvious. Every person was constantly reminded that it existed because, since it was legal, everyone saw it in action. Slavery today is found all throughout the world, but it is not as black and white (no pun intended) as it used to be. It is hard to find. It slides under our radar. The average lifespan of a prostitute in Bangkok is three years. The average age of a woman sex slave is thirteen. These slaves, though, are kept imprisoned: we do not see them getting raped, we do not hear their screams, and we do not smell their blood.
Because of this unawareness, according to Stewart, sex trafficking today is actually more profitable than the illegal firearms trade.
2008: The impact of Taken
In September of 2008, Liam Neeson starred as a retired CIA agent whose daughter was kidnapped while overseas in Taken. Hollywood took this very real issue of sex slavery and turned it into an action movie centered on a father who will stop at nothing to save his daughter. In the movie, Neeson is successful in rescuing his daughter. Unfortunately, in real life, most women and children kidnapped do not have CIA fathers with the power to hunt down their captors and are therefore not as fortunate.
The movie did help spread awareness of the black market of sex slavery and infamous “96-hour window”, which states that once kidnapped, rescuers have no more than 96 hours to find the woman. After time is up, the chances of rescuing the victim are unbearably dim. FINALLY people were talking about this issue and promoting safety tips for young women, especially when they travelled. But alas, Taken was replaced by new movies and its fifteen minutes of fame ended. Eventually, the discussions of sex slavery and promotion of its awareness also diminished. And even though there are numerous documentaries and independent films centered on modern day slavery, they don’t tend to acquire the same degree of hype and mass marketing that Taken had.
“We possess a moral blindness to modern day slavery.”
– James Brewer Stewart
I read articles about slavery today. I’ve seen documentaries on the issue. I’ve felt sadness and heartache for these people. But then I forget. It does not directly affect me and I don’t witness it or see it in action. So I forget. And those innocent people enslaved? They continue to be tortured.