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White Privilege and Human Trafficking: How Do They Intersect?

TRIGGER WARNING: speech surrounding human/sex trafficking, racism, and racial trauma 

DISCLAIMER: Firstly, I think it would be immensely socially irresponsible and ignorant to not address what is going on in the world right now. There is no question that the centuries of systemic racism in the U.S. (and around the world) are being exposed at all angles. Starting with George Floyd, this movement has taken over our world, and many white people are beginning to understand their role in this system of oppression and how to help/evaluate their own behavior. I am one of those people. Although my privilege is something, I have been aware of for years, I will be completely transparent in saying that I myself have not done the work that is required to dismantle my passive racism and fight for the lives of the black community.

With everything going on, I was debating whether or not I should even write this post, especially since there are so many black authors who could write this better than I ever could. However, I think as white people, it is our job to help educate white America. Black people have been traumatized for years by white people, and it should not be left up to them to educate their oppressors on how not to oppress them. Being white, I fully recognize that I’ve never had, and never will have experienced racism or racial oppression. So, I think it is so important to note that if you are looking for education, seek out resources penned by black authors and activists (However, please refrain from DMing them, reaching out & apologizing, or asking them to “teach you.” That is not their job. Do the work and educate yourself!). My narrative is not important here. My opinion is not important. Rather, it is important that white people choose to support and amplify the voices of the black community. So, although I am the author of this article, I also want to bring attention to some amazing black creators. Here is a list of wonderful, powerful black creators (via Instagram) who are using their voices to educate!

@refinedtherapy

@femalecollective

@jessicawilson.msrd

@laylafsaad

@wetheurban

@ajabarber

@bewellsis_podcast

@munroebergdorf

@mspackyetti

@rachel.cargle

@accordingtoweeze

@moemotivate

@theunplugcollective

@thenapministry

@healingwhileblack

@ethelsclub

@nqttcn

@harrietsapothecary

@blackgirlinom

@inclusivetherapists

@blackmentalwellness

@therapyforblackgirls

@sistaafya

@diveinwell

@blackmenheal

@blackmenfeel

@redefiningblackmasculinity

@evyan.whitney

I also ask that if you have the resources, please consider donating to an organization to support the Black Lives Matter Movement, signing petitions, calling government officials, and finding resources to educate yourself. 

“White fear emanates from knowing that white privilege exists and the anxiety that it might end” – Chris Hayes.

White privilege is something that has been talked about for a long while now, but especially in these times, the conversation has ramped up. However, an important aspect of this concept that often slips through the cracks is how one’s privilege may be protecting them from the heinous crime of human trafficking and slavery. At first glance, you may not think that white privilege and human trafficking are related, but when you delve deeper into the statistics, the facts are staggering. So, that’s what we’re going to do today. However, in order to understand the relationship between white privilege and human trafficking, we must first understand white privilege. Let’s take a look!

White privilege has been a topic broadcast across media outlets, news headlines, and even churches. Many have argued against its validity, existence, and whether or not it is fair to those white individuals who have worked for their success. However, white privilege is not an argument against the hard work of white people. It is not a disclaimer placed before accolades and promotions. Rather, it is a disclaimer placed in front of a system that has been designed to favor one race above all others. This plague of white privilege has been denied by white person after white person out of the unconscious fear of losing said privilege and out of protection for their own pride and hard work.

The root of this issue stems from the concept and role of “race” in a white person’s life versus the role of race in the life of a minority. To the American white population, the color of their skin is not something that dictates the course of their life. The culture that promotes, advertises, and exemplifies the power of “whiteness” is not made apparent to them. They do not encounter obstacles pertaining to their skin color on a daily basis. Those who live in the United States as a minority are surrounded by a sea of white power. Their race provides daily obstacles to their success. This is where the problem begins. To all white persons, being white is not something that hinders them from succeeding, and because of that, it is not something that dictates the way they view culture, people, and their own lives.

Furthermore, there is severe pushback against the term, “white privilege” from white people. Some argue that this is due to pride.  Some argue that this is due to ignorance.  While others argue that white privilege does not exist. Despite one’s standpoint on the cause of the pushback, it is obvious that people do not enjoy being told that their accomplishments are not due to their hard work, but rather due to a broken system that favors them. White privilege is a difficult sin to admit to. It requires humility and repentance for something you did not create, but that you, by simply existing in the system, are perpetuating and benefitting from. By acknowledging that white privilege is rampant and existent, your accomplishments are not ignored. Hard work is hard work and should be appreciated. However, it does mean that one must acknowledge that they were provided with resources, opportunities, assistance, and avenues to reach said accomplishments that others have not received due to a biological trait that is irrepressible. Therefore, in order to remove our self-made blinders and accept our positions in this debauched society, we must be willing to admit our role in perpetuating it.

White privilege infiltrates every aspect of human life, and this includes human trafficking. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 40% of sex trafficking victims are black and 63% of labor trafficking victims are Hispanic. Even furthermore, according to the Polaris Project, in 2018, out of 23,078 human trafficking survivors, 2,348 were Latino, 1,809 were Asian, and 1,072 were black, compared to the 989 white survivors. This does not represent the entire 23,078 survivors but rather represents the survivors who were willing to provide demographic statistics. In general, victims of sex trafficking are typically people who are oppressed, impoverished or marginalized. Due to the embedded systemic racism in the U.S., that almost always centers around Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Black women are more significantly affected by the pay gap than white women. They are arrested for defending themselves in unsafe situations and they are oppressed by racist policing. All of these factors increase the risk that Black women will become victims of trafficking. This also relates to child-trafficking.

In addition, 73% of prosecuted sex buyers of minors in King County from 2013-2018 were Caucasian (Commercially Sexually Exploited Children in Seattle/King County; Debra Boyer, 2019). This relationship between white buyers and BIPOC victims stems from a variety of issues but centers primarily around who in our society has power and who does not. White supremacy is so deeply ingrained in our society and is often expressed through racist policies, blatant racism, stereotyping, or through the passive racism that infiltrates our culture on a daily basis. Schools in majority black neighborhoods are more likely to be underfunded and black students are more likely to be suspended or expelled. Black women are more significantly affected by the pay gap than white women, resulting in greater income inequality. They are arrested for defending themselves in unsafe situations and are further oppressed by racist policing, while white people overall are less likely to be arrested and serve less time. All of these factors increase the risk that Black women and girls will become victims of trafficking and then further traumatized by the criminal justice system. The idea that so many white people, including myself, were unaware of how this imbalance of worth functioned in American society is proof of our privilege. We, as white people, are not the ones being brutally murdered, abused, unlawfully detained, attacked, verbally assaulted, and discriminated against. Therefore, this issue is something that the white community must intentionally educate themselves about.

As people and specifically white people, we must continue this dialogue. Not to shame or to condemn, but to confront. White privilege is a problem that has dominated our culture for years, and it must be confronted head on. We must be willing to speak about our role in this epidemic with openness, remorse, and willingness to change. We must be able to speak about our privilege without defensive and prideful attitudes, but rather with humble hearts and ready hands. Even more importantly, we must be willing to listen to the black community with soft hearts. They are the community that has experienced this firsthand and we must listen to them. Admitting to the sins of our forefathers does not lay all of the blame on our shoulders, but rather, it allows us to take responsibility for our part in this problem and prepares us to take the next step for change. White privilege will not be eradicated by one person, but if we continue to have an open dialogue and take steps of action for those who have been oppressed, we will begin to generate a culture of acceptance, justice, and truth. We must employ empathy and humility and support those who have been placed in a position of oppression and subjugation since birth. Skin color should not determine how one succeeds or how one fails. Therefore, it is our responsibility, as those who currently hold said privilege, to take the first step to spread the power and privilege equally. We must protect and defend BIPOC in all facets of life, and this includes matters of human trafficking. Human trafficking is a racial justice issue, and we have to confront it, no matter how uncomfortable and difficult it may be.