Wednesday, July 4, 2012

On Human Trafficking

 Modern Day Slavery

Hallo, you are welcome once again. It has become very clear to me that we have no choice other than to talk to each other and to consolidate our strength and work together. We have no choice but to do this because the task ahead is not an easy one and neither is it a simple one. You see while you and I share our womanhood in common, you share your whiteness with your men and I my blackness with my men. You would think on the surface, that this should not be a problem, but you and I know that our history together, as women on the continent of Africa and  in far flung foreign lands where we were sold as labor, was one of  mistress and servant. You were mistress and I was servant. This went on for centuries and I have often asked myself why it is that you allowed the inhumane treatment meted out to us to carry on. I guess it served you well: you had us to do your work for you while you lounged under cool breezy trees sipping cool drinks. We washed your clothes, cooked your food, cared for your children to the neglect of our own. Perhaps this easy life of leisure was promised you by your men as a way to get you to travel to Africa and to the Caribbean and to Australia and to the Americas: The life of a madam with the natives as servants.
Sure, it was not you who part took of this kind of relationship, but it was your fore mothers and what happened is that a mindset and a set of rules was put in place whereby white people enjoy a position of privilegereserved solely for them. They walk this earth with a sense of entitlement to resources and a sense of superiority to all other humans on this planet. This is manifest by the fact that being white brings with it a myriad opportunities which non white people have to struggle and fight for. This happens in your lands and in the lands that you colonized.
When a people’s soul is plundered, degraded and dehumanized, when their land is taken by force and they are made slaves in their own land, when a people is savagely uprooted and brutally subdued through the whip, the chains and the burden of the plough, they begin to believe that they are cursed. Even after they are “free” in the foreign lands to which they were taken, and they have gained ‘independence” in their own land, from colonizers, they are still exploited by white people and they are still made dependent by being forced to partake of economic systems that rob them blind all the while telling them that they are giving them assistance. White people have for centuries perfected a system where they are always at an advantage no matter what happens. Then they turn around and offer us “help”, that benevolence that masks malevolence and the real motives behind the  so called help.

You look uncomfortable, but please I am not talking to you like this to make you feel guilty. That is such a useless emotion because it solves nothing. Guilt is not what this story is about. I am recounting this story to you so that you may read with knowledge. Yes read with skepticism because the story that has been told to you in your history books is a LIE! Your televisions tells you lies as do your news papers who thrive and get sales from pedaling dark stories about Africa and Africans. They tell you of failing systems but do not bother to explain to you who and what is behind the failures. Look at how your leaders pick which countries to wage war on, or which dictators to depose. There is always something for them to gain something that involves the development of your lands to the detriment and death of our lands.

I have to tell you that they do not do this on their own. Yes that is where you and I come together: Our men have failed us. Black men have totally and utterly let black women down. We cannot sleep comfortably or be complacent in the knowledge that our men will protect us. Yes that is a truth that hurts me to admit to you, but I have no choice. Truth telling has to be on both sides if we are to form an alliance you and I. Our men steal our children and sell them off to your men. That is putting it simply. You are shocked?

 I want to show you something. This picture makes my soul howl in anguish but I have to look and so do you. This picture represents a new kind of slavery whereby thousands of women and even girls are taken by their fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins and sold into slavery. The difference is that they are not bound in chains and neither are they sent over to your lands in ships. They get visas and they are well dressed and sent to Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Britain, Ireland Spain, Russia, and the USA, where they are sold into sexual slavery. Yes, sexual slavery because there is a market for black flesh there in your lands, a market that has always been there. The consumers are your men, the ones who you are fathering children with, lying next to at night. They have a penchant for black flesh. Yes you look horrified but like I have told you before your men are very skilled in deception and cunning. They have you believing that the life you lead is perfect and while you are preoccupied with thickening your lips with collagen and getting buttock implants, they are busy trawling the dark alley ways for places where they can access black women.

Image from Unreported World 2012, human trafficking from Nigeria to Italy

But just think about what these women have gone through. Look at them and tell me you believe you are looking at willing participants. Many of them have been lied to. They have been told they are going to nursing school, or to work as nannies so that they can send money home to help their families. They are taken from remote villages and handed over to pimps and dealers by naïve parents. These pimps tell the girls that they have to pay back the money they owe for the visa and travel and they are in bondage for a lifetime working to enrich a greedy black man with a gaping hole where his heart ought to be. On arrival to Italy, Britain, Belgium etc, they are stripped and isnpected and molested as you can see.

Black women have been deceived many times. Do you remember Sarah Bartman, the South African Khoi-San woman and a few other women who were lied to by the brother of their Dutch slave master and taken to Europe where they endured untold horrors as they were publicly displayed naked in galleries and museums all over Europe. Their genitalia were gawked at and their buttocks poked and prodded because they were “unusual”. Imagine the indignity and the dehumanization that accompanies being treated like a zoo animal of exotic origin and have people pay to view your peculiar sex organs. This was in the 17th century, and it is happening now, only employing modern methods to try to conceal it all. White people are still paying for access to Black women’s bodies as objects and commodities/consumerables.

Image from French Collection La Belle Venus

 Is it not barbaric to see the utter misery in these poor women and to continue molesting them as this white man is doing? This man is someone’s husband someone’s father and yet he will debase another’s wife, another’s daughter without a thought. That is because to white men black women are not human beings like their own women. We are sex objects. As one sick man I had the misfortune to meet once said “You are built for sex. Your breasts your buttocks those strong thighs! I just want to bite into you!”

The tenderness of lovemaking is reserved for you, while these poor black women get the brutal animalistic ravaging, because they are nothing but objects to be paid for, used and left without a backward glance. Until the next time.

Not all your men are like this but when you look at the numbers it is staggering and one cannot help but think that there are a lot of them out there who are into this. From the highest offices in your lands to the lowly construction worker, each feels superior to and therefore entitled to black flesh.  Your pastors, priests, lawyers doctors and other respected community members are all involved in this. That is the only way to explain how thousands of human beings can be moved from one continent to another and tucked away quietly to sit half naked in shop front windows displaying their bodies for sale. Armed with a few dollars in his pocket a white man can get easy access to a black woman’s body. It’s a King’s life for white men, isn’t it? But at what expense? How many more souls must howl in anguish night and day before this awful trade is stopped? Every year from Nigeria alone about 10,000 women are trafficked into prostitution every year! These women are paraded naked before brothels and inspected and then paid for based on their assets. They are forced to have sex for as little as $13 and if they want to quit the have to first pay $40,000-$78,000 to the pimps (UN estimates).

Image from  Unreported World 2012, human trafficking from Nigeria to Italy.

The manner in which black women are treated is totally deplorable. Our own men sell us off to be abused and perpetually violated by white men. There is this agreement between black men and white men that black women are chattel, domestic animals in our own lands and sex slaves in foreign lands. Tell me how do you as a white woman feel about this? I ask you because I need your help in this battle. I need to know that I can count on you to put an end to this hideous trade that robs us of our humanity. I need you to be so moved that you will do some research, snoop around your community, city town and see if you can sniff out a rat. I need you to talk to your friends about this so that you start to question the character of your legislators and those who represent you. I need you to investigate bills that have been languishing and that have not been tabled on the whole issue of human trafficking.

As for my fellow black women:  We need to wake up and refuse the lies and deceit we are fed about where we are going and what we will do when we get there. We need to vote with our eyes open and we need to start taking to the streets and refusing to be treated in this way. We need to demand that our leaders do what we voted them in to do, which is to provide stability and an economy in which we can make a living, so that we are not compelled to send our daughters to Babylon with a wish and a prayer, all because we are poor. We demand that girls be valued as much as boys so that selling them off to lands where mother has never tread becomes a taboo.  We need to fight patriarchy so that we have more say in what happens to our children and not just their fathers.

Are you not tired of seeing images of yourself such as the ones I have shown here? We need to stand in the streets rend our garments and walk stark naked if that is the only way we will be taken seriously. Believe me they is nothing more potent than a sea of angry naked women to force change. We have to do this for our daughters and ourselves. Those who are educated in cities and with resources need to help out the ones who are in the villages where most of the girls are taken from. At the very least please start talking about this problem when you visit your relatives in the villages! Tell them where their children end up! Show them images such as the one I have shared here with you.
Image from Jason Vaughn Jorgensen

I want to leave you with an image that is somewhat different and I want you to meditate on it. You see a group of white (American and European) women in a village in Nigeria doing a fertility dance with smiles on their faces. They are married in this village and treated with utmost respect. How does this make you feel when you see black men treating you with such respect, in a remote village where anything could happen to you but it does not? These women can leave if they so wish, they dance because they choose to they married into this village because they chose to. They will have sex with their husbands because they choose to. Now spare a thought to the black woman trafficked and who is forced into having sex with one strange white man after another. No dancing, no joy, ZERO respect.
Image from Hope for Nigeria

Useful Links
Trafficking of women from Nigeria to Italy
Human Trafficking- Global Report


  1. You really don't believe that only African women are being brought to the West to be used as sexual chattel, do you? Russian women. Asian women. Latinas. The image is horrible and barbaric. And affects women from all parts of the world and of all skin colors. It is something to be fought against, not because of race, but because it is wrong.

    As for this belief that white women always have sex only because they want to, do you want to hear the stories of rape and violation that I have been told? Women of all colors victimized by men of all colors.

    I don't hate the slavery angle of this. I don't hate the anger at how black women have been treated through history. What I hate is your belittling of the sexual violence done to other women from all over this world, your insistence that white men treat white women so tenderly. Your insistence that black men treat white women so well. Really, what world do you live in that you think that? That's why I am angry.

    As for your questions about why white women accepted slavery, I think there are lots of reasons. Some did it because it was "easier", very much as you describe. Many did it because their voices were not heard in those days. They, too, were treated as white man's chattel--just not as far down on the ladder. However, many of them did fight. The abolitionist movement was largely comprised of women. White women. White women, who along with black women, were quickly forgotten and cast off by both white and black men when slavery was ended. Citizenship and personhood would nominally be given to black men. In name, if not in deed. Women of any race or ethnicity would continue to exist as chattel. Do I blame black men for abandoning the women who fought for their freedom? No, I don't. Because, like those women, they lacked the power to make real changes to the way things were.

    By the way, I am a white woman, but my "men" aren't white. Your belief that all women are tied to men of their race is belittling of female agency. If you wish to be tied to the men of your race, or men at all, feel free. Don't assume that I choose that. Don't assume that any other woman chooses that.

  2. I do not belittle the sexual slavery of other women. I choose to discuss the African context simply because it is the context in which I work and am familar with. I am an African woman. I choose to look at the possibilities and to probe white privillege which is something that exists whether you like it or not. I choose to look at the Africa-American/European dynamics and the unique relationships that existed historically that still exist today. Part of the reason I choose to do this is as an attempt to understand why African American feminists do not trust white feminists and by the way, my tone is conversational, not confrontational. I pose questions a lot more than I give answeres because I am giving voice to the many questions that African American women ask but have no answers to. My insistence on black men treating black women badly is a fact, and no as in my previous blog I probe the issue of white women believing that they are better off by being white and not in places like Africa. I probe the White Industrial complex and the patronage with which middle class white people approach development issues on the continent.I did not say black men treat white women well. I use a picture to illustrate how a group of over twenty white women are married into a remote village in nigeria of their own free will and the respect they get as opposed to the black women from the same country to are shipped over seas to a life of horror at the hands of white men. The sad fact of the matter is that you have the luxury of choosing your "men" because you do not have the burden of racism and its effects on your shoulders. I do not have that option and so yes I am very much tied to my black men particularly on the continent of Africa in the rural areas. That is where my muse speaks from. It is good that you are angry. At least we are talking ! Regards, Barbs.BTW your rebuttal really has some nuggets. What would be great is if you wrote a "dear Black feminists" and respond to my questions because believe me, there are many who would like to have this conversation.It would be great if it happened.

  3. Response to Kim from Gillian Schutte: I wrote a comment on your blog but it would not post. Basically I said to Kim that you were not wrting a thesis on feminism but were pointing out a phenomenon that no one wants to speak of - white women's complicity in the triple subjugation of black women historically. This does not mean that ww were not victim to patriarchy - but most became patriarchal to black women too and it needs to be discussed -esp in light of the fact that white women are considered previously disadvantaged and are thus able to access certain rights in SA - which in some way does not seem fair considering what black women were subject to for so long

  4. Don't forget barbs, black men sold black men, too about 500 years ago. do you remember all those tribal wars that took place, Africans warring against Africans many many years ago? The losers was held captive, and sold. And most of all those wars had taken place in west Africa, villages vs villages. And both sides was weaken and that's when the Arab came in while they was weak, and dominated. So that is the reason why your men didn't protected you, because they was too busy fighting among themselves. Psychologically, your feeling towards the men of your kind is part of the plan. And their plan is like a masterpiece- to keep you angry at yourselves and also at your male counterparts. Now me myself, are an descendant of the losing Africans, those who was held captive and sold and taken to the Americas. Those same men what you call, "human traffickers" are the descendant of the ones who held us into captivity, and sold us into slavery. Black woman, that's genetics. They can not help themselves, because it is in their genes.