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Human Trafficking: The Veil of Ignorance

“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” Those were the words of English politician William Wilberforce, a man who was instrumental in the movement to abolish slavery across the British Empire in the 18th century. He understood the power there is in knowing. Knowing that wrong things were happening to the wrong people could lead a good man or woman to seek the change to correct it. Wilberforce poured his being into trying to right the wrong that was slavery and over many years he gained a passionate following that had great success in altering the status quo of the times he lived in. Slavery was an issue then and it is still an issue now. People to tend to think that their idea of slavery ended in the U.S. over 100 years ago, but sadly, those people are wrong in this case. Slavery has now become “human trafficking” in today’s society and it’s a serious issue worth fighting, but the problem is the lack of awareness by the American people in regards to the depth of the problem.

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Ed Bastian, a writer for The Detroit News, recently wrote about this very topic and he put things in perspective when he wrote, “When many Americans think of organized crime, they think of drug cartels or criminal rings engaged in gambling or money laundering. What they probably don’t know is that after the drug trade, human trafficking is the world’s second most profitable organized criminal enterprise, estimated to be a $32 billion-a-year industry.” Human trafficking is something that is highly prevalent in the world around us, as evidenced by what Bastian wrote, but at the same time it’s something that is highly overlooked. Human trafficking can take multiple forms with women and children being brought into a country specifically for sexual exploitation or it could be bringing in children to perform labor against their will. It’s hard to believe that the world is plagued by people that are willing to kidnap or take advantage of others and treat them like property or less than human. According to Bastian, approximately 27 million people are made victims of human trafficking around the world every year. It’s taking place right here on American soil whether we realize it or not as it’s one of the hotspots for human traffickers around the world. When you look at the numbers it’s maddening to know that such heinous crimes like this are happening right under our nose every day. It all comes down to awareness. We can’t be afraid to speak up when we witness something out of the ordinary. We can’t sit back and be silent bystanders to the wrongs in the world. It’s about understanding that victims of human trafficking and the perpetrators of the crimes are among us. They may share the same public spaces as us and not even know it. Awareness is key. If there’s one thing we can’t afford to do when it comes to human trafficking or injustice in general, it’s that we can’t look the other way and tell ourselves that these things aren’t happening. Be vigilant, speak up, and make a difference.