It is often said that human trafficking is a form of slavery or modern-day slavery.
Over the past two years, there has been significant movement surrounding racial justice and the impact that racism and discrimination have on systemic societal issues. This has sparked internal conversation at Mosaic and we have decided to no longer use the terms “slavery,” or “modern-day slavery” to describe human trafficking.
We understand that words hold power and we believe that the use of slavery in describing human trafficking is problematic since the term minimizes and shifts focus away from the history of slavery in the United States. We agree with the National Survivor Network, in “that slavery and trafficking are two different experiences that may correlate and have similar structural concepts but are not the same.” https://nationalsurvivornetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/NSN-HT-Statement.pdf
In the past, Mosaic has used the term “modern-day slavery,” when referring to human trafficking in our messaging and communications; we now recognize the harm caused by these words and are making a conscious effort to change our dialogue. Not only do we find using these phrases harmful to describe human trafficking, but in most cases it is not accurate to compare the experience of human trafficking to the institution of slavery in the United States.
Human trafficking is a horrific crime that involves the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain some type of labor or commercial sex act. Whereas slavery was a legal institution in the United States from the 16th – 19th century. Although slavery is wrong and now seen as a dark and horrific part of American history, at the time, it was a legal and accepted part of American society.
In the 16th – 19th centuries, the Transatlantic slave trade brought millions of people from Africa to the Americas with the intention of enslaving them. People were enslaved because of who they are; their lives and livelihood were seen as unimportant compared to the value of free labor they would provide to the slave owner. This differs from human trafficking in that traffickers intentionally find and exploit the vulnerabilities of their victims, and while anyone can be subjected to human trafficking, not just anyone could be subjected to slavery.
Although we at Mosaic now refrain from using slavery in reference to human trafficking, we understand there are some human trafficking survivors who identify their experience with slavery and we respect their right to self-identify. We understand and recognize that human trafficking is a very complex crime and there are some trafficking situations in which the victims’ experience may be reflective of slavery.
Furthermore, not all human trafficking survivors and victims are physically restrained or held in ‘slavery,’ but that doesn’t mean they haven’t been exploited, assaulted or abused.
In recognition of Juneteenth, we invite you to rethink the use of the terms slavery and modern-day slavery when talking about human trafficking. Juneteenth is often called Freedom Day, to celebrate the freeing of enslaved people. Despite the fact that slavery was illegal in the United States, discrimination, violence and hate has continued toward Black Americans and People of Color.
We also recognize that there is a direct correlation between human trafficking and race. Human trafficking disproportionally impacts People of Color and we believe trafficking is a racial injustice.
We understand that there are many people and anti-trafficking organizations that continue to use the terms slavery and modern-day slavery, and we do not intend to condemn or disrespect the language they choose to use. We hope others will join us in changing their dialogue and bringing about a change in the way we think about human trafficking.
Learning is a lifelong journey, and we will continue to adjust our language as we learn and grow.