December 1, 2010
The Dangers of a Little Knowledge
Ask the 50 million or so U.S. students that have already attended the 6th grade, “Who freed the slaves in the United States” and most will proudly respond correctly, Abraham Lincoln. As one of the defining moments in U.S. history, the Abolition of slavery is a cornerstone of the American self-image as defenders of freedom. But the freedom of many, right here in these United States, is being threatened every day. Modern forms of slavery are alive and well and it may be our little bit of knowledge that keeps us from responding appropriately.
I wonder how many Americans, for instance, would answer true or false to the following statements:
There are Aliens living on Earth.
Ghosts live among us.
Slavery still exists.
First of all, the existence of Aliens and Ghosts has never been conclusively proven or disproven. With a preponderance of sightings, articles and TV shows, however, there’s enough reasonable doubt to make some people check true on statements 1 and 2. On the other hand, most adults, like those 50 million students, know only that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in 1800 something and slavery is over. No “reasonable doubt”, everyone knows slavery ended with the Emancipation Proclamation. No matter how ridiculous the analogy, I’m afraid number 3 would score the highest percentage of “false” answers.
What makes this scenario so scary is that it would be hard to find actual victims of either Aliens or Ghosts, whereas the victims of human trafficking are all around us. And, even though the evidence is in our faces, we’re unable to understand it because of that little piece of knowledge we possess. How can these headlines be true if I already know that no one can legally buy and sell people?
“Two N.Y. men charged with Human Trafficking”
“Brazilian Police Dismantle Human Trafficking Ring”
“Feds Break-up Human Trafficking Ring in Minnesota”
In fact, the buying and selling of people is the second most profitable illegal industry in the world today. Those that operate this industry rely on our ignorance in order to succeed. Which brings me back to those 50 million students.
The Frederick Douglass Family Foundation is working to create programs in schools to educate young people about human trafficking, modern-day slavery and the many forms of human exploitation happening right now in cities and towns in varying degrees all over the world. We do this not only to help students protect themselves from becoming victims of human trafficking but so they’ll grow-up being able to answer “True” to question number 3. Why is that important? Because, once the general public better understands the threat of human trafficking, we’ll be in a position to address it.
Recognizing December 2nd each year as the “International Day for the Abolition of Slavery” is a good start. The United Nations commemorates this day as a means of remembering the heroes that helped end institutionalized slavery around the world. We hope that this day also reminds people how millions around the world still suffer at the hands of “slave masters” in conditions as bad or worse than slaves endured in this country for hundreds of years.
In addition, we ask that you contact your local member of congress asking them to sponsor House Resolution 929. H. Res. 929 would have the House recognize the “International Day for the Abolition of Slavery” each year on December 2nd. In the Resolution, Congresswoman Richardson (D-CA) highlights the work of Frederick Douglass, other great Abolitionists and even the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation in addressing the issue of modern-day slavery.
Join us in commemorating the “International Day for the Abolition of Slavery” and add a little more knowledge and understanding to the fight to defend individual freedom.
President, Ken Morris, and I will be in San Francisco and Oakland, California on December 2nd speaking with children from Emilio Zapata Street Academy.
Robert J. Benz
Executive Vice President
Frederick Douglass Family Foundation