The Slave Next Door: U.S. Government Sanctioned Slavery

Here’s a quick quiz for you: When did the U.S. government last use slave labor to build something?  1776? 1865?

Actually, the answer is 2003.

In a riveting new book called The Slave Next Door, authors Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter expose the disturbing phenomenon of human trafficking and slavery that exists now in the United States. In The Slave Next Door we find that slaves are all around us, hidden in plain sight: the dishwasher in the kitchen of the neighborhood restaurant, the kids on the corner selling cheap trinkets, the man sweeping the floor of the local department store. In these pages we also meet some unexpected slaveholders, such as a 27-year old middle-class Texas housewife who is currently serving a life sentence for offences including slavery.

Weaving together a wealth of voices—from slaves, slaveholders, and traffickers as well as from experts, counselors, law enforcement officers, rescue and support groups, and others—this book is also a call to action, telling what we, as private citizens, can do to finally bring an end to this horrific crime. An excerpt from the book tells us:

Boondoggles, pork barrels, and shoddy work are scandalous, but it was another, uglier issue that brought First Kuwaiti to the world’s attention. Some of their contract workers had been trafficked to Iraq against their will, held by force, and paid little or nothing. First Kuwaiti – and by association, the U.S. Department of State – were using slave labor to build the embassy. Taxpayers were footing the bill. The idea of a U.S. subcontractor trafficking enslaved workers into the country where we are waging a war to introduce freedom and democracy, is unthinkable. And yet, in case after case, the construction company hired workers, normally through sub-contractors, from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Turkey, and the Philippines under false pretenses. Falsely promised work in Dubai, they were landed in a combat zone. Once in Iraq contractors confiscated the workers’ passports, forced them to live in squalid conditions, and to work long hours for little or no pay.

But it’s not only the government bringing slavery to America.  The old slave ship of the 1800s has been replaced by the 747. Victims come from every region and are exploited in every state. They exist specifically to work, they are unable to leave, and are forced to live under the constant threat and reality of violence. By definition, they are slaves. Today, we call it human trafficking, but make no mistake: It is the slave trade.Throughout history, slavery has meant the complete and violent control of one person by another, the use of slaves for economic gain, and work for no payment. The one part of slavery that is new is the complete collapse in the price of slaves. For most of human history slaves were expensive, the average cost being around $40,000 in today’s money. That price has now fallen to an all-time historical low. The average slave costs around $90 today.

This is the kind of knowledge you can’t “unlearn”; the only question is, what do you do with the information once you have it? It’s a question we must all address for ourselves. We tend to think of our America as the country where slavery has no place; the dire truth is, we are pretty far from freedom, and it will take a lot of work and dedication – by the government, and by us – to make it so.

You can buy a copy of The Slave Next Door here, and you can take action against slavery here. Or visit the author’s website: Free The Slaves

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About Shelley Seale

I'm Shelley, a journeyer and learner of the world, freelance journalist and author, yoga chick and dog lover. I pound the keyboard from home barefoot every day, and while my boss is demanding she also occasionally lets me have the early afternoon cocktail. I think not going into an office or collecting corporate paychecks are very good ideas, though not always profitable. I have written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, Texas Monthly and CNN, among others. Neither the New York Times nor Johnny Depp have answered my letters yet. I love yoga, indie movies, wine, and books, though not necessarily in that order. I believe in karma. Mean people suck. If I could have any dream job I would like to be a superhero. I have performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano and was once robbed by a monkey in Nepal. But, I don't know how to whistle. My mantra is "travel with a purpose."

Posted on May 21, 2009, in child labor, global, India, shelley seale, slavery, trafficking. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Found your blog on Bing and was so glad i did. That was a excellent read. I have a tiny question.Is it OK if i send you an email???…

  1. Pingback: How Can We Truly Honor Those Who’ve Died For Our Freedom? « Stop Child Slavery

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