The African Slave Trade, Suburbia-Style
It turns out we are still shipping in slaves from Africa to work our estates. And we seem to prefer children.
In the United States today, an estimated one-third of trafficking victims work as domestic servants, mostly in suburban neighborhoods.
The ones who are children often arrive after being sold in their African villages by families impoverished from disease or death. Tens of thousands of children, some as young as three years old, are estimated to be sold annually in Africa for domestic work. But the proper term might be “leased” rather than “sold,” because parents usually only offer the child for a certain period of time, and the family sometimes receives regular pay during the term of the contract.
The children who end up in the United States are bought in Africa by Western tourists or trafficked by immigrants who use them in their own homes or sell them after arrival.
Treatment of domestic slaves differs case by case, but usually the servant is not allowed to eat the same food or live in the same conditions as the rest of the family. (S)he does not attend school and works long hours with little to no pay.
The oppressors are rarely caught, but when they are, the process usually begins with an observant neighbor recognizing the warning signs. They tend to see a combination of traits in a child such as:
- working extreme hours doing domestic chores
- not attending school
- not going outside often, including when the rest of the family leaves
- appearing timid and shy, unwilling to speak about herself or himself
- being followed or watched often
- appearing to have been physically abused or injured
- not looking like the rest of the family or not speaking the same language
Anti-trafficking groups advise that the best way to fight slavery as domestic servitude is to become an active and involved neighbor. If you see or suspect forced labor in your neighborhood, you can call the Human Trafficking Information and Referral Hotline at (888) 3737-888.
Child slavery in America’s manicured, middle class house next door: a modern-day Cinderella story, except without the prince, fairy-godmother, or happy ending.
How can someone who is not a very active neighbor right now get started in getting to know people and becoming more involved?
What are some ways to bring neighborhoods together better?