A Conversation on Human Trafficking

A while back a reader who interns with Public Broadcasting in Central Pennsylvania sent along an interview for me to view and share. The conversation is with Mary Burke, the founder and executive director of the Project to End Human Trafficking.

The production is very public broadcasting. Don’t worry! That doesn’t mean there’s a fundraiser in the middle! It just means that two people speak civilly back and forth while sitting at a table set in the middle of what appears to be a black abyss.

The interview is fantastic, and Burke discusses human trafficking extremely well. Among some of the things you’ll learn from the interview:

  • Why is there such a disparity in numbers reported of how many people in the world are enslaved today?
  • What is “state-sponsored slavery”?
  • How does modern slavery differ from the trans-Atlantic slave trade?
  • Some surprising industries, even here in America, use slave labor.

My only complaint is about a small portion of the interview in which Burke describes one of the differences between today’s slaves and the slaves in the trans-Atlantic slave trade. She suggests that health care is less likely for today’s slaves (with the exception perhaps of slaves in the sex trade) because they are treated more as a commodity – used only for the short term – compared to slaves who historically were a significant investment for plantation owners. I am currently reading “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” – one of many accounts of slavery that would argue how wrong she is to generalize about an era that saw countless women and men raped and murdered, let alone allowed to go sick. But since her work is in modern-day slavery, and she is a counselor not an historian, I’m over it.

Burke teaches at Carlow (a Catholic mostly women’s liberal arts university in Pittsburgh). Her work to combat human trafficking sounds like a great opportunity for students interested in modern-day slavery, especially if you live in or near PA.

Thanks, reader, for sharing, and for being a part of producing this important interview!

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