Slavery in the Present Tense


The Slave Next DoorSlavery: Good thing we got rid of it, huh?

If you don’t immediately spot the false presumption in that statement, you’re the sort of person Kevin Bales and Ron Soodalter want to reach with their new book, The Slave Next Door: Human Trafficking and Slavery in America Today (June 18, University of California Press).

Bales, an Utne Visionary and president of the anti-slavery group Free the Slaves, has been telling the world for years that slavery hasn’t gone away in books like Disposable People and To Plead Our Own Cause. The new book hits close to home for Americans who live under the illusion that even if slavery exists, it is distant and rare:

Slavery probably crept into your life several times today, some before you even got to work. Rolling off your bed, standing on that pretty hand-woven rug, maybe you threw on a cotton t-shirt. In the kitchen did you make a cup of coffee, spoon in a little sugar, and then kick back with a chocolate croissant and your laptop to check the headlines? …

All in all a normal day, but slavery was involved in almost every step. Hundreds of thousands of rugs are hand-woven by slaves in the “carpet belt” of India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Cotton is grown with slave labor in India, West Africa, and Uzbekistan, the world’s second largest producer. Coffee cultivation also encompasses slave labor, mainly in Africa. Enslaved Haitian workers harvest the sugar in the Dominican Republic, the largest exporter of sugar to the U.S. The chocolate in that croissant can also be the product of slavery.

Read more of The Slave Next Door to learn more about how you can get the slavery out of your day and out of the world. It starts by learning about it.

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