A Stones Throw 2-7-13

39

What does a 34 minute blackout during a Super Bowl mean?

Not much to the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children that are being forcibly held as sex slaves or economic slaves throughout the United States and the rest of the world.

The slaves of 2013 are nameless, faceless, and hopeless. Many have voluntarily entered the world they now live in after accepting promises of money and freedom in a new “promised land.”

Promises that will never be fulfilled.

Many others have joined the slave underworld when other family members sold them to current slave traders. For others, they were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time when slave traders or slave masters snatched them off the streets.

We often see the homeless struggling for food and shelter. During the coldest weather “warm shelters” are opened throughout our cities in an effort to keep the homeless from freezing to death.

Not so for today’s slaves. We ignore the faceless who are slaves to their masters. Not because we don’t care, but because we don’t know they are among us.

Recently Jade and I visited the Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati. We thought we would probably spend a couple of hours there – we were there four hours and did not get off the third floor where we started.

The last exhibit on the third floor is titled: ‘Invisible: Slavery Today’.

This exhibit is both powerful and shameful.

It tells the stories of the over 800.000 new slaves to enter the international slave trade each year. It tells the stories of the over 17,000 new slaves – almost all of them women and children – that are brought to the United States each year.

The exhibit tells the story of numerous young women who serve as waitresses, domestics, or prostitutes – most trying to earn their way to freedom by paying a master the amount, plus interest, that was spent bringing that person to a new “promised land.”

The exhibit tells the story of a young girl who is told she must have sex with 400 men in two months in order to gain her freedom. She does what she must. She has sex with well over 400 men in two months.

The result – her “master” sold her to another man and the scenario started over again – and again – and again.

I have to admit I had no idea that slavery is alive and well to this degree throughout the world of 2013. When we went to the museum I wanted to learn about the past history of slavery – believing that the past was the past.

I was wrong there too.

As we walked through the history of slavery, I learned several new facts and several misconceptions of fact. I was surprised to learn that several American Indian tribes were actively involved in the slave trade – often offering members of their own tribe, or captured members of other tribes, to slave traders. At the same time, other American Indian tribes acted as slave traders in their own right.

On the other hand, many American Indian tribes abhorred slavery and often helped escaped slaves find freedom.

In other words, slavery was not simply a “White man – Black man” relationship.

In fact, the writers of our constitution recognized slavery and the relationship of slaves to free men when writing the constitution. In determining the value of slaves for the purpose of determining the population of a state for representation purposes, a compromise was made to recognize each slave as three-fifths of a person.

I had always heard a Black person was considered three-fifths of a person.

This was not totally true.

An adult slave was considered to be three-fifths of a person. It didn’t matter if the slave was Black, White, Indian, or some other ethnic race – a slave was worth less than a free man.

At the same time, a free Black man was considered a whole person.

While reading several excerpts of the Constitution, I realized I did not know nearly as much about our political history as I should.

Without making this an argument for or against gun control, I had to stop and think that those who argue that the framers of our Constitution gave American citizens the right to bear arms – and that right is inalienable – are the same framers of our Constitution that recognized slavery (several were slave owners in their own right) and at the same time did not recognize the rights of women.

Even though they famously wrote: “All men are created equal.”

I wonder how many other “inalienable” statements written into our Constitution are as flawed as those considering slaves and women. (I need to read and learn more about the Constitution I thought I lived by.)

What is interesting to me is the fact that slavery was not an American tragedy alone, but that America’s role in the slavery movement of the 18th and 19th Centuries was a minor part of the slavery trade throughout the world.

This fact does not justify our role in the slavery trade, but it certainly puts a different perspective on it.

Regardless, the four hours we spent at the Underground Railroad Museum – often referred to as the Freedom Center – were among the most sobering few hours of my life.

I saw man’s disregard for other men and women. I saw abuse and degradation – often aimed at a certain race – but not always.

I saw the fight – both violent and non-violent – for the freedom and the full recognition of every man, woman, and child. I saw the victories – but more often the defeats.

And yet, I didn’t see it all. I still have another floor to visit – another floor to open my eyes to both the good and the bad of the struggle for equal rights.

I hope to return to the Underground Railroad Museum soon.

I think everyone should take the time to visit the museum – especially our junior high and high school aged children.

A visit will remind us of our past. But more importantly, it will remind us that we must be more vigilant in the future.

Slavery is not a thing of the past. It is present today.

It is present in America. It is present in Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky.

Is it present in Switzerland County? I hope not!

Regardless, a 34 minute blackout means nothing to the slaves of 2013.

– Mike Cooney