At Love146, we strive to be forever learners. It is with this posture that we have decided to stop using the terms “slavery” and “abolition” in our work.
In the United States, the terms “slavery” and “abolition” are strongly associated with our country’s history of chattel slavery. The anti-trafficking movement, including Love146, has used these terms, sometimes adding the qualifying language of “modern-day,” to describe the crime of human trafficking. As the National Survivor Network acknowledges, however, “slavery and trafficking are two different experiences that may correlate and have similar structural concepts but are not the same.”*
Associating the crime of human trafficking with chattel slavery is harmful.
At Love146, the youth we serve do not connect their experience with “slavery” and certainly would not identify as a “slave.” We say this recognizing that other survivors may identify with this term and we acknowledge their individual right to self-identify. We also understand that using this terminology may make it harder for some who have been trafficked to recognize and acknowledge the exploitation perpetrated against them. Their self-identification and disclosure may be further hindered by the movement’s and the media’s use of images depicting victims in chains and bondage – objects associated with chattel slavery, objects that do not accurately depict the crime of human trafficking.
We also understand the historical context of this terminology. By previously encouraging supporters and donors to be “abolitionists” in the fight against “modern-day slavery,” we’ve participated in revisionist history. All of us want to believe that we would have stood up against the many atrocities that occurred throughout history. The truth, however, is that there was widespread complicity during chattel slavery. The cruelty was horrific, public, and government-sanctioned. Co-opting the term “slavery” moves the conversation away from the Transatlantic Slave Trade and its residual impacts, redirecting it towards the crime of human trafficking. Our use of these terms suppresses important conversations about race and racism in our country.
At Love146, we believe that the anti-trafficking movement needs to be vocal and address the reality that victims of child trafficking in the United States are disproportionately children of color. During chattel slavery, race was the central determinant, and Black children were born into enslavement as opposed to current day where children are predominently groomed and recruited into trafficking. Race and racism were key determinents in slavery and still are in trafficking; however, it is not the same.
At Love146, we have used the terms “slavery” and “abolition” and we have passed this problematic language on to our followers. As we strive to set a big table that welcomes new people into the anti-trafficking movement, we realize our use of this language is offensive and uninviting to many people, particularly Black people.
We are sorry. We are learning and working to do better moving forward.
Statements from Other Organizations
- *Using “modern slavery” is not recommended to describe human trafficking (National Survivor Network)
- Why We Should Reconsider the Term “Modern-Day Slavery” (Dressember)
- Reconsidering the Use of the Terminology ‘Modern Day Slavery’ in the Human Trafficking Movement (National Sexual Violence Resource Center)
- Black Suffering for/from Anti-trafficking Advocacy (Anti-Trafficking Review)
- The Presence of the Past: Lessons of History for Anti-Trafficking Work (Open Democracy)
- Addressing Tomorrow’s Slavery Today (National Survivor Network)