Tag Archives: slavery

Black History—a Part of the Whole

As I stated in my preamble, Eric Holder’s speech on February 18th regarding Black History Month left me with a variety of topics to cover. The trick, of course, is trying to categorize them in a way that makes sense to people other than me. At this point, my intention is to go with three main topics over the next few days: Black history as part of American history and the public discourse surrounding it, Black culture, and the importance of learning from early slavery instead of just harping on it. More or less. We’ll see.

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In his speech, Mr. Holder begins by calling us “essentially a nation of cowards” for what he sees as a lack of discourse regarding race relations. More than once, he proclaims that American history can not be appreciated without an understanding of Black history.

That’s true.

Of course, American history also cannot be fully appreciated without an understanding of Irish-American History, Asian-American History, Hispanic-American history, or the history of any other group that may or may not have been exploited in the building of this great nation. We are, truly, a melting pot. Each culture that has entered our borders has brought its own set of values, its own list of trials, and its own share of great minds to contribute towards getting us to where we are today.

How do you think a push for “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant History Month” would go over?

Yeah, me too.

Obviously, there is one significant difference between the Black population and others—they were the only ones who lived through government-sanctioned slavery. Certainly, that is a blight on our history. It, and the years of segregation that followed, were a time when horrible people did unforgivable things.  It is a time we should remember and learn from.

But, it is a time that has passed.

I will not pretend that discrimination is dead in our society. It is alive and flourishing. It has the potential to intimately effect all people, regardless of age, gender, or skin color. If you don’t believe me, do a search on college scholarships exclusively for African Americans. Now, do a search on scholarships for which you will only qualify if you are white.

Mr. Holder is right about one thing—honest discussions on race are hard to come by in a multi-racial setting. This is because, as non-minorities, we are taught to feel that we should continue to bare the responsibility of, and make amends for, the actions of our ancestors. Never mind if they were actually slave owners or not, we still remain guilty by nature of being the recipients of “White Privilege.” And, of course, that status as Privileged makes it politically incorrect to suggest that people strive to be judged on the capacity of their minds or the content of their character, as opposed to the amount of melanin in their skin.

But, Mr. Holder makes impassioned pleas that we strive to acknowledge the pigmentation, not just the accomplishments.

He loses me, however, in his insistence that Black history needs to be more thoroughly incorporated into the study of American history. Growing up, I learned about Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln (oh, wait, does he count as part of Black history?), Frederick Douglas, and Rosa Parks. I even learned how the Civil Rights movements following Ms. Parks refusal to move to the back of the bus was really more about a seething reaction to the treatment of the murder of Emmit Till than because people were really that mad that a tired lady couldn’t get a seat up front.

I learned about the Civil War, Reconstruction, segregation, and the Civil Rights movement. I studied mandatory busing and saw the devastating effects that it had on some of the schools close to where I grew up.

I really don’t remember if I learned any of these things during the month of February. All I know is that I learned about them in their historical order, as part of a comprehensive look at American history. I didn’t spend one month learning about “them” and the rest of the year learning about “us” as Mr. Holder’s speech seems to imply.  I just learned OUR history.

Of course, there are things about our history that I don’t remember ever learning. Too bad for Mr. Holder, they fly in the face of some of his assertions. Mr. Holder claims that other significant civil rights movements, such as feminism, “were all tied in some way to the spirit that was set free by the quest for African American equality (during the Civil Rights era).”

As if fated, the history lesson that I did with my kindergartener today was on Susan B. Anthony. Like Mr. Holder, I have always seen the fight for women’s suffrage as coming after, well—not the Civil Rights era for goodness sakes, but after the end of slavery. After all, that is the order in which they are studied, right? Today, however, I learned things that I never remember learning before.

Susan B. Anthony, who was born in 1820, was an impassioned abolitionist. By the time she was 25, she and her family were holding weekly anti-slavery meetings which were, at times, attended by Frederick Douglas and William Llyod Garrison (another noted white abolitionist).

Please tell me that I’m not the only one who was never taught that Frederick Douglas and Susan B. Anthony knew each other and worked together to fight slavery.

Susan B. Anthony—one of the most notable pioneers of feminism—began her work for women’s rights because she was sick of not being taken seriously as an abolitionist because she was a woman. The fact is, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton worked for Black Suffrage at the same time that they were fighting for Women’s Suffrage. Their dedication wasn’t spurred on by the success of the anti-slavery movement (and certainly not by the Civil Rights era), but by their desire to have a strong enough voice to HELP MAKE IT SUCCESSFUL.

I didn’t notice Ms. Anthony or Ms. Stanton on Mr. Holder’s list of people that should be studied as part of Black history.

I read Mr. Holder’s remarks on Black history, and I am left with the strong suspicion that he was the type of kid that just couldn’t help picking at scabs. He’s right on one thing—there is healing that needs to occur. It won’t happen, though, if we insist on constantly ripping open old wounds.

This country’s history is OUR history—all of us, no matter what the color of our skin is. It needs to be acknowledged. It needs to be viewed for what it was. It needs to never be forgotten so that it will never happen again.

And then we need to move on so we can acknowledge our present and the tremendous progress that has been made.

Because, in case you didn’t notice, Mr. Holder, in 2008 the majority of our country elected a minority President.

That’s got to count for something.

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Filed under politics, Soap Box, The Me Behind the Mommy

I’m Ready to Impose a Vow of Silence

This afternoon, once the kids were all down for quiet time, I decided to call T~ and get that conversation (or pre-conversation) out of the way. I’m sure that she appreciated getting a call that, after the initial pleasantries, started with, “Well, I’m not actually calling for a long conversation this time, but I wanted to talk to you about having a conversation and wanted to warn you what it is about beforehand so you have time to, um, deal with it and prepare…” Yeah, like that wouldn’t make anyone nervous.

There is no question that she was surprised when I told her about the conversations we had been having with Noah over the past couple of days. Like me, she just wasn’t expecting to have to deal with all of this so soon. She suggested getting together, and I told her to figure out a time that works for her and I would make it work for us. In the meantime, though, she said that she would call back to talk to him since he asked to talk to her. She didn’t do it today, but I understand that. I’ll give her time. Of course, as she and I both know, he may not even bring any of it up with her. He has never talked to her about their relationship.

Even though we didn’t talk for very long this afternoon, T~ did seem more willing to open up to me about some stuff than she has in the past. I definitely got some information that I didn’t know before. I know that some of it is stuff that is really hard for her to talk about, so I am so grateful that she is talking to me about it. It is a tough thing, really. I don’t want to push her too far, but I want information for my son.

So, after dealing with all of the open adoption stuff yesterday and this afternoon, I deserved a break today, right?

Right.

For Noah’s history lesson today, we learned about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad. Would anyone like to take a guess at just how much fun it is to explain to your biracial child that, at one time, people with skin like his were owned by people with skin like mine?

Yeah. Good times.

Tomorrow, I fully expect for him to ask me to explain exactly how the baby got in my tummy, including demonstrations with anatomically correct dolls. That should just about round out the list of possible uncomfortable conversations, right?

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Filed under adoption, Daily Life, Homeschooling, Kids, open adoption, Parenting

See the World Through Different Eyes

Imagine this scenario. You are fourteen years old. You grew up in poverty, and experienced both physical and sexual abuse. One day, you meet a youngish man (maybe at the mall, maybe online). He is nice to you. He tells you how wonderful you are. He buys you gifts. Eventually, he offers to take you away from the difficult life that you live in.

You go with him. You are taken away from your family, away from your community, most likely even out of your state. And once he has you completely isolated from everything familiar, he starts to beat you and sexually exploit you.

One day, the police finally show up.

They arrest you.

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The scenario sounds crazy, right? But it happens all the time. And I’m not talking about far away places. I’m talking about right here, in the United States.

If you read my blog with any regularity, you are aware that I have developed a real interest in the subject of human trafficking. Up to this point, I have read about the horrors that happen to people of other countries, where civil liberties aren’t as valued. I have been surprised at the number of these foreigners who find their way into our country where, frequently under the control of massive crime syndicates, they are forced into slave labor or gentleman’s (snort!) clubs.

This weekend, for the first time, I had my eyes really opened to the fact that, sadly, there is tragic problem of domestic trafficking within our country, too.  Child prostitution.

Prior to 1974, children who ran away from home were actually arrested and placed in juvenile detention centers. In 1974, Congress passed the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act, ending the practice of incarcerating runaways. While, on the surface, not punishing kids for running away from something may sound like a fairly good idea, not enough was done to help solve the underlying causes and protect kids from whatever they were running away from. Where, in the past, they went someplace (even if it was punitive), many of them now ended up on the streets trying to fend for themselves. Pimps saw an opportunity (why the heck are these awful people strangely glorified in our culture???), and child prostitution exploded.

It is estimated that, of the one to one and a half million children that run away every year, approximately one third will end up being sexually exploited, either through prostitution or pornography. And, despite how our society tends to view prostitutes, these girls are generally doing what they are doing because they have been isolated and genuinely fear for their lives (thanks again to those lovely pimps who beat them if they don’t meet their nightly quotas).

Despite their age, despite having been moved across state lines, despite the beatings and rapes that they endure, if the police pick these girls up, they are generally treated as criminals, rather than victims. With very few exceptions, a child prostitute is placed into juvenile detention, given no real counseling to deal with the trauma they have encountered, and are eventually released back into the situation they were running from initially. Frequently, they end up back out on the streets, believing they don’t deserve any better.

I used to live in a city. As I drove to and from work every day, I became quite adept at picking out the prostitutes. I recognized the girls in my area, and noticed when someone new showed up. I don’t know how much control these (older) women had over their situations. I admit to frequently being disgusted by them. But, in my more charitable moments, I would wonder how God saw them, and the extreme sorrow he must have felt at what their lives had become. Even if they were there as a result of their own poor choices, I know that a loving God wept for them.

And now I think about these young children (typically anywhere from 11 to 17). Our laws don’t recognize them as old enough to make certain choices for themselves. In most states, even if they consented, having sex with an adult would be considered statutory rape. But, since they are accepting money for it, they are losing the protections that those laws would normally provide.

It is tragic. And it makes me wonder what the heck our law makers and enforcers could possibly be thinking.

 

Today, I am Thankful For:

  1. Having had a relatively normal, happy, and secure childhood with parents who did their best to protect me from the evils of the world.
  2. My ability to provide a normal, happy, and secure childhood for my children, and try my darndest to protect them from the evils of the world (and that it truly a daunting task).
  3. The opportunity to see the world for what it is, and the desire to change it. Even if I don’t know how.
  4. The fact that there are people and organizations that I can look to who are making a difference in the lives of those who suffer.
  5. The knowledge that there is a loving God that weeps for our pain. And the belief that, someday, somehow, He will make it right.

Edited to add: I had meant for the title to be “Seeing the World Through Different Eyes,” referring to myself. I have decided to let my slip stand, though, since I really hope that, if nothing else, I can help encourage others to see what is going on, unnoticed, all around us.

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Filed under modern slavery, NaBloPoMo, The Me Behind the Mommy, Thirty Days of Thankfulness

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Five Things I’m Grateful for Today:

  1. The fact that my children still love to snuggle.
  2. That I can tuck my children in their own beds every night feeling confident that they are safe* and secure.
  3. That it has been over seven years since the last major attack on U.S. soil.
  4. The thousands of brave men and women who risk their lives to keep ours safe.
  5. The opportunity to vote for the person I feel will best preserve the concepts of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that this country was founded on.

Voting is such a privilege–don’t take it for granted! Without strong leaders, we won’t have a strong country.

 

*If you want to see just how fortunate our children our, watch this:

 

This is just the trailer. But you can watch the whole documentary on the internet. It is about an hour long and does have a few graphic images in it. More powerful, though, is just what these kids go through–the hardship, the fear, and the grief. Amazing.

Even if you don’t watch it, go hug your kids and be grateful that they live in a society that values its children so much.

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Filed under modern slavery, NaBloPoMo, politics, Thirty Days of Thankfulness

Looking for a Big Picture

When I first asked my ethical question last week, it was with a very specific reason in mind. Before I move on from discussing  human trafficking, I want to do full justice to that topic (as well as touch on a couple of things brought up in the comments on these posts).

As a review, my initial question was:

If you were offered the chance to buy a child, knowing that if you did not, they would be sold to slave owners as laborers or sex slaves, would you do it?

Some of you said no. Some of you said yes. Those who said yes frequently said that you would view it as an adoption. This, interestingly, touches on the root of what I wanted to discuss.

The first time that I heard adoption linked in any way to human trafficking, I was incredulous. I suppose that what my family always accused me of growing up may have some truth–I can be naive. It is hard for me to look at an institution created to make families and see anything other than the positive. And, I believe, the institution of adoption is overwhelmingly positive. That doesn’t change the fact that corruption can, and does, exist.

Before choosing domestic adoption as my initial route to motherhood, I did a lot of research. That research included looking into the programs of just about every country that was doing international adoptions six years ago. Certainly, I knew that there were problems at the time. There were a lot of questions about the practices in Guatemala and Cambodia. The expectation of bribes in former Soviet countries was discussed openly (I remember reading that you should go with cash and vodka).

The information was there but, somehow, I really missed the significance of it.

As I said last week, there is a definite correlation between some of the worst countries for human trafficking and countries that have been investigated or closed to international adoption over concerns of baby buying. My initial disbelief of the idea that babies are bought, then placed for adoption, is gone. I accept that it happens (although, again, this is not a majority-of-the-time issue–I truly believe that most adoptions are done ethically).

I just don’t know the right solution for the problem.

Here’s the thing: If someone is desperate enough to sell a child, they are going to sell a child. Unethical adoption agencies are not, by far, the only option for doing so. While the method is wrong, the adoption itself may just end up saving a child from a much worse fate. However, as some of my commenters pointed out, human trafficking is a supply and demand industry. No one would be buying these children (for adoption, sex slavery, forced labor…) if the market didn’t exist.

So, which is worse? Certainly, children should not be bought and sold. Buying a child, even for a “good” reason, is wrong. Let me make it clear that adoptive parents do not go to other countries and buy babies–adoption would cost a heck of a lot less if that were the case (Average cost of a person being trafficked? Ninety dollars. That’s it.). In fact, potential adoptive parents can take every precaution possible against unethical adoptions and still end up in the middle of one without knowing it. The countries where these things occur are notorious for misinformation and scant or changed documentation. The parents are generally acting ethically, while the governments and orphanages/agencies are doing shady things.

Shutting down a country for adoption, however, does nothing to benefit the children caught in this crisis. I found it interesting that, from the comments I received on my other posts, the perception seems to be that people being trafficked are sold by “others.” I believe people kept referring to them as “the traffickers.” The thing is, while there obviously are the middle men that deliver slaves to their destinations, the initial traffickers, very frequently, are family. Parents. Siblings. Aunts and Uncles. In some societies, it is not uncommon for a family to find a wealthy “benefactor” for their daughter when she is still very young. This benefactor will give the family monthly stipends until the child comes of age, at which point she will go “visit” for a couple of weeks. Even in countries that are notorious for sex tourism, little impact would be felt if outsiders stopped paying for their unique brand of services. The cancer, largely, comes from within.

So, what can be done?

I wish I had answers. In the realm of adoption, certainly, accountability is important. Unethical agencies are sometimes more obvious than you would think (and, sometimes, not). Sometimes, however, people choose not to see the signs or question the actions. Obviously, the answer is for everyone to always act with integrity–but that can seem a tough road to travel. Choosing to wait longer for a referral from an ethical agency is hard. Worrying that something will happen to your paperwork that might prevent you from bringing your child home if you don’t pay a bribe is terrifying. But, if the problem is going to stop in the adoption world, it is necessary.

And in the rest of the world? Well, that’s a tougher question. The fact is, deeply held social mores have to change. Bone crushing poverty has to be alleviated. Things like prostitution need to be seen as a much greater evil than is currently the case. Organizations that help keep former slaves free need to be funded. Beyond that–I don’t know. People who do know more have made proposals for ending slavery. I plan on reading Ending Slavery by Kevin Bales to see what his suggestions, after many years of researching this issue, are.

I understand that this is an issue that is so large that it seems overwhelming. If you are capable of nothing else (and so inclined), pray for these people. Sometimes, the biggest changes are started by the smallest acts of faith.

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Filed under adoption, Books, Faith, modern slavery, politics

Another Perspective on The Question

OK, OK, I get it. I’m not going to get some of you to answer my question.

Yet.

While I’m still going to keep my opinions close to my vest, I am going to give you a little more information to mull over.

This is me, dipping my toe into very murky waters.

The reason I asked my ethical question is directly related to the countries that are considered some of the worst in the arena of human trafficking.

India. Moldova. Cambodia. Vietnam.

They are all countries that, now or in the past, have had international adoption* agreements with the USA. They also all, now or in the past, have been seriously investigated for, or shut down, based on suspicions of human trafficking affecting those adoptions. (OK, admittedly, I’m not positive that that was why Moldova was shut down but, considering the State Departments warning on their website to not do anything that might be interpreted as baby buying during the adoption process, I’m going to go out on a limb…)

Does this change your initial response to my ethical question? Why or why not? How?

 

*Please, do not get the wrong impression. I believe in international adoption. I do not support unethical adoptions (although I acknowledge that they happen). I’m asking this because I’m seeing dots that connect, and I’m trying to find the big picture.

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Filed under adoption, politics, The Me Behind the Mommy

Reminder: Ethical Question

OK, I know you all are reading it. But only a few of you have answered my question. I am, of course, curious as to why. Do you not care? Are you afraid of being trapped by your stance? Do you suspect that you know where I’m going and don’t want to go there?

This isn’t the senate, folks. No voting “present.”

Seriously, read my question. Tell me what you think. I do have a reason that I’m asking, but there is so much more to it. Really, this is an important topic. There are currently about 27 million people enslaved throughout our world, and half or more are children.

This is a topic that isn’t discussed enough. It needs to be.

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