Why Breonna Taylor’s death shows the devaluation of black women’s bodies in America and what allies in the sex trafficking movement can do today.
Andrea Powell with Fecha Taleso, Karana Rising
There will be people who push back that there is a link between sex trafficking and the killing of Breonna Taylor. They push back because admitting the connection between racism and sex trafficking means taking a hard look on how this country was founded. Only, it does not take much to see that a country whose founding was rooted in slavery and property rights would later have a serious problem with yet more slavery. In my 15 or so years of serving more than 1500 survivors of human trafficking, around 90% were black women and girls.
If you are about to say that is because my work has been in the nation’s capital where there are a large number of African Americans, I would like to point out that our population is 45.5 percent African American according to the 2018 census. Meanwhile, across the country, an average of 85% of sex buyers are white men. Victims of sex trafficking arrested by law enforcement tend to be African American women. These arrests further compound their lack of access to jobs and housing not to mention their emotional trauma or the fact that arresting victims of sex trafficking is a horrible injustice.
Yesterday, the country yet again saw that black women’s lives simply do not matter. Breonna Taylor’s three law enforcement killers were not charged with her murder. Only one was charged with shooting a wall. A wall. So, if killing a black woman does not seem to matter then why would pimps and sex buyers stop sex trafficking black women and girls.
“It has just been so exhausting for me following her case and I cannot believe we live in a world where dry walls matter then a human life,” says Fecha Talaso with Karana Rising’s team.
I’ve heard from many allies in the sex trafficking movement that they simply do not know what to do. Yet, we simply can’t run from this if we believe that ending sex trafficking is our mission. Now is the time we lean in.
Let’s start with breaking down some key risk factors for sex trafficking that are rooted in structural racism to understand how we actually need to lean in.
Educational Inequality: African American girls are pushed out of school more than their white counterparts. In New York City, 90% of school explosions where black girls. The stereotypes that follow black girls plays a big role.
So, as allies, let’s start advocating for no child to be expelled. Find out our school policies and hold our elected officials accountable to changing policies that allow racism to flourish in the classroom.
Poverty: An average of 45 percent of African American children live in poverty. Now, more than ever there are growing numbers of children living in poverty and experiencing homelessness. Their parents often are unable to afford child care while trying to work, thus sinking the family further into poverty and closer towards exploitation.
As allies, we must look at how our communities respond to childcare. All children serve access to quality childcare and after school programming. By learning what options there are in your community, you can advocate for free childcare. Yes, there are enough resources to do this.
Lack of Affordable Housing: Simply put, being homeless places anyone at risk toward exploitation. Thus, affordable housing is critical. However, historical issues like redlining and lack of access to credit leave many African Americans, especially single mothers (and almost all survivors of sex trafficking I know have struggled with surviving either with or as a single mom).
Allies need to advocate locally and federally for a wide-scale new field of housing not tied to private lenders. The government created this crisis through discriminatory polices and now it must fix it.
Runaway and Homeless Youth: Youth who leave home or run away are often more accurately youth society has pushed away. African American girls make up the majority of “pushed away” youth in America. This makes sense given the poverty, stress at home, lack of basic needs being met, feeling isolated and being pushed out of school at highly disportioncate rates. Access to safe shelter, drop in centers, free and confidential counseling and simply safe supportive adults.
As allies, we need to ensure our communities offer these critical resources and that we advocate for policies that in fact create funding and support for these programs. We can also donate clothing and other critical items to support these youth as they find their way back to a stable home life whether that be with parents or another caretaker.
There are many, many more ways we can help support black women and girls. These are just a start to addressing the link between sex trafficking and devaluing black women and girls in our country. There are many systems we must fight to reform. I believe our country has the ability to do this and I hold hope in fighting to make it happen even though I know it will be a life’s work. In fact, it should be all of our life’s work because it’s time black women and girls see the entire country knows their lives matter.
Simply put, if we want to stop sex trafficking, we must get to the roots that allow it to grow all around us. These roots are wrapped around systemic racism that must be cut down. Black women and girls have lived under its shadow for all too long.