Race, Labor, Slavery and the Trafficking Framework


The white man’s burden revisited by Kamala Kempadoo (2015)

“The antislavery movement, for example, is dominated by white middle-class or elite men—in the US, Britain and Australia—who founded the majority of international organisations and populate executive boards and directorships, with the resources and cultural capital to produce books, news items, and films on the subject. People of color and non-westerners are positioned in their campaigns as objects for rescue and education, modern-day ‘slaveholders,’ or ‘survivor leaders.’ “

Sex Work or Human Trafficking? Race and Imperialism in CNN Report From Cambodia by Anne Elizabeth Moore (May 2014)

“Roaches scatter when the light comes,” Mira Sorvino says in a December video report for CNN, describing a group of shirtless brown-skinned men, faces blurred for the camera, who decline consent to be filmed by getting up and going inside as her videography crew approaches. This group of men weathered the illegal bombing of their country, Cambodia, by her country, the United States, and then survived mass killings under the Khmer Rouge and two decades of civil war after that, all of which left the country so impoverished that people there currently live on about two dollars a day, or less than half the living wage. Sorvino has no sympathy, however, and she doubles down: “Roaches and rats scatter when the light comes,” she says angrily. Her comparison of these men to two of the world’s most hated creatures would, in other contexts, be seen as full-on racist imperialism, but Sorvino feels justified using the slurs because Don Brewster, a white human trafficking abolitionist living in Cambodia, told her these men are sex traffickers. And she believes him.”

White Slave Crusades: Race, Gender, and Anti-vice Activism, 1887-1917 by Brian Donovan. (2005)
This book discusses the importance of race in the “white slave trade” discourse in the late 19th-early 20th century.

Unpacking the Crisis Women of Color, Globalization, and the Prison-Industrial Complex by Julia Sudbury (January 2010)
Discusses multiple aspects of the war on the poor and prison abolitionism. This work is the basis for a critique of the anti-trafficking framework that emphasizes issues not included in many critiques and provides a broad structural view.

The Wages of Whiteness: Race and the Making of the American Working Class by David R. Roediger (1991-2007)
Background material on race, labor and terminology that informs current discourse on trafficking and slavery.”Use of the term white slavery and avoidance of master grew together. The labor movement it self adopted both the embrace of blunt, indeed overdrawn, comparisons with slavery, and euphemistic usages of a newly popular word: boss.”