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In our opinion: Human trafficking — another plague of 2020 that deserves a spotlight

Several protesters holds signs and banners while marching along North Temple during a protest in Salt Lake City on Thursday, July 30, 2020. The protest was held to commemorate World Human Trafficking Awareness Day and raise awareness about human trafficking.
Yukai Peng, Deseret News

As the past eight months have so strikingly reminded, there is no shortage of plagues in this world.

The latest reminder is a slew of social media blasts filled with individuals raising awareness about human trafficking.

The trafficking of humans is an unquestionably despicable act and affront to humanity. No child, woman or man should ever be a victim or suffer from such a crime.

Unfortunately, many do. The nature of the operation makes exact numbers nearly impossible to track, but the anti-trafficking organization Polaris reported working on more than 10,000 cases with more than 23,000 survivors in 2018.

The annual Trafficking of Persons Report from the Department of State is nearly 600 pages and details known information and actions being taken to fight trafficking in countries around the world.

Human trafficking is not a small problem. It deserves a spotlight.

Yet, the swell in awareness has caused a rift between some activists on social media. The timing of the campaign directly following the chorus of voices calling out racial inequality led to speculation about an attempt to stymie that momentum.

Criticism has been aimed at human trafficking activists for staying silent on racial inequality, while human trafficking activists argue that their cause has hardly received the attention it deserves.

Both groups seem to be forgetting the intersectional nature of their work.

Fighting racism helps to end human trafficking and vice versa. There are aspects in systems of oppression that overlap. No cause is completely separate or one dimensional.

Racial inequality and human trafficking are both global human rights issues that are more closely interlocked that many realize.

The Bureau of Justice reports that about 40% of sex trafficking victims in the United States are Black women, and in interviews with Urban Institute, traffickers have stated that they believe they will receive less jail time for trafficking Blacks and minorities.

Additionally, traffickers who receive prosecution are also disproportionately Black males, according to data analyzed by the Washington Post.

In a paper published by the UCLA Law Review, Cheryl Nelson Butler examines and shares the roots of racism in human trafficking and how current policies and attitudes are unintentionally designed to target minorities.

Flaws in the prison and justice system, socioeconomic gaps and old myths about victims and perpetrators have created an overlap of the two issues.

When all facts are examined, it becomes clear that to fight human trafficking is to also acknowledge and fight against racial injustice. Each cause needs and must support one another.

Within the matrix of oppression, each individual finds a cause that resonates with them. Each cause needs its advocates and pioneers, because progress in one area creates progress in many others.

No one person has the burden of changing the world alone. The work and voices of all good work deserves to be shared. The world is better when lifting together.