Archive for the ‘racism’ Tag

Are we in a post-racial age?

I ask this question because of a conversation that I had this past week. I went to observe my organization’s after school mentoring program last week for the first time. The program takes place in the rec room of an apartment complex in southwest Houston where many refugees and immigrants live. Most of the kids there were from Spanish-speaking countries, Turkey and a few African countries. The kids all knew each other fairly well and speak English pretty well. When I arrived, they were at the table talking about how much they disliked school.

After reading and an arts and crafts activity, I sat down with the kids while they were playing with blocks with a high school volunteer. As the kids started fighting over the blocks, one of the Turkish boys said that he did not like black kids and that he only liked white people. The other volunteer and I were literally speechless because the child was six. The other volunteer pointed out to him that he was playing with a Congolese boy at the moment and he also played with another black student at school. I asked him why he said that and he told me that one of the black students was mean to them so he did not like black people.

After Senator Obama began President-Elect Obama, there has been a lot of writing and talking about the post-racial age that we are in. But as the passage of anti-gay marriage bans in three states and my conversation with a six-year old about race shows, people are still supporting and at least implicitly teaching intolerance. This experience made me wonder which adults in his life taught him the stereotypes that he now believes.

Striving for a post-racial age seems to miss the mark. Ignoring our cultural backgrounds is impractical. Our cultural differences exist and impact our lives, so why should we ignore them? Shouldn’t we be striving for an age of tolerance?

Advertisements

Human trafficking in Argentina and the world

I love living in Argentina; perhaps even more so because my time is coming to an end. Who wouldn’t love a living in a beautiful country with warm people who enjoy lively conversations over meals of steak and red wine? I do have to point out that I have no love for the way that some of the people exoticize and even demean me sometimes as they assume that that outward ethnic appearance means that I am a prostitute.

A fellow BC blogger wanted to know if the experience would prompt me to write about racism in Latin America. While racism may be partly to blame, I think that people associate my racial appearance with the rampant human trafficking that brings thousands of Dominicans, Brazilians and people of other nationalities, often to work as prostitutes. Unfortunately for many here, being of African descent and female is associated with prostitution and sexual slavery.

Argentina does not have specific laws addressing human trafficking. While the human trafficking circles do treat Argentina as a destination, there are also trafficking rings that move people within the country, totaling an estimated 2.4 million people traded for labor and sexual exploitation. Women and girls from economically depressed regions are either kidnapped or enticed by too-good-to-be-true job offers. Awareness has been elevated to a popular culture level. One of the most popular evening telenovelas here, Vidas Robadas, centers on internal human trafficking in Argentina.

The dedicated passion of activists such as Susana Trimarco de Veron have helped to bring the issue front and center on Argentina’s national agenda. A campaign called “No to Human Trafficking, No to Modern-day Slavery” started last year recruited Uruguayan singer and actress Natalie Oreiro to be an advocate for raising awareness and sparking further action to end human trafficking in Argentina.

Thanks to Social Butterfly, I learned about a documentary that premiered late this summer called Call+Response that attempted to raise awareness about modern-day slavery and abolitionist efforts. Knowing that lack of economic opportunities leaves already vulnerable members of society subject to people that prey on them, poverty reduction is sure to be a key goal for eliminate human trafficking and sexual slavery. Women will have other options to earn incomes to support their families rather than relying on promises to take them away from a life of poverty.

Here are some organizations that I found via change.org that work to end human trafficking:

Equality Now
Polaris Project
Barnaba Institute
The SAGE Project