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Black Opinions

They Don’t Just Disappear

If I had to speculate about a common thread that weaves its way through the lives of most of my friends and acquaintances, I’d have to say that filtering through the blizzard of information that inundates us daily is our greatest challenge.

“Trump tweeted this …” or “Congress ignored that …” or “Korea launched that …” or “No agreement could be reached …” are among the many and varied refrains frequently heard from the media. The truth is that when considering the daily deluge of information it’s difficult to prioritize or determine which issues are worthy of our attention and concern. So is life in the era of Trump.

I am, however, certain of two things: 1. There’re some issues far more important than Trump and the conduct of his minions; and, 2. There’s nothing more important than the care and nurturing of our children – our next generation. In the midst of all the confusion surrounding Presidential conduct, Cabinet selections, Health Care and the myriad of events that cascade upon us, we must stop and ask ourselves an immediate question, “What is happening to our children and where have they gone?”

Far from being isolated to Washington DC, my current location, Black children and other children of color are going missing at a rate that can only be described as alarming. Admittedly, from my perspective, to have any child missing is an alarming event, but the Metro DC area has been plagued with a surge of missing children in the past weeks and months. This is unacceptable under any circumstance, but the lack of attention and coverage by the media makes this bad matter even worse.

The lack of media focus on matters critical to communities of color is hardly new. I surmise that to be the reason I have not seen appropriate media attention, commensurate with my concern about African-American and Latina girls/young women, given their growing number of missing.

Of course, many will, and have already argued that many of those labeled as missing are merely runaways. Most certainly, there is data that gives partial support to this reasoning, but we cannot ere with a false assurance that this explanation is supportive of the fact of a general trend. Few overtly condone slavery of any kind, sex slavery specifically or human trafficking in any form, but by failing to acknowledge their possibility we do poor respective communities and any possible victims incalculable harm.

As long as we cannot overlook the rapid growth of a sex slavery/human trafficking industry in our nation, we cannot afford to deny the possibility that any of our missing children have fallen victim to this burgeoning criminal enterprise. What we do know is:

• The U.S. State Department estimates that 600,000 to 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year.
• Of the estimated $150 Billion world-wide income from human trafficking, an estimated $99 B is attributable world-wide to sex trafficking and, arguably, $9.5 B are earned in the US annually.
• 80 percent of human trafficking involves sexual exploitation; 19 percent involves forced labor.
• 80 percent of those trafficked are female and half are children.
• Trafficking is characterized by exploitation that includes forced prostitution, involuntary servitude and the creation of pornography or commercial sexual exploitation.
• The US Department of Health & Human Services estimates that between 240,000 and 325,000 American children and youth are at risk for sex trafficking each year.
• The average age of teens entering the US sex trade is 12 – 14.

The facts related to sex slavery and human trafficking are far too wide-ranging to discuss in a brief column, but the mere chance that any of our children could be trapped in that cycle of despair requires our thorough investigation of the circumstances of those who go missing.

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Dr. E. Faye Williams is National President of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. 202/678-6788.

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