Last Thursday, March 1, a panel discussion, “Human Trafficking in the Midwest,” featured three speakers, Bruce Mactavish, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; John Paul, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology and Bradley Schlozman, U.S. attorney from the western district of Missouri. Each spoke to a group of people about human trafficking and slavery.
Mactavish covered the key moment of the abolitionist movement that swept across Kansas around May 30, 1854, including the lasting connections of abolitionists in Kansas.
“When we look at the history of Kansas, we find deep roots of abolitionists,” said Mactavish. “We can find individuals who are willing to take up the cause of slavery.”
He said people that came to Kansas after 1854 were embracing the idea of equality. Mactavish said abolitionists were not heroes, but humane. They made America a better place to connect with ideals and actions. He also explored some of the “muddy” aspects of abolitionists in Kansas. Some free-staters who supported abolition did not necessarily agree with the “golden quality” of freedom, but thought slavery limited jobs for whites.
Paul discussed human trafficking, his definition of slavery and how art has been used for social change.
“If [human trafficking] is happening in Kansas, then it’s happening anywhere,” said Paul. “If Kansans’ make an issue about it, then everyone else will.”
Paul’s definition of slavery is when one doesn’t control his or her own fate or toiling for someone else’s gain. He believes there are different ways for people to voice their anger such as a guitar or paint brush.
Paul presented slides of artwork from Picasso, Gerald Holton and Leon Golub. All the slides represented different aspects of human trafficking including interrogation, war and the peace sign. In his presentation, one of his slides said “Some of the most stirring arguments for human rights come not from lawyers or statesmen, but from writers, painters and musicians, as they are able to add emotional depth to issues.”
“Art for social change is art that educates people on the power of human trafficking and slavery,” said Paul.
Schlozman spoke about the law enforcement side of human trafficking in the United States. He said that the issue was very near and dear to his heart.
“[Human trafficking] is an issue that a lot of people haven’t heard of and when they do, they’re simply blown away.”
Schlozman explained the legal definition of human trafficking. He said it entails the use of force, fraud and cohersion. There are two different types of trafficking – sex and labor. Sex trafficking involves encoring or forcing a victim to have sex for money, while labor trafficking involves forcing or extracting labor from the victim. According to Schlozman, about two-third of the cases are sex trafficking while one-third are labor trafficking.
“No one should be subject to this kind of treatment,” said Schlozman. “If this happens to you, then you’re a victim.”
The traffickers take advantage of their victims with luring them into the country by promises of a better life. But when they get to the U.S., they are exploited in places like factories or on the streets. The traffickers can physically or psychologically abuse victims to the point they are convinced there is no escape and no better life for them.
“We are not going to be able to solve this problem at the federal level,” said Schlozman. “We need the eyes and ears of people on the ground; the beat cop or the community.”