Cover Story: I have 48 slaves. You can change that.


A very personal survey at analyzed the number of cherries I eat, the clothes I wear, and the products I buy, projecting a piercing number on my screen: 48 slaves work for me, personally. Estimates of modern slavery (or human trafficking) range from 21 million (ILO) up to 36 million (Global Slavery Index). To put this in perspective, imagine 420 people in slavery for every person in Owen Stadium during a game or 9 enslaved for every single person in Oklahoma.

Modern slavery is bigger today than the entire Atlantic Slave Trade from the 15th to 19th centuries. Without minimizing the horror of previous slave trades, it is important to understand that modern cases have been found in over 167 countries and yes – that includes the United States. In fact, all 50 states have reported multiple instances of human trafficking (Polaris). Fortunately, since the passage of the pivotal Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000, US efforts to combat trafficking have increased. What is OUr approach to this horrendous crime?

Across campus student groups like InterVarsity and Off the Market, professors like Dr. Sarah Trabert and Dr. Roksana Alavi, and artists like Gina Butler are actively fighting trafficking. As you read their stories, please keep in mind this crime’s raw truth. After personally befriending many survivors, I must be blunt:

Human trafficking steals peoples’ lives. It is very real. Very close. And merciless.

Trafficking is divided into two types: forced sex and forced labor. Contrary to media’s focus on sex, 68% of trafficking is forced labor. Each case is heart-wrenching. For instance, children as young as four are forced into Ghana’s fishing industry. Isolated on a vast lake, they receive as many mental scars as physical ones from the prized fishing nets upon which they cut their fingers (The Guardian).

You can change this. You have much more power than you realize.

LauraMurphyYour talents – whether they involve baking or banking – can counter trafficking. On Friday, March 4, in Zarrow Hall, globally renowned anti-trafficking expert will speak on “Escaping Modern Slavery: How Citizen-Activists Can Change a Culture of Exploitation.”  Director of the Modern Slavery Research Project, Dr. Laura Murphy is renowned for her anti-trafficking work. The author of Survivors of Slavery: Modern-Day Slave Narratives, her talk will focus on

how students—regardless of where their talents lie —are at the heart of the anti-slavery movement. We need student skills and expertise to provide fuel to our work.”

As you read, I hope you will consider what Dr. Murphy wants all OU community members to know: “Modern slavery affects each and every one of us and is the reason so many of the products we use are so very cheap. We can and should take responsibility for this by engaging in activism—to end poverty, to eradicate forced labor, to provide education for all people all over the world, to hold companies responsible—in order to ensure a future that is as close to slavery-free as possible.” How many slaves work for yOU?

Lucy Mahaffey is OUFORUM Founder and Editor-in-Chief (2015-2016.) She is double-majoring in International Area Studies and Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Slavery. She appreciates the daily joys of chocolate, tango, and baking with her grandmother.

Lucy M

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