Sunday, June 19th, Juneteenth, marks a day when Americans stood against slavery and declared that no man should be property, that every human deserved freedom. We celebrate this day of liberation with faith in hope, freedom, and change.
But even today in America, more than one hundred years after the events in Galveston, Texas, there are men, women, and children who are not free. In the anti-trafficking world, we are painfully aware of the work that is still to be done for people of color in America.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting, an aggregate of thousands of law enforcement agency reports, reported 50.7% of minors arrested across America for prostitution in 2019 were African American. As a reminder, the national legal definition of sex trafficking includes any minor under the age of 18 engaged in commercial sex acts, regardless of the presence of force, fraud, or coercion. That means, according to this legal definition and this data, 108 African American children were arrested in 2019 for being victimized.
African American children are at high risk for sex trafficking due to the disproportionate number of vulnerabilities they face. Looking at the statistics on risk factors for sex trafficking may provide some insight:
Runaways- According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in 2018, 23% of runaways were identified as African American.
Foster Children- According to the Department of Health and Human Services, 23% of children in foster care in 2020 were African American, almost 100,000 children.
Impoverished Families- According to the 2019 Census, the poverty rate for African Americans in America was 18.8%, the highest rate of any race.
Homelessness- According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development 2019 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, 44.6% of homeless youth living in shelters were African American.
If these percentages do not seem that high to you, look at them through the lens that, according to the 2019 U.S. Census, only 13.4% of the general population is African American. According to Snapshot on the State of Black Women and Girls: Sex Trafficking in the U.S, “57.5% of all juvenile prostitution arrests are black children and 40% of sex trafficking victims identified as black women.”
So what do you do with this information? What now? How can we change these numbers to protect children, a large portion of which are people of color, from being sex trafficked?
The Frederick Douglass Institute Collaborative has stepped in to do something about this issue. “Human Trafficking is the most heinous form of exploitation,” said Douglass Leadership Institute Chairman, Dean Nelson, “This crime disproportionately impacts the African-American community where over half the victims of the domestic sex trade are our black women and children. It is time for Congress to work together to reauthorize vital resources for getting our families off the slave block to surviving and thriving.”