May We Draw Lines On More Than Our Hands

A week ago, maybe a few may Twitter feed and Facebook wall were lit up with red Xs. Red X in permanent marker across the backs of the hands of my friends and acquaintances. The movement leaked into my classroom; many of my students had read lines crossed against the backs of their hands.

This is not an indictment of the End it movement, the organization that encourages people to draw these red Xs. I think the work they are doing is good. I think the organizations they partner with are legitimate. I think they do good work. I even had the opportunity to talk to my students about modern day slavery, what it looks like, how it happens. As an educator, I am aware of how powerful simple awareness can be.

I just hope those red Xs aren’t the only lines we draw.

The red Xs showed up in my classroom in the midst of me teaching a book about foster care. Have we drawn the lines? Have we drawn the lines in our hearts and our heads of the state of the foster care system and the sex slavery happening in our backyards? The state isn’t the only one keep track of the girls aging out of foster care. 18 and with no place to go, more often than not these girls are picked up by a pimp. Sometimes being a sex slave looks like the best choice.

And are we drawing the lines between the girls aging out of the foster care system and our own unwillingness to adopt older children? Are we drawing the lines between the human trafficking going on in our backyard and the fear in our own hearts? Are we drawing those lines too?

As we draw the lines on our hands, are we also drawing the lines in our closets? Are we drawing the lines to the products that we buy on a whim, without thinking about it because we love the color or could kind of use another one of those?

Are we drawing the lines on our hands to the lines in our Easter baskets? As we give up chocolate or coffee or sugar for a day, a week, the full fourty days. As we dream of the first taste of whatever it is we have given up, are we willing to consider that those treats have come to us by the hands of  a slave? Are we willing to sacrifice the thing that we always have for the holiday, or are we saying we should end it, as long as it doesn’t affect me?

Are we drawing the lines, between the education system, the drop out rate and those most at risk of being trafficked? Are we drawing the lines from the human trafficking to the drop out rate, from the drop out rate to the reading ability, from the reading ability to the legislation that keeps adding kids to elementary schools we have long since abandoned as we put our own kids in the new charter system?

I know that it is easier to ignore these problems, to think of slavery as something way out there, that it doesn’t happen in my back yard, that there aren’t things I am putting in my cart at Target that are the products of slave-labor.

It is easier to believe that the only thing we can do is swipe a red X across the back of our hands and cry for those women and children out there somewhere. It is easier to believe that we are an active participant in a culture that perpetuates modern day slavery. But those things aren’t true. We have to start drawing the truth on our hearts as we do with the lines on our hands.

I love the heart of the end it movement. I am grateful they are starting the conversation. I just pray that those lines we draw on our hands are only the catalyst to the lines we draw in our lives, on our hearts. Are we willing to draw the lines that link slavery to the choices we make?

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3 comments

  1. One of the moist important places we can draw a line is against pornography, because that’s where a large number of sex slaves end up working.

    Defenders wrap themselves in the First Amendment, but to say that unfettered free speech is, or ever has been acceptable is wrong. You can’t incite a riot, you can’t threaten the president, and you can’t yell ‘fire’ in a theater.

    You can be sued for libel or slander if you lie about someone.

    Obscenity laws have been on the books for decades, but they’re rarely enforced…and some have been quietly eliminated.

    Why do we stand for this? Are the pornographers so worthy of our protection that we are willing to sacrifice our own sense of decency?

    And are we willing to sacrifice the future of thousands of young women – and young men – to the financial interests of these vermin?

    The best place to start is the ballot box, but that’s not enough. We have to be intolerant of the viewing of pornography; it’s not an ‘illness’ (sex addiction), it’s a choice, and that choice is just plain wrong.

    And it’s evil.

  2. Abby, as you know your grandmother grew up on a farm a couple of miles away from Fountain City Indiana which was formerly known as Newport Indiana. This was one of the main stops on the Underground Railroad which guided runaway slaves from the South to Canada. The Underground Railroad in Indiana was run predominantly by Quakers. There were many Quakers on your grandmother’s side of the family and I’m sure that they were involved in this endeavor. The Quakers wore black not out of religious sentiment but because the dye industry in England primarily used child labor to die the clothing. Quakers did more than talk they lived their belief system. They did more than put red X’s on the back of their hands. Thank you for having similar convictions and walking them out. Think you for keeping the Quaker alive and well in our family tradition.

  3. Thanks, Abby. I appreciate awareness. And I appreciate calls to action. I often witness passionate people in the fight against trafficking who hold very vehement opinions towards immigrants, without recognizing that unjust immigration policy often sets the scene for human trafficking in labor as well as the sex industry. In fact, my husband used to live in a warehouse with other immigrants who were required to work for a specific company endlessly (supposedly “until they paid off their immigration debts”). It’s a vulnerable and powerless position, being forced to work while someone else holds all the cards. I hope that our passion to end trafficking will also address the ethnicity and country circumstances that make one vulnerable to trafficking.

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