On the precipice of the 4th of July weekend in the U.S., we are excited to share the following thoughts from Freedom For All’s founder and CEO:

In my work at Freedom For All, I meet and work alongside many men, women, and children who have escaped bondage after being trafficked. Currently, there are 45.8 million people living in slavery today including almost 60,000 in the United States, according to the Global Slavery Index. Some were born into slavery; others promised better-paying jobs in another country only to have their passports and freedom taken away upon arrival; some were sold into sex trafficking at very young ages.

Since learning about modern-day slavery nearly 10 years ago, I have tried to understand the enslaver’s mindset: how, in the 21st century, people can still be capable of such overt oppression. While the methods of enslavement may have shifted from chattel slavery to human-trafficking, debt bondage, and forced labor, the outlook of slavers has, in many ways, endured: enslavement could be legitimized because it was happening to them. Whether it is religion in Malaysia, caste in India, or gender in the Philippines, slavers use the language of difference to dehumanize their captives and justify bondage and acts of oppression. Throughout my work, I have witnessed the broad applicability of this paradigm—the belief that they, the enslaved, are not like us, that they are different, that they are lesser. Religion, sex, skin color, tribe, country of birth, and caste all provide a means to separate them from us.

The slavers’ language of difference is the same as that of totalitarian regimes and their dictators, bleeding into broader forms of prejudice and hate. As I have seen firsthand in Indian gold mines, Brazilian farms, and Ghanaian fishing villages, the rhetorical difference between us and them has continued to perpetuate the oppression and enslavement of millions. The stakes of this us and them are far more significant than a language of political correctness.

America is based on the principle of us, the idea of “we, the people,” and the belief that no matter who you are or where you were born, all are equal.

I hope you have fun celebrating your Freedom this 4th of July.