The truth is profit-driven exploitation and trafficking of people of marginalized identities is not only state-sanctioned, it is foundational to the US.State-sanctioned labor exploitation, slavery, and human trafficking are bedrock institutions of the colonial US nation-state, to this day. The trafficking and enslavement of millions of people of African descent was abhorrently abused by every industry for profit. The US then used slave/slave-like labor and human trafficking for its prejudiced, violent settler-colonialism such as the forced relocation and internment camps of people of Japanese descent, the brutal forced removal of Indigenous Americans and later the abusive and exploitative “adoptions” of Indigenous American children, leading to up to 35% of Indigenous children as recently as 1974 being ripped from their families and cultures, as well as reconcentrados or concentration camps of Pilipinx people during US colonization, contributing to the slaughter of hundreds of thousands. Today, these institutions continue as intersecting systems of profit-driven oppression that target and exploit people of different marginalized identities for profit. The US continues to empower profit-driven human trafficking and labor exploitation, such as through guest-work visa programs. Despite numerous reports of labor violations and exploitation and the administration’s previous pledges, guest-work programs were recently increased through Congress and the Department of Homeland Security after industry lobbying. Corporations contract "labor brokers" who, often deceitfully, solicit labor for the visa program from around the world. Migrant or “guest” workers are then underpaid or unpaid in poorly regulated and dangerous conditions, and often have identity documents stolen or destroyed to manipulate and detain workers. Workers who have their documentation stolen or destroyed are then vulnerable to further exploitation. Across the country, undocumented migrants captured and placed in immigration detention centers are also made to do unpaid or underpaid labor in a system plagued by slow processing due to immigration court backlogs. This then contributes to multi-billion dollar profits reported by detention corporations and booming industry for bail bonds companies that also intrusively GPS track their clients. All the while this system of capture and exploitation is facilitated by a government enforcing procedures mandating 34,000 beds in detention centers be filled everyday while allowing failures in basic procedures leading to the government placing migrant children with human traffickers.
Language is malleable, yes—but we cannot allow social justice language, particularly the type of language specifically invented to empower victims of abuse, to work against us, to re-silence us, again and again.[TW- Mention of sexual assault]
A couple of weeks ago, when the #MeToo campaign was making its way across the social media landscape, I finally decided to out my rapist publicly. We had been friends for many years, romantically involved off and on—and then, about a year ago, I cut off contact with him completely. It wasn’t just one time that it happened, the rape. It was multiple times. But the most egregious and horrifying one, the one that eventually lead me to cut off contact with him completely, had stayed lodged within me like a splinter, unprocessed, unmoving.
Few people in our circles knew what had actually happened between us. Although I had admitted to being sexually assaulted on multiple occasions, I never stated his name out loud, much less publicly. It felt too vulnerable, and I didn’t feel ready for the onslaught of emotions that would inevitably accompany such an outing. But the #MeToo campaign struck a nerve. As woman after woman on my feed posted #MeToo, my only thought was: why are we the ones who have to make ourselves vulnerable, again, while our rapists sit there cloaked in silence—in the complacent comfort of non-confrontation?
I understand that there can be catharsis, even a feeling of solidarity, in seeing huge numbers of women in your community speak up publicly about the fact that they were sexually assaulted. But it didn’t feel like enough for me. If I was going to admit that I was raped in a public forum, I thought, folks better be damn sure I’m also going to name the person who raped me. If I have to make myself uncomfortable, then folks better be damn sure I’m going to make him uncomfortable too. I wasn’t about to re-victimize myself in the process of outing my oppressor.
My worry was that the #MeToo campaign was starting to render the idea of rape into something abstract—one of those things “every woman has experienced,” while, in the meantime, the actual, concrete people that raped them remain safely anonymous.https://twitter.com/sndrsng/status/920097942010200064
Part of the reason why I was so intent on outing him was that I knew other women had already reported him as a rapist to powerful institutions—such as Yale University, where he is currently a graduate student—only to have their requests ignored and silenced. Granted, Yale (along with, let’s face it, most institutions of higher learning) has a terrible track record of bringing justice to victims of sexual assault. But to see it happen so close to home just enraged me further. No institution would ever hold my rapist accountable—I knew this, and I know it now.
Given that, it seemed to me that the only real form of accountability available to me—to us—was social accountability. I needed my community to know what he had done—to me, and to many, many other women. The consequences of social outing for a rapist can be numerous, but here are some of the outcomes I hoped for in outing him publicly: first, mutual friends severing their ties with him; second, a sense of shock for my community—particularly my male friends who had been close friends with him for many years—that yes, they too, had been complicit. They, too, had been harboring and protecting rapists in their close friendships for many years without thinking twice about what that looked like to me and the numerous other women he had raped.