Hegemony Value and Human Trafficking by Kerrie Low

Hegemony and values are closely related, as seen in Takaki’s book A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America, as white expansion into other countries has been prevalent throughout history.  At first, the English invaded Ireland and their values collided.  On one side, the English believed their way of life was better than the Irish, who they viewed as “living outside of “civilization”” (Takaki, 2008, p. 29). So, the English conquered them and supplanted their value system, forcing the Irish to the fringe and their stature as second class citizens.  The stronger English hegemony continued the belief that their values were greater than the Irish, so the system was allowed to continue.  This is continued throughout history and across all borders.  For instance, in the new world when cotton plantations were becoming a booming business, Virginia did not have enough bodies to work the field, so most of the colonists at first came as indentured servants.  Upon realizing that their wealth was more profitable with servants, both Irish and African people started to be “spirited” away.  These people were of the fringe groups, with the first instances of human trafficking among the Irish consisting mostly of “rogues, vagabonds, whores, cheats, and rabble of all description raked from the gutter” (Takaki, 2008, p. 53), as well as people who had been conned or kidnapped into servitude.
Just like young women in Washington can be “spirited” away and into a life of sexual exploitation, many are on the fringe group. “Teens and women arrive at our drop-in center for immediate safety and to have their basic needs met. This includes food, hygiene, clothing, and a safe place to rest” (Weaver, 2016). A great many Irish were simply taken from Ireland because of English laws punishing the idle and poor, which led to wholesale kidnapping to send them to the colonies.  The media also played a large role in continuing the strength of the hegemony values over those of the people by popularizing and normalizing the idea of rightness to this end, much in the way Postman says there is “a connection between forms of human communication and the quality of a culture” (Postman, 1985, p. 9).  Furthering on Postman’s thought, many southerners, even slave owners, had to be convinced that slave owning was truly right: “We must satisfy them that slavery is of itself right… that it is not a sin against God” (Takaki, 2008, p. 105).  Many proponents of slave owning spent a very long time convincing everyone else, even slave owners, that slaves were the happiest people in the south.  Sex trafficking was extremely p
ervasive in the south as well, as black women were considered property, and as such their masters could use them in any way they saw fit. “He told me I was his property; that I must be subject to his will in all things…” (Takaki, 2008, p. 113).  This is continued even today, as many young women from Washington generally “have been in “the life” from a young age and this has been their main source of income” (Weaver, 2016).  This was continued even to the Chinese, who were prevented by law to bring women into America as workers. This led to less than 5% of the Chinese population being female by the 1900s (Takaki, 2008, p. 191), and due to demand Chinese men posing as laundry men offered to take women to America as brides, who were then sold into sexual slavery. By 1870 63% of Chinese women listed their profession as prostitute (Takaki, 2008, p. 194). Even today, human trafficking continues much in the same way it has always been, either from being on the fringe of society, leading to exploitation, or kidnapping.

The media and hegemony today, however, are working very hard to eliminate human trafficking.  It is covered on the news, in newspapers, on the internet, in social media, there are advocacy groups, law enforcement and government bodies are made aware of the issues.  “Many people know that trafficking is a problem now, but they don’t know what they can do about it.  It is happening in our community, the best way to raise awareness is to tell others about organizations that are making a difference.  We know that there is a problem, but knowing about the problem isn’t enough” (Weaver, 2016).  Our government now works closely with groups like the Genesis Project, founded by SeaTac officer Andy Connor in 2011.  Washington State representative Tina Orwell is able to represent the needs of the Genesis Project’s clients. “Over the past decade many laws have been passed in Washington State to help protect the victim, rather than criminalize them. In fact, Washington State was one of the leaders in passing legislation regarding human trafficking in the nation. Law enforcement has also adopted many (mandatory) programs to try and rehabilitate “johns” or, the buyers of sex who have been caught and convicted” (Weaver, 2016).  Because of our hegemony values and the efforts of groups like the Genesis Project to bring light to this issue, we are now able to take steps to prevent human trafficking, to help victims of human trafficking and ensure that it is brought to a halt. “…Our languages are our media. Our media are our metaphors. Our metaphors create the content of our culture” (Postman, 1985, p. 15).

 

-Kerrie Low

Group 4

Works Cited

Postman, N. (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death. Penguin Books.

Takaki, R. (2008). A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America. New York: Little, Brown and Company.

Weaver, L. (2016, August 3). GP Marketing and Fundraising Director.

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