Did Trump Really Mean What He Said?

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tags: slavery, human trafficking, Trump

Pearl Duncan is completing a book about DNA and ancestry with the title: “DNA Surprise: Rebel Great, Great Ancestors.”

Here’s what he said: “Human trafficking is worse now that it has ever been in the history of the world.” Really?

On Friday afternoon, July 28, 2017, before the rain started on a rainy day, President Donald Trump spoke in front of a group of law enforcement officers in Long Island, New York. He spoke words that many Americans do not know, do not want to hear, want to forget, or choose not to remember.

I respond now, because details of his speech have been fact-checked in the American press, but not this detail. Yes he spoke about current law enforcement activity against gang violence and illegal immigration, and he repeated details in his stump speech, but one raw detail in his speech calls into question how he defines America’s history and world’s history.

Details of his speech such as how he said officers should violate the American rule of law, that all arrestees are innocent until proven guilty in a court, and he recommends that officers should “rough up” anyone they arrest who is accused of a crime – and other details about the previous administration, trade, the economy and what he said about healthcare and crowd size were fact-checked – but not the embarrassing words, as an American, he uttered about human trafficking.

In our time, human trafficking is a despicable evil, and we are working to erase it. The more we see and hear about the suffering, abuse and deaths at the hands of traffickers, the more we understand traffickers in our time and traffickers in the past. But President Trump wants the world to know that he does not recognize or accept the historical information about traffickers in the past. Unfortunately, neither does the American press, because twenty-four hours after his outrageous comments, only two publications that I saw – two international publications: The Week, a UK publication and CNN international, fact-checked his details about human trafficking.

The President said: "Human traffickers. This is a term that's been going on from the beginning of time, and they say it's worse now than it ever was." Who the people are who said this he does not say, but he goes on to describe the time period of which he speaks. He said, "You go back 1,000 years, where you think of human trafficking, you go back 500 years, 200 years, 100 years, human trafficking, they say – think of it, what they do – human trafficking is worse now, maybe, than it's ever been in the history of this world."

Human trafficking is worse now that it has ever been in the history of the world? An American said that. An American leader said that. We should hang out heads in shame in front of the world.

Yes, trafficking – stealing humans, selling them, transporting them across borders, using them as sex slaves and as instruments of breeding for profit, forcing them to work for free until they get sick and or die, denying their humanity – is increasing, and is an outrage. The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported that in 2016, there were about 7,500 cases in America. This rising tide is up from about 5,500 in 2015. We must stomp it out, but we cannot at any time forget the history of human trafficking in the Americas.

Historians say from the beginning of the slave trade in the 1600s, when Europeans perpetrated the Atlantic Slave Trade, transporting humans from Africa to the Americas, 12.5 million humans were trafficked across the waters, from Africa to North America to the Caribbean and to South America. Population geneticists say this was the largest trade in humans from one continent to another. So for any American to forget that number and to say the current trade is worse than it has even been in history is atrocious. Is despicable. Is false. Is a conscious distortion of history. Is a vile misuse of the world’s bully pulpit. I know how deliberate these actions are, because as a writer who has been writing about African American enslaved ancestors, I heard from the publishers.

One major editor at a leading publishing house wrote to my previous agent, saying, American readers know Ms. Duncan’s ancestors as slaves, as victims. They will not accept her portrayal of them as heroes.

I found ancestors in the Caribbean who were Maroon rebels who fought against slavery, against human trafficking. I found ancestors in villages in Ghana who resisted slave traders at the beginning of the second millennia. I found ancestors in African mountain villages who resisted human trafficking by other Africans as well as by the more militant European slave traders who came equipped with guns and war ships. I found ancestors who rebelled in colonial New York, and who were black and white abolitionists who fought human trafficking in America and the Caribbean.

But as Trump, two years ago in July 2015, said about Senator John McCain, who was a war hero, a prisoner-of-war hero, deriding him, saying, “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” we have to continue to examine how we describe heroes and courage. Some of us consciously define heroes, victims and survivors differently from others.

Americans are redefining what we mean by strong and weak, by hero and victim, by prideful and shameful. This was a shameful denial of American history. Shameful.

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