Slavery: Humanity’s Plague

ted   Since the dawn of civilization to today, and in every corner of the world one constant has been observed in most major societies. Slavery, the exploitation of humans with no regard to age,morality, and even life has been a plague to humanity that continually haunts the past, and present of mankind. For centuries this problem has been  pushed under the carpet by numerous kings, influential people, and governments, until recently in the last 150 years. However, slavery today is far from extinct and is more widespread than one would think. Why does slavery have such a timeless and mass appeal worldwide? The reasons all boil down to human nature itself.

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   As humans we crave power, the feeling of control and security. For us, power doesn’t necessarily mean physical strength, but a state of mind characterized by getting our way in everything that we do without putting in much effort. For many, slavery serves as a step closer to this goal. A firsthand account that documents this lust for power comes from Frederick Douglas’s biography:   “Mr Severe was rightly named: he was a cruel man. I have seen him whip a woman, causing the blood to run half of an hour at a time; and this, too. In the midst of her crying children, pleading for their mother’s release. He seemed to take pleasure in manifesting his fiendish barbarity”. In this quote an overseer(Mr Severe) is punishing a slave as he did not find the slave’s actions acceptable. Slavery has given Mr Severe the power to get the fruits of the land without doing anything himself. However if something is wrong he has the authority to blame and punish others for failure. This state of mind is what we crave, when things go wrong we blame everyone but ourselves, and with slavery this powerful state of mind is achievable as shown by Mr Severe. Numerous rulers throughout history have used this institution in similar ways,  getting work done without cracking a sweat themselves.  

   In addition slavery offered a way to implement notions of racial superiority in society. Whether we like it or not, it is human nature to compete and be skeptical to those who are different than us. Wars, ethnic genocides, and subjugation are just some examples of this skepticism and competition between races. Slavery offers a way to dehumanize those seen as undesirable in numerous societies thus showing the preferred race dominating. One of the best examples of this mindset can be in the deep south of the United States during the 1800s.  

According to Frederick Douglas’s biography, during his lifetime white people of all ages frequently said “It was worth half a cent to kill a n—–, and another half to bury one”.

 In this dismal time period of American society, slavery was the living proof and evidence of white superiority. Furthermore, this primary document  promoting the Jim Crow laws has an illustration of a black man during the time period post slavery. The image shows racial stereotypes for african americans as shown by the gorilla-like appearance and the man’s clumsy nature. The Jim Crow laws were local and state laws in the south which promoted segregation between blacks and whites. These laws being enacted showed how hard it was to change the mindset of racial superiority as the laws came to be because of the failure of the southern white population to accept the destruction of slavery. As a result, the notion of African Americans being inferior was essentially true as they were pushed so far down socially and economically compared to their white counterparts. This trend has also been observed worldwide most notably in ancient Roman and Egyptian societies where ethnic and religious minorities were used as slaves and treated as second-rate humans. In all these societies the undesired ethnicity or religious group was essentially enslaved, while the preferred citizens enjoyed a better life because of this exploitation and degradation. All this did was reaffirm one race’s false sense of superiority over another.

  Human greed is another factor that contributes to the popularity of slavery. Humans are greedy, as we love money and what it brings to us whether it be pride or fulfilling materialistic desires. The economic benefits of slavery is what makes slavery an ageless problem as slavery is essentially a free (or very cheap) workforce. An infinite number of people all over the world have exploited slaves for financial benefit. One example of this exploitation for financial gain can be found in Ravi Shankar Kumar’s story. In short, a child, Ravi Shankar Kumar, was sold to a loom worker for about 500 rupees (10 U.S dollars). In the factory he worked in lethal conditions for about 12 hours a day with little food to maximize to company’s profit.  To put this into perspective, the current United States minimum wage is about 8 dollars per hour where as Ravi was sold into child labor for 2 dollars more! Slaveowners in the southern United States benefitted immensely from this system, allowing them to build elaborate mansions, and spend lavishly on other things.

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Many children worldwide are used in child labor and work tirelessly for nothing in return.

   In conclusion the success of slavery is due solely to human nature. Slavery gives millions of people of all time periods and cultures a way to feel powerful, maximize profit, and feel ethnically superior. As a result, slavery continues to live all over this world to this day. However, there is hope. Within the last century  governments and leaders worldwide have been cracking down on this problem and punishing those who exploit other humans. The world has made big strides and with technology and social media helping the cause, hopefully, our children will see the day when this plague is gone forever. 

How to prevent and protest modern day slavery explained in an amazing Ted Talk


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