maybe slavery has been invisible to you

Visible vs. Invisible

What makes something visible? Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines it as “the quality or state of being known to the public.” Now let’s think about visible slavery. Based on the definition of visible I would venture to guess within our society, visible slavery would look like a person existing in a state of slavery which is known to the public.

When posed with the question, “What is slavery?”, how do you respond? Do you believe that slavery has to be visible in order to be defined as slavery? Do you have this mental image of a slave in chains picking cotton? This is the mindset that I had before I started to educate myself through the work of International Justice Mission. Growing up in the south I knew racism still existed but had no idea slavery did. I was shocked to hear about the 36 million men, women, and children who are currently physically enslaved in the world today. What really put this number into perspective for me is that more slaves exist today than before the Civil War.

So if more slaves exist today than before the Civil War, wouldn’t I see them? Now for some of you this may seem like a very foolish question, but let’s explore this a little deeper.

Slavery in America occurs all around us many times invisible to the public eye. If you have driven on I-20 in Alabama, or any other major highway, then you have driven on the same road in which thousands of trafficked victims have been moved.


To move these girls on these highways, pimps deceive and manipulate young girls from the ages of 12-15 by buying them gifts and convincing them that they truly love them. Once the girls are lured, the pimps force them to service other men. The girls are told this will only be a one time occurrence--a sort of payment to prove their dedication to the pimps. Sadly, this is only one method which pimps use to traffic young girls, but this gives us a clear example of what invisible slavery looks like.

Like me, maybe slavery has been invisible to you. Whether we realized it or not, slavery is going on around us and as we begin to become educated on the topic we find that what once was invisible is actually right in front of our very eyes; visible and begging for our attention.

Spencer Owen