This month marks the 56th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. This year, the anniversary comes in the midst of a national reckoning on the impact of systemic racism and violence against Black people. We take this moment to pause and reflect on the terrible suffering caused by slavery and commit ourselves to fighting the costs and consequences of slavery that continue to this day.

We applaud and recognize the work of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in bringing this conversation to the forefront, forcing all of us to look at ourselves in the mirror and admit that racism, inequality and injustice are not mere history; they are the reality in too many communities.

The McCain Institute’s Combatting Human Trafficking program works to eradicate the scourge of human trafficking, which has inextricable ties with fighting racial injustice and inequity. Although the mechanisms that facilitated state-sanctioned slavery in the United States are no longer in place, the social constructs that create disproportionate rates of poverty, abuse, food, and housing insecurity among Black people and other communities of color persist. In our work, the impact of national and international systemic racism are glaringly evident in the victim and survivor populations we serve and are proud to call partners. Through commercial sex or forced labor, exploitation affects the most vulnerable; specifically, Black, indigenous, and other peoples of color. To provide context:

  • In the recent Child Sex Trafficking – Las Vegas Study, the ASU Sex Trafficking Intervention Research Office found that 65.5 percent of victims identified as African American. In a 2014 study of the Los Angeles STAR Court, 91 percent of the girls were African American or Hispanic; and among the sex-trafficked youth identified by the Maricopa Collaborative in Arizona, 60 percent were African American or Hispanic. These are over-representations relative to their share of their overall population in each community.
  • The McCain Institute’s program to address forced labor in agricultural sector serves almost entirely non-white Latinx workers, who often face the overlapping forces of racism and xenophobia in their fight for human rights, dignity, and fair wages.”

As allies, we stand in solidarity with those fighting for racial equality, justice and a life unimpeded by systems and ideologies that seek to oppress them. We will continue to listen, learn and use our platform to elevate the voices of those with lived experience. We will not be complicit in the perpetuation of this justice. We support the rallying calls for change across our country and we will strive to be part of the solution.

As Senator McCain stated in his address to the Munich Security Conference in 2017 – “We stand for truth against falsehood, freedom against tyranny, right against injustice, hope against despair. I believe we must always stand up for it, for if we do not, who will?”