Thursday, May 1, 2008

The obvious victims are men, but women exist unseen and unspoken of

This about the Indian workers who were brought in to Tulsa, Oklahoma to work who were held as ill-treated slaves. The details are even more horrifying that the broad strokes; above and beyond paying them, $2 an hour, they were told to clean toilets, fed half of an egg omelet for breakfast, and the vegetarian Hindus were denied milk, which led to many of them beginning to eat meat to survive. And to top it all off, the owner said he thought he was doing the Indian men a FAVOR because people were starving in India, so you can add blatant racism on the caliber of the rationals about owning black slaves because they're inferior.

A local priest gave up his home for them, and a local lawyer paid out of his own pocket to continue the suit against the company on behalf of the men.

And what struck me, especially in light of the recent discussions about what are feminist issues, is that it's this sort of racist mindset that leads to self-justified ill-treatment of women of color. And even in this specific case, the Indian workers borrowed so much money to come that they took out loans and borrowed from their families - which affects their wives and female children. And the way this fell out, some of the men have brought their women and children to the US.

And, more rootlike, these sorts of injustices are the same as the ones we fight against on behalf of women. As fall-out form this case, there is now a pathway for how to deal with human trafficking of this kind in the US; my understanding is that women tend to be trafficked more than men, so they are likely to gain benefits from this precedent. The racial biases against the workers would affect Indian women, too, in addition to the sexism they're going to face. There are so many ways in which this, while not directly a feminist issue, butts up against and will shift feminist issues.