slavery in libya


“Inconceivable”, “egregious”, and “unfathomable”, are just a few words that come to mind when presented with the realities of modern day slavery. A few weeks ago, I was shaken to my core, even to the point of uncontrollable tears, in witnessing the savagery in Libya.

This devastating reality was brought to light by CNN and, for a brief moment, was at the forefront of global media coverage. Suddenly the western world became aware of something that evidently has been ongoing for quite a few years according to victims of the Libyan slave trade.

How can this kind of mass carnage occur anywhere for years, virtually in plain sight, while the world stands silent and does nothing?

The reality is that in 2017, black people are treated as undocumented human beings, consistently having to validate the right for our existence. Apparently we hurt less, have less need for emotional stability, and have less need for quality of life. Apparently we’re seen as being fractions of humanity, not quite worthy of human citizenship. We aren’t valued the same. We aren’t treated the same. Our sorrows aren’t mourned by the world the same. We are indeed seen as The Others.

Sub-Saharan migrants, over one million people, are being intercepted at sea and on land, in their quest for a better life. This isn’t an episode of Roots. This isn’t a sequel to The Book of Negros. This isn’t history; this is happening right now. As you read this article, there are more than a million human beings experiencing the horrors of slavery in Libya, and yet the world keeps turning without a significant response.

Here in North America we’re still planning sporting events and concerts. We’re producing reality TV shows to entertain the masses. We’re still going about our Christmas shopping, casually taking pictures with Santa, while our fellow human beings are being exploited, tortured, slaughtered, raped, and if they survive, demeaned and treated with less dignity or regard than animals.

A CNN story with no follow-up response from the governments of the world does little to address the matter. If all these reports are doing is causing people of compassion to become mournful, then we’re in a devastatingly depraved state within our humanity.

The people that can do something about this have decided not to do anything at all. Where’s America while this horrendous situation is happening? Will “The Leader of The Free World”, Donald Trump, offer his eloquent words of wisdom to explain why he believes articles like this are just “Fake News”?

Where are France and England? Where’s the response from world leaders? Where are international organizations like the United Nations? Where’s the international outcry? The few formal statements of “something has to be done about this” are simply not enough.

In recent years, we’ve seen military forces dispatched throughout the world for situations of far less urgency, yet it now seems like the lives of black people, in particular the lives of black Africans, don’t matter. That’s what the world is saying by their inactivity and lack of military response to this situation.

Can you imagine this happening to one million Caucasian Americans, or even one Caucasian African? It would suddenly become an international emergency. Governments would be pressured to do something significant to end this; not just talk about it, not just write news articles about it, but end it.

slavery in libya
Rebels threatening a young black man in Libya.

Slavery must end in Libya and everywhere else in 2018. We simply can’t stand idly by with discontent while our governments do nothing.

This isn’t an attempt to cause a racial divide; no racial dissonance should be interpreted from this article. This isn’t “racially charged hate literature.” Instead, it’s a wake-up call that we can’t continue to ignore the issue of race on such matters. Though my intention isn’t to divide us, we also can’t continue to pretend like racial disparity doesn’t exist. This is a race thing. The sad reality is, had these migrants been any other group of people other than black Africans, the world would have a different tone on this issue.

Two years ago, there was an international outcry over the death of Cecil, a lion killed by a hunter in Africa. Then just over a year ago, on May 28, 2016, there was international outcry over the death of Harambe the gorilla who was shot after a three year-old boy fell into his enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo. I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that most readers of this article probably have more knowledge about the events concerning Harambe and Cecil than they do about the current killing and exploitation of black people in Libya. That alone is disturbing.

Now, I’m not here to cause a war with animal activists; the killing of an animal should matter. But that being said, shouldn’t the exploitation and killing of one million human beings matter even more? Are African people seen with less regard than animals?

Do black lives not matter in Africa? Do black lives matter anywhere?

Would it matter more if these people being enslaved were of a lighter shade of skin? Would it matter even more if their passports had an American eagle on it? If so, there’s something inherently wrong with that.

For those who say this isn’t a racial issue, I would love to sit down and have a cup of tea with you and discuss just how possible it is that you can’t see the reality of racial injustice in these unbalanced responses to world events. To those who say it is simply a human issue, not a race issue, that’s a splendid response. But then why isn’t there an international outcry by human beings in defense of fellow human beings? Clearly there is a factor that we’re ignoring here. That factor is the reality of race. It is inescapable. Black people are treated worldwide as either second class citizens or subhuman, and the rest of the world seems to be totally accepting of that.

No, we haven’t changed topics. We’re still talking about black lives. The focus is still the same. Whether we’re talking about unarmed black teenagers being gunned down by police and civilians in America without penalty, or we’re talking about black lives being exploited through slavery in Libya, the question remains the same: When will black lives truly begin to matter?


Peter DonaldsonPeter Donaldson is a Toronto-based teacher, poet and musician. Born on the island of Jamaica, he immigrated to Canada during his adolescent years. Peter studied Commerce – Human Resources at Ryerson University and Education at Tyndale University, and is now an Ontario Certified Teacher. He is the author of “Symphony of The Heart” and “Purpose, Passion & Pursuit”, and is currently working on his first album, “Freedom Cry,” – a compilation of poetry spoken over neo-soul, jazz, classical and other styles of music.






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