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62 UCLA L. Rev. 1464 (2015)
The Racial Roots of Human Trafficking

handle is hein.journals/uclalr62 and id is 1470 raw text is: The Racial Roots of Human Trafficking
Cheryl Nelson Butler
this Article explores the role of race in the prostitution and sex trafficking of people
of color, particularly minority youth, and the evolving legal and social responses in the
United States. Child sex trafficking has become a vital topic of discussion among scholars
and advocates, and public outcry has led to safe harbor legislation aimed at shifting the
legal paradigm away punishing prostituted minors and toward greater protections for
this vulnerable population. Yet, policymakers have ignored the connection between race
and other root factors that push people of color into America's commercial sex trade.
this Article argues that race and racism have played a role in creating the epidemic
of sex trafficking in the United States and have undermined effective legal and policy
responses. Race intersects with other forms of subordination including gender, class,
and age to push people of color disproportionately into prostitution and keep them
trapped in the commercial sex industry. This intersectional oppression is fueled by
the persistence of myths about minority teen sexuality, which in turn encourages risky
sexual behavior. Moreover, today's antitrafficking movement has failed to understand
and address the racial contours of domestic sex trafficking in the United States and even
perpetuates the racial myths that undermine the proper identification of minority youth
as sex trafficking victims. Yet, the Obama administration has adopted new policies
that raise awareness about the links between race and sex trafficking. These policies
also facilitate the increased role of minority youth as leaders and spokespersons in the
antitrafficking movement. Their voices defy stereotypes about Black sexuality and call
upon legislators and advocates to address some of the unique vulnerabilities that kids
of color face with respect to sex trafficking.
Cheryl Nelson Butler is an Assistant Professor of Law at Southern Methodist University
Dedman School of Law. She received her A.B., cum laude, from Harvard University and
her J.D. from New York University School of Law, where she was a Root Tilden Kern
Scholar and Junior Fellow with the Center for International Legal Studies. For their
invaluable feedback, I would like to thank the participants at the American Association
of Law School's Mid-Year Workshop on Next Generation Issues on Sex, Gender, and
the Law, in June 2015; and the UCLA Law Review Symposium, The Roots of Human
Trafficking, at UCLA School of Law in January 2015. I would also like to thank Jessica
Dixon Weaver, Dr. Beth Ribet, Wendy Greene, Aziza Ahmed, Charisa Kiyd Smith, and
Andrea Freeman, for their comments on earlier drafts. Cassie DuBay and Christopher
Cornell provided valuable research assistance.

62 UCLA L. REV. 1464 (2015)

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