Several months ago on Long Island, an immigrant couple from Indonesia were convicted of slavery for abusing a young girl who worked as their maid and whose life was no better than those who lived under the old plantation system. Shyima Hall, was ten when an Egyptian couple living in California, came to her village and selected her to be their “maid.” She was ten years old and worked 20 hours a day, no days off, and no breaks for $45 a month. When she began as a 10 year old Shyima had to stand on a chair in order to wash dishes. She worked every day until past midnight waxing floors, cleaning clothes and doing every dirty chore in the household. Shyima never went to school event though the law required her attendance. The neighbors pretended they did not see anything except a ten year old washing dishes while their own children were at schools. We don’t see what we don’t want to see.
The trafficking in children in America is among the untold or undiscussed stories, but in many parts of Africa it is all too common for rural families to send a daughter to the city to work as a maid. Thousands of these girls work in virtual slavery because they represent cheap labor who will not complain.
The children of Shyima’s employer referred to her as “stupid” and never thought for a moment what they could do to assist a fellow child. What did they learn in school is the real question?