The Case Against SB357—Black, Vulnerable and Trafficked—Why Us?
By Tanya Dennis and Vanessa Russell
Motivated to protect trans, Black and Hispanic people from persecution by police, State Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) sponsored the Safer Streets for All Act.
Passed by the Senate Public Safety Committee on June 1, 2021, and the Assembly on Sept. 10, 2021, SB357 repeals provisions of California law that criminalize loitering for the intent to engage in sex work.
But the impact of the bill goes far astray from the author’s intent.
The uptick in trafficking and prostitution started even before the law was formally adopted in January, and SB357 ties the hands of police to do anything but observe or do a sting.
After the bill passed in the Legislature, “The Track”—where most prostitution occurs in Oakland—along International Boulevard near 15th Avenue turned into a “drive-thru” akin to a fast-food eatery as the ‘Johns’ lined up to make their choice.
SB 357 is seriously harming the neighborhood on 15th Avenue. Girls are not allowed to take restroom breaks and are defecating in the alley and standing naked in the streets directing traffic on The Track.
This writer has seen a photograph of a little girl having a birthday party in her front yard while a transaction was going on across the street.
To take the pressure off 15th Avenue and give residents some peace, a public official at a recent town hall has even said that the city was considering accommodating the Johns by doing cut-aways on International Boulevard so they can turn around and get back in line.
Wiener says SB357 was the first legislation initiated by the DecrimSexWork CA Coalition, but this first step toward legalizing prostitution turns a blind eye to human trafficking, opponents say.
Before the law passed police were able to recover seven minors who had been forced into prostitution but none have been rescued since.
The Post will present an eight-part series to provide an inside view of why SB357 has left minors, and victims of human trafficking vulnerable. Forty percent of those who are trafficked in the U.S. are Black women and girls. Why is this happening and why is Oakland ground zero for a growing supply of Black bodies to purchase?
How It Began
Black people’s vulnerability to trafficking, violence and abuse in the United States began with slavery in the 1600s. During the slave era, Black people were forced not only to work but engage in sexual servitude to their owners. Black women and men were forced to make themselves sexually available to the slave owner, enduring many levels of violence or oppression to survive. Black mates and fathers learned they could not protect themselves or others.
Slavery and human trafficking are the same beast.
In fact, human trafficking was labeled as modern-day slavery by The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA).
Although slavery in the U.S. was “abolished” in the 1860s, the effects of slavery are on display today in the fragile Black family, a condition that makes Black people vulnerable.
Sixty-four percent of Black families are led by single mothers in the United States. Those family members are four times more likely to experience poverty, seven times more likely to experience teen pregnancy, more likely to use drugs and alcohol, and more likely to experience prison and human trafficking.
The trauma and displacement that Black communities and families have been and continue to experience is heavily impacting children. A study conducted by West Coast Children’s Clinic involving 113 youth ranging in age from 10 to 24 highlighted the correlation between human trafficking and foster care, homelessness, and addiction.
For many Black youth, their desperation to be loved and to belong makes them sitting ducks for exploitation and predatory people, systems, and policies.
One Black girl shared that she would “do whatever as long as you keep telling me that I’m important.”
As we explore the history of human trafficking in Oakland, we invite you to evaluate whether the sex industry is empowering or oppressing the Black community and what you can do to uplift, rebuild and restore.
For more information go to the Post electronic copy of this article for more information and facts.
Human Trafficking | Key Legislation (justice.gov).
Children in single-parent families by race and ethnicity | KIDS COUNT Data Center
nationalfatherhoodinitiativefatherabsencecrisis.png (492×1147) and Healthy Alameda County :: Indicators :: Single-Parent Households
Tanya Dennis serves on the Board of Oakland Frontline Healers (OFH) and series co-author Vanessa Russell of “Love Never Fails Us” and member of OFH.
“I’ll Do Whatever as Long as You Keep Telling Me That I’m Important”: A Case Study Illustrating the Link between Adolescent Dating Violence and Sex Trafficking Victimization. | Semantic Scholar .
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