In 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue. He went from island to island, killing and enslaving people and selling young girls into sexual slavery. He wrote back to England about the Arawak people:
They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
About the people of the Indies he said:
As soon as I arrived in the Indies, in the first island which I found, I took some of the natives by force, in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts. And so it was that they soon understood us, and we them, either by speech or by signs, and they have been very serviceable.
But what of the women? One of his men explained:
While I was in the boat, I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me. When I had taken her to my cabin she was naked—as was their custom. I was filled with a desire to take my pleasure with her and attempted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling, and so treated me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. But—to cut a long story short—I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly, and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears. Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought that she had been brought up in a school for whores.
In his log, Christopher Columbus himself wrote:
A hundred castellanoes are as easily obtained for a woman as for a farm, and it is very general and there are plenty of dealers who go about looking for girls; those from nine to ten are now in demand.”
Today, Columbus day, we celebrate this legacy in the United States of America, a country built on the forced labor of people enslaved by Columbus and his legacy. A country where men are no longer officially allowed to rape women, but instead legislate the conditions under which women are allowed to have consensual sex.
Today we are celebrating a man who bragged about kidnapping nine year old girls and selling them into slavery, and as we do so an Alaskan woman is preparing to face charges of sex trafficking. In a charging document she is accused of charging sex workers a fee to advertise for them and to screen potential customers against a blacklist for safety. She is accused of having negotiated 31 independent contractor agreements with the women she is accused of sex trafficking, and she is accused of maintaining an indoor place of prostitution where the women worked.
Is the state congratulating her for (as they allege) allowing sex workers to negotiate their own work conditions, charging a reasonable cut, screening customers, providing safe work conditions, and not taking advantage of women who, in their criminalized state, have little recourse against those who abuse them? No, the government that descended from Columbus’ actions is charging her with sex trafficking, as if she were the one selling 9 year olds into sexual slavery.
What a world we live in, eh?