The White society in the USA during the time of slavery exploited not only black people for hard labor on the fields or in the house, but they also exploited them sexually.
The sexual exploitation of black women during slavery had an economic purpose. Those women were used as breeders of slave children. White “masters” often have fathered many children who got raised to work as slaves.
But not only black women were the victims of white supremacy during slavery. Children were bought for sexual abuse and commercial sexual exploitation. Slave owners purchased men, women and children for breeding purposes.
The sexual exploitation was also a weapon of terror, to keep the slaves in fear and obedience. The central purpose of slavery was to degrade and dehumanize an entire group of people.
To justify the exploitation of female slaves the White society constructed a stereotype of the black woman: oversexed and over-fertile. This was called Jezebel and goes along with the belief that such women are sexually immoral, full of lust and wickedness and therefore disobedient to God. This stereotype became one form of sexual racism and made Black women unworthy of protection.
Black women were sexually assaulted, abuse and raped and they had no legal rights to get justice for the pain they had to endure.
In contrast, white women were seen as chaste, domestic and obedient. At the heart of the white supremacy lay the belief that womanhood required whiteness.
Why did white women didn´t align with black women? One reason is to be found in the sexual affairs their husbands had with female slaves and their knowledge of the illegitimate children. They grew resentful and this limited their ability to work together as a group to challenge patriarchy.
Later, freed from slave plantations, black people were still systematically targeted and pushed into prostitution with no laws that could protect them from any form of cruelty. At the turn of the twentieth century the marked for sex flourished and with the segregation of black communities’, illegal crime and prostitution were often the only available path in poor underclass communities.
Black women who migrated to the North in search for a better life, didn´t find work and were coerced into prostitution by agencies that promised employment.
Therefore, black citizens were seen as criminal and in response to public fear, lynching became a way to condemn black sexuality and criminality. Lynching was justified through the stereotype that marked black males as rapist and sexual savages and their access to white women had to be controlled.
In 1910 the White Slave Act became law and gave the women who worked as prostitutes alternatives to find work and “become a good wife and mother”, but this law didn´t apply to females of color.
Our modern society hasn´t escaped the stereotype of the black man as criminal and hypersexual. Black women are seen in a similar way and white men often purchase commercial sex with people of color to satisfy a racial sexual fetish. The black minors who get pushed into prostitution are stereotyped as “bad girls” because white “good girls” don´t engage in sex at an early age. The white men can justify their crime by saying the black girls want to work as prostitutes because they need sex from an early age on.
The truth is black girls and women often live in an environment without educational opportunities, surrounded by poverty, with unstable families or growing up in foster homes. This is by no means the fault of the black citizens – they get pushed aside by the white society and are condemned to a life that is less fortunate for most. Growing up like this, makes teenagers are more vulnerable than their white peers.
Black prostitutes are more often arrested than their white counterparts and have to face prison sentences instead of getting the help they need to become survivors. The state fails to recognize trafficked black people as victims.
During his time as President, Obama committed to fight human trafficking and he and Secretary Clinton were the first who officially referred to modern-day trafficking as “modern-day slavery”. And yet, the anti-trafficking movement has not fully addressed the role of race in sexual exploitation of black people in the United States.
Based on the paper by Cheryl Nelson Butler, published 2015