The view on slavery has gained notoriety in recent years from the attacks on figures of slave traders who, as has been analyzed at length, cannot be judged under the ethics and norms of the present. That the slave trade was a terrifying chapter, disastrous and not yet overcome is a question always worth revisiting, although assuming that principle of extemporaneity that places it in its historical perspective. What does require a very demanding look at the present is the living heritage of slavery that endures among us. Much more extensive than is usually considered and with huge tentacles in all contexts.
The rescue of Madalena Gordiano, a Brazilian captured by a family from the State of Minas Gerais when she was barely eight years old and begging for alms, in whose bosom she has served almost 40 years as a maid without pay, without rights, without education and even economically exploited as a asset under its ownership, it must remove consciences. And open discussions.
Gordiano, who was 46 years old when she was released in November following a complaint from a neighbor and spoke with difficulty, is a symbol of the legacy of slavery that survives in Brazil, the last American country to abolish it after 350 years of exploitation that left a still unbearable inheritance. This is an extreme case that is in the hands of the judges, but it reminds us that the exploitation of people without resources – especially if they are women – and without the power that the white race gives corrodes our universe.
In Brazil, blacks and mestizos, heirs of Africans, make up 56% of the population, but their life expectancy, income, education, and security are significantly lower than that of the white population. 75% of murder victims are black or mixed race. In the last 25 years, in Brazil 55,000 people have been rescued from slave labor, a more complicated job in the case of maids.
The inequality to which slavery led and which survives today is part of the open debates on the American continent, from the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States to the aforementioned offensive against slave statues. But the phenomenology of the abuse of basic rights with a flavor of slavery in the 21st century is plural and in many cases it does not have to do with a racist component, from child soldiers to sexual exploitation or forced labor of different kinds. The line of advance that unites the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other more recent conquests still has a long way to go, even in the most advanced countries. There is no complacency of any kind.