This is a doozy of a listen. Although I haven't been through any of the hardships that Jahlove Serrano has had to deal with, something about his life story is really accessible. Give it a spin.
I'll say this up front so that there's zero confusion: Child sex trafficking is real, it's heinous, and it's been going on for a long time. Everyone who buys or sells a child or partakes in harming a child in any way should be prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law. There is no place in civil society for people who sexually abuse children or who profit off of the abuse of children. Full stop. No question.
But we have careened into some twisted waters in our social discourse around child sex trafficking, to the point where the real issue of is being conflated with outrageous conspiracy theories that deflect from the real work being done to save children, put innocent people in harm's way, and interfere with the integrity of our elections.
I wrote about this issue recently and was met with accusations of being paid off by powerful pedophiles (ugh, seriously?), a flood of people saying "No, you're wrong!" while offering zero evidence, and a bunch of YouTube and Facebook videos that people seem to think are credible sources. I got fake screenshots of supposed Wikileaks emails that aren't actually on Wikileaks when you search for them. I got people who only listen to fringe outlets that have no oversight or accountability claiming that my well-cited, real news sources were a part of the whole conspiracy. All of that stuff I could ignore. Whackadoodles are gonna whackadoodle no matter how many facts you throw at them.
But I also got a few people sharing a list of nearly 100 politicians and other powerful people who have been convicted of child sex crimes. That was different, because it was factual.
It is said that once you've seen something, you can't unsee it. This is exactly what is happening in America right now. We have collectively watched the pot of racial tension boil over after years of looking the other way, insisting that hot water doesn't exist, pretending not to notice the smoke billowing out from every direction.
Ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away—it prolongs resolution. There's a whole lot of harm to be remedied and damage to be repaired as a result of racial injustice, and it's up to all of us to figure out how to do that. Parents, in particular, are recognizing the importance of raising anti-racist children; if we are unable to completely eradicate racism, maybe the next generation will.
How can parents ensure that the next generation will actively refuse to perpetuate systems and behaviors embedded in racism? The most obvious answer is to model it. Take for example, professional tennis player Serena Williams and her husband, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.
Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.
Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.
Forrest Galante will never forget the first time he ever saw a shark in person. "I was 7 or 8 years old and was snorkeling with my grandfather," the outdoor adventure TV personality told Upworthy. "We were in Mozambique where I grew up and I was holding my grandfather's hand underwater as he guided me. It was a small reef shark. What seemed like this huge animal appeared out of nowhere, racing through the darkness and suddenly I was looking into its beautiful eyes. I was in awe but I also think I grabbed my granddad's hand just a little bit tighter."
25 years later, Galante, is a world-renowned conversation activist who hosts the Extinct or Alive program on Animal Planet. He has interacted with some of the planet's most intriguing and intimidating creatures but it's hard to think of a living creature that has more powerfully captured our collective imagination than sharks.
This year, Galante is hosting his schedule special as part of the legendary Shark Week series. In tonight's episode, Galante travels to the northeast coast of South Africa, the "Land of the Lost Sharks," where he looks to find the Pondicherry, a species of shark believed to have gone extinct decades ago.