When you hear the phrase “all lives matter,” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? If you’re like me, then your automatic response would be to recall news stories racial prejudice that has left no part of the media untouched. But when has the notion of “all lives matter” increasingly narrowed to only include the 328 million American residents of the world’s 7.6 billion?

Here’s an undiluted truth — no matter your economic or racial status in the US, if you live in America, you are solidly considered to be amongst the top 10% of the world in terms of money and available resources. Yet despite this privilege, American exceptionalism has only been increasing as these unalienable human rights which we take for granted appear to only apply to ourselves, the global minority, when we turn a blind eye to the rest of the world.

With society advancing more rapidly than ever, one would assume that social rights are also being equalized at an unprecedented rate. In the US, yes — but it’s wrong to assume this to be the case for the rest of the world where dire poverty has driven more than 40 million humans into modern-day slavery, a practice more prevalent and versatile now than ever before in history.

In a 2018 study by the Washington Post, it was found that the average American estimated the global median annual income to about $20,000. However, the actual individual makes just a tenth of that figure: $2,100. It was also discovered that in general, the common American would believe themselves to be amongst the top 37 percent of the world’s income distribution when they actually placed solidly amongst the world’s top 10 percent.

In other words, even the poorest Americans live in conditions considered far above true poverty, where human trafficking of the most destitute alone generates 150 billion dollars per year, two-thirds of which comes from commercial sexual exploitation.

This market has even spread to include the U.S. As of recent years, cybersex has grown in popularity as a new form of trafficking, where forced child pornography is sold for thousands of dollars online to customers all over the world. The International Justice Mission, a worldwide volunteer organization, estimated that around 47% of cybersex trafficking victims are 12 years old or younger with some being only a few months old. 

Learning of this for the first time a few months ago, I was shocked, horrified, and somewhat frustrated. How could so many in America be so blind of such dark and convoluted truths beyond our direct surroundings? I also wondered, mystified, what I could do as a teenage student to make a difference that reaches others in completely different continents. Then I realized that through facilitating awareness of crises like modern slavery to wider audiences such as young peers, a ripple effect on America’s future influencers can potentially impact the lives of generations to come. No matter our ages, we can all contribute through efforts like funding rescue missions (through organizations like IJM), furthering awareness of international slavery within our respective communities, and remembering our blessings as we seek unique ways to support the millions of global victims who are too often forgotten.

With the assistance of technology, we are the most globally interconnected generation in history — yet somehow, the majority of the people in this country remain unaware of those disenfranchised and left unrepresented due to their lacking resources. Our perspectives are dominated by our direct surroundings and the narrow focus of the media, generating an American bubble of complacency that distorts the ugly truth beyond our borders with a rosier reflection and a reminder of our internal issues.

As a child, I grew up hearing my parents rsoegale their difficulties as South Korean immigrants to America: of the language barrier, of my father dumpster diving for cockroach-infested furniture, and of my mother constantly pulling all-nighters in high school, sewing clothes with my grandmother to pay the rent. This was my interpretation of rock bottom. And the victims of atrocities that are perpetually being committed around the globe? Those people were outside of my comprehension because inside of my sheltered, American bubble, no one ever expected me to acknowledge them.