Jaycee Dugard’s Memoir

The Idea of Racism Is a Ruse

Shinyung Oh


Let’s talk about one case of abduction.

One morning in South Lake Tahoe in 1991, 11 year old Jaycee Dugard was abducted by Richard Garrido as she walked to her school bus stop. For 18 years, she was kept in Garrido’s backyard as a sex slave and forced to have two children by him. When she was discovered at the age of 29, her children were 11 and 15. The country shuddered in horror when we learned of her plight. What kind of a monster would do this, we wondered.

After Garrido and his wife were thrown in jail, Jaycee returned to live with her mother, received extensive therapy and wrote a book, which became a bestseller. The state of California unanimously voted to pay her $20 million for the failure of its parole officers to monitor her abductor. Explaining the settlement, the chief consultant of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, said, “I don’t recall any cases where three young women have been held in a shed.”

Now, imagine this alternative outcome.

Jaycee is released from Garrido’s captivity, but she has nowhere to go. She has no family left to take her in. She is penniless. The state offers her no settlement and takes no responsibility for her plight. The social services are inadequate and irregular. Garrido and his wife suffer no punishment. Nowhere to turn, Jaycee is forced to continue to live in Garrido’s backyard and depend on him to figure out a livelihood. Not only does Garrido offer no financial or emotional support, he sets the rules and polices her behavior, disciplining her and her children as he deems fit. She lives out the rest of her life in his shadows, and her children and their descendants are subjected to his dominion in perpetuity.

What does this have to do with racism, the topic of this post?

This is the story of America. Just four, five, six generations back in this country, men like Garrido were not monsters but average guys. Then, there was not one Jaycee Dugard, but millions — men, women, and children — held in captivity against their will. They were beaten for physical labor, women were raped with impunity, and children were separated from their mothers to be sold for a profit. When those captives were finally “freed,” they had no home to return to. In America, the descendants of these survivors live side by side with…