“The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.”
Malcom X, 1962.
Nearly 60 years after Malcom X stated this, his prophetic words still remain very true. For numerous years, Black women and girls have been the subjected to ridicule, contempt and copious amounts of danger in our society. An example of this includes, 6 year old Ruby Bridges, who bravely sought to integrate an all-white school only to face violent mobs threats, including a member of the school’s staff who threatened to poison the child.
In addition to the violence Black women and girls experience, they are often stereotyped by the general public, especially in cinema and television, in derogatory ways, including being typecast as being loud. Such stereotypes levied against Black women and girls date back at least to enslavement. Yet, when Black women and girls seize the chance to speak about important issues and make critical change, their so called “loud” voices have been silenced. This is not limited to the past but still occurs, as shown by the recent Lifetime docuseries, Surviving R. Kelly, which exposes the stories of numerous Black girls and some women, most of them under-aged who were allegedly raped and abused by R. Kelly for nearly 30 years. Members of society, including the media, have failed Black girls and women and by disregarding the pain and burdens we carry.
Given this, it is not surprising that there is an epidemic of Black women and girls who have gone missing. A recent Montgomery Advertiser article reported that:
“[a]ccording to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, of the estimated 613,000 people reported missing in the U.S. last year, about 60% were people of color. Although black women make up less than 7% of the U.S. population, they represent about 10% of all missing persons cases throughout the country. Estimates by the Black and Missing Foundation put the total number of disappeared black women and girls at 64,000.”
Some of these missing young people include: 14-year old Iniaya Wilson, 16-year old Kimberly Arrington 19-year old LaQuanta Riley, 16-year old Tawney Reed, 14-year old Aneesa Reed , 17-year old Ashanti Adams, 17-year old Latiera Caldwell, 3-year old De’Anni Collette and many, many others!
There simply is not much media coverage for these Black women and girls. For example, according to an article in Insight News, “A 2010 study about the media coverage of missing children in the United States discovered that only 20 percent of reported stories focused on missing Black children despite it corresponding to 33 percent of the overall missing children cases.” So, the average missing persons victims that are usually plastered in newspapers and news outlets usually have one thing in common: they are almost always young, white teenage girls.
Also, according to the Montgomery Advertiser article, “Black girls are often classified as runaways rather than missing persons; shifting the focus from public safety to personal responsibility… stereotypes about African Americans and crime also play a role in the disparity in media coverage. Black people are often labeled as criminal associates, involved with drugs and gangs, or assumed to live in areas where crime is a part of their daily lives.” These ludicrous presumptions often result in people not having any interest in these cases. But things are changing. According to the Insight News article, “the nonprofit Black and Missing but Not Forgotten, also has focused its attention on spotlighting and finding missing African-Americans.” Also, people and news organizations such as, Black America Web, actress, Taraji P. Henson and Deray McKesson are getting the word out on Instagram and Twitter, along with other people who have been spreading hashtags to grow awareness. Highlighting this serious matter is important, especially since this month is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which was first created by President Barack Obama in 2011. The stories about what is happening to young Black girls and women must be heard so that we can eliminate this problem and prevent many others from being placed at risk.
For more information or to seek help, besides contacting your local law enforcement agency, you can go to the following resources:
Black and Missing Foundation, Inc.
P.O. Box 2431
Landover Hills, MD 20784-9431
1 (877) 97-BAMFI (1-877-972-2634)
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
California Regional Office
18111 Irvine Blvd.
Tustin, CA 92780