Saturday, March 25, 2017

I Was a Stranger, Day 25: Missing Black Teens

At a town hall on Wednesday at Excel Academy Public Charter School in Washington DC, one girl took the microphone and pleaded for city officials to find out why young black girls are going missing: "Why does stuff just have to happen to us?" the girl asked. "Why do people have to be so horrible to us? Why can't we just get more respect? Why can't we all just be family, get together and help each other? Why do they just gotta hurt us so bad?"

Did you know:
  • In Washington DC, over 500 kids and teens have gone missing, many of them Black or Latino, since the beginning of 2017. As of Wednesday, 22 of those cases remain unsolved. These numbers are consistent with the past couple of years (2,222 cases in 2014, 2,433 in 2015 and 2,242 in 2016).
  • In the U.S., 170,899 black children are missing — far more than any other racial category except for white, which includes Hispanic and had 264,443 missing children.
  • An estimated 42 percent of missing children are Black.
Until I saw these statistics this week, I had no idea. Performer and comedian DL Hughley brought attention to this issue when he asked why the FBI had recovered Tom Brady's precious missing jersey but had not been able to find the missing black girls. Many missing African-American children get classified as runaways, so they are less likely to get Amber Alerts or media coverage, which can help locate them more quickly and reduce their risk of sex trafficking, abuse, or worse.

The reason I had not heard about this is because of “Missing White Girl Syndrome"--news media is more likely to cover the murders and abductions of affluent or middle-class white girls than those of boys, poor kids, and kids of color, especially African-Americans. (However, the case of a missing white boy, Kyron Horman, was HEAVILY covered here in Portland, way more than children of color who vanished around the same time.) Although 32 percent of the U.S. population is a person of color, only 13 percent of newspaper journalists and 22 percent of TV newsroom staff are racial minorities. Journalists tend to cover what they know, and their racial bias comes through in their lack of coverage of these missing young people of color.

Comedian Jon Stewart calculated the following equation for how much airtime child abductions get on TV: y (minutes of media coverage) = Family Income x (Abductee Cuteness ÷ Skin Color) + Length of Abduction x Media Savvy of Grieving Parents.

We need to demand more from our local whitewashed media.

Read more of my "I Was a Stranger" entries here.

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