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EDITORIAL: Missing girls lead to found conversation

Disappearance of female, black youth sparks questions about race


Looking at any social media site recently, one would notice that a disturbing headline had been popping up everywhere, indicating “14 black girls have gone missing in Washington, D.C. in a single day.” This information had been shared over 41,000 times. After this “news” had been spread, news outlets came out to clarify the truth behind the cases of the missing black girls.

BuzzFeed News was one of the outlets to report on misconstrued information. However, with an article titled, “Here’s What’s Actually Going On With The Missing Black Girls in DC,” there was a sense of attempting to decrease the gravity of the underlying conversation about these missing black girls (and other girls of minority races).

This all began when the Washington Metropolitan Police Department welcomed a new commander, Chanel Dickerson. Dickerson wanted to immediately make the missing girls from the city a priority. In order to do this, she decided to post several profiles of the missing girls in its Twitter feed. She wanted to ensure that all the resources that were necessary to finding these girls were being utilized to their full capacity. But above all, Dickerson wanted to make sure that there were no assumptions being made that would debilitate the efforts of finding these girls. What did she mean by these “assumptions?”

According to a letter written by lawmakers to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey, “When children of color go missing, authorities often assume they are runaways rather than victims of abduction.” So when Dickerson wanted to allocate all the possible resources to finding the missing girls, she wanted to make sure that motivating principles of discrimination, intentional or not, were not hindering the finding of these girls. Although she, herself, did stress that despite the hysteria on social media, the number of missing persons in Washington, D.C. has decreased over the years, she still wanted to stress how even “one missing person is one person too many.”

This conversation about missing women of color is an important one to have, as it opens up doors to other conversations and concerns that need to be addressed in today’s society. One of the concerns that residents of the nation’s capital had brought up was that a 10-year-old had gone missing but no AMBER alert had been sent out regarding this information. Although AMBER alerts are only supposed to be issued in the case of a confirmed abduction, Washington, D.C.’s residents raise a good point. The longer someone waits to take action in finding a missing person, the harder it becomes to find said person. For abductions and cases of sex trafficking, many people and people of color are concerned with explanations behind these missing girls. Even minutes can be the difference between life and death.

This brings up another issue regarding these cases. The reasoning behind not issuing an alert, even something besides an AMBER alert, after the disappearance of a 10-year-old girl, is often embedded in assumptions about the girl because of her race. As lawmakers pointed out, in 2017 all teens who have been reported missing left voluntarily, and people will now assume this is the case in future cases. But the past should not dictate what possibilities should be ruled out. Young girls do get abducted, and some are even subjected to sex trafficking, and until one knows the absolute truth, nothing should be assumed or tossed aside. So even though the headlines on social media were not true, perhaps this is the coverage young women of color need in order to get a conversation started. Despite having misconstrued information, social media has become the “AMBER alert” for young black girls, and until the rest of the world follows suit, this is a good thing. 

The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 149th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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