Another sleepless night. It’s day 12 and she still hasn’t been found. The thought of her out there, alone & scared or even worse… but I can’t let my mind go there. She will be found alive, I know it. It was 12 days ago when I kissed my baby goodbye and she walked out the garage headed to the bus stop.
12 days ago, I got a voicemail from the schools automated line saying that she wasn’t present for attendance during 1st period. 12 days when I called the police to let them know that she was missing only for them to tell me that because of her age and the timing that she must have run away and that I couldn’t file a missing person report for another 12 hrs. She wasn’t a runaway; my gut was telling me that something was terribly wrong. I am her mother and I had to find my baby. 12 days ago, when I pinged her phone and she was close to the school but then it didn’t move again, ever again.
My best friend and I went to the location of where I last pinged her phone, I found it off the road down in a creek. I also found her backpack. Unrelenting terror enveloped my body. My daughter was not a runaway, she was kidnapped and missing without a trace.
This isn’t my story but it IS the story of more than 64,000 families of black women, young & old who have gone missing. But where is the media coverage?
That’s the million-dollar question. Many reports of missing black women and children go documented as “runaways”. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children have admitted there is a color problem when it comes to finding people of color.
Robert Lowery had this to say to ABC news: “About 60% of the reports that we see here in the US that go in those databases are people of color.” He goes onto say, “I think it really breaks a lot of the commonly held thoughts on who are really the missing children in the U.S.”
You read it! So, the media coverage of the missing white children/women we see is the bulk of missing person(s) coverage when the REALITY is women and children of color go missing at a much HIGHER rate. WHERE IS THE COVERAGE?!?!
I am bothered when people say to me “Trese, stop making everything about race”. I am NOT the one making everything about race, society is. The fact that MORE women and children of color go missing but their reports are usually deemed as runaways or the police are less likely to dedicate the necessary resources to finding them, IS IN FACT a race issue. The message that is constantly displayed to us is that our people DON’T MATTER. Somehow black lives are not worthy of additional media attention and dare I say, societal concern.
I watched this ABC News video, and I cried for hours. To hear these parents’, describe the lack of police involvement in helping search for their missing child was heartbreaking. They described how they were told that their children were runaways when they knew in their heart that some sort of foul play took place. In once case, Terrence Woods Jr, was on a trip in the Idaho forest filming a documentary with 11 other people when he went missing. Within ONE-week police ended the search saying no leads we obtained in the search area. Well where did a young man go in the Idaho forest with none of his belongings?
Let’s first define what sex trafficking is. According to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act of 2015, “Sex trafficking is “recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of an individual through the means of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of commercial sex”. Obviously, if the trafficked person is under 18 force & coercion does not have to be a factor in charging sex trafficking cases.
Intersectionality plays a huge role in why black women and children are increasing in the sex trafficking conversation.
When talking about intersectionality, a term originating from Kimberle’ Crenshaw, I am describing the disadvantage, discrimination and subsequent oppression of people based on multiple factors; in this case: race and gender. Black women account for more than 40% of CONFIRMED sex trafficking cases. I say confirmed because this is a statistic based on survivors. We should assume that the number is higher than that simply based on the earlier statistic of the number of missing women and children of color. Keep in mind that black people only make up 12% of the total population in the United States. Ponder that for a minute.
One organization was tired of the misrepresentation. Black and Missing Foundation (BMF) was founded in 2008 to help bring public awareness campaigns for public safety and to allow parents and families of missing persons a place to feel and be heard.
The facts are simple. When a person goes missing, the sooner we take action the greater the probability of that person being found. As I read the testimonies on BMF website, I was moved by the hands-on action that founders take in helping families find their loved ones. Many girls have been found due to their quick and widespread action. Not only that, Ms. Natalie Wilson, one of the co-founders; was commonly praised for following up and keeping in touch with the families as their search continued.
We also have to check in and on our women that are in the sex industries because they are the largest group of targeted women based on profession. We need to understand that sex workers are more likely to end up in sex trafficking which are two TOTALLY different industries. When the police hear that the missing person is a sex worker, they are more likely to deem this as a low priority missing persons report, with little to no investigation done.
BMF has a few suggestions that I will elaborate on:
- We need more diversity in the newsrooms. Think about your favorite news channel, the representation I mostly male and mostly white. While we are always excited to have a seat at the table, we have to demand more of us at the table. With more diversity, we can have a bigger say in that stories that are covered. I’m not just talking about in front of the camera either but behind as well. Producers, writers, editors… Representation and Diversity matter.
- Balance the scales and show less of one group and more of everyone. We can all remember the headline stories of Elizabeth Smart, Jon Benet Ramsey or Natalie Holloway but do you know of Akia Eggleston, Amaria Hall, or Keeshae Jacobs?
- We have to see value in black and brown lives. In our own community and those outside of our community. Our people matter.
- Be Vigilant. As my grandmother would say, we can’t “let off people’s neck” when it comes to searching for our loved ones. We have to be vigilant in demanding resources to appropriately investigate to the same level they
- would of a missing white person.
The fight continues as it always has. Please speak to your children, both male and female, about how to protect themselves, especially in the age of social media, from predators. We have to be aware of our surroundings and we have to get back to being a community and checking in on one another. If someone goes missing, if you see something… say something.
Love & Light,
Mommi Trese, Unapologetically.