Too often, women of color go missing, and their disappearance goes unnoticed. Even worse, if they are found dead, their family has to beg for answers just to receive closure. An example of this is the death of Lauren Smith-Fields, a black 23-year-old student at Norwalk Community College.
Smith-Fields was very active on social media, as she posted her traveling endeavors as well as beauty advice. On Dec. 11, she met with a man, who is 37 and white. They met on Bumble, a new popular dating app. After their date, no one, including her mother, heard from her.
What bothers me most about her initial disappearance is that no one contacted her family regarding her death. Her mother and brother were startled with a note that read, “If you’re looking for Lauren, call this number,” after going to her apartment to see why they had not heard from her. The landlord then told them that Lauren Smith-Fields had been found dead the day before.
According to Smith-Fields’ mother, the Bridgeport Police Department never informed her family of her death. I cannot begin to imagine the pain her family felt after finding that confusing note on her doorstep.
Following this event, her family had to plead with detectives just to get evidence collected from her apartment.
“Don’t worry about the man who was there that night,” said the detective to her family. “He is a really nice guy”.
How would the detective know that the man was a nice guy? Why was it not protocol to have the last person who saw her as an immediate person of interest in her death? He has also not been charged with a crime.
The cause of Lauren Smith-Fields’s death has been named as an overdose of fentanyl combined with prescription medication and alcohol. According to her family, Smith-Fields has no previous issues with drug use.
After hearing the details of her death, I immediately suspected foul play. I also had several other questions regarding the way the police department handled it. Why did they not contact her parents immediately after learning of her death? More importantly, why are they ruling it out as an accident?
I was educated on the case of Ms. Smith-Fields on Instagram. As a journalism major, I read the news everyday. However, I had not come across the story of her disappearance or death on any news outlets until very recently. I cannot help to compare it to the disappearance of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old white woman who went missing last September. Her story was highlighted on all major media outlets. The FBI quickly began investigation into her case as soon as her family reported her missing.
It is so disheartening to read the several cases regarding Black women’s disappearances that have gone unnoticed. Everyone’s life is precious, and in the unfortunate situation that something happens to one’s life, their story should at least be handled with dignity. All suspects, regardless of race, should be thoroughly investigated. Their family should be notified accurately and in the most respectful manner possible.
In Lauren Smith-Fields, a black female college student, I see myself. I see my sister, cousins, friends, and classmates. I can only hope that if we were to go missing, the police would make our disappearance a priority.
Ms. Smith-Fields’s story deserves to be told. Her family also deserves answers. We should all use our voices until some type of justice is served.