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Why Aren’t the Disappearances of Black Women in D.C. Being Talked About?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UGA chapter.

It was just a normal night in with my friends. We had all voted to stay in and chill with a quiet movie night. The pick of the night? It happened to be a mystery about a series of murders and missing women. 

“Hey did you hear about what’s happening in Washington, D.C.?” My friend said right as we were about to play the movie. We all shrugged and said no. She replied with, “Black women and children are going missing, and no one is talking about it or reporting on it.”

We were all shocked, but no one really said anything for the duration of the movie about it. Fast-forward to a couple days later when I actually googled the topic. It couldn’t have been true, I thought. If there was a trend of people going missing, especially in the United States’ capital, wouldn’t it be a huge topic on the news? Maybe, it had been a rumor. 

Nope. According to this article from The Grio, this controversy began with a tweet by @BlackMarvelGirl and other accounts that talk about eight black girls that went missing in three days in the Washington, D.C. area. Missing children, girls and boys alike, become runaways, are taken by random people or estranged family members, or are forced into human trafficking. Whatever is happening to these people, they are missing. They are human beings that deserve to be found. This article describes how not only were there fifteen unresolved cases of missing black and latina juveniles in January, but it shocked readers with a larger statistic.  

“When we look at the overall picture of the missing, black people account for nearly 40 percent, while only making up 13 percent of the total population. The media coverage on the missing, however, is quite the opposite. The press is 4 times more likely to report when a white person goes missing vs. someone who is black or brown.”

“When children of color go missing, authorities often assume they are runaways rather than victims of abduction.”  –CNN 

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read these articles. These recent cases were not just awful because of the lack of attention they were getting, but it uncovered a long-time problem of how the media works. The news and other outlets put out stories that will get the most attention according to their viewers, but how right is that? Where is the line drawn between entertainment and a source that could potentially save lives, in this case by helping locate missing people? Social media has become a tool to make things viral and bring up issues like this. In this Essence article, the D.C. police department was shown telling alarmed Twitter users that no, not more people are going missing, but social media has made it easier to present all of the people that are going missing. 

This raises the question of who is being publicized and why? More importantly, why aren’t cases of people, specifically people of color, not being publicized?