Social media has been a major factor in raising awareness of the rising number of missing Black and Latinx children and teens in and around Washington, D.C.
There are currently 38 open Missing Persons cases in the D.C. area--and 15 of them are Black or Latinx girls who have gone missing sometime in the last two months. In the wake of widespread outrage concerning the national media’s under-coverage of the issue, area police have begun employing the use of social media in conducting their search. In keeping with longstanding tendencies of law enforcement agencies to dehumanize victims of color, a significant number of the photos currently being used to help police track down the missing girls are mugshots--not selfies or school pictures. In the wake of a meeting among parents, community members, and high schoolers at the Covenant Baptist Church of Christ, many are considering the horrifying possibility that a sex trafficking ring is to blame for the abductions.
Citing a lack of urgency in cases where the victim is a woman or young girl of color, Dr. Vanett Rather says police often label these girls ‘runaways’ and do not issue amber alerts when they are reported missing. But the problem is bigger than that. “The mayor of D.C. held a press conference last Thursday saying there was no uptick in missing girls. There were the same number of girls missing last year. I think it was an effort to calm people down,” says Dr. Rather, who is also the founder of My Sister Seed, a female-empowerment organization that focuses on awareness of sex trafficking. “You mean to tell me that 10 girls of color go missing and we don’t see it anywhere but the mayor wants to come out and say there’s nothing to worry about? That doesn’t sit well with me… Girls on the street who are runaways need to be treated the same way as the girls that are snatched up because if they are runaways, they are in the same kind of immediate danger. They will be approached by traffickers on the streets.”
This week, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton have placed pressure on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey to investigate and determine whether or not there is something sinister lurking. In their letter to Sessions and Comey, they assert that the appropriate resources need to be allocated towards an effort to find out what is happening to these young girls: "Ten children of color went missing in our nation's capital in a period of two weeks and at first garnered very little media attention. That's deeply disturbing."
In order to demand justice for these victims, it is important to remain proactive. We must place continued pressure on the government, law enforcement and the media to give accurate accounts of the problems as they present themselves and to take an informed course of action.
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(image via twitter.com/@DMVFollowers)