Missing and Invisible: White Privilege and its Impact on Missing Children

Juliana Otero, 15

Jacqueline Lassey, 15

Yahshaiyah Enoch, 13

Dashann Trikia Wallace, 15

Gladys Keitt, 18

Taliyah Thomas, 12

Aniya McNeil, 13

Dayanna White, 15

Talisha Coles, 16

Morgan Richardson, 15

These are the names of the 10 young women of color that have gone missing in the District of Columbia since the start of March.  It is only March 15.  These are names you probably haven’t seen.  And that fact should concern you.

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Snapshots of a few of the missing young women.

Photo Source: Btx3’s Blog

An estimated 65% of missing children are children of color.  So why is it that we all know names like Elizabeth Smart, Tara Grinstead, JonBenet Ramsey, and Jacob Wetterling?  Why is it that the names of missing children of color are nearly invisible from the mainstream narrative?  Is it possible that white privilege rears its ugly head even when we are talking about missing children? I would argue yes.

Last year, I spent the year working with young women of color in an empowerment program stationed in one of the most impoverished areas of the city. The truth is: I see these names and I think of them.  I see these names and I wonder: why does society assume that a missing white teenage girl was abducted and/or trafficked, but a missing black teenage girl is a runway and/or pimped?  Certainly, any missing child is a tragedy… but shouldn’t they be equally tragic, regardless of race?  With this city’s child sex trafficking problem, which disproportionately impacts young women of color, we need to be more vigilant and vocal.  Our children deserve for us to make the necessary noise. and they deserve the same level of focus/media resources provided for missing white kids.

In a study published  in 2010, Seong-Jae Min and John C. Feaster build on an already strong research base that exposes that missing white, female children receive much more coverage by media outlets across the United States, making it seem as if they have more value. Min and Feaster further present clear evidence that shows that missing, African-American children are sorely underrepresented.  The media simply does not talk about them often, if at all.  This study neglects to include other minority groups, but given that they posit that the reasoning behind this discrepancy in representation is the societal emphasis placed on the value of white lives, I would assume that the results would fall along the same lines.

These young women have gone missing over the course of 15 days.  This list doesn’t even include the young women who remain missing from January and February of this year.  These young women are our sisters and we need to come together as a community to help find them.

So please: If you have ANY information on the missing teens mentioned in this post (or any others), contact the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia at (202) 727-9099.

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