Every 40 seconds a child goes missing in the United States. Every 40 seconds…which means every time we blink a child is being snatched. Ever wonder how many of those children are Black or brown? Recently there’s been a spike in missing Black and Latinx children in the Washington, D.C. area. Latinx refers to the gender-inclusive way of referring to people of Latin American descent. The D.C. Police Department tweeted a list of 10 Black and Latinx teenagers that have gone missing in a matter of just a week. Since that initial tweet, 2 of the teens have been found but there are still 8 missing. Besides the tweet by the police department and many retweets, there has been little to no media coverage on this. Would it have been different if all of these teenagers, or even just 3 or 4 of them, were white? Many, including myself, believe so. According to the late reporter Gwen Ifil, the media doesn’t care about missing people of color. They are too caught up in the “missing white woman syndrome”, which means they have a strange fascination with missing white women who are young, pretty, and usually from middle or upper-class families. Many of those that live in the D.C. area, who are signed up for Amber Alerts, said they never received an Amber Alert on any of these children that have been reported missing. But the very moment that a white baby crawls out of his crib in the middle of the night we get an Amber Alert about it and the baby hasn’t even left the house yet. So why isn’t the same precaution and urgency put into finding our children, those that are Black and brown?
Let’s look at some numbers. Did you know that minority children make up 65% of all non-family abductions, with 42% of that number being Black children? Because there has been a high number of missing cases since January of this year, some believe that it may be related to sex trafficking. It’s said that 79% of human trafficking victims are women and girls. It’s estimated that there are between 12.3 million to 27 million people enslaved in forced or bonded labor, child labor, or sexual servitude at any given time. According to FBI reports, 83% of those victims are U.S. citizens and 42% of those victims are Black. The alarming thing for the African American community is that the majority of people sold for sex in the U.S. are Black and brown children. The scary and heartbreaking thing is that a lot of countries, like Africa, Asia, and Latin America, do not even track missing children.
Let’s look at why children go missing. There are typically two reasons that children go missing: they are either abducted or they run away. With abductions, if it’s a family abduction, it’s usual because the family member (abductor) is trying to force a reconciliation or continue interaction with the left behind parent, punish the parent, or protect the child from a parent who is perceived to molest, abuse or neglect the child. If a child is abducted by a stranger, it is usually for sexual purposes. In 99% of family abductions, the child is returned alive, while there is only a 57% chance the child is returned safely in stranger abductions—40% of victims abducted by strangers are murdered.
These numbers are alarming and the fact that we don’t hear about a lot of the minority kidnappings and missing children is even more reason to be concerned. But perhaps the most heart wrenching piece of information I ran across was the existence of pedophile gangs. A pedophile is a person that is sexually attracted to children, and yes these people have formed their own gangs. Pedophile gangs are rare in the United States, although they do exist, but are very prevalently in the United Kingdom. Once these gangs have kidnapped a child, their members pay $10-$15 each to have sex with the child, after which the child is killed in order to prevent them from saying anything. Members of these gangs usually wear a distinctive piece of jewelry so they can identify each other.
This information should frighten us so that we start playing a more active role in protecting our children. If the police are actively shooting our young Black men every day, we can’t be surprised that authorities aren’t doing more in the way of searching for missing Black and brown children. Social media is a powerful tool and most of us spend all day looking at and posting selfies and other not so important pictures and videos, so why not use it for something productive. Whenever you see a posting about a missing child, share it, even if the child is not from your city or state. The more it’s shared the further it spans and you never know who may have seen something or who may know something. Follow organizations like Black and Missing Foundation that provide information on missing people of color and educate the minority community on personal safety. Get involved in search efforts if you have the opportunity. If there is a local search party in your area, do your part to help. Or if you know a family that is missing a child or family member and they aren’t getting much help from authorities, offer to help in their search efforts, even if it means starting a search party yourself. Parents, talk to your children and pay attention to what’s going on with them. Be mindful of their friends and know where your kids are at all times. Also, pay attention to any little changes that may be taking place with your children and always let them know they have your undivided attention, and don’t be afraid to talk to them about any and everything. If children are feeling neglected, unloved or abused those are often good reasons, for them, to run away.
For more information on missing Black children and ways you can help visit the Black and Missing Foundation. And if you’re in the Baltimore area be sure to sign for the Hope Without Boundaries 5K Walk/Run to benefit the Black and Missing Foundation.
Kitta is an Interviewer and Freelance Blogger/Writer from Jackson, TN. She can provide blogging services for your business or product, and event coverage.