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Black and missing: Media too often ignores minority victims

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The Grio
Janelle Harris Dixon
January 17, 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about things that matter.” This statement still rings true today as it did then. Many in our communities have fallen victim to an epidemic and we cannot be silent anymore.

When we hear the term missing persons, most people conjure up images of Chandra Levy, Caylee Anthony or Natalee Holloway. As a result, the public is misled into believing that the only victims of abduction and kidnappings are blonde, blue-eyed and female.

Let me be clear, in no way are we trying to dishonor these individuals or their families. But, what about missing persons of color who do not receive the same around-the-clock local and national media coverage?

Take the case of 24-year-old Unique Harris of Washington, D.C., who disappeared in the middle of the night while her two boys slept in the next room; or 28-year-old Morgan Montgomery Johnson, who was last seen at a Plainfield, Ill. hotel where he had been staying?

According to FBI statistics, 40 percent of all persons missing in the United States are of color — and an overwhelming number are back males. Missing minority children make up 65 percent of all non-family abductions, with 42 percent being African-American (a total of 24,444 missing persons), and 23 percent Hispanic (13,386).

To combat this disparity in awareness, the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc. (BAM FI) was created as a non-profit organization that provides a voice and an equal opportunity for all missing persons. Our mission is simple — to bring awareness to missing persons of color, provide critical resources and tools to missing person’s families and friends, and to educate communities of color on personal safety through training and outreach.

As we all know, media coverage helps bring awareness to the missing victim, which increases the possibility that someone with information will come forward, leading to a safe recovery, or to closure, for the family. Media coverage also puts pressure on law enforcement to allocate much needed time and resources to a case.

Not only do the media and law enforcement have a part to play, but as a community we too must do our part. We must report and follow-up with law enforcement when there is information on a missing person’s case. We must vigilant in keeping our children safe from predators.

It is time for all people — regardless of race — to be treated equally in their time of greatest need.

Photo credit: The Grio

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