The Economic Times
October 10, 2023
California has taken a significant step in addressing the issue of missing Black youth by enacting the groundbreaking “Ebony Alert” law. This new law, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom and set to go into effect on January 1, is the first of its kind in the nation, designed to prioritize the search for Black youth who have gone missing.
Similar to the well-known Amber Alert system, the Ebony Alert empowers the California Highway Patrol to activate it upon a request from local law enforcement when a Black youth disappears in the area. This alert will leverage electronic highway signs and utilize various communication channels such as radio, television, social media, and other systems to disseminate information about missing individuals. The Ebony Alert will specifically focus on missing Black individuals aged 12 to 25.
State Senator Steven Bradford, the legislation’s creator, highlighted the disparities in the attention and resources provided to missing Black youth compared to their white counterparts. He stated, “Data shows that Black and brown, our indigenous brothers and sisters, when they go missing there’s very rarely the type of media attention, let alone AMBER alerts and police resources that we see with our white counterparts.” This law aims to rectify this imbalance and ensure that missing Black youth receive the attention and resources they deserve.
The statistics are concerning. In 2022, approximately 141,000 Black children under the age of 18 went missing, with nearly 16,500 missing cases involving Black women over 21, according to the National Crime Information Center. Shockingly, more than 30,000 Black people remained missing at the end of that year, with the majority of missing Black people’s cases remaining unsolved, as reported by Derrica Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation.
One major issue addressed by the Ebony Alert is the classification of missing Black children as runaways, making them ineligible for an Amber Alert. The existing Amber Alert system is effective for victims under 17 or with a proven disability, but it is often ineffective when Black children go missing, according to the Black and Missing Foundation.
While some critics argue that the Amber Alert system itself may not be as effective as intended, State Senator Bradford views the Ebony Alert as a historic breakthrough. He believes that this new law will bridge the racial disparities in handling missing persons cases, ensuring that Black missing persons receive the attention and resources they have lacked in the past. Bradford expressed, “Something’s better than nothing. Whether the Amber alert or an Ebony Alert is going to be 100% effective, we don’t go with that false illusion or belief. But it’s better than not doing anything at all.”
The Ebony Alert is a dedicated step towards addressing the disparity in the search for missing Black youth. While it has garnered mixed reactions, its intention remains to safeguard the lives of those who often go unnoticed. The coming year will reveal how this innovative alert system influences the way we handle cases of missing Black youth in California.
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