The black and white of missing persons
Assembly member Charles Barron | 4/13/2017, 12:06 p.m.
On the national level there has been little to no mention of Michelle Jordan, Leonna Lewis, Shaniah Boyd and many others. Those names are just a small snippet of a list of missing Black and Latino girls in the Washington, D.C., area. The reports of missing girls picked up steam and even reached the desk of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to provide support and additional resources on the matter, thanks to the Congressional Black Caucus. How could so many young people go missing in this nation’s capital? To state it plain, missing Black and Brown young people simply don’t get the same treatment as their white counterparts. You don’t have to go as far as Washington, D.C., to find missing Black and Latino girls. Right here in New York City, there was a dozen missing Black and Latino girls in the Bronx that were missing over a short period of time last year.
Reports cite that last year 38 percent of 400,000 juveniles reported missing were Black, and considering Blacks represent 13 percent of the total population, that number is extremely high. The number of missing children raises many questions, but any person with a sense of humanity would feel a personal sense of responsibility to go out and look or put pressure on those that should be looking. When Black and Brown young people go missing, we are told our young girls have simply run away, or they may be at their boyfriends’ homes while precious time is wasted. In the case of Romona Moore of Canarsie, this botched analysis by police led to days of torture and ultimately her death. When we speculate that our children aren’t just missing, our conclusion is downplayed tremendously. When we state that there may be greater forces at work here, the results are brushed off. In the Black community we’re forced to subject ourselves to haphazard treatment at the hands of police, who have to search for our missing children by law.
Missing Black and Latino young people and the disparate treatment by law enforcement is no anomaly. This problem is why I gladly introduced a bill last year that would make it law for the police agencies in New York State to immediately file a report when people are missing, regardless of age. This bill passed both houses, the Assembly and Senate, and was signed into law by the governor last year. Introduced on the Senate side by Sen. James Sanders, this bill would’ve never become law if Dr. Arnita Fowler, the mother of missing person, LaMont Dottin, didn’t organize. We need everyone to do their part and play a part. This legislation would not have become law if major organizing efforts were not put in place by Fowler and sustained for over two decades. This effort is where our local organizing, again, must present staunch support for our community. Organizations such as the Black and Missing Foundation and the LaMont Dottin Foundation have championed the call to action to find our community. I cannot imagine the parents who are holding on to the sliver of hope to bring back our girls. I hope that these young women are found unscathed and alive, but in the meantime organize and help us find us.