Missing girls (236008)
Credit: Black and Missing, Inc.

The recent disappearances of several girls (and boys) in the D.C. area have been disturbing and troublesome to say the least. So many Black people have been struck by the length of time that it took for the media to even raise this issue as a real concern in our communities. And unfortunately, when the issue of disappearing children was brought to mainstream attention, it was often done so as a dismissive account blaming the children as runaways, sex workers or worse. The images of hundreds of Black families gathering in the town hall to express their fear, anger and frustration was a visual testament to just how much our missing children are loved.

The recent disappearances made me think of the Atlanta child murders from 1979-81 during which 28 Black boys were kidnapped and killed. Families begged authorities to look, to care, to find their missing loved ones, but their pleas fell on largely deaf ears. Unfortunately, it appears we have not progressed much in the past four decades. The media remains fixated on young missing white girls, elevating their names, their stories and their innocent potentials to national levels. They mustn’t be forgotten, but what about the thousands of Black girls and boys who go missing each year? The Black and Missing Foundation is doing its best to elevate the names and lives of our missing because they are loved, they do have families and their absence from our communities is felt in deep and traumatic ways.

The recent attention, in largely Black publications and social media, made me think of Jordan Peele’s recent blockbuster, “Get Out.” In my opinion, Peele’s movie is indeed about subtle liberal racism, but it is also about Black solidarity and the concept of a created family. Rose (the white girlfriend of the protagonist, Chris) made the fatal error of choosing a man she thought had no family, no community—she believed that no one who would care if he was missing. In the end, it was Chris’ best friend who could not accept that Chris had just “gone missing.” He never gave up looking and asking questions—Chris mattered not just to him, but to his entire community.

Watching hundreds of D.C. residents gather to fight for the missing girls of D.C. reminded me that even if our politicians are slow to act, we as a community will not make the fatal error and allow our loved ones to be forgotten. What we can do to prevent this anguish is to be more vigilant about what is going on. Some (although not all) of the missing have been in abusive households or relationships. It is our obligation to keep our eyes open to the young people who are around us. That is the only way we can begin to prevent what appears to be a long history of the silent disappearances of our young.

Christina Greer, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Fordham University, the author of “Black Ethnics: Race, Immigration, and the Pursuit of the American Dream” and the host of The Aftermath on Ozy.com. You can find her on Twitter @Dr_CMGreer.