There are 700 missing indigenous girls and women in the state of Wyoming. You don’t know any of their names. There are thousands of missing Black girls and women in the U.S. and you don’t know any of their names either. There are missing Black boys and men in the U.S. who are also persona non grata to local and national media.
You don’t know their names because the local and national media is owned, operated, managed, run, and hosted by predominantly white men and they decide what news you’ll see or, in the case of missing Black or Indigenous women and girls, what you won’t see. Those white men have no interest in covering stories of non-white girls they don’t consider pretty enough, blond enough, innocent enough, or interesting enough.
But before all the blame is placed on the white media, an equal amount of blame must be directed at the police, sheriffs, and the FBI – all of whom refuse to treat missing non-white people with the energy they give when any white girl or women goes missing.
A country obsessed with policing Black bodies in public spaces finds no energy to “see” us when we need them to. We are too visible when it doesn’t matter and too invisible when it does.
A missing white woman was found this week. Her body was dumped and found a week after she was murdered by her boyfriend. A boyfriend given grace by the police who had stopped them after it was reported they were “fighting” in the car. The police-man gave the abuser all the grace the man’s whiteness demanded and required. His whiteness meant more than her whiteness, of course, so he was given a hotel to stay in for the night because the police-man wanted him safe, warm, and protected from the small crying white woman in the car.
So, of course, later on, the now-safe, warm, and police-approved man murdered the woman before returning to his parent’s home in Florida. The loving parents hid him, lied for him, and helped him – a murderer – escape police. And now they are facing charges for obstruction because they feel their little murdering son is actually a nice fellow.
Now the murderer is on the run and the police-man who gently handled and warmly processed him is defending his own complicity in the eventual murder. Never fear, nothing will happen to the police-man who was too stupid to recognize obvious signs of abuse.
So we have a missing murderer whose parents are arrested, a dead young white woman, …and tens of thousands of missing Black, Latina, and Indigenous girls and women missing and you still don’t know their names.
I have purposely left out the name of the dead white woman because you already know her name. Her name is known in multiple countries just like the names of so many white women and girls who also go missing in this country, a country that has hatred for girls and women on a scale that rivals any country one can name.
You are thinking of all those names and faces now because they were broadcast on various network and cable television stations whose hosts dramatically told their stories over emotional music, joyous pictures and family photos, and with interviews with concerned family, police, and community members.
You know their names because your favorite podcasters retold their stories, rehashed the investigations, and talked to unaffiliated law enforcement and investigators to produce new “clues” to their whereabouts and/or to their murderers.
You know their names because you’ve seen the sensationalist headlines on magazine covers at your local grocery store checkout line.
And you know their names because wherever you get your news, whether digital from the New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, or Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, or Apple News, their faces and stories have been pushed to your timelines by white-centered algorithms coded to highlight whiteness above all else.
“Black Lives Matter!” we have yelled in one way or another for centuries despite the national response that loudly proclaims: “No, they do not.”
The naysayers and racists will hear you talk about missing Black, Latina, and Indigenous women and girls and tell you “This isn’t a competition,” and “All missing lives matter,” as they silence you and center themselves and turn the focus back on whichever white woman or girl is currently missing.
A Nation that can find tax breaks for billionaires, find trillions for wars in foreign lands, and billions for the military, can’t find the will, the money, the time, or interest in finding missing Black, Latina, or Indigenous women and girls.
While America ends one war in Afghanistan, it continues its war against non-white women and girls. The war is thorough and reaches to restricted voting, lower pay, less health care coverage, worse medical care, fewer small business loans, lower wages, higher maternal and infant mortality, less access to abortion services, hundreds of thousands untested or ignored rape kits, relatively few rape prosecutions and even fewer convictions, and all the way to higher everyday cost of living.
A nation that delivered mostly performative angst at the plight of Afghani women and girls during the US retreat from Afghanistan ignores the non-white women and girls in this country – in all states – who are in need of rescue from every facet of their lives in one way or another.
There isn’t any performative angst about the plight of missing Black, Latina, and Indigenous women and girls because even that would be too much for most Americans and their media favorites.
There won’t be a reckoning. There won’t be immediate changes. And there certainly won’t be a new way forward because the same men own, manage, and operate the same media outlets that have little regard for Black, Latina, or Indigenous women and girls. Maybe if the missing non-white women and girls were younger than six-weeks-old the media would cover their stories as exhaustively as they cover right-wing abortion fanaticism. Writer Britni Danielle and others call it “Missing White Woman Syndrome” as the reason you don’t know about the tens of thousands of missing Black, Latina, and Indigenous missing women and girls. There are many organizations that help identify, catalog, track, and advocate for finding missing Black and non-white children and women. And two you can get to know, share, to talk about, and to add to are Black and Missing and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
The families of those missing love their children, siblings, daughters, aunts, nieces, mothers, and sons as much as any white parent. It is not a competition but a crisis that affects tens of thousands of families who only want what all parents and families want: To know that their child and family member’s life matters.
© 2021 by Myron J. Clifton. All Rights Reserved.
Myron J. Clifton is slightly older than fifty, lives in Sacramento, California, and is an avid Bay Area sports fan. He likes comic books, telling stories about his late mom to his beloved daughter Leah, and talking to his friends.
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