Across the United States, there is a remarkably disproportionate number of Black women and girls that have gone missing. Alarmingly, this epidemic of missing Black women and girls has been significantly underreported in the media and the police “do very little to solve their cases” (Caucus spokesperson Monica James in Green Party press release).
The National Women’s Caucus of the Green Party would like to raise awareness on this disparity, and on January 20, 2021, they released a statement calling for a national task force charged with solving the disappearances of black women and girls.
Although black women make up less than 7% of the U.S. population, they represent about 10% of all missing persons cases throughout the country (Montgomery Advisor 2019). Estimates by the Black and Missing Foundation identify the total number of missing black women and girls as 64,000.
Higher rates of poverty, homelessness, and incarceration all stem from “systemic racism, decades of imposed housing and job segregation, and inequity in education and health services,” says the Green Party of the U.S. (GPUS). These factors all contribute to making someone “more likely to disappear.”
The GPUS adds that once a Black child or adult is reported as missing, they are also a lot less likely to be found.
Per the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), of 609,275 reports made in 2019, only 2,171 remained active at the end of the year. However, a study using 2017 data from New York State found that Black children were twice as likely as non-Black children to be still missing at the end of their observation period (PLOS ONE 2018). This disparity persisted even after controlling for factors such as age at disappearance.
Green Party 2020 vice-presidential nominee Angela Walker said, “The epidemic of missing Black girls and women (both cisgender and transgender) in the United States has been underreported for far too long.”
“It is unacceptable that these disappearances are not prioritized, and this disregard only highlights the fact that this country does not protect or respect Black girls and women. It is past time for a task force that focuses on this national tragedy and brings aid to the families affected. As a Black woman, parent and grandparent, this is personal to me.”– Angela Walker, Green Party 2020 Vice-Presidential Nominee
Caucus spokesperson Monica James announced, on behalf of the GPUS Women’s Caucus, that a national task force is required to address this issue.
According to the Green Party’s press release, this task force would be entrusted with accurately collecting and sharing data on missing Black women and girls and providing financial and logistical support to local government agencies in solving the disappearances, among other goals.
Overall, they would be tasked with the following:
- Accurately collect and share data on missing Black women and girls
- Provide financial and logistical support to local government agencies in solving disappearances of Black women and girls
- Review cold cases involving missing Black women and girls
- Provide education to local government agencies on stereotypes that prevent officials from taking disappearances of Black women and girls seriously
- Seek input from the families of the missing Black women and girls to better understand the issue
This list also highlights research revealing that when Black women and girls are reported missing, they are often inappropriately classified as runaways, which “removes the sense of urgency in the response.”
Their disappearance is often framed this way even when they are “young or it’s out of character.”
The Green Party notes that while running away is the most common reason for an older child to go missing, it has been used as a way to dismiss cases for Black children. In response, the police may not bother investigating and the media rarely profiles the case.
In their landmark 2010 study, Min & Feaster found that missing Black children got 19.5% of news coverage on missing children despite accounting for 33.2% of cases. Other studies report equivalent results: “White missing persons of all ages proportionately get far more media coverage than do Black missing persons.”
Furthermore, Min & Feaster found that missing boys received more news coverage than missing girls. They concluded that missing girls got 37.8% of news coverage despite accounting for 57.4% of the cases in the same time period.
Therefore, the national task force proposed by the Green Party would provide education to local government agencies on stereotypes that prevent officials from taking disappearances of Black women and girls seriously and seek input from the families of the missing Black women to better understand the issue.