Archuleta A. Chisolm
Justice For Our Black Women And Girls
I recall the first time in 2019 that I learned there were nearly 64,000 missing Black girls and women in the United States. Without even knowing the total number of missing people in the U.S., that number felt disturbingly high. I found out that Black women and girls comprised more than 30 percent of women and girls missing in the United States. And yet, Black women and girls constitute only 15 percent of the U.S. female population. My thought about the number being disproportionately and disturbingly high was sadly correct. At the time, I had no idea so many of us were missing. By 2021, that number grew to more than 90,000.
In the past couple of years, we’ve had a national conversation about “Missing White Woman” syndrome, the phenomenon of missing white women and girls being overrepresented in media coverage, and consequently, public outrage and investment compared to missing Black, Indigenous, and other women and girls of color. But it is something that many of us were all too aware of. Too few people outside of the loved ones of those missing, local community organizers, and a handful of Black churches sound the alarm about this crisis. The erasure, silence, and lack of shared attention resounds as profoundly violent and yet another example of who does and who doesn’t care about the lives and livelihoods of Black girls and women.
I came across a story of three Texas sisters who were thought to have drowned in their neighbor's pond but were actually strangled before being dumped. The bodies of Zi'Ariel Robinson Oliver, 9, A'Miyah Hughes, 8, and Te'Mari Robinson Oliver, 5 were recovered on July 23, 2022.
Zi'Ariel, A'Miyah and Te’Mari went missing about 200 miles east of Fort Worth around 10pm on July 22, 2022 prompting a multi-agency search for the girls. A family friend had been watching them and their other siblings while their mother was at work. The babysitter called 911 to report their disappearance. It’s been nine months, and they still don’t know what happened to these babies.
It disturbs me that I hadn’t read anything about these girls. Minimal media coverage was given, almost as if their lives just didn’t matter. Three Black girls who went missing and found murdered the next day never became a big national news story. In fact, it was barely covered outside the area in which they lived. But it’s not just about the media coverage itself.
As a society, we continue to fail at examining why nearly 100,000 Black women and girls are currently missing, therefore failing to address the deprivation, marginalization, and criminalization they face.
There is no policy for many of these news outlets, and the decision is made by an editor who is typically a white, middle-aged man. And they’re thinking about ratings and ad dollars, so we need to make sure that we stay in the forefront and stay connected to the media outlets who have our missing persons stories to tell as well.
I learned in my hometown of Kansas City that the KCPD denied community claims of women missing along Prospect Avenue. Black community members are creating their own missing-persons databases and other resources to find missing Black women and girls.
The last time Samone Jackson had contact with her family was in early 2021. Almost two years have gone by without contact with the now 25-year-old woman. About a year after graduating from high school, Samone moved in with her grandfather. Eventually, she and a boyfriend moved into an apartment with two roommates on Warwick Boulevard in midtown. That was the last her grandfather saw of her. The grandfather has exchanged messages from someone texting from Samone’s phone. But he can tell it is not her because of the way she texts.
It's sad, frustrating, and keeps getting worse. Police have no obligation to disclose the whereabouts of an adult or return someone to their family. But they sure turn the world upside down, if it’s a white girl missing. The national attention they give to those stories is something that can’t be said for Black girls.
Black women and girls are at high risk of going under the radar of police, policymakers and media, despite facing a disproportionate amount of violence, including domestic violence, sex trafficking and police brutality.
Systemic racism within systems has created barriers and obstacles to Black women receiving the resources that they need when they end up in these situations. From being believed when they raise these situations, to being dismissed when these situations come about.