Have you ever heard of Relisha Rudd?

Yesterday, through all of the noise about Donald Trump and his lies, I heard her name for the very first time. The sweet little eight-year-old girl, which is the same age of my precious daughter, Savannah, has been missing for three long years. She lived in a DC area homeless shelter with her mother before she was last seen on camera with a janitor at the facility. That janitor later killed himself and his wife. While many people presume Relisha is dead, every single clue of her whereabouts has gone cold. She has vanished.

I study and obsess over injustice and inequity for a living and yesterday was the first time I ever heard her name. It’s floating out there. I think I’ve seen her pictures, but it just never broke through to me.

This is not an accident. Thousands and thousands of young Black girls and women are missing all over the country, but I can’t name a single one of them. You probably can’t either. I asked a few people this morning, just as a test, if they could. They couldn’t. They didn’t even know that anybody was missing.

How would they? The stories of young Black girls and women who are missing don’t get the Elizabeth Smart or Natalie Holloway treatment. We don’t see primetime television specials on them. Their images don’t become permanent fixtures on Twitter. Their names don’t get hashtags or trending topics. Nationwide man hunts or search parties don’t ensue. Crying Black parents, pleading for their children to be found, don’t interrupt our sitcoms as breaking news.

It appears that having blonde hair and blue eyes, and having white parents in suburban America, makes it far more likely that a story of a missing young girl will be told.

Washington, D.C. appears to have a particular problem. Two young Black girls, Shaniah Boyd and Chareah Payne, have gone missing just this past week and many other open cases remain open from 2017 alone.

None of this is OK. It’s not OK that so many people go missing, but the fact that they are young and Black makes it so unlikely that we will ever hear the story or know the name or see the face is particularly disturbing.

Officials in D.C. are quick to say that 95% of the cases of disappearing girls and women have been resolved, but the fact remains that of the 5% that haven’t, all 37 of the girls and women are Black and Latina. This trend is not unique to DC. Black girls and women represent an outrageously disproportionate percentage of the number of people missing in this country. Black girls and women represent about 7% of Americans but over 35% of all missing person’s cases.

Have you heard of Phoenix Coldron? She’s been missing since 2011.

How about Makayla Randall? She’s been missing since 2012.

Here in New York, over a dozen Black and Latina girls in the Bronx went missing – prompting many to believe they were being abducted or forced into prostitution.

So, the crisis is two-fold. The sheer volume of missing people in this country, particularly young Black girls, must be addressed. The complex systems and structures and mechanisms needed to address this problem must be better. Of course that’s no easy feat. Each story behind each missing person is unique, but it’s often felt by families that their missing children just aren’t seen as the priority that they should be.

Secondarily, how the media covers these cases, and how we all become aware of them, must change. While we can cross our fingers that mainstream outlets will do better, history tells me that’s a bad bet. Those of us who care and are passionate about this crisis would be better off building and funding our own solutions or supporting those that have already started.

I’ve heard many times that if your child is missing, that as soon as you hang up with the police, you should call a PR firm. Some families, particularly families who can afford it, have done just that. Perhaps a network of PR firms would be willing to donate their services around this issue to ensure that these stories are widely known? Whatever the case, what we have right now is simply not enough.

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12 thoughts on “Nearly 75,000 Black Girls & Women Are Missing Across the Country

  1. John jay on said:

    Well to add to these Places where you don’t see and where you don’t hear about these missing black kids; you also don’t see posters with their photographs on telephone poles and Lamppost like you would when a person loses their pet. You don’t have to depend on the police to use a photograph of your own child to make a poster to put on a pole. How come these so-called parents don’t do that? You talking about 75,000 you should see posters everywhere and all the time that’s an awful lot of parents ignoring the opportunity to put their child’s picture on a post or Pole.

  2. Believe it or not, I’ve heard of the Relisha Rudd story, and then that was it. They never said what connected the janitor at the homeless shelter had to do with it,or why he killed himself and his wife

    • African American Woman on said:

      I hear you and agree, but that’s where we come in…I hate that we are the only people who depend on others to further our interests and then get mad when when they don’t represent us…all races and creeds have missing people in their ranks…they don’t depend on white people to feature them

  3. FallMornings on said:

    Wait a minute Shaun, you’re just hearing about Relisha Rudd?? It’s been over a year or more she was missing. It was big news in DC. Where were you?? Maybe if you got off of Trump’s d**k, you could write about news that is an interest to us.

  4. When a person goes missing, everything that can be done, should be done. Above and beyond that, however, we need to find a way to get back to how our neighborhoods used to be….a village. We knew each other; our neighbors watched out for and cared about our children as their own. We’ve lost so much of who we are and no one can give or bring that back to us, but us.

  5. African American Woman on said:

    Waaaaa….waaaaa….it’s sad that all these folks are missing, however, there are folks of all races and sexes missing that no one hears a peep about because they are just regular old people…you heard about the little girl in DC BECAUSE she was in the news, duh! Stop turning everything into a racial firestorm…I’m sure there’s a Hispanic mom praying that her daughter is found or a white Dad who hasn’t seen his kid since he left for school a year ago…everyone is not going to be reported on…not every missing person will be given priority, it’s just the way it is…now, the personal responsibility part…here’s a novel idea…we can make these cases priority by putting their names and faces out there….oh wait…that would make it impossible to complain about anything…oh well.

    • RENO2AC on said:

      You’re right, AAW. However, I believe that his point is that whites, particuarly white women deemed “attractive,” are all over the news when they are missing. Not always so with minorities.

    • James.brown on said:

      Where are the amber alerts? I heard them for Emily and Addison, but what about the many missing black girls. You are talking about a few missing random people. What about comming to the fact that it’s devestating how people are trying to wipe out a whole race. Don’t try to take away from this situation. Is there any action taking place? Who is doing this and why?

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