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The Black And Missing Foundation Aims To Find People Of Color Who’ve Disappeared (Participation)

February 24, 2012

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The Black And Missing Foundation Aims To Find People Of Color Who’ve Disappeared

In May 2005 Tamika Huston, a 24-year-old waitress from Spartanburg, S.C., went missing. Her family and friends frantically scoured the neighborhood where she had last been seen, handing out posters and leaflets and pleading with local media for coverage.

Around the same time, Natalee Hollaway, an 18-year-old celebrating her high school graduation, disappeared in Aruba.

Like Huston, Hollaway was young, attractive and from a loving family. But that’s where the similarities ended. Holloway was white with blond hair and blue eyes. Huston was a black woman with caramel-colored skin. Holloway’s case became a media sensation with reporters tracking its every development. But Huston’s pictures were never splashed across the front pages of any national newspaper or shown on a major television news network.

Very few people of any race who go missing get the kind of attention that Holloway received. But when they do, they tend to be young white women and rarely a person of color.

“When Tamika went missing, I witnessed how her family struggled to get media attention, and I knew I had to do something to change that,” said Derrica Wilson of Washington, D.C. Soon after Huston’s disappearance, Wilson laid the groundwork for the Black and Missing Foundation, an organization she co-founded that is dedicated to helping find missing people of color.

“With the Holloway case, I would see her every time I turned on my television,” Wilson told The Huffington Post recently. “It really bothered me, though, to see Tamika’s family really struggling to get any media attention.”

Huston’s boyfriend was later charged with her murder. He led police to the spot where he had buried her body. Holloway’s body was never found, but authorities in Alabama declared her legally dead.

What began as a conversation between Wilson, a former police officer with a decade of work in law enforcement, and Natalie Wilson, her sister-in-law and a public relations professional, about the disparity in coverage between the Huston case and the Hollaway investigation eventually evolved into formation of the Black and Missing Foundation.

According to FBI statistics, 678,860 people in the United States were reported missing last year. Among those, about 40 percent, or 270,680 individuals, were people of color. But with scant media attention yet plenty of stereotypes and other presumptions, this sector of the missing population has largely gone under the radar, Derrica Wilson said.

“A lot of people in our community are unaware that this is a big issue because when we turn on the television, we don’t see ourselves or people that look like us,” she added. Often local law enforcement staff assume that missing young black people are runaways, she said.

Since its official start in 2008, the Black and Missing Foundation, based in Washington, D.C., has helped locate 71 missing people. Members of the group work with local law enforcement agencies across the country, the FBI, national media outlets and the families of those missing to help close the attention gap.

The Black and Missing Foundation website has about 1.6 million page views a month. The website lists pictures and descriptions of hundreds of missing people from across the country. Recently the site was updated with a tool to help family and friends upload their own videos so they can tell their stories, give details about missing loved ones or just ask for help in locating them.

via The Black And Missing Foundation Aims To Find People Of Color Who’ve Disappeared.

via The Black And Missing Foundation Aims To Find People Of Color Who’ve Disappeared.

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6 Comments
  1. Alex Carkner permalink

    I have never been personally invested or involved in a missing person situation so I never noticed the media focus on white victims. Thinking about it now, I can recall the only headline stories for abduction and kidnapping that I remember noticing have been white females. I guess I just assumed a person is a person but apparently not according to the media which is an indicator of what society is interested in. Magazines, news broadcasters, and newspapers publish and report the stories that will sell which obviously lack diversity. It’s easy to say that a missing black woman would be just as much of a loss as a missing white woman but according to public interest, this is not the case, which is incredibly sad.

  2. It is sad. Do you think it is only about money (clearly communities of color are a sought after consumer), even in the context of newspaper/news media? Do you think about visibility and who is seen as victim?

  3. Kyla Chappell permalink

    This topic really saddened me. It is sad that even missing white people have more “privileges” over missing black people. Privileges such as getting more media coverage meaning more chances to be found. I agree with Alex in saying that I have never really noticed the difference between the media coverage, but that is mostly due to my lack of watching news. But I am glad someone has finally recognized this problem and has stepped up to do something about it. The Black and Missing Foundation is an amazing creation, and I hope that in the future it can continue to find the missing people.

  4. Amy Leonard permalink

    This is disgusting. I do not understand what gives anyone the right to decide who is missing verses who simply ran away from home. The fact that police or media do not take a missing person who is not white as seriously as a missing white person. No one should be allowed to play God. The fact that Derrica and Natalie Wilson witnessed this struggle and injustice and instead of sitting idly by and just saying “Oh man that sucks” like probably most of us would do, is a great step in the right direction towards equality in missing persons’ cases and hopefully in all racial inequalities.
    Personally, never having noticed the difference in media coverage as mentioned above, I can’t say I know this to be a true injustice but somehow, sadly, it doesn’t surprise me. Especially after all the statistics we’ve learned about in class pertaining to race and equality in all aspects of life, it really doesn’t. Everything we’ve learned in class about the inequality of races, I am appalled by and I want to be a change agent in the world. I hope one day, things are different, people act better, and I can help to make a difference.

  5. Amy: Yes, disheartening; how do you think implicit bias and stereotypes fit here?

  6. Aaron Verhei permalink

    This is a big issue i think that needs to be changed when it comes to the media. The media always jumps on the cases if it involves a white individual over anyone else. I believe that every case of a missing person should be shown on the air to get the attention of everyone across the nation and bring that person home as quickly as possible. But the media is so worried about getting the highest rating or getting as many views as possible that they will try to case the story they think is the best. So many missing person cases of people of colored get brushed off the air for that of a white person when they are both just as important. The media i believe chooses the white case over the person of color because people would be more willing to help a white child who is lost over a person of color. It is sad to think of that but i believe it is the truth that someone would be more willing to help one person over the other based off the color of their skin. This i think comes down to the stereotype that we have put on people for years and they make people unconsciously afraid of someone based only on appearances. The media is the worst at this all around and i believe they should start showing equal time for everyone because every missing person is just as important as the last and they all need to be found.

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