Elizabeth Smart was abducted at the age of 14 at her family home in Salt Lake City, rescued nine months later, and is now a proclaimed child safety activist. Yes, everyone has heard of people like Elizabeth Smart and Jaycee Dugard, girls who had survived their kidnappings. Apart from being abducted, these girls have something in common. They’re both white.
Stories of missing children captivated public households and parents in the 80s when abductions and kidnappings were at their high point. It was the rise of widespread panic that had children plastered over hundreds of milk cartons and posters lining dozens of trees. Most of the children who received greater attention, national news coverage, and more efforts from authorities were from upper-middle class white families. So commenced a silent outrage for many coloured families whose children were abducted and were not given the proper investigations in efforts to find them.
The media’s fixation on white girls who are predominantly from upper-middle class families leave coverage for coloured children or children from low-income families lacking the same publicity. Society’s public outrage was imminent when a viral story was released: 14 black girls went missing in D.C. within a 24-hour time span. This shocked the world, and being the millennials we are, of course, a hashtag #MissingDCGirls was all over the internet.
The statistic was inaccurate in interpreting police data, but by then, public awareness and outrage at the media for not publicising and spreading awareness were well underway. But again, it was only so long before the public went back to thinking about what they were going to eat for breakfast, while the mainstream media moved on to commenting on Trump’s outfits. There was not so much as a scream or a cry with the news of Naomi Jones, a 12-year-old abducted and found dead five days later. There was no hashtag for Shavon Randle, a black Texan girl found dead in an abandoned house, days after being kidnapped.
The stereotypes surrounding black people and their relationship with the police have always been controversial, and not less so on this topic. Many cases where a black girl has gone missing did not have the same precautions of that of a white girl. There are no amber alerts or public announcements as many officers stereotypically have another name for abducted coloured children, runaways.
In 2017, we would think that with trends like detoxing and avocado lattes all over our Instagram, we would be developed and equal minded enough to realise that this is a problem. But not many people do and that’s the problem. The media plays a huge part in getting information out there, whether its the classic newsrooms or apps like Snapchat and Twitter, it has to be out there.