I don’t begrudge anyone getting their due attention and diligence when they go missing. The coverage they receive more often than not helps in their eventual recovery, or at least leads to finding the parties responsible, and by no means is that a bad thing. More troubling is the lack of that kind of attention leveled on the missing African Americans. After all, we make up a a third of all missing persons cases in the United States, while being only 12 percent of the population.
The stories Find Our Missing features don’t make for less compelling television — can you imagine the uproar America would be in if the media caught wind of a kidnapped, disabled, white five year old? — and they don’t lack substance or quality. Why isn’t Ann Curry talking about Hassani or Pamela? Are we still seen as such an Other in this country that the heartstrings that tug at Elizabeth Smart’s name won’t also tug for Hassani Campbell? Or is it that kidnapping and mysterious disappearances simply aren’t seen as crimes that happens to Black people? Gang, drug, sexual, and domestic violence are ‘our’ crimes, and the media struggles to break away from that mold when giving coverage to stories of the missing.
It’s almost as if they’re confused when a comfortable, middle class black woman goes missing with no hints of the average ‘Black crime’ elements involved. (The common perception that there are ‘no black serial killers’ certainly helps explain the difference in the amount of national coverage Anthony Sowell received in comparison to other recent serial killers like Dennis Rader in yet another case involving several missing Black women in the Cleveland area.)
When it comes to shows profiling crimes and criminals, you’re more likely to see a person of color starring on Lock Up than you are on Dateline, and that’s one of the reasons I’ll be watching Find Our Missing every week. If given a platform and the exposure it deserves, I firmly believe that the program can help solve some of the cases it features.
Even if the cases aren’t solved, at least they’ll get people thinking and remembering that there aren’t just the white women disappearing in Aruba to worry about.