Morgan Jenkins’ op-ed in the New York Times this week should be mandatory reading for parents and activists. In the piece, one of the paper’s most popular, she discusses the inaccurate viral image that circulated last week, suggesting a large number of black young women had suddenly gone missing in D.C.
But beneath the inaccurate meme, she writes, is a stark truth, one that has even prompted action from politicians—there are a huge number of missing young women of color. As Buzzfeed recently reported in its story about the meme, “according to the Black And Missing Foundation, 36.7% of missing people under 17 are black.” Jenkins notes what really happened in D.C: 10 children missing in two weeks.
“In a letter to the Justice Department and the F.B.I. last week, Representative Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents the District of Columbia in Congress, noted that 10 children of color had disappeared from their homes in the nation’s capital in two weeks, a stunning number that initially got little notice.”
When young white girls go missing, it often makes national news. Not so in the cases above. Jenkins adds that even when the missing kids and teens are runaways, they are often suffering some sort of abuse or neglect.
“Claims that black girls leave home voluntarily, if not coupled with an examination of all the reasons they might feel they need to leave, encourage the public to see black girls not as children in need of protection but adults responsible for their own predicament. As a result, few in authority do anything for them.”
And here’s where Jenkins’ piece gets really profound, and important for allies to think about. She notes that black women have been behind so many progressive movements in American history, acting as allies to other groups (including black men and white women). In the case of these missing young girls and women, will others stand up for them?
“Queer black women began the Black Lives Matter movement and put their lives on the line to stand up against police brutality. Black women overwhelmingly voted for Hillary Clinton even when she was more of the patron saint of mainstream feminism than of issues regarding women of color. Today it is black women who are forcing others to see what’s happening with missing black girls. Now is the time to come through for us. We have always come through for you.”