When a young woman or child is missing, an Amber Alert goes out that notifies the public. Now there’s a move to begin Ebony Alerts that would do the same when a Black child or young woman is missing.
In April, California Senate Bill 673 was introduced by State Sen. Steven Bradford to help alleviate the disparities between the response when a white woman or child is missing. Think of the global coverage of the Gabby Petito case, as opposed to how missing non-white women are treated.
“When someone who is missing is incorrectly listed as a runaway, they basically vanish a second time,” Bradford said in a news release, as reported by NPR. “They vanish from the police detectives’ workload. They vanish from the headlines. In many ways, no one even knows they are missing.”
The bill states that although African Americans are 13% of the population they make up 38% of the missing persons cases. Both the Oakland City Council and the California Senate have passed the bill. It heads to the Assembly next.
Amber Alerts go out when it is believed that a girl 17 or younger has been abducted, is in a life-threatening situation and there is a description of the car and/or the child or the suspect available.
The Ebony Alert would be activated for Black youth and women from ages 12-25 who are “missing under a suspicious and unexplained circumstance” said Taneicia Herring, a Government Relations Specialist with the NAACP California Hawaii State Conference. They worked with California legislators to sponsor the bill.
“The issues are, what is the value of a Black girl’s life and that her life should be valued at the same level as any other girl and that’s not happening,” said Jennifer Lyle, the executive director of MISSSEY located in Oakland, told ABC7 News.
She added, “We need to care enough to look for them, so if this Ebony Alert is going to compel law enforcement to actually look for girls that are missing, excellent.”
There is a precedent for this kind of targeted alert. The Feather Alert was signed into law last year. It allows for an alert to go out for an indigenous person or woman whose disappearance is unexplained or suspicious. In 2016, there were 5712 cases reported of missing indigenous/Indian or Alaskan women, yet the U.S. Department of Justice only had 116 cases recorded in their database. Murder remains the third leading cause of death for Native women.
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