by Tiffany D. Jackson
When I was in elementary school, it was rumored that a young Puerto Rican girl was snatched in front of a nearby school, thrown into a green van, and vanished. Precautions were taken, everyone told to walk in pairs and keep an eye out for the van. But the story never made the news cycle. Networks were still obsessed with Jaycee Dugard, a blonde, blue-eyed freckled-face 11-year old girl who had been kidnapped on her way to the school bus. Thousands of people searched for Jaycee, millions of flyers were posted around the country. She had hits on every station, a PEOPLE magazine spread, and even a featured segment on America’s Most Wanted. There wasn’t a kid alive who hadn’t heard her name. To this day, I have no idea what happened to that young Puerto Rican girl and sadly, can’t even remember her name. It wasn’t programmed into my head like Jaycee’s was.
Back in 2015, during preliminary research for MONDAY’S NOT COMING, I stumbled upon an article, 9 Missing Children Cases That Rocked The Country — And The Media, listing the most sensationalized media coverage of missing kids, Jaycee, of course, being one of them.
But none of those kids were black, which lead me to ask the most important questions related to my book: why aren’t missing black and brown children a national priority? Why aren’t our cases rocking the country? Why isn’t everyone concerned when a CHILD is missing, whether she be black, white, or purple?
The answer is tragically simple: Selective silence.
The media has a CHOICE of what they will and won’t broadcast. And if you lay a missing black girl and a missing white girl at their feet, with the image of alleged delicate white fragility burned into their psyche, the attention needle will always lean toward the girl with the privilege and means to be found.
I turned in the first draft of MNC a week before the story of missing girls in Washington D.C went viral (#MissingDCGirls). In early 2017, over 500 girls were missing and a new social media campaign launched to help garner community involvement. In turn, it cast a huge national spotlight on the raw issue, that kids of color are missing at alarming numbers and no one seems to notice. Further, it highlighted when black and brown girls ages thirteen and up are missing, it’s immediately presumed they are runaways and not in danger, thus wasting crucial and precious time to find them.
So what can you do to be a part of the solution?
First, tell our children of color that their lives matter. Tell them they are equally important, special, beautiful, and cared for. Tell them that if, God forbid, anything should ever happen to them, they would receive the attention they absolutely deserve to be found.
Second, amplified voices any way you can. Don’t rely on standard news to do their jobs fairly. Social media is a great way to start and can play a huge part in grassroots movements. See 15 cases where social media helped find missing children.
Third, speak up! At community meetings or on Twitter, call your local representatives, send them emails. Ask them point blank to dedicate funds to help law enforcement to focus on cold cases and find our kids. Loop in local news stations, make them accountable for their bias programming.
These small acts can make a world of difference and help bring our kids home safely.
This blog post is part of our on-going Real Talk blog series where we ask authors to get real about some of the most controversial and important topics of today.
About Tiffany D. Jackson
Tiffany D. Jackson is the author of the critically acclaimed Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming. A TV professional by day, novelist by night, she received her bachelor of arts in film from Howard University and her master of arts in media studies from the New School. A Brooklyn native, she is a lover of naps, cookie dough, and beaches, currently residing in the borough she loves with her adorable Chihuahua, Oscar, most likely multitasking.