by Guest Contributor Black Canseco
I grew up in the inner cities of Chicago—places where buses hate to stop, and cabs hate to come. My parents worked hard. Most of our neighbors worked hard. Some people tried. Some people just gave up. Others gave up while they tried and vice versa.
When there was violence, we cried and tried to stop it. When there was death we cried, wondered why and tried to deal with it. But we had to do these things alone.
There were no crush of grief counselors when our 11 year olds got shot by strays or on purpose. There were no pundits filling column space and air time when our girls got raped or became pregnant too soon. And when our children came up missing… when our children came up missing…
When our children came up missing there was silence. Silence and indifference. There still is.
I saw enough missing and dead black kids coming up that it taught me something about black folks, or at least the way black folks are perceived:
Black children are disposable expectations.
Black girls are expected to become mothers too soon. Black kids are expected to be dead too soon. Black boys are expected to become criminals. Black students are expected to dropout of school. Black youth are expected to grow into the lesser-thans that we fear and secretly prefer they become.
When people have those sorts of expectations of you, an attitude of disposability follows. It has to.
When my neighbor’s kid Brandon got hit by an unforeseen and still unidentified car she didn’t talk to anyone for 6 months. Not a word for anyone. One day she came over to mom’s house and said, “I’m still a mother, I’m just the mother of a dead child now.”
I’ve lost track of the number of black girls and boys under 21 that got abducted, vanished, or killed. I’ve lost track of the number of mothers, husbands, and children that have screamed for help from police and media and other communities only to be ignored. Outside of our blocks and neighborhoods no one cares.
Simultaneously, I’ve lost track of the white kids and white women from seemingly 8-80 that receive local, regional, national and even international attention when they are missing, molested, harmed or who aren’t allowed fulfill their “expectations.”
Everything from runaway brides to vacationing coeds to murdered military moms to snatched up toddlers and housewives. Be they rich, poor, rural, suburban or city, missing white women and white teens are valued. They are cherished. When violence befalls them it is “news”. It is a surprise that it happened to them—where they live. Theirs are the tragedies that must be covered. They are the victimized who must be championed. Their families are the ones deserving of justice and closure. Their families cannot be left to cope alone. They are the lost that must be found.
Nancy Grace doesn’t have an aneurysm on camera when LaToya goes missing. Dan Abrams doesn’t get outraged when Marcus or Jamar vanishes. Katie Couric and Barabara Walters don’t break down in tears when kids from South Central are murdered. Bill O’Reilly and Keith Olbermann don’t interrupt your program when Jaunita is found chopped up into pieces. Magazines and newspapers aren’t tracking those cases. They’re just not news enough or “human interest” enough for all of that.
Ironically, according to the FBI, the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children and other orgs, most of missing children (those under 18) in America are neither white nor female. In fact 33% of all missing children under 18 are African American girls; overall, it’s believed that Black, Hispanic and Asian Americans account for over 40% of all missing children under 18. As for missing adults (those over 18), the National Center of Missing Adults, FBI, and other orgs have report similar findings.
Lastly, the Amber Alert, which was originally designed for missing children under the age of 18, yet has no set national criteria for use (guidelines vary by state) has been under attack from critics claiming it’s used mostly for white female adults, many of whom haven’t been abducted but have “runaway” or have voluntarily left their environments.
These kinds of hypocrisies and disparities drove me to look for ways to help. That’s how I discovered great child advocacy sites like Missing Minorities, What About Our Daughters? and Black And Missing. Since I used to write ads for a living, I figured I could do something they could use—and the We Want Our Kids Back, Too campaign was born.
We Want Our Kids Back, Too is a viral web campaign that combines picks of missing and endangered children of color (Black, Hispanic, Asian, mixed race/multicultural, etc.) with commentary challenging all to consider disparities in coverage, outrage and concern. Each ad highlights a different child/teen and reminds us that they are just as human just as “all-american” as Jesse Davis, Natalee Holloway, Elizabeth Smart and all the rest who receive so much focus. The ads also encourage us all to do better about giving all children a fighting chance for safe recovery regardless of ethnicity and background.
Note: Posters are being updated and added frequently, as there is no shortage of missing kids of color and no shortage of parents, relatives and friends who want their safe recovery. So check back often and take the posters and spread them around as you see fit.
Black Canseco mentions in the comments:
If you reach out to sites like these:
you’ll find more children of all backgrounds that are missing. the sheer numbers are staggering; and again, the lack of coverage seem to reflect a bigger problem.