Black and Missing and More: Message by Managing Editor ReShonda Tate

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BY RESHONDA TATE BILLINGSLEY, Defender Network

Black and missing

Let me be clear. The story of Gabrielle Petito is heartbreaking. And I am so glad her family can get a semblance of closure now that her body has been found. But I would be lying if I didn’t say I felt some kind of way about the around-the-clock media coverage dedicated to this missing woman.

If you’re not aware of the story of the blonde haired, blue-eyed Petito, the woman who left New York on July 2 for a months-long, cross-country trip full of sightseeing and camping with her fiancée, 23-year-old Brian Laundrie, simply Google her name and see her name, face and story pop up everywhere. And I do mean EVERYWHERE.

Any compassionate person hoped for Petito’s safe return, and if you’re white, that’s where it ends. But for Black people, we immediately notice there isn’t anything abnormal about Petito’s story to warrant around-the-clock coverage. It’s hard not to wonder why this story is receiving so much national coverage with some networks publishing live updates on the case’s progress.

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When a Black woman goes missing, it doesn’t even get a mention on the nightly news. According to the Black and Missing Foundation, 64,000-75,000 Black women and girls are currently missing in the U.S. Where’s the outrage? Where are the press conferences from law enforcement and city officials to say ‘we’re gonna find the roots of this?

Activists such as Black and Missing Foundation, Inc., documents and brings awareness to missing Black women. Despite their unique vulnerability, Black women are often too easily erased when people talk about the missing. The stories of hundreds and thousands of women and girls of color get blacked out by the news media. Since most of them barely get local coverage, the chances of them ever being found are as limited as the reporting on their stories have been.

Not playing the race card

When we complain about things like the Gabrielle Petito case, many people, i.e., white folks, automatically feel like we’re we’re playing the race card. They don’t understand marginalization. During any given situation —whether it be a case of police brutality, an unjust murder, discrimination at a restaurant, a mass shooting, etc.— Black people often wonder out loud how things would be different if the people involved were Black. That thinking is often met with willful indifference or outright scorn and condemnation for “race-baiting.”

This line of thinking would be laughable if it wasn’t so damaging. You want to know why we make so much about race—because virtually everything is affected by race. And no amount of white-washing can change that. Just ask the families of the missing Black women who are begging for coverage.

Black to the past

Bet you didn’t know that Texas had gotten into the slave patrol business. At least that’s the way it appeared to the world as we saw the disturbing video of the rabid Border Patrol agents on horseback tracking down Haitians in graphic photos that evoke haunting images of slave patrols.

We’re years removed from American slavery. But images of white men on horseback rustling up desperate Black people tragically reminds us of one of the nation’s deepest shames.

No surprise that Republicans now claim that they should’ve built a wall and that our lives would’ve been better with the orange man in office. And they’ve already thrown their hands up and let the chaos ensue because “it’s a federal issue.” While I don’t condone making this a political issue, the Biden administration does need to step up. NOW! Those rouge overseers need to lose their job and whoever signed off on that madness needs to go too. But the bottom line is folks need to realize this is a humanitarian crisis…not a security crisis. You, know, kinda like we do Afghans….and any other group that’s not Black or brown.

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