Soledad O’Brien is co-producer of a new four-part documentary released on HBO that examines the disparity in media coverage and law enforcement focus on missing Black people. (Photo: Business Wire)

By AFRO Staff

A new HBO docuseries shines a spotlight on efforts to locate and draw attention to missing Black people. And, it also explores the neglect of these disappearances by law enforcement and the media.

Black and Missing,” by multiple Emmy winner Geeta Gandbhir and award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien, follows the efforts of the Black and Missing Foundation. Led by former law enforcement officer Derrica Wilson and her sister-in-law Natalie Wilson, the group has worked for more than a decade helping Black families find their missing loved ones.

Their efforts, the documentary shows, is often thwarted by a disparity in media attention to missing Black people, a phenomenon the late PBS anchor Gwen Ifill called the “missing white woman syndrome.”

“If you don’t meet those criteria — blonde hair, blue eyes — your stories are not newsworthy,” Wilson said in a trailer for the four-part documentary.

And it may also adversely affect the enthusiasm of law enforcement to pursue the cases of missing Black people. 

According to a report from the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, Black children comprise a disproportionate percentage of missing youngsters—though only 14% of the U.S. child population in 2018, they represented more than a third of missing child cases the same year.

And yet, according to the nonprofit, cases of missing Black people remain unresolved four times longer than those of White people. 

Investigating the underlying contributors to these disparities was the driving force of the documentary, O’Brien asked during a recent interview on “The Dean Obeidallah Show” as reported by Mediaite

“Digging into why, why are the stories about missing Black women and Black people generally, why are they not told why are they not shared, why are they not so interesting to the media? And why is law enforcement seeming to be unwilling to really chase after these stories?” O’Brien said about what inspired the documentary, which she co-produced.

She later concluded, “And I think a lot of that has to do with bias. I think that has to do with who the media thinks is attractive and important and interesting. And so you know obviously race is a factor.”

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