Update: Lawmakers are calling for the authorities to investigate whether there's an increase in the number of Black and Latinx teenagers that are disappearing in the D.C. metro area, The Associated Press reported.
According to the AP, there were 501 cases of missing teens, many of them Black or Latinx, in the District area over the last three months. Twenty-two of the cases remained unsolved as of March 22.
This story was originally published on March 15, 2017.
In a period of less than two weeks, 10 Black and Latinx teenagers have disappeared in the Washington, D.C., area, The Root reports. But it's very likely that you haven't seen their faces or heard their names unless you faithfully watch local news, follow the D.C. Police Department’s Twitter account, or you happen to be a friend or relative of one of these missing kids.
But thanks to Twitter user @BlackMarvelGirl, who shared pictures of the eight Black girls who had been reported missing, the news quickly went viral last weekend. Some of these teenagers have thankfully been found in the last couple of days, but that still leaves two questions unanswered: Where are the remaining kids, and why hasn't this made national news?
Currently, two 13-year-olds, Yahshaiyah Enoch and Aniya McNeil; five 15-year-olds, Juliana Otero, Jacqueline Lassey, Dashann Trikia Wallace, Dayana White, and Morgan Richardson; and one 16-year-old, Talisha Coles, are still missing.
Very few outlets have reported on the rash of disappearances. But many D.C. residents have expressed concern about the situation and the lack of publicity around it, especially given that that there's a proliferation of sex trade activities and human trafficking in the area.
"What we need is a citywide alert about the dangers out here and how parents can protect their children," Sharece Crawford, a member of an Advisory Neighborhood Commission in Southeast Washington, told the Washington Post. "Residents are very worried. They are wondering if the city is taking this seriously. They say things like, 'If white girls were disappearing uptown, there would be a state of emergency.'"
She makes a legitimate point.
Cases in which young, attractive white women from middle- or upper-class households go missing tend to get much more media attention than instances where women of color disappear — especially if they are from low-income families. The late PBS reporter Gwen Iffil coined the term "missing white woman syndrome" to describe this phenomenon.
Think of all the media coverage about the case of Karina Vetrano, the 30-year-old jogger who was brutally beaten, raped, and killed in Queens, NY, last August. Now think of Marilyn Reynoso, the 20-year-old Latina from the Bronx, NY, who disappeared in late July, and whose body was found about a week later. It's likely that you have not heard about Reynoso, even though her disappearance and murder occurred at around the same time as Vetrano's, because it wasn't widely publicised.
The disconnect in how the media reports about the violent crimes against white women versus women of colour is incredibly problematic, particularly when you consider that about 40% of all the missing people in the U.S. are people of colour, according to the figures offered to the Post by Derrica Wilson, co-founder of the Black & Missing Foundation.
“Everyone should be angry that this is happening in our community, but our community needs to step up and take action,” she said.
Chanel Dickerson, the new commander of the D.C. police’s Youth and Family Services Division, told the Post that the number of missing children cases in the city was shocking to her. The District in particular seems to have a big issue when it comes to the disappearance of young people, and young women, especially. FOX 5 reported that in January there were about 15 active cases involving missing teenage girls at the same time.
According to Dickerson, many of them involve runaways. Still, she has promised each case would receive an equal amount of publicity and attention.
If you have any information about these missing teenagers, you can contact the D.C. Police Department at (202) 727-9099. You can also visit the website for the Black & Missing Foundation here.