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Members of a congressional panel came together on Thursday to discuss the disproportionate number of American Indigenous, Black, and other non-White women and girls who are routinely reported missing. The panel also advocated for more action to be taken to address the crisis.
According to ABC News, “about 40% of the more than 250,000 women and girls reported as missing in 2020 were people of color, according to federal data gathered by the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. Despite making up a smaller share of the overall U.S. population, committee members said Indigenous, Black and Hispanic women and girls are going missing at higher rates.”
The panel’s chairman, U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, called missing Black women a “crisis hiding in plain sight.” He said he was hopeful Thursday’s hearing would shine more light on a problem that has shattered countless families, exposed jurisdictional challenges for law enforcement, and highlighted the importance of media attention, per ABC News.
Oftentimes, family and friends of the missing are the only ones to loudly and consistently advocate for them as the mainstream media is unlikely to cover their stories.
Of the more than 700 Indigenous people that have gone missing in Wyoming over nearly a decade, for example, less than 1 in 5 received any media coverage, Raskin noted, citing a recent report from the state.
The hearing comes as the grassroots movement among Native Americans to bring attention to the cases of their missing and slain relatives puts more pressure on state and federal officials. In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham recently signed legislation to dedicate more resources to the investigation of such cases and improve coordination among law enforcement. Relatives of missing Black women are also hoping their loved ones will finally be recognized as worthy of national news coverage and dedicated efforts.
In Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot recently said, “we just have to be honest and say we don’t have a good track record when it comes to finding missing Black women and girls, supporting families and survivors, solving homicides relating to Black women. We must absolutely do better.”
Natalie Wilson, the founder of the Black and Missing Foundation, told lawmakers on Thursday that advocates understand not every missing persons case will get national attention but noted that cases involving people of color get a very small percentage of national media coverage.
“We can all name Gabby Petito, Natalee Holloway, Chandra Levy and many other White women who have gone missing. But can any of you name a person of color that has garnered national media coverage?” she asked. “We want our missing to be household names too.”
The National Crime Information Center reports more than 90,000 Black women and girls were reported missing across the United States in 2020. The congressional caucus said that number went up in 2021 to about 100,000.