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California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Monday establishing the ebony alert system, a new statewide alert specifically for missing Black youth.
It’s similar to the Amber Alert system. Senate Bill 673 will activate electronic highway signs that post information and updates about missing Black youth aged 12-25. It becomes law on Jan 1, 2024, the Sacramento Bee reported.
California state Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena/Compton) authored the bill.
“California is taking bold and needed action to locate missing Black children and Black women in California,” state Sen. Bradford said. “Our Black children and young women are disproportionately represented on the lists of missing persons.”
The Black Wall Street Times reached out to Oklahoma’s State Bureau of Investigations to learn whether they’d support similar legislation in Oklahoma.
“The OSBI is an agency that is dedicated to providing service to all missing Oklahomans and would support the legislature in any way we can, as they work to address issues,” OSBI Public Information Officer Hunter McKee said.
Ebony Alert helps find missing Black youth
Roughly 546,568 people were reported missing in the U.S. in 2022, according to data from the National Crime Information Center.
Of those reported missing under 18, nearly 40 percent were Black or African American. Meanwhile, Black Americans make up just 13.6 percent of the U.S. population, data from Black and Missing Foundation shows.
Notably, advocates warn that media outlets are less likely to cover cases of missing Black youth. Meanwhile, law enforcement officers are more likely to label a Black missing youth case as a runaway.
“Black missing children are disproportionately classified as “runaways” in comparison to their white counterparts and do not receive the AMBER Alert, which ultimately means that fewer resources are allotted to safe return of Black children,” according to the bill’s text.
“The Legislature intends to provide law enforcement with additional tools to disseminate timely, accurate information to engage the public and the media to more effectively assist with locating missing Black children and young women that are disproportionately missing in California,” it adds.
A nationwide issue
California’s new law amplifies resources for missing Black youth. It comes a year after a Congressional panel met to discuss the issue of missing Black women.
Congressman Jamie Raskin, D-Md., called it a “crisis hiding in plain sight” at a hearing in the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties
More than 90,000 Black women and girls were reported missing across the United States in 2020, according to the NCIC. That number rose to roughly 100,000 a year later.
New initiatives and laws continue to shine more light on the issue. Ultimately, families of missing Black youth hope more attention leads to more impactful action.
This article has been updated with a response from Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigations.