By Shawna Mizelle
#BringBackOurGirls is the hashtag that swept the nation once false reports surfaced that 14 girls went missing in our nation’s capital on March 23, 2017. The reports shaped a much needed discussion and drew attention to Missing White Woman Syndrome. The “Missing White Woman Syndrome” is a term coined by the late PBS news anchor, Gwen Ifill, referring to the media’s deficiency of reporting missing minorities as much as they report upper-class white women.
From March 19th to March 24th Many residents of the Washington, D.C. community expressed their outrage for the media’s lack of coverage in regards to the missing children. So far in 2017, 534 juveniles have been reported missing in DC. Of those juvenile cases, 14 are still currently missing. A lot of the missing children including Leonna Lewis, Heaven Shamte, Shanian Boyd, and Zyaire Flemmings disappeared from the Southeast area of Washington, DC. Although limited resources may play a role in the families’ access to the news, the statistics that drew the attention of LL Cool J, Zendaya, and Eva Marcille on social media were blown out of proportion. Between March 19th and March 24th a dozen children were reported missing in D.C.; however, post claiming that 14 girls went missing in 24 hours went viral after celebrities like Russel Simmons shared it. Although the post was inaccurate, it caused major consequences. The error and outrage highlights a clear disconnect between the news, the police force, and the community. The miscommunication came from the DC’s police department increasing social media post of missing children.
Regardless of the false reports, many have continued to voice their discontent with the police department’s effectiveness. Backlash towards the police department furthered after Chanel Dickerson, the new Youth and Family services commander, advised people trying to avoid human trafficking to just, “Stay home.” while being interviewed on the Joe Clair Morning Show.
The D.C. Police Department said, “MPD takes all of its missing persons cases seriously and is committed to ensuring that each case receives the same level of police service and exposure. We all recognize that when someone is missing, there is a risk that they are in danger and need our help. Juveniles or other critical missing persons may be at risk of victimization or may be in need of vital medication. That is why we are working hard to reunite all missing persons with their loved ones. Our 2017 numbers are similar to 2016 and we hope the increased awareness in the public will get us to a 100% closure rate.”
Other conversations have also sparked questioning white feminist’s presence, or lack thereof, during this cause, and the Women’s March on Washington. The Women’s March on Washington drew close to 5 million people of various backgrounds.
Many people shared a photo of a townhall meeting at Excel Academy Public Charter School in Southeast D.C., in regards to the missing girls, which shows a large crowd made up of mostly black people. Longtime community member and DC school teacher, John Wiley, says, “Working in the school system you see missing kids coming to school, just not going home. It is the community’s responsibility to know where our children are and address these issues.”
The police department encourages the community coming together to come together as well to help bring back our children. “The community can continue sharing MPD’s flyers via social media and call 911 or 202-727-9099 immediately if you see an individual you recognize from one of the flyers”, said Aquita Brown the public affairs specialist.