As we’ve seen in many cases of public outrage, it’s never just about one thing. Let’s take a recent outcry in March about missing girls in D.C. The D.C. Metropolitan Police Department changed its approach to disseminating information about missing persons and it led to a social media campaign to locate missing Black and Latina young ladies.
Although some figures were skewed, likely for shock value, it highlighted a more important conversation.
“Regardless of the specific facts and non-facts circulating on social media, it’s true that girls run away more often than boys, and children of color go missing more often than white children, though missing white kids get far more media attention than black and Latina ones.”
The above quote highlights the real problem (in my opinion): lack of coverage. Why is it that we hear more about what nonsense Trump may be spewing or what culture the Kar-Jenners are supposed to be appropriating than we hear about the status of the Flint or North Dakota crises? We are focused on the wrong thing.
This can be understood from another context, too. Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble” verse about natural beauty rubbed some (few) the wrong way, but the verse itself and what we interpret as Kendrick’s intentions are not more important than the deeper conversation about colorism and sexism. Black women sometimes become subject to ridicule from their own men because we choose to bake our faces. Those who blindly defended Kendrick missed the point about women’s, especially Black women’s, rights to control what they do without the fear of backlash.
Kendrick was well-meaning in his assertion, I think, but it gave rise to sexists (male and females alike) who would bash women, which may have been the point. The verse made me feel some kind of way, but my admiration for Kendrick and my understanding of him as an artist who respects women makes me wonder if Kendrick said the attention-getting lines to expose sexists and spearhead conversations on feminism.
So, what does any of this have to do with the missing girls in D.C.? Well, it’s simple. People were outraged , hurt , annoyed , and bothered by the fact that the media can give hours of Trump blunders yet took not a second to cover the missing girls. Furthermore, if a white girl were to go missing, it would be labeled an abduction while a Black or brown girl must have run away.
Moreover, deeply ingrained ideals about supposed white superiority would result in much more coverage for the white girl than for the Black or brown girl. Some may write this off as a generalization, but generalizations have some basis in fact. Phrased differently, there’s some truth in every generalization.
What can we learn from all of this? Firstly, it reaffirms the power of social media. Coverage of the Dakota pipeline is dwindling, but it’s been placed in the public sphere – as has the Flint crisis. We know that these things are happening and, despite the dwindling coverage, some of us still care.
Mainstream society will be on to some other social cause next week, but it’s up to us, as informed citizens, to fight for everyone’s right to live a happy, healthy life. Even when mainstream society stops talking about the situation with United Airlines, we will remember the undertones of maliciousness, racism, and police brutality. Really, we have to care, even when mainstream society doesn’t. That’s what we can learn from the case of the missing D.C. girls.