My plans today were to choose a good book, put on some good, smooth, mellow jazz music and do absolutely nothing! To lose myself for a good long while...forget about any and everything that caused me to think deeply about stuff. Before I could even get in position to do some serious "nothingness", I made the mistake (born purely from habit) of turning on the television to watch some daily news. The first story on was about the 12-year-old girl from Vermont (Brooke Bennett) that was found murdered, and that her uncle (Michael Jacques) had been detained as a person of "interest" in the case. Having children myself, I could only imagine what the parents must have been going through. I (like most I'm sure) offered prayer for the family, friends and others...hoping the pain and suffering they surely must be feeling, would ease and (in time) subside. The more I watched, the more I began to see this case (so much for my not wanting to think deeply) as a pattern of increased sociopathic behavior that seems on the rise in this country. According to the U.S government , approximately 800,000 children have been reported missing each year since 1990, of which 56% are recovered alive and 40% were killed. These unresolved cases simply increase the amount of the missing children each year expediently, causing more families (like Brooke's) endless days, weeks, months and years of torture, anguish and (at times) constant pain (physically, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually).
If one looks at the statistics of missing/abducted children with scrutiny they will see disparities began to become apparent. Black (African American) children are not being reported (or listed) at the same levels as white (European) children (Latino missing children bear mentioning, but, weren't the focus). Approximately every 40 seconds a child is abducted in this country (NCMEC). Of those between 33-45% are African American Children (NPR, SOC, Essence mag.). It has been reported by some that only 17% of these ever have any media attention given to their case...that many of these become "Children of the Lost" indefinitely. When one explores the various websites and organizations created to fight this plague on our nation; The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Polly Klass Foundation, Americas Most Wanted, Stop Family Abductions Now, etc. and simply views listings of missing children on the pages, these facts seem to be true. At the very least, due to the lack of Black children's faces listed (in proportion to the 1/3 unaccounted for), it would seem (to this writer) that further investigation and/or consideration would be given towards studying the merits of these facts.
Some lay and civic leaders have said the racial differences are made apparent at the beginning of the process for reporting a child missing or abducted. One such leader (pastor Charles Williams) has said that some of the vehicles used to help find missing children are being used incorrectly. Programs like the Amber Alert system were created to help assist law enforcement, acting as agents on behalf of the families who's children are missing, by distributing detailed information about these children to media outlets nationwide. The purpose and concept being; if the entire community knows who the missing children are, this will increase the possibility (and probability) of a positive outcome. In order for an Amber to be issued, the circumstances surrounding a child's disappearance must meet specific criteria:
(a) a belief an abduction has occurred
(b) child in question must be under 17
(c) authorities must believe imminent danger exists
(d) information about the victim and abductor must be sufficient enough to help law enforcement in the recovery process
(e) the missing child's name must have been entered into the NCIC (national crime information center) computer.
Initially, when an Amber alert was issued for Brooke (the day after her disappearance), authorities weren't sure if she had been abducted at all. They didn't know if she was in danger (since all they had to go on were online communications between her and someone on her myspace page asking to meet) and, although they had enough personal information about Brook, they knew nothing at all about her possible abductor story. The sad irony is, a video of Brooke with her uncle (the one now under arrest for her murder) is the last piece of evidence authorities have of her alive. This let them know that she was somewhere other than where she was suppose to be...and, with a known, documented sex offender story (the video was uncovered after the alert had been issued). Brooke's father also said there had been some problems concerning the myspace page in question (one he helped her create but later took down), which, although no conclusive evidence existed, may have contributed to her disappearance.
Compare this with the case of Cleashindra Hall
Clea (as she was known by her family and friends) left home in 1994 for her clerical job with a local dentist in Pine Bluff, AR. at approximately 8:00 a.m. She called her mom (as she often did) to check in. She was never seen or heard from again. The dentist (Dr. Larry Amos) said that she left the office around 8:30, but that he didn't know whom she'd left with. Even though the family, friends and authorities considered the Dr’s statements questionable, he was never officially a person of interest in her disappearance. To all that knew her Cleashindra would never have taken off and not let someone know her where a bouts. She was valedictorian of her graduating class (slated to give the commencement speech two weeks after her disappearance) at Watson Chapel High School, excited about attending Memphis State University in the fall in order to become a pediatrician, she was very active in her church, her school band and choir and considered a well rounded, solidly grounded young lady. Clea's mother (Mrs. Laurell Hall) was never able to get any national attention brought to her disappearance (then or now).
Now, the purpose of this post is not to diminish the magnitude of this tragedy, nor was it an attempt to minimize the obvious level of anguish felt by all who knew this beautiful life ended far too soon. It's intent is to simply spark discussion and thought. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, friends, agencies and all others that were directly (or indirectly) involved in the search for this and other missing and/or abducted children. May this be a problem whose end is on the horizon?
Pictures and information courtesy of Saving Our Children
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Missing (and missed)
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