The face of Gabby Petito is one we’ve come to recognize because the story around her disappearance and death has made national headlines over the past several days.
Families of missing persons of color have expressed frustration at not being heard on the same level as the media coverage.
Newsy’s partners spoke with Jelani Day, a 25-year-old Illinois State University graduate student who disappeared in suspicious circumstances one month ago.
Carmen Bolden-Day said that the police’s handling of her son’s case has been frustrating, lacking in information and lack of sympathy. She hired a private detective and an attorney to assist her.
“I’m not going to be quiet and sit back and accept this treatment. My son is important,” she said.
On Thursday, the LaSalle County Coroner’s Office identified a body found near a river on Sept. 4 as Jelani Day. Authorities stated that the remains could not be identified immediately due to their condition.
Bolden-Day’s story and frustrations are not unique for families of missing people of color.
“And we also believe that there’s a narrative or stereotype that the people missing from our communities are impoverished, they are addicted to drugs or some type of addictions, they have a criminal background. They are not valued. To me, they aren’t seen as humans,” said Natalie Wilson, co-founder of Black and Missing Foundation, Inc.
Northwestern law school confirms bias and systemic racism play a role in those who are Black and missing getting less media attention. According to the FBI, Blacks go missing more frequently than other people, even when you consider population.
Blacks account for a third of all active missing persons cases.
“And we see these waves where something happens and there’s a firestorm and then the story dies. Let’s not allow that to happen. Let’s have a conversation so we can find more missing people. You know, there’s Keeshae Jacobs that’s missing out of Richmond, there’s Phoenix Coldon who’s still missing out of St Louis. There are so many people missing, Akia Eggleston, she’s missing out of Baltimore,” said Wilson.
Wilson suggests that laws could be changed to make it more equitable for all people, including those of color and young adults who may not be eligible for Amber Alerts or Silver Alerts.
Wilson says that everyone can play a role and you can begin by sharing photos of missing persons in your local community.
“And share that information within your network. All we need is one person to come forward, to provide answers, or they found the missing person’s family or a recovery,” said Wilson.