A new California law which goes into effect Jan. 1 is the first of its kind in the nation to prioritize the search for missing black kids and young black women.
On Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed Senate Bill 673 to create the “Ebony Alert” monitoring system, which will allow the Highway Patrol to activate the alert upon request from local law enforcement when black youth, or women, go missing in an area. The Ebony Alert system will utilize electronic highway signs, and encourages authorities to use social media, TV, radio and other systems to spread word when a black child (or woman!) goes missing, NBC News reports.
The Ebony Alert will be used for missing black people between the ages of 12 and 25.
What about Asian, Hispanic and white kids?
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 11, 2023
“Data shows that Black and brown, our indigenous brothers and sisters, when they go missing there’s very rarely the type of media attention, let alone AMBER alerts and police resources that we see with our white counterparts,” state Sen. Steven Bradford (D), who created the legislation, told NBC News earlier this year, adding “We feel it’s well beyond time that we dedicate something specifically to help bring these young women and girls back home because they’re missed and loved just as much as their counterparts are.”
About 141,000 Black children under the age of 18 went missing in 2022, and Black women over 21 accounted for nearly 16,500 missing persons cases that year, according to the most recent data from the National Crime Information Center. More than 30,000 Black people in the U.S. remained missing at the end of 2022, according to the center. Although about 38% of the people who went missing i in 2022 were Black, according to the Black and Missing Foundation, missing Black people are less likely than white people to have their stories highlighted in the media. Also, missing persons cases for Black people remain open longer than those for white people. Derrica Wilson, co-founder of the foundation, told CNN that a majority of the 6,000 cases of missing Black people in her database remain unsolved. -NBC News
The state’s Amber Alert system, meanwhile, requires that a victim be under the age of 17 or have a proven disability, and authorities must have a reason to believe they’re in danger. Alerts can’t be used for custody battles or runaways.
The problem, according to the report, is that missing black kids are usually classified as runaways – and therefore don’t qualify for Amber Alerts.
“Something’s better than nothing,” said Bradford. “Whether the Amber alert or an Ebony Alert is going to be 100% effective, we don’t go with that false illusion or belief. But it’s better than not doing anything at all.”