No one looks for missing Brown girls.
That’s the bottom line of the 20 minute short film Muted on HBO. Featuring Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy) and Malcolm Jamal Warner (The Cosby Show, American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson) as the divorced parents of a missing teenager, Muted is art imitating life– in this case, the reality that many missing or abducted Black and Brown girls are by and large disregarded and forgotten by police and media outlets. In the film, 15 year-old Crystal Gladwell does not return home after school one day and is eventually found dead. In the same time frame, her parents are ignored by the same news stations actively covering the all too similar story of a missing white teenage girl.
Released in 2015, Muted was directed by Rachel Goldberg and written by Brandi Ford, who also plays Crystal’s older sister in the film. It won the “HBO Short Film Competition” when it premiered at the American Black Film Festival.
‘When we hear the term ”missing persons”, most people conjure up images of Chandra Levy, Caylee Anthony or Natalee Holloway.
‘As a result, the public is misled in believing that victims of abductions and kidnappings are [all] blonde, blue-eyed and female.’ –Natalie Wilson
Muted sat with me for a long while after it ended, but not nearly as long as the presence a missing child’s absence stays with their family and friends. It weighed heavily on me, but not nearly as heavy as memory, and maybe even regret, weighs on the hearts and minds of those missing a loved one. To further exacerbate the pain, for the parents of brown and black girls everywhere, their agony is all to often muted by police departments and news media. Families cry out for help, but the people who can help them turn a deaf ear. Missing Black and Brown children, girls especially, are ignored. When I think about this film, I’m reminded of the Grim Sleeper who killed 11 Black women, many of whom were sex workers, over a 22 year period. I’m reminded of the countless photos of Black and Brown girls we see across all social media platforms whose families beg us to simply keep our eyes open for their daughter-sister-cousin’s face.
“For black adults, police usually link their disappearances to criminal activity, so they aren’t valued as much. Training needs to be enhanced so police forces know how to handle these cases.”
I’m not sure what I mean to say here. I just watched a movie one night on HBO that made me shift in my seat way too much. Our reality demands that these stories be told. The numbers hit too close to home. While Black Americans make up barely 13% of the population of the United States, we made up over one-third of all missing persons reported in 2012. According to the Black & Missing Foundation, Black youth accounted for 37% of missing persons in 2014. Of the 135,000 Black Americans gone missing since 2010, 64,000 are Black women and girls who do not get a fraction of the media coverage their white counterparts receive.
So what can we do? Apply pressure. Take it upon ourselves to create coverage and awareness. Browse Black & Missing for more information. Inquiries or information on any of the people featured in the links above can be reported to the Black & Missing site or via phone at 1-877-972-2634.
Black and Brown girls go missing and their loved ones are muted. But we know their cries aren’t just noise.