California has officially enacted a new law to create an “Ebony Alert” system for the state. The new system will disseminate alerts and mobilize resources to find missing Black women and youth. While the new law is designed to help overcome racial disparities in the search for vulnerable Black individuals, critics have already mocked the law as unnecessary or accused it of being reverse racism.
Ebony Alert signed into law
As Blavity previously reported, California State Sen. Steven Bradford led efforts to pass a statewide Ebony Alert system for missing Black women and children. California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the bill on Oct. 8, setting the stage for the new law to go into effect on Jan. 1. The law will empower the California Highway Patrol to issue an Ebony Alert for missing Black people under the age of 25. The system will focus on instances of Black children or young women who are kidnapped, are missing, and those who are “at risk, developmentally disabled, or cognitively impaired” or disappear “under unexplained or suspicious circumstances,” according to the legislation. It will also allow law enforcement to reach out to media sources to highlight these cases. The system is modeled after the Amber Alert system for missing children.
Protecting the most vulnerable populations
Statistics show that Black children go missing at disproportionately high rates compared to white children in the United States. Even so, missing Black youth are often labeled “runaways” or otherwise ignored by media and law enforcement. The Ebony Alert system is meant to address these disparities. “It’s just a stark difference in how law enforcement and the media deals with this issue,” Bradford told The Washington Post recently. The Ebony Alert system joins several other specialized systems for particular populations in California. The state recently passed a Feather Alert law for missing Indigenous people. California also issues Silver Alerts for missing seniors, as well as Yellow Alerts and Blue Alerts to identify suspects involved in hit-and-run accidents or violent attacks on law enforcement, respectively.
Skepticism and mockery online
Despite the disproportionate instances of missing Black children and women and the relative lack of attention to their cases, some people have already criticized or mocked the new Ebony Alert system on social media.
Some people who support the cause of highlighting missing Black women and children think the new system will be counterproductive. “An ‘Ebony-Alert’ to differentiate missing Black youth from everyone else when all we asked was that the same measures to find us are increased using the Amber-Alert,” tweeted one skeptic. “Please don’t do this.”
An “Ebony-Alert” to differentiate missing Black youth from everyone else when all we asked was that the same measures to find us are increased using the Amber-Alert. Please don’t do this. https://t.co/hXX4JwqsBV
— Britt Banks (@britttbanks) October 10, 2023
Others on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, accused the new system of itself being racist.
“A child is a child no matter what color. California needs to stop pushing this race agenda,” tweeted a critic of the new law.
A child is a child no matter what color. California needs to stop pushing this race agenda.
— Marie Keegan (2) (@keylimegirl323) October 11, 2023
“The “Ebony Alert” is literally legalized racism,” tweeted another individual.
The "Ebony Alert" is literally legalized racism.
— Craig Chamberlin (@CraigChamberlin) October 11, 2023
Despite these misgivings, advocates of the Ebony Alert system hope that it will lessen racial disparities in how California responds to vulnerable missing people of color. Hopefully, the new system will not only bring more attention to these cases but also actually save lives.