Black women and children are significantly more likely to go missing when compared to their white counterparts, yet their cases tend to receive much less attention from law enforcement agencies and the media. A new proposal in California to create an “Ebony Alert” system for missing Black women and children hopes to close the gap in attention.
State Senator Steven Bradford, who has served in the California state assembly since 2009, introduced the legislation last month as Senate Bill 673.
“We must do all we can to bring our missing Black children and young Black women home safely,” Senator Bradford posted on Twitter earlier this week about his proposed new legislation. “My Ebony Alert legislation #SB673 would increase the resources and attention given to these critical cases,” Bradford said.
We must do all we can to bring our missing Black children and young Black women home safely. My Ebony Alert legislation #SB673 would increase the resources and attention given to these critical cases. #CALeg https://t.co/OIaMpuXUuF
— Senator Steven Bradford (@SenBradfordCA) April 12, 2023
According to a press release issued about the proposal, “SB 673 would authorize a law enforcement agency to request that an Ebony Alert be activated if that agency determines that it would be an effective tool in the investigation of a missing Black youth or young Black women between the ages of 12 – 25 years.” Additionally, in such cases of missing Black children or young women, “SB 673 would encourage news organizations including television, cable, online, radio and social media outlets to cooperate with disseminating the information contained in an Ebony Alert.”
Experts note that there are currently several systems that were inspired by missing white women and girls. The most famous of these is the Amber Alert system for kidnapped children, named after Amber Hagerman. Megan’s Law, creating a sex offenders’ registry, was named after Megan Kanka. Laci Peterson, a pregnant white woman whose high-profile disappearance ended in a murder conviction for her husband, inspired Laci and Conner’s Law, which recognizes fetuses as murder victims. All these systems, experts criticize, focus disproportionately on white women and children, a phenomenon that has been dubbed “missing white woman syndrome.”
California is currently one of several states attempting to address the disparities between white and nonwhite missing persons. Earlier this year, the Minnesota House of Representatives passed a bill that would create a statewide Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls. If passed by the Minnesota Senate and signed into law, this would the first such agency in the nation. Meanwhile, California and Montana have passed laws addressing the disproportionate number of Indigenous women and girls who go missing.
The passage of SB 673 would be a significant next step in helping to rescue the most vulnerable members of the country’s most vulnerable communities. With public support and no noticeable opposition, this important new tool may soon become law in California.