Crime

'Ebony Alert' pushes to close gaps for missing Black women, children

Sen. Steven Bradford introduced California SB 673 to address the disparity among missing Black women and children and their White counterparts.

California Sen. Steven Bradford
California Sen. Steven Bradford
Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / AP

Racial disparities stretch across many aspects of our lives in the United States, particularly when it comes to the justice system. According to Census Bureau data, even though African-Americans only make up 13% of the U.S. population, nearly 40% of missing persons are persons of color.

That's where SB 673, or the "Ebony Alert," comes in. 

California Sen. Steven Bradford introduced SB 673 to create a notification system "to address the often ignored or lack of attention given to Black children and young Black women that are missing in California." 

In a statement, Sen. Bradford highlighted data from the Black and Missing Foundation, sharing that Black children are disproportionately classified as "runaways" in comparison to their White counterparts, who are classified as "missing" and, therefore, many Black children do not receive the Amber Alert. 

"When someone who is missing is incorrectly listed as a runaway, they basically vanish a second time. They vanish from the police detectives' workload. They vanish from the headlines," Bradford said. "In many ways, no one even knows they are missing. How can we find someone and bring them home safely when no one is really looking for them?"

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The Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs reports on AMBER Alert statistics. It says as of January 2, some 1,127 children were successfully recovered thanks to AMBER Alerts.

The AMBER Alert's namesake was 9-year-old Amber Hagerman, who went missing the afternoon of January 13, 1996 in Arlington, Texas. After her remains were found a couple of miles from her home, Texas resident Diana Simone suggested notifications be sent through the Emergency Alert System to alert the public when a child has been abducted so residents can help in the search. She asked the program be named in Hagerman's honor. 

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And just like the AMBER Alert, the Ebony Alert would disperse information to media outlets and ask for public assistance, but for missing Black children or young Black women between 12 and 25 years old.

"The Ebony Alert would ensure that resources and attention are given so we can bring home missing Black women and Black children in the same way we would search for any missing child and missing person," Bradford said.