Missing Black children often do not get the same national media exposure as their White counterparts.
Breaking the Trend; Changing the Narrative
The death of little Maleah Davis, 4, shook up the entire country, not just the Greater Houston area.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner labeled Maleah Davis as our baby and many Houstonians concurred.
However, the nationwide coverage that Davis’ disappearance and death received via mainstream and social media presented more of an anomaly than the norm for missing African-American girls and women.
As of February, 64,000 African-American girls and women remain missing with very little media attention, and often no national coverage.
Approximately 75,000 total African-Americans remain missing.
Often, the only missing children that receive nationwide coverage are pretty young White females because many of the decision makers in the mainstream press come from the White community like major news producers and editors.
An essay in Ebony Magazine entitled, “Why The Crisis of Missing Black Girls Needs More Attention Than It’s Getting,” La’Tasha D. Mayes reported that only 20 percent of missing persons stories focused on missing African-American children despite African-American children representing 33 percent of all missing children.
Mayes wrote, “In other words, missing Black youth are grossly underrepresented in the news. For missing girls, it’s even worse. When Black girls go missing, far too many people don’t know or don’t care.”
Over the years, African-American media companies have tried to reverse the stereotype that those in media do not care about missing African-American children.
TV One aired the program “Find Our Missing” starting in 2012 and running for two seasons.
Extensive media coverage can mean the difference in finding a missing child or losing them for good.
Mainstream national media coverage has led to the successful rescue of children like Elizabeth Smart, who got kidnapped by a laborer at her parents’ home in Salt Lake City.
Rescuers found the 14-year-old nine months later.
The disappearance of Natalee Holloway, who went missing during a high school senior class trip to Aruba, also received extensive media coverage from national outlets.
Holloway went missing in 2005.
Authorities declared her dead in 2010 when they could not recover remains.
At the time of the media’s coverage of Smart and Holloway, many parents of missing African-American children expressed their frustration with what they considered bias news coverage.
“Black girls are magical and should be noticed, uplifted and acknowledged, both within and outside of the Black community,” said Ginger Lavender Wilkerson, a licensed family and marriage therapist in the State of California.
“To recognize Black girls are magical means defining them as precious, unique and valued. When society recognizes their worth and value, I believe that more attention will be paid to this matter. In addition, it will call for all people to recognize this as an epidemic and cause for action,” Wilkerson added.
The death of Maleah Davis might have resulted in that call to action as people of all races and backgrounds rallied by Houston local activists like Quanell X and Texas EquuSearch founder Tim Miller to bring Davis back home.
Davis’ stepfather Derion Vence told Quanell X that he dumped her body in Arkansas.
Authorities in Hope, Ark. eventually found Davis’ remains on May 31 after workers mowed over her remains on accident.
On June 3, the investigators officially identified the remains as that of Maleah Davis.
The body had suffered so much damage that discerning the cause of death might prove impossible.
Quanell X has stated that one of Vence’s relatives knew about the crime and cover up, and that Davis’ mother Brittany Bowens should be held accountable for her actions too or lack thereof.
Although Davis’ mother had broken up her engagement with Vence because of unfaithfulness, she still left Davis in the care of Vence when she left town to attend her father’s funeral.
Vence said that criminals had attacked him outside of his car near Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston and abducted Maleah Davis.
However, authorities questioned his story from the get-go.
A former police officer told RegalMag.com that Vence’s injury showed that he did not even try to defend himself or attempt to get away from his alleged attackers.
The former police officer told RegalMag.com that if someone attempts to hit a person, that person would either try to avoid the blow, which means the wound would not be squarely on his forehead.
The wound would probably be on the side of his face and not straight on his face.
Additionally, a victim might have put up their hands to defend themselves, which would have probably left defensive wounds on their hands.
Vence’s wounds made many in the law enforcement community believe that Vence actually hit himself.
Nevertheless, Vence is only facing charges of tampering with evidence, namely a corpse at RegalMag.com press time.
Those charges could be upgraded to murder and Vence might face the death penalty.
“We are all saddened by the confirmation of the identification of the remains,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo in a statement. “However, we are heartened by the fact this sweet child can now receive the proper burial she deserved.”
Acevedo added that the Houston Police Department would work “to ensure the person(s) responsible for her death, and the attempt to cover-up her death, are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”
Despite the tragic outcome for Maleah Davis and her loved-ones, not to mention the global community, maybe she will be the child that changes everything for missing children from minority communities.
Something about Maleah Davis seemed to touch everyone, Black or White.
Furthermore, something about Maleah Davis made many women question who they allow in their children’s lives and who they allow to babysit or co-parent their children.
Maleah Davis shook up the narrative of missing children.
Maybe in death, she can shake up the way the media covers missing children moving forward.