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Foundation Puts Spotlight On Missing African Americans

This article is more than 10 years old.
Evelyn Shelton has been missing since May 2011. (Courtesy Shelton family)
Evelyn Shelton has been missing since May 2011. (Courtesy of the Shelton family)

The escape of the three missing women in Cleveland generated joyous news coverage and fixed the spotlight on the number of children still missing.

One nonprofit hopes the light continues to shine bright, and that it widens to include the disproportionately large number of missing African Americans.

African Americans make up around 12 percent of the U.S. population, but according to the nonprofit Black and Missing Foundation, they make up about a third of all missing people in the U.S.

Derrica Wilson, a former police officer and co-founder of the group, says we don't hear as much about missing black children and adults because of what she calls "missing white women syndrome."

"The media really focuses on those young, pretty white females that are missing — blond hair blue eyes," Wilson told Here & Now's Robin Young. "We always say 'less is more' — less of one particular race and more of everyone who's missing, and greater the chances of a reunion."

Wilson says one thing she would like to see is more diversity in newsrooms, to change the misperceptions about missing African Americans.

"When it comes to children under the age of 18 who are minorities, they are classified as runaways, so our runaways are not getting the amber alert," Wilson said. "When it comes to missing adults, a lot of times people like to associate them with some sort of criminal activity, whether it's gangs, whether it's prostitution."

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  • Derrica Wilson, a former police officer who founded the Black and Missing Foundation with her sister-in-law Natalie Wilson.
  • Rita Mims, aunt of Evelyn Shelton, who has been missing since May 2011.

This segment aired on May 17, 2013.


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