(Trends Wide) — David Robinson has been in Arizona for three months looking for his 24-year-old son, Daniel Robinson, who disappeared after leaving a desert job site in his Jeep Renegade on June 23.
Robinson, who lives in South Carolina, hired an independent investigator and assembled a volunteer search team when he says he felt the police were not moving forward with the investigation. He also says that he did not get the media coverage he believed the case needed. Local media reported the case until July 9.
Robinson said he stands in solidarity with the family of Gabby Petito, whose remains were recovered Sunday after she disappeared while exploring parks in Wyoming, prompting a highly publicized search.
Still, Robinson said it is “painful” to see the case of a young white woman being dealt with with more urgency and national attention than that of her son, who is black.
“You wish you lived in a world where everything was the same, but it really isn’t,” Robinson told Trends Wide.
Robinson is one of the black and colored families whose loved ones remain missing and say they have fought for fair care in their cases. Some say they have been frustrated that the search for missing white women like Petito is in the limelight, while police appear to allow their cases to cool down or classify their loved one as a “fugitive.”
For years, this issue has prompted people of color to take action, holding meetings, initiating independent investigations, and seeking the help of community advocates and legislators to get their cases out there.
Some experts say that the country faces the “syndrome of missing white women”, which is defined by the greater attention that the media gives to white women and girls when they disappear compared to anyone who does not belong to that group. demographic, according to a study published by Northwestern University School of Law in 2016. The study notes that missing black people are less likely to attract media attention early than other groups and when they make news and they receive a lower intensity of coverage.
Zach Sommers, a criminalist and author of the Northwestern study, told Trends Wide that bias and systemic racism play a role in missing white women syndrome, a term he said was coined by the late television news anchor. Gwen Ifill.
“As a culture we are willing to easily accept stories about white people as victims as something we should care about,” he said. “When we see a missing white person, we say it could be my daughter, my neighbor, my cousin or my friend … and they identify with that person and are more likely to read the story than if it were a person of color “.
Blacks and Native Americans account for a disproportionate share of active missing persons cases
The FBI’s National Criminal Information Center (NCIC) list of active missing persons showed nearly 90,000 cases of active missing persons as of the end of 2020. Of those cases, blacks and Native Americans made up a larger proportion. missing persons than their total proportion of the US population.
And while missing white women’s cases receive more attention and urgency, people of color are disappearing at a disproportionate rate. According to 2020 FBI data, blacks account for 35% of missing person reports, but they only make up 13% of the American population. Whites, meanwhile, account for 54% of missing persons reports and 76% of the US population.
A father who lost faith in the police
David Robinson, who described his son as an honest geologist, a lover of the outdoors and with many friends, said he believes that if Daniel were white, the police would do more to find him.
“It bothers and disturbs me that the disappearance of my son is not important, is not urgent and does not receive much attention,” he said. “I’ve lost faith in the Buckeye Police Department.”
Daniel’s car was discovered by a rancher on July 19 about three miles from the workplace where he was last seen, Robinson said. The vehicle had suffered damage from the crash and a pile of his clothes and belongings was discovered nearby.
Buckeye Police Deputy Chief Bob Sanders told Trends Wide that his agents have “covered all the bases” in the search for Daniel Robinson.
Sanders said the department has followed up on all leads, interviewed co-workers, friends and family, and reviewed all evidence.
As of Wednesday, no criminal act is suspected in Daniel Robinson’s disappearance, Sanders said, but the investigation is ongoing.
“Daniel is a member of our community and we are committed to finding him,” Sanders said. “We identify with him (David Robinson) as a father and try to close him off in one way or another.”
“I shouldn’t feel there is a racial disparity”
Other black families say they are also angry at the way the police have handled their cases. Some have gained more attention on social media in light of the Petito case.
Jelani Day, 25, a graduate student at Illinois State University, was reported missing August 25 in Bloomington, Illinois, according to Trends Wide affiliate WLS-TV.
Her car was discovered in a wooded area about 100 kilometers north of Bloomington, but Jelani is still missing. Her mother, Carmen Bolden Day, has spoken in recent days, asking for answers and more help finding Jelani.
“Jelani is a sweetheart … I shouldn’t have to beg. I shouldn’t have to beg. I shouldn’t have to feel that there is a racial disparity, I shouldn’t have to feel any of that, I want these people who have these resources to give themselves realize this could happen to them, “Day said, according to WLS-TV.
A mother’s plea to find her missing daughter for almost 5 years
Toni Jacobs said her daughter Keeshae Jacobs has been missing since Sept. 26, 2016, when she left the family’s apartment in Richmond, Virginia. Jacobs said Keeshae, now 26, said she was spending the night with a friend, but never came home the next day.
Jacobs said police initially suggested that Keeshae was ignoring her mother’s calls and that she was probably not missing. However, 14 months after Keeshae’s disappearance, police said they suspected there was a criminal factor in her disappearance.
Jacobs said it’s unfair that Keeshae, who was only a year younger than Gabby Petito when she disappeared, did not receive the same search and publicity effort as Petito.
“My heart goes out to all the missing, I don’t want any parent to go through what I’ve been through,” Jacobs told Trends Wide.
“But at the same time it frustrates me that Keeshae didn’t get that attention. What made the FBI think his case was more important than Keeshae’s?”
Cases are not taken seriously
This long-standing disparity led Derrica Wilson to create the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc., in 2008 to help raise awareness of missing people of color. Wilson, a former police officer, said police too often label missing black people, including children, as fugitives or suggest they are involved in criminal activity. And since most law enforcement agencies allocate minimal resources to missing persons units, people of color are more likely to be forgotten, Wilson explained. Some of those same families have sought national and local news coverage without success, he said.
Wilson says his organization hopes to combat the problem, which it insists it is the result of systemic racism, by sharing and promoting the stories of black and colored families with missing loved ones through the media.
“We see it and say ‘why not us?” Wilson said. “Our families, our communities are desperate to find their missing loved ones and, sadly, their cases are not taken seriously.”
Lawmakers have also struggled to address the problem.
Earlier this year, the Minnesota state legislature passed a bill drafted by State Representative Ruth Richardson that would create a task force of missing and murdered African-American women and girls.
Richardson said the group will be tasked with making recommendations to improve the way the state handles cases of missing black women and girls. He pointed to the story of 18-year-old Brittany Clardy, who went missing in St. Paul in 2013 and police suggested to the family that she had run away with her boyfriend. Clardy’s family launched their own investigation and began getting leads, Richardson said. Clark’s body was later found in the trunk of his vehicle. Alberton Palmer was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his death.
Richardson said he wants police to treat these cases fairer, to set a path for stories to make the news, and to create a statewide office for missing and murdered Black women and girls.
“What we tend to see is that when black women and girls disappear, they are much more likely to be identified as fugitives and then you don’t get the same level of commitment from law enforcement, support and you don’t get Amber Alerts,” Richardson pointed out. “So there are a lot of things within our systems that have been set up in ways that really fail these families and these Black women and girls when they disappear.”