Friday, May 9, 2008
Missing and Black
On an early spring evening in 2003 Ramona Moore went missing on her way to a Burger King. Until recently her name has been absent from the media. There were no national alerts, no hourly updates on CNN, in fact no media attention at all. According to the village voice even the killers were upset by the lack of coverage.
"They put people on the news for doing stupid shit like jumping off roofs," she heard one of the men tell the other. "After this, we better get on the news."
When Ramona's mother questioned reporters, about why her daughters disappearance was not getting any press, she was told that the police were saying that she was just another run away.
From almost the very beginning the police refused to assigned sufficient manpower, or take the case seriously. When Carmichael called to report her daughter missing after the initial 24 hour waiting period she was told, "Lady, why are you calling here? Your daughter is 21. These officers should not have taken the report in the first place." The next day, April 26, the complaint was marked "closed." Her family repeatedly begged officers to investigate Ramona's case. It took a plea from a local politician that was contacted by the family for a case to even be "re-opened".
No one cared about case No. 2003-067-65609. Romona was just another missing black woman. It is only in the aftermath of torture, rape and murder that the media and the police are finally paying attention. Justice has been served in that her killers are behind bars for life without the possibility of parole, but would it even have had a role to play had the police done their jobs from the very beginning?
Carmichael, Romonas mother is fighting to make sure that this does not happen to anyone else. She has filed a civil rights law suit charging that the NYPD has a "practice of not making a prompt investigation of missing-persons claims of African-Americans, while making a prompt investigation for white individuals." Judge Nina Gershon's ruling is believed to be the first of its kind in the city.
Without looking at the research statistics I feel within my heart that bias will be proven. As I sit and think of the nightly news reports that I have watched for years, I cannot recall missing stories on Blacks of any gender, or age being heavily reported. Blacks make the news when we commit crime, not when a crime is committed against us.
In Romanas case there is a connection between race, class and gender. Occupying the body of a black female made it all the more likely for her disappearance to be ignored. Women that make the news are by enlarged white and middle class. People are shocked when a white female body is defiled but when that body is black, it is the acceptable norm. Black bodies do not matter socially, and the bodies of black women matter even less.
As I have repeatedly posted black women historically have been characterized as the ultimate "un-woman". It is this social construction that makes our bodies ripe for exploitation in all forms. We are invisible until we are being used and abused. Considered to be without value, and recourse to make effective change we have been relegated to the bottom layers of society. Ramona is just one woman, but her death symbolizes the senseless deaths of black women since we first stepped foot on this harsh continent.
When we cry out with a mothers grief at the loss of our children, we are ignored. When we scream with a womans rage, when our bodies are brutalized, and raped we are silenced. When our stomachs burn with the bile of rejection, we are created as less than human. My blood boils with the rage of confronting daily, the scurrility of this system of human apathy and conceit. May Carmichael find true justice for her daughter, and for all of the brown and black daughters of the earth, who wait in silence and anguish for the cleansing justice of realizing their humanity in the light of day.