Missing Black women and girls don’t always get the attention they deserve. Rep. Ruth Richardson wants to change that.
In June 2021, it was reported that Minnesota was to become the first state to have a task force on missing and murdered African American girls. There are currently 64,000 Black women and girls missing in the United States.
The bill to create the task force was unanimously approved in February and became law on September 20.
Rep. Richardson is the Chair of the Education Policy Committee and has been appointed to the task force. She was one of the bill’s primary authors.
According to the Minnesota Session Laws 2021, 1st Special Session, “$100,000 the first year and $50,000 the second year are to implement the task force on missing and murdered African American women.” It is a one-time appropriation.
In July 2021, Axios reported a “12-person panel, made up of representatives from the courts, law enforcement and victims’ advocacy groups, will come up with policy recommendations to address the issue by December 2022.”
“We have to consider root causes of historical trauma, systemic racism, sexism, sexual objectification of Black women and girls, and the vulnerabilities that poverty, homelessness, child welfare disparities, domestic violence, sex trafficking and fear of law enforcement create,” said Rep. Ruth Richardson in December 2020.
During a testimony from Richardson, she revealed data from 2016 to 2019 stating that the homicide rate for Black women in Minnesota was over 2 times higher than for all women in the state. It was 2.7 times the rate for white women.
In Wyoming, the state where Gabby Petito disappeared, 710 Indigenous people were reported missing. The majority of them are girls.
Meanwhile, the search for Jelani Day, a 25-year-old Black college student, is in its fourth week.
In the past decade, there have been nationwide localized and digital efforts to bring awareness to the issue of missing Black women and girls specifically. In 2012, Daily Mail published an article on missing Black women revealed “missing persons from lower economic status are often associated with criminal activity.”
In 2018, a Chicago teen named Aziya Roberts organized a march with a focus on Black women and girls who had gone missing. She was inspired by social media. “I want black girls to get together to protect ourselves and each other. All we have is each other and this is the time to start being there for one another,” Roberts said to Block Club Chicago during a rally. This June, the march was held for the fourth year.
“We are overdue for a community response,” Rep. Richardson wrote on Twitter. “Proud my bill became law & ready to get to work.”