Jelani Day’s mother wants the police and media to care about him as if he was a white woman. Day, a Black graduate student at Illinois State University, went missing almost a month ago.
News of Gabby Petito’s disappearance and subsequent murder has led to renewed discussions on the missing Black and other people of color who often go unnoticed. Officially the investigation continues, but Day’s family wants to ensure the public doesn’t forget about him. People reported Day’s car was found two days after he was reported missing.
Carmen Bolden Day, Jelani’s mother, spoke with Newsy on Monday. She is pleading with law enforcement to continue the search. No parent wants to have to make such a plea.
She said there isn’t a lot of substantive information beyond an unidentified body found near a river. Local news reported the body was undergoing forensic testing to identify the remains. Bolden Day says she doesn’t feel like she is getting the help she needs from local authorities.
“I feel like since this body has been found, and as I said, it’s unidentified, I don’t truly believe it is my son,” Bolden Day said. “It appears that help has like ceased. I’m imploring, pleading and asking that the police still pay attention and look for my son.”
Carmen Day asks why her Black son isn’t getting the same concern and attention as a white woman in the Newsy interview. “I was very frustrated with the fact that Jelani hadn’t been getting the coverage,” she said. “Jelani has been missing for 24 days.”
Feeling like the effort to find her son has “slacked down,” Bolden Day said she knew of Gabby Petito’s case and wondered why her son wasn’t seen as worthy of the same attention.
“Her face is plastered everywhere, and the FBI is involved,” she continued. “And I do not understand why Jelani doesn’t get that same coverage; Jelani doesn’t get that same attention..” (Watch the full Newsy interview here).
Pointing out the disparity in coverage and treatment, also known as “missing white woman syndrome,” a term coined by journalism legend Gwen Ifil, doesn’t mean that victims like Gabby Petito should not receive attention. But other people also deserve the same diligence.
Earlier this summer, the family of another young Black man went through a similarly harrowing experience. Quintez Brown, a student at the University of Louisville, went missing in June. After nearly two weeks, the writer and local organizer was eventually found safe and unharmed.
Jelani’s family is hoping for a similar outcome. Anyone with information about Day or who had contact with him is encouraged to call Bloomington Police at (309) 820-8888 and Detective Paul Jines at (309) 434-2548 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“He is not a nobody; he is somebody,” Bolden Day said. “And I want him to come back home.”