Last Sunday—nine days after a Black woman reportedly escaped the home of her white male kidnapper and torturer—”a group of about two dozen people gathered in prayer at a gas station parking lot roughly 40 miles to the southwest in Kansas City’s Marlborough Heights neighborhood,” according to the Kansas City Star.
As we previously reported, the Kansas City Police Department called the testimony of concerned Black community members “completely unfounded rumors” when they talked about numerous murdered and missing Black women in the area that didn’t appear to be drawing much attention from local law enforcement. That attitude made the department look pretty damn silly when less than a month later, the aforementioned Black woman was discovered banging on people’s doors desperately searching for help after escaping her alleged kidnapper and torturer, Timothy M. Haslett Jr.
So, it should be no surprise that Black community leaders are refusing to let up on speaking out against what they believe is a haphazard-at-best effort by police to look into cases in which Black women go missing or turn up dead.
“They’re afraid to go out in the streets and do anything because who knows what can happen,” one woman said during the vigil, which was held near East 80th Street and Prospect Avenue, the area where Haslett’s alleged victim was reportedly taken from. “You know, who knows, because the police don’t protect Black women. The media doesn’t protect Black women. It’s like we just look out for ourselves.”
From the Star:
Michele Watley, founder of Shirley’s Kitchen Cabinet, an organization dedicated to empowering Black women in leadership, said concerns of missing Black women are often downplayed by police and local media in a way that is “beyond problematic and irresponsible.” She said that contributes to difficulty in the solving of missing persons cases in the Black community generally.
“With both sides of the state line – Kansas and Missouri – having been at the center of sex trafficking, there must be urgency when addressing claims of missing Black people. Because of this, our community has to be the first line of defense, keeping an eye on those we love and standing tall against the systems that fail us seemingly at every turn,” Watley said in a statement.
Gwen Grant, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Kansas City, said the police department has a pattern of disregarding missing persons claims, especially when it comes to Black women.
“I think that history has taught Black people: When we go missing, the system does not work the way it does for white people,” Grant said.
The police and the media pay little attention to Black women who have disappeared, she said.
That point aligns with a long-held concern among many community activists, especially those focused on Black justice and police reform.
For example, in July 2017, police declined to take a missing person’s report for Carrie Mae Blewett. Three weeks later, the 37-year-old mother of four was found dead along a tree line in the 5100 block of College Avenue. The homicide remains unsolved.
Then there’s 44-year-old Kansas City resident Fernando White, who said Kansas City police generally blew him off when he reported his 15-year-old daughter as missing in September. White said he had difficulty reaching the detective assigned to his daughter’s case and that he ultimately found her himself thanks to social media posts, not the police.
“The whole time, I was looking for her by myself,” White said.
Police officers can claim all they want that all these people are lying on them about their alleged negligence, or that they do all that department protocol allows them to do to investigate missing persons cases, but Black people know when we’re being dismissed.
And we’re not going to just shut up about it. The protection of Black women depends on that.