Carlee Russell Goes “Missing”: Combatting Misogynoir Through Black Feminist Thought (Perspectives)

Black women have long been associated with a culture of dehumanization which forces us to constantly prove that we are worthy of empathy, care, protection, and worthy of being believed.
TIME – Community members participate in a remembrance celebration of Relisha Rudd at the Deanwood Recreation Center in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 27, 2016. [Marvin Joseph—The Washington Post/Getty Images]

“Black Women Are Worth Protecting!” by Tabitha Robinson

Laura E. Mason. Samone Jackson. Latonya Hill. Kimberly Lawanda Carter. Marilynn Brinson. Mia Adams. Tiyana Coates. Alaya Bowen. Mariah Edwards. Kimika Coleman. Kiara Windom. Charita Chambers. Marshae Ivey. Nefertiri Trader. Dynasty Alexander. Ethel Atwell. Asia Wilbon. Tionda and Diamond Bradley. Amaria Hall. Sacoya Cooper. Shawtyeria Waites. Arianna Fitts. Kierra Coles. Rajah Adriana McQueen. Relisha Rudd. Lashaye Stine. Tamika Huston.

All names of Black women and girls who have gone missing and either: A) never found, or B) found dead. #SayHerName

This list doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Over 89,000 Black women and girls were reported missing in the U.S. by the end of 2022. 100,000 of the 300,000 missing persons in 2020 were Black women. Despite making up only 13% of the population, Black people hold 35% of the missing persons record.

This speaks volumes of the lack of protection and care for Black people in America. Missing white women are significantly more likely to get national and consistent coverage than Black women. Attention is drawn to her case. Authorities are diligent in their search. Many of these women are found.

Take Sherri Papini for example: this woman was not only “found,” but authorities spent millions of dollars looking for her “abductors” after the abduction only to find out years later that this woman had lied. She faked her own kidnapping, bruised herself, and showed up on the side of the road claiming two Latina women with big hoop earrings and bandanas had abducted and beat her. And no matter how empty their search came up, the authorities never stopped looking for the women who “abducted” her. They never gave up hope.

Or what about Quinn Hanna Gray, who was “found” in a motel parking lot. Over $86,000 were used to fund the search for her––only to find out she had conspired with her lover to fake her own kidnapping.

There are many more stories of white women, both truly and falsely abducted, that gained national coverage. It pains me to write that many of the Black names listed above never gained that attention. I, myself, am only now learning about many of them. Where was their national coverage? Where were the thousands of millions of dollars dished out to find them? Why were they labeled as runaways? Why were suspects never pursued or charged? Why do these women’s families still not have justice or peace?

The answer is simple. America does not care about Black women and girls. Where can Black women go when we:

  • Aren’t safe to leave our homes
  • Aren’t safe to stay home alone
  • Have to watch our backs while driving or walking down the streets of our neighborhoods
  • Can’t trust the people around us
  • Aren’t safe on dating sites

Imagine my outrage when I learned that there actually was a serial abductor taking young Black women from their neighborhoods in my city. Radio stations, major news outlets, and police alike went to extremes to debunk the “rumors” that had been spreading like wildfires all over social media. I was appalled at the amount of Black people who didn’t believe it––but even more disgusted when I learned of the young woman who escaped and confirmed that those “rumors” were in fact true.

When Black people speak up about injustices, traumatic experiences, suspicions, and the like, we are quickly met with resistance. We are unbelievable until proven believable and that is truly atrocious.

With all these statistics, I wonder why very few people (Black people included) are pushing for mental health reform in Black communities in the wake of Carlee Russell’s stunt. Why is she being bullied on social media? Why is her case enough to deter people (Black people included) from wanting to believe a Black girl when she goes missing or says something bad has happened to her? Might I remind you that Papini and Gray are only two of the white women who cried wolf, still every white girl is believed until proven unbelievable.

Black girls have to go through the fire to be heard, let alone seen, cared for, and protected. The peace I find at night knowing I have to raise young women in a world that spits in the face of Black girls, is very minimal. Thank you to the organizations like the Black and Missing Foundation and journalists like Erika Marie Rivers who are raising awareness and doing their part to help find these women.


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