The rate at which Black women and girls go missing in the United States is higher than that of their white counterparts. As Carma Henry reported for the Westside Gazette, “What’s even more alarming is that the media coverage and legislation that missing Black girls are getting seems to be lacking compared to missing white girls.” As of 2014 there are 64,000 missing Black women and girls, most of whom have not been found, due in part to the lack of coverage their stories garner.
As Henry explained, a 2010 study of US media coverage of missing children found that “only 20 percent of reported stories focused on missing Black children despite [their disappearances] corresponding to 33 percent of the overall missing children cases.” The study concluded that missing persons stories involving Black children, and specifically missing Black girls, are reported on by corporate media less frequently than other missing children cases.
A 2015 study discussed in the William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice found that the disparity listed in the 2010 study between the reportage and the reality of missing Black children had increased substantially. As of 2015, Black children accounted for 35 percent of missing children cases, while only representing a dismal 7 percent of media reports on missing children. Media coverage is often vital in missing person cases because it raises community awareness and can drive funding and search efforts that support finding those missing persons.
The Atlanta Black Star shed light on perhaps the most prolific offender against Black women and girls in recent history, Jason Roger Pope, who has been indicted on charges relating to human trafficking and child sex crimes. Pope, a white South Carolina promoter and popular disc jockey better known as DJ Kid, has made claims suggesting he may have participated in the trafficking, assault, and/or rapes of nearly seven hundred African American girls—primarily under-aged—right up until his arrest in August 2019. Victims as young as thirteen years old testified that Pope coerced them into performing sex acts in exchange for items such as money and drugs.
On his active Facebook page, Pope wrote, “I’m 36 with 693 BODIES (All Black females), WBU?” In a photo album called “DJ KID (PARTIES & GIRLS—Part 1)” there are numerous photographs depicting Pope in inappropriate, sexually-charged poses with under-aged African American girls. A relative of Pope’s reportedly contacted police in mid-2018, claiming that Pope would pay underage girls to perform sex acts and later post about the encounters online, but their concerns were ignored. Pope has police records going as far back as 2011 relating to sexual misconduct with minors. Yet outside of a few local news outlets, the corporate media has been silent on Pope’s crimes.
Human trafficking relies on an expansive underground market that frequently goes unnoticed and underreported. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, it is estimated that, globally, 94 percent of humans trafficked for sex consist of women and girls. The Human Trafficking Search also notes that African Americans are affected by sex trafficking disproportionately in the United States, accounting for more than 40 percent of confirmed sex trafficking victims despite only representing 13.1 percent of the population.
The corporate media’s failure to report on Pope’s egregious acts is reflective of their larger pattern of ignoring crimes against Black women and girls, whether they are trafficked, abused, or disappeared. House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi has spoken out against the widespread problem of missing Black women and girls in the United States, hoping to call attention to the often-ignored issue, yet the little coverage she received on the issue ironically tended to obscure the fact that a disproportionate number of the women and girls missing in the United States are Black. [Note, for example, what’s missing from the title of NBC News’s coverage: Chandelis R. Duster, “Congressional Leaders Call for Action on Missing Women and Girls,” NBC News, April 27, 2017.]
Apart from small independent sources, many of which report primarily on the Black community, this gap in coverage of missing Black women and girls has gone widely underreported. An ABC News article discussed the fact that many Black families have to fight to get the attention of media and police for their missing person cases. CNN detailed the many factors that contribute to higher rates of missing Black children in America and identified inadequate media coverage as a source of the disparity. But, broadly, US corporate media are not willing to discuss their own shortcomings or to acknowledge the responsibilities they neglect by failing to provide coverage on the search for missing and victimized Black women and girls.
Carma Henry, “There are 64,000 Missing Black Women and Girls in the United States and No One Seems to Care,” Westside Gazette, February 21, 2019, https://thewestsidegazette.com/there-are-64000-missing-black-women-and-girls-in-the-united-states-and-no-one-seems-to-care/.
Tanasia Kenney, “‘693 Bodies . . . All Black’: White S.C. Man Accused of Trafficking, Kidnapping Underage Girls for Sex Withdraws Request for Bond, May Have More Victims,” Atlanta Black Star, October 17, 2019, https://atlantablackstar.com/2019/10/17/693-bodies-all-black-white-s-c-man-accused-of-trafficking-kidnapping-underage-girls-for-sex-withdraws-request-for-bond-may-have-more-victims/.
Paula Rogo, “South Carolina DJ Accused of Trafficking and Sexual Crimes Against Black Girls,” Essence, October 19, 2019, https://www.essence.com/news/south-carolina-dj-human-trafficking-black-girls/.
“Everything to Know about the White Man Who May Have Sex Trafficked Nearly 700 Black Girls,” NewsOne, October 18, 2019, https://newsone.com/3890531/jason-roger-pope-dj-kid-sex-trafficking/.
Student Researchers: Zakeycia Briggs (Indian River State College) and Melissa Harden (North Central College)
Faculty Evaluators: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College) and Steve Macek (North Central College)