The social media phenomena has shaken the city to its core
The viral hashtag which has ran rampant through social media and sent shockwaves throughout the African American community began with a police tweet just months ago. A thirteen year old girl with pink slippers and a ponytail was deemed missing by the D.C. Police’s twitter and along with basic information about the girl, #Missingdcgirls was born. The tag caught on among prominent Twitter users and eventually took off into the stratosphere as rappers, entertainers and other influencers reposted it, putting pressure on the D.C. Police department to act quickly.
Rather than acknowledging the issue though, police ensured the public that #Missingdcgirls was not a thing at all. In fact, according to their statistics, reports of people missing was actually trending downwards. Police claim they thought bringing publicity to the ones that were missing would help eradicate the issue faster, a plan which backfired with the help of social media.
Rather than acknowledging the issue though, police ensured the public that #Missingdcgirls was not a thing at all.
Before long, numbers had arisen on Twitter such as the claim that 14 black girls were deemed missing in a day, a number that D.C Police claim is blasphemous. New York Daily News writer Shaun King also spoke his piece, stating via Twitter: “Dear people advocating for missing black girls, Please be sure you are spreading the truth and actual facts. It matters. It really matters”. He also tweeted that the pictures used for the 14 missing girl’s claim were inaccurate, as many of those girls were not in fact from DC and had been missing for years.
“Ten children of color went missing in our nation’s capital in a period of two weeks”
While the numbers may have been inflated though, the fact still remains: Black and hispanics seem to go missing at a disproportionate rate in comparison to other races. Law enforcement has long been known to prioritize the attention that a missing case will receive by race and economic class, which begs the question, who will go the extra mile when a person of color goes missing? The hashtag has brought the conversation to the forefront, forcing politicians to speak on the matter. Cedric Richmond, the current Congressional Black Caucus chairman sent a letter to the Attorney general and FBI director demanding that they “Devote the resources necessary to determine whether these developments are an anomaly or whether they are indicative of an underlying trend that needs to be addressed”. They also added the statistic that “Ten children of color went missing in our nation’s capital in a period of two weeks,” A number that is quite staggering in its own right.
While the numbers may have been inflated though, the fact still remains: Black and hispanics seem to go missing at a disproportionate rate in comparison to other races.
The #Missingdcgirls hashtag is proof that Twitter can often be a double edge sword where people often shape stories to fit their own narratives. For example, the original tweet about the missing girl with the pink slippers and ponytail was immediately retweeted over a hundred times. However, when the girl returned home hours later, that news was only retweeted thirteen times. The other side of the sword though, is the conversation that an issue going viral can cause. The hashtag has resulted in many people discussing the racial divide that still plagues DC and its police force to this day, and even informing some about the sex traffic and organ traffic underworld that some runaways have fell victim to. So while some numbers in the #Missingdcgirls phenomena have proved to be hyperbolic, the tag highlighted issues that need to be spoken about, and are very much real.