Black History Month is an opportunity to remember and honour the contributions and accomplishments of Black people throughout history; stories that have often been overlooked or excluded.
At Missing People, we want to take the opportunity to reflect on how the issue of missing impacts Black communities, but also how members of those communities have been fighting for a better response.
Black people are disproportionately represented in missing reports to the police. About 14% of missing reports are for Black adults and children, despite Black people making up about 3% of the population of England and Wales.
This over-representation should be ringing alarm bells for all of us. We need to understand why people are more likely to go missing, what’s happening while they are away, and what support can be put in place to prevent and support people on their return.
Black missing people have not previously had the focus they deserve. Not enough has been done to understand experiences of going missing within those communities; and not enough attention has been paid to Black children and adults when they do go missing. The media often under-represents the issue, not providing the same coverage for Black missing people as they do for those who are white. And Black families have told us they have experienced discrimination from the police and other services when reporting their loved one missing. It is only recently that the media, charities like ours, and public services have started to pay attention.
Members of Black communities have been ringing those alarm bells and pushing for a better response for years. We have seen families of missing people bravely speak out in the press for their loved one, calling out the discriminatory experiences they have faced so that others don’t have to experience the same. Black Lives Matter UK and Missing Black People are bringing focus to the issue. We have seen Black journalists covering under-publicised missing person appeals. And we’ve seen people from Black communities across the country share appeals, information and raising their voices to try and help find people when they go missing.
There is a huge amount of work still to be done to understand how the issue of missing affects Black communities; to design better, culturally sensitive support for those impacted; and to prevent anyone from experiencing discrimination when missing or when reporting a loved one missing. We have seen Black-led organisations and Black individuals leading this work and we are committing to supporting them and continuing our own role to ensure change happens nationally.