by Robbie Jackson
The great Malcom X is quoted saying: “The most disrespected person in America is the Black
woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected
person in America is the Black woman.” He said that in 1964, and 59 years later here in the Bay
Area Black women and girls continue to be the preferred target for human trafficking.
But what makes Black women and children the perfect candidate for this unwanted position? “Black girls and women are being targeted because they are presumed to be more vulnerable and have limited support systems. They have been overlooked and undervalued up to and into their professional careers,” says Oakland Police Commission Chair Emeritus Regina Jackson.
This statement proves to be true when you think about how long this has been an issue. They are a vulnerable portion of an already vulnerable community. When left alone they could easily be thrown in a van, held against their will and forced into slavery – with little effort in trying to find them.
Now in the era of gorilla pimpin’ – where it’s literally a snatch and grab situation – Black women and girls are the perfect product to push. “We had an incident this summer where one of our kids was walking down to Food King and someone literally tried to snatch her and pull her in a van. It’s nothing new unfortunately. Oakland has for a long time had this pimp culture. It has become a safe ground for human trafficking,” says Selena Wilson, CEO and executive director of the East Oakland Youth Development Center.
But how is this possible when America has a whole system inspired and started for missing children?
“The system typically does not really respond. If you don’t want the authorities to be heavily on you, then you target a group that the authorities are less invested in protecting and that
society at large is less invested in protecting,” says Wilson.
In 1956 The AMBER Alert System began when Dallas-Fort Worth broadcasters teamed with local police to develop an early warning system to help find abducted children. Officially AMBER stands for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response. The system itself was inspired by Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old murdered white girl who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle. Other states and communities soon set up their own AMBER alert plans. This system that is known and executed nationwide was the result of the federal and local government being invested in the protection of their children.
It’s 2023 and newly introduced Senate Bill 673 would create an “Ebony Alert” notification system specifically for our children. “The standard AMBER alert system doesn’t really apply to our girls. People will assume our girls are runaways. They will make assumptions when our kids are missing, assuming it was voluntary. Whereas when it’s a white girl usually the assumption is that it was forcible. It’s more of an innocence assumed. It also shows Black girls are assumed to be older than they are: the Adultification and Fetishization of Black girls.” says Wilson.
State Sen. Steve Bradford says the purpose of the new alert system is to “ensure that resources and attention are given to bringing home missing Black women and children. When someone who is missing is incorrectly listed as a runaway, they basically vanish a second time … They vanish from the police detective’s workload. They vanish from the headlines. In many ways, no one even knows they are missing.”
And while that motion happens on a state level, local nonprofits here in the Bay Area are collectively making waves themselves. “Thankful to Daryle Allums of Adamika village for pulling these meetings together. Yes, Black girls and women have historically been prayed upon, sexually exploited and turned into prostitutes, kidnapped and trafficked. While this is not new in Oakland, I believe it has been heightened during the pandemic and seems to be more brazen in the attacks,” says Jackson.
“Recently, one of my mentees, a high school senior at Oakland High School, averted her own kidnapping by fighting back. One of the two attackers had been tracking her on AC Transit and attacked her a few blocks from her home. Since she fought back and some kind stranger arrived to pepper spray them, they retreated.”
Only time will tell if these efforts will result in a safer space for young Black women and children. If it does, then the world becomes a better place to exist. More invested efforts to resolve this tragic human rights issue is a necessity. Always have been. Always will be.
Robbie Jackson is a student of the San Francisco Bay View’s Community Journalism Class, which is funded by the California State Library.