So, did you know there’s a 5-year-old girl missing in America? Did you know she’s been missing for three weeks? If you didn’t, don’t feel bad because it’s not your fault. You see, 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley is Black; and, as expected, there’s very little media coverage of her disappearance. Yes I know you’re probably tired of people like me throwing out these race cards. But the reality remains: female Black bodies just aren’t valued in the mainstream media. Hell, there have been many cases in as much as recent years to support this.
However, it was not always this way in America. Once upon a time, if a Black woman or a Black child who happens to be female went missing, finding them was a top priority. However, thanks to the Emancipation Proclamation, the value of Black female bodies has plummeted. No seriously, think about this for a second: can you imagine slave owners turning a blind eye when there most precious commodity — Black women of child-bearing age — disappeared all of a sudden?
This from the New York Times:
The disappearance of 5-year-old Jhessye Shockley from this Phoenix suburb on Oct. 11 has, in some ways, stuck to the script of what occurs coast to coast when children cannot be found. But the case of Jhessye, whose name is pronounced Jessie (and is spelled “Jahessye” by the Glendale police), has its own troubling elements
Relatives of Jhessye, a black girl who has been missing for more than two weeks, have criticized the news media for not giving the case the same national attention that they say is given to white children who have disappeared. But the considerable local media scrutiny on the missing child has angered the family as well, with some of the suspicion for Jhessye’s disappearance directed at her mother, Jerice Hunter.
Before Jhessye’s birth, Ms. Hunter pleaded no contest in California to abusing her other children. She served three and a half years in state prison, during which time Jhessye, who was born before the sentence began, and the other children lived with relatives.
It was Shirley Johnson, Ms. Hunter’s mother, who reported that abuse to the authorities, although she is now convinced that her daughter turned her life around and was taking good care of the children.
“All the time and energy that’s focused on my daughter’s past should go toward looking for Jhessye,” said Ms. Johnson, who flew in from northern California to help in the search
Since Jhessye disappeared, relatives who helped take care of her while her mother was in jail have come forward to air suspicions that the girl was suffering from abuse. Recounting a conversation with Jhessye at a barbecue in April, one relative, Mahogany Hightower, told The Arizona Republic: “She cried really bad, telling us she wanted us to take her home. She wanted to go home now. We told her you can’t come home with us now but you will later. She goes, ‘I can’t go later. I’ve got to go now.’ ” Ms. Hunter, the mother, angrily dismissed those claims.
Ms. Hunter appeared outside the State Capitol on Monday with friends and family to draw more attention to the case.
A television reporter asked whether she had hurt Jhessye, prompting Ms. Hunter, who is eight months pregnant, to emotionally deny that she had done anything wrong.
“It is very unfair to ask me that,” she said, her voice rising. “Do I look like I hurt my daughter? Do I look like I hurt my daughter? Do I look like I hurt my daughter?”
The police say that they consider Jhessye’s disappearance a high priority and continue to have a team of detectives following up on leads. Jhessye’s skin color does not enter into their investigation at all, they said.
Now I’m not sure if the Casey Anthony case has set precedence; however, I find it
typical a bit disappointing that the criminal history of Jhessye’s mother to be a central focus. I don’t know, but maybe the Glendale police is making an attempt to prevent being taken for a ride much in the same way Casey Anthony did to Florida authorities. It’s plausible that the color of Jhessye’s skin, and that of her mother has no relevance. Yep, like racism, maybe it’s a figment of my imagination.
At a news conference on Oct. 18, a week after the girl’s disappearance, Cmdr. Rick St. John of the Glendale Police, who is overseeing the investigation, said that everyone who had come into contact with Jhessye was a person of interest in the inquiry.
He said he had no concerns about Ms. Hunter’s version of what occurred, although he also said that the police were considering administering a polygraph test to corroborate her account. Ms. Hunter said that she left Jhessye in the house and her three older children in the backyard when she went out to run some errands that afternoon. When she returned, she found the front door unlocked and Jhessye gone. She called 911.
Ms. Hunter also knocked on the doors of neighbors, including Karla Brown, who lives two apartments away. “She knocked on my door and said, ‘Did you see my baby?’ ” Ms. Brown recalled.
Ms. Brown had been sitting out front and saw Ms. Hunter leave earlier in the afternoon in a taxi. But Ms. Brown said she then went inside her apartment and did not see Jhessye come out the front door.
As for Ms. Hunter’s criminal past, Ms. Brown said she did not consider that relevant to Jhessye’s disappearance. “She paid her dues,” Ms. Brown said. “I have never seen welts or bruises on those kids. She’s strict, yeah, but she keeps those kids out of trouble.”
Still, Arizona’s Child Protective Services recently removed Ms. Hunter’s three other children, who range in age from 7 to 13, from the home. Stephen Meissner, a spokesman for the agency, confirmed that the children were in state custody but declined to comment further, citing privacy rules.
Jhessye was last seen wearing blue jean shorts, a white T-shirt and pink flip flops, and the police said they continued to hold out hope that the girl would be found.
“There are several possibilities,” Commander St. John said. “We can’t rule out any possibility until the evidence and facts of the case rule it out.”
Of course I’d like to think that when it comes to the disappearance of a child, that authorities are not influenced by race. HoweverI can’t help but to think about 3-year-old Breeann Rodriquez, who went missing this past summer in Missouri. Unfortunately for her relatives, Breeann, who was Hispanic, was found dead. To this day I still wonder if she would have been found alive, had authorities not waited three days after her disappearance, to issue an Amber Alert. The jury is still out on that one; but, like Jhessye, Breeann was a minority. Either way, there’s a little Black girl missing, and I don’t see an outpouring of resources — human or otherwise — to locate her, and bring her back to her family. It’s really sad that this reality iis faced by the relatives of missing people of color. But hopefully one day we’ll get beyond the unequal protection under the law we now expwerience.