When compared to women of other racial groupings in the United States Of America, the number of missing and killed Black women and girls is at an all-time high. “Between 64,000 and 75,000 Black women and girls are currently missing,” Minnesota state Rep. Ruth Richardson said during a press conference last week.
Lakeisha Lee knows what it’s like to have a loved one slain and gone missing; her 18-year-old sister, Brittany Clardy, was murdered by Alberto Palmer in February 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, following an alleged tryst between the two after meeting online. Clardy was beaten and clubbed with a hammer by Palmer, who then placed her body in the trunk of her own car, which wasn’t discovered for nearly two weeks. Clardy’s family claims the authorities were unhelpful in the days leading up to Brittany’s disappearance.
After Palmer described why he murdered her sister, Lee described the courtroom for Palmer’s sentence as “devastating.” “He claimed to have discovered Allah, which is why he killed my sister,” she explained.
The days it took to uncover Clardy’s body were eye-opening for her family, and Palmer was sentenced to life in prison for the murder. “I couldn’t image going through that for more than the 10 days that I did,” Lee said. “Families who are up at night, who are up looking at flyers, around communities, and pursuing leads, I couldn’t imagine going through that for more than the ten days that I did.”
According to the National Crime Information Center, 268,884 women were reported missing in the United States in 2020, with Black women accounting for a third of those reported missing. To address the alarming number of Black women who have gone missing in Minnesota, the state formed a task group of 12 persons from the community, the justice system, and law enforcement to focus on missing and murdered Black women.
“We also know that Black females are less likely to receive Amber reports and that without Amber alerts, there is no media attention.” That means a child categorized as a runaway does not receive the same resources as a child who is missing and in need of assistance, so there are structural issues we need to address in terms of how we manage this crisis,” Richardson said.
Richardson was the driving force behind the task force’s legislation, which would advise the commissioner of public safety on important areas to monitor for and provide a framework for dealing with problems that affect Black women when they arise.
“We need to talk about the media, we need to talk about law enforcement, we need to talk about human trafficking, sexual exploitation, economic exploitation, and we also need to talk about violence in our cities and domestic and intimate partnerships,” Richardson said.
Lee has joined the task group to help reduce the gap of a disproportionate number of missing and murdered Black women, drawing on her own personal experiences with the death of her sister Brittany.
“There are so many families who don’t have a voice, who can’t even utilize the resources and tools given to them and aren’t being heard by law enforcement, or their daughters are being categorized as runaways and no one is looking for them,” Lee said.
Similar schemes will be adopted in states around the country in the long run.