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California becomes first state to issue an “Ebony Alert” to prioritize missing Black youth

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The Optimist Daily
October 13, 2023

California became the first state in the country to enact the “Ebony Alert” law, which is intended to prioritize the search for missing Black youngsters. Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 673 into law last Sunday, marking an important step forward in tackling the missing Black children and young women epidemic. The legislation, which is slated to go into effect on January 1, 2024, has the potential to transform how authorities respond to incidents of missing Black adolescents.

Increasing awareness of missing Black youth

The “Ebony Alert” law authorizes the California Highway Patrol to issue an alert when a Black person aged 12 to 25 goes missing and local law enforcement requests it. This alarm system, similar to the well-known Amber alert, would distribute information about missing people through electronic highway signs, radio, television, social media, and other communication channels. The Ebony Alert statute is significant because of its dedication to correcting the stark discrepancy in media attention and resources allocated to missing Black youth.

State Senator Steven Bradford, the driving force behind this legislation, emphasized the critical importance of such protections. He went on to say, “Data shows that Black and brown, our indigenous brothers and sisters when they go missing, there’s very rarely the type of media attention, let alone AMBER alerts and police resources that we see with our white counterparts.” Senator Bradford’s commitment to this subject originates from a deep conviction that Black youngsters are equally valued and should have an equal chance of returning home safely.

Bridging the missing persons case gap

The “Ebony Alert” law was enacted in response to alarming statistics: According to the National Crime Information Center, around 141,000 Black children under the age of 18 went missing in 2022, while nearly 16,500 missing persons instances involved Black women over the age of 21, in 2022. Surprisingly, more than 30,000 Black people in the United States were still missing after that year. The Black and Missing Foundation also discovered that, while accounting for 38 percent of all missing persons cases, Black people receive disproportionately less media attention, and their cases tend to go unsolved for longer periods.

The current Amber Alert system in California primarily serves youngsters under 17, often classifying missing Black youth as runaways and making them ineligible for these alerts. According to the Black and Missing Foundation, Amber Alerts are less effective when Black children are involved. Despite this, supporters of the Ebony Alert bill feel it is an important step forward in the fight against racial inequities in missing persons situations. Senator Bradford reaffirmed this belief, stating, “Whether the Amber alert or an Ebony Alert is going to be 100 percent effective, we don’t go with that false illusion or belief. But it’s better than not doing anything at all.”

California’s trailblazing “Ebony Alert” law promises to transform how missing Black youngsters are treated. It tackles disparities in media attention, resources, and outcomes, ensuring that missing Black adolescents are given the attention they deserve. The Ebony Alert has rekindled hope that more missing Black youth will be safely reunited with their families, making our communities safer and more inclusive.

Photo credit: rarrarorro /

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