California’s Ebony Alert system will put a focus on missing Black children

An alarming disparity in the treatment and coverage of missing Black children — particularly Black girls — has surfaced in the U.S., sparking a movement urging change.

California has joined a rising number of states in making more efforts to locate missing Black young people.

According to CBS News Sacramento, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation state Sen. Steven Bradford introduced establishing Ebony Alerts for a population disproportionately represented in missing youth cases.

State Sen. Steven Bradford (above) introduced legislation that California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed establishing Ebony Alerts to help locate missing Black children, and young adults who are disproportionately represented in missing youth cases. (Photo: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via AP, Pool, File)

“African Americans, whether they are children or young adults, are often listed as runaways,” said Bradford, who represents Gardena.

The system is modeled on Amber Alerts, which have been in place for two decades and have assisted in recovering over 370 children and at-risk persons — but critics claim the notification system frequently ignores African Americans.

In recent years, an alarming disparity in the treatment and coverage of missing Black children — particularly Black girls — has surfaced in the United States, sparking a rising movement for urgent change. While missing-person cases often generate news content and garner significant social media attention, those affecting Black children are frequently disregarded and underreported.

Bradford noted that young African-Americans make up almost 40 percent of individuals reported missing.

“You see the difference of when white girls go missing, and Black girls go missing,” said Voice of the Youth founder Berry Accius, CBS cited. “The sense of urgency is not there.”

While an Amber Alert is issued for children 17 and younger, Bradford said an Ebony Alert is for ages 12 to 25. Black adolescents considered at-risk or who have mental or physical difficulties will qualify.

Ebony Alerts, which will begin operating on Jan. 1, 2024, can also use technology such as California Highway Patrol roadside signage and electronic messages.

“It’s going to put significant change in how we react, how we respond,” Accius said, CBS reported. “With this, the attention, the need, the urgency, I feel will be met, and it’s going to be a game changer.”

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