That Viral Post About Missing Kids In D.C. Is Wrong. This Is Why It Matters Anyway.

#MissingDCGirls is starting an important conversation about representation in the media.

A post claiming that 14 girls went missing in Washington, D.C. in 24 hours went viral this week as users on various social media websites reposted the image with the hashtag #MissingDCGirls. The posts often included critiques of the mainstream media's failure to cover the crime.

It was found that the post's claims were exaggerated, but not before the image was reposted on celebrities' and other high-profile accounts. Current crime statistics show the number missing persons reported in the D.C. area over the past month is on average with previous months. What's changed is the Metropolitan Police Department's new initiative to post missing person fliers on its social media accounts in an effort to locate individuals more quickly. The increased frequency of the department's posts led to an increased awareness of the issue. But they stressed to the NBC-affiliate in Washington, D.C. that at no time in the recent history did 14 girls disappear from the D.C. area in one day.

However, the erroneous image has led to a greater conversation about how resources, including investigators and media attention, differ when a girl of color goes missing compared to a white girl. A recent study found that while 33.2 percent of missing kids from 2005-2007 were black, just 19.5 percent of the news stories devoted to missing children focused on these cases. 

"Black girls' lives matter," La'Tasha D. Mayes wrote in an essay for Ebony. "Our girls deserve protection and support, but our society seems content to ignore them at best and dehumanize them at worst. The media and the criminal justice system should function as tools to support our girls, not as systems that repeatedly fail them."

Activist DeRay Mckesson explains to Upworthy that this discrepancy is another instance of implicit bias and institutionalized racism. Whiteness is considered to be the "normal" in our society, which in turn, means that anything non-white is seen as less important. Even with regards to missing kids. 

The elimination of institutional racism is a continual process, but the popularity of the #MissingDCGirls is making sure the conversation doesn't end. Hundreds attended an emotional town hall in D.C. to discuss the issue Wednesday, and members of the Congressional Black Caucus issued a letter this week in which they called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey to devote more resources to investigating cases of missing black girls.

"We can't focus on the numbers," Derrica Wilson, co-founder of the Black and Missing Foundation told the Associated Press. "If we have one missing child, that's one too many."

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