900,000 people go missing in the United States every year. Often when the missing person is blond and blue-eyed, there’s massive media coverage, especially on cable television. When the person is Black and missing, it’s a whole different story.
“Find Our Missing” premieres Wednesday, January 18th, at 10 p.m. on TV One. Here’s a short preview.
MR. MARTIN: 900,000 people go missing in the United States every year. Often when the missing person is blond and blue-eyed, there’s massive media coverage, especially on cable television. When the person is Black and missing, it’s a whole different story.
To tell the stories of our own folks gone missing, TV One has a new docudrama series “Find Our Missing.” It premiers Wednesday, January 18th, at 10 p.m. Here’s a short preview.
[VIDEO CLIP OF THE STORY OF PAM BUTLER.]
VOICEOVER: Pam’s reputation at the EPA was stellar: hard worker, efficient, well-educated.
MS. THELMA BUTLER: She was a very sharing, caring person. By her putting cameras and everything in her house, I never had no concern about her safety. I always felt that she was safe.
MS. S. EPATHA MERKERSON: So, how is it that on a cold, winter night in 2009, Pam Butler just simply vanished from inside her own home?
[END OF VIDEO.]
MR. MARTIN: I recently talked with Pam Butler’s brother Derrick and Derrica Wilson, president of the Black and Missing Foundation. I asked Derrick to tell us exactly what happened to Pam.
MR. DERRICK BUTLER: Well, she came home from work, and she met a friend of hers at the house, and the next day she was actually off. And from that day on, we have not seen her – or heard from her.
MR. MARTIN: No idea.
MR. BUTLER: No idea. No idea. We see her ex-boyfriend coming up to the house and leaving. Nobody else ever comes to the house in – nobody else ever comes to the house, other than the UPS man and the mailman. And she just disappeared.
MR. MARTIN: How have the authorities been? Have they been helpful? Have they been keeping – keeping in touch with you?
MR. BUTLER: You know, the authorities have really been very helpful. They have really reached out to us, done just about everything that they could do.
MR. MARTIN: One of the things that jumps out is that – we’ve talked about this in – in this country, that when you watch television shows, when you look at newspapers, clearly, when a child comes up missing, you have the Amber alert. It goes out. When you look at adults, frankly, if you’re not a White woman; if you’re not blonde, blue-eyed, you’re not going to be on television. You’re not going to get the kind of coverage.
Have you thought the exact, same thing? Have you said to yourself, “Man! Where’s the coverage of our family member?”
MR. BUTLER: I say it all the time.
MS. DERRICA WILSON: Absolutely. That’s one of the reasons my sister-in-law and I – Natalie Wilson – created the organization Black and Missing Foundation – because when it comes to missing persons of color, who [make] up 40 percent of missing persons in the United States, we’re not getting that coverage. You know, when it comes to our children, they like to associate our children as runaways; therefore, the runaways are not getting the Amber alert. And when it comes to missing adults, men and women, they like to associate their disappearance relating it to some sort of criminal activity, which takes away from the person being missing. Therefore, they’re not getting that coverage as well.
MR. MARTIN: Is it the key the first 24, 48 hours?
MS. WILSON: Absolutely. But in our community, a lot of our people think that they have to wait 24 hours before they can even file a missing persons report, because this is what they see on television.
MR. MARTIN: How long should – how – how long? Immediate?
MS. WILSON: When it’s a child, it’s immediately. When it’s an adult, depending on your state – it’s normally 24 hours, but I can say in the District of Columbia, as well as in Illinois, it’s immediately. So, I think families need to really look at the laws in their area.