Anya Washington. (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children courtesy photo)
The issue of police violence isn’t new; the Black Panthers started with an armed citizens’ patrols to monitor police behavior back in the 1960s. But then Colin Kaepernick took a knee. Kneeling elevated the issue of police violence from the fringe of street protest, into every American’s living room. It legitimized Black activists who’d been fighting that battle for decades. It forced political candidates to wrestle with the issue openly and arguably, furthered the momentum behind police reform. Colin Kaepernick singlehandedly forced us to confront a dirty American secret — now who will do the same for 75,000 missing Black girls and women?
One week ago a video from New York finally made us sit up straight and pay attention to this crisis. Karol Sanchez, a 16-year-old Black girl, was seen apparently being kidnapped while walking down the street with her mother. We now understand it all to have been staged, as multiple outlets have reported. Still, there are roughly 75,000 Black girls and women missing in this country. Since no one cares unless the abduction is captured on video, someone must, in the spirit of Colin Kaepernick, take a knee to make us care. Someone must interrupt life as we know it, ignore all protocols and social norms and force everyone to wrestle with the fact that thousands of families will have a terrible holiday season because their girls won’t be home.
No, the National Anthem wasn’t the natural place or time to raise the issue of police violence. It was arguably tacky and in poor taste — as protests are designed to be. Kaepernick made a conscious choice to kneel and indeed there were consequences. Whether you like or loathe him, everyone agrees that he would be a professional football player today, had he not taken a knee. In the same way, someone with status must embrace tacky, unruly and uncouth in order to demand and command that these United States stop and take notice of the little girls whom the media won’t cover. Someone must take a knee so that we care, even when there’s no video.
The Black Panther Party was formed and ultimately destroyed by the FBI. Activists and “slactivists” continued to cry out and yet the issue of police violence remained on the fringe of American life, until Kaepernick took a knee. The FBI’s National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database listed 424,066 missing children under 18 in 2018. Black children represent about 14 percent of all children in the US but make up roughly 37 percent of those missing. No one seems to care. It’s time that someone step up and take a knee. It need not be a literal knee during the National Anthem but it must be as loud, tacky and confrontational or it simply will not matter.