Black and Missing

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Black and Missing TV Poster Image
Powerful docu about racial bias and missing persons.

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Positive Messages

Highlights the advocacy work of the Black and Missing Foundation, and how they are helping members of the Black community. It reveals the racial biases associated with missing persons cases involving Black and other people of color in law enforcement and in media. Issues that contribute to the disappearance of children, including online predatory behavior, poverty, and homelessness, are discussed.

Positive Role Models

Derrica and Natalie Wilson, along with Black and Missing Foundation volunteers, are committed to serving as informed advocates, and not "amateur sleuths" by helping Black families of missing loved ones get assistance from law enforcement and media. Families of those missing are shown actively doing what they can to find them.

Diverse Representations

The overall message reveals -- and challenges -- the normalized bias that contributes to the inequities surrounding missing persons cases involving members of the Black community. Derrica and Natalie Wilson are Black, as is most of the cast. Some experts and law enforcement officials who have helped assist with cases are White. A Latino individual is charged and convicted of multiple murders.

Violence

Discussions center around incarceration, adult predatory behavior, kidnapping, domestic violence, murder, pedophilia, rape, and sex trafficking. Some deaths are described in more detail than others, and often involve children. Archive footage of police misconduct, including violence committed against children, is shown and discussed. 

Sex

There are references to having sex and having babies. The end of a relationship is discussed within the context of a crime.

Language

There’s some strong language (“damn,” “ass,” “hell”) and curses like “f-ck.”

Consumerism

It showcases the advocacy work of the Black and Missing Foundation. Footage from different news organizations and scenes from the t.v. show The View are featured.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug activity is occasionally discussed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Black and Missing is an informative documentary series that follows the work of the Black and Missing Foundation, and highlights the systematic racial biases that lead to disinterest in Black missing persons cases. Violence, including domestic violence, murder, sex trafficking, and other crimes are discussed as they relate to missing persons of color. There is also some cursing (both audible and in visuals). There are some scenes from various news and TV programs, but these are offered within context. 

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What's the story?

Co-produced by journalist Soledad O'Brien, BLACK AND MISSING is a four-part documentary series about the advocacy work of the Black and Missing Foundation. Sisters-in-law and organization founders Derrica and Natalie Wilson have dedicated themselves to raising awareness about Black missing persons cases. Cameras follow as the women help search for missing members of the Black community in various ways. Interviews with them, and family members of some of the missing individuals, also offer details about specific cases, while bringing attention to the systematic racism that guides law enforcement when investigating their disappearance. The important role that media has in helping solve missing persons cases is also discussed, while evaluating the racial biases that guide media organizations' decisions to cover them. Throughout it all, archive footage from law enforcement and media coverage is featured.

Is it any good?

The powerful TV docuseries highlights and analyzes the historic lack of interest in, and due diligence of, law enforcement and media to push forward Black missing persons cases. It showcases how Derrica Wilson, a former police officer, and Natalie Wilson, a public relations expert, have been important advocates for the missing, as well as for their families who are desperately trying to find them. The details offered to contextualize their work -- e.g., 40% of all reported missing persons in 2019 were people of color, despite the fact that missing young White women received the most media attention (a phenomenon known as "missing white woman syndrome") -- are eye-opening. So are the connections between historic racism in the United States and how law enforcement makes decisions about how much time, effort, and resources should be committed to cases involving Black and other people of color. But Black and Missing manages to discuss these details, and to feature families talking about their missing loved ones and what they have actively done to find them, without sensationalizing their stories. The result is a series that raises awareness about the issue and underscores specific systemic changes that must be made to treat all missing persons cases with the urgency and commitment they deserve.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the way social media are used by predators. How can we protect children when they are online?  How can the internet be used to help children and other missing persons?

  • According to people interviewed for Black and Missing, what things must happen in order to eliminate the racial biases surrounding missing persons cases? Is it just changing the way media covers missing persons cases, or retraining police?

  • What steps should be taken if someone you know goes missing? Who do you contact? What information can you share that will be helpful? How can you get the word out? For additional resources, you can contact The Center for Missing and Exploited Children or The Black and Missing Foundation.

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