Saturday, December 04, 2021

Minnesota launches the nation’s first-ever task force on missing Black women

Minnesota State Represenative Ruth Richardson

Minnesota has become the first state in the nation to launch a panel addressing the disproportionately high number of missing and murdered Black women and girls.

On Monday, Gov. Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan, flanked by victim advocates, lawmakers, and public safety officials, including Rep. Ruth Richardson (DFL-Mendota Heights) and Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington, held a ceremonial bill signing at the Capri Theater in Minneapolis to launch the nation’s first Missing and Murdered African American Women Task Force.

The 12-member task force, established with bipartisan support in the 2021 Public Safety and Judiciary Omnibus bill, will report recommendations to the Legislature to end violence against African American women and girls in Minnesota. The panel is comprised of victim advocates, law enforcement, and court officials who met for the first time on Monday.

“We know African American women and girls are disproportionately subject to violent crime,” Gov. Walz said. “That’s why we took action and established a first-in-the-nation Missing and Murdered African American Women task force.”

In 2020, almost 34% of the missing women in the U.S. were Black, according to the National Crime Information Center of the FBI, while Census data shows that Black women make up just 15% of the U.S. population.

“We are seeing African American women killed in numbers we’ve never seen before,” Commissioner Harrington said at Monday’s press conference. “Despite the small number of African Americans in Minnesota, 30% of the victims in domestic violence settings are African American women.”

A recent Violence Free Minnesota’s (VFM) report found disproportionate numbers of Black and Native domestic violence homicide victims compared to statewide demographics.

“In 2020, 40% of domestic violence homicide victims were Black, while comprising less than 7% of Minnesota’s population,” read the VFM report. “Four women were pregnant at the time they were killed by a current or former intimate partner, and three of them were Black. These violent disparities are attributed to histories of colonization, chattel slavery, genocide, generational trauma, and ongoing systematic oppression.”

Rep. Richardson, who spearheaded the legislation behind the task force, spoke about the disproportionately high numbers of missing and murdered Black women and girls during an appearance on Peacock’s “Zerlina.”

“I think one of the things that we’re really struggling with as a society is that we have not done enough work to place a value on the lives of Black women and Black girls,” Rep. Richardson said. “Because when we look at the data, we see some really concerning disparities. Cases involving Black women and girls stay open four times longer than cases involving other women.”

She added, “Black girls are much less likely to get Amber Alerts than White girls are. And that’s a really important distinction because when there are no Amber Alerts, there are no police resources invested in the critical first 48 hours. And you don’t get the media attention when someone is classified as a runaway versus a child in need of support or seen as a victim.”

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