When I first read about the tragedy of Kenneka Jenkins, like a lot of folks, I got caught up in the sensationalism of the story. Did her friends set her up? Who spiked her drink? Was it her voice calling out for help, during a sexual assault?
Unfortunately, the confusion that has accompanied this story has been exacerbated by the incompetence of the hotel, the indifference of police officials, and social media conspiracies.
Once you shift through all the chaos surrounding this young woman’s death, one of the bigger issues that emerges is how mainstream society deals with missing Black girls.
The stories of young black girls and women who are missing don’t get the Elizabeth Smart or Natalee Holloway treatment. We don’t see primetime television specials on them. Their images don’t become permanent fixtures on Twitter. Their names don’t get hashtags or trending topics. Nationwide manhunts or search parties don’t ensue. Crying black parents, pleading for their children to be found, don’t interrupt our sitcoms as breaking news. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/king-no-accident-hear-missing-black-girls-article-1.3005609
I became aware of Jenkins through the Facebook group, Black and Missing, But Not Forgotten. The story may have received more press coverage in Chicago (where the incident took place), but I haven’t noticed much mainstream media attention to this case.
I can only imagine the hoopla if a white girl, was found dead in a freezer in a fairly upscale hotel.
I was angered to read when Jenkins’s mother, after reaching out to police officials to report her daughter missing, had the police called on HER by the hotel. Jenkins’s mother decided to take measures in her own hands with family. They went around the hotel, knocking on doors, asking guests if they’d seen her daughter. A reasonable action, most parents would take.
Yet, the hotel had authorities remove her for “disturbing the peace.” It’s hard to believe they would’ve done the same thing to a white mother, frantically searching for her lost daughter.
The police, once involved, were no better. They initially refused to take seriously the disappearance of Jenkins. Perhaps, if they would’ve reacted faster the young woman would still be alive. Once they did find her in the freezer, they pretty much wrote it off as a “drunk girl” who foolishly locked herself in a freezer.
There was reluctance on their part to do any real investigative work. It was only the outrage of the Black community, that they were forced to do something. Once again, I don’t think this nonchalant attitude would’ve been used towards a white family. The criticism of the police, has been reduced to “keystone cops” antics. No, they just didn’t give a damn.
As of 2014, 64,000 Black women were missing in the United States–March For Black Women
The calling of the police on Jenkins’s mother, shows that even when Black folks are the victims in need of help, we are still treated like threats. It’s reminiscent of the Seattle police shooting of Charleena Lyles, who called police for help. Lyles believed someone was breaking into her house. The police killed her instead.
A few days ago, the hotel released videos of the last hours of Jenkins’s life. It was alarming to watch the young woman desperately trying to figure out where she was. It was hard not to get upset, knowing the end result. If I was traumatized by the videos, I’m sure Jenkins’s mother is devastated. Her daughter went to a party (as most 19 year olds do), and will never return home. For her to be treated like a burden by the hotel and police, is a disgrace.
The mysterious circumstances of Jenkins’s death, will hopefully be resolved. Her family deserves proper closure.