Senator Steven Bradford

Opinion: Case of Missing Mississippi Man Underscores Need for Ebony Alert in California                                                                       

Sen. Steven Bradford | Special to California Black Media Partners

There is no greater pain than that of a mother who loses her child — or whose child goes missing.

Bettersten Wade has experienced both. Her 37-year-old son, Dexter Wade, disappeared on March 5 after visiting with her. She reported him to the police as missing the next week and began putting up fliers with his picture and going door to door to speak with neighbors.

For months, the police told her they had no information on his whereabouts.

But in August, the police brought her devastating news. Her son, a Black man and father of two had been killed the very night he went missing. Police say he was struck while crossing a highway by an off-duty Jackson Police officer.  

The coroner identified Wade using a prescription medicine he was carrying as he had no identification. The coroner’s office claims to have shared his identity with the police, provided them with Wade’s mother’s contact information and asked them to notify her.

The Mayor of Jackson called the almost 6-month delay a “communications failure” between the coroner and the police. The elder Wade and her attorney say the way authorities handled the death of her son is a civil rights violation and they want the federal Department of Justice to investigate.

Without the family’s knowledge or consent, the county buried him in a pauper’s grave with only a small metal sign displaying the number 672.

Although Dexter Wade was a grown man, you can draw a direct line to why California needs and will benefit from the newly signed Ebony Alert notification law which will help locate missing Black children and young women ages 12-25.

Black people make up a disproportionate percentage of all missing persons in the United States. However, instead of receiving a greater share of the police resources to find them, Black lives get less.

When a Black person goes missing, in a sense, they vanish twice. First, they disappear from their friends and loved ones. Second, they disappear from the police detective’s workload and from the news media’s attention.

This case speaks to the insulting reality of how Black lives are not a priority when they are missing. In the Dexter Wade case, authorities were clearly not looking even as they physically held his body.

Critics of the Ebony Alert say California should not have a special alert system just for African Americans. I would argue California should not need the Ebony Alert just for African Americans.  

All people should be given equal value and equal resources should be utilized to find them. But that’s not happening. So, not only does California need the Ebony Alert, but the rest of the nation does as well.

About the Author  

Sen. Steven Bradford is Vice Chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus. He authored SB 673, the Ebony Alert. He represents parts southern Los Angeles County.


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