Three-year-old Kamille “Cupcake” McKinney was abducted from a birthday party on Oct. 13. Her body was found 10 days later in a landfill 17 miles away.
Her story took hold of the city of Birmingham and even across the region and nation. Purple ribbons popped up across town, speckling light poles that spanned from Tom Brown Village in Avondale where she was taken and into the wealthier, whiter suburbs of Mountain Brook and Vestavia. Celebrities such as Kristen Bell tweeted their support.
Offers for rewards for information leading to the child’s discovery trickled in. Two days after Mckinney was abducted, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey offered a $5,000 reward. Crime Stoppers contributed another $20,000 reward that included money from an anonymous donor to help find Cupcake.
McKinney was one of two black girls found in landfills within 24 hours of each other. The remains of 5-year-old Neveah Lashay Adams, who had been missing since August, were found in a landfill in South Carolina.
That effort, however, doesn’t represent the norm in the search for missing young black children, one group says.
In a report on missing persons of color, Black and Missing Inc., a non-profit whose mission is to bring awareness to missing persons of color, said black children are underrepresented in the news media. The report equated the disparity to desensitization because many believe that minority people live in impoverished conditions and “crime is a regular part of their lives.”
Natalie Wilson, co-founder of Black and Missing, said she has seen a growing number of young black girls going missing since she began the organization in 2008.
“We have been seeing the spike in younger and younger girls being abducted,” Wilson said. “We believe that it’s a result of sex trafficking and pedophiles that have a need (desire) for younger and younger children.”
Four-year-old Maleah Davis of Houston, Texas was abducted and murdered in May 2019. Her body was found in June. Two-year-old Noelani Robinson in Milwaukee was abducted and murdered in March 2019. And Hiawayi Robinson, 8, was found murdered in Alabama in 2015.
A 2010 study at Ohio State University on media coverage of missing children in the United States found that missing African American children are underrepresented in television news. African American children make up 33 percent of the missing children in the data set, but just 19.5 percent of the children were covered by the news media.
“Television news has some biases concerning the coverage of missing children cases with regard to race and gender,” the study stated. “In particular, it was found that, although a relatively large number of African American children are actually missing, they are significantly underrepresented in television news.”
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 41 children remain missing in Alabama since 1959. Of those, 36 percent are children of color.
Wilson said more research is needed on how to protect children of color in their communities.
“Let’s make sure that their families know and our community knows that these children matter,” Wilson said. “Kamille matters. Neveah mattered. And sadly, their lives were cut short, but use this to work to save another child.”