Last week, the story of Carlethia “Carlee” Russell's kidnapping shook the internet. As the news broke, it was shared that the Alabama resident stopped on a highway to investigate a lone stroller that she saw in the lane and was then abducted. Many created flyers in an attempt to bring awareness to her disappearance and began chatting largely about other occasions in which Black women of all backgrounds have gone missing globally without hope of being found. 49 hours later, Carlee Russell was found safely.
In a recent press conference, Hoover Police Department shared that they have since been unable to verify the details of the experience. They also revealed that her search history was riddled with examples of amber alerts and Taken 2. Hoover police chief Nick Derzis stated, "I do think it’s highly unusual that the day someone gets kidnapped, seven or eight hours before that they were searching the movie Taken about an abduction. I find that very strange."
As usual, social media has taken to demonizing the 25-year-old who (all of a sudden) became the figurehead for all Black women everywhere. The merry brigade of misogynoir enthusiasts of all genders came through deep, using her scenario as a reason to invalidate the many lived experiences of Black women from all over.
Carlee Russell isn't your hall pass to not believe Black women.
Yes, it is okay to have opinions about the predicament Russell put herself in. But let's keep it completely honest—a lot of y'all were always looking for an excuse to look down on and not take care of Black women period. Frankly, the concern felt largely performative and disingenuous.
Although Russell's ill-devised situation was one of idiocy, there are thousands of Black women across the country—the world— who have been left vulnerable with no security. According to the NAACP, more than 60,000 Black women are missing in the United States. Decades pass and these Black women fade into distant memories of what their lives were or could have been if the proper resources were allocated to find them.
Unfortunately, the weight of respectability politics directly makes the mistakes of one reflective of an entire group of people. Carlee's actions do not set the Black community back or automatically make us devious or unworthy of safety. Whether we are discussing #MeToo or instances like this, we must be able to make space for the variance and nuances that each respective situation calls for. Why do Black women always have to be the butt of the joke?
Additionally, we have no clue who Russell truly is or what she has experienced in life. This might be a cry for help in the fog of a chaotic life we know nothing about. What the focus should shift to is the level of collective concern that the community felt. Folks took a moment to stray away from the latest celebrity gossip to utilize their efforts in ensuring Carlee was out of harm's way. What we should move our efforts toward is wrapping our arms around Black women who come forward about their experiences, mistreatment and marginalization and have the bravery to speak up about it.
This moment should be used as a reminder to show a bit more compassion for the Black women in our lives who need the extra attention Carlee received in hopes that we can bring them back home, wherever that might be or whatever that may mean for them.