by Dylan Tejada
Within the last week, it was brought to the media’s attention that a young black man named Richard Okorogheye had gone missing. His mother appealed to the police for the missing student to be found. Articles were shared on Facebook for people to know he was missing and needed to return home. A video was circulating around social media of his heartbroken mother, pleading in an interview with Sky News nearly three weeks ago for her only child to come home and hopefully be found. He left his home in West London on the 22nd of March to see a friend, according to his Mother. However, when he never answered or returned calls, she contacted the police.
However, in another interview with Sky News just almost two weeks later his Mother says her ‘heart has been ripped apart’ as it was tragically announced his body had been found in a pond in Epping Forest and was pronounced dead. Currently, it is still unconfirmed to how he died, and what exactly happened that night and the course of time he was missing for. Richard was a student at Oxford Brookes University, studying Business and IT. He had been shielding since the start of the pandemic as he was living with sickle cell disease. So naturally, his mother was concerned when he didn’t answer his phone. In a Sky News interview after his death, she described the circumstances as ‘tedious’. She also explained how she, ‘felt something had happened there’. Now his mother awaits her answers to her son’s unfortunate death. Days later, she revealed she was ‘disappointed’ with how the Metropolitan Police initially handled the case surrounding her son and that she desired for closure, however she commented on the how she thought they were working hard as the week progressed.
The tragic passing of Richard has reminded us of why people from ethnic minorities are more likely to go missing. Speaking to Inews, Dr Karen Greene, a director for the ‘Study of Missing Persons at the University of Portsmouth’ discusses how ‘If you have parts of the population that aren’t allowed to reach their full potential, they are more likely to suffer’. She also added ‘some groups may be given less support or have less trust in offers of support’, which is the exact circumstances of a lot of cases where other ethnic minorities go missing. Due to different types of racism people experience, it makes them less trusting of people and cynical of the people trying to give support. Also, when we hear about missing persons, there is a lot of underlying racial bias which we see in the way pressing cases like Richard’s are covered. When it comes to missing people, it will be missing white people who will receive a lot of coverage, in particular white. In relation to this point, also speaking to Inews, Dr O’Brien mentions in terms of racial bias, that some authors have called this idea ‘white woman syndrome’ and people may pay more attention to and want to read more about ‘a damsel in distress’.
It is overall important for the media to highlight ethnic minorities more when it comes to dealing with these kinds of situations. It seems we are overlooked, and this needs to change and so much more can easily be done. We need to be made prominent as well, just as much as every other missing person. If more is done from now, more awareness can be raised, and more people are aware.