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Three months ago, a couple from rural Wisconsin, James and Denise Closs, were found shot dead in their home. That same night, their 13-year-old daughter, Jayme Closs, disappeared.

Jayme, thankfully, was found alive on Thursday night. Her reappearance was one of the biggest news stories of the week, trending on Twitter, and even outperforming some of our coverage of the government shutdown.

That outsize attention became a racial flash point on social media.

Why, some readers asked, is Jayme Closs getting so much national attention when black girls and Latina girls and Native American girls who go missing often receive so little? What makes the story of a missing white girl so newsworthy and engrossing to so many Americans?

These are questions that I, as the editor of this newsletter and a black woman, am always asking.

In 2017, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, a New York Times correspondent based in Washington, wrote about how at-risk youths, who are disproportionately black and brown, “are often ignored by public officials and the news media,” even though roughly 35 percent of missing children in the United States are black, and about 20 percent are Latino.

When I asked Marc Lacey, who is the editor of the National desk, about this phenomenon, he said it was on his mind as well. One reason Jayme’s story gained so much attention, he said, was “the human drama of it all, the horror of a married couple being murdered in cold blood in a small town and their daughter disappearing into thin air.”

It’s true that the story of Mr. and Mrs. Closs and Jayme reads like it came straight out of a horror film: Quiet town with a tiny population is suddenly rocked by a double murder and a possible kidnapping with no immediate suspects.

But it’s also true that black and brown girls are equally deserving of our attention and concern. We can all do better.

This is why I was heartened this week to see the overwhelming and positive response to dream hampton’s new six-part documentary, “Surviving R. Kelly,” in which several black women come forward with accusations of being sexually abused by the singer R. Kelly.

The film has raised important questions about why and how America struggles to recognize the full humanity of young black girls.





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