BLACK VOICES

Searching for Avonte Oquendo: How Racial Suspicion Hurts Missing Black Kids

In this Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 photo, a flyer showing Avonte Oquendo, a missing 14-year-old autistic boy, is taped inside th
In this Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 photo, a flyer showing Avonte Oquendo, a missing 14-year-old autistic boy, is taped inside the window of a subway car in New York. New York City police are asking the public to come forward with any possible information about Oquendo, who wandered out of his school in Queens on Oct. 4 and has not been seen since. Hundreds of officers have been searching for the teen, who does not speak. His parents say he loves trains. (AP Photo/Barbara Woike)

In the last 12 days, how many times have you asked yourself and others the following question: where is Avonte Oquendo? If you’re a New Yorker, you’ve likely wondered more than once, as posters seeking help in locating the 14-year-old autistic boy — missing since October 4 — have been placed throughout the city. If you’re a black New Yorker, you’ve probably inquired — far more than once — not only about Oquendo’s whereabouts but why more of the national public isn’t aware of who he is. But here’s a query we may all be overlooking: if you saw a black teen boy wandering a city, how closely would you pay attention to him? And if you truly noticed him at all, would it only be because he raised your suspicion?

Wandering is a common, high-risk occurrence for children with autism.

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