10/18/2013 08:24 am ET

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


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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