Victims should be taken seriously
Content Warning // kidnapping, murder
Social media is used to bring awareness to news all around the world. People also use it to spread missing persons posters and flyers to hopefully help either find or at least bring awareness to the missing people. The internet allows urgent information like missing people to spread so much faster than before the internet and the message wouldn’t spread as far.
In early February 2021, Sai, a Black, transfemme, person went missing. They told their friends that they were visiting Ohio from Los Angeles, and then they seemed to have disappeared during the trip. They also said that they were being followed by a Latino man, so people would have an idea of who to look for. Their friends spammed Twitter with the hashtag #findsai in the hopes that it would get enough traction for police to get involved or someone would’ve seen them in Ohio and been able to get them home safely. At this same time, people were spreading their GoFundMe so they would be able to afford to live once they were found, and many people were in distress as Sai was missing for a couple days.
After a couple of days of Sai trending on Twitter, their friends tried to call off the search for them, but it wasn’t taken seriously due to the fact that it could’ve very easily been Sai’s kidnapper trying to get Sai to stop trending. It was later revealed that Sai faked the whole kidnapping so their GoFundMe would blow up and they could afford to transition. They went all the way to Ohio and FaceTimed their friends from a closet just so they could get money to transition. Because of Sai’s actions, some people might be wary when they see posts about a missing person, and more specifically how they react to seeing a Black trans woman is missing. However, once the situation died down, people stopped donating to their GoFundMe and other trans womens’ GoFundMes were not being shared as often. Samyukta Athreya (10), shares this opinion, as she states “There are tons of trans people out there that have transition funds, and no way I could afford to fund all of them, but I would definitely give preference to other trans people.”
However, someone like Tanvee Priyadarshan (10) would disagree, as when she was asked if she would donate to Sai if she could she responded, “Yes, them being a horrible person doesn’t allow me to invalidate their expression and identity.”
Many different people online had different reactions and feelings about what Sai did. There was no right or wrong response, because they did hurt a lot of people and toyed with their emotions for days, but they also had a valid reason for needing the money.
Sai’s disappearance was important because so many Black trans women go missing and are killed. Black trans women are the target of domestic and social violence, and news outlets don’t cover things like trans women being murdered or all of the missing and murdered Indigenous women. People wanted to prevent Sai from having the same fate as many people like them, and for once it seemed like bringing enough awareness could save them. Many people were upset with Sai after it was revealed to be fake because there are so many missing women who needed the attention Sai got but didn’t get.
This whole situation shows how bad press affects minorities. Once it was revealed to be fake, the Black trans community was scared that they would be attacked with racism from the Hispanic community due to Sai using a description of a Latino man as their kidnapper. Sai also caused many victims to not be taken seriously, and many missing people were overlooked and pushed aside because of the publicity Sai received.
The way people perceive the media also played a huge part in how much Sai blew up on Twitter. Race specifically is something that people try not to mention when bad things happen, but it can help contextualize dangerous situations. Of course because they are a Black and feminine trans person they were at a huge risk, and the detail of them being kidnapped by a Latino man was included, which many Twitter uses believed could have jeopardized many Latino men in the area. Race was important when it was thought to be a real kidnapping, partly to identify the kidnapper and partly so people could find Sai, but race being involved caused people to be scared. The Black and Hispanic communities were worried about an influx of racism, when after the situation was settled race shouldn’t have been a part of the discussion. Marginalized communities face a lot of backlash when things like this happen, and it hurts everyone when a small group of people use opportunities like this to be racist. Things happen, and whole communities are harmed by generalization. Jessica Le (10) adds to the conversation with, “As sad as it is, I feel like it would change the way people see missing persons flyers. People will be more likely to believe that someone who is ‘missing’ is actually just lying for money or for some other motive.”
Even though Sai faked the situation, victims should still be taken seriously. There is no way to know if a person is really in danger or if it’s fake, and it’s better to err on the side of caution. There was a chance that they were in danger of being killed, and from an outside perspective there was no way to know what was really happening. People fake things for attention, so there will always be a chance that something is fake, but it’s more beneficial in the long run to assume it’s real and potentially save someone rather than assume it’s fake and risk someone being hurt or dying.