*We got used to new US. was the name of the show where Missing was displayed. Venue: Twelve gates, Philadelphia. May 2018.
Missing is a piece heavily criticizing slave labor that occurs in the Middle East. People from poorer areas of Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Philippines, India, and Vietnam are tricked into labor by travel agencies. These laborers are sent to wealthy Gulf countries for jobs such as housekeeping, sewage maintenance and construction, and the agents take advantage of their agreement by confiscating and sometimes disposing of their travel visas. These workers are stranded in these countries under poor living and working conditions, unable to leave the country without proof of identity. Gaining extremely little profit to survive and support their families in their native countries, many see converting to Islam as the only way to get documentation to escape their desperate situation, as employers willing to hire non-Arabic speakers prefer documented Muslim applicants. It is a requirement of those converting to Islam to choose a Muslim or Arabic name. As most of the immigrant laborers know little to no Arabic while being forced to change their names, identity and religion, the most commonly picked name is Mohammed because it is the one most familiar and widely known. In these countries in the Middle East, Mohammed became a derogatory term for poor immigrants.
In the United States, the missing child alerts were placed in the advertising spaces on milk cartons during the Mid-1980’s. They were a precursor to Amber Alerts, the main purpose was to easily spread the word across state lines though an item commonly purchased. Quoted from Natalie Wilson, cofounder of the Black and Missing Foundation;
“In 1997, while making up only 15 percent of the U.S. child population, black (non-Hispanic) children were 42 percent of all nonfamily abductions. Hispanic children were also slightly more likely to be victimized this way, making up 16 percent of the population but 23 percent of nonfamily abductions. By contrast, White (non-Hispanic) children, at 65 percent of the population, were only 35 percent of the nonfamily abductions.”
Despite these statistics, racial bias largely lead to advertising preferring to display missing children who were ethnically Caucasian. Relating the underrepresented missing minority people in the United States to another minority group in the Middle East, the choice to print only representations of minority immigrant laborers is intended to bring awareness of both issues of misrepresentation and displacement to viewers in a Western setting. The people who are taken as laborers are missing from their original homes and communities.