No, I Do Not Feel Bad for Believing Carlee Russell

Whitney Alese
Published in
5 min readJul 20

When Carlee Russell disappeared, my heart sank, the same way it does for the numerous Black women, upwards of ninety thousand Black women and girls who are missing. Black women and girls make up over 30 percent of missing women and girls while only representing 15 percent of the total U.S. population that identifies as female. That is staggering.

I did what a lot of us did: I prayed; “Lord Jesus, please return this young woman to the arms of her family safely.” I posted her story on my own social pages. I talked to friends and family to make sure they would share too.

When she returned 48 hours after disappearing, my immediate response was relief. Thank God. Thank God that one of 90,000 has returned home. This gives me hope for other missing women and girls, several who went missing the same day Carlee did.

I expressed my relief with a post. The comments quickly filled with others expressing their gratitude and relief as well.

Then, one commenter left a nasty comment expressing their disbelief. Then another. Slowly but certainly, a torrent of negativity poured into my comment section, one I did not understand and certainly did not appreciate. These commenters poked holes in Carlee’s story, a story that, at the time, we were only hearing bits and pieces of. Someone tagged an account of a person with alleged screenshots from a conversation Carlee had with another woman, alleging Carlee faked her disappearance to foster the concern over a potentially cheating boyfriend. Another commenter demanded that the authorities immediately arrest Carlee and send her to jail.

This was all happening 24 hours after her return. At that point, the authorities in Hoover, Alabama had not said much as they were still investigating. Meanwhile a growing contingency on social media demanded answers mere hours after Carlee’s return. They insisted she account for herself despite that she could be traumatized; despite that she could still be in shock; despite that, even as I am writing this, nearly a week later, it has only been days since she’s returned home. The lack of concern for Carlee’s wellbeing was too quickly eclipsed by those trying to get clicks and views attempting to debunk her story long before the actual authorities or her family released a statement.

Whitney Alese
Writer for

Whitney Alese is a writer & podcaster, featured in WIRED Magazine (Sept 2020) & I-D Magazine (Dec. 2021), and NBC (Jan 2023). She is based in Philadelphia.