North Texas Daily

Missing POC is an unfairly overlooked issue

Missing POC is an unfairly overlooked issue

Missing POC is an unfairly overlooked issue
October 07
15:00 2021

The world lost a bright young woman in YouTuber Gabby Petitio on Aug. 30. Gone before her time, Petito is an unfortunate reminder that tomorrow is not always guaranteed. Her case is a grim example of real issues women face, namely suspected domestic violence, a topic we are quick to share posts of on social media, but an uncomfortable truth we don’t want to discuss at the dinner table.

Petito’s case gripped the news cycle like a mystery novel, one which was unfolding with every moment when details began to seep through. That was until Petito was found and reality sunk in that her fiancé Brian Laundrie is a person of interest in her death, which was ruled as a homicide. 

While Petito enjoyed fame prior to her murder, it’s unfortunate her case made her a household name to people in America and even over international waters.

However, do you know about the disappearance of Deidre Reid? A 41-year-old black woman who went missing when her ex-boyfriend Emanuel Bedford asked her for a ride to a bus station in Charlotte, North Carolina. How about the disappearance of Mary Johnson? A Native American woman who “vanished” on Sept. 25, 2020, while she was walking home on the Tulalip Reservation in Washington. Or Monica Morin, a Hispanic woman who disappeared on Aug. 4 in front of a home in Shreveport, Louisiana. 

Names from the past such as Natalee Holloway, Madeleine McCann and Maura Murray practically roll off the tongue of many Americans due to the high amount of publicity their disappearances received. If these cases live rent-free in the minds of news media, where is the spotlight on cases that involve women of color? It should be noted that there were 89,000 missing person cases filed in 2020 and people of color made up over 45 percent of the total number, according to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center. Only one-fifth of missing person cases that involve people of color receive any type of news coverage, according to a 2016 analysis conducted by criminologist Zach Sommers. 

It must be noted that all missing person cases are important and my heart goes out to all the victims’ families. However, there is evidence that the media is obsessed with shining a light on the disappearances of white women, so much so that the term “Missing White Woman Syndrome” was coined. Why is it that cases like Natalee Holloway receive national media attention while names like Mary Johnson aren’t public knowledge and warrant a Google search? 

One could make an argument that Holloway’s circumstance made for a more interesting story, as morbid as it sounds. She was a young, attractive high school grad who went missing during a graduation trip to Aruba. Johnson went missing on a reservation, just another in a long line of disappearances that go severely underreported by a government that treats them like second-class citizens. The harsh truth is institutional racism, a curtain that still drapes over America. A case like Petito is seen as more marketable because of her age, social status and appearance compared to Reed’s. It doesn’t need to be said: actions speak louder than words and there is a lot more police action in Petito’s case than Reed’s.

As tragic as Petito’s disappearance and subsequent murder is, the national attention only reinforces a dark reality to families of victims who receive far less coverage. Their cases are not deemed important enough because they don’t tick the boxes the media looks for in potential victims. They aren’t as appealing or important enough to society, so why should anyone care? The spotlight on Petito has led to a call for action by minority families and advocates who want more media attention and police manpower on the cases of their loved ones in order to receive justice and closure. 

All missing person cases are important and matter, regardless of color. However, we can’t be dismissive of facts and statistics that back up the issue that missing people of color is unfairly overlooked by police and media. The press shouldn’t treat disappearance cases as a means to an end. Sure, it’s the story of a day for people like you or me. We get to move on but there are families that don’t have that privilege. Families are subjected to sleepless nights because barely anyone cares enough to help them find their loved ones. The media and law enforcement should not treat cases with favoritism — every single family deserves peace.

Featured Illustration by Miranda Thomas

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Adrian Maldonado

Adrian Maldonado

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