ALESTLE VIEW: Gabby Petito case highlights racial disparities in missing person cases

Coverage of missing persons cases between white people and  people of color is nowhere near equal. This has been a problem for a while, but now it becomes glaringly more obvious as big news stories break such as Gabby Petito, a white 22-year-old, going missing. Petito got most of the attention while people of color go missing and they aren’t covered. This is not to say Petito’s case isn’t tragic. She deserves justice, but so does everyone, no matter their race or gender. 

 

For example, there is the case of 24-year-old geologist Daniel Robinson, a Black man who went missing on June 23. He was last seen in Arizona, and his case is just now gaining media attention. 

 

Media analysts have called this a prime case of “missing white woman syndrome”. It is still a very real problem and it continues to infect America’s culture. The missing white woman syndrome is essentially a term used by media experts and others to refer to the disproportionate covering of news between white women, and any men or women of color. 

 

According to the University of Wyoming, 710 Native Americans were reported missing from 2011 to 2020 in the same state Petito’s remains were found.

 

To an extent, white people are favored when it comes to missing persons cases. When missing person cases are covered, more often than not they are about white people, which is more than odd considering that plenty of people of color go missing with no coverage. 

 

Even though it may not be these news media outlets’ intention, they are implying that white people are more important than people of color by not equally covering missing person cases. This is the way it is perceived by the nation, especially after a case like Petito arises and a case like Robinson is just now getting attention when he went missing much earlier. People need to start taking all missing persons cases seriously, no matter the skin color or gender. The fact is that people see a missing person case about a person of color and keep scrolling. On the flip side, the cases that are reported about white people are shared by people. 

 

Media outlets have to do better in their coverage of missing persons cases. It isn’t fair to the families of color that have had their loved ones go missing. It needs to go beyond just covering more cases that are about people of color; readers also need to be willing to share information about missing persons who don’t look like them. 

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