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Media loves missing white women

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The media needs to start recognizing more missing cases involving women of color. When a young white woman goes missing, the media goes into a frenzy. But it takes people on social media to bring attention to other cases that have been neglected or forgotten. 

The Gabby Petito case is the most recent missing persons case to have the media buzzing. After two months of coverage and speculation, the case drew to a close Sept. 25 when the FBI found remains that were confirmed to be Petito in an area of Wyoming’s Bridger-Teton National Forest.

While Petito and her family do indeed deserve justice, countless missing cases involving women of color remain unsolved. These cases never receive the same amount of attention compared to when a white woman is at the forefront of the story.

According to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database, Black people account for a third of the country’s active missing persons cases, despite only making 13% of the population.

The exact number of missing cases involving Latinx women remains unknown. In fact, an umbrella organization dedicated to Latinx disappearances does not exist.

A report by the state of Wyoming, where Petito disappeared, found that only 18% of Indigenous women who are reported missing receive media coverage, compared to more than half of all cases involving white people.

According to a study led by Zach Sommers, a sociology professor at Northwestern University who studies crime, white women are much more likely to be the subject of news coverage relative to their proportions among missing people, and women in general are much more likely to be covered than men. 

Sommers had a theory that news outlets might be deciding that missing white women are worth more in terms of audience share and ad revenue. In other words, a story involving a white woman will generate more attention than when a woman of color is involved. 

Deidre Reed of Pageland, South Carolina, a Black mother of three, has been missing since Sept. 3. 

Jennifer Caridad of Sunnyside, Washington, a woman of Mexican descent, was last seen on Aug. 8 and remains missing. 

Aubrey Dameron of Grove, Oklahoma, a Cherokee woman who is transgender, was last seen in March 2019. Two years later, there are hardly any leads in the case. Her loved ones have created a Facebook page to attempt to draw focus on her story.

These cases matter just as much as the Petito case and deserve the same amount of coverage so they can finally be solved. The families of the missing women deserve that closure. While the media could help by drawing attention to more of these types of cases, individuals can help by starting organizations dedicated to missing cases regarding ethnic groups. 

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced that a new Missing and Murdered Unit would be formed to address the long-neglected epidemic of disappeared Indigenous people. 

While this is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done to address the remaining missing cases of women of color.

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