Do Missing White People Get More Media Coverage than People of Color?

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Jasmine Duncan, Writer

According to CBS News, on Sept. 11, 2021, social media influencer Gabby Petito was reported missing. Days later, she was found dead near Grand Teton National Park where her van was previously seen. Immediately after her missing person’s report, news and media outlets lit up with stories and updates about her case… But why did her case get so much attention so fast? And what about all of the other people that are currently missing in the U.S? Specifically, what about the missing people of color? While many people were helping authorities find evidence for Petito’s case, others started to notice the unbalanced media coverage for POC (people of color); this is why they deserve the same amount of attention.

Gabby Petito’s case, and how much media attention it’s getting, is being compared in the media to the hundreds of  POC that have gone missing in the year 2020. According to the Washington Post, a week after Gabby Petito went missing, her name had been mentioned 398 times on Fox News, 364 times on CNN and 100 times on MSNBC. Compare how many times you have heard about Gabby Petito to the ~5,712 Indigenous women that have been reported since 2016. Have you heard their names? Have you heard their stories? The unfortunate answer is no, probably not. 

A lot of people could say that the reason why Gabby Petito got a lot of attention in the news was that she already had a social media presence. While that claim is certainly valid, thousands of missing POC certainly outweigh one missing woman. 

Missing white woman syndrome is a phenomenon in which news and media outlets focus on missing white, young, upper-middle-class women more than other missing people, especially people of color. This is the exact phenomenon that took place during Gabby Petito’s case.  With countless media pieces and front-page articles, Petito’s story soared with popularity and held a tight grip over the nation, while thousands of POC remain missing and unheard of. Think about all of the families watching the news, seeing countless stories about Gabby Petito while their child is still out there, somewhere, missing. In order to have an equal playing field for everyone, missing POC need just as much attention as white women are getting. 

While Gabby Petito along with the rest of her family deserves justice, so do all of the missing POC that haven’t been treated as equals. How can we fix this problem? The solution starts with you.  Follow your state’s missing persons Facebook page and share as many posts as you can. Pretend you know these people. If your friend or loved one went missing, wouldn’t you want them to get as much attention as Gabby Petito?