“Missing White Woman Syndrome”: It’s a term coined by the late journalist Gwen Ifill to describe the way the disappearances of young, attractive White women seem to dominate media coverage while missing people of color rarely command such attention. Seventeen years after Ifill named this phenomenon, it’s again being cited as people compare and contrast the way Gabby Petito’s disappearance resulted in hours of cable news coverage with how often the cases of Black missing persons like Daniel Robinson, Keeshae Jacobs and Jelani Day fail to attract the same level of attention. Find out more in this week’s roundup, and catch up on news about the increasingly desperate plight of Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and a Chicago café destigmatizing therapy and mental illness with every cup.
Missing from home, missing from the headlines
Families of Black missing persons are pleading for their cases to get the same level of resources and attention given to Gabby Petito, the White 22-year-old whose body was recently discovered after an intensive search and round-the-clock headlines about her disappearance. “My heart goes out to everybody that’s missing, I don’t want any parent to go through what I’ve gone through,” Toni Jacobs, whose daughter Keeshae has been missing since 2016, told CNN. “But at the same time it does frustrate me because Keeshae didn’t get that attention. What made the FBI think her case was more important than Keeshae’s?” People of color are reported missing at disproportionate rates, according to FBI data — and Black people in particular make up 35 percent of last year’s missing person reports, but only 13 percent of the U.S. population. But they get far less media attention. A study by Sacramento State assistant professor Danielle Slakoff also found that White female victims were portrayed more favorably in media coverage than Black and Latino women.