What is “Missing White Women Syndrome” and How is it Affecting Society?

With the great social media presence of the missing case of Gabby Petito, people of color have noticed a pattern within which missing persons cases are publicized in the media.

“Some experts say the nation faces “Missing White Women Syndrome,” which is defined by the heavier media attention White women and girls receive when they go missing compared to anyone outside of those demographics, according to a study published by the Northwestern University School of Law in 2016. The study points out that missing Black people are less likely to garner media attention at the outset than other groups and when they do make the news and they receive a lower intensity of coverage”

From the CNN article, “These families of missing Black people are frustrated with the lack of response to their cases”

Daniel Robinson, for example, is a black 24-year-old man that has been missing for three months now. He went missing after leaving a work site in his Jeep on June 23. While his father, David Robinson, kept tirelessly searching, he felt as if the police were not investigating enough. Because of this, he felt the need to hire an independent investigator and assemble a volunteer search team. While he asked for local media to spread the word, they failed to do so successfully and his case was shadowed by other news headlines.

Robinson is one of the many Black and brown families whose loved ones have gone missing and who say they have battled to get their cases heard. Some people claim they’re fed up with seeing the search for missing White women like Petito in the limelight while their loved ones’ cases go cold or are labeled “runaways” by the police.

Source: National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person and Unidentified Person Files, 2020, US Census Bureau
Graphic: Priya Krishnakumar, CNN

People of color are going missing at disproportionately high rates, while the cases of missing White women receive greater attention and concern. According to FBI data from 2020, Black people account for 35% of missing person reports but just 13% of the US population. Meanwhile, white individuals account for 54% of missing persons reports and 76% of the US population.

This is the direct result of normalized systemic racism that has impacted society by silencing people of color. While Gabby Petito’s case is equally as important, there are numerous accounts of missing people of color that have gone months to even years without proper help and media coverage to help their family in need.

Categories: Society