Where are the Efforts to Find Missing People of Color?

Moira Weinstein, Contributing Writer

By now, everyone in America with a working television or mobile device has heard the name Gabby Petito. Her name was cast on every national news network announcing her suspicious disappearance while on a long road trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie. When Laundrie appeared at his parents’ house in Florida without Petito; authorities were contacted by Gabby’s parents. The situation was of utmost concern considering there has been a domestic dispute case open since mid-August. 

Because of the standing concern and Petito’s sudden disappearance, the public became heavily engaged in the search. For the past few weeks, social media sites have been flooded with theories, suspicions and updates. People all over the world were following the story, and every ounce of media attention was poured into the Petito case. Unsurprisingly, she was found in a short amount of time. Tragically, though, she was not found alive. 

The speedy discovery of Gabby Petito raises questions about the efforts put into every other open missing person’s case. 

America and its news networks have an odd way of putting all their coins in one bag. When an interesting event occurs, everyone’s ears perk up and everything else seems to fall away. After it’s all over, they find something else to fixate on. American minds — specifically young ones — crave the mystery that oozes from these types of true crime cases. Some are interested in the psychology behind true crime subjects, and crave the answers needed to piece the puzzle together. The rest are consumed with the prospect of heroism, in other words: those influenced by a savior complex. 

So what happens to all the victims of the seemingly “uninteresting” cases? The murdered, the missing, the loved ones, the families? Their names are forgotten and their loved ones suffer without solace. Those forgotten are disproportionately people of color. Last year alone, 543,018 people went missing in the United States; 40 percent of those were people of color, 35 percent of them African American. The public doesn’t know about these statistics because these cases aren’t significant enough to make the news every evening. Is it because minorities aren’t worth searching for? Are their stories inherently worth less because they are not of a young, white 22-year old? These questions are imperative, as systemic racism plagues this country whether we want to acknowledge it or not. 

Biases are a part of society, but when cops, the public and the media start prioritizing white missing persons over the countless disappearances of people of color, questions must be asked and actions must be taken.

This generation of American influencers and social media consumers has proved helpful for raising awareness. Yet, we tend to pick and choose, and this needs to be adjusted. True crime cases, especially ones that are active, are not puzzles for those yearning to be entertained. They involve real people with families and friends that are waiting for answers.

In reality, we cannot rely on the presence of TikTok and Facebook to solve these cases. It is inevitably up to authorities and experts to determine the whereabouts of victims, and close the infinite number of cases piled on their desks. While the public continues to support the loved ones of Gabby Petito, we must continually use our platforms to do our part to spread awareness for those without a voice.

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