Missing white woman syndrome is a term used by social scientists and media commentators to refer to the media coverage: especially in television, of missing-person cases involving young, white, upper-middle-class women or girls compared to the relative lack of attention towards missing women who are not white, women of lower social classes, and missing men or boys.

I watched a documentary on the late Gabby Petito, who went “missing” after travelling around the States in a van with her boyfriend, Brian Laundrie. He was ultimately held responsible for her death. (He killed her) for whatever reason, I don’t care because enough women especially die at the hands of an intimate partner. My heart goes out to any family who suffers the loss of a child. 

What is especially heartbreaking in the age of social media platforms like Instagram, you get a glimpse into the victims’ lives and often feel as if you know them personally.

Media coverage of a missing white girl is extensive, and it’s done in the hope that they will be found alive. 

It is heart-wrenching when the outcome is not what we hoped for and even worse when the person is killed at the hands of evil.

Missing Black and Brown girls:

In 2019, there were 2300 Native (Indigenous) American girls and women missing. In a documentary I watched, the family members and friends of missing girls spoke of the frustration and helplessness they felt as, too often, the missing girls were treated like runaways or drug addicts (even if there was no evidence of that).  

The time wasted by the authorities could have been spent more productively looking for these women and children.

A report on African American women and children who go missing places “the figure” around 64 000.

The biggest complaint Indigenous and African American families have, is the under-reporting of missing persons. Where is the constant “flighting” of their names and pictures, the helicopters, the sniffer dogs, the community (of all races) rallying together to bring them home? Where are the reporters that camped out on the lawns of suspects? Where are the viral videos or photos of the missing person?

Are we meant to believe that police resources are scarce? Or is it only when there are missing Black and Brown women?

Is there a “special fund” that only missing white people have access to?

The sad truth:

Racism places a higher value on white women and girls who go missing!

It’s almost second nature for us to mouth pleasantries or sympathies while remaining apathetic when Black and Brown people are missing. 

We can try to fool ourselves into believing that all missing women and children are runaways or “naughty” girls, but deep down inside, we know it’s not true! We have failed them because we have reserved our empathy and humanity for only white women and girls. I’m in no way suggesting we shouldn’t feel or assist when white women or girls go missing, merely that all missing persons are given the same coverage and investigation regardless of the colour of their skin.

I could maybe understand if this was a phenomenon prevalent in the States, but sadly it’s not.

Seven years ago, a 5-year old family member was snatched from outside her house where she was playing: Seven long years where you look at little girls that resemble her and wonder if it’s her. You are in Limbo, and your heart is not at rest because it’s as if she never existed. She is just not there!

Let us continue to share pictures and images of people who have gone missing. We have enough people on social media platforms to create awareness of this heartbreaking phenomenon.

Race should not be a factor in missing people, but unfortunately, it is. The numbers will continue to rise when we wait for mainstream media or police to treat us like a white woman or girl who goes missing.