The national emphasis placed on the case of missing 22-year-old Gabby Petito — a white Florida woman who went following a month-long van expedition with her fiancé, Brian Laundrie — has reignited outrage over the lack of media coverage on missing individuals of color.
Her family reported the aspiring social media influencer missing on Sept. 11. Investigators discovered remains suspected to be hers outside a national park in Wyoming a little more than a week later; police have now confirmed the remains are those of Petito and ruled her death a homicide.
Petito has been an above-the-fold story and a trending subject since her disappearance, and now her fiancé — who is considered a person of interest — has vanished, adding fuel to the case’s national appeal.
At the same time, anger has erupted on social media, with people drawing attention to the thousands of missing men, women, and children, all of whom are people of color. Their situations have mostly gone unnoticed in their communities and throughout the country. Their disappearances have been disregarded, other from social media posts to the point where family members and strangers have taken matters into their own hands.
Daniel Robinson is an example of this. After leaving his worksite in Buckeye on June 23, the 24-year-old geologist from Tempe, Arizona, went missing. Robinson, according to accounts, did not inform anyone of his intended whereabouts before departing. Robinson’s actions in the days immediately up to his disappearance, according to some coworkers, made him appear “not himself.” Still, no one knows why the outspoken geologist’s Jeep Renegade was discovered in a gully just kilometers from his workplace.
His father, David Robinson, relocated from South Carolina in search of answers, created a GoFundMe campaign, and engaged a private investigator to assist put together the puzzle.
They do know that the vehicle was engaged in many collisions and that Robinson’s clothing, mobile phone, wallet, and keys were discovered at the scene. However, because of the indignation sparked by Petito’s disappearance being a national concern, this information has just recently gained traction online.
David Robinson stated, “The Buckeye Police Department is still working on the case.” “They located the vehicle, but they didn’t conduct a forensic examination because no blood was found inside.” As a result, he believes the picture given by law enforcement is that his son went missing of his own volition.
Robinson does not believe this and wishes to exhaust all search efforts in order to locate answers and, ideally, his son.
In an interview with the West Valley View newspaper, Robinson said, “The narrative that’s out there is my son just walked off on his own.” “Of course, we don’t agree with that as a family. We’re still ironing out a few details.”
The topic of missing persons has spurred online discussion from people who are upset with the media’s persistent biased behaviors. One user tweeted, “I wish they would handle missing black folks the same way they treated Gabby Petito.”
“So many black people have gone missing, but NONE have received the media attention that Gabby Peitio has!!! It’s revolting!!!!!!!!”
When MSNBC anchor Joy Reid entered the conversation, social media was already buzzing with many fliers of other missing people. During a taping of her show “The Reid Out” on Sept. 20, she highlighted the coverage gap between Petito’s disappearance and that of individuals of race.
“It goes without saying that no family should have to go through such terrible ordeal, and the Petitos undoubtedly deserve answers and justice,” she said.
“However, given the way this tale has captivated the nation, many people are wondering why persons of color do not receive the same level of media attention when they go missing.”
She went on to say, “Well, the answer has a name: missing white woman syndrome,” she said, citing late journalist Gwen Ifill as the coiner of the term. It “describe[s] the media and public infatuation with missing white women like Lacy Peterson or Natalie Holloway while disregarding situations involving missing people of color,” according to the report.
Lynette Grey Bull of the Not Our Native Daughters Foundation, one of the panelists, declared unequivocally that the difference is due to racism. “It’s institutional racism,” she says. In our tribal communities, we’re still fighting oppression,” Bull added.
“We continue to face inequity across the board, whether it is in our neighborhood, housing, or employment.”
Many people were moved by Reid’s statements, with some applauding her for “naming a thing a thing” and others believing they were provocative.
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