Petito’s case describes media and public fascination with missing white women, says Ms Reid
The disappearance and death of Florida woman Gabby Petito has been dubbed as the “missing white woman syndrome” by television host Joy Reid who questioned the lack of similar attention in cases involving people of colour.
Petito, 22, who was on almost a two-month-long cross country road trip with her boyfriend, went missing last month and a body matching her description was found in Wyoming on Sunday. An autopsy will be conducted on the unidentified remains, the police said.
Pointing to similar incidents leading to disappearance of other people of colour, Ms Reid said: “The way this story captivated the nation has many wondering, why not the same media attention when people of colour go missing?”
“Well, the answer actually has a name: Missing White Woman Syndrome – the term coined by the late and great Gwen Ifill to describe the media and public fascination with missing White women like Laci Peterson or Natalee Holloway, while ignoring cases involving people of colour,” the host of ReidOut on MSNBC said.
Ms Reid cited the case of geologist Daniel Robinson who went missing in June this year.
The 24-year-old Black man was last seen on 23 June driving a Jeep Renegade from his work site near Sun Valley Parkway and Cactus Road.
“I never heard of it until this friend of mine sent it to me. And I guess, that’s the issue, isn’t it?” Ms Reid said during a panel discussion.
Panelist Derrica Wilson of Black and Missing Foundation agreed and said, “It is definitely the issue.” Cases where people of colour, men, women and children go missing are not taken seriously, Ms Wilson said.
Systematic failure to counter racism is one of the reasons for such a discrimination in crimes, said panelist Lynette Grey Bull of the Not Our Native Daughters Foundation.
“One of the main factors and one of the key factors that a lot of people don’t want to talk about is that it’s racism. It’s systemic racism,” said Ms Bull.
Petito’s body was found by a couple almost three weeks after she sent a text to her mother from the road trip covering national parks. She did not return with Brian Laundrie who came back home this month, even though the two left together in a camper van and documented their journey on social media platforms.
Mr Laundrie has been named as a “person of interest” by the police as the investigation progresses to find him and understand what transpired on the trip in the last few weeks.
Mr Laundrie left his home and disappeared into the Florida wilderness, police said.
A report from Utah showed Petitio and her fiance arguing and hitting each other and were spotted by police in Utah’s Moab city on 12 August.
According to a report by National Crime Centre data, nearly 90,000 active missing person cases were recorded in the US by the end of 2020.