James Hock - MRH Faculty
The Silenced Disappearances of POC will not Remain Quiet
By Jayden M.
Are you a fan of true crime, mystery, or do you even just watch/read the news? If so, you’ve probably come across some missing person cases before. But have you noticed that the vast majority of them involve white people, specifically white women? The disappearance of Gabby Petito this fall is a recent example. There are countless POC (people of color) that have gone missing that don’t get widespread coverage and attention like cases such as Gabby Petito’s. This is a huge problem that often goes unnoticed or overlooked.
A clear example of this is found on the FBI’s missing persons and kidnappings page. For the majority of the years documented on the website, around half of the cases involve POC victims, whether it be Middle-Eastern, Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc. However, when simply Googling “missing person”, there are more articles on white people than POC who have disappeared. There also haven’t been many, if any, missing person cases of POC that have reached as widespread of an audience as Gabby Petito or Madeleine McCann, for example.
Why is this happening? A probable reason could be due to the justice system. There have been many examples of police investigating disappearances and deaths of white people in-depth for long periods of time, such as with Gabby Petito. But police are not putting the same amount of time and effort into investigating disappearances and deaths of POC, such as recently with Lauren Smith-Fields. To further explain, Gabby Petito’s disappearance sparked countless wide-spread searches for her and her former partner. However, Lauren Smith-Fields was found dead in her apartment after a date with a white man, 22 years older than her, and the police proceeded to let the man go without questioning and did not investigate the scene. They also did not make an effort to contact her family to let them know of the tragedy. The corruption in the justice system would make sense as a reason that POC are not getting the same news coverage, as news outlets and journalists would have a hard time reporting on cases of POC that were possibly “covered-up” or left open-ended and uninvestigated. This would also make more sense as Lauren Smith-Fields’ case is receiving media attention, although not to the same extent as Gabby Petito.
Personally, I believe that the reason this issue is occurring is for that very reason. Lauren Smith-Fields is not the only example of the police not properly investigating disappearances or deaths of people of color. There are also several examples of the police being the murderers of people of color, without valid reasoning. This leads me to believe that the justice system would have little to no interest in investigating their cases either, if they were the murderers themselves. Some victims of police brutality include Daunte Wright and Andre Hill who were both shot unprovoked, and Elijah McClain who was brutally murdered here in Aurora, Colorado by police. Also, according to the Women’s Media Center, black women and girls are overrepresented among missing people in the United States. They claim that the majority of young black girls that disappear are simply categorized as runaways rather than their cases being investigated deeper than the surface level.
To get opinions on this issue from students here at Mountain Range High School, a Google Form was sent out. The first question on the form asked respondents to select all of the missing persons cases listed that they’ve heard of, which included three popular missing cases containing white people, and five relatively popular missing cases containing POC. The majority of responses claimed to have known about the case of Gabby Petito and some claimed to have heard of the other two cases containing white people. However, only one respondent claimed to have heard of one of the cases involving a person of color. This depicts how little attention cases involving people of color receive.
The next questions asked respondents if they thought there was equal news coverage and overall attention of white missing persons cases and POC missing persons cases. Half of respondents believed that there was not equal news coverage of POC missing persons cases. 70% believed that there was not equal overall attention. This proves how clear and prevalent of an issue this is that even students at MRHS are aware of it. This just goes to show how important it is to notice when coming across a case of a missing white person, that there are thousands of people of color who are missing as well that deserve to be found just as much.