In my conclusion of the “Missing Pretty White Woman Syndrome” Trilogy, I will discuss how the media disproportionately gives excessive news coverage to white women and girls, as opposed to black women and girls. In my two previous essays (https://kathmanduk2.wordpress.com/2007/07/30/missing-pretty-white-woman-syndrome-part-1/; https://kathmanduk2.wordpress.com/2007/08/06/missing-white-woman-syndrome-part-2), I discussed how the centuries long degrading tradition of defiling black women during slavery, Reconstruction and segregation has led America of today towards its continued callous mistreatment of black women and girls.
And nowhere is this so blatantly seen in than in how the white-run media gives news coverage to white women much more than it does black women, especially when a woman goes missing, is presumed kidnapped or possibly murdered. Conjure up the images of a missing white woman in your mind, and you can be rest assured the local police, the state troopers, the U.S.Calvary, the FBI, the U.S. Air Force, Marines, Navy, the Army and the U.S Coast Guard will all be called upon to help find the poor missing pretty white woman. No stone will be left unturned in searching high and low to bring home the missing pretty white woman. But, let a black woman or girl go missing, then little to nothing is heard of their dilemma.
There is a profile that must be fit in order for a woman to be considered a MPWW. The individual may be missing, murdered, captured or even have faked her own kidnapping, but, the most essential element of the syndrome is that her gender, race, prettiness, age, social standing or background extends to media coverage and public interest in her case: blonde, attractive, if possible–blue-eyed, young, petite, vivacious and of a middle class or higher economic background.
All of the above—NON-NEGOTIABLE. (But an exception can be made in the case of wartime.)
Typical MPWW cases involve local and/or 24-hour cable news providing regular daily coverage of any and all developments, accompanied by lengthy discussions about the meaning of such developments by numerous talking pundits, newshours, hour-on-hour, on-hour continuous coverage, in the morning, in the afternoon, in the evening, and even at midnight. Guests, especially those with law enforcement credentials, are called upon to speculate about evidence, suspects, motives that caused the disappearance, and are invited onto talk shows to give up-to-the-minute updates on where the MPWW was last seen: at the video store, at the cineplex, at the grocery store, at the beauty parlor. Family members are called upon to show pictures of the MPWW when she was last seen, when she graduated from college, graduated from senior high, graduated from pre-K, when she cut her first tooth. What type of bathing suit she likes to wear: whether one-piece maillot or two piece bikini. As the story gains momentum and begins to pick up steam like a runaway locomotive that is ready to jump off the track and kill all in its path, more talk shows and news media search out and bring on as guests the suspects to discuss why they are suspects, what caused them to be considered suspects, and if they are suspects, why are they discussing a case that has not even gone to trial yet. The typical case drags on for days, weeks, months, forever and ever, resulting in some families creating a website about the case, or a reward is posted, flyers and leaflets are made up, and posted all over and cover neighborhoods so much that it seems like it is snowing. Then, if the case is solved, scholarships are set up in the name of the MPWW, and when it is resolved by the police, interests is lost in the particular case, until a new MPWW case occurs for the news media to jump on like a duck on a junebug, and then the vicious cycle starts all over again. The media does few follow-up stories on the MPWW unless there are new and more dramatic major developments to report.
Lost in the stampede to cover MPWW are the many, many black women and girls whose cases are ignored time and time again. And those many women and girls deserve to be heard, given recognition and looked for with just as much zeal and earnest effort that is so often magnanimously given to all the MPWW.
Tamika Houston, Jennifer Wilbanks, Josephine Howell-Baxter, Marci Dawn McKinsey, Natalee Holloway, Chandra Levy, Jasmine Shanae Powers, Lori Hacking, Audrey Seiler, Mahalia Xiong, Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, Keinya Carroll, Harjit Kaur, Tiffany Junelle Arcand and Stepha Henry.
All of the above women have gone missing. Many are still missing.
But, one very important point that must be acknowledged: how many of these women’s names do you recognize?
How many of these women are white? Black? Latina? Asian?
Wilbanks, Holloway, Levy, Smart, Peterson, Hacking and Seiler are all white.
Powers, Henry, Houston, Howell-Baxter, McKinsey, Carroll, are all black. Xiong is Asian. Arcand is Latina. Kaur is Indian/South Asian.
Chances are many of you reading this essay have never heard of these young women, but, you definately have heard of all the missing white women. And a white woman does not always have to go missing in order to fall under the MPWWS.
Remember Terry Schiavo?
This white woman was dying and it was not enough that her husband and parents fought over her in her last hours. The president of the United States, President Shrub, had to get in on the decision of this woman’s medical condition. She could not die in peace, until the doctors and her husband came to a decision. And for the president to butt into something that was of no concern of his spoke volumes of the MPWWS.
Even the military is not immune from MPWWS.
Remember Jessica Lynch?
Remember all the hoopla over her when she was captured and held prisoner in Iraq and how the military so valiantly rescued her? Even had a TV movie-of-the-week made about her.
Forgotten in all the vigorous media play was Shoshana Johnson.
Oh, never heard of her?
She was the first black female prisoner of war in the military history of the United States.
Both were captured in the same ambush during the Iraq War on March 23, 2003, but Johnson received very little media attention in comparison to Lynch. Lynch’s story was promoted because Lynch was a more palatable and identifiable figure to promote: a young, blonde white woman, you know, your typical MPWW. Johnson, on the other hand, was a black woman who was a single mother.
She too was captured as well, and injured too like Lynch, but, Shoshana was not rescued until 12 days after Lynch was rescued. Lynch was rescued on April 1, 2003. Shoshanna was rescued on April 13, 2003.
Lynch got a million-dollar book deal and more in disability payments from the military than Johnson.
You don’t have to be a missing white woman to rate validation via the MPWWS news coverage.
Remember her? The white woman who sobbed and lied and snotted and cried and said that a black man carjacked her vehicle with her two young sons in it? Had the whole nation looking for this ferocious black man, when it turned out that this creature murdered her own children just so she could lay up with a married man. Had the whole nation grabbing and jacking black men up in extreme manhunts that targeted any and all black men who “fit the profile” just on this white woman’s say so.
Jennifer Wilbanks, who ran away from home on April 26, 2005, in an effort to avoid her wedding with John Mason, her fiancé, on April 30. Had the whole nation tearing its hair out searching frantically for this MPWW who they thought was probably lying somewhere torn apart in some open field. Turns out she had not the guts to go through with her impending nuptials and ran off to avoid marriage to her fiance. Many people who looked for her were made to look like fools for losing sleep over this MPWW who had not the guts to just come out and say to her fiance she wanted out of the soon-to-be-wedding. On April 29, she called her fiance from Albuquerque, New Mexico, and falsely claimed that she had been kidnapped and sexually assaulted by a Latino male and a white woman.
The Petersons, Hackings, Smarts and many other MPWW get enormous continuous media coverage because they are white. If they were missing men and boys, they would get practically no mention at all. And if you are a WOC who is Native American, Aboriginal or any other First Nation woman, expect to get no coverage at all.
Shelton Sanders (missing since June 19, 2001) – 25-year-old male, black college student. According to MSNBC, Sanders case received scant notice outside his small hometown of Rembert, S.C., even though he was a high-achieving student at the University of South Carolina who worked as a technician in the Department of Neuropsychiatry and Behavioral Science, and despite his father’s prominence as a county magistrate. Meanwhile, the disappearance of a white, female USC student with a similar academic record, Dail Dinwiddie, has continued to receive national attention more than a dozen years after she vanished in 1992.
One hundred+ missing women in Vancouver, Edmonton, and surrounding areas, are still not given the media attention they deserve. The authorities are exceedingly slow in investigating in the cases of missing Aboriginal women. And don’t let some of these women turn out to be drug users, or sex-trade workers, for they will get no mention at all. Native American woman in the United States practically do not exist as far as the media is concerned. Rapes and murders of Native American women go unreported in the national press.
While missing men and boys are given horrible non-coverage.
And the list of missing men and boys grows:
-Derrell Dean Anthony Thomas
-Michael Juan Davis
Chances are you have never heard of these missing young men, either.
Turn on any primetime TV program:
-48 Hours (CBS)
-Dateline NBC (NBC)
and you will be inundated with picture after picture, news segment after news segment about a MPWW who was tragically murdered with the narrator tugging at our heartstrings about her case. And when you tune into these programs you are guaranteed to see tons of coverage on MPWW but nothing on missing or presumed dead black, Latina, Native American, Asian, etc., women.
Many black women have gone missing or have been brutally murdered, and their cases have received none of the tremendous coverage or merit that many missing white women have received:
-Latoyia Figueroa, the young black woman who was 5 months pregnant who went missing for weeks and whose disappearance would have gone un-noticed and un-written about in the media if not for the great public outcry from internet bloggers over the non-existent coverage of her missing; at the time of her disappearance, Natalee Holloway, who was declared missing at the same time, rated 5600 Google hits on the internet; Latoyia rated only 2.
-Sherrice Iverson, an innocent little 7-year-old girl who was savagely raped and murdered by a racist white male in a Las Vegas casino bathroom, while his friend stood by and watched him;
-Stepha Henry, a petite, vibrant young woman who graduated with honors from school, disappeared Memorial Day weekend on May 29, 2007, and is still missing;
-Rashiya Bond, missing since June 14, 2007
-Kendra Antoinette Hedgespeth, missing since June 20, 2007
Because of America’s continued devaluation of black women and girls, they do not receive anywhere near the attention that white females constantly receive when they go missing. It is in this centuries-old dichotomy of the meta-narrative of something seen as precious, delicate as being snatched away, trampeled on, defiled, debauched, destroyed by all the evil forces that lurk and hide in the shadows just outside the bedroom window, down a darkened alley, behind the forested trees of a deserted city park, darkened by a moonless night.
It is “whiteness” under siege, under attack, under the constant onslaught of the perceived and feared black peril. It is white innocence, white purity, white chastity, white piousness that is ever always that which must be protected from being crushed by the cruel reality of denial, guilt, and fear that America has created in her degradation of blackness; her putting whiteness into the realm of that which is considered the most sacred; whiteness accorded humanity at the expense of blacknesses’ humanity. Among the many thousands of Americans who go missing or who are murdered every year, this constant pattern of singling out for our attention and for our care for only young, white, middle-class to upper-class women for the full treatment of the “Missing Pretty White Woman Syndrome”, the “Missing Pretty Woman Syndrome”, the “Damsel in Distress Syndrome”, says a lot about a nation that loves to believe that it has consigned the issues of race, gender and class to the distant past.
Which is why there are Amber Alerts.
But, no Lakeisha Alerts.
But, no Tameka Laws.
The past is always with us, and until America confronts its racist and sexist past, this war of race, gender, and class will continue, and we can count on many more rabid news coverages of the “Missing Pretty White Woman Syndrome”.
STEPHA HENRY, missing since 5-29-2007
KENDRA ANTIONETTE HEDGESPETH
Missing since November 27, 1991
SAQUOYA LUCRITIA GERALD
Missing since June 4, 2007
Missing since June 22, 2007
JESUS MERINO-MENDOZA, last seen at home on July, 26, 2007.