All the attention Gabe Pettito receives never goes to people of color


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It’s nearly impossible to stream any news via cable or network or log onto any social media platform without seeing a parade of talking chiefs and amateur true crime detectives dabbling their hands over the heartbreaking story of Gabriel “Gabi” Pettito’s disappearance and demise. Pettito, 22, disappeared while taking a cross-country trip with her fiancé, Brian Laundry, 23. Police described Laundry, who has now disappeared himself, as a “significant person” in what is now a murder case. As public outcry and scathing media updates continued to swell, Pettito simply became “America’s daughter.” She was young, vibrant and had a significant following on social media due to her bubbly personality. She was blonde, young and attractive. And she was white, we’ve been here before – many times. Tens of thousands of people—black, Latino, Asian, indigenous, gay, bisexual, transgender, young, old, men and boys—disappear every year. Some return to their families, others are still missing, and unfortunately, some end up missing. But very few receive the national spotlight that seem reserved for white women and girls, and these names easily come to mind: Lacey Peterson, Elizabeth Smart, Natalie Holloway, Jon Bennett Ramsay, Chandra Levy. Family names and names etched in our souls forever What are their names, according to the Black and Missing Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to raise awareness about missing people of color across the country, 543,018 people were reported missing last year. . And of those, nearly 40% are people of color, so what are their names? In Wyoming, where Pettito’s body was found, at least 710 Indigenous people, mostly women and girls, went missing from 2011 to 2020, according to a report from the Wyoming Task Force on Missing and Missing Indigenous Peoples. The stark contrast in news coverage and the systemic bias that has been discussed — and ostracized — for decades. I refuse to bow to the notion that now is not the time to highlight it again. Now is just the right time, I’m often ashamed of being immersed in the “media”, especially in situations like this. But since many Americans don’t discern much in their news sources, I have to say this: We must do better. Our newsrooms should reflect the complexion of America, and we should raise reporting standards to see what’s behind the latest interesting electronic unit. All missing persons deserve attention – no one ignores the circumstances surrounding Pettito’s death, and no one minimizes the pain the Petito family endured. Just like many Americans, I am also irritated, especially by what appears in body cam footage as a huge mistake by law enforcement when they encountered Petito and Laundrie in Utah. But it’s okay to want justice for Pettito while acknowledging that “missing white woman syndrome,” a term coined by the late journalist Gwen Evil, is also a real farce. This isn’t just about race – it’s about people. Daughters, sons, mother, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends and neighbors are missing. They are not all beautiful and blonde. They have no followers on social media. But their families deserve America’s sympathy and news coverage; Their stories are just as important. These people want the home of their loved ones. They want answers. They deserve to be closed, too. National columnist/deputy opinion editor Suzette Hackney is a member of USA TODAY’S Editorial Board. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter: @suzyscribe


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