America's Obsession With Missing White Women

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In his Miami Herald column, Leonard Pitts Jr. critiques media coverage of the disappearance of Michelle Parker. She was last seen the day she appeared on The People's Court to sue her former fiancé. From watching television news, he says, no one would know that scores of men and people of color go missing each year.


… If all you had to go by was NBC or CNN, you’d never know that over 335,000 men and boys went missing last year or about 230,000 African Americans. You will see no coverage of them on national news. Nor, for that matter, of older people or less attractive ones.

While the effect of this bias is to deny the worth of anyone who is not a pretty young white woman, a case can be made that it does pretty young white women no favors, either. The driving force of that bias, after all, is a narrative that depicts them as damsels in perpetual distress, helpless little things under constant threat from the harsh vicissitudes of a big, mean world. With apologies to a certain Oscar-winning song, it’s hard out here for a white woman.

Or so TV news routinely suggests.

To imply it is somehow more important, more heart-rending, when a young white woman is in danger is, at best, a backhanded compliment. The implication is laced with a certain condescending paternalism that finds echoes throughout history, from assurances that women ought not trouble their pretty little heads with voting to debates over whether they belong in the workplace.

Read Leonard Pitts Jr.'s entire column at the Miami Herald.