Even after a year of seemingly endless investigations and coverage, Natalee Holloway has managed to find her way back into the spotlight of American media. This validates the theory that America appears to be suffering from a sickness. It’s not a sickness that you’ll read about in medical books. It’s not a sickness that’s easily curable with Benedryl. It’s not even detectable by most Americans.
Yes. America is sick, alright. It’s suffering from missing white woman syndrome.
At the risk of sounding racially bent, have you ever noticed that all a white woman really needs to do is sneeze and you’ll find national media camped out on her porch trying to figure out what happened? Imagine the concern if she doesn’t show up for work one day or is late picking up the kids from school. On just about every news station, you’ll hear stories about some ‘innocent’ white woman who was abducted, murdered, or brutalized. Now, don’t get me wrong: some women like Lacy Peterson and Chandra Levy actually had horrible things happen to them. Certainly their stories deserved the attention that they received if -- for no other reason -- to raise awareness about the violence and uncivility that is plaguing our world. But, how many women of color are victimized in this country without so much as a comment from American media? Are minorities so unimportant in this country that if one of us goes missing or if one is victimized, it’s not that big of a deal? Or, perhaps the lack of attention received to minority victims is more a product of the intrigue received by missing white women. I suppose that women with a darker hue just don’t have that same mystique.
If I want to find out about missing black women I need to look in Jet, Ebony, or Essence magazine; not CNN (unless, of course, we’re talking about “special” black women like 'bright' college students, rich girls, etc. They're the only black women who get any attention in the media.). However, the only thing that our white sisters need to do is go missing or, at the very least, give the impression that they’re missing and they’ll be plastered all over CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News like they’re a celebrity.
When Jennifer Wilbanks, for instance (who, by the way, should be in jail right now for deceiving an entire nation and wasting public resources), skipped out of her ultra-huge wedding and then lied about a Hispanic man kidnapping her, the media glamorized her. Though she didn’t seem to show any remorse for lying to fiancé, wasting public resources, misrepresenting women who actually are victimized, or wrongfully accusing a minority (in a society that deems most minorities guilty before proven innocent), she did manage to find an agent who sold her story for over a million dollars. She then got the opportunity to interview with Katie Couric who, rather than call her out on her lies, played the sympathy role. Essentially, Jennifer Wilbanks received a pass from Couric and the rest of the nation. The ‘punishment’ that she received (a probation sentence and a fine) dwarfs the profiting that she will receive from this debacle.
In an interesting post, one of my blogger buddies pointed out that our society has placed a certain high value on the lives of some people, while other people's lives are -- oppositely -- devalued. Such is the case with the phenomenon of the missing white woman (at least, I think so). The simple fact is when black women come up missing; it’s nothing to talk about. White women disappear (even those who stage their own disappearance), and massive search parties, “exclusive” interviews, made-for-TV movies, and book deal are in the works.
Some of you may be asking why I’m so angry about this whole thing. I mean, any time a person comes up missing, we should be concerned, regardless to who it is. I think that I’m vexed largely because of the human interest that is generated from people being vicariously energized and entertained by the stories of these white women; while stories involving victimized black women (i.e. the Duke University rape case) are of the least bit of interest. But, above all, what annoys me most is that the media portrays white “victims” as innocent and newsworthy while missing black women are far less significant and ignorable. This does little to support egalitarianism that our country is supposed to stand for; and greatly contributes to the decline of our nation’s public consciousness. It reminds me of how our nation viewed white women in the past. Society worshipped their ‘innocence’ and their ‘virtue’ and would do anything to protect them from black men; including lynchings. Virtues. Interesting idea. Ida B. Wells once said that if a person became so occupied with virtue, questions should be raised about whether or not their virtues actually existed in the first place.
What is it about missing white women in this country that causes us to turn a blind eye, a deaf ear, and an empty heart to victims of color. What makes people of color any less valid than their white counterparts? Are their stories not equally as tragic and newsworthy? Are they any less 'virtuous' and 'innocent'?
If someone's got the answer to that one, I'm curious to know...