A new HBO documentary series follows Black and Missing Foundation‘s efforts for more than a decade to locate missing black people and raise awareness of their disappearance. It also explores the media’s neglect of these cases – what has happened known as “lack of white woman syndrome.”
The term was first invented by the late journalist Gwen Ifill at the Unity: Journalists of Color conference in 2004. During the conference’s “Media Coverage of National Security” panel, Ifill – between laughs – noticed “if there is a missing white woman, you will cover it every day.”
The “Black and Missing” documentary series – in addition to revisiting the disappearance of Pamela Butler, Tameka Hustons and Keeshae Jacobs, among other barely covered cases – examines exactly why this is.
“This is part of the availability of black lives in our country – that two people can disappear at the same time, and the whole nation is focusing on the white person,” said Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. second episode of the series in four parts.
Warren also pointed out that the normalization of dehumanization and violence against blacks in entertainment media goes as far back as the 1915 film “Birth of a Nation” and to the controversial but long-running reality series “Cops”.
“If you’ve been bombarded all your life with messages and pictures of black people being poor, down, out, dangerous – it’s no surprise that when a black person is in need, missed, murdered, it’s not a big deal. case too much of the white community, “said the journalist.” Because they do not think we have much to lose.
“When we see in the media that terrible things are happening in black societies, many people think that the blacks are basically complicit in things that have happened to them.”
The consequences of this apathy have largely hindered black families searching for their loved ones.
Janell Johnson-Dash, whose daughter Mishell-Nicole DiAmonde Green disappeared in 2011, shared the lawsuits she faced in trying to get media attention focused on her child’s case. Her story highlighted how crucial that coverage would be.
“It’s not easy to get exposure to a missing child of color,” Johnson-Dash told filmmakers.
While many of the Bronx family’s media efforts were fruitless, a successful contact eventually led to their daughter’s return. After getting Whoopi Goldberg’s attention, Green’s parents went on Goldberg’s talk show the other day, “The View,” to discuss their daughter’s case. Fourteen minutes after their performance, they received an anonymous tip and were reunited with their daughter.
Earlier this year, observations about the incessant coverage of social media personality Gabrielle Petito’s disappearance and later death led to increased awareness of the imbalance in coverage and promised increased media responsibility for covering cases of missing colored persons. The case of the young white woman and her missing and also now dead white fiancé received extensive coverage across media sites for months.
“Black and Missing” can be seen on HBO.
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