DAVIS: Minority Victims Overlooked
Published: Monday, March 18, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 10:03
Have you seen, or at least heard of, Terrilynn Monette? The young New Orleans schoolteacher went missing earlier this March after a night out with her friends. Allegedly, they left Monette in her car as she requested so she could sober up before driving back home. As she rested in the parking lot, witnesses say they saw her chatting with an unidentified man. In the following days, it was reported that she had disappeared without a trace.
It isn’t surprising that Monette, an African American, is not yet a household name like, say, Natalee Holloway, a young woman who went missing and was found murdered after a vacation in Aruba. She got attention from news organizations like CNN.
News agencies have a tendency to create fairy tales out of these tragedies — but only if the victim matches a particular description. As Clutch Magazine columnist Danielle Belton said in her recent article, “Have You Seen This Woman?: Terrilynn Monette,” “CNN and other cable news outlets have received their fair share of criticism in the past for an overemphasis on missing young, typically blonde, upper-middle-class white women over everyone else. If you’re a man, African American or not conventionally attractive, the cable news tends to not care.”
We constantly see this issue play out. However, we turn a blind eye to it because, in a case like this, the victims that the media does focus on are truly victims and deserve all the attention they garner. But what about the others just like them? If we consider the Newtown tragedy alongside the battlefield that is Chicago and the effect of the violence there on innocent children, which cases tend to get more mainstream buzz or evoke the conversations surrounding gun control?
Children are victims of homicide every day by guns and the people who own them, especially in urban areas like Chicago. But mainstream America has either become numb or unconcerned when these kids are from a city or a part of a culture that is used to seeing 43 murders in a single month or 500 in a single year. It has become the norm, or what people expect of those who do not exactly fit a certain image of class, culture or race. A nation that truly cared about putting an end to the violence that afflicts those of disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds or minorities in general would most certainly shine a spotlight on their stories as much as they do on the Natalee Holloways of the world.
The lack of attention makes it seem like these bodies, whether they are old or young, had no soul to begin with. Refusal to tell the stories of these victims leads the public to believe they have no stories. It denies them their status as human beings.
“The complaint about the lack of news coverage when a person of color goes missing is valid because for our Amber Alerts, missing bulletins and kidnappings to go ignored often means them going unsolved, reinforcing the idea that some life isn’t worth as much as others lives in America,” said Belton.
Alas, a subject that should be considered an epidemic for the entire nation to see and play a role in preventing is effectively irrelevant and unstoppable.
It is alarming to know that if a member of my family or a friend of color were to turn up missing, maimed or murdered, the news and the world would not stop to care in the same way that it does for others. Are they ineligible for a proper search or for attention to their cases because of the color of their skin or the neighborhoods they live in? Are their stories any less tragic? Should they be void of all of the blessings of humanity?
Khadijah Davis is a sophomore in the School of Nursing & Health Studies. THE ETHNICITY OF FEMININITY appears every other Tuesday.