Petito Case Renews Call To Spotlight Missing People Of Color

In Wyoming, where Petito was found, just 18% of cases of missing Indigenous women over the past decade had any media coverage.

9/25/2021 6:10:00 PM

In Wyoming, where Petito was found, just 18% of cases of missing Indigenous women over the past decade had any media coverage.

In Wyoming, where Petito was found, just 18% of cases of missing Indigenous women over the past decade had any media coverage.

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — In the three months since 62-year-old Navajo rug weaver Ella Mae Begay vanished, the haunting unanswered questions sometimes threaten to overwhelm her niece.Seraphine Warren has organized searches of the vast Navajo Nation landscape near her aunt’s home in Arizona but is running out of money to pay for gas and food for the volunteers.

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“Why is it taking so long? Why aren’t our prayers being answered?” she asks.Begay is one of thousands of Indigenous women who have disappeared throughout the U.S. Some receive no public attention at all, a disparity that extends to many other people of color.

The disappearance of Gabby Petito, a white 22-year-old woman who went missing in Wyoming last month during a cross-country trip with her boyfriend, has drawn a frenzy of coverage on traditional and social media, bringing new attention to a phenomenon known as “missing white woman syndrome.”

Many families and advocates for missing people of color are glad the attention paid to Petito’s disappearance has helped unearth clues that likely led to the tragic discovery of her body and they mourn with her family. But some also question why the public spotlight so important to finding missing people has left other cases shrouded in uncertainty.

“I would have liked that swift rush, push to find my aunt faster. That’s all I wish for,” said Warren, who lives in Utah, one of several states Petito and boyfriend Brian Laundrie passed through.via Associated PressNavajo rug weaver Ella Mae Begay, 62, is shown in this undated photo provided by her niece Seraphine Warren.

In Wyoming, where Petito was found, just 18% of cases of missing Indigenous women over the past decade had any media coverage, according to a state report released in January.“Someone goes missing just about every day ... from a tribal community,” said Lynnette Grey Bull, who is Hunkpapa Lakota and Northern Arapaho and director of the organization Not Our Native Daughters. More than 700 Indigenous people disappeared in Wyoming between 2011 and 2020, and about 20% of those cases were still unsolved after a month. That’s about double the rate in the white population, the report found.

One factor that helped people connect with Petito’s case was her Instagram profile, where she lived her dream of traveling the country. Other social-media users contributed their own clues, including a traveling couple who said they spotted the couple’s white van in their own YouTube footage.

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While authorities haven’t confirmed the video led to the discovery, the vast open spaces of the American West can bedevil search parties for years and anything that narrows the search grid is welcome. Public pressure can also ensure authorities prioritize a case.

The opportunity to create a well-curated social-media profile, though, isn’t available to everyone, said Leah Salgado, deputy director of IllumiNative, a Native women-led social justice organization.“So much of who we care about and what we care about is curated in ways that disadvantage people of color and Black and Indigenous people in particular,” she said.

The causes are layered, but implicit bias in favor of both whiteness and conventional beauty standards play in, along with a lack of newsroom diversity and police choices in which cases to pursue, said Carol Liebler, a communications professor at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School.

“What’s communicated is that white lives matter more than people of color,” she said.One sample of 247 missing teens in New York and California found 34% of white teens’ cases were covered by the media, compared to only 7% of Black teens and 14% of Latino kids, she said.

Friends of Jennifer Caridad, a 24-year-old day care worker of Mexican descent, have taken to social media to draw attention to her case out of Sunnyside, Washington, after it received little notice in August. Just as in Petito’s case, Caridad was last believed to have been with her boyfriend. He was arrested on carjacking and attempted murder charges after shooting at police during a pursuit following her disappearance.

AdvertisementSo far, authorities have no answers for Caridad’s parents. Twice a week, Enrique Caridad heads to the police station for any updates on his daughter.“They tell me they will not rest until she is found,” he said. “I tell them to please let me know her last whereabouts so I can also help find her. But they tell me not to get involved, not to hurt the case.”

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Detectives took parental DNA samples and said there were blood stains in her SUV, but they have yet to say whether it was Caridad’s blood. At the beginning, her parents struggled to understand English-speaking detectives, but after the case was transferred to a smaller police department, they can speak Spanish to one of the investigators.

“Not knowing is what kills us — not knowing if she is alive or if she was hurt by that man,” Caridad said.David Robinson moved from South Carolina to Arizona temporarily to search for his son, Daniel, who disappeared in June. The 24-year-old Black geologist was last seen at a work site in Buckeye, outside Phoenix. A rancher found his car in a ravine a month later a few miles away. His keys, cellphone, wallet and clothes were also recovered. But no sign of him.

The Petito saga unexpectedly elevated his son’s case as people used the #findgabypetito hashtag on Twitter to draw more attention to cases of missing people of color.“I was working hard previously trying to get it out nationally for three months straight,” said Robinson, who’s communicated with other families about the coverage disparity. “This is bigger than I thought. ... It isn’t just about my son Daniel. It’s a national problem.”

Another family whose case was highlighted by that hashtag — Lauren “El” Cho, a missing 30-year-old Korean American from California — said in a Facebook statement they understand the frustrations but cautioned that differences between cases “run deeper than what meets the public eye.”

Asians and Asian Americans definitely face the same issue of news visibility, said Kent Ono, a University of Utah communications professor. The “model minority myth,” that Asians are successful and don’t get into trouble, also contributes to the problem.

“That then makes it very hard for readers and viewers to imagine that Asian and Asian American people have any problems at all, that they can’t take care of by themselves,” he said.Public attention is vital in all missing-persons cases, especially in the first day or two after a disappearance, said Natalie Wilson, who co-founded the Black and Missing Foundation to help bring more attention to underreported cases. Dispelling racism and stereotypes linking missing people with poverty or crime is key.

“Oftentimes, the families ... don’t feel as though their lives are valued,” she said. “We need to change the narrative around our missing to show they are our sisters, brothers, grandparents. They are our neighbors. They are part of our community.”Tang reported from Phoenix. Gomez Licon reported from Miami.

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I’m ashamed to be an American. DavidBeazley4 THE SAME IN CANADA... The search for Petito did have more of a grassroots start. It gained fame from youtubers trying to solve a crime against “one of their own.” It picked up national media attention after there was an online community actively trying to solve her case. Not to disregard other MPs

This seems to be a trend among indigenous people the world over & it needs to stop. Than report it Every activist and advocate wasted no time to politized one young woman's death. So what is ’s excuse for not covering missing and dead Women of color? How does this story change the fact that the Huffington Post will continue to ignore these Women?

MMIW How many followers on social media did these women have? You have to compare apples to apples or it's not a real comparison Nothing in Wyoming ever gets national coverage, there must be something about this case 🤷‍♀️. Well get in there and cover it, dumbass. You are the media.

How other missing person cases could gain traction after Gabby PetitoThe national spotlight on Gabby Petito's disappearance has given families of other missing persons hope that they too can amplify their stories and find loves ones. Is just Twitter can be smarter. If you're white maybe Blame it on the system

So why has waited so long to start reporting on these missing women? Maybe you should as a media outlet report on it. Stop trying to make click bait headlines. How many brown women equal one white woman? You are the media, why didn’t you report it? Unimportant either way. We need to fix this! It's broken everywhere!

Monichols The Christian invasion just never stops. Apologize to Nicki They should have had Instagram pages. Does the HuffPost know they are the media?

Gabby Petito case shines spotlight on other missing person casesThe national spotlight on Gabby Petito's disappearance has given families of other missing persons hope that that they too can amplify their stories and find loves ones. This should have been done years ago . People of other race besides white don’t get the same attention it’s sad. Two very unremarkable people that you wouldn’t even look at if it was just you and them in a room became a fixation of social media. This country really gravitates towards apparent murders on the road. However, that’s not to say that this isn’t an unfortunate scenario. More inner strength than I could fathom it would take to share your grief with stranger so that they, themselves can keep the candles lit for their lost ones. Closure the only motive. There is no happy endings for these poor people. Our hearts be with them on this day and beyond

Debates sparked by Gabby Petito case echo in 28-year-old London teacher’s killingThe killing of Sabina Nessa has prompted a renewed outcry over violence against women in the U.K., while again putting a spotlight on the disparity in coverage of cases involving people of color. This case was all over the News, this is Britain, the News will cover everyone no matter their background or skin colour! the news is mad about what the news is reporting about 😂 Seriously.... is there ANYthing Yahoo can't spin into a 'whites are evil' racial story?

Gabby Petito went missing, then her fiancé: Some say police should have done moreIn the days since Gabby Petito’s remains were found and her death declared a homicide, police have faced questions and criticism for how they handled the case. If you watched that video when the cops puller her over, and you've been an abused woman, YOU WOULD NOT HAVE LET HER GO. You can see it on her face, that she blamed herself for him abusing her. THEY FAILED HER! failedcops Her fiancé isn’t missing. He’s hiding. A literal fugitive from the law.

Utah city will investigate police response to Gabby Petito, Brian Laundrie disputeOfficer Robbins and officer Pratt smh Google 'Missing White Woman Syndrome'. Because missing people of color only receive a small fraction of this intense media coverage. Lawsuit coming for moabpolice

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