There are roughly 10 million colors known to man.
But only two of them have everlasting human significance: black and white.
The murder case of Gabby Petito clearly illustrates this point. T
he nation’s primary media outlets and the cable news networks have filled American homes and workplaces, almost ad nauseam, with coverage of her domestic disputes with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie, her murder in Wyoming, and his subsequent disappearance in Florida.
This is a white murder case whose interests have been fueled by white peoples’ interest in it. It is the kind of case that lights up social media and gives the aging hawkish crime fighter John Walsh another chance to insert himself in a crime limelight.
But why should a white murder case garner such a dominating share of media coverage and public interest when a black murder case, arising in a similar context, rarely makes the evening news unless it a slow weekend 30-second spot.
Let’s look at the facts here because “Black Lives Matter.”
The National Center for Victims of Crime reports that black women are 2.5 times more likely to be murdered than white women—92 percent of whom are killed by someone they know with 52 percent of this number involving a current or former intimate partner.
When was the last time you heard about a murder case in which a black man killed a black woman that garnered as much media attention and public curiosity as the Petito/Laundrie murder case?
You haven’t and I haven’t – unless it is a case that escapes my memory.
The difference is color: white is preferred over black.
In the early days of his legendary boxing career, Muhammad Ali expressed one of his many gifted social observations (and I paraphrase here) that the color white has always been associated with good like toilet paper while black has been associated with bad like blackmail.”
Why not whitemail?” Ali asked.
You might say people, especially white folks, prefer the light of day to the dark of night—the former signifying the happiness of day while the latter signifies the gloom of night.
Black people have always come up short in their dealings with other races.
The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History reports that the Atlantic Slave Trade between 1536 and 1867 saw some 12.5 million slaves shipped from Africa with 10.7 million being shipped to the Americas, both North and South, where they served white and brown masters.
And white Australians committed colonial genocide for years against black Aborigines through government sanctioned massacres.
And let’s not forget the racism and human mistreatment Asian people like the Chinese, Japanese and Korean people have inflicted upon Africans and black Americans. The same is true in all Nordic countries and in all the countries that once formed the Soviet controlled communist nations.
So, again, let’s look at the facts.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reported that in 2018 some 613,000 people went missing in the United States with 60 percent of them being people of color. The Black and Missing Foundation in 2019 put the total number of missing black women and girls at 64,000.
Writing in the February 20, 2020 edition of Women Media Center, Treva Lindsey reported that:
“The tens of thousands of Black women and girls who are missing include abductees, sex trafficking victims, and runaways. Black women and girls exist at the intersection of racism and sexism, and quite often poverty. These barriers contribute to disparate and poor outcomes in many arenas, including but not limited to health, wealth, housing, education, employment, food security, access to water, and violence. It is therefore unsurprising that Black women and girls would be overrepresented among people missing in the U.S. They are uniquely vulnerable and too easily erased from public discussions about the alarming trend of missing people.”
There are legitimate social reasons for giving media coverage to the Gabby Petito murder case but not at the scale at which it has been covered, particularly given the fact that women of color, especially black women, comprise the lion’s share of those who endure domestic violence, murder, and go missing.
The Gabby Petito case underscores the horrific reality that women of color are marginalized by a biased media covering crime and criminal justice issues.