The Hypocrisy of Those Complaining About 'Missing White Woman Syndrome'

AP Photo/Curt Anderson

I have to admit I haven’t followed the Gabby Petito story. There always seems to be a story that captivates the country for a period of time, thanks to the media choosing to cover it rigorously, and this felt like another one that the gatekeepers of the mainstream media felt deserved 24/7 coverage. Of course, the story was hard to avoid, especially when you’re writing about the news daily. I knew it wouldn’t take long for some snowflake in the media to complain that the only reason this story is getting the attention it’s getting is because of racism.

And MSNBC’s Joy Reid didn’t disappoint. “The Petito family certainly deserves answers and justice,” she acknowledged earlier this week. “But, the way this story captivated the nation has many wondering why not the same media attention when people of color go missing? Well, the answer actually has a name: Missing White Woman Syndrome, the term coined by the late and great Gwen Ifill to describe the media and public fascination with missing white women like Laci Peterson or Natalee Holloway while ignoring cases involving people of color.”

The thing is, she’d have a point if the same people who complain about “Missing White Woman Syndrome” or otherwise inject race into this story weren’t also the same people who show little to no outrage over black-on-black crime—particularly the plague of black kids being victims of gun violence.

Reid, for example, has expressed skepticism about soaring crime rates because she hasn’t heard “anecdotes from friends” about big city violence. In other words, if she chooses not to believe it’s happening, she doesn’t have to talk about it or be outraged by it. Mass shootings she’ll talk about. But those are convenient stories for the gun-control narrative. Black kids being shot in Chicago is not a narrative that can be used to push an agenda. Chicago already has some of the strictest gun-control laws in the nation. And black-on-black crime never gets the attention it deserves… not even when the victims are kids.

More kids have been shot in Chicago this year than have died from COVID since the beginning of the pandemic. How can Joy Reid complain about “Missing White Woman Syndrome” when she can’t even muster some outrage over black kids being shot in Chicago? She has a national platform! She might not have tremendous ratings, but clearly the only time black lives matter to her is when they involve white cops and police brutality.

There’s no use in pretending this isn’t true. CNN anchor Don Lemon, for example, said that black kids shot by other blacks are “not what Black Lives Matter is about.” Why not? It’s not a convenient narrative. Black-on-black crime is, statistically, a much bigger problem that gets virtually no attention from the liberal media. They don’t want to talk about that.

Joy Reid’s complaint about “Missing White Woman Syndrome” is also undermined by the intense coverage of stories like George Floyd, Jacob Blake, or Breonna Taylor. Joy Reid may complain about “Missing White Woman Syndrome,” but even the Gabby Petito story hasn’t received the coverage that the George Floyd story did. You won’t see murals painted of Gabby Petito or statues erected worldwide. She will not become a symbol of domestic violence the way George Floyd has become a symbol of police brutality. Gabby Petito’s family also won’t get called upon by Joe Biden, or have legislation named for her. So let’s stop pretending that racism is somehow connected to the media’s coverage of her disappearance and murder.


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