April 25, 2009

Missing Children and Media Coverage (or lack thereof)

I found this interesting discussion over at Sociological Images about the coverage of missing children. For any non-USians, you may have noticed that our fine country has a fixation on missing white children. You'd think they disappear every five minutes or something but as it turns out...that really isn't the case.

It's not that missing white children aren't important, it's just that for every missing Caylee Anthony there's like, 5 more missing black young girls that never get media attention and are never found. You'll notice that I used a name for the white child, because I have one, but the hypothetical (not really) missing black girls remain anonymous. Fancy that. I use black as an example, by the way, but there's increasing proof that non-white children in general are underrepresented in media coverage when they go missing.

Of course this really isn't a cut dry issue, since it's not just missing white women & children, but missing, attractive white women & children of a certain class (usually middle class). For example, it seems no one cases about sex workers until a serial killer starts targeting them, which is a little ironic since serial killers often target them BECAUSE they know CNN won't get on that until the 20th body is found 10 years later.

Note: If that statement sounds a little weird, when I say that I'm thinking of Gary Ridgway, who admitted to targeting prostitutes because he knew that people wouldn't come looking for them. See his letter to the police here (PDF file). Being that specific, of course, isn't common for ALL killers who target sex workers.

The post also factors in missing white GIRL children, which is something I never thought about but it's kind of obvious (when was the last time you heard of a missing white boy, US-ians?): girls = purity and innocence, so when they go missing it's time to call the coast guard, but boys? Not so much. That includes white children so...it's really kind of sad.

So, if you're wondering about all this and WHY, exactly, well, as usual there's MANY whys and whycauses. Of course this isn't anything new, so there are resources in helping to locate children of all sexes & colors, like Black and Missing which, as you may guess, aids in the search for missing black children. Unfortunately, since there's really not a concrete (or maybe just comfortable) answer as to WHY some lives are valued more than others it doesn't show any signs of stopping soon.

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