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Joy Reid Calls Out ‘Missing White Woman Syndrome’ Amid Racial Imbalance In Missing Persons Coverage

During Monday’s airing of Joy Reid’s show The ReidOut, the host pointed out the unsolved cases of missing Black people.

“No one is looking for us.” With all the coverage on the Gabby Petito case, Joy Reid calls out the media’s obsession with missing white women, and calls it “missing white woman syndrome”. pic.twitter.com/FPbA3bHjNq

— Mike Sington (@MikeSington) September 21, 2021

Reid referenced a term she credited late journalist Gwen Ifill with to describe the media’s lack of attention for missing people of color: “missing white woman syndrome.”

While furthering the conversation, guest speaker Derrica Wilson, Black and Missing Foundation co-founder and CEO, blatantly said “no one is looking for us.”

Reid’s remarks were triggered by Gabby Petito’s missing persons case, which has now been declared a homicide. The media’s obsession with the case led a woman on Facebook and many others to wonder if her race had been different, would the outcome have been the same.

Destini Smothers, a 26-year-old Black woman from Queens, New York, was reported missing in Nov. 2020. Her body was found months later in the trunk of an abandoned car in March 2021. Her cause of death was ruled a homicide and she suffered a skull fracture and brain injury, the New York Post reports. 

“The differences between how missing cases are covered in regards to race are glaring. The entire nation knows the story of Gabby Petito at this point. Sadly her remains were found today eight days after being reported missing. I wonder how much anguish the family of Destini Smothers would have been spared if her remains had been found nearly a week after she went missing,” Facebook user Sulaiminah Burns wrote.

“Destini’s family didn’t get a lot of help when she went missing from Queens NY on November 03, 2020. There wasn’t national media attention. Law enforcement didn’t organize searches for her, instead her family desperately tried to find her on their own and constantly got the run around from multiple agencies within NY State. The same agencies that probably bent over backward to help find Gabby,” she continued in her post.

Petito’s parents reported their daughter missing to New York’s Suffolk county police department on Sept. 11, after she was said to have been on a cross-country trip with her boyfriend Brian Laundrie in her 2012 Ford Transit van. Things became suspicious when Laundrie returned home to his family in Florida alone.

Just days after being reported missing, the body of a woman believed to be Petito was discovered by authorities in Wyoming, the AP reports.

Smothers’ family, on the other hand, said the search for their daughter was delayed from the beginning. Her friends and family said they ran into trouble filing a missing person report because of a back-and-forth between NYPD and the Troy Police Department, according to NBC News. 

“It was a lot of unnecessary back and forth and precious time was wasted,” her aunt, Shareen King, told Dateline at the time of her disappearance. “Time that could have been spent to find my niece.”

On top of that, her cousins said police weren’t making the case a priority, and the family went without answers for weeks. 

“It’s been 27 days and nothing,” the 26-year-old’s cousin, Dominique Fowler Washington, said. “It’s draining. We’re tired. We just want to know where our cousin is.”

“You see, Destini and Gabby are both from NY, both disappeared while traveling with a significant other, both were young females in their early twenties, both are loved and cherished by their families. I’m sure their similarities could go on and on except for one thing….. race,” Burns said in her post.

“That one thing made the determination between agencies and media as to whose life mattered. If you google each name you will see the differences in how each case was handled, the difference in media coverage, the difference in urgency,” she added. “I pray for both families, their pain is immeasurable. In a better world they would have been found safe. In a better world the response to their disappearances would have been the SAME. To Gabby and Destini I’m so sorry this happened to you.”

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