The disappearance and death of Florida woman Gabby Petito has been dubbed an example of “missing white woman syndrome” by US television host Joy Reid, who questioned the lack of similar attention in cases involving people of colour.
etito (22), who was on a two-month cross-country road trip with her boyfriend, went missing last month and a body matching her description was found in Wyoming on Sunday. An autopsy will be conducted on the unidentified remains, the police said.
Pointing to similar incidents leading to disappearance of other people of colour, Ms Reid said: “The way this story captivated the nation has many wondering, why not the same media attention when people of colour 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 colour,” the host of ReidOut on MSNBC said.
Ms Reid cited the case of geologist Daniel Robinson who went missing in June this year.
The 24-year-old Black man was last seen on 23 June driving a Jeep Renegade from his work site near Sun Valley Parkway and Cactus Road.
“I never heard of it until this friend of mine sent it to me. And I guess, that’s the issue, isn’t it?” Ms Reid said during a panel discussion.
Panelist Derrica Wilson of Black and Missing Foundation agreed and said: “It is definitely the issue.” Cases where people of colour, men, women and children go missing are not taken seriously, Ms Wilson said.
Systematic failure to counter racism is one of the reasons for such a discrimination in crimes, said panelist Lynette Grey Bull of the Not Our Native Daughters Foundation.
“One of the main factors and one of the key factors that a lot of people don’t want to talk about is that it’s racism. It’s systemic racism,” said Ms Bull.
Petito’s body was found by a couple almost three weeks after she sent a text to her mother from the road trip covering national parks. She did not return with Brian Laundrie who came back home this month, even though the two left together in a camper van and documented their journey on social media platforms.
Mr Laundrie has been named as a “person of interest” by the police as the investigation progresses to find him and understand what transpired on the trip in the last few weeks.
Mr Laundrie left his home and disappeared into the Florida wilderness, police said.
A report from Utah showed Petitio and her fiance arguing and hitting each other and were spotted by police in Utah’s Moab city on 12 August.
According to a report by National Crime Centre data, nearly 90,000 active missing person cases were recorded in the US by the end of 2020.
Meanwhile, Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo has come under fire for calling the Gabby Petito case a “huge distraction” from political matters.
A clip of Mr Arroyo speaking on Fox News was uploaded by TikToker Morgan S’more on Sunday and has since gone viral. In the video, Mr Arroyo seems to claim that the media was giving more attention to Petito’s case than other matters.
“With all that’s happening in the world, what’s happening in our southern border and abroad and at home, I think this entire story is a huge distraction, forgive me,” Mr Arroyo said, according to the Daily Dot.
“This is like a lifetime movie, an ongoing mini-series for America but I think it’s basically a local story, it’s a missing person,” he added. “I hope they get to the bottom of it, but I do worry we’re spending way too much time on this case.”
The video angered some as it came on the day the FBI announced they found a body believed to be the missing van-life blogger in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park. An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday.
Several users took to Twitter to denounce Mr Arroyo’s comments, though some also agreed with him.
“@RaymondArroyo is everything wrong with this country. Individual lives matter. All lives matter,” wrote a user called Paul Murray. “To say the death of someone is a distraction shows a classless lack of empathy. Utterly disgusting!”
“Raymond Arroyo I am so sorry you are being distracted by the missing of a young woman who might not come back alive,” wrote another user, Carole Bruns. “I hope the families [family’s] fear and dread does not bother you too much. All other news is being reported constantly. Gabby Petito is important also.”
Mr Arroyo, however, reiterated his point on Twitter and posted an FBI list of missing children and adults “who get little coverage.”
A user responding to Mr Arroyo’s tweet wrote in his support: “Gabby Petito is the latest manifestation of the Missing White Woman Syndrome.”