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Media Bias: Only White Kids Get Abducted

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Thousands of kids go missing each day -- so why do we never seem to hear about the African-American children?

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What do JonBenet Ramsey, Madeleine McCann, Elizabeth Smart and Polly Klaas all have in common?  They are all girls who have been abducted -- or in the most tragic cases, killed -- and they are all attractive white girls. Strikingly, the other similarity is all of their stories got massive play in the media during darkest days of their disappearance.

The media has always seemed to only be interested in covering stories of white children who go missing -- and pretty ones at that. Currently, Caylee Anthony fits that profile: doe-eyed with a winning smile. Despite ourselves when we first heard her story many of us thought, "Oh it's so sad, she's such a pretty little girl."

But pretty and white are not the only children in peril, and are not the only ones who should have our attention. Nearly 800,000 children under the age of 18 are reported missing each year in the United States, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Of those reported missing, 33% are African-American. So where's the 24/7 coverage of their stories?

Websites like Missing And Exploited Children and The Child Connection have much more racially integrated roster of missing children reflecting the true statistics. Unfortunately, websites do not have the immense reach of CNN and Fox news.

"Of the hundreds of thousand children that go missing each year, probably four or five  get significant national media attention," Ernie Allen, President of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children tells momlogic. "It's just another missing kid to the them unless the cases are dramatic and sensational."   

And there's another startling factor: "In many, many cities going back 50, 75 years or more, journalists would refer to 'good murders' and 'bad murders,'" explains, Roy Peter Clark, Vice president of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies in St. Petersburg, Florida.

"Good murders" -- murders that make good press -- are usually white girls from middle class families. "The example of a bad murder would be the murder of an African-American person from a poor neighborhood," says Clark.

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One website is doing its part to at least try to fix the disparity. Black and Missing But Not Forgotten is dedicated to spreading awareness of missing African-American children.  One  post on the site "Caylee Anthony is Not the Only Missing Florida Toddler, " tells the story of little Zenyetta Ra,  who is also missing from the Tampa area, about 84 miles from the last known sighting of Caylee. "Zenyetta Ra is also missing", says the site, "However, you won't see Nancy Grace talking about her. Not even the local news."

The website further exemplifies the bias by this statistic. A Google search on Caylee will garner about 600,000 results. "Can't say the same for Zenyetta," laments the website.


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112 comments so far | Post a comment now
RealMomsHaveCurves  October 20, 2008, 4:07 PM

This is a very interesting story and an issue that I haven’t really thought about — even as an African American woman. It’s sickening that some journos would consider ANY abduction as good or bad press. It just shows how calloused we can be as a people.

Cyn October 20, 2008, 4:49 PM

It’s sad. I think a missing child should be front page regardless of color, race, backround. I would say that’s more important than most things in the news.

chris October 20, 2008, 5:09 PM

I also think this is sad. I can tell you that just yesterday, we had a five year old black child missing from Virgina and the Amber Alert was put out for him and by this morning the police was able to locate him because someone in D.C. saw the boy on TV and then saw the women who had taken him from the store and calle the police. I went to bed last night and prayed for his safe return and was relieved when I hear this morning of his return. I think the Amber Alert is what saved him. I think all children no matter what their skin color is or if they come from “good families” should be shown on TV daily to remind people who they should be looking out for. Why not show their faces in the last couple minutes of every news broadcast (maybe before the weather which most people watch till) and maybe we can bring a lot more of these children home.

Danielle October 20, 2008, 8:12 PM

This is just so sad! It really sucks that the media is that biased that your child has to look a certain way in order for people to be informed that he/she is missing.

Me! October 20, 2008, 11:27 PM

This is true and sad. I wish the media would show children of every race, but more than that I wish these children weren’t subjected to their situations from ADULTS in the first place.

praying4baby#2 October 21, 2008, 1:34 AM

IT’S A SAD SHAME. HOW HEARTLESS. IT’S AS IF PRETTY WHITE GIRLS ARE THE ONLY ONES WORTH LOOKING FOR.
THE NEWS MEDIA SHOULD MAKE AN ATTEMPT TO DO BETTER.

JoLynn October 21, 2008, 2:54 AM

I haven’t noticed a racial bias, but I have noticed special attention to specific kids in general.

I used to tune into Nancy Grace for a few minutes every evening to see what was going on, but I can’t watch it anymore. She only discusses the Caylee Anthony story. I refuse to watch the show, knowing how many other children could be getting the airtime that she is spending on only this one case.

Don’t get me wrong, it could take one person watching that very second to see the little girl’s face and recognize her to solve the case, but this has gone on way too long. When more airtime is spent gossipping about the mother’s partying and shoplifting habits, it takes away from the main focus of the story, which is the safe recovery of the child.

Kris October 21, 2008, 3:10 AM

I think that this article is a little bias actually, alot of the publicity is due to how people in these situations deal with and can manipulate the media.. Unfortunately the Mccanns got a lot of media attention due to the fact they were stupidly blammed for Madeleine going missing which added to the horrific situation they were in already…

MCA October 21, 2008, 6:04 AM

When Ernie Allen was asked on Dr. Phil recently if this was an issue, the only case he could cite was from 2002. Giovanni Gonzalez, missing under similar circumstances to Caylee Anthony, has received virtually no coverage outside Boston. In the case of Zenyetta Ra she is a victim of a parental abduction and those cases are rarely covered even when spouses are murdered or injured during the abductions.

Angie October 21, 2008, 6:54 AM

this is very much an issue & I have noticed it (and read about it on the internet) for a long time now. Go to the missing children webpage and see how many you have seen on your local news or on the national news!

notnamed October 21, 2008, 7:14 AM

Ok so I agree with Kris, and I also should mention that they do not anounce Amber alerts on every child in my city, because if they did that the sad reality of it would be like handing out candy for halloween way too many and not enough hands to help…….But every night I turn on the news and there is at least 1-3 children missing or hurt or God forbid killed all under the age of 10 and they are from all walks of life. Not color, gender, or pay scale.

really! October 21, 2008, 7:29 AM

Really? Please,why is everything all about race? Where are the black parents when the child goes missing? They have just as much power to get their story out to the media as a white person does. Notice they never mentioned anything about asian missing children or any other race.I’m sick of the whole ” black vs. white ” issue.

Dorothy October 21, 2008, 7:37 AM

There are so many children mission , so why doesn’t the law enforcement agencies look into the fact that some might be taken by serial child killers? I would imagine there is some crazy loon(s) out there that only want children so why don’t we ever hear about that?

When I was a child I remember a couple of times when men in cars tried to get me to get closer to them. I was always told to run away or scream loudly if I were in trouble and that is what I did. I was spared, but I am certain that this happens a lot and the children are not taught what to do….Parents need to step up and teach their children that the world is a scary place!!.

Joan October 21, 2008, 11:00 AM

I could not ignore this story any more. It is sad that the media does play up what they think would be more popular. However, in my mind, and in the minds of many, ANY child who suffered the fate of little Caylee Marie would break my heart. No matter what color or nationality. There are way too many child abuse and neglect cases that do not get enough press and we just do not know about them. I believe it is everyone’s responsibility to do what ever is in their power to report and try to stop any abuse of any child.

sunnygrl October 21, 2008, 11:09 AM

I just have to say that I have seen quite a few stories in St. Louis that are about African American missing children. They won the news media just like the other kids in this area. They got the same amount of attention as the other children in this area that were missing.

pvine October 21, 2008, 12:27 PM

Your information is skewed- I’ve never EVER heard of Polly Klaas? Why did you have to make the issue about race? Why not the gender- very few missing boys get news-coverage. As for local news, I beg to differ (at least in the DC metro area)- they DO cover missing children, no matter the child’s race, gender, age, etc…Kamron Wells is a very recent and prime example.

Momuv6 October 21, 2008, 12:39 PM

I have read many of the comments and some mirror what I think, the issue of missing, abducted, neglected or God forbid murdered children is too sad for words! However this really does NOT come down to a issue of race it comes down to what does the media think is “newsworthy”. That is the bottom line. If WE the public tune out they will have to step up and do some research and find out why are our numbers dropping? It comes down to dollar and cents plain and simple. Whether a child is black, white, asian, latino etc all kids should be represented and given public awareness if something horrible happens. This is and should always be about the children and their safety!

Anonymous October 21, 2008, 2:05 PM

Someone replied that they’re tired of the black, white issue and I’m certain many of you are. But let’s be realistic, many of the children that go missing be they asian, black, or hipanic do not garner the media coverage that white female children do. When a small white male child is abducted you do not see nearly as much coverage as you do with their female counterparts. Should it be that way? No, all children no matter what their ethnic background is should all get the same coverage, expecially in circumstances when the child has been abducted under an act of violence (which most are).

Megan S. Pringle October 21, 2008, 2:33 PM

This is sad but true. Some would say that this article is biased but I don’t think so. I feel that little white girls get attention because their families have money to publicize. Little black girls from a poor neighborhood don’t get the media attention they need because their families don’t have as much money as the white families and therefore I find this unfair.

Danielle October 21, 2008, 3:28 PM

Thank you! I too am sick of the whole white vs. black thing…and I didn’t hear anything about Asians or Latinos. This article is biased and the author needs to fix that chip on her shoulder because it’s not always about race.


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