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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?


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.

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.

next: Mom Who Joined Cheerleading Squad Pleads Insanity
112 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jill December 20, 2008, 5:41 AM

Michele - I’m pretty sure that the title “Only White Kids Get Abducted” was a reference to the media attention given to missing white children versus missing black children. If one were to go strictly by what’s reported, one would have to conclude that only white children are abducted.

I live in Arizona, where there is a significant Hispanic population. Nearly every missing child case I hear about involves a Hispanic child, and the same is true with Amber Alerts. I rarely hear about missing white children here. I’m not offended by that. I agree with what others have said about certain types of cases getting media attention. Those where parents are suspects are the most disturbing and get bigger ratings.

And for the record, not every white child to go missing gets press coverage. This article mentioned four (one I’ve never heard of), and PLENTY more white kids than that go missing every day. You never hear their names on the news, either.

PLF December 23, 2008, 8:52 AM

Most of the comments on this page are sad indeed, especially when the commentators start adding all the other races and making one child’s race is better than another or not acknowledged the race at all. Thus, the he only thing we need to be concerned about is that a child is missing and we need to focus on ALL Missing Children. Why not think on this quote!

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Martin Luther King Jr., Letters from Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

“The test of the morality of a society is what it does for it’s children”. Dietrich Bonhoeffer

It’s not black,white,yellow, brown, or red… it’s the morality of America and it’s Americans and Nancy Grace!

Ash May 14, 2009, 6:40 AM

Many sites that are dedicated to the safe recovery of African-American children often spotlight missing Latino and Asian youth. The “black vs white thing” that everyones so sick of is by nature sickening but that does not mean it doesnt exist. Sweeping it under the rug because your tired of hearing it wont bring minority children or white children home any faster. The facts are, people relate better to those who look and act like them. Seeing as by definition the majority is middle-class white people, the producer and show hosts are more likly to relate to these kids. Blacks and Whites both have access to the same Media, however, when you call a news station and want a report done on a missing minority child, your plight is more likely to be written off as a runaway situation.

Monica June 12, 2009, 3:26 AM

The ones who are sick of the whole white black thing might be sick of it because they just don’t want to see the truth for what it is. Lets not even say that is had anything to do with race. Minorities always get the bad end of the stick. And its not just with missing children. Its also with missing adults. How many missing white woman get aired as soon as they go missing. But what about all the missing black, asian and hispanic women? Many of them go missing and we might barely hear a peep out of the media for it. I am aware of a number of black women who have been missing and they might get a smidgen of press and then its all over. But for some of the white women they receive days of coverage. What about the women who lied about her and her daughter getting abducted. While in the same area a woman named Nikki Mcphatter was already dead in her car a few weeks before this occurrence and at first barely receive any coverage. Her family had to use Facebook to find her. What about that chick who lied and said a mexican abducted her all because she was afraid and anxious about getting married, the runaway bride. The media is biased. They waste time on some of the most unimportant crap i’ve ever heard of. after they found out she lied then they covered why she did it and what was going to happen to her. Who cares after they found her. Get to the other important stuff like the people who need help and REALLY want to be found.

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