Thousands of women go missing every year, and yet for some reason, women always seem to be the ones making the nightly news. While it’s unquestionable that all missing persons cases are worth coverage, it just seems to me that there’s a discrepancy in news coverage when it’s a white woman missing compared to when it’s a black woman.
Missing white woman syndrome is real, and we are witnessing it’s real life results play out on social media and in everyday life. The most recent example of this seeming double standard was the disappearance of Gabby Petito. It only took one day for police to get involved in Gabby’s case until the FBI got involved and her face was plastered on every newspaper, magazine and media outlet in the region, which is the way that missing people should be treated.
When it comes to black missing persons however, you cannot ignore how Gabby’s story was covered more extensively in comparison to the disappearance of Jelani Day. Jelani Day was reported missing by his instructor at Illinois state university after he missed class, which was not like Jelani. Jelani went missing in Peru, Illinois, a city that is 95.3% white. 0.4% black.
Imagine being a black man walking through a town of 10000 white people; someone would have almost been guaranteed to see you, and yet, it was weeks following his initial disappearance that law enforcement got involved.
After endless advocation from his mother Carmen Day, she was able to get nine police stations involved to help her find her son. At this point Jelani had still received no nationwide media coverage like his counterpart, Gabby Petito.
Keep in mind that Jelani was reported missing two days after his disappearance and his body was not found until nearly a month later while Gabby Petito was not reported missing until after a whopping two weeks and they managed to find her body in three days.
While these two cases are different, especially when it relates to a missing person, there is power in numbers and that point was proven in the comparison of these two cases. After witnessing these two cases unfold, I am left with sympathy for these two families because we lost two very promising young people.
Although, after seeing how these two cases were handled, I as a woman of color am still left with many unanswered questions. Where was the sense of urgency for Jelani? Where was the FBI for Jelani? Why don’t more missing people of color make news headlines? Who is to blame for this tragedy? Jelani Day was a man with a bright future, and like the hundreds of black boys and girls that go missing every day, his case deserved to be a priority, just as much as anyone else’s.