When someone goes missing or is abducted–especially if at such a young, tender age–it’s always heartwrenching to watch the family members and spouses pour out their emotions on national television, pleaing for their loved-ones safe return. Unfortunately some times the missing and/or abducted are never seen again. At least not alive, tragically.
We have the media to thank for all the superficial and obnoxious drama that’s added onto the already emotional rollercoaster suffered by the missing’s/abductee’s loved-ones. Though every story is tragic, apparently the media and even our culture believes when the people at the center of the drama are a certain race or ethnicity and sex, the tragedy is more significant and “news worthy”. Most of the victims we see in the news resemble the fabled, blonde-haired/blue-eyed damsel-in-distress, who was snatched away from her king and queen like parents, and their castle in the White Suburbia in the middle of the night. We rarely if ever hear of the young African-American girl or boy, or the Hispanic child(ren) who were kidnapped. Even if they too were abducted from a nice home in an upper-middle-class suburban area, still, they don’t create the sense of innocence and purity like young, upper-middle-class, attractive, white women. It’s as if we expect African-Americans, Latinos, and other races and ethnicities regardless of their socioeconomic status to always be the victims of violent crimes, so why pay attention or create mass hysteria and a circus within the media when someone from their communities are abducted and left for dead in a ditch some where? Sometimes even working/lower-class whites are ignored by the media when someone from their communities goes missing or is abducted, and murdered.
Boys and young men as well, especially if they’re from the inner-city and a racial or ethnic minority, the media rarely bothers with them, because after all they don’t have that “damsel-in-distress, feminine virginal purity” the media craves. And lest we forget, the illusion that women must remain pure and sheltered from possible harm–so when one of us goes missing or is abducted, we have been robbed of our “womanly purity.”
Sexism, racism, and classism all fit in quite nicely with the media’s perception as to whose the prettiest, richest, and most innocent-looking (white female) victim. Perhaps Echidne of the Snakes could delve a bit more into the psychosocial aspect of this issue…
[…]…Thus, to understand the prevalence of the young-white-woman-missing stories requires a dive into the deep layers of the American consumer’s mind.
The first thing we notice along this dive is that the victims portrayed are never black, are never older, and are almost always attractive. They correspond to the mythological ideas of a Desirable Woman in this society: pure, young and beautiful. Like the princesses that were captured by dragons in fairy tales, helplessly waiting for the valiant prince to come and set them free (or, rather, to marry them). Attractive young white women are not supposed to go missing, also, which makes these news stories interesting as rarities of a sort. In reality, many women go missing every day and many are murdered in terrible ways. But too many of these victims were black or older or otherwise not of interest in the myth-making sense.
As we dive deeper into the imaginary American consciousness we come across variations, and even these explain why the damsel-in-distress stories are so valuable for the media: They can be interpreted to reinforce almost any prejudice a person might hold. For example, for a conservative these stories are moral tales about what happens when women are given too much freedom, or proofs that the society is descending into a moral chaos, what with all those perverts being allowed to walk about, hunting for dainty young maidens. Never mind that the stories are rare; after the media has finished with them they appear to be commonplace occurrences.
For a progressive or a liberal these stories are a disgusting case of the media going haywire, chasing after cheap stunts and avoiding all serious debate. But even the liberal must read the story to find out how bad things truly are.
Then there are those who see these victims as getting their comeuppance, after years of being the Class Princess or whatever. And those who enjoy the thrill of fear and sympathy, as long as it’s all vicarious. And of course those who really worry about the victims, who are drawn into deep empathy through the personification of fear and suffering that the media does so well. And those who wish for another runaway-bride story as further evidence of the treacherousness of all women. And so on.
But the truth still remains: That these sorts of events are rare and that when they occur they are more likely to have victims who are not white. When the media doesn’t report this they are doing all of us a disservice, especially if they omit other news items which are crucial for us to learn.
My mother (whom I’m staying with for the summer) lives in an upper-middle-class suburban neighborhood that’s predominately African-American, but I doubt the media would be interested in hearing a story about a [hypothetical] young African-American female who was abducted if it were to happen here in my neighborhood. Hopefully it won’t. Still, there seems to be an underlying belief that crimes such as abductions and abuses are supposed to happen in communities of Color, but when it happens in White Suburbia and befalls a young, attractive white female….bring out the media squadron because guess which story is going to dominate the headlines for the next six months. It’s all about that pretty package, people.