Perspective: Our Missing Women And Girls

Nov 27, 2019

The media is one of the most powerful and influential institutions in America. Media outlets have the ability to shape narratives and conversations with limited or an overabundance of information. Conservative, moderate and liberal outlets create storylines through varying perspectives.  


What is more intriguing to me is what appears to be an implicit racial bias on the part of many media outlets. Documentaries like Michael Moore’s 2002 “Bowling for Columbine” and Ava Duvernay’s 2016 “13th,” do an excellent job of exposing the media for their overwhelmingly negative portrayals of African-Americans, and especially African-American males. This imagery bias perpetuates the egregious idea African-Americans are evil and less than human. 


As if the racial bias isn’t enough, there also seems to be a prejudice against Black women when reporting certain stories. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been following a story out of Atlanta about a missing African-American college student. As that story unfolded, I began to see other stories about the lack of media coverage provided for missing Black women and children. 


Finding solid statistics to support my observations proved harder than I expected, which speaks to the problem. Much of the support has come from academic journals, and not media outlets, which again, speaks to the problem. Gwen Ifill, who before she died was a news anchor with the Public Broadcasting Service, coined the phrase "missing white woman syndrome" in response to the disparity in media coverage of missing African-American women and girls. 


If Black lives truly mattered, there would be no such thing as “missing white woman syndrome,” and more than one-fifth of the cases of missing African-American women and girls would be picked up by media outlets. 


I’m Joe Mitchell, and that’s my perspective.