This post has not been vetted or endorsed by BuzzFeed's editorial staff. BuzzFeed Community is a place where anyone can create a post or quiz. Try making your own!Community·Posted on Jan 18, 2022HBO'S "Black And Missing" Confronts Missing White Woman Syndrome Head-OnAdd this to your watch list. Like now.by Kendra KingCommunity ContributorFacebookPinterestTwitterMailLink Did you know that 200,000 people go missing every year in the U.S.? HBO / Via play.hbomax.com Most cases go unresolved for years, leaving the families of the missing broken and desperate for answers. News & media coverage is critical for missing person investigations. HBO / Via play.hbomax.com It raises awareness and FORCES law enforcement to add additional resources to the case. Nearly 40% of missing persons are persons of color. HBO / Via play.hbomax.com So why do we barely ever see news outlets reporting on their stories? Missing White Woman Syndrome: The tendency to engage in national panic when a pretty white women goes missing. HBO / Via play.hbomax.com The news outlets latch on, interviewing the crying family, neighbors, and friends. They cover every new development in the case. They report on persons of interest and suspects. They cover the court proceedings. They interview the missing person's friend from college's sister's husband. People tweet about it. Tik-Tokers tik-tok about it. Quick example. Exactly. Tamika Huston went missing from Spartanburg, SC in 2004. HBO / Via play.hbomax.com She was reported missing to the police and searches were underway, but her family and friends found it difficult to get even local news coverage. One year later, Natalee Holloway went missing. HBO / Via play.hbomax.com National media FREAKED out. You couldn't turn on a TV without seeing Natalee Holloway's face. Here's why: 1. Criminalization HBO / Via play.hbomax.com Many missing minority adults are stereotyped and associated with criminal activity, gangs, and drugs. If they're viewed as criminals or "bad people", there's not as much public sympathy or urgency to find them. 2. Desensitization HBO / Via play.hbomax.com It may be generally believed that missing minorities live in poverty and are used to being surrounded by crime or danger. People think this is just how their lives are, so it's not a big deal in their community. They should know how to help themselves. 3. Runaway classification HBO / Via play.hbomax.com Many missing minority children are initially classified by law enforcement as "runaways" and as a result, do not get the AMBER Alert. If they're "runaways" then they must have left home by choice, so police feel less urgency to find them. 4. Historical media bias HBO / Via play.hbomax.com Basically since media existed in the U.S., black people have been portrayed as stupid and untrustworthy in images and messages. Contrarily, white women have been portrayed as pure, innocent- someone we need to protect. Even now, white people are over-represented as victims in the media while black people are over-represented as criminals. All of this adds up to the Missing White Woman Syndrome problem. HBO / Via play.hbomax.com Deborah Mathis, journalist and commentator on America's Black Forum, summarizes Missing White Woman Syndrome in a nutshell: "If you have been bombarded your entire life with messages or images of black people being poor, down, out, dangerous - it is no surprise that when a black person is in distress, missing, murdered, - it's not a big deal to much of white society. Because they don't think we have much to lose." I admit I'm part of the problem. NBC / Via nbcnews.com This past summer, I watched as the entire country, myself included, became OBSESSED with the Gabby Petito case. I followed the story since the day I first read it on my local news. It quickly blew up into a national story that everyone was talking about. Why did I scour Reddit comments about the investigation for hours? Was it because I recognized a younger version of myself in Gabby? Was it because I've been conditioned by the media to freak out and become obsessed when pretty white women go missing? And, the question that nobody wants to ask- if Gabby Petito was black, would people have cared? There are thousands of missing black women that nobody is talking about. HBO / Via play.hbomax.com If we favor missing white women in the media, it is at the expense of every other woman in society. The more news coverage a story gets, the more law enforcement works to solve it. If missing black women aren't getting news coverage, law enforcement isn't working to find them. If law enforcement isn't looking for them, who is? These missing black women are less likely to be found. Why is the media unfairly focusing on missing white women? Do white women deserve to be found more than black women? Do white women's lives matter more than black women's? No. So why the disparity, and how do we change it? You can watch Black & Missing on HBO and learn more about the Black & Missing Foundation here.