Yesterday afternoon the news of Casey Anthony’s “innocent” verdict went viral. Even if you didn’t want to know about her or the trial, your Facebook newsfeed wouldn’t let you turn a blind eye. There were curse words, threats, and sheer disbelief being expressed on statuses everywhere.
I must admit, while in the airport I too watched as her mother cried on the stand while the news channel constantly flashed pictures of little Caylee in happier times. To think of such a small child being murdered and tossed into the woods like garbage is heartbreaking.
What has been nagging at me today however is not the “innocent” verdict handed down by a jury several states away, to a woman I don’t know, and whose life doesn’t affect mine in the least; it’s what this story unconsciously reveals—if you are a person of color you are invisible to the media, regardless of your age or gender.
Can you recall the last time the news damn near shut down all other stories for weeks at a time to follow the disappearance, kidnapping, or murder of a person of color? And OJ doesn’t count because he was a celebrity. Still thinking? Well don’t bother because the answer is never. Yet, I bet you can recall the last 5 young Caucasian women who the media followed and made subsequent Lifetime movies about. Am I saying that these woman who have become household names aren’t worthy of the coverage? Who am I to judge, but what I will say is that there are thousands of African American people that go missing every year and given the lack of media attention, most people have no idea how startling the numbers really are.
In 2009, a total of 719,558 missing person records were entered into the National Crime Information Center’s Missing Person File. A little over 30 percent of those missing are African-American and they only account for 12.9 percent of the U.S. population. The only difference between the stories like Halloway, Anthony, and Levy with the thousands of African Americans that go missing is the color of their skin.
Brittany Hutson of the Atlanta Post reported on this very fact back in February when she was trying to bring attention to the story of Phylicia Barnes a 17 year old, African American girl who went missing while visiting family in Baltimore, MD over the Christmas holiday in 2010. Her profile read identical to that of Natalie Halloway; young, honor student, attractive, bubbly teenager. Yet, the national media never picked up her story, there was no nationwide search and nonstop coverage for her or the thousands of others like her.
As sad and sickening as the case of Caylee may be; I can’t help but wonder about all the Phylicia’s out there–who will tell their stories? When will they and their families get justice?