To Whom It May Concern, a Discussion about Race: Missing White Woman Syndrome

By Zoe DeFazio, Asst. Arts and Entertainment Editor

To whom it may concern, 

With liberty and justice for all. Six words that are familiar to Americans. The Pledge of Allegiance was written in August 1892 by the socialist minister, Francis Bellamy. We say the Pledge of Allegiance because it enstates a sense of patriotism and pride to the United States. We recited these words every day in school without taking a closer look into what they mean. 

Justice is the quality of being fair and reasonable. For all would signify inclusivity and nothing discriminatory, but the United States history has yet to be inclusive for all who inhabit the country. But is the Pledge of Allegiance really for all? Some would say yes. Others would suggest otherwise no. I, for one, say no.

If American citizens and American residents really cared about the pledge that was adopted in the 1800s then there wouldn’t be any need to make laws to protect people because our moral compass would just naturally agree with what we constantly said. But alas, here we are.

In 1994, President Bill Clinton passed the Women Against Violence Act, better known by its acronym VAWA. This act provided upwards of $1.6 billion toward the investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women. 

VAWA was designed to officially create a criminal justice response to sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence and other dating issues for victims and survivors while providing them with resources. Now, anyone that is a victim of gender-based violence can sue their assailants in federal court.

According to the Nation Domestic Abuse Hotline website, one in three women in the US will experience rape, physical violence and stalking by an intimate partner. Women are more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than by anyone else. So keep in mind that women of every background risk their life when entering a relationship or simply going on a date.

Gabrielle Petito was an American white woman who was murdered by her fiance Brian Laundrie while traveling across the United States on a road trip. The news shook the internet as hashtags were created and posts were shared. There wasn’t an Instagram story on my feed, a TikTok on my for you page or an Apple news notification that wasn’t about her story.

I could spend the next few sentences talking about her death and what happened to her fiance, Laundrie but then I would be contributing to the very problem I hope to address today.  

This isn’t to say that I didn’t care about Petito. Of course, I was invested in her case as much as anyone else that continually saw her name pop up on newsfeeds, stories and timelines. I just don’t care about the amount of care that went into her case. Why should I care about her case when no one would care for mine, my sisters, my mothers, my friends and my families? Why wouldn’t anyone care? Well to be blunt about this, it’s because I’m not white. This is missing white woman syndrome. 

Missing white woman syndrome is the overexposure to white women when a heinous crime is committed against them. There is an over fascination about white women who go missing, however, there isn’t even half as much care or exposure when Black women go missing.

With every hashtag, tweet, Instagram story, written news report, television report, Tik Tok or even a student-run newspaper opinion editorial that went around for Petito and her case, there was a lot left missing. 

Did you know that while searching for Gabrielle Petito nine missing people’s bodies were found? Did you also know that many of those people were BIPOC?

Lauren Cho, 30; Josue Calderon, 33, and Miya Marcano, 19 are three individuals whose bodies were found on the hunt for Petito but received little to no attention. 

This isn’t the first or only time where BIPOC individuals have been overlooked. 

Sakira Del Rosario, a Manhattan College student commented on missing white woman syndrome and her feelings towards it.

“White women get a lot of coverage in comparison to women of color,” Rosario said. “Women of color also suffer at a higher rate and no one believes them unless there is definitive proof. It’s one of those things where women of color are in a powerless situation.”

On Dec. 12, 2021, Lauren Smith-Fields, a Black woman, was brutally murdered. She was left bloodied and bruised in her bed in Bridgeport, Connecticut following her Bumble date with an older man. 

What caught my eye on her case was the lack of attention that Smith-Fields received. Why didn’t I read about this on any publication website? Why wasn’t she trending on Twitter, Instagram, or even Facebook? Why did I only see one TikTok about her, while Petito was trending on my phone? 

Not only was the general public unaware of Smith-Field’s whereabouts but her own family failed to be notified. 

Shantell Fields, Smith-Field’s mother was left in the dark, unaware of the loss of her daughter days before her birthday. Instead of law enforcement notifying Fields about where her daughter was or her current state, Fields found out another way. 

Fields was later informed by Smith-Field’s landlord via a note stuck to Smith-Field’s door, that her daughter had been murdered.

Till this day I haven’t heard or seen much about what happened afterward. I had to physically type her name into my phone or laptop to get a glimpse of what would happen next, while, white women such as Petito were popping up on my phone without notice. 

In a world where the majority of the population claims to be woke, there sure are a lot of performative activists. Those who only care when Black lives are on national television. But in order for a Black life to get to national television someone needs to care, and it seems to me and many others that the world simply doesn’t care for Black women or any woman who isn’t white.

Many Americans, specifically white Americans, seem to think that Black Lives Matter is a trend. Now that Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police sheriff whose knee broke the world with his gruesome murder tactic to the late George Floyd, was found guilty, there isn’t any need to pay attention anymore because all the signatures have been signed, every GoFundMe has been donated and every cringy Facebook post has been made. 

Whether you like it or not, every single Black person who inhabits the US must live with the overarching fear of what will happen to them today and every day. We don’t have the luxury for all of our problems to go away with a click of a button. 

Black Lives Matter is about actively caring about all Black men and women. You don’t get to cherry-pick who you make your T-shirt about. 

So I ask you. Do you care?

Thank you, 

Zoe DeFazio

A Black woman

*If you’d like to discuss what you have read I encourage you to attend my event at the Lasallian Women and Gender Resource Center this Thursday at 7 p.m. Located in room 3C at the Student Commons.*