Minorities Go Missing and No One Cares


Photo Courtesy of Respective Families

From left to right, Victoria Gonzalez, Keeshae Jacobs, and Daniel Robinson, all three are missing minorities. All did not manage to gather the attention of the nation like Gabby Petito.

Jacqueline Ramirez, Staff Writer

Take a look in the mirror. Are you white, have blonde hair, or blue eyes? If not, you will not be seen by the media if something terrible happens to you. 

The Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Petito case is the current fiery news headline. Due in part, to viral hashtags like #GabbyPetito on TikTok, making people feel as if they are a part of something bigger than themselves. 

The media attention on Petito’s case plus the police having gathered many pieces of evidence in a short amount of time is incredible. This is something that families of color with missing loved ones could only hope for. 

This is another factor of why her case has reached nationwide publicity: her race.  

It is so common for missing women of color to be overshadowed by missing white women, like Petito, that it has a name. “Missing white woman syndrome.” 

It is more likely that a missing white woman gets media coverage instead of a missing woman of color. 

This phrase was first coined by Gwen Ifill, a Black women and PBS anchor, nearly two decades ago. Yet, “missing white woman syndrome” is still relevant and showcases the media’s ignorance. 

The Petito family reported Gabby missing on Sept. 11. Shortly after, her case received nation-wide recognition. 

Another family, the Gonzalez family, reported their missing 13-year-old daughter, Victoria Gonzalez, nearly a week later on Sept. 17. 

Gonzalez is a biracial Latina who before she went missing was communicating with strangers on adult dating websites. She had run away from home before going missing, which caused some police officers to dismiss her as a runaway. 

Completely ignoring the possibility that she may have been coaxed or encouraged to leave her home by strangers online. 

She is still missing. 

There have only been a couple of articles and videos published, but no nation-wide outcry, no non-stop coverage, and no urgency despite this happening around the time of Gabby’s disappearance. 

This is not the only instance of police negligence. 

Toni Jacobs’ daughter, Keeshae Jacobs went missing on Sept. 26, 2016, after visiting a friend’s house and not returning home. The Richmond police brushed it aside, suggesting that she was ignoring her mother’s calls and would not consider her ‘missing.’ Jacobs, a Black woman, was only a year younger than Gabby when she went missing.

It took 14 months for the police to finally suspect something was going on. 

She did not receive any intense, nation-wide media attention nor vast search efforts. 

Five years later, she is still missing. 

David Robinson, a father to Daniel Robinson, a Black 24-year-old, who has been missing for a little over 4 months lost faith in the police to find his son. His son’s car was found, but according to his father, the police are doing little to help him. 

His father hired an independent investigator to speed the investigation up. He believes that the case failed to get the amount of media coverage compared to Petito. 

At the moment, there is no foul play suspected, but the investigation is ongoing. He is still missing. 

This leaves an important question: Why? 

According to the Black and Missing Foundation, many minorities are classified by police as runaways, criminals, or believe that crime is normal where minorities live and is a regular part of their lives. 

The Black and Missing Foundation, founded by Derrica Wilson, helps combat these issues by sharing and promoting the stories of Black and brown missing loved ones.

Callahan Walsh, a child advocate at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said “some police officers may have some biases in cases involving Black people that result in less media attention.”

Latinas are classified as white in data from the National Crime Information Center, this makes it more difficult to come up with exact numbers. Not to mention that there is no organization solely focused on finding missing Latinos. This masks the real issue by making it seem there is no epidemic of missing Latinos at all. 

There is also a level of mistrust that many minorities share towards law enforcement due to previous acts of negligence, which makes them hesitant to report a missing person.  

Petito’s family deserves the truth and so do many other families, no matter their skin color. The remains of Petito’s boyfriend, Bryan Laundrie, were found in North Port, Florida on Oct. 21. It has been ruled a suicide by investigators and Petito’s family has gained some closure.

But the epidemic of missing minorities should not be shoved under the rug in favor of “missing white woman syndrome.”

Now, take a look at the same mirror again. How big is your likelihood that the media will cover your story?