My stomach turns as I watch the Cleveland officials remove remains from the house of serial killer Anthony Sowell. As I watched officials and the coroner dig, bag up remains, report about the paper wrapped skull and knock down Mr. Sowell’s home, something inside me is brewing. Something that I’ve felt voiceless about for many years. As I watch and listen to officials announce:
“We have identified the first set of remains. They belong to Tonia Carmichael.”
“2nd and 3rd victims are identified: Telacia Fortson and Tishana Culver.”
“We now know the identity of victim # 4… Nancy Cobb.”
As I listen and watch this horrific story unfold that sleeping beast inside me is wondering where was all this media attention when these women first became missing? Was it a simple overlook? An administrative error? Or was it that the police just didn’t care? I would hope it was the first two but I can’t imagine a group of women in an area or vicinity coming up missing and it’s overlooked multiple times or experience multiple administrative errors. It doesn’t add up to me. But what does add up to me is the clear disparity of media attention when it comes to missing white women vs. missing black women.
Yes, I said it. And as much as I would love for it not to be a race issue, that’s the only answer I can come up with. If you think I’m wrong, please name ONE black missing woman or child? A black woman who received national media attention, that is.
You can’t. Nor can I. But I do know who I can name right off the top of my head: Laci Peterson, Natalie Halloway, Chandra Levy, Elizabeth Smart, Stacey Peterson, Jon Bonet Ramsey, the runaway bride and I can keep going. What do they all have in common? Skin color and national media attention. In no way am I saying that these missing women and children were not important. They were loved ones. They were sisters, wives, daughters, mothers, children, aunts. But so were these 11 women in Cleveland, Ohio.
Some people argue that the families and communities don’t do enough on their own. That we saw hundreds searching for the women I named above. Yes we saw that but that’s because of the media attention the cases received. They show this beautiful, petite, middle class, squeaky clean background, sometimes pregnant, women with a dashing husband, a great marriage, beautiful children.. all the ingredients that fuel its watchers that THIS angelic being is missing and needs to be found. Anyone that doesn’t fit this ‘mold’ is written off by society. Another thing that rings familiar with the family members of missing people in this Cleveland area is that a lot of them have been told by the police that they would not file a missing persons report. One grandmother went to 3 different police stations and was turned away all 3 times.
This is where I have a problem. There’s an assumption that when black women are missing they don’t have a squeaky clean background or they do not live this upstanding lifestyle. I’m reading blogs and comments to news reports where people have assumed that these 11 victims are probably addicts, prostitutes or runaways BEFORE there are any reports that they were. So far the reports on a few of the identified victims do in fact show that they were addicts. There are black women missing that have all the same qualifications and backgrounds of Laci and Chandra but even if they do not WHO THE HELL IS ANYONE TO PUT A VALUE ON ANOTHER HUMANS LIFE?
Thanks to a foundation called Black and Missing but Not Forgotten, that sleeping beast inside me now has an outlet. Founded to curb the disparity in media attention, well the lack thereof, and to help loved ones of missing persons of color get the word out, Black and Missing but Not Forgotten is doing what others will not do. Some of you will ask why focus on just a specific group? Some will say it’s wrong. Some will say that all missing persons are important. You are right. Why is the media focusing on just a specific group? Yes it is wrong to focus on a specific group. Yes ALL missing persons are important.
Oh and by the way…I’m still waiting for the name.
Regardless if every one of the remains of Anthony Sowell’s crime turn out that they are all drug addicts, we are sorry you were forgotten by the media.
To the sister I met a few years ago, Leslie Adams of Lilburn, GA, we are sorry you were forgotten by the media.
To Chicago honor student Yasmin Acree…