Why don't we care more about missing black women?

OPINION - Where were the police and the media when Anthony Sowell's victims first went missing?

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

As I read through the news about Ohio’s newest serial killer Anthony Sowell, I couldn’t help but wonder where the police and the media were when these women, all of whom are African-American, first went missing.

I am reminded of the case of Jessie Davis, a pregnant white mother who went missing from Ohio in June 2007. Almost immediately, her case garnered national attention, and was covered extensively well after her body was found a few days later.

Before Jessie’s body was recovered, thousands of volunteers including the Texas EquuSearch group turned out to help in the search for the missing woman. The amount of attention Davis received amazed me not because it was so great but because just a month earlier, an African-American woman from Ohio went missing and no one seemed to notice. Her name was Gloria Walker and she barely made the news until she had been missing for two months.

Gloria Walker was last seen on May 20, 2007, driving a car that her long-time boyfriend had been repairing for a relative. Walker’s brother reported her missing five days after neighbors last saw her. Two weeks later, three miles from her house in Cleveland, her car was found abandoned.

When I first wrote about Gloria, there were only a handful of articles on her. The first article only gave a brief description of her. The second article seemed to imply that missing woman Jessie Davis was the reason Texas EquuSearch took on Gloria’s case. Although several showed up to help EquuSearch find Gloria, I couldn’t help but wonder why one case was receiving more attention than the other.

A search on Cleveland.com for “Jessie Davis” reveals over 54,000 results. A search for “Gloria Walker” is not even half that, at 113. A Google search is more shocking with over 4 million results for Davis and 800,000 for Walker. I thought 800,000 entries was impressive until I saw that only two on the first page of results were relevant to the missing Gloria Walker.

So what is it about the cases of missing white females that makes them more deserving of national attention? In Davis’ case, was it the fact that she was pregnant? Latoyia Figueroa, an African-American/Hispanic woman, went missing last year, but her case did not get as much recognition as Laci Peterson’s.

Was it that they were reported missing long after they were in fact missing? An African-American 6-year-old, Aarone Thompson, was missing for at least two years before her father reported her missing. But she did not receive the around the clock coverage that white toddler Caylee Anthony got.

I call it the Nancy Grace syndrome. It’s all about the ratings. Unless you can draw the majority of viewers to the television screen – which it seems that missing African-American women can’t – it is hard to get a story out there.

Luckily for some, I created my own media to lessen the disparity in reports about missing persons. Until the media realizes that all missing cases are equal, there is a need for sites like Black and Missing but Not Forgotten to highlight all the cases that are overshadowed by more “newsworthy” stories. It shouldn’t be this way, but for the victims of Anthony Sowell and other Anthony Sowells out there, it’s very much needed.