Does Black and Missing Equal No Media Coverage?
Throughout the years, national media has consistently covered the stories of missing persons. However, these individuals usually fit into a very narrow category: young, attractive, White and female. Families of missing minorities and men often find it virtually impossible to get national coverage of their missing loved-ones.
From missing children like Caylee Anthony and Elizabeth Smart to their older counterparts like Natalee Holloway, Laci Peterson and Lori Hacking, missing White females become a household name in the media, which often leads to a resolution in their cases.
Is there a double standard for those who fall into the category of Black and missing? Critics of the media depiction of missing Americans are not upset about the media covering stories such as Anthony and Smart, but want a more accurate depiction of those that are reported missing.
Lluvia McCraw, a 3-year-old Black female from Houston, was last seen on December 24, 2008. Her father, Toby McCraw, a United States born citizen, reported his daughter and her mother Shamanique Boddie, from the Bahamas, missing in January 2009, after returning from an overseas business trip and not being able to locate his daughter.
Boddie, an OB/GYN, has her house up for sale and her lawyer has recently withdrawn from the case. Although nobody knows the mother’s whereabouts, reports say that Lluvia may have allegedly been left in the Bahamas for almost three months by her mother. Officer Ken Price put the two on the missing persons list, but they have since been removed.
A web search for the missing child and her mother yields virtually no results. The story of Lluvia McCraw is the just the latest example of the plight of those Black and missing and their families’ desperate attempt to garner media attention for their cases.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), approximately 300,000 children under the age of 18 are reported missing annually. Of those, 33 percent are Black, despite being only 13 percent of the national population. The FBI reports that minorities make up a larger portion of missing victims than the national media reports, but receives very little coverage. Furthermore, slightly over half of those reported missing persons are men.
In 2005, Holloway became a household name after she disappeared on a high school trip in Aruba. However, a year earlier, public relations professional Rebkah Howard began desperately trying to garner national attention for her missing niece, Tamika Huston, by having family members distribute fliers, holding press conferences and creating a website. Nevertheless, the story was mainly ignored by mainstream media.
“What I believe is happening,” Howard said, “is that networks have found a formula that has worked for them. And they tend to be about young, White, attractive, middle-to upper-class women. And they continue to follow those stories. As one is resolved, they’ll move on to the next one. I was met with a lot of resistance when I tried to get national attention for this case. It’s been unfortunate.”
And for those Black and missing, the lack of media coverage continues to be unfortunate. Huston’s body was found in 2005, after the arrest of a former boyfriend, Christopher Hampton. Hampton has since received a life sentence for the crime.
Hopefully for the McCraw family, the story of young Lluvia McCraw and the story of others in the category of Black and missing will end on a much more positive note than the tragedy that occurred for Huston and her family.