Thursday, July 28, 2005


Compelling Cases or Plain Bias

(24yr old Latoyia Figueroa is 5 months pregnant and has been missing since July 18)

You turn on the television and it's the same thing, they go on and on and on, and you keep tuning in, soaking in all the information. You are hoping for the best outcome and imagining the worst of the situation, which could actually be the reality. Lately we have been inundated with coverage on missing women that have filled the air waves through cable news and the evening news. Watching these reports, one would think the only people worth kidnapping are Caucasian women and girls and most recently Hispanic children. In fact I have become very cynical about these roprts of missing women and also very afraid that if I go missing(Tufia!God forbids) would there be any 'real' effort to find me or would the people who care about me become frustrated that they resort to only praying, passing out fliers and forwading emails with my pictures. I hope not, in fact the whole of ECOMOG Paramilitary forces better come looking for me and the Nigerian government had better provide the ransom money that the kidnappers ask for.

For the past two months, we have all watched the drama unfold in Aruba in the case of the missing Alabama teenager Natalie Holloway. At first two local black men were accused and jailed then a few days later a local judge's son and his friends are arrested. Apparently they were the last ones to see Natalie and know what happened to her.

Then in April we had the case of the crazy Georgia 'Runaway Bride', Jennifer Wilbanks, who wasted government time and money with her stupid stunt. The most annoying thing is that she was quick to claim she was kidnapped by a minority. But what happened after that, 'ol'girl' becomes a celebrity, gets a book deal and I hear a Lifetime movie is in the works. All she got for that was a slap on the wrist.

In the past we have had the case of Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart and all these other girls and women. Not one case that hase been put in the spotlight is that of a minority woman, yet there are case of them every day. As in forget it if you are male, let alone a minority male. Before any investigation is opened in your case, the mountain would have gone to Mecca to meet Mohammed by then. The amazing thing is that many of these cases dealing with minority women, especially teenage black girls are discarded as runaway cases. Though many of them are, there are several in the mix that actually involve foul play and many of them go unnoticed.

Working in the media, it is hard not to be moved by the calls that we get about missing people, but if the police does not initiate alerting the media, you can be rest assured that it will not make it on the nightly news. Depending on how much resources are accessible by the families, and the pressure they can put on the police department, the chances that the case would be assigned to any one more than a patrol officer are very unlikely.

Which makes me wonder, how then do police determine what cases to push and what cases to dump? How come all the cases have similar profiles? Don't men get kidnapped?

Latoyia has been missing for about 10 days, and her case is only coming to light today. It is not even getting much air play despite the fact that she is pregnant, which is a very 'sexy' angle. I don't know how affluent or not the family is, but looking from her picture, she looks 'clean' and she is beautiful (almost looks like Ashanti), so what is it?

It's plain and simple, RACE.

(Below is an article from the July 2005 edition of Essence Magazine that profiles the case of 24 yr old Tamika Huston of South Carolina who's been missing since May 2004)

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