News shouldn’t be skin deep

America was engulfed by the story of 26-year-old Jesse Davis when she disappeared in early June. Newscasts nationwide gave hourly updates on the pregnant Canton woman with the mega-watt smile. More than 1,000 volunteers helped the Davis family in their desperate search for Jesse. When her body was finally found, her ex-boyfriend was arrested.

Meanwhile, a Brooklyn family was searching desperately for a missing loved one of their own. A 22-year-old woman named Stepha Henry went missing in Miami on a Memorial Day weekend vacation. The college graduate was last seen getting into a car with a male friend. Henry is still missing, and her family is struggling to get national media coverage of her story.

Why did one case get more attention than the other?

While Davis and Henry were both young and attractive, Davis was white and Henry was black.

These two women are a perfect illustration of the American media craze known as “the missing white woman syndrome.” This nation’s media and their audience have a tendency to care more about a missing person if she is a nice-looking white woman.

Minorities, men and those deemed as elderly or unattractive get barely any press when they disappear.

There were approximately 1.6 million American missing person entries in 2006, according to A large percentage of the missing persons was male, and a significant percentage was black. It seems only appropriate that the news should reflect these statistics.

Unfortunately, news outlets are fighting more for profit than fairness.

Let’s face it. The sagas of struggling white women, especially at the hands of a minority predator, are no less than an American obsession. What would news ratings have been without the stories of Laci Peterson, Elizabeth Smart or JonBenet Ramsey? The overdone updates of these stories feed the American need to sympathize with a tragedy, and more importantly, sympathize with a victim deemed by the public as an admirable heroine.

These heroines can even turn out to be criminals. In 1995, Susan Smith of South Carolina insisted a black man stole her vehicle with her two sons inside. The tearful Smith got nationwide empathy as she begged for her sons’ return.

Smith later confessed to drowning her sons herself, and no black man was involved.

The stories that can mesmerize this country are a microcosm of our societal structure.

The underlying issue behind “the missing white woman’s syndrome” is America’s idea that certain skin tones, social classes and looks equate with a higher value of life.

Although this nation is one of the most diverse in the world, we mock this diversity with the idea that certain people have a greater right to life than others.

Our news coverage in America reflects that we are diverse in population, but in population only. When we look at the media, it’s easy to see we don’t quite understand what diversity really means. America has a falsified sense of unity that doesn’t really exist.

People should care about a missing person based on human compassion, not the missing person’s racial identity.

Tamika Huston is just as important as Laci Peterson. The family of Tyesha Bell wants her to return home like Elizabeth Smart did.

There’s no time for prejudice when lives are at stake.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.