Missing Persons, Race, and the Media

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One of the most irksome things about the fascination in cable news with certain missing persons cases is that virtually all of the cases they pay any attention to are of blond, white girls or young women, and they pay absolutely no attention to the vast majority of missing persons cases, and yet the few they can find with an attractive blond girl will get hours a day for months. It's such a clear example of a kind of white racism that isn't what most white people think of when they hear the word 'racism'. White people think of negative, overt, conscious attitudes against non-whites when they hear that word. This is clearly not that, and yet there's no way it's not a kind of racism.

In light of that, see this interesting poster campaign. [hat tip: Racialicious]


"all of the cases they pay any attention to are of blond, white girls or young women, and they pay absolutely no attention to the vast majority of missing persons cases"

You claim in your post that this is no kind of racism.. Well, I have to disagree. For the sake of argument here, I'm going to assume your black and here's why in my post below.

Your post specifically addresses the type of woman this is (White) and even goes further with the characteristic feature this person carries (blond). This is racism in a subtle submissive form that doesn't attack it's intended target but acknowledges them through calm references. I could just as easily say, Why are 70% of black families fatherless and this is not on the Tyra banks show, but idiotic things like wanting babies at young ages are?

1. I'm not black. Are you assuming that only black people care about racial equality?

2. I certainly did not claim that this is "no kind of racism". I in fact said, "there's no way it's not a kind of racism". That certainly implies that it is indeed a kind of racism. Please read more carefully before you criticize something in a public forum, especially if you're going to accuse the person you're misunderstanding of being racist because of your misunderstanding of what the person said.

Since you didn't understand my main point, what I said is that it's not an instance of "negative, overt, conscious attitudes against non-whites". Most white people think of that kind of racism as the paradigm case, so they don't understand when you call this sort of thing racist. But it's certainly a kind of racism. What that means is that you can indeed be engaged in a kind of racism when it's not "negative, overt, conscious attitudes against non-whites".

3. Your argument is extremely strange. You claim that it is racism to use non-pejorative terms to describe someone. I'm not sure why it would be. Aren't those the terms that you would expect a non-racist to use? Your argument seems to be that someone who is a racist might also use the non-pejorative terms a non-racist would use, so all non-pejorative terms are suspect as probably racist. That's a "guilty until proven innocent" model, and if it's applied consistently you'll end up with a view of the world where every action is racist.

4. Recognizing a media trend to favor a certain standard of beauty and then to highlight missing persons cases when people fit that standard of beauty says nothing negative about the people who fit that standard of beauty. It says something about the media people who choose to highlight those cases. Simply reporting that requires no negative attitude toward those who are being highlighted. It simply recognizes that there's a bias going on. You can really like or really dislike someone who is benefiting from a bias, and you can disapprove of the bias no matter your attitude toward those who are being favored.

5. And why would it matter if I were black? A black person might do the very same thing that I did as a white observer and for exactly the same reasons. But suppose a black person had further reasons, namely disappointment and frustration that black victims of one's own race are being denied the opportunity given to those of another appearance? Would it be racist to protest such unfairness? Is it racist for a black person to point out that "no coloreds allowed" signs in a restaurant are racist? Any view with such implications strikes me as so crazy as to be hardly worth the time I'm spending responding to it.

6. What would be wrong with the Tyra Banks question you give? Assuming both claims are factual, why would it be racist to wonder why one kind of problem in the world gets addressed but another doesn't?

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