Petito case renews call to spotlight missing people of color

US

Associated Press 25 September, 2021 - 09:25am 45 views

Where is Gabby Petito from?

Gabby Petito was a travel influencer. Originally from Blue Point, New York, Petito lived with Laundrie — apparently her fiancé — and his parents in North Port, Florida. Beginning around 2019, the pair traveled the country together, with Petito documenting their trips on Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok. The CutWhat We Know About the Disappearance of Gabby Petito

Haaland: Petito case a reminder of missing Native Americans

Bismarck Tribune 25 September, 2021 - 04:00pm

Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary, said that her heart goes out to Petito's family, but that she also grieves for “so many Indigenous women'' whose families have endured similar heartache “for the last 500 years.''

The search for Petito generated a whirlwind of news coverage, especially on cable television, as well as a frenzy of online sleuthing, with tips, possible sightings and theories shared by the hundreds of thousands on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube. The Florida woman, who disappeared while on a cross-country trip with her boyfriend, was found dead at the edge of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Authorities have determined she was a homicide victim.

A report prepared for the state of Wyoming found that at least 710 Native Americans were reported missing between 2011 and late 2020. Between 2010 and 2019, the homicide rate per 100,000 for Indigenous people was 26.8, eight times higher than the homicide rate for white people, the report said.

Haaland, a member of the Pueblo Laguna tribe, said she has frequently seen Native American family members posting pictures on fences and the sides of buildings to help locate missing girls or women. When that happens, “you know I see my sisters,'' she told reporters Thursday at a news conference. “I see my mother. I see my aunties or my nieces or even my own child. So I feel that every woman and every person who is in this victimized place deserves attention and deserves to be cared about.''

A former New Mexico congresswoman, Haaland pushed for a law signed last year to address the crisis of missing, murdered and trafficked Indigenous women. The law, known as Savanna’s Act, is intended to help law enforcement track, solve and prevent crimes against Native Americans, especially women and girls.

The law is named for Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, a member of the Spirit Lake tribe who was abducted and killed in 2017 near Fargo. Greywind, 22, was pregnant, and her unborn baby was cut from her body. Her remains were found in the Red River.

Haaland said she sees her mission as interior secretary in part as a way to elevate attention on Native American issues.

“I feel like it’s my job to lift up this issue as best I can. And hopefully, the folks who are writing the news, and broadcasting the news will understand that these women are also friends, neighbors, classmates and work colleagues,'' she said.

Haaland stressed that her comments were not intended to downplay the pain suffered by Petito's family.

“Anytime a woman faces assault, rape, murder, kidnapping — any of those things — it’s very difficult and my heart goes out to any family who has to endure that type of pain,'' she said. “And so, of course, my heart goes out to the young woman who was found in Wyoming.''

Everyone deserves to feel safe in their communities, Haaland said, but "where I can make a difference in particular is in addressing the missing and murdered Indigenous peoples crisis, which has occurred since the beginning of colonization of Indigenous people on this continent for about the last 500 years and it continues.''

Haaland created a Missing & Murdered Unit within the Bureau of Indian Affairs Office of Justice Services earlier this year and has established a joint commission of national tribal leaders and experts, led by the Interior and Justice departments, to reduce violent crime against American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Haaland also ordered Interior to investigate its past oversight of Native American boarding schools that forced hundreds of thousands of children from their families and communities.

“The primary goal of this work is to share the truth of this dark chapter in our nation’s history, so that we can begin to heal,'' Haaland said.

A written report is expected next year.

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Gabby Petito’s death is tragic. But I wish missing women of color got this much attention | Akin Olla

Desert Sun 25 September, 2021 - 05:30am

But the story also feels eerily familiar – so familiar, in fact, that there is a term for it: “missing white woman syndrome”. White women, particularly conventionally attractive middle- or upper-class white women, tend to receive disproportionate media coverage when they go missing. Petito’s case is tragic, but the media attention it has attracted replicates a systemic pattern.

Gabby Petito deserves justice; there is no doubt about that. Her death was ruled a homicide by a Wyoming coroner on 21 September, a few days after her body was discovered. She’d been missing for weeks after a roadtrip with her fiance, who returned from the trip without her and soon went missing himself. Her story quickly went viral on social media outlets: a Reddit forum created to track her case has accumulated more than 119,000 members at time of writing, and TikTok videos featuring her have received over 200m views.

This is especially striking given that women of color are more likely to go missing in the US in the first place. The FBI believes that 33.6% of the Americans who go missing every year are Black, even though Black people constitute only 13.4% of the population. In fact, that number is probably an underestimate, because Black girls are often categorized as runaways and not as missing persons. Black children are also more likely to remain missing. Nonprofit organizations like the Black and Missing Foundation have tried to fill the gaps in law enforcement priorities by shining a light on individual missing Black people and the statistics behind them.

Indigenous women have a lower official rate of missing persons cases, but there is considerable evidence that this is due to underreporting and poor coordination by law enforcement agencies. In 2016, for example, the National Crime Information Center, a federal database, found that 5,712 Indigenous women and girls had gone missing, but only 116 cases were recorded by the US Department of Justice.

Considerable resources were dedicated to finding Petito’s body in Wyoming earlier this week. Yet 710 indigenous people have gone missing in Wyoming between 2011 and 2020. Indigenous people in Wyoming are more likely to go missing, and less likely to be found in the first 30 days. Indigenous women are 6.4 times more likely to be killed, and their deaths receive the least coverage in the state.

None of this reflects on Petito as a person or lessens the sadness of her death. The problem lies with our society, a society that passes anti-abortion laws that devalue the lives of women and those who can give birth, a society in which women who are murdered are usually killed by current and former romantic partners. The US needs to deal with the violence that exists within it, and must reckon with the reality that the attention and resources that go towards cases of violence are based on skin color. The harsh truth is, if Gabby Petito had been Black, her name would have long faded from the public consciousness, if it had ever been there at all.

Akin Olla is a contributing opinion writer at the Guardian

Gabby Petito’s death is tragic. But I wish missing women of color got this much attention | Akin Olla

Rapid City Journal 25 September, 2021 - 05:30am

But the story also feels eerily familiar – so familiar, in fact, that there is a term for it: “missing white woman syndrome”. White women, particularly conventionally attractive middle- or upper-class white women, tend to receive disproportionate media coverage when they go missing. Petito’s case is tragic, but the media attention it has attracted replicates a systemic pattern.

Gabby Petito deserves justice; there is no doubt about that. Her death was ruled a homicide by a Wyoming coroner on 21 September, a few days after her body was discovered. She’d been missing for weeks after a roadtrip with her fiance, who returned from the trip without her and soon went missing himself. Her story quickly went viral on social media outlets: a Reddit forum created to track her case has accumulated more than 119,000 members at time of writing, and TikTok videos featuring her have received over 200m views.

This is especially striking given that women of color are more likely to go missing in the US in the first place. The FBI believes that 33.6% of the Americans who go missing every year are Black, even though Black people constitute only 13.4% of the population. In fact, that number is probably an underestimate, because Black girls are often categorized as runaways and not as missing persons. Black children are also more likely to remain missing. Nonprofit organizations like the Black and Missing Foundation have tried to fill the gaps in law enforcement priorities by shining a light on individual missing Black people and the statistics behind them.

Indigenous women have a lower official rate of missing persons cases, but there is considerable evidence that this is due to underreporting and poor coordination by law enforcement agencies. In 2016, for example, the National Crime Information Center, a federal database, found that 5,712 Indigenous women and girls had gone missing, but only 116 cases were recorded by the US Department of Justice.

Considerable resources were dedicated to finding Petito’s body in Wyoming earlier this week. Yet 710 indigenous people have gone missing in Wyoming between 2011 and 2020. Indigenous people in Wyoming are more likely to go missing, and less likely to be found in the first 30 days. Indigenous women are 6.4 times more likely to be killed, and their deaths receive the least coverage in the state.

None of this reflects on Petito as a person or lessens the sadness of her death. The problem lies with our society, a society that passes anti-abortion laws that devalue the lives of women and those who can give birth, a society in which women who are murdered are usually killed by current and former romantic partners. The US needs to deal with the violence that exists within it, and must reckon with the reality that the attention and resources that go towards cases of violence are based on skin color. The harsh truth is, if Gabby Petito had been Black, her name would have long faded from the public consciousness, if it had ever been there at all.

Akin Olla is a contributing opinion writer at the Guardian

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