Terrilynn Monette is a young, beautiful, 26-year-old, second grade teacher in New Orleans that has been missing since March 2. Many people may not be aware of her disappearance, because media attention for missing black women and other minorities is lacking, to say the least.
Reports from the Huffington Post and CBS News say that while out celebrating her nomination of “Teacher of the Year” at Parley’s Lounge, a bar in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans, Monette was “cut off” by the bartender. Her friends say that she then went to her car to sleep before driving home. Monette was seen talking to an unidentified man at 4 a.m. Police surveillance video then shows Monette was driving alone in her car around 5:15 a.m., heading towards the City Park area.
It is unclear where she was headed after a certain point and her car has not been found.
Monette’s story is a bit different from a lot of missing black women because she is actually beginning to make national news.
Though Monette is gathering some national attention and news coverage, this is not the norm. As a whole, it seems as though the media only supports and encourages non-stop searching for young white women who are missing, while minority women barely get a mention on local news.
According to the FBI, nearly 700,000 people are reported missing annually and 40 percent of these are people of color. By looking at TV you would assume they are all attractive white women in their mid 20’s. The American public is familiar with the cases of Elizabeth Smart, Natalee Hollaway, JonBenet Ramsey, and even Jennifer “Runaway Bride” Wilbanks. All of these women were white, and all of these women received national attention. The media attention white women receive is deserved, but minority women deserve the same attention.
This “wall-to-wall” coverage of white women that have been disappeared has been coined “Missing White Woman Syndrome (MWWS),” by associate professor at the University of Maryland, Sherri Parks.
A central aspect of this so-called syndrome is the idea that white women must be saved and protected; this belief is one that has origins in our nation’s history, especially highlighted by the Jim Crow South. The notion that white women are “damsels in distress” and must be protected no matter the cost is an archetype constantly revisited in both fiction and in real life.
CNN reporter Don Lemon recently discussed this issue Derrika Wilson, CEO of the Black and Missing Foundation. When asked about the obstacles she faced when investigating cases of missing African Americans Wilson said, “In some of the news media coverage, some of the decision makers are telling us our stories are just not newsworthy.”
Wilson also commented that she does not believe the media coverage accurately reflects the number of minorities that are reported missing, and if victims are not “blonde haired with blue eyes, [their] stories are just not seen as sensational enough.”
It is difficult and can almost come across as petty to criticize the media for covering missing people. The issue is not the amount of coverage for one group but the lack of coverage for the others. All missing persons should have billboards, public outcry, and search parties until they are found. The issue begins when media coverage is obviously biased.
This bias in media coverage is not only seen in race but also in gender. The FBI also reports that in 2012 of the 661,593 reported missing persons 334,162, were men. Rarely does the media cover stories of missing men, no matter their ethnicity.
As sick as it may sound, Terrilynn Monette, is lucky to be young, attractive, female with good standing in the community because otherwise her story could easily go the same way as Dominique Brown, Athena Joy Curry, Oscar Velasco Montano, and Lawrence Neal. All young. All minorities. All still missing. All not covered by the media.
To get more information about missing persons of color in your area visit blackandmissinginc.com.