Petito Incident Updates Call to Spotlight Missing Colors

Salt Lake City – Three months after Elamey Begay, a 62-year-old Navajo rugweaver disappears, unanswered infested questions can overwhelm her niece.

Serafin Warren has organized a survey of the vast Navajo Nation landscape near her aunt’s house in Arizona, but lacks the money to pay for gas and food for volunteers.

“Why does it take so long? Why can’t we answer our prayers?” She asks.

Begay is one of the thousands of indigenous women who have disappeared across the United States. Some women have received no attention at all, and the disparity extends to many other colored races.

The disappearance of Gabby Petit, a 22-year-old Caucasian woman who went missing during a cross-country trip with her boyfriend in Wyoming last month, has sparked enthusiastic coverage on traditional social media and renewed the known phenomenon. Attracted a lot of attention. As “Missing Caucasian Female Syndrome”.

Many families and defenders of the disappeared are mourning with their families by paying attention to Petit’s disappearance, uncovering clues that could lead to tragic discoveries of her body. I am pleased with that. However, some wonder why public spotlights are so important in finding missing people that they leave other cases uncertain.


“I would have liked that quick rush, push to find my aunt faster. That’s all I want,” said Warren, who lives in Utah.

In Wyoming, where Petit was discovered, only 18% of indigenous women’s disappearances have been reported in the media in the last decade, according to a state report released in January.

“Someone is missing almost every day … from the tribal community,” said Lynette Grable, director of the organization in Hank Paparakota and Northern Arapaho. Between 2011 and 2020, more than 700 indigenous people disappeared in Wyoming, and about 20% of those cases remained unresolved a month later. The report found that it was about twice as high as the white population.

One factor that helped people connect with Petit’s case was her Instagram profile, which lived her dream of traveling the country. Other social media users have provided their own clues, such as a traveling couple who said they found a couple’s white van on their YouTube footage.


Authorities haven’t confirmed that the video led to the discovery, but the vast open space of the western United States can plague search parties for years, and anything that narrows the search grid is welcome. Public pressure can also ensure that authorities prioritize cases.

However, the opportunity to create a handpicked social media profile is not available to everyone, says Leah Salgado, deputy director of Illumi Native, a native women-led social justice organization.

“Most of the people we care about and what we care about are curated in ways that are detrimental to people of color, especially blacks and indigenous peoples,” she said.

Carol Liebler, a professor of communications at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, said the cause is multi-layered, but the implicit bias in favor of both whiteness and traditional beauty standards is the diversity and tracking of the newsroom. He said it was affecting the case with a lack of police choice.


“It is reported that white life is more important than colored people,” she said.

In one sample of 247 teenagers missing in New York and California, 34% of white teenage cases were reported in the media, compared to 7% of black teenagers and Latin. 14% of the children were of the same type.

A friend of Jennifer Kalidad, a 24-year-old Mexican day care worker, used social media to draw attention to her case from Sunnyside, Washington, after being barely notified in August. As with Petito, Caridad was believed to have been with his boyfriend at the end. He was arrested in hijacking and attempted murder after firing at police during her post-disappearance pursuit.

So far, authorities have no answer to Calidad’s parents. Twice a week, Enrique Kalidad goes to the police station for the latest information on her daughter.

“They told me they wouldn’t rest until she was found,” he said. “Tell them to let me know her last whereabouts so that I can help find her too, but they don’t get involved with me and don’t hurt the case. I’m saying. “


The detective took a parent’s DNA sample and said her SUV had a blood stain, but it’s still unclear if it was Calidad’s blood. Initially, her parents had a hard time understanding English-speaking detectives, but after the case was transferred to a small police station, they could speak Spanish to one of the investigators.

“What you don’t know kills us. I don’t know if she’s alive or hurt by the man,” Kalidad said.

David Robinson temporarily moved from South Carolina to Arizona in search of his son Daniel, who disappeared in June. A 24-year-old black geologist was last seen at a Buckeye workshop on the outskirts of Phoenix. The rancher found his car in the canyon a month later, a few miles away. His keys, cell phone, wallet and clothes were also recovered. But there are no signs of him.

Petit’s story unexpectedly raised his son’s case as people began to use the #findgabypetito hashtag on Twitter to draw more attention to the case of the missing person of color.


“I used to work hard for three months in a row nationwide to make that happen,” said Robinson, who is in contact with other family members about coverage disparities. “This is bigger than I thought …. It’s not just my son Daniel. It’s a national issue.”

Another family whose case was toned with that hashtag — Lauren “El” Cho, a 30-year-old Korean-American missing from California — said in a Facebook statement that they understood frustration. But the difference between the cases is “public eyes.”

Kent Ono, a professor of communications at the University of Utah, said Asians and Asian Americans are undoubtedly facing the same news visibility issues. The “model minority myth” that Asians succeed and don’t get into trouble also contributes to the problem.

“That makes it very difficult for readers and viewers to imagine that Asians and Asian Americans have problems that they can’t handle on their own,” he said.


Natalie Wilson, who co-founded the Black and Missing Foundation to draw more attention to underreported cases, said that public attention was essential in all cases of disappearances, especially the first day or two after disappearance. Stated. It is important to dispel racism and stereotypes that link disappeared people to poverty and crime.

“In many cases, families … don’t feel that their lives are valued,” she said. “We need to change the story around the missing to show that they are our sisters, brothers and grandparents. They are our neighbors. They are our community. Is part of. ”


Tang reported from Phoenix. Gomez Recon reported from Miami.

Copyright 2021 AP communication. all rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.

Petito Incident Updates Call to Spotlight Missing Colors

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