Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Invisible House

CNN asks how it is that 11 Cleveland-area women could have gone missing and nobody noticed. Looking at the pictures, the answer seems obvious: None of them was a pretty White blonde.
And there is another suspicion echoing among Cleveland residents, particularly in the black community: that the lives of poor black women aren't worth much, certainly less than had they been suburban white women.

Gosh, whatever could give them that idea.


Joe said...

There are a lot more sensibile explanations which are related, but not causally, to their race. The story lays them out:

*habit of disappearing for weeks at a time
*lifestyle with high fatality/disappearance rate (of course it's worth more to spend more time on a missing person case where the person is less likely to disappear in the normal course of events)
*only 4 of 11 families even reported a missing person

joe said...

Other Joe, it is really naive to think that our news media is driven by some formula of risk assessment of the lives of the victims before it decides how much to effort to invest in coverage.

The name of the game is selling papers and ad time, and it is no secret where the biases of the national audience will lead it attention.

Joe said...


I wasn't talking about newspaper coverage. Obviously papers will cover middle-class (and thus white) people more; middle class (and thus white) people buy more papers. But it's also more interesting when a middle-class white person goes missing than when a lower-class crack addict goes missing, because it's rarer. It has nothing to do with racial bias, except that we're more interested in reading about people like us.

The question here isn't why the papers didn't cover it. In most of these cases, not even the police knew that anyone was missing.

Superdestroyer said...

The African-American community has a culture of refusing to cooperate with law enforcement. Reporting someone missing is the beginning of the process. If there is no family or if the family do not call the police, then how is it the responsibility of middle class whites to search for missing blacks?

joe said...

Well, case closed. Reluctance to seek help from the authorities never reflects fear of institutional racism!

N. Friedman said...


You write: "Reluctance to seek help from the authorities never reflects fear of institutional racism!"

While race may certainly have everything to do with the failure of these cases to generate much publicity - a reasonable thesis, I think -, that is something to be shown, not assumed and not supported merely by your statement, which merely shows that it could, not that it does, have to do with race.

Matthew said...

It's the weirdest thing. I was thinking to myself about why members of a low-income black family might be hesitant to go to the police or the press for help in this sort of situation. Then I read this blog post where several commenters plainly stated that it really is not that interesting when a black woman dissapears because, let's face it, she was probably a crack addict and her family was probably going to be uncooperative anyway. Are these sentiments related? Because I'm feeling like there could be a connection but I just can't quite make it myself! Can you?!

PS: Joe (AKA "other Joe" who I will hereafter refer to as "stupid Joe"): "We aren't racists, we just can't be bothered to care about people's problems if they aren't 'people like us.'" LOL. I see what you did there!