In case you’re unfamiliar with the premise of this post, Gabby Petito was a 22-year-old American caucasian woman who went missing back in August while travelling with her fiancé. Her remains were recently found and further confirmed, and her death has been ruled a homicide with her fiancé being a prime suspect.
When news first broke about Gabby and her absence, media went into a frenzy. I couldn’t tell you how many articles I came across detailing her mysterious disappearance, and while I have been reluctant to admit for a while, all I could think was that this young woman was garnering so much attention and speculation because of who she was and what she identified as; a young, beautiful, white American woman.
My reasoning for being hesitant to acknowledge this observation stems from a concern of being perceived as lacking compassion, and I realize what I am saying could still be perceived in this manner. By no means am I trying to disregard or take away from the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Gabby; rather, I am trying to draw attention to the issues that coincide with the amount of media coverage this woman and her death has received.
For example, I encourage you to read the following excerpt from a Wikipedia Page addressing the severe issue concerning missing and murdered Indigenous women (MMIW):
“In late 2013, the Commissioner of the RCMP initiated a study of reported cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women across all police jurisdictions in Canada. The result of the inquiry was a report ordered by the Stephen Harper administration, entitled ‘Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview’, which was released on May 27, 2014 and dated back to 1951.: 6 The report stated that 1,181 Indigenous women were killed or went missing across the country between 1980 and 2012. Moreover, it reported that, over a 33-year period (1980–2012), there were 1,181 incidents and 225 unsolved cases. Among all female homicides (Indigenous and non-Indigenous), 80% were solved. Of the cases analyzed by the RCMP, 67% were murder victims, 20% were missing persons, 4% were suspicious deaths, and 9% were unknown.: 6
“In 2015, the RCMP published an updated report which showed that murder rates and the percentage solved (80%) were essentially unchanged since the 2014 report. The 2015 Update reported that:: 6
“106 unsolved homicide cases and 98 unsolved missing cases (unknown or foul play suspected circumstances) remain outstanding. The reduction from 225 unsolved cases to 204 this past year represents an overall resolution rate of 9.3%: 11.7% for homicides and 6.7% for missing Aboriginal females,” the web page states.
Please keep in mind that these statistics are not recent, meaning these numbers arguably are not indicative of more recent MMIW cases.
Reading about MMIW, an issue that has plagued indigenous people for far too long, hopefully enables us to see how problematic the coverage pertaining to the Gabby Petito case is. It’s a blatant example of systematic discrimination and racism when compared to the coverage of a missing then murdered white woman.