Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Disparity



Fourteen months ago, the University of Missouri-Kansas City Women's Center explained

a term coined by the late PBS news anchor Gwen Ifill, refers to the mainstream media’s seeming fascination with covering missing or endangered white women, and its seeming disinterest in cases involving missing people of color... 

Zach Sommers, a lawyer specializing in race, crime, and media coverage, did an entire study on this phenomenon, and he believes it’s influenced by money. “Sommers speculates that there’s also the economic calculus of news coverage to consider: in skewing this type of coverage toward white women, news outlets might be deciding that missing white women are worth more in terms of eyeballs and ad revenue.”

I'm not sure whether by "people of color" the author is referring to black; black and Latino;  black, Latino, and Pacific Islander; black, Latino, Pacific Islander, American Indian/indigenous people; or whatever combination thereof. We get into trouble when when assuming that each of these groups is the same or even has the same interests.

Nonetheless, there obviously is more media coverage when a white, rather than black, woman goes missing and UMKC Women's Center, rather than assuming racism is to blame, correctly noted that profit should be considered a possible motive. Consider that

An online fundraiser started by the Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin registered more than $4 million in donations just hours after the NFL star suffered cardiac arrest during a game on Monday....

As condolences for Hamlin poured in from across the sports world, fans also showed their support by pouring millions of dollars into a charity that Hamlin started in 2020, shortly before he was picked in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL draft.



That's quite an impressive response, especially compared to the relatively muted response following a horrible shooting four days later


The Fox News broadcaster in Orlando, Florida deserves credit for tweeting the name and picture of the little-known victim of a shooting. There are many differences between Abby Zwerner and Damar Hamlin, but a few similarities, the most obvious that both were taken to the hospital and were identified as being in critical condition.

Americans everywhere are being implored to offer "thoughts and prayers" for Damar Hamlin. There has been no such intervention for Abby Zwerner. Surely, one reason is that the hit on Hamlin and his collapse a moment later were televised, which millions of people watched live and millions more viewed on social media.

The Hamlin incident was particularly frightening because he suffered cardiac arrest, which strikes hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, almost always fatally. That's far more than who are struck by bullets- even in Louisiana, Alaska, Missouri, and other Republican states- and cardiac arrest typically occurs without warning. People can relate to this tragic event- which, unlike a shooting, is solely a tragedy and not a crime.

Moreover, Hamlin is a football player and people admire professional athletes, justifiably insofar as it is motivated by a recognition that they can do what you and I (and probably everyone we know) cannot do. However, they also are worshipped, which is never a good thing, whomever they may be. Americans are free to worship the God or gods of their choice (or none at all) but should venerate no one else.

Yet, there is a more important lesson to be taken in all this. They're not the same color.

That is obvious, and probably plays no role in the far greater attention paid to Hamlin. Yet, the UMKC Women's Center quotes the late Gwen Ifill citing the media's "seeming disinterest in cases involving missing people of color.” 

We should have realized that factors other than race per se very likely play a greater role in the disparity in missing persons cases. They probably do also in other incidents which pierce and penetrate the nation's conscience. Now, thoughts and prayers pile up from people who assiduously avoid prayer while millions of dollars are sent to a foundation virtually no one cared about ten days ago. Abby Zwerner, though, remains a relatively unknown and little-recognized figure and that is a stain on our national culture.

 


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