This weekend, Casey Anthony will leave Orange County Jail in Orlando, Florida amid controversy. Her release from prison will continue a debate that many in the Black community are currently having. Casey, who was acquitted of murdering her daughter Caylee, has become a household name, just as most of the Anthony family has. But following the daily courtroom drama and intense media frenzy surrounding this tragic case, we have to ask ourselves, what if Casey or Caylee were Black? Chances are, we’d have no idea who they were.
It’s no secret that our press is unfortunately biased at times in the way in which they cover – and don’t cover – news items. We often see people of color stereotyped or misrepresented in both our local and national news platforms. But when a story involves a missing child or a missing woman, how could this same unbalance take place? When someone’s life literally hangs in the balance, who makes the judgment call to overly indulge in one story and not focus at all on another?
The unfortunate reality is that if a police department doesn’t feel a missing person’s case is important, it won’t garner the attention it deserves. If law enforcement fails to put in the resources and manpower to look for a child, teenager, mother or loved one, others won’t either. From the onset, countless strangers came to Casey Anthony’s side and helped search for her “missing” child. And it’s no secret that a large part of this had to do with the amount of coverage this case received at every step of the turn. If young Caylee Anthony had in fact been missing, this sort of community involvement could have saved her life – just as it could save others who have been abducted or disappeared.
As newsrooms continually struggle to diversify, the consequences simply multiply. In 2009 alone, more than 30% of those reported in the National Crime Information Center’s missing person file’s were Black. And yet how many of the most recent missing person’s cases that we know of involve people of color?
The notion of race and coverage disparity also applies to Casey Anthony herself. Would she have been so easily acquitted if she were a Black woman? With reports that she may have even received donations from sympathizers while behind bars, Casey has transcended into some sort of innocent victim herself. As people continue to debate whether or not she was involved in the death of her own daughter, we cannot escape the fact that if she or Caylee were Black, you can bet we would currently be having an entirely different discussion here.
It’s time we start actively pushing for balanced coverage across the board – our children’s lives may very well depend on it.