We often talk about how there are two Americas. It’s a sentiment that is mostly applied to the American justice system and the way it favors white people over Black people and people of color. But it’s a concept that also plays out in other areas such as media coverage. And because of that, Black people are often put in a position where we have to racialize tragic stories that involve white victims where race never really occurs to white people.
For example, when Gabrielle Petito went missing in 2021, media coverage was, to say the least, extensive despite the fact that there was nothing particularly extraordinary about her disappearance or the fact that she was ultimately found to have been killed. This isn’t to say that what happened to her wasn’t devastating and tragic, just that it was no more devastating or tragic than the disappearances and deaths of Black women and women of color that don’t see a fraction of the media coverage Petito got. (Not even the WOC who went missing right around the same time as Petito. But Petito was white, and if a case involving a missing woman is to become national news, history has shown us time and time again that it must be a Caucasian woman. (Even Petito’s own father questioned why missing Black women weren’t getting media attention.)
Now, Black people are once again placed in this position amid extensive coverage of the disappearance and death of Ana Walshe, a real estate executive and mother of three from the suburbs of Boston, Massachusetts, who was last seen on New Year’s Day. Walshe’s husband has been charged with her murder.
From the New York Times:
On Tuesday, prosecutors said that the police had obtained an arrest warrant charging Ms. Walshe’s husband, Brian R. Walshe, with her murder. Mr. Walshe is already in jail after he was arrested on Jan. 8 on charges that he had misled investigators in an effort to cover up or dispose of evidence.
Michael W. Morrissey, the Norfolk County district attorney, said that additional details and evidence supporting the murder charge would be disclosed on Wednesday when Mr. Walshe is arraigned in court. An assistant to Mr. Walshe’s lawyer, Tracy A. Miner, said that Ms. Miner would not comment on the charges.
“Her focus is on defending Mr. Walshe in court,” the assistant wrote in an email.
Ms. Walshe, 39, was last seen at her home in Cohasset, Mass., an affluent seaside town southeast of Boston, in the early hours of New Year’s Day, according to the police. But she was not reported missing until three days later when she did not show up for work in Washington, where she was an executive with the real estate investment firm Tishman Speyer.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Walshe had initially told the police that his wife had taken an Uber or Lyft to the airport early on New Year’s Day because of a work emergency.
But her cellphone pinged in the area of her house on Jan. 1 and Jan. 2, after Mr. Walshe said she had left, a prosecutor, Lynn Beland, said in court on Jan. 9. Investigators who executed a search warrant at the home found blood in the basement as well as a bloody knife, part of which was damaged, Ms. Beland said.
Mr. Walshe was seen on surveillance video on Jan. 2 buying $450 in cleaning supplies — including mops, a bucket, tarps, drop cloths and tape — from a Home Depot, Ms. Beland said. He had told the police that the only time he had left home that day was to buy ice cream for his son, she said.
Suffice it to say, media outlets have been following and updating this story every time a new development is revealed. If Ana and her family don’t receive justice, it won’t be because it’s a case that went largely ignored in the media. On Twitter, some people have noted how packed the courtroom was for Brian’s arraignment.
But, as usual, Black Twitter is having a different conversation—one that acknowledges what happened to Ana Walshe is terrible and heinous, but also acknowledges that if she were Black, she would most likely be referred to in the media and on social media as, “Who?”
In fact, while Ana and Brian Walshe’s story has dominated headlines this month, Black people are still trying to bring attention to a story from last October when Kansas City cops were denying activists’ claims that there was a pattern of Black women going missing in the city, even after one Black woman surfaced after escaping her captor.
Again, it isn’t that we don’t care about white women who go missing and/or are murdered, we just know the disproportionate likelihood that police will do all they can to find them, the justice system will exhaust itself to hold their killers accountable and the media will be there every step of the way.
And that’s more than we can say when it comes to missing Black women and girls.