Missing White Woman Syndrome

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Delko: Blonde girl's missing and the National Guard turns out to help. Hispanic girl, no one gives a damn.
Calleigh: I think there are a lot of people here.
Delko: Oh, come on, Calleigh. You saw the media's response to Lana Walker. You know? Where were the yellow ribbons for Consuela Valdez? The recovery center? It's the same song, you know? You want any real attention in this world, you got to have blonde hair and blue eyes. No offense.

Calleigh: None taken. My eyes are green.
CSI: Miami, "Death Grip"

A term for when media coverage ratchets up to follow the murder, kidnapping, or disappearance of white females, often pretty and young, and often to the exclusion of minority, male, less sexually desirable and older missing persons.

The origin of the term is unclear. Although Professor Sheri Parks of the University of Maryland claims to have coined it circa 2005, it apparently has been in use among journalists (and Fark.com) for years before that. It's also been referred to as "missing pretty girl syndrome" and "Damsel in Distress syndrome". Although it appears to be a primarily American phenomenon, a similar coverage bias is reported to exist in the United Kingdom, and some people believe Canada and Australia have a similar disinterest in the fate of their own missing minority persons—and (in Canada, at least) disenfranchised in general; this is how Robert Pickton was able to get away with killing over fifty Vancouver prostitutes, and why it's taken decades for the government to finally promise to launch an inquiry into why there are so many missing and murdered Native Canadian women.

That being said, the most likely ignored missing person is the Disposable Sex Worker and/or the Disposable Vagrant. Presumably the inspiration for the Trope is the White Knighting mind-set. For more information, including a detailed breakdown of the coverage cycle and links to dozens of cases, see this article at Wikipedia. This column at CNN.com has some thoughts on it, and in the years since this trope entry was first written many more writers have weighed in on the topic.

Compare If It Bleeds, It Leads, Local Angle.

Examples of Missing White Woman Syndrome include:

Comic Books[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Briefly referenced in the Confessor arc of Kurt Busiek's Astro City, when a series of ritualistic killings becomes worthy of a public panic only after an archetypal blonde school sweetheart type becomes one of the victims.


Comic Strips[edit | hide]

  • Prickly City: Winslow comments that Kevin's disappearance is getting a lot of attention considering he's not blond. (Mind you, he's a Senator.)


Film[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in Scary Movie when Cindy Campbell sends a message to the police saying "White woman in trouble!" The next shot is of the house surrounded by police crews.
    • In the third movie:

Brenda: Oh come on. Cindy, the news is on! Another little white girl fell down a well! Fifty black people got their ass beat by the police today, but the whole world gotta stop for one little whitey down a hole!

  • Used in Gone Baby Gone. The kidnapping of an adorable little blonde girl gets huge media coverage. When a little Hispanic boy is kidnapped by a pedophile two months later and brutally raped to death, nobody really cares until it's all over.
  • Lampshaded in L.A. Confidential when Inez Soto ties the men who kidnapped, brutalized, and raped her to the murders of white people at the Nite Owl diner, because otherwise nobody in 1950s Los Angeles would care about getting justice for a Mexican immigrant.
  • Referenced in Candyman.

Helen Lyle: "Yeah, but y'know what bugs me about the whole thing? Two people get brutally murdered and the cops do nothing, whereas a white woman goes in there and gets attacked and they lock the place down."

  • Invoked in Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay when a corrupt, racist federal agent motivates his team by showing them a picture of a young white girl, saying that she could be captured and raped by terrorists.
  • An example from Primeval, Olando Jones points out that the Crocodile is just like OJ, eaten up bunch of Africans, no one gives a fuck, kills one white lady, and they send the news crew.
  • In Gridlock'd, the strange amalgamation of Tupac Shakur and Tim Roth in a drug addicted ghetto setting, an early scene involves their female friend overdosing. Tupac calls the ambulance, and gets hung up upon when they hear his voice. When he calls again, he says something along the lines of "there's a white woman hurt and a bunch of black guys smashing cars and yelling about the revolution!"
  • It's really easy to miss, but it gets lampshaded in Megan Is Missing. The movie features a fake news coverage of Megan disappearance that dedicates several minutes to tell the audience how popular and beautiful Megan is while showing pictures of her. At the end of the segment, the reporter quickly mentions another missing child named Turcell Jackson, and goes to comercials.
  • Lampshaded, in a way, in A Time to Kill. A man shoots two creeps who raped and battered his little girl and left her for dead. At his murder trial, the attorney defending him bluntly describes to the jury what happened to the child, in no-holds-barred, graphic, sickening terms. And concludes: "Now imagine that she's white."

Literature[edit | hide]

  • This Trope may have its roots in the 17th Century captivity narratives written by Mary Rowlandson, making this one Older Than Radio.
  • In the novel Reliquary, the string of kidnappings in New York garners media attention only after a pretty young blonde woman vanishes.
  • A central theme of the novel The Black Dahlia and the real-life unsolved murder case on which it is partly based.
  • In Pop Goes the Weasel, one of the Alex Cross series of detective novels, a Dangerously Genre Savvy Serial Killer is estimated to have possibly killed more than 100 people throughout Washington, D.C. A big part of his winning strategy was to only kill women who were black, poor, prostitutes, or otherwise people the media and police wouldn't care about.
  • America (The Book) gives us this handy little formula: "y = Family Income * (Abductee Cuteness/Skin Color)^2 + Length of Abduction * Media Savvy of Grieving Parents^3 (Where y = minutes of coverage)".
  • The absence of this trope is probably what makes the Janie series (1990-2000) an Unintentional Period Piece (among other things). If Janie's kidnapping had happened now, no doubt there would have been a huge media sensation about the disappearance of a pretty white girl from the suburbs.


Live Action TV[edit | hide]

  • In fiction, writers tend to be more savvy and aware of the use of this trope...
  • Averted entirely in season 1 episode of Lincoln Heights, "Abduction" where Lizzie is kidnapped. the local media and police give their full support to the black family. While it could be due to Lizzie's father being a respected police officer that the police are so supportive, the issue of race never becomes a factor.
  • Addressed in the Without a Trace episode "White Balance", in which the agents investigated two cases—that of a white slacker party-loving teenage girl, and that of a black hard working kind teenage boy. They must cope with the white girl's case getting constant attention and the black boy's getting none, in one instant the news interviewer left just after finishing up with the father of the white girl, completely ignoring the black boy's mother. This episode concludes with a No Ending—we're told one lives and one dies, but not who.
    • In another Without A Trace episode, Jack confronts his new boss for focusing on a child kidnapping case at the expense of the disappearance of a lesbian case worker...which is Fridge Logic in itself, as there is a chance the case worker just walked away while the kid is definitively in danger.
    • Another episode had Jack insist on taking the case of a missing black foster child, telling his foster father that despite the lack of evidence of foul play, his case would grow cold in the hands of the local authorities.
  • Brought up in Veronica Mars when Weevil mentions that shortly after the murder of Lilly Kane, a little girl from his neighborhood named Marisol Reyes disappeared, but she didn't warrant the same amount of media coverage or therapy sessions for the students. (Weevil was fogging the issue, not wanting to bring up his own affair with Lilly. At the same time, Lilly was the daughter of a minor celebrity. Also, Reyes simply disappeared, whereas Lilly was brutally murdered.)
    • Notable because due to the nature of the show, the point of Weevil's tirade was ignored on the fanbase, who thought that the introduction of the Reyes case was going to be an important part of the Kane case. It wasn't. Also, there were Unfortunate Implications since Keith would've been sheriff at that point.
  • Horatio Caine moaned about it in an episode of CSI: Miami, telling a reporter to cover the missing (non-white) girl they're looking for that week.
    • Also the page quote, in an episode in which a young, blonde white girl and a dark Hispanic girl are kidnapped by the same man in a very short space of time; the former, of course, gets loads of coverage.
  • Discussed (specifically the Natalee Holloway case) in Season 4 of The Wire when McNulty and Freamon suggest that the lack of support from their bosses in solving more than twenty murders is due to the victims being poor and black, leading to the episode's epitaph -- "This ain't Aruba, bitch."
    • McNulty then partially invokes this trope by staging dead white homeless men[1] to suggest a serial killer is targeting them. Then double-invoked when Scott Templeton starts capitalizing on this to win himself a Pulitzer Prize.
    • Reporter Alma Gutierrez's report on a triple homicide in West Baltimore is pushed back to the metro section, below the fold because, as her fellow reporter put it, "they're dead where it doesn't count".
  • In an episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent, the disappearance of a white girl on a school trip becomes the subject of a media frenzy and is eventually tied to the disappearance of a local black girl. The mother of the black girl excoriates a Nancy Grace knock-off for coming to her only when her daughter's disappearance was tied up with the white girl's.
  • Similarly, the black cop Tutuola in Law and Order SVU dispelled a crowd of nearly-violent protesters arguing just this by saying that he knew exactly how it was...and that he was going to make sure the black girl victim would get the justice she deserved.
    • In another episode, a young man decides that the only way to get the police to actually work on solving his little brother's kidnapping is to have a pretty blonde girl kidnapped. The only way he'll help them locate the girl is if they find out what happened to his brother. This episode hits particularly hard once you know that the blonde (supposed) kidnapped girl was a friend of his that accepted to pretend to be kidnapped because she was aware of this trope.
  • Brought up in Boston Legal when after Denise's Hispanic housekeeper's son is abducted, she goes to Brad for help and points out that since the child is Hispanic, it's not like the media will be all over the case.
  • In Homicide: Life on the Street, the murder of Adena Watson, a black girl, is subject to a major police "redball" investigation and creates a media frenzy and was based on a Real Life case which resulted in the same, so it may be an aversion. Of course, Baltimore (where both fictional and real-life murders took place) is notable for having a particularly large majority African-American population, which may explain it.
  • An episode of Criminal Minds featured two serial killers in the same city, one targeting middle-class white women, the other shooting hookers. The police don't even realize the second exists until he gets annoyed and contacts a reporter.
    • Another episode featured a serial killer taking out homeless people, prostitutes, and other such generally-ignored people. Like the real-life Robert Pickton case, most of the authorities are convinced there's really nothing happening.
    • Yet another episode had a number of black teenage girls being killed, with all the murders looking like hate crimes. The authorities are accused of being apathetic towards the murders, due to a bit of unfortunate timing—the BAU were called after the third girl was killed...alongside her white, seemingly well-off ex-boyfriend.
    • The Suspect Behavior spin-off has this happen in the first episode, complete with the hysterical mother of a black little girl whose kidnapping was ignored. It turns out that the kidnapper has taken a lot of children without being caught because he's really fixated on eight year old black girls, and the only way they get both girls back safely is by bucking the media and local cops, and working the black girl's case.
  • Everybody Hates Chris played with this, with a joke in the episode revolving around how if you wanted the police to make an active effort to find your missing children, you couldn't say they were black.

Rochelle (on the phone): "Yes, hello! I'd like to report two missing boys."
Police: "Can you describe them, please?"
Rochelle (quickly): "They're white."
(knock at the door)
Rochelle: "Hold on." (opens door)
Policeman At Door: "Ma'am, you reported two missing white boys?"
Rochelle: "Damn!"

  • Lie to Me had the case of a missing white girl eventually connected with a black girl whose case didn't receive much attention on account of this trope.
  • Vanished hung a lampshade on it: an FBI agent investigating a missing senator's wife tells a reporter that they don't want the same thing: while he wants the victim found safe and sound, she wants her missing for as long as possible to drum up her ratings.
  • On Cold Case, the squad reopens the cases of two teenagers (a white female and black male) who were murdered miles apart at the same time. The black teen's uncle asks if the coincidence is why they're giving his case so much attention; Detective Miller explains she had them reopen it because she was the one who found his nephew's body.
  • In AMC's The Killing, the police investigating the murder of a pretty young white girl follow a lead to a Seattle mosque. The imam hands them a MISSING flier and notes that the Seattle PD is putting a lot more effort into the Rosie Larsen case than it is for a missing Muslim girl.
  • The television series Find Our Missing hopes to avert this in at least one media outlet by running stories on missing African Americans throughout the US.


Magazines[edit | hide]

  • The "missing pretty girl syndrome" variation was brutally parodied in The Onion with the article "Ugly Girl Killed". A little girl is brutally murdered, but there's no outpouring of sympathy and horror simply because she was homely...a deliberate reference to the frenzy surrounding the then-recent killing of Jon-Benet Ramsey, who was a perfect little princess type.

Stand-Up Comedy[edit | hide]

  • Patrice O'Neal has a bit where he mentions that black people judge the beauty of a white woman by estimating how long her name would be in the media if she went missing. He mentions a serial killer of women, who was suspected of killing that white woman who went missing in Aruba, what was her name--

Audience Member: Natalee Holloway!

    • Yeah, and then there was that Peruvian girl just the other month, what was her name...?

Audience: *silence*

    • Later, he talks about the (black) NFL players lost at sea, who were declared dead much faster than the average lost white victims would be. He goes on to say that he won't go out to sea without "a white baby on a keychain".
  • UK comedian Diane Morgan asking why whenever a pretty girl gets killed, people say "look how pretty she was" as though it's somehow more of a loss, but whenever an ugly girl gets killed, no one says "fortunately she was an absolute moose!"


Video Games[edit | hide]

  • There is a Fantastic Racism version in Dragon Age II with a serial killer who targets elf girls. Law enforcement is not interested - even Lawful Good city-guard party member Aveline admits that bringing him in alive will just lead him to killing again. Another factor in this case is that the quest-giver, a city magistrate, is the killer's father. Even the killer tells you his father is just going to help cover up his crimes.


Webcomics[edit | hide]

  • Spoofed in this [dead link] Muertitos comic—when the media finds out the lost girl isn't thin, blonde, and leggy (but is instead chubby, blue, and has no legs), they instantly lose interest.


Web Original[edit | hide]


Western Animation[edit | hide]

  • Parodied in Family Guy, where a crowd of reporters swarm the site of a school bus crash that claimed the life of a young girl. They make zero effort to conceal their disappointment when it is announced that the victim's surname is Gutierrez.

Irritated Reporter: "That's not news!"

    • Parodied in the All Just a Dream simulation episode, when Stewie kills Cleveland and declares that he has to move quickly. "Black man gone missing? My god, the media will be all over that."

Real Life[edit | hide]

  • Even more than twenty years after her death, you'd be hard-pressed to find an American who doesn't know who the wealthy, pretty white beauty queen Jon-Benet Ramsey was. However, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone outside the state (or indeed, anyone in the state who is not a daily local news viewer) who has heard of Aarone Thompson (a six-year-old black girl who disappeared in 2005), or Neveah Gallegos (a two-year-old Hispanic girl who was raped and murdered by her mother's boyfriend in 2007). Indeed, one suspects that the latter case received the small amount of coverage that it did only because it was tied into an investigation of several (very tragically literal) fatal mistakes made by the Denver Child Services department.
    • Two weeks after Jon-Benet's death, Toya Currie ("Girl X") was raped, poisoned and left for dead in a stairwell of the infamous Cabrini Green housing project in Chicago. The case was only covered in black-owned news media, and efforts to get white media to notice were only partially successful.

"No one is surprised when an underclass kid is raped or killed," says Patrick Murphy, the Cook County Public Guardian. "I think we expect these kids to get killed. It's not that people don't care. It's that they yawn. Whereas if it's a blond-haired, blue-eyed kid, they all go crazy. I've seen it a million times."

  • The Natalee Holloway case. Not only did the disappearance of a pretty, blonde, white American girl set off a massive media storm, it spawned two made-for-TV movies (Natalee Holloway and Justice for Natalee Holloway) and gave her (equally blonde and attractive) mother, Beth Holloway, a television series (Vanished). Natalee Holloway's page on The Other Wiki is even a Featured Article.
    • Years later, Nancy Grace is still doing entire shows devoted to the Natalee Holloway case. If that case ever gets solved, there's a good chance that Nancy's show will end and/or her head will implode.
    • A Dutch crime reporter got an Emmy for his Holloway episode in which he managed to record a confession from the main suspect with a hidden camera. The suspect only confessed to unappropriated disposal of a body and the suspect later clarified that he only made up a story to impress the guy he was talking to. The episode was watched by 7 million people in the Netherlands (population 16 million) -- the highest rating in Dutch television history apart from sports events.
    • In one of the "Year in Review" recaps by Dave Barry, he had a running gag wherein various important news stories would hit the press, which prompted Greta Van Susteren to continue searching for Natalie Holloway.
  • The Elizabeth Smart case had reason beyond this trope for its media attention - her home was broken into, she was abducted at knife-point in front of her sister and she was then "married" to her abductor and raped repeatedly, at age 14. Yet we can blame the case for the trope's further rise in prominence - it was so sensational that anyone who covered it noticed a massive spike in ratings, thus leading networks to actively keep an eye out for missing white teenage girls.
  • Not even the US Army is free of this trope. Compare the treatment of captured white Pfc. Jessica Lynch with black Spc. Shoshana Johnson. Both were captured in the same ambush, but Lynch received national media attention, a made-for-TV movie, a larger disability payment and was celebrated as a hero fighting to the last bullet. Even Lynch herself thinks she received too much exposure and accused the Army of fabricating her Hold the Line moment for good PR. Her real heroism was when she sat in front of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and, point by point, dissected the myths that had been created around her. Johnson did receive recognition and accolades, but only after this discrepancy was brought up.
    • SPC Lori Piestewa (Hopi) was at the same attack that Lynch and Johnson were in. She was wounded and taken prisoner, but died from wounds sustained during the attack. She was the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military, and received the Purple Heart. Ever heard of her? Probably only because you read or saw an interview where Lynch brought Piestewa up. She credited Piestewa with saving her life and has repeatedly named her as the "true hero" of that battle. Piestewa did get a mountain in Phoenix, Arizona named after her, though (formerly called Squaw Peak), and her parents and children received a new home courtesy of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. And Lynch named her daughter in honor of her.
  • The problem of Missing White Woman Syndrome got some attention in Britain when two white teenagers, Amanda "Milly" Dowler and Danielle Jones, disappeared around the same time in 2001. Both made the national news and received a ton of press coverage. A body was found that was believed to be Jones, but was actually another missing white girl, Hannah Williams. Why had her case not been in the news? The police admitted that her being working class, from a single-parent family, and with a history of running away from home might have had something to do with it. Something similar happened in the (prolonged) search for Milly Dowler -- a body found in a likely location was reported at first as probably Milly's -- then on closer inspection turned out to be that of a much older woman. Obviously there are good reasons why a missing mature woman doesn't create a national alert, but there was a palpable sense to the reporting of 'Thank goodness, it's just a grown woman that's been killed, not a pretty young girl...'
    • UK media also sometimes averts the trope if the missing woman is a white Eastern European, because of the popular prejudice against people from poorer Eastern European countries as scrounging immigrants. If the woman has a "respectable" occupation that wasn't minimum-wage (businesswoman, student), she might be in with a chance of making the press; otherwise... it's likely the case will be swept under the carpet.
  • Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer remained undetected for a long time by preying exclusively on gay men from ethnic minorities. His ability to escape notice illustrates that this focus on missing white women above missing persons from any other social or ethnic groups is not limited to media coverage but is sadly a factor in actual missing persons investigations as well—when the relatives of his victims called the police to report their loved ones missing, they were frequently dismissed with blase comments such as, "Well, he's a grown man, he can run off if he wants." The only reason he was even caught was because one of his intended targets escaped and immediately flagged down a police car.
    • Invoked by serial killer Ted Bundy, whose victims were the standard Missing White Woman—young, pretty college students, classic "good girls" whose families would notice them missing, who disappearances would get substantial attention from the media and the police. It's believed Bundy liked the ego boost and the attention he got from his crimes. Bundy's first crimes though occurred during an earlier media era and got no national attention because he targeted young women. At that point, young women were usually less likely, not more, to be covered as victims of crime, because people assumed missing young women to be promiscuous or drug addicts. One of Bundy's victims' families had to hound the police for two years to get their daughter's disappearance taken seriously—at one point, they were told right out that they were wasting police time bothering detectives about their "whore of a daughter."
  • We've all heard of Chandra Levy. But have you heard of Christine Mirzayan (Middle Eastern) or Joyce Chiang (Taiwanese)? Two years before Levy's disappearance, in separate instances, they disappeared and were later found murdered—circumstances virtually identical to the Levy case. They were young, pretty,well-educated "good girls", precisely the type of victim the media loves, yet neither case garnered anything beyond local attention despite one woman (Chiang) being federal employee. Not until the Levy case broke nearly two-and-a-half years later after Chiang's murder did anyone on a national level even know about either woman, and even then it was only because of the similarities in their cases (there was concern that a serial killer might be at work in the area). The Joyce Chiang case was finally solved 12 years later, but prosecutors have declined to press charges against her killers, as one is already in jail for another crime, while the other is in a non-extradition country.
  • Serial killer Robert Pickton was able to get away with killing prostitutes and drug users in Vancouver for years (convicted of six, charged with another 20) because of who his victims were. One American station in Seattle ran a story about six of Pickton's victims. Two of the victims mentioned in the story were white, three were First Nations, and one was black. They only showed five of the victims' pictures, and guess whose photo they left out? In the same vein, at least one Canadian TV station did a similar thing with respect to the possible victim who was a transsexual.
  • The infamous "Runaway Bride"—the woman claimed that she had been abducted when she failed to show up for her wedding. It turned out that she'd simply gotten cold feet and, rather than simply admit to the mistake, decided to allow the authorities to waste around $50,000 searching for her before making the call to let her family know that she was alive. She (thankfully) was made to pay back around $13,000 for the hoax, but earned far more than that by selling her story to a publisher. The lesson? Fake being kidnapped as a Missing White Woman, and you can make a lot of money!
    • In Living Color did a skit on that exact thing about another woman (forgot who), including that it won't work if you're not white.
  • The coverage of Sylvia Plath's first suicide attempt was an example of this. She hid in a crawlspace under the breezeway between her family's house and garage, where she took a bottle of sleeping pills and lay there for two days. Headlines from LA to Daytona covered the massive search for the "pretty Smith girl" and her subsequent discovery.
  • Elsie Paroubek's 1911 disappearance and death received a huge amount of press attention. This had political and social factors—anti-Gypsy hysteria, the Czech-American community rallying to support its own—but police also assumed Elsie was taken by Gypsies owing to their "natural love" for fair-skinned blue-eyed blondes.
  • Suicide due to school bullying is sadly nothing new. However, the suicide of Massachusetts high school student Phoebe Prince set off a nationwide outcry against bullying and prompted dozens of threatening letters to be sent to the six students accused of causing her suicide. The case of another boy in the same area who committed suicide due to bullying, Carl Walker Hoover, received much less coverage. Not only was Hoover black, but he had been heavily bullied by classmates who were, for whatever reason, convinced that he was gay. This has not gone unnoticed.
  • In the midst of the riots going on in Egypt, with civilians all over the nation in danger of looters and soldiers, what was NBC talking about during all this? How one Caucasian American old woman was in Egypt right now and needed to be brought home as soon as possible. Similarly, an attractive blonde news reporter, Lara Logan, made news when she was sexually assaulted. Washington Post reporter Alexandra Petri pointed out that we never would have heard about what Egyptian women and foreign women visitors to Egypt live with every day if the Lara Logan thing had not happened; Logan was "not a faceless statistic, but a known, blonde, white woman."
  • The Grim Sleeper murders are looking more and more like an example of this trope. To elaborate, the Grim Sleeper was a (recently arrested) serial murder who raped and murdered at least 7 black women during the 1980's, took a 14 year "break" (although now it looks like he was still killing), then started killing again in the early 2000's. The police force, despite knowing that all the murders were connected, never informed the public . In fact, they didn't even admit to the presence of a serial killer until an "alternative newspaper" broke the story. There had been an active serial killer in LA for over 20 years and no one knew. Quite a few bloggers are asking if the response would have been the same if the victims were all white women.
  • There was a similar situation in Cleveland, in which a serial killer Anthony Sewell was found to have entombed his ten victims in and around his house. Despite the man's previous convictions for rape, he was never flagged as a suspect in the disappearance of these women, who had varying backgrounds (mostly checkered), but were all African-American.
  • The Caylee Anthony trial exploited this from both angles. The missing girl, of course, drew a lot of attention but the fact that her mother (and prime suspect) Casey was also a young and pretty white woman certainly doubled it.
  • This trope also showed itself to be in full swing in Québec, Canada, when Cédrika Provencher, a young white girl, went missing in 2007. Provincial news was rife with news of her kidnapping for years, an official song was composed to find her, and the search for her is still officially ongoing as of 2011. There have been several other missing persons since, but nobody seems to care since they're not Woobie white girls.
  • Inverted in the disappearance of Lucie Blackman, a Caucasian woman murdered in Japan. Her family received little help from the police "because Lucie was working illegally in a job from which women often flee without notice".
  • In San Diego, at virtually the same time that seven-year-old Danielle Van Dam disappeared (and was later found murdered) in 2002, an African-American boy of about the same age disappeared while in the company of his mother's boyfriend. The boyfriend said that he left the boy outside a convenience store while he went inside to shop. When he came out, the boy was gone. The mother expressed her anger several times to the media when they covered the disappearance of the white, blond Danielle while her son's disappearance was virtually ignored.
  • The trope also applies to how the media handles disappeared people when they resurface. Near the end of 2011, two college girls when missing in the United States. One was white and the other was middle-eastern and Muslim. Thankfully both were found okay. ABC news received backlash when one of its web journalists wrote an article about the two cases, needlessly comparing the two. The article treated the white girl's case, where she became snowbound in her car after making some questionable navigational choices in a car ill-prepared for snow travel, as something that could happen to anyone. The author then scolded the middle-eastern girl for being recklessly inconsiderate by losing her cellphone on a class trip and even entertained notions she had run off on a romantic fling (she was engaged at the time). ABC News has since retracted the story and has stated it will no longer accredit stories by the author.
  • An American woman with an undefined "life-threatening condition" being held hostage by Somalian pirates for three months was rescued by the same US Navy SEAL team that killed bin Laden. That last fact got more coverage in the linked story than the second hostage (a 60-year-old man from Denmark named Poul Hagen Thisted, if you're curious).
  • Both played straight and averted in the Stephen Lawrence (an 18-year-old promising black student) case. While the case received a lot of media attention, it took 19 years for the police to convict two of the killers and the case revealed institutional racism in the police system.
  • Social media has been trying to balance out the disparity of coverage of minorities through outlets like Tumblr, and Facebook
  1. They died of natural or OD-related causes