Gabby Petito’s death is tragic. But I wish missing women of color got this much attention | Akin Olla

Considerable resources were dedicated to finding Petito’s body. Yet Indigenous people in Wyoming are more likely to disappear and to be killed, and their cases are barely noticed

The apparent murder of 22-year-old Gabby Petito has been a consistent part of the American news cycle since she disappeared on 11 September. Her YouTube presence and participation in the Instagram #vanlife subculture, which involves young people travelling around the country living aesthetically appealing lives in vans and converted buses, provided plenty of content for internet detectives on sites like TikTok and Reddit to consume. Her story is heart-wrenching, especially after police footage has emerged of Petito and her fiance, Brian Laundrie, who is now a “person of interest” in her death, having a domestic crisis.

But the story also feels eerily familiar – so familiar, in fact, that there is a term for it: “missing white woman syndrome”. White women, particularly conventionally attractive middle- or upper-class white women, tend to receive disproportionate media coverage when they go missing. Petito’s case is tragic, but the media attention it has attracted replicates a systemic pattern.

Akin Olla is a contributing opinion writer at the Guardian

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