In this ARE guest piece, budding journalist and creative, Hayley Mills-Amissah, examines the disproportionately loud spotlight cast on cases of missing white women by the media. Her article, originally posted for the Green Room, features interviews with a range of women, including ARE’s Tebussum Rashid. Here’s an extract…
UK organisations are advocating for change in the media amidst the rise of Missing White Woman Syndrome.
Missing White Woman Syndrome is a term used to describe the disproportionate media coverage given to cases of missing White women compared to women of colour.
First coined in 2004 by African American newscaster, Gwen Ifill, it is a complex and sensitive issue that has been the subject of much debate and discussion.
Taking action on such social issues, Action for Race Equality advocates for policy changes to address systemic racism and promote greater social and economic equality.
For 30 years the UK-based charity has campaigned and promoted racial equality and social justice not only through words but with action.
The organisation provides support to individuals and communities affected by racism and discrimination and works to raise awareness about the ways in which racism and discrimination impact people’s lives.
In the rise of Missing White Woman Syndrome, Tebussum Rashid of ARE describes the importance of working to create a more just and equitable society where all lives are valued equally.
Deputy Chief Executive, Tebussum, said:
Everything we do is about improving experiences of communities we work with and supporting positive profiles, whether its criminal justice, education, or employment. However in criminal justice for example, it is the other way around. The disproportionate presence and experience particularly of Black and Muslim men is visible and damning.
But when it comes to missing Black people and the violence against BAME women, we don’t get to see or hear stories at the same level or with the same energy or presence.”
Expanding on the issue, Tebussum added: “Action For Race Equality aims to influence systemic change through policy work but also working directly with young people, communities, and institutions.
“For us as an organisation, it’s not about one approach, we’ve got to tackle these issues with multiple prongs.
“We’ve seen a display of Missing White Woman’s syndrome again and again in news stories and in headlines, an obvious one and quite rightly highlighting Sarah Everard.
“but what about the Black or Asian women who also attacked, missing or murdered – why are they not given coverage?
“Whether it’s domestic abuse in a broader sense or it’s a missing woman, we don’t get that profile.
“We live this pretty much all the time, in terms of trying to get attention by media, by policy makers, by politicians on this subject, but also bringing to the table the question of ‘Why is it that women from minoritised communities don’t deserve the same protection or value?'”
Tebussum extended her view, and said: “This conversation is much broader. Looking at media projection and use of language, you see the tarnish and profiling that we get through the media.
“With these kind of issues we’re told that we’re exaggerating and to get our facts first.
“We need to help women have that confidence to have this conversation.
“There’s so much data out there about racism, although nowhere near enough, but what are we going to do about it?
“With Missing White Women Syndrome I think it is so crucial to bring it to people’s attention because the media is not going to admit to it.”
According to a statistical report by the UK Missing Persons Unit of the National Crime Agency, out of a total 163,535 missing people reported between 2020-21, 73,389 are female, with 9.3% being Black.
Taking matters into their own hands, Missing Black People are making a change toward the way Black people have been reported. Missing Black People is a UK-based organisation that works to raise awareness about missing persons cases involving Black people.
Hayley Mills-Amissah is a journalist with a passion for exploring lifestyle and culture. Educated at Birmingham City University, she has honed her skills in writing, research, and storytelling. With an eye for detail and a curious mind, Hayley seeks to uncover the stories that make our world unique.
You can find Hayley on the following platforms: