WASHINGTON — The case surrounding Gabby Petito's death has garnered a lot of attention. She's the 22-year-old who went missing on a cross-country road trip with her fiancée. Police recently found her remains. They're still looking for her fiancée, who is now a suspect.
It's a tragic story, but one that has prompted some people to ask, why don't we see the same non-stop coverage in other missing persons cases, particularly for minorities?
Derrica Wilson is the CEO of the Black and Missing Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the mission to bring awareness to missing persons of color; provide vital resources and tools to missing person’s families and friends and to educate the minority community on personal safety.
"We started this organization nearly 14 years ago to shine a spotlight on missing persons of color," Wilson said. "Because, quite frankly, when you turn your television on, you don't see anyone that looks like us."
The Black and Missing Foundation has worked directly with the families of missing people across the country.
"We've worked with thousands of families across the United States, and since our inception, we've helped reunite or bring closure to over 400 families," Wilson said.
Wilson said cases involving Black and brown people and other minority communities rarely get the media attention of other missing person cases from the past, including the Gabby Petito case.
"When it comes to our Black and brown communities, and when it comes to children, they are oftentimes classified as runaways. Runaways are not receiving an AMBER Alert. There's no sense of urgency to find the missing," Wilson said. "When it comes to adults, men and women who are Black and brown, their disappearance is often associated with some kind of criminal activity."
Wilson said when it comes to making changes in how cases are covered, there needs to be more diversity in newsrooms and in law enforcement.
Wilson pointed specifically to the case of Daniel Robinson, a 24-year-old man who went missing from a work site in Buckeye, Arizona. His case is now gaining national attention, three months after his disappearance, because of the Gabby Petito case.
"There are a lot of cases out there that are like this," Wilson said. "There are a lot of Gabbys in the Black and brown community."
According to statistics from the National Crime Information Center Missing Person and Unidentified Person files in 2020, 543,018 people were reported missing last year. Of those people, nearly 40% were a minority.
Wilson said families of missing people of color are creating their own hashtags to bring awareness to their cases. The Black and Missing Foundation uses the hashtag #HelpUsFindUs.
"That's what we need the community to do: Help us find us," Wilson said.