Perhaps one of the most painful reasons stories about pretty young White women seem to capture the public imagination so completely is the subconscious prejudice that bad things aren’t “meant” to happen to privileged people. Safety is one of the aspirational perks of having an apparently perfect life. Well-off White people can generally assume that when they call the police, law enforcement will automatically be on their side and want to help them. But this level of support is far from a universal given, and far too often a function of racial privilege.
Part of the reason that women of color are so shamefully overlooked by both law enforcement and the media when they disappear is there’s a degree to which their pain is priced into the human experience. Too many in society simply expect White women’s lives to be easier, and because of institutional racism they are treated as more deserving by the systems that kick into action when they’re endangered. When White women vanish, it’s a more confrontational public reminder that no woman, whatever her background, can ever take her safety for granted.