(cross-posted to my public blog)
You’d have to be living under a rock not to know that a horrible verdict came down in a horrible case concerning the murder of a little girl named Caylee Anthony. Like the rest of the world, I’d love to know what the jury was thinking. Ultimately, that little girl’s mother will have to answer for her actions at some point.
I was discussing the case last night and the conversation turned to media frenzy, rumors of Casey Anthony being pregnant with her attorney’s child, and celebrity. My theory on it is that the more we turn the cameras on her, even as much of a reviled person she is, the easier it becomes for her to go from pariah to media darling. Shut off the cameras, ignore her, let her try and walk the streets in public without being recognized. Her life will not be pleasant, nor should it be. But if we keep documenting and reporting her every move, every rumor, every detail of her disgusting life, the better the chance is that we’ll turn around one day and she’ll be the next contestant on Dancing With the Stars.
Even that, though, isn’t what bothers me the most. What bothers me the most is what nobody really wants to talk about. Why are we so invested in this case? Why are we so passionate about “Justice for Caylee?” I’d love to say that it’s because we are appalled every time a child is abused, murdered, or abducted, and it is patently wrong for us not to be invested in these cases. I might buy that. And I think for many of us, that’s true. This was different though. This was an incredibly high profile case. What makes it high profile? Why does the media grasp on to a story like this and plaster all over every news and social media site until the public is worked into a mob mentality? What makes this case unique?
It’s not the fact that a child was murdered and then lied about. It’s not the fact that her grandparents participated in the deception. It’s not the fact that Casey Anthony clearly is some sort of psychopath who partied while her daughter was denied a death with dignity. All of those things are awful. Wrong. Evil.
But it helps quite a bit in the court of public opinion that Caylee Anthony was a little white girl with a white mom living in suburban Florida.
That’s ok. I’ll sit and wait for the indignation to pass.
Ok, now. Think about it. Think about all the high profile kidnapping and child murder cases. Caylee Anthony, Jaycee Dugard, Madeline McCann, Haleigh Cummings, Brittanee Drexel. When was the last time a missing African American boy from the inner city made the news?
Take a trip over to the website for the Center for Missing and Exploited Children. A quick search for my home state of California reveals 384 missing kids. 125 of them Caucasian. Less than a third. Nationally, less than half of missing children are white (44%) And yet the news doesn’t cover the stories of these kids. The public doesn’t rage at a system that isn’t delivering justice for these kids.
Recently, in my hometown paper, the story of a young girl who suffered extreme abuse at the hands of her adoptive mother (her biological aunt who took her and her siblings in) came to light. She’s 19 now, but when she managed to escape her environment, which included severe beatings, broken bones, confinement to a closet, she was 15. She’d been living with her aunt since she was a small child. When she finally was treated for her injuries, they documented over 100 active injuries. Broken bones, healing scars, missing teeth. The closet she was regularly confined to was barely enough space for her to turn around in. She was pulled from school by her aunt and apparently there was one CPS visit that didn’t turn up anything (clearly they didn’t look very hard). She’s 19 now and living on her own with the help of public assistance. She’s attending college. Haven’t heard of the story? No, I thought not. Lilly Manning is black.
Why wasn’t the press camped out at the courtroom when Lilly’s aunt and her husband went to trial? Where was everyone’s righteous indignation then? Why hasn’t someone demanded justice for Lilly? She was lucky enough to survive, but so was Jaycee Dugard. Jaycee Dugard is getting book deals and $20 million from the State of California. Lilly is living on food stamps. Yes, every case is different, but clearly there’s a huge disconnect here between the kids who get attention in the media and the kids who don’t.
I’m not saying Caylee Anthony doesn’t deserve our outrage at the lack of justice delivered on her behalf. I’m saying don’t be lulled into thinking that the kids who get the media attention are the only ones out there. There are hundreds, if not thousands of kids who deserve justice. If you learn anything from Caylee Anthony’s case, learn that most kids never get that justice. It is right for us to be outraged. It is right for us to be appalled and disgusted that these things happen. It is right for us to stand up and demand justice. But we’ve got to stand up and demand justice for all the kids out there and start demanding visibility for the kids who don’t have the benefit of white privilege just as much as those who do.