2 Child Murders, 2 Different Pages in the Paper: Why?

Hi Readers: Not to sound too cynical, but today’s New York Post  carried a big story about the Etan Patz case — a blonde boy who disappeared 33 years ago, whose case was recently re-opened in the hopes of finally nailing the perp. (Alas, that didn’t happen.) Eleven tabloid pages later, there’s a much smaller story about a 7-year-old boy whose alleged killer is on trial right now.

The 7-year-old boy has an Oscar-winning aunt. He also has an uncle and grandma who were shot dead, most likely by the same killer. But despite three deaths, a famous relative, and a current trial, this story does not rise to the level of the Patz case, at least in The Post. Why not? I believe there are three reasons.

1 – To be fair, the 7-year-old, Julian King, was in Chicago, and Patz was a New Yorker. So for the NY Post, Patz is a local story. But then there are two other facts.

2 – The 7-year-old was not blonde, he was African-American.

3 – He was not abducted by a stranger. He was (again, allegedly) shot by his mom’s ex-boyfriend.

To be really REALLY cynical (and realistic),  I have to add that I don’t think there’s any way the story of the murdered 7-year-old would have made it into the papers beyond Chicago, had it not been for the fact that his aunt is actress Jennifer Hudson.

When the media decide which stories are “big,” they go for the tried-and-true narrative they know the best — the shocker that sells the most papers:  A middle-class child, usually white, abducted by a stranger. Those are the stories that go national, even international That’s what the dramas on TV show, too.

And we wonder why “stranger-danger” is uppermost in parents’ minds. (Or, actually, we don’t.) – L.

79 Responses

  1. I read an article (on the Hudson case) that said (paraphrasing): some neighborhood girls heard the shots but did not report them right away, because it is fairly common to hear gunfire in that neighborhood. So sad.

  2. Well, and the other difference is that they don’t have a body for Etan Patz, so there is still a sense of “maybe he’s alive somewhere.”

    Though, people are still talking about the Lingbergh baby too, 80 years later.

  3. The media and news is not in the business of informing us of important stories, they are in the business of getting us to watch, listen, or read what they are talking about. It just has to be interesting or shocking, not necessarily important.

  4. I don’t believe that you can compare the two cases and it is certainly a mistake to base the reporting on the race of the two children. Etan Patz was 6 years old when he disappeared in the middle of the day walking to the school bus stop. His disappearance along with several other high-profile child abduction cases in the late 70’s and 80’s led to the establishment of National Missing Children’s Day (May 25th, the anniversary of Etan’s disappearance). In Etan’s case, his disappearance sparked a worldwide search for the perpetrator. Jose Antonio Ramos, who is the prime suspect in the case and is currently in prison on other charges, admits to attempting to molest Etan on the day he disappeared but denies playing a roll in the boy’s disappearance. Contrast this with Julian King who’s accused killer was known to the family, identified and arrested and is now on trial. The difference here is not race… it’s resolution. Etan Patz was the face of missing children the nation over. There is an entire generation awaiting closure in this case

  5. Let’s see…Natalee Holloway, JonBenet Ramsey, Elizabeth Smart, Jessica Lunsford, Madeline McCann, Somer Thompson, Carlie Brucia…

    Nope, I don’t see any pattern here.

    Except that brown-skinned children need not apply for national media coverage.

  6. Anyone who thinks the difference in reporting (or lack thereof) has nothing to do with race needs to pull their head out of the sand.

    Or wherever else they may have it stuck.

  7. And let’s not forget, an entire generation raised on “Stranger Danger” that internalized it so thoroughly that, even though they don’t know why, they’re terrified that our children might be snatched the moment they turn their backs.

    After reading about the Etan Patz case the last few days — I was nine at the time and don’t really remember when it happened, though I do remember seeing kids on milk cartons — I’ve come to believe that so much of the current paranoia relates directly back to those times. My generation was the first to be indoctrinated into the stranger danger culture. We saw the kids on the milk cartons, and I remember when they stopped putting kids on cartons because it was believed to be too frightening for us to see allegedly kidnapped children staring out at us over our Fruit Loops.

    Thank goodness my parents didn’t freak, probably because we lived in a rural COMMUNITY and not a suburb or city area, and continued to allow me a free range childhood. That has made it much simpler for me to eschew the paranoia and chivvy my kid out the door on a daily basis.

  8. Actually, neither of the two suspects in the Etan Patz case was a stranger to the boy. The one they officially consider the murderer (Ramos) was his babysitter’s boyfriend. Admittedly, I do not know when they began to consider him a suspect.

  9. I too recall the Etan Patz publicity in 1979. That was also the year my youngest sister was born. Interestingly, five years later, my baby sister was still sent off to Kindergarten without adult supervision. Apparently not every parent who knew about Etan Patz exaggerated the risk that their child would be next. Then again, they didn’t have the Internet with “mommy” sites where ladies gang up and trounce anyone who admits to trusting humanity.

  10. Or they didn’t have the Internet at all with the ability to leave comments on every news article.

    Read the comments on the Etan Patz story and see dozens saying the parents should have been arrested for letting their 6 year walk to the bus alone. Those appear to be getting mostly thumbs down, followed by the usual “it was different then” comments.

    The commenters are crucifying the parents of the little missing girl in Arizona. Many have the parents already tried and convicted of her murder. They are attacking the parents for putting the child to bed too late. Going to the room to wake her up in the morning. Not hearing anything. Etc. It is clear that if, God forbid, anything happens to your child, every parenting decision you make becomes fodder for the press. As if the parents are not already suffering enough.

  11. You are not the customer, and the news is not the product, you are the product, and the advertisers are the customer. Cynicism not required, for any ad-supported medium those are facts.

  12. If it’s only news when white kids are abducted or killed, why is Trayvon Martin getting so much press?

  13. If the media played the murder of brown children big, somebody might start asking inconvenient questions about why brown preys on brown so much….

    Which really wouldn’t fit the “There’s nothing wrong with (brown) culture that ending Racism wouldn’t solve” narrative.

  14. Because Trayvon Martin’s parents went to the press after the investigation into his death was closed and Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, the NAACP and other people able to generate huge media attention got involved. That is what it takes to get the death of a black kid into the news. A white kid just needs to be cute. Kaylee Anthony is proof of that.

  15. cspschofield – in fairness to the whole ‘brown on brown’ thing, aren’t the abductors of ‘cute little white kids’ usually white themselves – those that are found, that is? Isn’t there something to this idea that people involved in these sort of crimes usually prey on their own type? Or do I just watch too much CSI and the like? (Yes, I know they’re crap, but in a fun kind of way!)

  16. Also, let’s be cynical here – who buys newspapers? If there are more white folk buying newspapers than black folk, which seems likely given the relative sizes of the populations, which kid are they more likely to relate to, and buy the paper about?

    And BTW, where are the Native Americans? Don’t their kids get abducted etc? All the talk on blogs is about white and black, and occasionally Hispanic. Are they (the Natives) all gone?

    PS Donna completely off topic, replied to you a few blogs ago, but have been writing essays again (which is how the Native thing came up!) so prob left it too late for you to see. Enjoy yourself down here, and def. check out Onehunga for clothes. If you have time drive up to the Hokianga, north of Auckland, very beautiful…..

  17. Hineata, Now that you mention it, you rarely hear about Native Americans being kidnapped or murdered. Truthfully unless the person actually lives on a reservation, they are unlikely to be identified as native American in the press. Violent crime is not high on the reservations.

    And thanks for the info.

  18. That’s really interesting. I actually thought reservations were a thing of the past (like from ‘Bury My Heart….) but maybe as you say that’s why (internationally, anyway) we don’t really hear anything much about them, violent crime stats included. Kind of great violent crime is not high on the reservations either – maybe we should all move there! Cheers….

  19. Vinny said:

    Let’s see…Natalee Holloway, JonBenet Ramsey, Elizabeth Smart, Jessica Lunsford, Madeline McCann, Somer Thompson, Carlie Brucia…

    Nope, I don’t see any pattern here.

    I do.

  20. And, yes, these crimes are predominantly same race crimes. In fact, the vast majority are white victim and perpetrator. Almost all serial killers are white too. So, while blacks and Hispanics are over-represented in the prison population, the most heinous crimes are committed predominantly by whites.

    You never hear about Asian or middle eastern kids being abducted either.

  21. Reservations still exist. Native Americans aren’t required to live on them anymore, and most don’t, but they’re still around. The ones with casinos are usually okay. The rest are desolately poor. Serious violent crime is rare but minor violent crime is common. Alcoholism is rampant so fights, domestic violence and other alcohol-related crimes are common.

  22. @ Donna – Funny you should mention Asians and abduction – kidnappings for ransom, here anyway, were virtually unheard of before we had a wave of immigration from mainland China and Hong Kong during the nineties, and students etc. Again though it is race on race crime, and the police are getting more victims to actually come forward and report said crimes now (something that was previously quite difficult, as Chinese don’t tend to trust authorities, particularly police). I’m always joking with my hubby about the fact that, although Maori are over-represented in the prison population, his is the only ethnic group in the country to have their own Crime Unit!

  23. I live near a reservation and actually there is violent activity there. The reason you don’t hear much about it is because the police aren’t allowed on the reservation unless invited so the reporters can’t get the info. I have friends on the reservation and I have heard what goes on.

  24. OK, this race discussion is boggling my mind. Of course there are black serial killers. Aside from the famous ones like the Atlanta chlid murders by a black guy, there was one discovered recently around my neck of the woods. There was a stench of rotting bodies for years and they assumed it was the nearby meat packer’s fault. Who knows how many other examples are out there? Anyhoo, part of the reason we don’t hear about it may be that there is so much black-on-black crime (including murders), maybe the cops don’t notice a pattern or look for one. Maybe the same is true for Hispanics, I don’t know.

    Now if you bring Asians and Middle Easterns into the picture, you really need to do your homework, because these are some of the worst victims. Not only are there indeed pedophiles and mass murderers (I know of at least one horrid recent case of a serial child murderer in India), but there are honor killings and [child] bride burnings and so on which don’t even raise much outrage in their communities. Don’t even get me started on the sex slave trade and little kids being exported to be domestic servants and so on. Only white people hurt children? Wow. Way to encourage a love of diversity.

    I do agree that the white kids make the national news more because they are perceived as “cuter.” I do recall some children of color being similarly covered, but I also recall some who were not picked up in the national media.

  25. Native American children do get kidnapped. But often it tends to be by the government, to take them for their own “safety.” (And money for the state.) http://www.npr.org/2011/10/25/141672992/native-foster-care-lost-children-shattered-families

  26. Isn’t there something to this idea that people involved in these sort of crimes usually prey on their own type?

    Sorta. Most crimes are committed by people known to the victim, or at least from the same neighborhood. And many neighborhoods (and most families) are not all that diverse.

    I actually thought reservations were a thing of the past

    I don’t see why you should think that. Reservations are land reserved in treaties by various tribes when ceding much of their land to the US government.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_reservation

  27. There were two sex offenders from out of state in NYC city this past weekend, and no sex crimes happened because they were there. Will the news media report that?

  28. I am originally from India and am “browner” than your average Black as are my kids. Yet, Most Indian immigrants live in upper-income neighborhoods. I have never heard of an Indian-American kid being kidnapped (Indian from India not Native American Indian as many people still confuse the two).

    However, I hate to think that if something happened to one of my kids, the media wouldn’t give it as much attention to a blond just because the they would see my kids as brown.

    I am a free range mom. My kids, ages 7 and 9, play outside within our (gated) apartment complex with other kids. I hate to think that if that 1 in 1,000,000 chance of them being kidnapped, the police won’t search for them because they are “BROWN”.

  29. Chitra, the police would search for them, but they might not be plastered on the national news every 15 minutes like some of these kids are.

    Honestly, with all due respect for his parents’ loss, I don’t understand why they keep showing Etan Patz’ photo from 33 years ago. Even if he’s alive, he doesn’t look like that now, so there really is no point.

  30. For that matter, showing the photo of Trayvon Martin at 13yo was equally without substantive purpose other than to appeal to emotions.

  31. @skl1, I wonder how frequently the news uses photos that are several years old for teens. A class mate of mine was murdered (along with his whole family) when we were in 8th grade. The news used a picture of him that was so old, I couldn’t recognize him. His brother was in highschool and his brother’s picture likewise was so dated it looked younger than my classmate. The older brother’s photo also looked more like my classmate than the picture they used of him.

  32. Havva, I could understand it if the whole family was killed, because they’d have to ask someone outside the family for photos, I assume. But in the Martin case, whether the 13yo pic was the first they got or not (I don’t know), they continued using the 13yo photo long after the more recent ones were in circulation. I can only assume it’s because a photo of a 17yo doesn’t touch the heart like the photo of a 13yo. And doesn’t sell as much ad space, I suppose.

  33. skl1, you hit the nail on the head. It was a deliberate attempt to increase sympathy for the kid by making him look like an angelic little boy, when he was months away from being an adult.

  34. What I find interesting– and disturbing– is how the Center for Missing and Exploited Children isn’t forthcoming about the proportions of missing kids out there. I guess that runaway and throwaway kids, and kids as part of custody disputes, just aren’t donation-generating enough.

  35. For what its worth, the King case is getting far more press in the Chicago area than the Patz investigation, I think the location has more to do with it than anything else.

  36. @Bob: Good! When a white child is murdered, all kinds of super cute pictures are dragged out to show on the news. I would be much angrier if the only pics ever shown of Trayvon Martin were “teenager + brown + hoodie = thug.” Remember the Green River Killer? Many of his victims were months or years away from adulthood too, and they were dismissed as hookers. Not children who ended up in bad situations; just hookers. Black and brown hookers.

    (If it matters, I am personally 100 percent fishbelly white, every ancestor from Northwest Europe as far back as records go. I cannot even claim membership in the Wannabe Tribe.)

  37. Yes, skl1, black serial killers exist. Wayne Williams (Atlanta) is one and you have identified another. Now name 5 more? You can’t because they exist in extremely small numbers. The vast majority of serial killers are white males. I wrote a paper on serial killers (psychopaths actually) in a very strange law school class and did substantial research on them. The non-white male serial killer is a rarity. There are several research books written on the subject (keeping in mind that serial killer is a specific kind if killer; there are plenty of black, Hispanic and Asian people who have killed repeatedly).

  38. Donna, more accurately, the vast majority of serial killers *whom you have read about* are white. Not every serial killer gets made into a book or movie. Not every serial killer is identified and sensationalized as such. And while I agree that black / brown serial killers are rare, so are white ones.

    Honestly, I am surprised at your comments. I may have disagreed with you at times, but I thought you were knowledgeable in your field. When you make comments like these, you lose credibility with me.

  39. Hmmm, extensive research into the subject of serial killers while writing a paper in law school makes me unknowledgeable on the subject and you, who is basing your comments on nothing more than your own opinion, MORE knowledgeable? Interesting the way your mind works. You don’t think it’s true, therefore, it can’t possibly be true and anyone who disagrees lacks credibility, even if they have done research and you have done none.

    As I said I wrote a research paper on psychopaths in law school for a Law and Anthropology class. My paper had nothing to do with race and serial killers. It was an anthropological study of psychopaths, but a large portion of it involved serial killers (yes, it was a very strange paper in a very strange law school class). In researching, I came across many books, papers, dissertations, etc. trying to parse out why serial killers are almost exclusively white males. Papers written by sociologists, psychologists, and social anthropologists, not journalists and movie-of-the-week script writers. I read them because the topic interested me. Further, through my research in scholarly journals and books, not made-for-tv movies, I read about every serial killer known at that time. It is almost exclusively a white boys club. Granted I graduated from law school more than a few years ago now, but I don’t recall a major upswing in the discovery of serial killers in the last 10+ years.

    Serial killers are rare. Non-white male serial killers are the very small exception even to that small number. It is possible women and other races are so good at serial killing that they are never identified. However, as our knowledge stands right now, it appears that this is a crime committed almost exclusively by white males. And there is no good theory I ever found as to why this is.

  40. And, skl1, I never said that middle eastern, Native American, hispanic or asian kids are not abducted and murdered. I said that you never HEAR about them. Think about the last time you heard of one in this country. I’m not sure that I ever have. You hear about the cute, middle class white ones.

    However, it does appear – through research and not just the news – that the predominant victim and perp in an intended stranger abduction (not the dude that carjacks a car and ends up with a baby) in the US is white. This could easily just be because whites are still the majority in the country and this crime crosses socioeconomic boundaries. I think the fact that most victim and perps live in close-proximity, with the victim being known at least in passing by the perp, is also at play. Far more non-white races and ethnicities live in insular, close-knit communities. It’s more difficult to have a STRANGER abduction if you know everyone in the neighborhood. You may have an abduction but it is not a stranger abduction. Culture and the defining of “stranger” is also going to have an effect on how these crimes are reported.

  41. Donna, I’m sure you saw what you say you saw, but I just listed off three brown-skinned serial killers off the top of my head without even thinking about it. Besides, it is theorized that Charles Manson’s dad was black. Yes, I can think of a few more white ones – Jack the Ripper, a German guy, a Russian guy, a couple of US guys – all from countries that have majority white populations. Is that supposed to strike me as odd?

    Your research was not only a long time ago, but subject to the weaknesses historically shared by all of social “science,” including the failure to consider reality from the perspectives of different populations. Would it occur to those writers that a man like the local guy here could have gone completely without suspicion because many of his victims were never even reported missing? Or the fact that it would take a lot of dead / missing people to overcome the fact that the murder rate is high in that population to begin with? Did they do thorough research in countries with majority brown populations?

    Since you have such a great memory, surely you recall that I’m an attorney too. I did my thesis on government interventions to save the rainforests. I guarantee that said thesis would have been researched and written a lot differently had I had the extra 20 years of experience and wisdom under my belt.

    And speaking of your memory, you mentioned that you’ve never heard of an Asian kid being kidnapped. But wasn’t that how they caught Jeffrey Dahmer – a young Asian kid (age 12 if I recall) had escaped from him and reported him to the police?

  42. Donna, to your comment that posted while I was writing my last one:

    1) Google Trenton Duckett. Comes to mind instantly; maybe there are others. Granted, they eventually blamed the mom (though no body was ever found). But it started out like a lot of other cases and even Nancy Grace did an obnoxious show about it (driving the mom to commit suicide).

    2) We haven’t been talking about stranger abductions. The two suspects they’ve mentioned recently in the Etan Patz case were people the boy knew. We don’t even know if serial killing was involved in this case.

    3) Nice backpedaling, but you made the comment that the most heinous crimes are done predominantly by whites; that was irresponsible in my opinion.

  43. @Donna-About a month ago, there was a lot of press about a little Hispanic girl that was lured off her apt. complex’s playground and murdered by the maintenance guy of that complex. This was in the USA.

  44. I’m sure there have been Asian kids kidnapped. YOU DON’T HEAR ABOUT THEM. That is all I said. It may very well be possible asians are flying off the streets of the US. You never hear about them. I think I stated in my very first post, it takes much to get a non-white kid in the news. A white kid just needs to be cute.

    You can discount what you want. You can take from known serial killers overwhelmingly being white that there must be a large number of non-white serial killers that have simply never been discovered. It would be a view contrary to just about every authority in the field, but whatever.

    And Charles’ Manson’s dad may have been black. That is completely irrelevant. Charles Manson is a psychopath, but not a serial killer.

  45. Mae-Mae – Exactly. The person was KNOWN to the girl. What was first deemed a “stranger abduction” quickly changed to a acquaintance abduction.

  46. Actually, I didn’t back-pedal at all. Read my first posts. You will clearly see that I say you don’t HEAR about those populations being abducted. I said nothing else.

    I still stand by my statement that serial killers are predominantly white. You can disagree with that and believe that all the non-white ones haven’t been discovered. That view is contrary to all other authorities in the field but believe what you want.

    I still stand by my statement that stranger child abduction is predominantly white. I think that there are many reasons for that being true that I stated. Doesn’t change the fact that the largest segment of the prison population in the US is non-white and yet the highest perpetrators of really heinous crimes (in my opinion, you can define heinous differently) are predominantly white. I think it is odd, not a reflection of anything else.

    And we have no idea in the world who kidnapped Etan Patz. We know that the prime suspect but the fact that there has not been enough evidence to arrest the man in 33 years isn’t a ringing endorsement for him conclusively being determined the perpetrator.

  47. Donna, did you ever think that maybe the reason the prisons aren’t full of white serial killers is because (a) they are very rare too, and (b) several of the ones who haven’t been executed were murdered in prison? So because the majority of documented US serial killers are white, that means all the nonwhite people in prison shouldn’t be there, or does it mean there are millions more white serial killers out there who should be in prison, or what does it mean?

    Oh and way to blow off Mae-Mae’s point, but again, who says we’re talking about stranger abductions here? Many of those cute white faces in the media turn out to be victims of either their parents or someone they knew (or the crime is never solved). None of them, as far as I recall, have been proven to be murdered by a serial killer” (white or otherwise).

  48. And Manson was a serial killer. He happened to be stopped before he killed as many people as he would have liked to.

  49. Actually, I do take back my last statement. I actually think that the predominance of whites seen in these crimes in the US is a reflection of the lack of socioeconomic tie to the crimes. Non-white populations are thought by many as the main perpetrators of violent crime in the US and are, in fact, far more highly represented in the prison population for violent crimes. Much of that is tied to socioeconomic realities. I find it interesting that whites are very represented in crimes that cross over socioeconomic boundaries.

    I was speaking solely about the US as well.

  50. Donna, your last post makes a lot more sense.

  51. Huh? I don’t even understand your first comment.

    We don’t know what we are talking about in the Etan Patz case. We do know that Etan’s case, along with Adam Walsh which occurred in the same general time frame, has been a lightning rod for the “stranger danger” fear. Was he kidnapped by a stranger? Was he kidnapped by a maintenance man he knew? Who knows. We do know that he is now one of the prime poster-children for “Stranger Danger.”

    It is highly unlikely that it was a serial killer. That was a throw away remark that you leapt on for some reason.

    And Charles Manson, while often referred to as a serial killer, is not clinically defined as a serial killer. Number of victims has nothing to do with serial killing. Pattern and ritual is required. Manson got people to kill several people for him but appears to have done so in a random fashion.

  52. That was all I meant to start with. Sadly, typing shorthand on my kindle may not be the best way to get my point across.

    The serial killer in the US thing is odd though. It puzzles most sociologists why this particular crime is so heavily white male – almost exclusively and beyond differences in population should reflect. I never saw a good explanation for this.

  53. Wikipedia (that highly scholarly source) has a “characteristics” section under “Serial Killers” and the first paragraph says:

    The racial demographics regarding serial killers are often subject to debate. … In the United States, the majority of reported and investigated serial killers are white males, from a lower-to-middle-class background, usually in their late twenties to early thirties. However, there are African American, Asian, and Hispanic (of any race) serial killers as well, and, according to the FBI, based on percentages of the U.S. population, whites are not more likely than other races to be serial killers. Criminal profiler Pat Brown says serial killers are usually reported as white because the media typically focuses on “All-American” white and pretty female victims who were the targets of white male offenders, that crimes among minority offenders in urban communities, where crime rates are higher, are under-investigated, and that minority serial killers likely exist at the same ratios as white serial killers for the population. She believes that the “serial killers are always white” myth might have become “truth” in some research fields due to the over-reporting of white serial killers in the media.

  54. Well, we all know everything we read in wikipedia is true. It doesn’t seem irregular that there is a difference of opinion in the area. Considering most serial killers don’t kill “pretty white females,” (but are still white) and the information about non-white serial killers is highly speculative (ie we think the number is higher but we can’t tell because none have been identified), I don’t think the statement is overwhelming.

  55. I thought that a disproportionate percentage of sadistic sociopathic killers were white males because a white man who looks like he knows where he’s going is much less likely to be approached by someone in authority and asked either “Do you need an escort home for your own safety?” or “Do you have a reason to be here just now and if so what is it?” This would make it easier to troll for victims. IOW, the tendency appears in the same percentage of people of any race, but expressing it requires opportunity.

    But if the FBI says that this is an artifact of reporting, then my hypothesis goes out the window.

  56. “none have been identified” is not true at all. They are not saying that. Actually if you look on the web you will see quite a few black and Hispanic men on the “serial killer” list. The fact that you think “none have been identified” shows me that you are not that knowledgeable on this particular topic.

    I agree that the “pretty white females” was kind of out there. I normally would not cite Wikipedia, but that section was coincidentally right on point.

    I think you were right about the idea that the serial killer mentality cuts across demographic groups.

  57. Honestly, I was pleasantly surprised by this post. The race issue is so well known that even Family Guy had an episode about it – a whole school bus full of Hispanic kids die and no one cares but when a little white girl goes missing everyone in America goes nuts. Over the top – it is cartoon, after all – but point made. If you think race does not correlate with the amount of media coverage a missing child gets, well then you’re just whacky.

    I’m also one of the few lurkers who believes any parent who lets their child walk by themselves to kindergarten in NYC should be jailed immediately. Decades later, Leiby Kletzky is butchered and history repeats itself over and over again. It’s not about raising “independent, self-sufficient kids” or “believing in humanity” – it’s about keeping your kids safe.

  58. As you all know by now, I live in the Phoenix area. Three days ago, a little girl was abducted from her bedroom in Tuscon. It is ALL over the media here. She is half Hispanic. A few months back, a little girl was abducted here and her grandmother got all up in the media saying that it wasn’t “covered” because she is Black. Turns out, the police suspected the mother (who has since been arrested). And as far as I could tell, it was ALL over the media as well. About 15 years ago, a baby was abducted outside a port-a-potty at a swap meet in Phoenix. She was Latina. It was ALL over the media. I think the difference in coverage is about the actual crime as opposed to the race of the child. When a parent or family member is suspected, the media covers it less sensationally than when it seems (maybe only at first ) to be a stranger abduction. That plays on our fears. We all think we have some control within our families. The random stranger story is scarier and makes better press. We have had several white family murder-suicides here in the past few years. They are covered much less extensively than the abductions of children of any race.

  59. @ Donna – right on. The black janitor has been a “person of interest” for 33 years without sufficient evidence to prove anything, let alone why he’s a person of interest. Yet the media flashes his picture across every screen in America. Interesting.

  60. At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist (I’m not, I promise – I’ve just heard this theme time and again in interviews with really smart people, and by reading independent news sites on the web), I strongly believe that the bias in national news is deliberate, and that it’s controlled from the top down (not driven from the bottom up – ie. by what news is demanded by the public). And the bias is towards airing news that instills fear in people, for reasons that somehow benefit a privileged few and harm the rest of us.

    This is just another example of that bias. I could not believe the amount of news time given to this story in the last few days – surely it’s not what the public wants? I know I changed the channel every time it came on!

  61. Yeah, this is a big reason why I don’t even turn the TV on any more.

  62. I think both cases are very sad, and my heart goes out to both families. Why is one vase on one page, one on another? Why is hundreds of children dying of malnutrition not front loafer every day? Child soldiers? Etc etc. I think it’s all about identification – it is possible more readers if the post identify with Katz surroundings vs Hudson.

    I think the bigger issue is that risk has not been put into perspective, and it’s extremely, extremely hard to do (our minds aren’t wired that way). The problem being that when we react to extremely rare risks, we miss the cost of our reaction. Eg: a news story about abduction causing children to walk less, etc. A news story about a plane crash causing people to drive more (an actually increase their risk of death). A news story about a nut with a shoe bomb, a case of mad cow disease in Britain et etc. The reactions to all of these things are so out of proportion, it’s incredible. Kid safety is the same.

  63. Borderline related and nice essay on fear, media, technology and kids: The Power of Fear in Networked Publics.

  64. Hi Author of this very despicable post!!!! Unfortunately it is because of people like you that America is going down the hill!!! If you are so focused on the “WHITE” and “BLACK” race apparently you are totally misinformed or I should rather say you like to play blind; Travon (R.I.P.) is such a controversial case that has placed HALF OF THE WORLD condemning Zimmerman when only GOD knows the real events, but unfortunately people like you and the media have dedicated all efforts to make it seem like he is a serial killer. Verna McClain the BLACK WOMAN who killed A WHITE LADY, Kala Golden and abducted her only THREE DAYS OLD “WHITE” baby, yet neither you or the media are making a big deal out of it!!! Needless to mention the BLACK WOMAN SHOT HER WHITE WOMAN VICTIM “SEVEN TIMES” and like it wasn’t enough the BLACK WOMAN run THE WHITE WOMAN down with her vehicle where she escaped. Sad and pathetic is your comment here dear author of this nonsense.

  65. I am from India and my skin is darker than most Blacks; yet Indian-Americans are more socially conservative, law abiding, and higher achieving than whites, statistically. My kids ages 7 and 9 are also dark skinned.

    I was wondering what percentage of you would mistake us for Black if you saw us. Even though Indians act more ‘stereotypically white’ than your upper class suburban white in the sense that we are studious and geeky, etc. Our skin color would have you mistake us for Black.

    I fear that if there is a big white backlash from whites against ‘minorities’ because of rioting and cases like the Trayvon Martin case we will be swept under the rug and executed for our dark, dark skin.

  66. […] Hi Readers: Not to sound too cynical, but todays New York Post  carried a big story about the Etan Patz case a blonde boy who disappeared 33 years ago, whose case was recently re-opened in the hopes of finally nailing the perp. (Alas, that didnt happen.) Eleven tabloid pages later, theres a much smaller … Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  67. […] Hi Readers: Not to sound too cynical, but todays New York Post  carried a big story about the Etan Patz case a blonde boy who disappeared 33 years ago, whose case was recently re-opened in the hopes of finally nailing the perp. (Alas, that didnt happen.) Eleven tabloid pages later, theres a much smaller … Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  68. […] Hi Readers: Not to sound too cynical, but todays New York Post  carried a big story about the Etan Patz case a blonde boy who disappeared 33 years ago, whose case was recently re-opened in the hopes of finally nailing the perp. (Alas, that didnt happen.) Eleven tabloid pages later, theres a much smaller … Read more: https://freerangekids.wordpress.com/ […]

  69. Chitra, if you go looking for a problem, you will probably find one. Regardless of the realities.

    I won’t go on and on defending my race, but I will say that, in case you didn’t know, there are many places in the USA where a white person does not feel safe walking. To the point where the cops will stop us and tell us to get our white ass out of there if we want to stay alive. I don’t know what the international news is portraying. Does it look like racial crime in the USA is all white on black? Well, let me assure you that is not the case at all. In fact, the last time the black community did not like a verdict in a trial of white cops who beat a black man, the blacks rioted and many whites were injured, some beyond healing. Whites here are kind of nervous and concerned that the Zimmerman trial will not be a fair one due to the fear of mayhem.

    The bigger problem for a black kid in a white community is that some whites (like some Indians I know) are conditioned to distrust blacks or to assume they are unintelligent. If you’re really worried about this from a personal safety perspective, know that this type of discrimination is much less likely to occur if you / your kids come across as educated (e.g., speak well and groom conservatively). And, the people who are ignorant enough to make harmful racist assumptions are unlikely to be your kids’ prospective employer or professor.

    By the way, Zimmerman is not “white.”

    In case you didn’t hear, the 911 tapes were doctored to make it look like Zimmerman got suspicious just because Martin was black. In fact, he did not mention Martin’s race until the dispatcher asked about it. But nobody knew that until after the whole country was riled up and some whites had already been assaulted by indignant blacks. Once again, we have the media to thank for that. If only people would be a little more skeptical of what they see and hear on the news, the world might be a better place.

  70. Yurissan, please stop shouting. The entire tone of your comment is rude to start with. We’d rather not have it SHOUTED AT US IN ALL CAPS.

    No one is making Zimmerman out to be a serial killer – where on earth did you get your information?

    No one is making a “big [enough] deal” out of the McClain case to suit you? It was all over the national news, despite it being a senseless, random, isolated incident involving a mentally disturbed lady who stole the first baby she found (which was safely recovered within days). The crime had nothing to do with race – it was a crime of opportunity. (Hello, a black lady stole a white baby to pass off as hers. Does this seem like someone with all their dogs barking?) I live a mile from where it happened, and it’s not exactly a hotbed of racist conspiracy theories around here.

    Now, please take your shouty caps hysteria and move along.

  71. I find it amusing that whenever a discussion of racism against blacks gets started, it never takes long for people to be like “WHAT ABOUT THE WHITES!” They will point out how there are neighborhoods white people aren’t particularly welcome in, or come up with a case where a black guy killed a white guy, as if that’s the same thing as institutionalized racism.

    Then we’re shocked when an undeniably racist incident happens in our own community, such as when one of the four black high school students at my alma mater had the ‘n-word’ scribbled on her locker, or when the entire girls’ volleyball team at a nearby high school got suspended for using “1-2-3-n-word” as their pre-game psych-up chant. We wonder how people can still be so insensitive, yet we can’t even have an honest, non-defensive conversation about 21st century racism while hiding behind Internet anonymity.

  72. I tried that yahoo news story thing where I click on one fear based story and then see what came my way and sure enough, all the stories coming at me after that were about bizarre and random deaths. Be careful what you click on or at least be aware that each click has the potential to bring you more of the same theme.

  73. Library Diva, it’s called balance. I read Chitra’s post to imply that her brown kids are doomed because whites want to kill blacks. That’s a little extreme. My kids are brown too, but I don’t worry about white people beating or killing them. Actually, my Indian and Chinese friends who have been robbed at gunpoint were robbed by blacks, not whites.

    You are amused that I tried to balance out an extreme position. I, on the other hand, am unable to understand why Americans would want people to think we’re all racist.

    So now because I believe in balanced reporting, all the kids around me are going to start using the N-word and it’s my fault. Very logical. Hey Chitra, observe how enlightened, tolerant Americans promote interracial peace.

  74. Library Diva, just curious. How do you talk to your kids about race? Do you tell them that whites are racists who will hurt blacks every chance they get? Because I just treat everyone with the same dignity and expect the same of my kids.

    Unfortunately, the schools have decided that’s not enough; we must study the evil side of racial differences, early and often. The two main things they got from the MLK lesson in KG were: (1) I wish my skin were lighter and (2) my darker classmate is ugly and inferior. My eldest used to say she was going to marry her AA classmate; now all I hear about him is what misbehavior he’s been up to. But by golly, they know why MLK was shot, and that’s the important thing, right?

  75. I should clarify my first paragraph about my kids and race. My kids are knowledgeable about racism, slavery, discrimination, and stupidity. We’ve read and talked and watched movies about it. But what I don’t do is tell them this is how their fellow Americans generally are. I talk about stupid people doing ignorant things sometimes. I tell them that stupid, mean, smart, and nice come in all colors. They know that racist behavior is ignorant and immoral, and NOT inevitable.

  76. @hineata – what we term violent crime is there, on the reservations.. just alot more of just i guess everyday vanilla crimes are on the rez. And yes, murders happen there also. Navajo Times carries news about the Navajo Nation.

  77. institutionalized racism? Who’s the racists – the ones that focus on color, or the ones who disregard it? By the way, I was treated to some *lovely* music at the gas pumps earlier today – a rapper shouting out N**** and all kinds of equally lovely stuff. Is he a racist?

  78. Diane, institutionalized racism means that it’s not all just individual and deliberate instances of bigotry. Many perfectly reasonable and good people unconsciously are biased against minorities.

    That’s why, for example, orchestras that do blind auditions (where the musician sits behind a curtain and is unseen by the listeners) are more diverse than orchestras that don’t do that. That’s also why people with “black” names (that is, names that are more common in the African-American community than outside it) are less likely to get hired than people with other names. And that’s probably why a black and a white person, accused of the same crime, and with the same previous record, will get different prison sentences, assuming they both get convicted.

    It’s not because all the orchestras and all the bosses and all the judges and juries are bigots. Some might be, but the majority of them probably don’t even realize they’re doing it. It’s because unconscious bias seeps in everywhere.

    And then it accumulates. Black people are more likely to be convicted of crimes than white people, even with identical circumstances. People with “black” names are less likely to be interviewed, and even if you get into interview black people are less likely to be hired. People with criminal records are less likely to be hired. Black people with criminal records are basically screwed, and more likely then to be poor. Public housing is often restricted for people with criminal records….

    By focusing only and entirely on individual acts of deliberate and overt bigotry, you’re focusing no attention on the actual problems. Nobody is burning crosses on lawns, nobody is getting lynched – but the numbers don’t lie. It’s still easier to be white than non-white in America.

  79. @ Uly – Well said!

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