On the upcoming episode of Facebook Watch’s Emmy-winning web series Red Table Talk, Jada Pinkett Smith and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris (aka Gammy) are joined by kidnapping survivor Elizabeth Smart and former federal prosecutor turned news anchor and author Laura Coates to unpack why some missing persons cases get more spotlight than others — and how women of color are particularly vulnerable to becoming someone’s “perfect prey.”
Titled “Help Us Find Missing People with Elizabeth Smart,” the latest episode was inspired by the pleas of Gabby Petito’s family to give all missing persons the same “heightened awareness” and attention their daughter’s case received last month.
Stirring mainstream conversations about what experts referred to as the phenomenon of “missing white woman syndrome” — the public and media’s tendency to focus on missing white female victims in favor of those of color, regardless of their gender — Pepito’s case shed light on the disparities faced by both families and individuals when one is missing and Black.
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“I just cannot imagine what it would be like to have your child go missing,” Gammy emotionally said as she spoke to Smart and Jada. “And then feel like you’re not getting the help you need to find them.”
Tragically, her words sounded eerily similar to that of Jelani Day’s mother some days before the 25-year-old grad student’s body was found.
“I want to say that I believe that every single person deserves to have attention in regards to being missing,” Jada emphasized. “I want to be really clear about that.”
When asked about what she’s learned as a legal expert regarding Petito’s case and the shockwaves it created, Laura Coates said:
“You know, there’s a symbiotic relationship that has to happen. The idea that law enforcement, and a suspicious public, and the family and the media — all of this has to come together in this perfect storm. Becuase what you saw and why we even have the video footage we’re see of Gabby Petito, and whatever alteraction occur between her and her fiancé, is because somebody saw something and called the police.”
“See something, say something,” Coates counseled to those wanting to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. Regarding when you’re a bystander to a situation that your judgment tells you is off or might put someone in harm’s way, Coates further advised, “You should be nosy. Nosy saves lives.”
“Everybody teaches you what you should do if you catch on fire, [and] to look both ways when you cross the street,” Smart noted at one point in the episode. “Thinking back on my exact situation, nobody really tells you what you should do [if you’re kidnapped].”
If you’re interested in the rest of what was discussed and in hearing the stories of a few families with loved ones currently missing, view the all-new episode of Red Table Talk on Wednesday, October 13 at 9 am PT / 12 pm ET via Facebook Watch.
If you’re seeking resources to help find someone, check out Our Black Girls.
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