Questions About Race and the Media Coverage of Annie Le’s Murder

By Guest Contributor Gordon Gartrelle, originally posted at We are respectable negroes

Based on reports from national media outlets, the only people who ever go missing seem to be:

a. White
b. Female
c. Thin and relatively attractive
d. Upper class (by virtue of income or education)

What, then, do we make of the case of Annie Le, the Asian American Yale grad student who was reported missing last week and, unfortunately, found dead earlier this week? From what I can recall, Le is the first Asian American woman to have received national attention in a missing person’s case.

Some quick questions:

1. Does the fact that an Asian American woman got national attention normally reserved for white women count as progress? Is this an indication that a racial barrier has been broken? Can we expect more national coverage on missing women of color (not immediately, of course, but perhaps in the future)?

2. Does Le’s case going national say something about how far Asian Americans have been assimilated? Have Asian Americans, like Irish-Americans in the early 20th Century, been granted a pass into the hallowed hall of Whiteness? Did the fact that Le was going to marry a white/Jewish man make her more worthy of coverage?

3. What does it say about corporate media and its vision of America that a missing person must possess characteristics b. through d. in order for their disappearance to be deemed newsworthy?

By the way, there were still issues with how the police handled the situation, and some wonder whether her race had something to do with it.