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Would our children's deaths carry such media attention?

ELINOR TATUM Publisher and Editor in Chief | 7/6/2011, 5:07 p.m.

Every time a child dies, it is a tragedy. Every time a young person goes missing, our hearts ache for the parents. Every time an amber alert goes out, we wonder who the child is and we hope that they will be found.

But, for the most part, every time you hear of a missing child and a massive search, it is for a child who is not from our community. When Black children are killed or go missing, the attention from the white media is slim to none. But when it is not a child of color, we still talk about them dozens of years later.

  • JonBenet Ramsey
  • Etan Patz
  • Adam Walsh

These names and faces have become synonymous with missing children. Never has there been such an outpouring when a child of color is abducted or murdered.

So now we have the case of the death of Caylee Anthony. From the moment she disappeared, and throughout the circus that her mother's trial became, there has been nonstop news coverage of the case. With yesterday's verdict, which stunned some, it is likely that, after not being convicted on the two most serious of the charges against her, Casey Anthony will soon go free.

But what if Casey had been a young Black or Latino mother out partying days after her daughter's death? And what if that woman was caught lying to the police and so on? First, would there even be an all-out search for a Black or Brown Caylee? And second, would a Black or Brown Casey have even the slightest chance in front of a jury? The answer to both is probably no. She would have been thrown in jail.

The sad truth is that when it comes to Black or Brown children going missing, many media outlets and the public in general just doesn't seem to care all that much. And in the case of Casey, if she were Black or Brown, the trial would have been swift and the death penalty almost certain.

There is a double standard in this country, both in life and in death. The life of a child of color is worth less. That is why we have wars in which disproportionate numbers of our young people of color and the children of the poor wind up fighting, dying or being physically maimed or destroyed to scant public concern or comment. If there was a draft that brought all folks to the lines-even those born of privilege-the national conversation would be very different.

At the birth of our country, our people were viewed as only three-fifths of a person. For too many of our fellow citizens, not much has changed in their perspective.

We need to stop the double standard, and our children and young people need to be valued the way they value themselves. Our children and young people are just as precious as theirs, and they deserve caring respect, societal love and concern.

We need to fix this problem so we can be a more just, upstanding nation that fully lives up to its potential.