The Whiteness of Remembrance:
Tim Bosma, Rehataeh Parsons, and Jane Creba
By Jorge Antonio Vallejos
It was an important and honest comment.
It’s true that Tim Bosma, a white man from Ontario, Canada, is all over the news. Rightfully so. He’s missing. Everyone who has been murdered or goes missing should be given media attention.
But it doesn’t work out that way.
North American media has a history of highlighting missing and murdered white people, women in particular. In terms of women going missing some call it Missing White Woman Syndrome. The recent case of three women–Gina DeJesus, Amanda Berry, Michelle Knight–held captive in a basement in Cleveland, Ohio is a perfect example.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote 36 articles about Amanda Berry, a white woman, and 19 about Gina DeJesus, a Latina woman of colour, during the 10 years that they were missing.
That’s almost double the coverage given to a white woman.
We don’t have to look far to see the same thing happening on the stolen land now known as Canada. Recently, the media was saturated with news about the suicide of Rehtaeh Parsons, a young white woman who was gang raped and decided to end her life after much humiliation by her rapists and her community.
Parsons became a national tragedy. What happened to her was sad, wrong, and horrible. Her rapists should be punished. Her case should be shared and learned from. And rape culture has to be acknowledged, exposed, talked about, and challenged.
But no one was questioning why the Parsons case was given so much attention. Hundreds, if not thousands, of women are gang raped every year in Canada. Why did Parsons case become a national story?
Parsons was white, young, pretty, and middle class.
Parsons became Canada’s new national tragedy.
Parsons became the new Jane Creba.
December 26, 2005 saw Jane Creba, a young white woman, lose her life to a stray bullet on Yonge Street in the middle of the day during Canada’s busiest business day: Boxing Day. It became known as the Boxing Day Shooting and Creba became Canada’s national tragedy.
The then Mayor of Toronto, David Miller, marched up and down Yonge Street demanding an end to violence. He never marched around Cherry Beach where many sexworkers have been killed and dumped. He never walked with activists protesting the murders and disappearances of what is now 800+ Aboriginal women. He never spoke to the media about the countless women of colour who have been killed in the city he ran for years.
Canada cares about young, white, pretty, middle and upper class women.
White men run everything so of course Tim Bosma is a priority in the media at the moment.
Apart from the 800+ Missing and Murdered Aboriginal women, proof enough that the media cares about white folk more than anyone, I’ll give a few examples of women drowned out by the white woman syndrome practiced by media.
A year after Jane Creba was killed by a stray bullet 19 year old Black woman Chantel Dunn was also killed by a stray bullet in Toronto (2006). Dunn was a second year student at York University and was shot while sitting in a car. Her killer has not been found.
Have you heard of Chantel Dunne? Did Dunne get the same media attention as Jane Creba? Did she become Canada’s national tragedy?
Whiteness is not only about skin it’s about class and privilege. Not all white folk are middle or upper class, and not all white folk have the same privileges (other than skin privilege, of course) as middle and upper class white folk. Stephine Beck was a white sex worker who was murdered by Wayne Ryczak in 2007.
Ryczak was given 1 day in jail for killing Beck.
Why? Wayne Ryczak is straight, white, makes $75 000 a year, and belongs to a Christian church. He matters. Sexworkers don’t matter in this society. Stephine Beck, a sexworker, did not matter.
Have you heard of Stephine Beck? Did Beck get large amounts of media attention? Did Beck become Canada’s national tragedy?
Bridget Takyi was a 27 year old mother of two boys brutally killed by her ex partner in Toronto, January 2013. She was on her way to work when Emmanuel Owusu-Ansah stabbed her several times and burned her body leaving it unrecognizable.
Have you heard of Bridget Takyi? Did Takyi get large amounts of media attention? Did Takyi become Canada’s national tragedy?
There is a whiteness of remembrance in media and society that has to be challenged.
Aboriginal women and women of colour are affected by violence at higher levels than white women. Aboriginal women and women of colour matter. Aboriginal women and women of colour deserve the same media attention as white women. Aboriginal women and women of colour are people too.
Below is a poem, Shane It Isn’t Fair, I wrote in 2008 about this topic. It was published in the 2009 YU Free Press Feminist Issue: