WASHINGTON (NNPA) - A composed Thelma Butler, 76, prepared dinner for her family and greeted people with a tender smile as they entered her intimate home in Southwest Washington, DC recently.
But then she broke-down as she recalled the events leading up to the disappearance of her daughter Pamela Butler. Her daughter, 47, a program analyst for the Environmental Protection Agency, is a brown-skinned African-American female, who was last seen February 12, in the 5800 block of
That was also the last time Thelma spoke to her daughter. She said her daughter and her now ex-boyfriend were making plans to take her out for Valentine's Day. Butler told her mother that she would pick her up at 3 p.m.
Five days passed and no one heard from Pamela. Derrick Butler, 46, described his sister as ''real meticulous and methodical. She follows through on everything,'' he said.
Derrick sent his sister a text stating if he didn't hear from her he would file a missing persons report followed by another text saying that their mother was in the hospital. She did not respond and he filed a missing person's report.
Pamela has become one among the average looking men, women and children from a variety of economic, social and ethnic backgrounds who make up the more than 102,764 active missing persons in the U.S., according to the National Crime Information Center. Mainstream media continues to fail to present what is in fact a very diverse missing persons population while mostly concentrating on White women.
Butler's story received local news coverage by the local television networks, News Channel 8, MSNBC and the Washington Post, but not on a national level.
Unlike the stories of Chandra Levy, a congressional intern who had an affair with Rep. Gary Condit (D-California), and Laura Garza, a Brooklyn woman who vanished after leaving a Manhattan nightclub with a serial sex offender, the cases of Butler and other Black women are never covered in great detail on national networks like CNN.
Garza is often described in the media as a ''curly-haired beauty.''
What's the difference between the three women? According to many, race continues to play a primary role.
''Media Backtalk,'' a live discussion with Washington Post columnist and media critic Howard Kurtz, one Washingtonian wrote, ''I cannot recollect one case about a young African-American or Hispanic woman/child going missing. Locally, yes. Nationally, no.... Could you help me understand why the media fails so miserably in this arena?''
Kurtz described it as ''the Missing White Women syndrome,'' and added that the White women ''generally have to be middle class, and it helps if they're attractive.''
According to FBI statistics, in 2008, a total of 778,161 missing person records were entered into the National Crime Information Center's Missing Person File. Thirty-three percent of those missing are African Americans and they are only 12 percent of the U.S. population. Whites make-up 62 percent of the U.S. population and account for nearly 63 percent of the missing victims which includes Hispanics. Males make-up 47 percent of the missing.
Even law enforcement have taken notice.
"It's sad that today people of color are not valued as much as Whites," said Metropolitan Police Detective Richard Adams.''Everybody is worthy of maximum effort when you're trying to find missing people … It (race) doesn't matter to me. If you're missing, I'm gonna' find you.''
A suspect has not been named in Butler's disappearance. Anyone with information is asked to call the Command Information Center at (202) 727-9099. For those who wish to remain anonymous call 1-888-919-CRIME.