Skip to main content

We're obsessed when it's white women in trouble

By Lisa Bloom, Special to CNN
updated 2:34 PM EDT, Fri May 10, 2013
Jodi Arias reacts on Wednesday, May 8, after an Arizona jury found her guilty of first-degree murder for killing Travis Alexander in June 2008. The conviction means Arias could face the death penalty. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/08/justice/arizona-jodi-arias-verdict/index.html'>Her trial has taken many turns</a> and revealed a story of sex and violence. Jodi Arias reacts on Wednesday, May 8, after an Arizona jury found her guilty of first-degree murder for killing Travis Alexander in June 2008. The conviction means Arias could face the death penalty. Her trial has taken many turns and revealed a story of sex and violence.
HIDE CAPTION
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
The Jodi Arias trial
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lisa Bloom: Americans are obsessed with the perils of young, attractive white women
  • She says titillating stories such as the Arias, Knox and Cleveland cases draw coverage
  • She says a huge number of black men tried for crimes ignored, as are crimes against nonwhites
  • Bloom: A nation of equals must focus on worthy cases regardless of race or gender

Editor's note: Lisa Bloom is an attorney, legal analyst for Avvo.com and author of "Swagger: 10 Urgent Rules for Raising Boys in an Era of Failing Schools, Mass Joblessness and Thug Culture." Follow her on Twitter: @LisaBloom

(CNN) -- Our country is obsessed with the perils of attractive young white women, as this week's trio of high profile crime stories about Amanda Knox, Jodi Arias and the Cleveland kidnapping victims demonstrates. We don't see breathless coverage of the disproportionately large number of African-American men tried for crimes in our system. We see almost no coverage of missing boys, or missing children of color, or crimes against nonwhites.

This week an African-American man in Mississippi, Willie Manning, was about to be executed, though he was denied access to DNA testing. Manning, convicted of murdering two college students in 1994, maintains his innocence and requested the scientific testing, which has exonerated many convicted murderers, including some on death row.

Lisa Bloom
Lisa Bloom

The Mississippi Supreme Court denied that request and ordered his execution. At the last moment, U.S. Justice Department letters tipped the balance in favor of a reprieve. Few media outlets considered the monumental constitutional issues, or even the dramatic ticking clock toward his execution, worthy of mention.

Isn't the fact that we still execute Americans without giving them access to DNA testing a stunning, significant story? Yet it got next to no attention.

Instead, in the last week thousands of hours of attention have been devoted to every detail of just three crime stories.

In Phoenix, Arizona, Jodi Arias (whose father is Latino) was convicted Wednesday of first degree murder, after the jury unanimously found that she intentionally and with premeditation killed her former boyfriend, Travis Alexander. The trial was covered live on HLN and followed closely on social media and other television networks. The next phase of the trial is scheduled to begin May 15.

In Cleveland, Ohio, Amanda Berry reportedly screamed for help, a neighbor came to her aid, and she, her 6-year-old daughter, and two women, Gina DeJesus (who is Latina) and Michelle Knight were freed after a decade of captivity. Ariel Castro was charged today with kidnapping and rape.

Jodi Arias: Death the 'ultimate freedom'
Amanda Knox: I still have panic attacks
Source: Berry 'hit her breaking point'
Families welcome home kidnap victims

Amanda Knox, the American college student who was convicted, then acquitted of the murder of her roommate in Italy, has given tearful interviews in connection with her book tour, as an Italian court has reversed again and held that she should stand trial again for the charges.

Each of these cases includes salacious allegations and high-stakes outcomes. The Cleveland victims were reportedly raped and beaten countless times over the years. Amanda Knox is accused of killing her roommate as part of a drug-fueled sex game. Jodi Arias posed nude for photos and had sex with her victim just before she murdered him.

While each of these crime stories is worthy of news coverage -- especially the Cleveland story, which involved serious questions of alleged law enforcement lapses -- many others are equally worthy yet receive little or no attention, even as every detail of the high-profile stories is pored over and rehashed.

Missing children websites carry pictures of many African-American and Latino kids who have disappeared, and photos of little boys who have vanished. News outlets rarely feature their stories. Their families grieve their absence and yearn for media coverage that could help find their children and energize law enforcement.

And the biggest American crime story of all receives the least mention: that we now incarcerate more of our own people than any other country on earth, or in human history, and that minority males are disproportionately policed, arrested and convicted, and sentenced to harsher sentences. African-American juveniles are six times as likely as whites to be sentenced to prison for identical crimes.

In Washington, three out of every four black men can expect some time behind bars in their lifetimes. In Baltimore and Chicago, the majority of young black men are currently under the control of the criminal justice system. In sheer numbers, more African-Americans are under correctional control today than were enslaved at the time of the Civil War. Our disastrous war on drugs has devastated inner-city communities, and led to large numbers of African-Americans being legally barred from voting, jury duty, public housing, food stamps, student loans, and many other civic rights and benefits, often for life.

We cannot fix these problems if we are unaware of them. We cannot get a groundswell for reform if we are distracted by titillating outlier stories.

The media choose which stories to make high profile, driven by public interest in those stories. We cannot call ourselves a nation of equals until we pay equal attention to all those in our criminal justice system whose stories merit our attention, regardless of their race or gender.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Lisa Bloom.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 7:34 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
updated 4:33 PM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
updated 1:22 PM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
updated 12:42 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
updated 4:43 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
updated 4:58 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
updated 9:42 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
updated 8:21 AM EDT, Fri October 17, 2014
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
updated 4:27 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
updated 12:07 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
updated 7:53 AM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
updated 12:29 AM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
updated 3:38 PM EDT, Thu October 16, 2014
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
updated 6:45 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
updated 1:00 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed October 15, 2014
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
updated 1:44 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
updated 9:35 AM EDT, Sat October 18, 2014
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
updated 10:08 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
updated 7:25 AM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
updated 4:04 PM EDT, Tue October 14, 2014
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
updated 9:07 AM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
updated 6:50 PM EDT, Mon October 13, 2014
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
updated 11:43 AM EDT, Sat October 11, 2014
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT