Black TikTok creators are widely criticizing the lack of media coverage given to fellow TikTok star Lauren Smith-Fields, who was found unresponsive in her apartment after a date procured through the app Bumble, Insider reports.
Smith-Fields was found dead in her apartment in Bridgeport, Connecticut by an unfamiliar man, her family told Winchester News 12. Her relatives described the man as an "older white man" whom she met on the dating app. It has since been reported that the man who was last with Lauren has been identified as 37 year old Matthew LaFountain.
According to the report, Smith-Fields' family claims that they have not received adequate information from the authorities and that they are mishandling the investigation. Now, a month later, Shantell Fields, Smith-Fields' mother, said that the police asked her not to call anymore. "We haven't had any answers since the day that we found out that she passed away," she said.
In a statement given last month, the Bridgeport Police Department said they "take these concerns very seriously," according to Winchester News 12.
Many prominent TikTokers have derided the lack of public attention on the Smith-Fields case, in comparison to Gabby Petito, a white woman, who went missing in September. The creators have characterized the differentiation as "missing white woman syndrome,” a term phenomenon sociologists deploy to assert that missing white women and girls are far more likely to garner media attention and public outcry than women of color.
Kate Dawson Winkler, the host of the podcast "Tenfold More Wicked" and a senior lecturer in broadcast journalism at UT-Austin specializing in true crime, explained that there is just "not that same kind of attention" for people of color, indigenous people, and transgender people whenever they are reported missing.
"Where is the social media outcry and the overwhelming amount of information when it is somebody that falls into that category?" Winkler said. "You just don't see it."
TikToker Fiona Meehan said in a video at the end of December, that the lack of coverage of Smith-Fields’ case is "enraging” and the post has been viewed 12 million times.
"I feel like if people are loud about it, maybe something will happen," Meehan said. "Especially right now, while it's fresh — put pressure on the police, because they aren't saying anything about it and it's very upsetting."
The deafening silence surrounding Smith-Fields as opposed to the Petito case is just another example of how society renders Black women and other women of color invisible.
"We aren't seen as fragile or as precious," Meehan said. "This just is another example of how Black people are treated differently in this country than white people."
A GoFundMe has been established by Smith-Fields' family to help "bring the answers we are looking for to light." So far, $25,000 has been raised.