Lauren Smith-Fields, a college student from Bridgeport, Connecticut, was planning to celebrate her 24th birthday in Greece. Instead, her family and friends spent the day marching to the Bridgeport, Connecticut mayor’s office to demand that something be done about her death.
It has now been over a month since Smith-Fields, a 23-year-old Black woman, was found dead by a man she met on a dating app. It took over a month for the police to open a criminal investigation.
Smith-Fields’ family, as well as friends and activists, have been demanding justice after the Bridgeport police continuously blew off the case.
It was just a few months ago that the internet banded together to solve the mysterious disappearance of Gabby Petito, a 22-year-old white woman from Long Island, New York. Black TikTok creators are criticizing the media and public for a lack of attention towards Smith-Fields’ case, especially considering the nationwide attention Petito’s case received.
Smith-Fields’ mother, Shantell Fields, said the Bridgeport Police Department never informed her family about the death. She found out when she showed up at her daughter’s apartment after not hearing from her for nearly two days. A note on the door read, “If you’re looking for Lauren, call this number.”
Fields and her son called the number and were soon met by the landlord who informed her of her daughter’s death. It had been more than a day since Smith-Fields’ body had been found, yet the Bridgeport Police Department had not contacted her or her family.
Fields and her son were told the detective in charge of the case would arrive shortly to speak to them. After waiting for over an hour, they called the number again but were told to “stop calling” and they were abruptly hung up on.
Over a month after Smith-Fields’ mysterious death, the Bridgeport Police Department finally opened a criminal investigation. Smith-Fields’ date, a 37-year-old white man, was never questioned by the police, nor was he even considered a suspect. The detective on the case told her family to not worry about the man, describing him as “a really nice guy.”
Medical examiners finally found that her cause of death was an overdose of fentanyl combined with prescription medication and alcohol.
The Smith-Fields family has accused the police of being “racially insensitive” in investigating her death. They plan to sue the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Back in September, it was nearly impossible to turn on the television or go on social media without seeing attention around Petito’s mysterious disappearance. What seemed to be worldwide advocacy for women turned out to be advocacy for only white women.
In 2004, American news anchor Gwen Ifill coined the term “missing white woman syndrome” in reference to the media coverage of missing-person cases involving white women relative to the shortfall of media coverage involving women of color. Smith-Fields’ case is a perfect example of this.
While we would like to believe the lack of attention regarding this case is not racially motivated, it is undeniable that far less media attention is given to women of color. While white women like Petito receive national coverage when they are in danger, women of color are often overlooked or ignored.
The Smith-Fields family deserves time to grieve their loss, but instead, their energy is going toward demanding justice for their daughter. The media and the public need to take some of this weight off of them by fighting for an explanation just like they did for Petito.
Let’s give this the same attention we gave to the Petito case. #JusticeForLaurenSmithFields should be trending until justice is finally served.