Thursday, September 17, 2009

Thoughts on the Annie Le case

It bothers me to write about this case. I think that Annie's family, fiance, and friends probably just want this nightmare to end. So I feel like, by writing about the case, I'm doing a disservice to Annie and her family. But the case has been bothering me.

When I first shared the case with a friend, she seemed surprised at the amount of publicity, especially considering that Annie had been missing for only a couple days at that point. Finally, she asked the question I knew what bothering her: was Annie white?

Missing white woman syndrome refers to the obscene amount of press coverage devoted to missing white women (more coverage for blond, attractive, not-shit-stirring ones). People disappear all the time, unfortunately, but you don't always hear about them. You're more likely to, however, if it's a white woman who's gone missing.

Was Annie white? Well, she was light-skinned, but she was of Asian, not Caucasian descent. My friend and I found this puzzling. If she's not white, what does this mean? Does this mean that MWWS actually refers to skin color and not ethnicity (color being actual color, and ethnicity being, say, Caucasian, African, Asian, etc.)? Or is there something else about her? Is it because her wedding was coming up? Because she went to an elite, Ivy League graduate school? I'm not sure what her fiance's ethnicity is, but based on his last name, he is probably white; is that why? Does it have anything to do with the myth of vulnerability of Asian women?

I'm not trying to suggest that we shouldn't be concerned with missing women, white or not. But in a culture where missing white women get all the coverage, my friend and I were confused. However, we were glad that people were looking for her. No missing person should be forgotten solely based on race.

Thanks to my intersecting identities as sexual assault survivor/scholar and total forensics/true crime documentary junkie, I made some predictions to another friend of mine regarding the case. I understand that the thought of me making predictions seems insensitive; however, I see it as part of solving the case and recognizing where violence comes from. After all, if something becomes predictable, then we've found a pattern that perhaps we can address.

As for the predictions, I told my friend the following: the murderer would probably be a staff member, although maybe another student. He would be male. He would either have absolutely no relationship to Annie, or such a relationship would be professional only, and not remotely close. I also predicted that the murdered probably was angry because of a real or perceived rejection from Annie, who probably had no idea that she was in any danger from this person she barely knew, or knew not at all.

Why? First off, it's easy to predict that the murderer had to have been Yale staff or faculty, or another student; no one else can actually access the building. Even before her body was discovered, it made sense that she was still there; no security camera saw her leave. Unless there was an elaborate kidnapping, we would have seen her leave. So that eliminates, within reason, anyone who didn't have access to the building.

Once her body was discovered, that fact was cemented, and I suspected staff. I don't think a student or faculty member would have thought to put her body there, and since she was in the lab's animal facility, I figured we were looking at animal staff.

Why do I suspect this particular relationship or lack-thereof between Annie and her murderer? There do not seem to be any other reasonable motives in this case. None. However, violence against women so often hinges on male entitlement to women that it was the first thing that came to mind.

Now, an animal technician has been arrested and charged with Annie's murder. All I can get right now is that police are calling the murder "workplace violence." Well, that's specific, thanks! However, I consider this more evidence to support my predictions. We'll have to see.

I want to see justice for Annie and for her family. Violence sucks.

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