Lauren Smith-Fields was found unresponsive in her apartment after a Bumble date in December.
Her family said they have been left with many unanswered questions, including the cause of death.
TikTokers are criticizing the lack of coverage, using the hashtag #justiceforlaurensmithfields.
Lauren Smith-Fields was reported as unresponsive in her apartment in Bridgeport, Connecticut after a date on December 12, 2021.
The 23-year-old was found dead by an unidentified man, her family told Winchester News 12, describing the man as an "older white man" whom Smith-Fields met on the dating app Bumble. Smith-Fields' family told the outlet they had been left with several unanswered questions about her death.
Now, TikTokers are criticizing the lack of media coverage and public attention on Smith-Fields, a Black woman, and comparing it to the attention Gabby Petito, a white woman, received when she went missing in September. Many creators have referenced a phenomenon sociologists call "missing white woman syndrome," where cases of missing white women and girls are far more likely to make the news than women of color.
Those concerns are compounded by Smith-Fields' relatives saying that they haven't been receiving enough information from police.
Smith-Fields' father told Winchester News 12 that he had paid for a second autopsy himself, because he was "uncomfortable" with the way the case was being handled.
A month later, on January 13, Smith-Fields' mother, Shantell Fields, told Yahoo News that the police department told them to stop calling.
"We haven't had any answers since the day that we found out that she passed away," she said.
The Bridgeport Police Department said in a statement at the end of December that it "takes these concerns very seriously," according to Winchester News 12. There appear to be no public statements about Smith-Fields on the department's Facebook or Twitter pages posted since. The police chief did not respond to Insider's request for comment.
TikTokers are trying to spread the word to counteract 'missing white woman syndrome'
TikToks under the hashtag #justiceforlaurensmithfields have received 4.2 million views.
True crime and travel TikToker Haley Toumaian, who has 751,000 followers, said Smith-Fields deserves for her name to be "everywhere."
"She died under mysterious circumstances," she said in a video posted at the beginning of January, which received 1 million views.
TikToker Fiona Meehan said in a video at the end of December, which was viewed 12 million times, that the lack of coverage was "enraging."
Kate Dawson Winkler, host of the podcast "Tenfold More Wicked" and a senior lecturer in broadcast journalism at UT-Austin who specializes in true crime, told Insider there is just "not that same kind of attention" for people of color, indigenous people, and transgender people when they go 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."
Criminologist Zach Sommers wrote in an analysis of news reports published in Northwestern University School of Law's Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology in 2016, that missing white woman syndrome is likely "a real, empirical phenomenon."
"The race and gender disparities are evident across multiple sources and using multiple methods of analysis," he wrote. "The disparities are also quite large and, for the most part, consistent with the differences predicted by MWWS."
Creators hope that their videos will make a difference
Meehan told Insider that she decided to share Smith-Fields' story on her TikTok because the family's interview had upset her so much.
"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."
@eggsyolkedeggs thank you @k3mistryproductions for bringing attention to this #protectblackwomen #justiceforlaurensmithfields ♬ original sound - Fionanicol_
The silence surrounding Smith-Fields in comparison to the reaction over the Petito case is triggering, Meehan told Insider.
"We aren't seen as, as fragile or as precious," she said. "This just is another example of how Black people are treated differently in this country than white people."
Anthony Hyland, a speaker and independent journalist who has 1.5 million followers on TikTok told Insider he posted about Smith-Fields because of his passion for the "Protect Black Women" movement. It started on Twitter and Instagram started in March of 2020 after Breonna Taylor was shot and killed by Louisville police, and called for more protection of Black women and awareness of the violence they face. It is unclear who started the hashtag, but tweets from Halle Berry and Megan Thee Stallion raised further awareness, and people continue to share the stories of missing and killed Black women and girls.
"It's a literal mantra that should be taken with the utmost seriousness," Hyland told Insider.
Meehan said she believes people are beginning to understand how people of color are treated differently thanks to social media campaigning, and the platform is an effective way of spreading awareness. So she feels things are heading in the right direction.
"But we've still got a long way to go in fixing the problem," she said. "When we say 'Black lives matter,' this is what we mean."
There is currently a GoFundMe set up by Smith-Fields' family, which is raising money to help "bring the answers we are looking for to light." It has raised about $25,000 so far.
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