I spent last Saturday night watching HBO’s Tales of the Grim Sleeper, a documentary about accused serial killer Lonnie Franklin Jr. You can watch the trailer below:
What disturbed me most about the documentary was the level of indifference shown to the victims. Franklin’s friends in particular let on that they knew something was off with Franklin’s dealings and attitude towards women but brushed it off. The acronym NHI was attached to the Grim Sleeper crime scenes: no human involved. In that acronym we see why it was possible for these slayings to not be taken seriously. The reason for the lack of concern among Franklin’s circle intersects with that of the LAPD: an inability to value the humanity of sex workers. The faces of the Grim Sleeper’s deceased victims and those who escaped to bear witness both cry out for recognition and justice.
As the credits rolled a familiar set of numbers began flashing through my head. The number of missing African-American women. The fact that we comprise only 7% of the US population but make up 40% of sex trafficking victims. Issues such as these- and the invisibility which accompanies them needs to be addressed-but at times I simply don’t want to do it. I loathe having to be ‘Mrs. Me Too’, to having to constantly raise my hand to say “hey I am HERE!” I loathe having to remind those within my ethnic group that the narratives of their mothers, sisters and daughters are part of the modern African-American experience as well.
The phrase ‘Black lives matter’ has served as the rallying cry for a new movement. However it’s a sentiment that I’ve had difficulty co-signing. The intimate knowledge of how those within my ethnic group can devalue each other based on gender and/or sexual orientation has taught me that the lesson of Black lives matter isn’t just an external one. It is my belief that raising awareness of the experiences of AA women and girls will lead to a more complete picture, making our lives more than a postcript in our community’s story.