The reason we don't hear more about Black serial killers is not because they don't exist. It's because their victims are rarely newsworthy enough to get the same amount of coverage as white victims. This essay contains discussion of serial murder and r/pe. Please use discretion. Even the most depraved and gruesome of the white serial killers who dominated headlines once upon a time continue to be intimately and sometimes even fondly explored through television, film, podcasts, and other forms of entertainment. The most prominent of these killers, who continues to dwell in the social imagination long after his execution, is Ted Bundy—idealized in a way that frames his crimes as more sophisticated than they really were and his acumen as more impressive than it really was. Our culture’s framing of white serial killers like Bundy as tortured geniuses only serves to memorialize them while allowing their celebrity to overshadow the lives they stole. It’s irresponsible. As is this same culture’s neglect for the crimes committed by Black serial killers, so much so that many people continue to say they’ve “never heard of a Black serial killer” and the myth they don’t exist is regularly perpetuated. I bring these two things into conversation with one another because I believe their connection is significant. These two phenomena—both the glamorizing of white serial killers and the obscurity of Black serial killers—are so prevalent because white men are continually afforded humanity and individualism while Black men are pathologized as inherently violent and animalistic, and because society devalues the victims that Black serial killers primarily target. The documentary “Unseen” (2016) focuses on the crimes of Anthony Sowell, a man who served fifteen years for a rape he committed in 1989. In early 2009, a woman named Gladys Wade filed a police report against him, stating that he had sexually assaulted her and tried to kill her. Despite there being visible bruises and blood on her neck, police called her claim “unfounded” and determined that there was “insufficient evidence” to make an arrest. In their report, Wade was described as “not credible” as a victim. That same year, Vanessa Gay was held hostage and raped by Sowell. She also found a decapitated body decomposing in his home. Gay managed to convince Sowell that she wouldn’t tell anyone about what he’d done if he let her go. She called the police to inform them about what had happened and what she had seen, but because she never filed an official police report, the incident was never investigated.
I want things that disrupt the way that governments and societies operate, and so why would I be in favor of any presidential candidate? I’m tired, and that exhaustion is going to follow me deep into the 2020 presidential election. I’m not looking forward to being yelled at about voting for “the right candidate”, I’m not excited about being told that our salvation supposedly lies with a politician who will most likely continue to exercise imperialist policies and enact violent positions against Black and Brown peoples around the globe. I’m not happy or hopeful about any of it because I don’t believe in the United States government, I don’t believe that it is legitimate because it was founded upon colonialist, white supremacist, patriarchal ideals and policies. I’m certainly not looking forward to being told that representational politics are our salvation when I cannot trust anyone who thinks that working within a fundamentally white supremacist, imperialist and colonialist government is good for change and when those versions of incremental change are just forms of appeasement. I am not hopeful about Kamala Harris who as a prosecutor and senator harmed the poor, Black and brown folks, trans people, and sex workers. Her brown skin puts a slightly more pleasant and reassuring face on white supremacy and mass incarceration. She remains a neo-liberal, capitalist, imperialist who is paraded around as a representative of “the resistance” thanks to well-timed photos of her reactions and side-eyes at the more blatant fuckery of her republican colleagues. I’m not excited about Elizabeth Warren who time and time again, despite being called-in and called-out by Indigenous people here in the U.S., has used blood quantum to claim Native American ancestry and position herself as a more “diverse” choice. I’m not excited about any of it because I do not believe that any candidate is prepared to dismantle white supremacy, capitalism and the patriarchy. I’m not excited about the prospect of a woman candidate making the decisions to bomb, invade, maintain or create sanctions against other nations. There is no salvation in white feminism, carceral feminism, imperialist feminism. I want more than what governments are prepared to do: I want the dissolution of oppressions. I want all colonial powers to issue reparations and to return the lands and resources they stole. I want things that disrupt the way that governments and societies operate, and so why would I be in favor of any presidential candidate?
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Those who are harmed the most by Grindr's decision to shut down INTO magazine are queer and trans Black writers. On Tuesday morning Grindr closed down its LGBTQ+ publication, INTO after laying off the magazine’s entire editorial and social media staff, leaving full-time employees without jobs while dozens of freelancers and columnists lost their primary source of income. The layoffs come months after the magazine broke the story that Grindr’s CEO and President Scott Chen had posted that “marriage is between a man and a woman” on his personal Facebook page. According to Out magazine, the decision to close down the publication wasn’t made in retaliation to those reports but rather because the “company will be focusing its efforts on video.” Late last year, ahead of a sale to Bustle Digital Group, millennial news site Mic laid off most of their staff and according to a report by The New York Times, sources said that the venture capitalist-backed publication had relied too heavily on their relationship with Facebook and its algorithm. The efforts of their talented newsroom didn’t pay off for the writers and editors who were only given a month’s severance and health insurance benefits, but it did pay off for the founders, former Goldman Sachs banker, Chris Altchek and co-founder Jake Horowitz, who raised $59.5 million in funds and sold to Bustle for $5 million. While we expect magazines which represent the voices of the marginalized to be spaces where we can thrive, develop our voices and skills, and carve out a platform to not only be represented, heard and celebrated, the companies that own them view their staffs as entirely disposable which means those who are harmed the most by these closures are queer and trans people of color.
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We have to remember that this cultural moment is about far more than the despicable things R. Kelly has done, and we cannot allow others to use him or anyone else's more visible forms of misconduct in order to deflect from their own. This essay contains discussions of r/pe and sexual violence against minors, sexual harassment, and domestic abuse. “Surviving R. Kelly” aired on Lifetime last week, in which women who were preyed on by R. Kelly spoke about the abuse they experienced and witnessed. Several celebrities also made appearances to criticize the singer and his abuses against girls and women. Among them were rapper Joe Budden, radio host Charlamagne Tha God, and music journalist Touré. These three men spoke with conviction about how appalled they were by the details of R. Kelly’s case, and I’m sure they were very convincing to viewers in their admonishment of him despite their own unsavory behavior. Not only has Charlamagne tweeted horrible “jokes” about R. Kelly and statutory rape in the past, but he has also admitted to drugging and date raping a woman and has another rape allegation against him from a woman who says he assaulted her when she was just 15 and he was 22. Joe Budden’s former girlfriend detailed how he physically abused her. Even though the charges were eventually dropped, the rapper did plead guilty to a disorderly conduct charge connected with the incident. Furthermore, graphic photos of his accuser’s bruises around her neck released by TMZ certainly provide evidence of violence. This week, Touré was publicly accused of aggressive sexual harassment by a makeup artist who used to work with him. She spoke up because she saw him in “Surviving R. Kelly” and commented on the irony of him appearing to discuss the singer’s sexual violence after having participated in sexual misconduct himself. She provided screenshots of his apology in a private message to her, which included “Please don't talk badly about me! I'm so ashamed to think of that happening.” Touré issued this response to the public accusation: “On the show, our team, including myself, engaged in edgy, crass banter, that at the time I did not think was offensive for our tight-knit group. I am sorry for my language and for making her feel uncomfortable in any way. As a lead on the show, I should have refrained from this behavior. I have learned and grown from this experience.” Knowing about the allegations against and confessions of Charlamagne and Joe Budden, and now learning about the disgusting behavior of Touré and his shitty apology, seeing them appear in the capacity they did in “Surviving R. Kelly” is dubious, to say the least. This unfortunate juxtaposition has helped me put words to something that has bothered me for over a year now. It starts with Aziz Ansari and the public responses to a woman's account of a "bad date" with the comedian from 2017, in which “Grace” detailed how he made her increasingly uncomfortable with his sexual advances towards her as the night progressed. It was certainly a polarizing moment, with some speaking up to say they had also experienced that kind of treatment on a date and others missing the point by excusing his behavior because they perceived his sexual aggression as normal.
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Bringing a child into the world is also a very legitimate thing to be afraid of and it's not okay to gaslight those who acknowledge to having that fear. The essay contains spoilers for Netflix's “Bird Box” “Bird Box” has some issues. In true horror trope fashion, all three of the only people of color present in the narrative end up sacrificing themselves, becoming willing martyrs so the main white character can ultimately survive. It also falls into the familiar trap of portraying people with mental illness(es) as nothing more than “crazy” and unhinged, relegating them to antagonistic roles and creating a sort of binary antithetical relationship between two types of disability, wherein one becomes an advantageous extension of real-world inspiration porn while the other becomes a monstrous extension of real-world stigma and misinformation. What stands out most about its narrative for me is how it treats Sandra Bullock's character, Malorie, and her relationship to motherhood and children. The film begins with her sister, Jess, gaslighting her about her pregnancy. Malorie is a painter and she is working on a new piece when Jess comes over for a visit. It’s a group of people sitting around a table. At the center is an image of a woman who resembles Malorie, but her form is empty. The rest of the painting has been filled in, but “Malorie” has not. Her sister insists that it’s just a picture of a bunch of lonely people, but Malorie corrects her. “It's about people's inability to connect,” and Jess immediately concludes that this is about the pregnancy. “That's not how it's going to be for you,” she tells her sister. “It's different with a baby. It's an immediate love affair.” “It's not gonna be that way for me,” Malorie responds. “Yes, it will,” Jess insists. “You should be afraid of being alone, not of this.” But motherhood/parenthood isn't always an “immediate love affair” and it does more harm than good to insist that it is. Plenty of parents did not feel connected to their children during their pregnancy or after the trauma of birth, and it's something that's not acknowledged enough. When we perpetuate the myth that all experiences with pregnancy, childbirth, and child-rearing come with these instantaneous, magical connections, it only alienates those who have not had that experience and invalidates the experience they did have. Bringing a child into the world is also a very legitimate thing to be afraid of and it's not okay to gaslight those who acknowledge to having that fear. Parenthood should never be compulsory.
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