Media’s Lack of Coverage and General Society’s Lack of Compassion Regarding Serial Murders of Black Women
This year will be the 10th anniversary of the Imperial House Murders(Anthony Sowell), the 25th anniversary of Henry Louis Wallace(Taco Bell Strangler), and the 40th anniversary of the Boston Murders.
This will be a year-long series on how mainstream media and society disregards the serial murders of Black women in America. Eleven years ago, I wrote a blog post, Crimes Against Black Women: Four Casesregarding the neglect of media and police coverage regarding murders of Black women by people of all races and ethnicities as well as the insensitivity of the general public. I going to discuss the Anthony Sowell murders, along with the Grim Reaper, and of course, Henry Louis Wallace(a.k.a. Bad Henry). There has been other serial murderers of Black women in the past and current centuries. Such as Gary Heidnikwho murdered several Black women in the Philadelphia area. Benjamin Atkins in Detroit in 1991-1992 murders of 11 women. East Cleveland killer Michael Madison. Larry Bright killed eight Black women in the Peoria area back during 2004-2005. The Gary Indiana killer back in 2012. The still unsolved serial murder case in Rocky Mount, N.C. in 2009. But my focus will be on the four cases at hand. The police should have warned that a murderer in the community and to make sure community has an input in solving murders and to bring the perpetrators to justice. How the media should have had more sensitivity to those who are marginalized.
The invisible victims of Anthony Sowell:
The Grim Sleeper Documentary
Here are some of Chester Turner’s victims, pretty young women
We all know that mainstream media often saturate missing and murdered women with stories about beautiful, middle class White and Latina female victims such as Chandra Levy, Mollie Tibbitts, Nixzmary Brown, Laci Peterson, Kate Steinle, etc. There’s a label for the aforementioned victims, coined as the “Missing Beautiful White Woman Syndrome.” They’re also considered victims deserving of sympathy, compassion, and empathy. Sure, the pedestalization of White American women help solidify the idea of young, beautiful White women as worthy of remembrance. They, along with lighter-skinned non black women of Color are the standard of beauty in America today. We Americans still refer to celebrity White women as American Sweethearts who captured the hearts of Americans and others worldwide. They’re considered as sweet, easy on the eyes, and personable. Also, non black women and girls get the assumption of innocence regardless of circumstances.
In contrast, society have very little compassion for Black women victims of crime, let alone serial killers. As a matter of fact, Black female victims are labeled in American society and media as being “loose”, “fast”, “crackheads”, “runaways”, drug users, “sluts”,”whores”, “thots”, mentally unstable, “baby-making machines”, and “welfare queens”. Likewise, the mainstream American media and the general public tendency to label Black females as “street women”, “Chickenheads”,”prostitutes”, “ghetto”,”junkies”, “ratchet” and so on. For a very long time, Black women academics long contended that the controlling images of Black women(Jezebel, Mammy, Sapphire, Welfare Queen, Crackheads, etc.) are employed to stigmatize an already marginalized group of women. The jezebelstereotype especially. That stereotype justified abuse of Black women by White and Black men since slavery. Such abuse rarely invoke outrage from the public. That needs to change.
Going back to the Madonna/whore ideology. From historic times, society in general always label women as either good, chaste women, wives, mothers, nuns or they’re loose women, prostitutes, and mistresses/courtesans. Renaissance artists reflected societal views of women through the Madonna paintings by famous artists Lippi,Botticelli, Raphael, etc., or nude paintings such as the Venus of Urbino by Titian.
In American society, the Madonna/whore ideology is strong, tinged with class and race components. White and other non black women, especially East Asian women are considered the “sacred Madonna” while Black, Native American, and certain Latinas, especially the Caribbean Latinas are labeled as “bad women” deserving of their fate. This view is far more widespread as the lack of coverage, the disparaging remarks in and out of cyberspace, and general indifference on the part of law enforcement to solve murders of Black women in America and Indigenous women in Canada.
The Madonna/whore mythology were used in how the public reacted to murders of Black women.
For example, the Cleveland convenience store owner showed sympathy to Anthony Sowell, whom he said in the Unseen interview that “he took out the garbage”. That’s a blatantly hateful remark. He saw the victims, living and dead, of Anthony Sowell as being “worthless” and “undeserving” to him. In referring to the slow reaction on the part of Charlotte police in connection with the Henry Louis Wallace serial murder case, a concerned young woman in East Charlotte stated that the police did not care because they viewed the young female murder victims as “fast girls who hang out a lot”.
In the December 2014 issue of Vanity Fair article covering the Grim Sleeper and how law enforcement turned a blind eye to the serial murder of Black women, Franklin’s son Christopher describes meeting L.A.P.D. officers who asked if they could shake his hand, aware that he was the son of the Grim Sleeper. Broomfield was dumbstruck by the revelation. “Christopher told me his father had a lot of fans in law enforcement. Some police officers actually admired Lonnie for ‘cleaning up the streets.’ That seemed, to me, too incredible—that a serial killer could be a person who was respected within certain sections of law enforcement.” Unfortunately, those attitudes are widespread in society, seeing poor, Native American, Latina, and Black women as being of lesser value than other American women.
There’s a deeply troubling disparity in reporting the disappearance and homicides of female victims reflects racial inequality and institutionalized racism in the social structure. Oftentimes when reporting, there’s a considerable bias when it comes to Black American female murder victims. The reporters always want probe into the backgrounds of such women, their sexual histories, criminal records, the neighborhoods where they reside, their work/education backgrounds, history of drug/alcohol addictions, and whom their associations were as if they done something wrong to cause their demise.
They were rarely described in the media as being attractive, beautiful, smart, intelligent, serious, wonderful wives, good mothers, or pretty. Those descriptions are reserved for middle/upper class and/or famous non black victims. With precious few exceptions, there are very few media outlets cover Black female homicide/serial murder victims with sympathy and compassion.
The Cleveland victims of Anthony Sowell received coverage and even some compassion from local newspaper journalists. Writer Steve Miller wrote a compassionate book focusing on the victims and their lives in the book, Nobody’s Women: The Crimes and Victims of Anthony Sowell. They didn’t focus too much on the victims’ drug/alcohol addictions, criminal records, poor family lives, etc. Instead, they discuss about their lives before circumstances took them away. Even the Grim Sleeper victims are rehabilitated by author Christine Pilasek in her book, The Grim Sleeper: Lost Women of South L.A. Of course, the beautiful victims of Henry Louis Wallace. Although they didn’t get much coverage outside of Charlotte, they were written sympathetically as well.
Ten years ago, I wrote a blog post about violence against Black women. I wrote this in an attempt to get America and the world to acknowledge the violence done to Black women in America. So many people, lurkers, scholars, crime experts came to this website for knowledge and information. However, I will discuss the various serial murders of Black women in full detail and to bring more awareness to the public. Here’s the link to my old blog post:
This will be at least ten segments regarding media and societal disregard for Black women and girls who are victims of serial murder. They’re not in the media and the general society don’t care in the least about them unless they’re passing judgment regarding Black serial murder victims like the owner of a Cleveland convenience store featured in the 2016 documentary, Unseen.
Black women and girls were devalued both in life and death. That attitude needs to change.
In the year-long series, I will be discussing at length the Anthony Sowell murders and his victims, living and dead. How the city of Cleveland neglected impoverished Pleasant Hill neighborhood, the failings of the police, the residents, and business owners in detecting the murders and the smell of death along with it, the fallout of the Sowell case, and of course, the survivors of Sowell. Their voices matter as well.
In the second series, I’ll do a lengthy series on the victims of Henry Louis Wallace. Third, the Grim Sleeper, and finally the 1979 Boston murders and how feminists and Black groups organized to bring awareness of the murders of Black women in Boston.
Here is the outline of the upcoming segments regarding serial killers of Black women:
I Anthony Sowell: The Imperial House Murders
A. The Victims and Survivors of Anthony Sowell
1. Tonia Carmichael
2. Tishana Culver
3. Leshonda Long
4. Crystal Dozier
5. Michelle Mason
6. Kim Y. Smith
7. Amelda Hunter
8. Nancy Cobbs
9. Diane Turner
10. Janice Webb
11. Telacia Fortson
1. Latundra Billups
2. Vanessa Gay
3. Shawn Morris
4. Gladys Wade
5. Vernice Crutcher
6. Melvette Sockwell
B. Media Coverage and Trial
2. Witness testimonies
3. Testimonies from Survivors
4. Sentencing Phase
b. Vice’s Right Red Hand: The Cleveland Strangler
c. Investigation Discovery Killer Instinct
a. Nobody’s Women by Steve Miller
b. House of Horrors by Robert Sberna
a. Proposed 11 Angels Memorial
4. The Victims’ families’ continued pain
a. Lawsuit and subsequent settlement with the City of Cleveland
b. Lack of counseling for the victims’ families
c. Survivors of Sowell and their perspectives
a. Kathy Wray of the Imperial Women
II Henry Louis Wallace: The Taco Bell Strangler, a.k.a Bad Henry
A. The Victims and their lives
1. Tashonda Bethea
2. Sharon Lavette Nance
3. Caroline Love
4. Shawna Denise Hawk
5. Audrey Ann Spain
6. Valencia Michele Jumper
7. Michelle Denise Stinson
8. Vanessa Little Mack
9. Brandi June Henderson
10. Betty Jean Baucom
11. Debra Ann Slaughter
B. Media Coverage and Trial
1. Venue change and jury selection
2. Trial and Sentencing
C. Legacies and Memorials
1. Mothers of Murdered Offspring
a. Dee Sumpter- Shawna Hawk’s mother
2. Documentaries and Movies
a. Investigation Discovery Bad Henry
b. Southern Fried Homicide: Too Many Women
3. Academic Case Studies
4. The Victims’ families’ legacies
a. Tribute To The Victims of Henry Louis Wallace
7. Sheriff Gary McFadden
III The Grim Sleeper Murders/South Side Murders in Los Angeles
A. Why so Long?
B. Police and Public Apathy
D. Arrest and fallout of the LAPD
a. Labeling of victims: NHI(no human involved)
b. Troubling support of the serial murderer by the LAPD
E. Trial and Sentencing
F. Media and Academic Studies
1. Book: The Grim Sleeper: The Lost Women of South Central L.A.
2. Only Good Victims Need Apply: Tales of the Grim Sleeper
1. Margaret Prescod
IV The Boston Murders
A. The media coverage of victims
B. Feminists and Black community criticism of the handling of the murders
1. Six Black Women: Why Did They Die?
a. Combahee River Collective
1. Barbara Smith