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Sex & Gender

stop hunting black sex workers

November 14, 2019
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“You’re not a serial killer, right?”, 20-year-old Sarah Butler asked Khalil Wheeler-Weaver, who had solicited her for sex through a social media app. This was ten days before her body was found in a nature reserve. She was strangled to death.

Have you ever heard of Chester Turner, Lorenzo Gilyard, Eugene Victor Britt, or Shelly Andre Brooks? What about Samuel Little or Lonnie Franklin Jr? No?

When we think about the most horrific serial killers in modern history, names like John Wanye Gacy, Jeffery Dahmer, and Ted Bundy readily come to mind. But what about Black serial killers and the Black sex workers they tend to target? Which makes me wonder, are Black serial killers so much less acknowledged by our society because they’re Black or because of the people they kill?

Maybe we’ll find out with the case of murderer Khalil Wheeler-Weaver in New Jersey who is now on trial for killing three women and attempting to kill a fourth. According to prosecutors, Wheeler-Weaver is another Black man targeting young Black women sex workers who are also dealing with mental illness or homelessness. The presumption being that no one would notice or care if they disappeared. As if to say that Black women in sex work are utterly worthless and inconsequential. And this is not a novel idea. Like the many Black serial killers that came before him, particularly L.A.’s Grim Sleeper or prolific killer Samuel Little, the most vulnerable women in our society are seen as perfect targets for extreme violence.

“They were viewed as somehow less than human, less valuable,” said Essex County Assistant Prosecutor Adam Wells “That maybe they wouldn’t be missed.”