Serial killer targeting black men is not a top priority

OPINION - The trend of initial silence during moments when African-Americans are being targeted is terribly upsetting because the silence puts more lives at risk...

A serial killer has been on the loose for months and only recently has the story reached the attention of national media. Since mid-May, law enforcement officials in Flint, Michigan and surrounding areas have had their hands full hunting down a serial killer that’s been roaming the streets and knifing innocent victims. The killer has been identified as in his late-20s to mid 30s, white male, has a goatee, and wears a cap during his attacks. According to recent reports, the latest attack may have included an accomplice.

He has attacked at least 17 men, murdered five and all but one of his victims has been African-American. Now, there are reports of an investigation linking the Flint killer to two stabbings in northern Virginia same SUV attributed to the killer in Flint has been spotted in VA.

Although local media and the Associated Press have been covering the search for the killer, only after months on the loose are we seeing this story hit national news. The national silence during the first months of the Flint killings are reminiscent of the lack of coverage in the Cleveland, OH killings, where Anthony Sowell killed at least 11 African-American women, some drug addicted and homeless. The story of missing black women in Cleveland did not reach national headlines until dead bodies were found in Sowell’s home.

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The initial silence around the Grim Sleeper killings in LA where 12 African American women were attacked and 11 killed in over three decades was equally troublesome. In that situation, it was only after the LA Times featured an interview with a victim of the Grim Sleeper did the Mayor’s office and police department confirm that in fact a serial killer was at-large. Once the word got out, a task force formed to find the killer, and a $500,000 dollar reward was offered. In a little more than a year and a half after the Los Angeles Times broke the story, the Grim Sleeper was arrested.

The trend of initial silence during moments when African-Americans are being targeted is terribly upsetting because the silence puts more lives at risk. One can’t help but imagine what the national response would have been if these killings were happening in upper income white communities. Although along the lines of missing person cases, the slow media slug and national outcry in cases where African-Americans are targets, pales in comparison to the legitimate national outcry to find Lacey Peterson or Caylee Anthony.

In the Flint situation, the lack of national response and outcry from the public is just as problematic as the media bias. Just as in the Grim Sleeper case, once the community knew about the killings, they seized on the opportunity to develop a community effort to help find the killer.

Unfortunately, such coordination around the Flint killings is lacking. In researching responses to the Flint killings, it was difficult find information on what African-Americans in Flint and surrounding towns can do to protect themselves. On the Michigan State Police website, as of today, all we could find was a news alert about the sketch of the suspect, no mention of an award offered for giving valuable information. Lastly, I have yet to hear about a local and national collaborative effort that brings together community members and law enforcement to work together to find the Flint killer.

This response and lack of coordination is unfortunate because the function of crime prevention, crime control and victims rights advocacy is to raise the profile of cases where victims are being targeted, to help stop and catch the perpetrator and to educate communities on how to be safe when perpetrators are on the prowl.

The reality that the Flint killings bring to surface is the decreased role communities of color play in crime prevention and victim rights advocacy. Sure, being a victim is not an issue of race. Anyone who is a victim should have the opportunity to have a proper recourse. However, when African-Americans are victimized, rarely do the stories merit the same level of national attention as they do in cases of white victims. This strongly suggests that despite all the talk of race neutrality since the rise of Obama, black life is not seen as important as the lives of whites.

A national network to elevate the voices of black victims and survivors is needed. It’s time to establish this network to coordinate with the media, the department of justice and local police so that when people of color are victimized, the appropriate community response is coordinated. Just like Amber Alert kicks off a local and national response when children and the elderly are abducted, victims in low income communities, especially communities of color should also be engaged, have their voices heard, receive alerts and establish community efforts to stop and find the killer.

Let’s use this moment in the Flint Michigan killings as an opportunity to organize communities of color to stop the targeting of black men and women, start a discussion on the need to organize on behalf of black victims and most importantly, catch the Flint killer!