Dahmer deja vu: Why are black victims deemed less important?
The first time I realized there’s racism in real estate
This post was originally published on Medium on October 10, 2022.
When I first got this temp real estate job, I had zero complaints. I planned to quietly file as needed, type up reports, help the in-house real estate attorney recover files and use my lunch break to chat about Aaron McGruder’s “The Boondocks” online. It was an easy job, and occasionally I’d learn something new about homeownership and Realtors. A month after I started, I reconsidered that “easy job" part, after lighting a match that started an argument about Emmett Till, O.J. Simpson and racism.
If you’ve seen Netflix’s new series “Dahmer” already, revisit Episode 10 when serial killer John Wayne Gacy (aka Pogo the Clown, or the “Killer Clown”) makes an appearance. (For those who don’t know, Gacy was a serial killer who murdered at least 33 young male victims in Chicago’s Cook County between 1972 and 1979.)
In the Netflix series, there’s a scene with Glenda Cleveland (played by Niecy Nash) and a white co-worker, in which the latter woman went on and on about how twisted Gacy was. Cleveland, who’d been previously pulled aside by her boss for being disruptive at work — simply for crying in the bathroom about Dahmer’s murders — listened to this woman rant about how twisted Gacy was before responding.
I heard more snide comments about how Allen Iverson was “a thug with those things in his hair” (referring to cornrows) from my hiring manager.
From the gist of the conversation, the woman knew that Cleveland was neighbors with Jeffrey Dahmer, another serial killer in the Midwest (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) who killed 17 people between 1978 and 1991 — largely black and an Asian teen, along with a few white men before moving into a black neighborhood.
Still, Cleveland’s co-worker decided to talk over the news announcement, “They’re finally gonna fry that guy [Gacy]. When you do something like that, you don’t deserve to live. Man’s gonna burn in Hell and not fast enough. He’s the worst.”
Cleveland turned around to the co-worker, stating she didn’t think Gacy was the worst. Instead she felt like Dahmer was, primarily because Cleveland could still smell the bodies of the victims in Dahmer’s apartment. (Note: Cleveland is really a combination of three neighbors: two real-life tenants who lived across the hall from Dahmer and the real-life woman who lived next door to Dahmer’s building.) The white lady’s take on Dahmer? Silence. By the end of the conversation between the two, this felt like a deja vu moment for me. Only in my case, it was O.J. Simpson versus Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam.