Let's share a nightmare together shall we. Let's pretend that in our deepest of dreams there is a man roaming the streets randomly killing innocent white school girls for twenty-three years. Let's imagine that this man is so violent he kills 11 of these suburban princesses. Lets imagine that these young women are not only white but from a middle to upper class background. How many eulogies do you believe would be written for them? How many tears do you think would be shed for their loss?
Do you believe that the police would be besieged with demands to bring this murderer to justice? Would they create a task force specifically designed to follow each and every lead regardless of how pointless it seemed? Do you believe that the media would converge from all over the nation to make sure that everyone was aware of the tragedy that was occurring in California? Perhaps Anderson Cooper would become the face of the investigation as Americans sat with baited breath hoping beyond hope, that this terror would be brought to an end.
In truth what I have described is completely plausible if someone had been killing the daughters of bodies that matter in this society today. Unfortunately the nightmare is real, woman are being killed but they are not members of the privileged class. The women that are being murdered are African American sex trade workers. Over the last twenty three years, eleven women and one man has met a gruesome fate at the hands of what police now believe to be a serial killer.
As has been said on many occasions, sex trade workers constitute an extremely vulnerable group of people within our society, and when this is combined with racial discrimination it can lead to a permanent outsider status. These people were devalued not only because they were sex trade workers but because they were African American as well.
Daily sex trade workers go missing and the police barely take the time to investigate. It is more important to divert resources to finding the robber who stole a rich mans stereo, than it is to get justice for sex trade workers. Millions of dollars are spent on the useless war on drugs yet the time and money to find an obvious predator cannot be found. What does this tell us about which bodies matter in this society?
We can learn much about our social world from examining what we ignore, and why. In a country that constantly preaches individualism over communal thought, is it any surprise that social malaise renders us incapable of valuing the lives of those that are the most vulnerable amongst us? In a society that is based upon exp0loiting the 'other' can we truly be surprised that we view their bodies as disposable refuse?
The blood of the 'other' is cheap in our world. Human suffering is something to be ignored in the face of achieving greater profits and privilege. To be counted in this world you must have power, and an African American woman who works in the sex trade will never have access to the proverbial golden fleece. She will search in vain for understanding, she will labour only to find her efforts disregarded and demeaned. When the time comes for the rent, the land lord hand extended will be waiting. Every single purchase that she makes, she will pay taxes to support a system that wants only her money and sees in her not potential, but a body that may be worked to the dust.
These women have been waiting twenty-three years for justice, over half of my lifetime. I fear that unless pressure is brought to bear they will remain among the countless cases of unsolved murders simply because in their lifetimes their bodies were positioned in a socially stigmatized group. If you believe in justice, seek it for those whom society has devalued and demeaned. A fair and equal society can only exist when all bodies are counted, and when all bodies are deemed worthy of respect. So I say to you as I have said before, all bodies matter, we only have to believe in the validity of equality.