When Bundy was sentenced, the judge said this to him, “It’s a tragedy to see such a total waste, I think, of humanity that I have experienced in this court. You’re a bright young man. You’d have made a good lawyer.”
Imagine, a man charged with raping, torturing, kidnapping, and killing girls in the most sadistic ways, being appraised for his potential.
Infamous serial killers, and all white men. The media has had a long affair with these men and many more like them. In their crucifixion and admonishment, there has been a glamorization and romance. There are many other serial killers of other races with far more gruesome escapades, yet even in the most disturbing of places, whiteness prevails.
Black serial killers do not have the shield of whiteness to veil their depravities.
The pervasiveness of white supremacy can be seen in the way these names are dug up, year in and year out, to yield a gross profit, as groups of young girls buy their merchandise, and fawn over their mug shots on social media. Even as the darkest parts of humanity are shown, the power of whiteness gives men like Charles Manson, Ed Kemper, and David Berkowitz followings and movie deals.
In 2019, when Zac Efron, a certified Hollywood heartthrob, was cast to play Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile, people could not wait to see a biopic about a man who devastated countless families.
Although the movie was marketed as a means to understanding Bundy, it did nothing but revive his legacy. I bet Ted Bundy is throwing a party in his grave, proud that even after all this time his mediocrity has skyrocketed to ‘mastermind’ using his whiteness as fuel for his ascendancy to a cultural juggernaut.
Zac Efron’s performance did nothing to educate or provide insight into the monster Bundy was.
He merely bolstered the murderer’s star.
He was painted as a suave, intelligent mastermind who outsmarted the cops. They painted him like Joffrey in Game of Thrones: the villain you love to hate. Except this is not fiction, this is reality. They made an endearing character and cemented a legacy of Bundy fanatics for the new generation.
If Bundy had been a Black man, his name would rot in a file somewhere. No-one would mention him, praise him or fawn over him. Yet a white man got away with driving his broken-down car up and down highways looking for girls and has been immortalized on the big screen. Ted Bundy is not exceptional; he is a mundane white man sensationalized by a hegemonic society which he sat atop of.
In a 2005 study called African-Americans and Serial Killing in the Media: The Myth and the Reality, the researcher, Anthony Walsh, commented on the under-representation of Black serial killers in the media.
He found that because their victims were also Black and as such, there is little to no media interest. When Black people – especially women – go missing or are found dead, no-one seems to care. This is evident in the 75,000 missing Black girls in the USA who went by largely uninvestigated in 2019.
I bet Ted Bundy is throwing a party in his grave.
The term ‘missing white woman’ syndrome was coined by the late Gwen Ifil, where missing young white women are mainstream media’s focus fascination, affliction, and Achilles’ heel. This is what makes a high-profile missing person case: simply cast a young, attractive, middle-class, white woman and boom, a media sensation. White women are the only victims seemingly worth the airtime, resources, and energy.
Yet, they only make up a third of missing victims.
Black serial killers are not given attention because nobody cares about their victims. The lack of representation of Black serial killers leads to police not adequately protecting potential victims of Black would-be murderers. It also leads to a lack of academic research, leading to a gap in the psyche of a Black or non-white serial killer.
Walsh’s study also highlighted that, within the White domain, it is believed that a Black person does not have the psychological complexity to carry out multiple murders and not get caught. However, between 1945 – 2004, there were 413 serial killers, 90 of which were black.
Ted Bundy’s whiteness has allowed him to benefit from the media as his popularity is far from waning. America’s deep anti-blackness, anti-other has created a fertile ground for even monsters like Bundy to plant seeds for a legacy to grow into a tree of fanatics.
Black serial killers get attention only when they murder outside of their race. In Pre-World War II, Jarvis Catoe went under the radar while he murdered Black women, but in 1941, when he switched his pattern to white women he was arrested.
Between 1945 – 2004, there were 413 serial killers, 90 of which were black.
The media may fear being branded racist if they hone in on Black men the way they do other serial killers. This is unfounded as the media has largely been plagued by social activists who have accused them of racist overtones due to the paradoxical differences when reporting Black and white crimes.
Black serial killers do not hold the same appeal, hence why shows like Dexter, Mindhunter, and Criminal Minds afford almost no reference to them. Black serial killers do not have the shield of whiteness to veil their depravities.
Only in White America could this happen.
This is seen time again and again when white men are given lenient sentences for rape, or sexual misconduct. Their whiteness automatically bestows upon them the benefit of the doubt.
As we continue to discuss race and attempt to root it out of our society, we must remember white privilege lies even in the deepest darkest places you never want to look into. Even our obsession with serial killers is ultimately a result of white supremacy.