Tales of the Grim Sleeper comes at a time when Black people are taking to the streets in protest of police violence in cities across the United States and #BlackLivesMatter has become firmly entrenched in conversations regarding this issue. Black women have been an integral part of organizing, supporting and leading these conversations and yet recognition of the victimization and killing of Black women themselves is often pushed to the margins. Acknowledgment and action around the brutalization and murders of trans, queer and disabled Black women is pushed aside even further.
While state-sanctioned violence is a legitimate and persistent threat, the sad fact is that Black women go missing all the time and are abused and murdered at alarming rates, and although Tales of the Grim Sleeper is made by a white man, it does ask the right questions about whose lives matter and whose lives are given more value in society. The answers lie in the fact that it took a white man making this film for this story to be told on an HBO scale. Although the film is not about police brutality, it does successfully highlight the kind of systemic violence that allowed a serial killer to move freely in a Black community for 25 years, because its members were so marginalized as to not be considered worthy of notification of his presence among them, and because this same marginalization meant that any community members with information regarding the murders were unlikely to report it to police.