Netflix’s ‘Dahmer – Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ focuses on the gruesome crime of the eponymous serial killer. The series considers the perspective of the victims and their families while showing how a criminal like Dahmer could escape the clutches of the law for so long. While the nature of his crimes is spine-chilling, there are other unsettling things that the show uncovers, underlining our failure as a society. One of the things that stands out about Dahmer’s victims is that most of them were people of color. Does this mean that Dahmer had picked them based on the color of their skin? Was Dahmer a racist? Here’s what you should know about the case.
Was Jeffrey Dahmer Racist?
The fact that eleven out of seventeen of Dahmer’s victims were black men was not something that people could get over when in 1991, Dahmer was arrested and his true nature was brought to light. Addressing the concerns that his crimes were racial in nature, his defense lawyer Gerald Boyle said in the opening statement at Dahmer’s insanity trial that his motivation was not racial, but sexual. ″Mr. Dahmer’s obsession was to body form, not color,″ he said. And while Dahmer too confessed that he was attracted to the way his victims looked physically, one cannot so easily dismiss the fact that racism played a huge part in facilitating Dahmer’s crimes.
His first two victims, whom he had killed almost a decade apart, were white. But as his killing spree picked pace, his victims tended to be Black, Hispanic, and Asian. Was it simply because of his sexual preference? Probably not. In the Netflix series, while interviewing Dahmer, one of the detectives underlines a very important point about Dahmer’s living space, which was also where he’d killed most of his victims. At that time, Dahmer was living in a black neighborhood, which was severely underserved. What’s interesting was that he seemed to be the only white person in the building. Why did Dahmer choose to live there? He said that the rent was cheap, but clearly, it had been more of a strategic choice, rather than a financial one.
The point was further proved when Dahmer was arrested after killing several people inside his apartment over the course of a year. When Dahmer had to move out of his grandmother’s house, he needed to live in a place where he could go about his business without much trouble. For so many men to come around his house and never to be seen again, for the smell that continuously emanated from his apartment, for a teenage boy to escape his grasp and then be brought back into his apartment with the help of two police officers, he needed to be in a place where he could get away with anything.
The same things wouldn’t have been possible in a white neighborhood with white victims. If a white woman called the cops in the middle of the night telling them about suspicious sounds and smells coming from next door, she would’ve probably been heard more easily and Dahmer would have been caught. If instead of an Asian boy, it had been a white boy, naked, bleeding, and out of his senses on the street, found by white women, the cops would have been much more suspicious of Dahmer. But he knew that these things could be easily shrugged off in a black neighborhood, and as it turned out, he was right.
In 1992, the families of some of the victims banded together and issued a complaint, talking about “the blatant examples of racism” in Dahmer’s case. They spoke out against being “treated with disrespect by the court system”, and also highlighted the fact that all the previous complaints against him were not pursued as dedicatedly as they should’ve been because they were being made by black people. The racial nature of Dahmer’s crimes didn’t take as much precedence as it should’ve during the hearing, with an almost all-white jury judging his case. But that doesn’t negate the fact that race was, in fact, a very important factor in this crime. Dahmer was undoubtedly profiting from racism, no matter if it was his own or someone else’s.