LeglizHemp - 5/19/2015 at 12:53 PM
Waco coverage shows double standard on race
By Sally Kohn, CNN Political Commentator
Updated 5:39 PM ET, Mon May 18, 2015
(CNN)On Sunday, just after news broke of a shootout in Waco, Texas, involving "rival biker gangs" as The New York Times alert phrased it, the political activist Shaun King wrote on Twitter:
"I'll wait (and wait and wait and wait) to hear someone on the news call what just happened in Waco 'white on white' violence."
When reporter Matt Pearce of the Los Angeles Times responded, "do we even know the race of the bikers yet?" activist Deray Mckesson tweeted:
"If they were black gangs, we'd certainly know by now. That's the point. Waco."
One of the most distinct characteristics of white privilege is the privilege to be unique. When white people commit violent acts, they are treated as aberrations, slips described with adjectives that show they are unusual and in no way representative of the broader racial group to which they belong.
In fact, in much of the coverage of the Waco shootings, the race of the gang members isn't even mentioned, although pictures of the aftermath show groups of white bikers being held by police. By comparison, the day after Freddie Gray died in the custody of police officers in Baltimore, not only did most coverage mention that Gray was black, but also included a quote from the deputy police commissioner noting Gray was arrested in "a high-crime area known to have high narcotic incidents," implicitly smearing Gray and the entire community.
How did press reports quote the police in Waco? "We've been made aware in the past few months of rival biker gangs ... being here and causing issues," Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said. Causing issues? Cops were reportedly so worried about the bikers gathering in the Waco strip mall that they had 12 officers as well as officers from the Texas Department of Public Safety stationed outside the restaurant.
Now there's word that the biker gangs have issued repeated threats against the police in the aftermath of the Waco "melee" as The New York Times headline called it. During the uprisings in Baltimore, I saw a flurry of tweets about black people disrespecting property and throwing rocks at police. Now that these biker gangs have issued actual death threats, why am I not now seeing tons of Twitter posts about white people disrespecting the lives of police?
In the comments on one news website, someone -- presumably sarcastically -- wrote, "More white thuggery. When will whites take responsibility for their decaying culture?"
"Race literally has nothing to do with this situation," another commenter replied. Exactly.
So why is it that in cases such as Michael Brown and Freddie Gray -- and so many others race is made central to the story, even in instances where the black and brown people involved are victims of police violence?
Research shows that implicit bias against black and brown people is real, as is white privilege. And studies show that white people greatly overestimate the share of crimes committed by black people. Is it any wonder, given the racialized nature with which we cover crime? According to one study, television stations covered crimes committed by black people in greater proportion than their actual share of criminal acts in the city.
On some level, the commenter is right: Race has nothing to do with crime. We know that people of all races commit crimes and are victims of crimes in America and the most sensible among us know such cause or effect has nothing to do with skin color. And yet our perceptions and attitudes about criminality have absolutely everything to do with race.
When one Muslim person even threatens violence in the United States, it's treated as terrorism of crisis-like proportions. As we saw in the case of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray, even when black men are the victims of violence, the burden of proof is placed upon them and their families to show that they didn't deserve it.
When was the last time you saw an incident of a white guy going on a shooting rampage produce calls for soul searching and recrimination on the part of the white male community? Maybe it should. But how can that happen when even after nine people are dead and 170 arrested in a shooting rampage by a criminal gang of bikers, we'd rather not mention that they are white?
LeglizHemp - 5/19/2015 at 02:26 PM
yea I'm not a fan of Sally Kohn but I'm not going to ignore the premise of the article.
alloak41 - 5/19/2015 at 02:27 PM
Dumb article. I suspect the author is struggling with their own internal race issues and coming from an unrealistic point of view. Borderline click bait. CNN should be ashamed of themselves.
I could shred literally every sentence written here to pieces if it was worth my time. What a bunch of trash.
Sally Cohn should be smart enough to differentiate between an isolated random event and a trend. Seems like desperation on her part.
emr - 5/19/2015 at 02:28 PM
What I read in the press essentially labels this as a territorial gang war - with fear of future violence and retaliation. Same as a Bloods/Crips battle in LA. There are no racial overtones because that is not the issue.
If the Hells Angel's attacked blacks or Muslims it would be a racial incident; same if the Crips/Bloods attacked non-gang whites.
Bhawk - 5/19/2015 at 02:40 PM
Could have been written better, but there are some solid points made.
JerryJuice - 5/19/2015 at 02:55 PM
Just another example of the the ultra - liberal media trying to make a pointless point .
gondicar - 5/19/2015 at 02:57 PM
Could have been written better, but there are some solid points made.
I thought this article about the biker gang culture in general was interesting...
Former undercover agent Jay Dobyns says people can be forgiven for thinking Sunday's biker bloodbath in Waco, Texas, was a throwback to a bad 1970s movie.
The shootout which killed nine people and wounded 18 seemed aberrant because the public image of many motorcycle gangs has been burnished in recent years thanks to the many largely benign bike enthusiasts who've co-opted some of the same clothing and style.
"I think, as a society, and to a large extent even in law enforcement, we fall into the sense that these guys are these big, rough-looking teddy bears that do blood drives and toy runs and are harmless," says Dobyns, who infiltrated the notorious Hells Angels Motorcycle Club for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. "These are people that have used the motorcycle culture as camouflage."
The more sinister side of biker culture was thrust into the spotlight after Sunday's shooting in the parking lot of a restaurant where members of several rival gangs were having a meeting. By Monday, authorities had charged about 170 gang members with engaging in organized crime.
Motorcycle culture's image problem goes back at least to 1947, when a race in Hollister, California, descended into two days of bloody riots. The American Motorcycle Association, the race's sponsor, responded to the coverage by declaring that 99 percent of participants were law-abiding.
To this day, gangs like the Outlaws refer to themselves as "1 percenters," says Terry Katz, former commander of the Maryland State Police's organized crime section. Trouble is, it's sometimes hard to tell the dark side of motorcycle groups from the light.
Even the terminology is interchangeable.
Good and bad alike call their organizations "clubs." Both use the term "colors" for the emblems on the backs of their jackets and vests.
"Wear your colors with pride," advertises a California company that makes patches for biker clubs, law enforcement agencies, fire departments, even the Boy Scouts of America.
Don Chambers, founder of the Bandidos gang, modeled his club's emblem a sombrero-wearing Mexican caricature carrying a sword and pistol after the corn chip company's Frito Bandito mascot, says Katz, who went undercover in the 1970s as an associate to two clubs, the Pagans and the Phantoms. Other clubs that want to operate on their turf are required to wear a patch called a "support cookie," so named because it's the size and shape of a cookie.
"You have a major gang. Then you have like a puppet club or you can call it a farm team that is part of their organization. But they're not a member of the big dogs," says Katz, vice president of the International Outlaw Motorcycle Gang Investigators Association.
The names have also grown more sinister. The Boozefighters and Pissed Off Bastards of Bloomington of 1947 Hollister have given way to the Outlaws, Cossacks and Hells Angels of today.
Katz says bikers maim and kill each other all the time. The only thing unusual about the Waco confrontation was that it happened in public.
"I get that question all the time: 'Are these guys still around?'" he says. "Of course, they are. But they've lowered their profile, because it's bad for business to be involved in something where you're going to attract a great deal of law enforcement attention. They've never gone away. In fact, they've grown."
Some clubs boast chapters on the other side of the globe.
"You look at crime syndicates. They come to America from other places," says Dobyns, who lives in Tuscon, Arizona. "But the biker culture? That is America's export to the ... world of crime syndicates."
Part of the problem, Dobyns says, is that the entertainment world tends to glamorize these groups.
The Hollister riots spawned "The Wild One," Marlon Brando's 1953 classic. But Johnny, with his dungarees turned up at the ankles and cap at a rakish angle, seems quaint compared to FX Networks' "Sons of Anarchy."
"They prey on the Americana of it," says Dobyns, who used his own childhood nickname of "Jaybird" in his undercover work. "And it's sexy and it's glamorous. The reality of it is that it's a very dangerous world, inhabited by violent men. And the reality of it is that it's very unsexy and it's very unglamorous."
FX spokesman John Solberg declined to respond to Dobyns' comments.
Like the Mafia, motorcycle gangs aren't interested in big public displays, says Katz. But the cornerstone of that culture is a willingness to kill and die for your club.
"And that's what you saw yesterday," he says. "I mean, there were marked police cars outside that event ... Once the fight started, it didn't matter."