There is a famous line from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet, “a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet” that implies that the name of something does not affect what it really is. That is certainly the case in America where mainstream media called a couple of hundred armed white men on motorcycles members of a club. Despite the name media used, in reality the Waco bikers were murderous criminals, thugs, and gangsters. For the second time in a year, law enforcement officials held their violent aggression and hostility normally reserved for peaceful African Americans in check when a mass of armed white men began clubbing, stabbing, and shooting each other in Waco Texas. Worse, mainstream media, particularly conservative mainstream media, failed to fill the 24-hour news cycle with coverage of what is being labeled “one of the worst gunfights in Waco history” because the participants were not Black.
First, the so-called “motorcycle clubs” involved in the murderous mayhem that killed nine and injured scores are known to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and local Texas law enforcement, as “serious and violent criminal enterprises” going back forty-plus years. Although the media, or law enforcement, were hesitant to name the two primary gangs involved in Sunday’s latest biker ‘gang war,’ the images that were released identifies the two primary gangs as Bandidos and Cossacks. Local police said the criminal gang members opened fire on the police when they arrived at the scene, and many sported white supremacist tattoos and patches, but law enforcement did not gun them down en masse because they were white men with guns.
What was stunning in the aftermath of the mass murder scene was the relaxed atmosphere of both the gang members waiting to be restrained, searched, identified, and processed and law enforcement officials seen standing passively waiting for comfortable transportation to escort them to jail. If the participants had been African Americans, the scene would have been entirely different. If they had not been massacred on the spot by militarized law enforcement, they would have been face down on the ground and handcuffed after being tased, teargassed, and beaten within an inch of their lives. The scene of law enforcement’s gentle treatment of murderous white gangsters portrayed as members of a motorcycle club by conservative media in the immediate aftermath of the Waco mass murder epitomizes “white privilege” in America.
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What was missing from the scene during and after the massive gang battle were armored vehicles, tanks, and hundreds of armed militarized police training their assault weapons on the suspects who just minutes before were using what police said were at least a hundred deadly weapons on each other and police officers. Instead, law enforcement from the local police force and sheriff’s department were casually milling around waiting for a bus to take the relaxed suspects to be booked for a variety of violent crimes. None of the suspects were face-down on the ground, ‘hogtied’ or being harassed by law enforcement and there is only one reason why; they were not Black. It is also why conservative media did not spend the next 48 hours covering the story and calling the white participants thugs, criminals, and gangbangers even though the “club members” are all of those and much more.
What is also very telling about how law enforcement deals with armed and violent white men compared to peaceful African American demonstrators is that the local police were well aware, weeks in advance, the violence-prone gangs were armed and descended on Waco looking for trouble. The police spokesman attempted to lay blame on the popular sports bar Twin Peaks for allowing the gangs to gather in the restaurant, but if they had been African Americans the police would have been out in force with militarized vehicles and hundreds of armed officers dispersing the gathering with teargas, Tasers, and likely gunfire before they had a chance to enter the immediate vicinity, much less gather inside the restaurant.
Last year a similar situation revealed that in America law enforcement deals with armed and violence-prone white men differently than peaceful African American demonstrators. It was last April that Cliven Bundy summoned armed militias including Oathkeepers, Praetorian Guard, White Mountain Militia, and various armed combatants to commit sedition and confront federal agents. Instead of calling in the National Guard, hundreds of armed law enforcement officers, and military vehicles to disperse the armed white men, local, state, and federal law enforcement ran away and set a very dangerous precedent.
A precedent that has not, and never will, be extended to peaceful protestors that just happen to be people of color. It is noteworthy, and still revealing, that even a year after the Bundy Ranch militia’s acts of armed sedition against federal officers in the commission of their duty, there have been no arrests, no state or federal criminal indictments, or prosecutions against the Bundy Ranch participants. One can only assume it is because they are white and enjoyed the hero-worship of conservative media and Republican politicians from across the country.
It does not matter if it was peaceful demonstrators in Ferguson Missouri, or angry protestors in Baltimore herded into confrontation with police, law enforcement holds African Americans to a different standard than white Americans armed to the teeth. There is little doubt among most Americans that if the Bundy Ranch militias had been Black, they would have been portrayed as anti-American terrorists by conservative media and exterminated with extreme prejudice by militarized law enforcement. If the violent criminal gangs in Waco had been African Americans they would have been massacred by law enforcement at the first sign of weapons much less allowed to gather for “the worst gunfight in Waco history.”
Nine people are dead and scores more are seriously wounded and images of law enforcement officers casually standing around waiting for a bus to transport the criminals to be questioned and processed should remind Americans that white privilege is the order of the day. It is also noteworthy that white privilege extends to every mass murderer in recent memory whether it was the Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora theatre, or Oklahoma City killers who were never portrayed by Fox News and conservative media as gangsters, thugs, or criminals because they were white like the violent murderers in Waco that police treated like one would expect them to treat peaceful protestors.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.
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