NPR logo Here's What People Are Saying About The Waco Shootout And Race

Here's What People Are Saying About The Waco Shootout And Race

The biker gang shootout this weekend in Waco, Texas, that left nine people dead, 18 wounded, and as many as 192 facing organized crime charges has sparked a lot of scrutiny over how police and media are treating this incident compared with how they approached the protests in Ferguson, Mo., and Baltimore.

The relatively relaxed-looking police presence in Waco was a big topic of discussion. Photos taken by news organizations in the aftermath of the incident showed arrested bikers — who were mostly white — sitting without handcuffs and able to use their phones, while law enforcement officers looked casual and minimally attentive.

Some juxtaposed the scene in Waco with images from the recent demonstrations:

Jon Levine at Mic says this points to unfair treatment of minorities by law enforcement:

"The blasé treatment of white suspects in Waco contrasts sharply with recent instances of police brutality toward minority suspects around the country, most recently in Baltimore ...

"The photo adds weight to a growing chorus of activists who have charged that Gray was hardly unique and police departments around the country suffer from both institutionalized racism and a double standard when it comes to minority suspects."

And CNN political commentator Sally Kohn writes:

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 ...

... 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?

Salon's Jenny Kutner points out that while some media outlets and law enforcement described the demonstrations in Baltimore and Ferguson as "riots" and painted the protesters as "thugs," a different vocabulary is being used to describe the Waco incident:

"The rival gangs were not engaged in a demonstration or protest and they were predominantly white, which means that — despite the fact that dozens of people engaged in acts of obscene violence — they did not 'riot,' as far as much of the media is concerned. 'Riots' are reserved for communities of color in protest, whether they organize violently or not, and the 'thuggishness' of those involved is debatable. That doesn't seem to be the case in Texas."

Deray McKesson, the curator of the "We The Protesters" website, directly compares coverage of Waco and the Baltimore protests.

The New York Times' Charles Blow and The Atlantic's Ta-Nehisi Coates have been raising some questions about the public discussions around Waco.

On Twitter, people are using #WacoThugs to discuss what they see as a double standard.

We'll keep an eye out for more discussion along these lines. Drop us a link on Twitter at @NPRCodeSwitch if you come across anything we should check out.