It’s Friday, April 5 th and today I have one primary story to share with you. Parents, and adults that might be around children, please be advised that we will have some explicit language in this episode, just during the introduction, but right after that, I promise you the rest of the episode is clean. Every now and then some news comes across my desk, and I have to do a double take, maybe even a triple take, to make sure that I am fully understanding what I just saw. Today is one of those days. Buckle up. It’s about to get crazy. This is Shaun King and you are listening to (THE BREAKDOWN)
INTRO MUSIC PLAYS
Did you hear what I said a second ago? When I said we are about to have some explicit language? The language is coming from me. Because what I am about to share with you is fucking crazy. I live in New York now – and when something is fucking crazy – here in New York we don’t say it’s kind of crazy – if it’s fucking crazy – we say it’s fucking crazy – because fucking crazy is altogether different than really crazy. In fact, what I am about to tell you is really fucking crazy. OK parents, teachers, and super sensitive adults, I promise you everything from this point
forward is clean.
Do you remember when this happened?
On May 17 th , 2015 in Waco, Texas at about noon, in the parking lot of the Twin Peaks restaurant, which is like a huge, dirty version of Hooters for rednecks, hundreds and hundreds of men from two rival motorcycle clubs, the Cossacks and Bandidos (which in spite of it’s Spanish name, is a predominantly white motorcycle club), two rival motorcycle clubs got into a huge fight in the parking lot of the restaurant, and the fight turned into a massive shootout. Do you remember this? 9 people were shot to death, dozens more were injured, and 177 people were arrested. I remember posting about it the day after it happened and I shared a rather infamous photo of these men, after they were arrested, just calmly, cooly chilling on the sidewalks, talking to police. Of course the shooting made the national news. 9 people were killed.
And it has long been believed that the fight first began when somebody got their foot run over in the parking lot. It was already tense, but that took it to another level. The rival groups were there at the restaurant at a pre-announced meeting to negotiate some conflicts between the motorcycle clubs. 22 different local and state police officers were also there to supervise the gathering. And when the confrontation in parking lot started, it was just a few people, then it grew from being a few people, to a few dozen people, and it kept growing and growing, until shots were fired. And when the first shots were fired, people ran in every direction possible. Literally, so many people piled into the restrooms that they were full to capacity. Squashed like sardines. Then, dozens of people piled into the kitchen, all trying to escape the gunfire. And after it was all said and done, 9 men between the ages of 27 and 65 were shot to death. Over a dozen other men suffered gunshot wounds. Over 300 weapons were recovered from the scene – ranging from handguns, an AK-47 assault rifle, brass knuckles, chains, clubs, batons, pocket knives, combat knives, and more.
As I said earlier – 177 people were arrested. Security cameras filmed most of this. 22 cops were right there on the scene and saw the whole thing. And guess what just happened – earlier this week, prosecutors just dropped all of the charges. Yeah – all of them. The murder charges. Assault charges. Weapons charges. Everything. In total,
they had filed nearly a thousand charges and they’ve all been dismissed.
9 people were shot to death, a dozen more men were shot, 300 weapons were recovered, including an AK-47, and all charges have been dropped. Every last one of them. Now listen, as an advocate and activist for criminal justice reform, I am rarely one to argue for anybody getting more prison time, because the United States has doled out more prison time than any country in the history of the world, but the notion that 9 men were murdered, a dozen more shot, 300 weapons were recovered, and 177 people were arrested, but every single person who was charged will walk is fundamentally outrageous.
It sounds like white privilege. And just for a moment, let me break down what I mean in this instance.
(BREAK IT DOWN AUDIO)
Privilege is complicated to explain, in part, because it often functions in the form of invisible bias – and masquerades as if it’s fair – but one of the greatest forms of white privilege in America – and to be clear – it has many levels that I will not unpack right now – one of the greatest forms of white privilege in America is freedom from consequence.
Nobody in this country is held more responsible for every mistake, every infraction, every violation, every crime – whether you committed it or not – than African Americans. And one of the greatest forms of white privilege in the United States is freedom from the consequences of your mistakes. That’s why over a hundred different studies have shown that African Americans and white Americans use illegal drugs at almost the exact same rate, but African Americans are nearly 900% more likely to go to jail for it. It’s why study after study has shown that the average
drug dealer in the United States is a middle aged white man, but the stereotype of a drug dealer is a young Black man. Do you know why we have that stereotype? Because nearly everybody arrested for selling drugs is young and Black? And do you know why middle aged Black men aren’t selling drugs and middle aged white men are? It’s because black men are sent to prison for selling drugs before they ever get to be middle aged and white men continue to
sell drugs into their golden years without the same interference or penalties. White privilege is why white men in America, without a college degree, who just got out of prison are about as likely to be hired by most employers, as Black men, with a college degree, who’ve never been to prison. And that white man, without a college degree, who just got out of prison, may not feel privileged, because it operated invisibly for him, in the form of freedom from the societal consequences of his actions. And that’s so much of what we’ve seen happen in this case in Waco, Texas.
(Transition out of the breaking it down segment)
Just this past week my childhood friend from Versailles, Kentucky, a wonderful brother I’ve known since kindergarten, visited me in Brooklyn after spending 4.5 years in prison. Guess what he was in prison for? Selling weed. And he wasn’t some high level distributor. He wasn’t caught with a gun or stolen property. He had a full time job and was selling weed on the side – and spent nearly 2,000 days in prison for it. And yet 9 people were murdered in Waco, Texas, a dozen more shot, and all charges have been dropped? It happened right in front of the police! In Ohio a Black mother was sent to prison because she chose to send her child to a better elementary school outside of their school district. And she was homeless at the time! She just wanted a better education for her child, but got sent to prison for it.
In Texas right, another black mother is in prison for voting while being convicted of a felony. (Say her name) voted in the presidential election with her own ID, her own name, and was told by poll workers that she could vote. She didn’t double vote. It wasn’t voter fraud. But because Texas has a law stripping people convicted of felonies of their right to vote, even after she served her time for a non-violent offense, when she showed up to vote, it was unknowingly illegal for her to cast a ballot. Here she was actually trying to be an active citizen. And they sent
her to prison for this. I am working with a man who is in prison right now in Mississippi for a DUI. He didn’t hurt anyone. He wasn’t in an accident. And he’s been in prison for 20 years for this DUI. I kid you not. We’re working on his case behind the scenes right now. I know a man in prison in Georgia for murder. He’s 35 years old. The murder happened when he was 13. You heard me correctly. 13. He’s been in prison for 22 years. He went through puberty in prison. And has proclaimed his innocence for 22 straight years. Even if he did it, 22 years is long enough for a 13 year old boy to serve in prison for murder. Particularly when 9 men got murdered in broad daylight, right in front of police, and not a single person will do a single day in jail over it. That nobody is going to jail over this – while we have over a million people incarcerated right now for non-violent offenses – is preposterous.
Listen – I’ve gotta run, but next week I’ll be right back here talking about New York City’s complete inability to hold the officer who killed Eric Garner accountable for his actions and I will also give you an update on a potential hate crime that I am tracking in Phoenix, Arizona that left a 10 year old girl dead this week. I’ve been asked to help in this case and I’ll tell you more next week.
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Produced by Willis Polk II
Additional Instrumentation by: Christian Idris “Idrys” Shannon, Lance “Lance Fury” Powlis & Willie Eames.
Additional Engineering by Amond “AJ” Jackson for Salem Psalms Library
Additional Vocals by Garnett “Natti” Bush
Scratches by Kenny “DJ FlipFlop” Vanderberg