Racial Bias Watch: How is the media covering the Waco biker gang shootout?

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 2.06.07 PM copy

Thanks to the #BlackLivesMatter movement, there has been a lot of discussion recently about racial bias in the media

: Does the media demonize black people? Is the word "thug" racially charged? Do white and black criminals really get the same treatment in the media?

We'll now be able to watch those questions play out in real-time as the media covers a horrific gang-related bar brawl in Waco, Texas that left 9 dead. The fight was between at least five rival biker gangs, whose members were mostly, if not exclusively, white. The fight broke out at the Twin Peaks restaurant and eventually ended in a shootout in the parking lot. The bikers fired at each other as well as at the officers who were called to the scene, but the victims were all gang members. More than 100 weapons were recovered and around 170 people were arrested.

As media coverage of the Waco incident unfolds, it will be crucial to compare it to the coverage of tensions and uprisings in Baltimore and elsewhere: Will the Waco incident be called a "riot" (something the media seldom does when white people are involved)? Will the biker gangs be referred to as "thugs"? Will talking heads regularly be asked to condemn the violence that took place? Will there be a discussion of "white-on-white" crime as there often is about "black-on-black" crime? Will the biker violence be chalked up to poor parenting or absent fathers? Will headlines and frontpages sensationalize the violence? Will talking heads ask why these bikers wanted to "destroy their community"? Will the white gang members be dehumanized (as these black gang members in Baltimore assert they were) or will they have their stories told? Furthermore, will police attempt to escalate or deescalate the situation?

This is the perfect time to gather your own evidence about media bias. Salon and Think Progress have articles to get you started.