By Mensah Demary
On the uptown R train to Manhattan, I stood in the corner of the crowded subway car, beginning my morning commute like everyone else. Depending on my mood, or space allowed, I might read a book or people-watch as I’m listening to music on my smartphone. On this particular morning, I pulled out my phone and began to read articles I saved to the app Pocket. (I’m not a paid sponsor of Pocket, but I am a fan, and if you are inundated with online articles, Pocket is a lifesaver.) One of the articles, the first in my reading list, was an update on the Twin Peaks shooting in Waco, Texas, where rival bike gangs—thugs— took to the streets and participated in a gunfight, leaving nine bikers—thugs—dead.
I’ve since deleted the article, so I cannot link to it here. I deleted it without reading in full. I deleted it in disgust, and audibly sucked my teeth as I tried to read—maybe I consumed two paragraphs, tops—before giving up altogether. When you’ve read the same narrative over and over, the same tired tropes and words and phrases used, you lose patience with the story and move on. No shade to the article itself, nor toward its writer, but you get tired of seeing other people, other stories, afforded the dignity rarely given to your people—my people—black people.
To be clear, the article was boilerplate. Less “think piece” and more run-of-the-mill journalism, a rundown of facts and the latest information concerning the shooting. On Sunday, May 17, a fight broke out between the Bandidos and the Cossacks, rival biker thugs who have engaged in street warfare since the late 1960s. The article continued to outline the facts: again, nine people dead, at least 170 people arrested with bail—bail??—set at $1 million each. The article moved on to a bit of a history lesson, taking the readers down a veritable memory lane where the origins of the gangs began decades ago.