In the aftermath of protests surrounding the deaths of unarmed black men and women, outspoken members of the GOP, including Sens. John Cornyn is quick to contextualize the tragedies and criticize black people for violent behavior. But in the wake of a deadly gunfight between two biker gangs — which left nine people dead, 18 wounded in Waco, and 170 charged for criminal activity — two of Texas’ most prominent leaders have yet to respond to the violent shootout.
Days into the Baltimore protests sparked by Freddie Gray’s death, Cornyn spoke on the Senate floor about how to understand and address deeply-ingrained tension in Baltimore and Ferguson. “The whole idea of a young man dying in police custody, the confrontations with police, the looting and burning of innocent minority-owned businesses…these are all scenes we would expect perhaps in other countries…but that’s what we saw,” he said of events that transpired in both cities. “We’re doing a great disservice to ourselves and everyone else so clearly frustrated by the status quo, if we isolate Baltimore or Ferguson as just individual instances of civic unrest, and if we don’t step back and see how they fit into the broader issue of our entire criminal justice system.” He also called on families, civic organizations, faith groups, and Congress to “correct injustice” and “remedy basic instability” in similar communities nationwide.
Two days later, Cornyn went so far as to blame riots in Baltimore on absent fathers, linking to a Bloomberg article about the breakdown of traditional family structures in the black community and the raising of children out of wedlock.
Cornyn has yet to responded to the deadly shootout between the Bandidos and Cossacks — two rival biker gangs that exchanged gunfire outside of a Hooters-like restaurant last weekend. Although the two condemned violent means of expressing anger in Ferguson and Baltimore, in reference to rioting and the looting of local businesses, they have yet to acknowledge the bikers who turned their weapons on law enforcement. Both have stayed quiet about the Bandidos and Cossacks’ long-standing involvement in organized crime, and neither senator has addressed the gangs members’ white supremacist leanings, despite bringing up race in the context of Baltimore and Ferguson.
However, this not the first time conservatives, including Cruz, have been slow to denounce outlaws who’ve resorted to violence against police. When the Bureau of Land Management tried to take cattle away from Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, who owed $1 million in grazing fees, Bundy and a host of right-wing supporters engaged in an armed standoff with federal rangers for several days. Without touching on Bundy’s use of force, Cruz blamed Obama for the armed standoff, arguing it was “the unfortunate and tragic culmination of the path that President Obama has set the federal government on.” Former Gov. Rick Perry also said, “I have a problem with the federal government putting citizens in the position of having to feel like they have to use force to deal with their own government. That’s the bigger issue.”
Since the massive gunfight on Sunday, much has been written about the media terminology used to describe the shootout and bikers involved, compared to descriptions of black demonstrators and victims elsewhere in the country. But the absence of commentary from vocal politicians marks another significant difference in the way race and violence are addressed at a national level.