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GOING THE DISTANCE

"RACISM IN THE BIKER SUBCULTURE"


by Genghis





STEVE YEE:
A CHINESE-AMERICAN HELL'S ANGEL





"It would not be fair to say that all motorcycle outlaws carry Linkhorn genes, but nobody who has ever spent time among the inbred Anglo-Saxon tribes of Appalachia would need more than a few hours with the Hell's Angels to work up a very strong sense of deja vu.....Most of the Angels are obvious Anglo-Saxons, but the Linkhorn attribute is contagious....Even Chinese Mel from Frisco....have the Linkhorn gait and mannerisms...."

HUNTER S. THOMPSON

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DISCLAIMER: I do not endorse any of the racial or ethnic epithets quoted in this article. This terminology is quoted to accurately report the observations I've made regarding racism in the biker subculture, and to accurately depict the mores and racial attitudes of another era.

GENGHIS

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NEW YORK'S EAST VILLAGE 1969:

A member of the New York Hell's Angels named Mario came up to me, obviously upset. I asked him what was the matter. He said....

"Hey Genghis....the goddamn niggers burned my bike. Man, they're gonna pay for that...."

Mario actually meant Puerto Ricans. When the Hell's Angels moved into the East Village in the 1960s, the neighborhood had been predominantly Puerto Rican in enthnic makeup, with a smattering of Poles and Ukrainians, and the Poles and Ukrainians were there as long as the Hispanics. The Puerto Ricans considered the East Village their "turf" since they inhabited the area for many decades. The Puerto Ricans saw the bikers as interlopers in their house. This included Tompkins Square Park and the surrounding environs. When the bikers moved in, an inevtiable turf war erupted between them and the prevalent turf group. What precipitated the burning of Mario's Harley to the ground, was the Hell's Angels' stomping of a Puerto Rican a week before that. Bad blood was brewing, and an ethnic component of the bias toward the entrenched group----the Puerto Ricans---was probably just an ancillary part of the bikers' enmity toward their adversaries. In this particular instance in biker subcultural history, I believe that territoriality had more to do with it than an ethnic bias. If the established ethnic group aligned against the bikers was Norweigan , the intensity of the hatred would've been the same. After all, even though the Hell's Angels are predominantly white, the club does have Hispanic members and as you can see, even Chinese members. What this club does not have are black members. If ethnic bias does exist to a signifiacnt degree in the major outlaw motorcycle clubs, it is directed at blacks.

The biker scene I came up in, in Jackson Heights in the borough of Oueens, New York, was highly racist. Like all geographical areas however, the racial attitudes of the biker subculture in Jackson Heights was merely a microcosm of the attitudes of the general population. When I was a kid in Jackson Heights, the area was predominantly Italian and Irish. Jews were starting to move in in the 50s and 60s with the construction of coops like Northridge and Southridge. There were perhaps, three Chinese families, and some Hispanic families. But----there were no blacks. Blacks lived in an adjacent neighborhood called Corona. The unofficial dividing line between Corona and Jackson Heights was 94th Street, which was referred to with some genuine solemnity in my neighborhood, as the" Mason-Dixon Line." Almost all of my friends were Italian. As a group, we had a heavy prejudice against blacks, and we were reflexively antisemitic. This reflected my peer group's general racial attitudes, and this was no different with the bikers I hung with from Jackson Heights. Demographically, all but a couple of Irish bikers and I, were Italian. I was the only asian biker. Among our group, blacks were perceived with disdain.

As a member of an ethnic minority, I believe that it would be instructive for me to explain my attitudes regarding racism and bias. Resentment and emotions of victimhood among the racistly afflicted, are for losers. I understand racism, and realize trhat racism will always exist in one degree or another. Racism in point of fact, is a naturally occurring phenomenon among homo sapiens, like photosynthesis in plants. It will always be around, and it is naive for anybody to think that we can achieve a racism-free society. It'll never happen. Whining about being the victim of racism, is for losers.

In a predominantly white society, the minority ethnic groups suffer prejudice. Don't you think that in China, whites are looked down on by the indigenous people, to one degree or another? The sooner that minorities cease and desist acting like victims whose feelings are hurt, the better. Racism is as natural in humans as the eventual egress of processed food products, from our anuses. To deny this is unrealistic. Dig it, man. You'd do it too, if your group were in the majority. The Chinese are among the most racist groups in this world. Take it from, it's true. I know this firsthand from being around 'em. One day when I brought home a black junior high school friend who was in the jazz club with me, my parents told me to never do that again! If I did, I'd bring down immeasurable shame on the family! The way they acted, you would've thought that my friend had the bubonic plague. My family generally had nothing good to say about any other ethnic group. You haven't heard racial epithets until you've heard 'em expressed in the Cantonese dialect.

There's no question that racism is alive and well in the biker subculture, as it is in the general populace. Our culture, like any sociological subculture culled from the larger general population, will contain the whole spectrum of racism from non-existent to fervent hatred, that you'd discover in the whole population. The whole gamut of racial attitudes can found among bikers, although I can honestly say that as a biker, I've never faced overt racism from other bikers. In person that is. When I was a writer for Iron Horse magazine, I did receive hate mail from some bikers of the white supremacist persuasion. Then again, when I was a writer for martial arts magazines, I got similar death threats from asian readers, so no ethnic group has a monoploy on hatred, whether racially based or otherwise motivated. There was one instance when I was surprised, but I was surprised by a lack of racism. One day in the late 60s a black biker pulled up to me on his Harley. He belonged to a black outlaw motorcycle club from Corona. He invited me to visit his club. I declined. You have to understand that nobody from Jackson Heights would ever step foot into Corona, which we considered hostile territory. This perception of Corona was ingrained in Jackson Heights residents, from the cradle on.

Is language a true indication of the attitudes of the person doing the talking? Perhaps, not all the time. I recently spoke to a white biker I've known for decades, who I don't recall ever demonstrating any racial bias towards blacks. In embellishing a story about a black club, he referred to them as the "Stupid Niggers M.C." Some use of this language is just coarse rap for effect. In normal conversation among white bikers, racial epithets are the norm and are voiced with impunity. Then again, these epithets are expressed with impunity and without inhibition in white biker circles, because the speaker assumes that he's talking with someone of like mind. That more or less, says it all---so to speak. Later.

FINITO