White people can get away with crimes that would land a black person behind bars — or worse. That’s the premise behind Twitter’s top trending hashtag #crimingwhilewhite, where white people acknowledge disparities between their interactions with police and people of color.
The hashtag sprung up as a digital protest hours after a New York grand jury decided Wednesday to not prosecute a white police officer for the choking death of unarmed black man, Eric Garner, in July. The verdict also closely follows behind the controversial and racially charged grand jury decision to not indict a police officer for the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.
Social media erupted in disgust after Garner decision was announced Wednesday, birthing the confessional #crimingwhilewhite to highlight the injustices of racial profiling and white privilege. Soon the hashtag flooded with admissions of wrongdoing, from underage drunken driving to assaulting police officers with few consequences.
In closed park after curfew, underage drinking liquor bought with fake IDs. Cop told us, "Get on home," let us drive away #CrimingWhileWhite
— Jenny Grace (@grace134) December 4, 2014
I'm not proud of it, but when I was 22 I pushed a cop when I was drunk at a bar. I was told to go home and "sleep it off" #CrimingWhileWhite
— Jeremy Scheuch (@jeremyscheuch) December 4, 2014
#CrimingWhileWhite at age 24, pulled a gun on a neighbor. Arrested and bonded out, but no charges were ever filed.
— #PoliceThePolice (@Joe_Schmucc) December 3, 2014
#CrimingWhileWhite? Dear Lord. Don't even get me started. I'd be dead, beaten, or jailed so many times over if I was a little more brown.
— brian wisti (@brianwisti) December 3, 2014
#CrimingWhileWhite Pulled over in high school. Black friend searched & asked if has dope – Cop tells me I must be lost & to get home.
— Slušaj (@BeeSmadge) December 4, 2014
Anyone who thinks laws are enforced equally for everyone, go read #crimingwhilewhite.
— Dandy McFopperson (@rosefox) December 3, 2014
Some of you have pointed out that #CrimingWhileWhite helps other White folks realize policing isn't fair. My heart still hurts.
— Elon James White (@elonjames) December 4, 2014
But while the public — if unverifiable — outpouring admissions were welcomed as support, some users criticized the tag for refocusing on the perks of white privilege instead of the dehumanizing of African Americans that led to Garner’s death.
— Jason Sullivan (@jason0x21) December 4, 2014
— rohanie (@rohanie_) December 4, 2014
Now White people getting better treatment is the topic, instead of the dehumanization of Black people? I'll pass. These are NOT the same.
— PrestonMitchum (@PrestonMitchum) December 4, 2014
I just hope ppl contributing to #CrimingWhileWhite are vocal about these disparities offline. great, you’re trending but we need action
— Franchesca Ramsey (@chescaleigh) December 4, 2014
#CrimingWhileWhite echoes other social media responses to racial injustice. Twitter, Instagram and Facebook erupted with protests and viral hashtags following the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in 2012. After Michael Brown was killed, activists used Twitter to bring awareness with tags #IfTheyGunnedMeDown that targeted media outlets that switched his picture from one in his high school cap and gown to a photo of him with a stern look and throwing up a peace sign, which many took as a gang symbol.
#CrimingWhileWhite lends a more anecdotal perspective on the racial double standard when it comes to how the law is lightly applied. Blacks and whites use marijuana at about the same rate — around 12 percent — but black people are arrested for possession at a much higher rate. In Minneapolis, whites are almost 10 times less likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than blacks.
Arrest rates overall are higher for people of color. Almost 1,600 police departments across the country arrest black people at least three times more than whites, even when they are a population minority. Even though black and white Americans do drugs at roughly the same rates, black people are far more likely to be arrested for it. Additionally, young black men are 21 times more likely to be killed when stopped by police compared to their white peers, according to available data.
In an effort to address this disparity, Attorney General Eric Holder announced plans Monday to curb racial profiling with a new set of guidelines and safeguards for law enforcement officials.
“Our police officers cannot be seen as an occupying force disconnected from the communities they serve. Bonds that have been broken must be restored. Bonds that never existed must now be created.” Holder said.