The short answer to that is a very simple, nothing. Last night in the wake of the decision not to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner using an illegal chokehold, social media erupted once more in protest of injustice. The hashtag #BlackLivesMatter resurfaced with just as much force as its use in the Ferguson decision. What was different about last night though was the accompaniment of the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite. The hashtag featured white people’s admissions of instances where they clearly got away with a crime because they were white. It was a stream of tangible admissions of white privilege and was relatively refreshing in the wake of events, but where does it go from here?
Having grown up as the only Black face among quite a few white ones for most of my life, I watched the experiences described in #CrimingWhileWhite, first hand. I watched friends in middle school shoplift and loiter. In high school I watched as my white friends strolled off of our closed campus to get high while security smiled at them as they passed, instead grilling me for not having my student ID clearly visible around my neck. Going to college at a predominately white institution just further confirmed white privilege to me. #CrimingWhileWhite while a step forward is still, as a whole, an example of white privilege. It exemplifies the privilege of white America to not only escape persecution for crimes, but the allowance for them to blatantly state it without any form of repercussion. It’s almost like being teased, “look at what we could do and you couldn’t.”
I have some white friends who used the #CrimingWhileWhiteHashtag last night but most, if not all, were already allies (good ones at that) who were fully aware of their white privilege and had an understanding of the significance of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag. For some, the use of #CrimingWhileWhite was a wakeup call to the existence of their own white privilege, something that they had never before been able to really grasp. Some felt the need to apologize as the revelation of their privilege began to resonate, but there’s not much POC’s can do with that apology. As many on Black twitter pointed out last night, #CrimingWhileWhite can’t pay my bills, the apologies can’t bring back lives lost to injustice, and it can’t make white society care more about Black lives. What #CrimingWhileWhite has the ability to do is give perspective to white people about their privilege and create a space for the conversation about it. However, unless those who used the #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag realized the importance of and began to support the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, we’re at a standstill.
The power of social media is not to be underestimated. If Black twitter can be “blamed for the non-indictment of Darren Wilson,” according to St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney, Robert McCulloch, then we wield much more strength than we even recognize. To all those who felt compelled to join in on #CrimingWhileWhite, my question to you is, what next? If #CrimingWhileWhite compelled a percentage of the white population to recognize that they have power as allies, then it did something positive to contribute to an overarching issue, but Black twitter is most likely not holding their breath in hopes that there will be a fresh wave of new non-POC faces to the #BlackLivesMatter movement. At the end of the day, with or without the admission of white privilege by white people, Black lives matter and that’s the battle that the Black community will continue to focus on.