Wednesday afternoon, a Staten Island grand jury ended the criminal case against officer Daniel Pantaleo, when it failed to indict him in the death of Eric Garner. The fatal July confrontation transpired when Pantaleo, a white officer, placed the asthmatic and unarmed Garner, a black man, in a chokehold ruled illegal by the New York City Police Department.
As protests began to assemble this afternoon and backlash quickly mounted for the second time in a week, a hashtag trending on Twitter, #CrimingWhileWhite, aimed to make people realize that these incidents are hardly isolated.
The hashtag was started by Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon writer Jason Ross after he shared his own story of being let off easy for a teenage crime by the police. It quickly took off, and gained widespread support.
OTHER WHITE PEOPLE: Tweet your stories of under-punished f-ups! It's embarrassing but important! Let's get #CrimingWhileWhite trending!
— Jason Ross (@jasonjross) December 3, 2014
— jesse Williams. (@iJesseWilliams) December 4, 2014
— yvette nicole brown (@YNB) December 4, 2014
This #crimingwhilewhite hashtag. Are white ppl openly acknowledging white privilege on police interactions or am I dreaming?
— Reidiculous (@SuchAnAfroholic) December 3, 2014
In the 10 hours since Ross started the hashtag, it’s accrued over 25,000 tweets, and shows no signs of slowing down. The demonstrative hashtag aims to bring together the multitude of examples that show how white privilege is very real, even now in ostensibly post-racial America, and all the tweets are absolutely worth a read. A select few below:
Been let off doing 85 in a 65. Was allowed to sit in Air Force 2 in short shorts with a fake gun. (Bush administration) #CrimingWhileWhite
— Thomas Lennon (@thomaslennon) December 4, 2014
I shoplifted when I was 14 and they let me go because my parents came down and we "looked like a nice family." #crimingwhilewhite
— Joel Watson (@hijinksensue) December 4, 2014
There was some dissent to the co-opting of the original #DyingWhileBlack hashtag. While it is worth debating the fact that it took a hashtag populated with white voices and white stories to truly galvanize widespread support from the white community, it strongly moved the conversation forward.
Overall, the trending topic aimed to move the needle as much as possible in order to make those who believe the Garner and Brown incidents were isolated realize that institutional forces connected them. It appears to have done so.
Photo via JJ/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)