The Twitter trend of white people confessing about times they should have gotten in trouble with the law through the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite was intended to show solidarity with the black community in the wake of a grand jury’s decision Wednesday not to indict a white officer in the chokehold death of unarmed New York City man Eric Garner. But some African-Americans are taking offense to the tweets, saying the users are tone deaf and the posts amount to bragging and another example of white privilege.
“I know it was well-intentioned,” Jamilah Lemieux, a senior digital editor at Ebony magazine, told the Washington Post. “For white people to say, ‘Hey, these are all the things I’ve gotten away with’– it starts feeling more hurtful than productive.”
The tweets, a twist on the phrase “Driving While Black,” were inspired by Jason Ross, a writer for the “Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, who sent out to first #CrimingWhileWhite tweet on Wednesday:
OTHER WHITE PEOPLE: Tweet your stories of under-punished f-ups! It's embarrassing but important! Let's get #CrimingWhileWhite trending!
â€” Jason Ross (@jasonjross) December 3, 2014
A deluge of tweets followed, causing #CrimingWhileWhite to tweet since then:
#CrimingWhileWhite stole a baseball sized ball of blonde hash off D.A.R.E. table in High School right under cops nose, was never a suspect
â€” christian durr (@milksharks) December 5, 2014
Husband and I stopped for expired car tag. Officer says: your wife looks angry enough, fix it soon. Privilege is real. #CrimingWhileWhite
â€” Cytha Stottlemyer (@ms_cytha) December 5, 2014
Shoplifted when I was 16, got caught, cops didn't charge me because I looked like "I had a good future" #CrimingWhileWhite
â€” Alicia Lyon (@leashalyon) December 5, 2014
1991, busted on a roadtrip for having alcohol in the car with a minor, cops let me camp on their back lawn in Keene NH #CrimingWhileWhite
â€” Peter NICE Mitchell (@petenice) December 5, 2014
But some black Twitter users said the tweets came off as boastful:
This #CrimingWhileWhite thing is just an insensitive slap in the face. Smh
â€” Desiree (@Thespiandiva) December 4, 2014
In response to #CrimingWhileWhite, the hashtag #AliveWhileBlack started to trend. The phrase was used by African-American Twitter users who shared their stories of unnecessary police encounters.
When i first moved to Jersey, within a 5 month span...I was stopped by the cops 19 times by my house for looking suspicious #AliveWhileBlack
â€” CHARLES HUGGINS (@IAMSUPAMAN) December 5, 2014
After buying a new car, I was detained for half an hour because the cop didn't believe "I could afford that car legally." #alivewhileblack
â€” Superhero & 00Negro (@MarcusTheToken) December 5, 2014
While jogging, in jogging attire, a cop pulls over and slams me against his car. Patted me down; said I looked suspicious. #alivewhileblack
â€” Jamari Tate (@Animetate) December 5, 2014
Stephany Rose, a professor of women’s and ethnic studies at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, told the Post that the #CrimingWhileWhite tweets are a “distraction” that will only be meaningful if something substantive comes out of it.
“It can be the start to something great if there are extensive conversations beyond the 140 characters, if there’s real action and work beyond just what we post on our Twitter or Facebook status updates,” she said. “It can be useful. But it just cannot remain as this performance … this distraction from what people of color need right now when it comes to justice in their community.”