Thursday, December 04, 2014

Criming While White

It's a trending Twitter hashtag that some say illuminates the many ways police let white people get away with things they'd never tolerate from Black people. Some say it doubles as a way for white people to brag about the things they've gotten away with. Others say it's just white people pulling focus again when everyone needs to focus on Black lives.

As someone who just contributed to it, I can say that I take no pleasure in having benefited from police racism. With shame, I tweeted:

My white husband caught driving without a license. Cop gave warning, had me get in the driver's seat. #crimingwhilewhite

This happened years ago and at the time I felt grateful that the officer gave us a break (he might have been brown, but I don't remember). He didn't even ask me if I had a drivers license. He just assumed I did. Recently a Mexican friend and her Mexican husband were pulled over for the same thing. They didn't get the same break, and her husband was arrested (both incidents took place in Chicago).

Many are upset that #crimingwhilewhite simply keeps white people at the center of the discussion when more attention needs to be paid to the voices of Black people. I believe #crimingwhilewhite is a direct response to the voices of Black people, and a good one. Black people have been saying that police treat people differently based on skin color for decades. #crimingwhilewhite is white people finally taking part in a discussion about race that isn't white guilt, white-splaining or white denial. This conversation shows white people recognizing how they participate in and benefit from racism. Such awareness is critical to social progress in this country. White people don't listen well to people of color. We need white people to speak up about how they recognize racism in their own personal experiences and to start this conversation with each other.

We're angry about how white people have violently taken up all the resources and attention for hundreds of years, but I hope we can recognize the difference between a white person saying, "Everyone listen to me again" and "I guess I'm a part of this. I'm shifting my view."

ADDED at 9:30 PM: It infuriates many people that people of color (POC) have been pointing out the police double standard for decades, but white people haven't listened. They say #CrimingWhileWhite shouldn't be the way whites learn about racism; they should listen to Black voices. Well, the reality is that while it's horribly unfair and completely fucked up, it's simply TRUE that most white people don't listen to POC on the topic of racism and have to hear it from other whites. No, it shouldn't be at way. Yes, it's wrong. Yes, it's infuriating and I hate it, too, but the fact is that white people need things like #crimingwhilewhite just to educate each other. That hashtag isn't for POC, or anyone who already knows that police unjustly kill Blacks way more often than whites. If you're a POC who's angry that white people still need to learn basic Racism 101, then don't listen to their dialogue. We aren't the audience for #crimingwhilewhite. People who need to learn about the double standard are. 


Barbara Collum said...

I understand you wanting to air your opinions. But you can't believe that all cops are fair or all cops are unfair. You can't believe that all white people get a free pass and all black people get a raw deal. And do you have stats when you say more blacks are killed by cops? certainly lately people are jumping to that conclusion but each case presents different circumstances. How many of each color were armed or unarmed? Recently an unarmed white guy was killed by a black officer but it didn't make national news because white people don't start screaming racism. It goes both ways.

Regina Rodríguez-Martin said...

Thank you for your comment, Barbara. I do not believe that all white people get a free pass and all black people get a raw deal. I hope that's not what comes across in my words here.