#CrimingWhileWhite is Not Solidarity

by Dr. Stephany Rose

#CrimingWhileWhite is not solidarity for justice. It is glaring evidence that white privilege is utterly blinding.

In the wake of a no indictment for NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo who killed Eric Garner by choke hold in July of 2014 renewed calls for justice have ignited citizens across the United States and communities around the globe. The decision for a grand jury not to indict Officer Pantelo comes in the midst of national unrest against excessive police violence that results statistically higher in homicide by police in black communities. Protests and demonstrations proclaiming #blacklivesmatter continue to erupt across the country as more and more grand juries seem to sanction the excessive violence of paramilitary police officers.

In counter narratives to #blacklivesmatter, “good intentioned” non-blacks have attempted to co-opt the hashtag and replace it with #alllivesmatter. The impetus to do so reveals the insidiously blinding nature of racism; advocates of #blacklivesmatter in no way believe or perceive that other lives that are not black do not matter. The argument and hashtag suggests black lives have mattered less to operants of the state who are willing to allow black Americans to die at the hands of police officers every 28 hours. The impetus behind hashtags like #alllivesmatter and #CrimingWhileWhite proclaims that if we could just equally talk about our issues and concerns in airspace then institutionalized racism would diminish; this line of thinking reveals the blinding light of racism in the midst of doing social justice.

Genuine justice is not simply an argument for equal practice and attention; “doing resides in equity, not equality. As an assistant professor of Women’s and Ethnic Studies where semester after semester I teach Introduction to Social Justice, I meet students approximately every 16 weeks who perceive social justice to be the fight for “equal rights.” While social justice does encompass the fight for equal access and equal treatment under the law, justice must be achieved through a practice of equity, not equality.

What is the difference? Equality as a practice of presumed justice is me walking into a room and providing everyone a pair of size 6 stiletto pumps and instructing them to go about their lives wearing them. I have been fair. I have treated everyone in the moment equally. Everyone has shoes to use and wear. The problem is, however, unless the room is full of people with smaller than average feet, with no physical disablements, and proficiencies for maneuvering in stilettos, the fair and equal treatment has become useless except for those who are able to effectively walk in the shoes. Justice, on the other hand, walks into the room and provides each person what is necessary for them all to usefully and effectively maneuver throughout their lives, which may be shoes that fit or other mobility devices specific to their needs. Hence, doing social justice is not simply all things being equal, but all things being equitable. #CrimingWhileWhite is not an equitable justice practice.

Yes, #CrimingWhileWhite emerges as a space where liberal-minded white people through their social media accounts are provided the opportunity to express their acknowledgement of racism and white privilege being real. Though communities of color have known this since the invention of whiteness, white awakening in 2014 is indeed still necessary as colorblindness in a post-Civil Rights era masks the reality of racism to many white Americans. However, the mere recognition of white privilege in this moment is not a call to justice and solidarity if it solely remains a space for “good intentioned” white folks to unload an array of unearned advantages they have acquired in life, which has resulted in an accrual of social benefits upon which they have built their lives. #CrimingWhileWhite actually reaffirms the outrageousness of white privilege, by allowing whites to admit their privilege while carrying on still in white privilege. It is salt being poured onto open racists wounds.

Equity and justice in this moment for #CrimingWhileWhite would be those same white privileged people demanding for federal probes into the police officers and forces that allowed them off the hook for driving under the influence. It would be investigating judges that provided lighter sentences, if sentences at all, for white offenders as opposed to their counterparts of color. It would be a financial outpouring into the defense funds of accused people of color from white privileged criminals who have been allowed to carry on with employment opportunities, access to housing, no state sanctioned disruption to their families. In other words, white privilege allowed them to walk with effective support in the shoes issued to them, while blacks and other people of color have been forced to figure out how to make size 6 stilettos work. Unhindered by labels of menacing, criminal or convict #CrimingWhileWhite folks have been allowed to carry on with life; black Americans crying out #blacklivesmatter are grasping for a sense of justice that will allow them to live, point blank.

Don’t get me wrong, #CriminWhileWhite is definitely a space of good intentions and even a starting point for justice seekers; but, we know all too well how the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

Dr. Stephany Rose is assistant professor of Women's and Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and author of Abolishing White Masculinity From Mark Twain to Hiphop: Crises in Whiteness.

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