The Importance of Centering Black Voices in #AliveWhileBlack

by Queen Muse

Black people already know that white privilege exists. We know this because we observe it every day on our jobs, in our schools, and sometimes even while simply trying to get a good table at a restaurant. We also know that police brutality and discrimination are real issues that disproportionately affect people of color. We know this because research data says so, but more importantly because we serve as first hand witnesses when we live through these unjust experiences, every single day.

So, this week, when liberal white Americans began tweeting about crimes that they’d purportedly committed and gotten away with using the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite, many black Americans were not at all surprised, nor did we feel the stories in any way gave legitimacy to our longtime arguments about inequalities in the justice system. Rather, many black Americans like myself felt saddened that our cries of injustice were evidently still not enough to warrant mainstream acknowledgement on their own.

More often than not, when a black person talks about a white person getting away with a crime due to white privilege, he or she is immediately accused of ‘reverse racism.’ When a white person does the same, the effort is lauded by every news network in existence as a “brave show of solidarity.”

While I can appreciate that #CrimingWhileWhite was likely created with good intentions in mind, there are several reasons why I believe that the counter hashtag #AliveWhileBlack is more important.

The #AliveWhileBlack hashtag was created by Ebony Magazine’s Senior Digital Editor, Jamilah Lemieux who said she learned about #CrimingWhileWhite and felt she had to create a counter narrative. Black people began using the hashtag to tell stories of their encounters with police.

“I felt like the #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag started from a good place, but it was kind of annoying for black people to see, over and over again, that there’s a different standard of treatment for whites. And the timing of it was painful,” Lemieux said.

The #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag was created shortly after a grand jury announced its decision not to indict an NYPD police officer responsible for the caught-on-camera chokehold death of 43-year-old father of three, Eric Garner. Many of the stories shared didn't only prove the pervasiveness of white prvilege, but they hurt like hell because so many of us have been in the same scenarios and faced much more dire consequences. At times, the stories came across like bragging rights.

In addition to the Twitter meme being untimely, #CrimingWhileWhite reinforces the notion that messages, in general, are to be more readily received by the masses when presented by a white person. So, while I do believe the hashtag represents a show of solidarity, I think it's sad that a white person has to discuss these issues--the same issues that minorities have been fighting to raise awareness of for decades--in order for it to be believed or taken seriously by the mainstream. r for years and have been completely ignored. Truth is truth; facts are facts and they shouldn't have to be said by a white person to be believed.

“It’s easy for people to believe that what happened to Eric Garner and Mike Brown exists in a vacuum,” Lemieux said. “People sometimes dismiss the truth coming from black people and only believe it coming from white folks.”

The protests that are being held all over the country are being organized by people who feel they have no voice--that if they want to share a message about an injustice, no one will hear them unless they “die-in,” sing, or march in protest. That is why is extremely important that we create opportunities for the stories of black people to be heard so that we can teach the nation--and the world--to acknowledge black voices on their own merit, and without the need for a stamp of legitimacy from white people.

Photo Credit: Deposit Photos

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