White People Are Tweeting About Their Own Privilege With the Hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite

Eric Garner
A man holds a sign with images of Eric Garner and Michael Brown as protesters begin to rally in New York on November 24, 2014, after the grand jury reached a decision in the death of 18-year-old Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Garner died in July 2014 after being placed in a banned chokehold by a New York City police officer. Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

The anger and protest following Wednesday's lack of indictment for a New York City police officer who choked to death 43-year-old Eric Garner has produced a curious hashtag on Twitter. #CrimingWhileWhite—a play on the expression "Driving While Black"—is a glimpse at how white people recognize and come to grips with their own inherited privilege, particularly in interactions with law enforcement.

It shouldn't be a surprise: white people tend to get off with minimal punishment, if any, and are disproportionately not the victims of police violence and brutality. Here's a small glimpse at the tweets:

Wall Street crashes the global economy in Aug 2008. Congress writes them a blank check. Traders get huge bonuses. #CrimingWhileWhite

— 🌹 Very Normal Clark (@Clarknt67) December 4, 2014

Stopped for speeding an unregistered car with no plates and no license. No ticket or search. He just said: "Fix it." #CrimingWhileWhite

— Mikel Jollett (@Mikel_Jollett) December 4, 2014

Been arrested multiple times, jailed, but never mistreated. Most cops have been polite, the worst ones just dull. #CrimingWhileWhite

— john roderick (@johnroderick) December 4, 2014

#CrimingWhileWhite is writing a book about your criminal activity and it being made into a show with multiple seasons on Netflix.

— Akilah Hughes (@AkilahObviously) December 4, 2014

At best, it forces white people to confront their own complicity. At worst, it amplifies white voices and crowds people of color out of a national conversation that's ostensibly about the violence they experience at the hands of police. (Remember Nate Silver and the burrito?)

#WhitePrivilege is being able to use a hashtag to admit to committing crimes and being applauded for bravery #CrimingWhileWhite

— rohanie (@rohanie_) December 4, 2014

What is #CrimingWhileWhite about? Who do these professions/performances of privilege *actually* serve?

— Jenna Wortham (@jennydeluxe) December 4, 2014

If only there were a hashtag for how me, a Caucasian, feels about today's news.... *glowing altar with #CrimingWhileWhite rises*

— Dan O'Sullivan (@Bro_Pair) December 4, 2014

It's one of several notable hashtags that has gone viral in the wake of Wednesday's decision. Others include #AliveWhileBlack and #ICantBreathe, which were Eric Garner's final words.

NYPD Chief Joanne Jaffe's own attempt to start a #Wehearyou hashtag was less successful:

You can’t hear us because you’re choking us to death! RT @NYPDCommAffairs: The #NYPD is committed to rebuilding public trust. #Wehearyou

— Michael Crawford 🏳️‍🌈 (@dmcrawford) December 3, 2014