As you may know, one of the responses on social media like Twitter and Facebook to the tragic grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, as well as to the countless stories of police abuse of power specifically against black men and boys, is for white people to contrast the treatment by cops.
The theme is for a white person to post their worst crime that they got away with, then attach the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite.
For blacks, a similar trope of #AliveWhileBlack calls for a person to post the most dangerous encounter with either the cops or a white person that they survived.
It seems sophomoric, particularly as most of the white folks end up posting things like shoplifting or driving while drunk, even getting pulled over by the cops and being sent on their way with just a ticket or worse, a warning.
As I was writing mine up (which was a little harder to figure out. I ended up settling on smuggling Cuban cigars into the States, altho there was all that public sex,) the realization of the power of this hashtag meme hit me:
See, I could smoke a joint in public. I could walk around stoned or drunk out of my gourd. I could steal a Playboy from a newsstand, or smuggle a cigar in my coat, or duck down an alley because I really had to pee, and I could do all this in front of the cops and you know what? I'd never be suspected of committing any kind of crime, and moreover, never even be subject to arrest much less a potential date with death.
My brothers and sisters of colors can't say that, they don't have that guarantee that even if they "behave themselves" -- which I'm betting they hear as "Be good little darkies," because how patronizing is it for white folks to tell black folks how to live? -- that even if they are model citizens and speak slowly and carefully and in modulated tones to a cop, they won't be arrested. They won't be thrown into a chokehold.
There's no guarantee they won't be shot. If the African American or Latino version of me ducks down an alley and a cop sees him, the cop isn't thinking that the guy just needs to pee really badly, and he's going to follow that Carl, and bad things are going to happen.
If a cop sees me standing there, back to the street, legs wide, he's going to assume I'm taking a leak and turn away, because the devil you don't know. If he sees the darker version of me, he's going to look down and see if there's something worth investigating, and even if he decides there's nothing more than an urgent call of nature, he may still decide to primp his statistics and arrest the guy.
If I'm driving too fast, the cop will pull me over and while he won't be completely relaxed until he's reached my car and ascertained I'm just a moron -- and yes, I've had cops yell at me to remain in my vehicle or keep my hands in view -- if this happens to the minority Me, he's not even going to relax once he's got my license and registration in hand.
It's a stunning realization once you start to put it in perspective, this imbalance in treatment by law enforcement officers. And here's the thing that I really want to stress: these are not random cops who are deciding to let me go while harassing a black man or Latino. In some instances, they really are all but KKK members (I know, I've dealt with a few NYPD brass who with a straight face will call black and Latinos "thugs and gang-bangers.") In most instances, these are the good guys who swear they aren't racist but who have had an institutional racism drummed into their heads from day one that a dark skinned man is scary and even subhuman.
The worst part is, they're right, they aren't really racist until they are out on the streets "To protect and serve". They forget the second part of that and are overzealous in the first. And that has to stop. And that's going to take all of us to read those hashtags and realize we have to link arms and stand up.