Question: When is a mug shot a rite of passage to be celebrated?
Answer: When the person being booked is white. Otherwise, it’s a tragedy for blacks and browns, now marked for life, and maybe even marked out of life depending on the charge.
By now you’ve seen #crimingwhilewhite, the hashtag du jour where white folks bear all about the interactions with police — and got away with it. Think: Cliven Bundy. From car thefts and cursing cops to drug use, whites are coming clean about their own dirt in light of Wednesday’s Staten Island grand jury decision to clear the white police officer responsible for putting Eric Garner, a black father of six, in a chokehold while he pleaded “I can’t breathe” several times before dying.
Notions of black-on-black crime or the supposed inherent criminality of black folks (who must also be lazy moochers because that’s the persistent narrative since Reconstruction) isn’t holding up to scrutiny under the weight of all the black bodies piling up at the end of white cops’ guns. #Crimingwhilewhite exposes the chasm that exists between the experience lived by whites, compared with black, brown or poor folks in this country.
Because there is a difference, even if some individuals, like any talking head on Fox News, want to block out the evidence, pretend it’s not, then blame the victim. But there are differences, as these #crimingwhilewhite tweets show:
Now compare the experiences of black people tweeting #alivewhileblack:
This #crimingwhilewhite privileged place is an ever-present state of grace where institutions and authority figures give people who look like them or share a similar backstory or narrative historical touch points (like "our family has lived here for generations") the time and space to fix what’s wrong. To be sure, this grace may be extended to middle-class blacks and browns, but as we’ve seen lately, probably not.When many members of the black community observe individuals who try and fail and try again to correct their actions or be better people, we call it “working on their testimony.”
The idea is that person will figure it out eventually and will have a story to tell about how they made a permanent change for the better.
That’s what #crimingwhilewhite is; it’s the “white card” that lets white people work on their testimony so they can celebrate that mug shot they’ve got hanging in their office or dorm room — and attribute their crimes to "affluenza."