Social media users made the intentionally ironic hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite a No. 1 trending topic in the aftermath of a New York City grand jury’s decision not to indict an NYPD officer in the death of Staten Island man Eric Garner. On Thursday morning, African-American social media users also began using the hashtag #AliveWhileBlack in response.
On July 17, Garner’s death from an apparent chokehold was captured on videotape. Police detained Garner, a 43-year-old father of six, for selling unlicensed cigarettes. Garner can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” 11 times in the footage, but a grand jury still delivered a “no true bill” on all charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
In the wake of the grand jury’s decision – in addition to peaceful protests in the streets of New York City – pro-Garner individuals who appear to be white began tweeting ironically about alleged past encounters with police, none of which have been verified, pointing out what they see as a double standard in policing based on race:
The reaction to the hashtag has been mixed to say the least, but many African-American tweeters expressed admiration for what they saw as sympathetic whites helping to expose what they believe is an unequal justice system.
In addition, on Thursday morning, some African-American tweeters began using the hashtag #AliveWhileBlack to share their own stories of their personal experiences with police officers. The hashtag quickly garnered over 10,000 mentions after it began on Thursday morning.
Also trending in the aftermath of the grand jury’s ruling were #Icantbreathe, #ericgarner, #Wehearyou and #DanielPantaleo.
The #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag’s tone was a far cry from the controversial #FergusonRiotTips topic which briefly blew up on Twitter in the hours after the Ferguson grand jury’s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown Jr. That hashtag included racially insensitive imagery and language, serving as a reminder of how polarizing the Brown case had become.
New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Senators Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand have both called for a federal investigation into the Garner case. And although Wilson has resigned from the Ferguson Police Department without severance pay, the Justice Department is still investigating the shooting of Michael Brown and may bring civil rights charges at a later date.