Video of the police killings of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, man Alton Sterling and Minneapolis resident Philando Castile, as well as a mass slaying of five police officers at a peaceful rally in Dallas, dominated the news cycle this past week. The incidents reignited a wave of Black Lives Matter protests and discussion about high numbers of disproportionately black people killed by law enforcement across the country.
But while policing is one of the core issues at stake, so too is the implicit privilege enjoyed by those who aren't the subject of so much physical force by the authorities. On Twitter, users responded with the hashtag #WhitePrivilegeMeans in an attempt to shed some light on the forms this privilege actually takes.
While #WhitePrivilegeMeans has trended before, Twitter user Matt Edelstein (@Shoq) told Mic via email he restarted the hashtag in the wake of the shootings in order to provide an "approach for a complex idea that white people are pretty resistant (or unwilling) to understand."
"I decided to resurrect the tag while the topic was being made hot by the Anton, Phillipe and Dallas horrors ... and all the noise I knew would be on cable all weekend," Edelstein wrote. "... In any event, as a 9 year veteran of Twitter, and a strong friend and supporter of [activist Deray Mckesson, who was arrested during a recent protest in Baton Rouge] and the movement, I felt it was a splendid teaching moment and that tag simply had to be resurrected right now, while the topic was very germane. Especially since the Dallas shooting was giving the #bluelivesmatter crackpot police apologists a chance to seize the narrative."
According to Edelstein, the hashtag trended for approximately seven hours, saw over 180,000 tweets, and resulted in a bevy of negative feedback from aggrieved Twitter users unpleased with the hashtag's message.
Here's a sample of what Twitter was saying about privilege in the past few days.
July 11, 2016 at 6:19 shp.m.: This story has been updated with more information about the revival of the #WhitePrivilegeMeans hashtag by Twitter user Matt Edelstein (@Shoq).