White privilege is on full display as people overcrowd NYC parks

OPINION: While Black people are not allowed to stand in front of their homes, large gatherings and protests demonstrate that white people feel that they are above the law

(Photo: Welcome2theBronx/Ed Garcia Conde)

This weekend’s temperature rose across the east coast, and as New York City welcomed its first warm-weather weekend of the year, we saw a tale of two cities unfold.

Downtown in the West Village parks filled with white people on blankets drinking wine and sharing picnics sans masks and gloves. 

READ MORE: Video of NYPD violent arrest over social distancing sparks outrage

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Dear @NYCMayor & @NYPD,⁣ ⁣ Answer this for me. ⁣ ⁣ This picture is from the West Village in Manhattan yesterday. Was taken by my friend @welcome2thebronx. No social distancing. No masks. No gloves. Nothing. CROWDED AS HELL. ⁣ ⁣ But super white. Why are your goons not going in there and brutalizing people, punching them, choking them, tasering them, handcuffing and arresting them, and sending THESE PEOPLE to Rikers????⁣ ⁣ Answer me that. ⁣ ⁣ Instead you send your goons like Officer Garcia, Badge #19234, to Black neighborhoods to brutalize and arrest BLACK KIDS AND YOUNG ADULTS who are just sitting outside for some fresh air. ⁣Same city. Other side of town. ⁣ 3-4 Black people congregate and you brutalize and arrest them and send them to Rikers where they might actually die and will be super likely to catch the virus. ⁣ ⁣ HUNDREDS of white people do the same thing, and crickets. You do nothing. It’s like they are in a different fucking country. They might as well be. ⁣ ⁣ @NYCMayor – you ran for office saying you’d be different and said you wouldn’t stand for this shit. You stand for it. You protect it. You defend it. ⁣ ⁣ @NYPD – you are genocidal. That’s what this is. It’s genocide. It’s apartheid. It’s one violent, brutal reality for Black people and one cheerful clean reality for white people. That’s apartheid. ⁣ ⁣ Fuck you both. And I say that on a Sunday when Lord knows I try to be focused and centered, but you are pushing us and trying us. And it’s not going to last. Follow @grassrootslaw

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Meanwhile, uptown, in historically Black Harlem, parks and public gathering spaces remained locked and monitored by authorities. At the same time, farther downtown in Brownsville, Brooklyn disturbing video footage was released that showed police officers chasing and violently arresting people for standing in front of their apartment buildings.

This weekend’s treatment of white sunbathers in the West Village stood in stark contrast to the violence faced by Black residents of Brownsville. This disparity prompted me to wonder whether or not there was a police presence at all in the West Village.

One Instagram post shows that there was a police officer in the park. This officer was pictured handing out masks and gloves to groups of white people lounging in the sun on Saturday. Though there was almost no police presence in the West Village, those who were there gently provided people with protective gear.

The New York Police Department distributed protective gear to those who blatantly disregarded the Stay At Home order in the West Village and violently arrested Black people who stood in front of their homes in Brownsville, Brooklyn. 

COVID-19 has shed light on the disparities that exist between white and Black people and neighborhoods. This weekend as white people in New York City, the epicenter of the pandemic, disregarded the stay at home order without consequence, Black people were yet again subjected to over-policing and terror. In many ways, coronavirus has made plain the racial disparities in this country. White privilege allows white people to ignore the current healthcare crisis with impunity. 

Because of the fact of their whiteness, these sunbathers were unconcerned about any repercussions for public gathering in large groups this weekend. Not only did they display a complete disregard for the statewide Stay At Home order, but they also displayed a complete disregard for the health and safety of other New Yorkers. 

Activists have made calls for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to address this blatant disparity with regard to police treatment of white and Black people who were outside this past weekend.

One officer who assaulted Black residents has been identified as Officer Francisco Garcia. There is a long history of Black people being subjected to police violence in this country. Saturday’s events shed new light on the gap that exists between how police respond to Black and white communities. 

Across the country, we have seen similar stories unfold, revealing the ways in which the police respond differently to white and Black people on the streets during this time. Last week, at the Michigan state capitol, white men with rifles stormed the capitol building to protest the statewide stay at home order. Similar protests occurred in Washington State, Albany, New York, and in Madison, Wisconsin. 

READ MORE: Black Panthers trend as Twitter notes #WhitePrivilege in Michigan protests

These instances demonstrate that, even when armed with loaded weapons, when it comes to the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble, white people are given the benefit of the doubt while Black people are subjected to violent arrests.

While Black people are not allowed to stand in front of their homes, this weekend’s large gatherings and protests demonstrate that white people feel that they are above the law and allowed to go anywhere despite the Stay At Home Orders.

That’s America for you.

 Chaya Crowder is a doctoral candidate at Princeton University.