Call it a sign of the times.
A “white privilege” flyer was recently spotted posted in New York City addressing the apparent racial disparity in respecting and enforcing the social distancing guidelines imposed during the coronavirus pandemic that has disproportionately affected Black people. The sign increasingly gained relevance as sunny weather with warm temperatures prompted people to gather in large groups while they conveniently avoided the same scrutiny that Black people have for committing the same offense.
At first glance, the sign resembled others that have been posted in New York City’s public parks advising best practices, such as keeping groups that are smaller than 10 people and washing hands frequently. However, this sign in question was posted in Brooklyn’s McCarren Park and specifically addressed white people under the guise of free mask distribution. It poked fun at the decidedly un-funny spate of police officers responding with force to Black people violating social distancing guidelines while cops also responded with tender loving care to white people guilty of the same thing.
“If you are white and hanging out in a group of 5 or more people, please wait patiently for an NYPD officer to personally deliver a mask to you,” the sign said next to a bullet point before continuing:
“Please practice social distancing by remaining 6 feet from others unless of course you are white, then there are NO rules or consequences because YOU ARE PRIVILEGED AF and it shows.”
The sign went on to offer four pieces of advice: “Recognize your white privilege” and “Don’t be racist” were repeated twice under a header saying what to do “For your safety and those around you.”
While the photo of the sign was tweeted on May 10, its contents remained applicable over the weekend as photos showed white people in a very white neighborhood not only flouting the city’s social distancing guidelines, but they were also doing so by drinking in public on the sidewalk in what news reports compared to a scene from Mardi Gras.
Local news outlet NY1 posted photos in its report about “music blasting from several bars and restaurants, especially along 2nd Avenue in the East 80s, and with lots of people on sidewalks holding drinks in their hands, the Big Easy vibes and block party atmosphere had many people surprised at what has become of the Upper East Side.”
Many were wearing masks, some were not, but all of them were in violation of the same social distancing guidelines that as of last week had resulted in dozens of arrests of mostly Black people.
Carrying open containers of alcohol is illegal in New York City and was a familiar premise for cops to carry out their unconstitutional stop-and-frisk tactics on Black and brown people.
It was hard to imagine witnessing a similar scene in a Black or brown neighborhood, from where viral videos of police brutality have been originating since social distancing guidelines went into effect.
New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio threatened to “shut down places” but made no mention of the social distancing arrests and related police brutality that data show has overwhelmingly targeted communities of color.
The scene on the upper east side came one day after activists held a rally in Brooklyn on Friday protesting police brutality from social distancing enforcement.
Aside from the racial disparity in enforcement, highlighting race was important because of the health implications, as data shows beyond any doubt that Black people are contracting and dying from complications following testing positive for the coronavirus than any other racial group. Ignoring these social distancing guidelines exponentially affects Black people more than others and puts them at direct risk of contracting the highly contagious virus that has sickened more than 1.5 million Americans and killed more than 91,000 others.
But, of course, this is America.