#IfTheyGunnedMeDown Questions Media Portrayal of Black Crime Victims

Demonstrators hold signs while protesting against the death of black teenager Michael Brown.
Demonstrators hold signs while protesting against the death of black teenager Michael Brown. –REUTERS

In the wake of the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown by a police officer Saturday afternoon in Ferguson, Mo., a new Twitter hashtag has emerged that’s critiquing the way black crime victims are portrayed in the media.

Using the hashtag, #IfIWereGunnedDown, Twitter users are posting photos of themselves to answer the following question: “If I were gunned down, which images would the media use to portray me?’’

Twitter user @CJ_Musick_Lawya reportedly started the hashtag after some media reports used aphoto of Brown holding up a hand signal that was interpreted as a “gang sign,’’ while other reports displayed his high school graduation photo. Twitter users have been using split images to illustrate the same message — that a person can be portrayed as innocent and accomplished or thuggish and delinquent based on a single photo chosen of the victim.

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One of the images shows them fulfilling a milestone or serving society: they are surrounded by family, reading to children, dressed in a suit or military uniform or suit, or receiving a degree. The other image shows them in a suggestive pose, a fierce gaze, holding up a hand sign, or drinking alcohol.