#IfTheyGunnedMeDown viral hashtag blasts media portrayal of African-Americans

After yet another slain black teenager is depicted as a gangster, Twitter users of color have had enough

Published August 11, 2014 3:21PM (EDT)

 Protester holds an image of Trayvon Martin at a rally in Miami, Florida         (Reuters/Andrew Innerarity)
Protester holds an image of Trayvon Martin at a rally in Miami, Florida (Reuters/Andrew Innerarity)

Following the killing on Saturday of Mike Brown, an African-American 18-year-old who was shot by police while unarmed, many observers noted with rising frustration that the media was once again falling into an ugly habit: Portraying African-American men in a needlessly menacing and stereotypical manner.

Early photos of Brown showed the deceased young man in a high school cap and gown, but despite the fact that many other images of him with family and friends were available through his Facebook, many media organizations — especially those with a avowed conservative bent — began using instead a picture of Brown flashing a peace sign, which some baselessly claimed was gang-related.

Reminiscent as it was of the way the media began promoting pictures of Trayvon Martin in a hoodie, wearing a gold grill and using marijuana, the shift among some media members toward depicting Brown in a manner more in keeping with stereotypes of young African-American men was too much for many people of color on Twitter.

A hashtag, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, soon went viral, accompanying tweets that featured two pictures of a person of color — one that could be perceived as playing to stereotype, the other not — and posing the rhetorical question of which one, if they were in the news for being shot, the media would likely choose.

Here are some of the most affecting examples:

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By Elias Isquith

Elias Isquith is a former Salon staff writer.

MORE FROM Elias Isquith

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Ferguson #iftheygunnedmedown Media Criticism Mike Brown Police Brutality Race Racism Trayvon Martin Twitter