Powerful #IfTheyGunnedMeDown Hashtag Criticizes Portrayal of Black Victims

PHOTO: This photo was posted to Twitter, Aug. 10, 2014, with the caption, "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown which photo would they use?"

A powerful Twitter hashtag poignantly critiques the way media portray black victims of crime through the images it chooses to use and it has generated thousands of tweets this week.

The hashtag, #IfIWereGunnedDown, asked the question, "If I were gunned down, which images would the media use to portray me?"

It began after the shooting death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown, who was shot multiple times by a police officer Saturday afternoon in Ferguson, Mo., a suburb of St. Louis.

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PHOTO: This photo was posted to Twitter, Aug. 10, 2014, with the caption, #iftheygunnedmedown which picture would they use?
@Heartbreak_Rell/Twitter
PHOTO: This photo was posted to Twitter, Aug. 10, 2014, with the caption, "#iftheygunnedmedown which picture would they use?"

Some media accounts showed a picture of Brown using a hand sign, like a sideways peace sign, that some called a "gang sign," while other images portrayed him as a successful high school graduate in cap and gown.

PHOTO: This photo was posted to Twitter, Aug. 10, 2014, with the caption, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown will the media focus on the kid who grew up in a drug house or the same kid who earned 2 masters?
@Russian_Starr/Twitter
PHOTO: This photo was posted to Twitter, Aug. 10, 2014, with the caption, "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown will the media focus on the kid who grew up in a drug house or the same kid who earned 2 masters?"

Twitter users have been posting two images of themselves to illustrate their points. In one image, they are doing something wonderful: graduating from school, playing with a small child, dressing up in a sharp suit for an event or a military uniform. In the other, they are seen in a less polished moment: holding up their hands in a way that the media often calls "gang signs," or drinking alcohol, or dancing in a suggestive way.

PHOTO: This photo was posted to Twitter, Aug. 10, 2014, with the caption, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, which photo would be used? Left or right?
@t_ythesportsguy/Twitter
PHOTO: This photo was posted to Twitter, Aug. 10, 2014, with the caption, "#IfTheyGunnedMeDown, which photo would be used? Left or right?"

The comparison shows how one person can be portrayed as either an accomplished, successful young adult or a thuggish or out-of-control one, and criticizes the media for often choosing the unflattering photo in relation to black victims.

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