Powerful #IfTheyGunnedMeDown Hashtag Criticizes Portrayal of Black Victims

Powerful Twitter trend criticizes how media portrays black victims.

— -- 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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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.

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.

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.