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#IfTheyGunnedMeDown: Teen’s Death Reveals Media Bias

If you were gunned down, which picture of you would the media use?

Many have taken to Twitter to answer this question after the death of Michael Brown, using the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown to call attention to the negative portrayal of the young man – and black victims in general – by the media.

Brown was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. on Saturday, Aug. 9. Though reports differ as to what events transpired before the shooting ensued, it is evident that the teen was unarmed.

Since the shooting, outrage has erupted across social media in response to the picture of Brown that has been used by some news media. Twitter users accused these outlets of purposefully calling the young man’s reputation into question, using a photo of him holding up a hand gesture that could be mistaken for a gang sign. Many asserted that other photos, such as Brown’s graduation photos and pictures of him with his family, were just as easily accessible from Brown’s social media accounts as the picture that was used.

Tweets with the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown soon surfaced, accompanied by two photos of each user, juxtaposing him or her in unsavory conditions, and in a more admirable environment – like in the tweet below:

#IfTheyGunnedMeDown Tweet

Twitter user @King_Ghidorah5 displaying a hand gesture on the left, and dressed in military uniform while reading to children on the right.

The hashtag added fuel to the long-running conversation about the media’s consistently negative portrayal of black victims, seemingly justifying their untimely deaths instead of emphasizing their innocence.

Despite this dismal bias, one thing remains certain: that social media has, once again, served as an effective outlet for shedding light on injustice.

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