#IfTheyGunnedMeDown Takes On Media’s Portrayal of Black Men

The investigation into exactly what events led the police shooting an unarmed 18-year-old named Michael Brown remains ongoing. Police say Brown was violent, attacking one officer and reaching for his gun. Others say Brown was running away. At least one person says he had his hands in the air when he was shot. Until the investigation is completed, it’s important for the news media to remain as unbiased and objective as possible. But objectivity was not, in the minds of many Twitter users, NBC’s strong suit in their reporting. Their picture of Brown featured him frowning, flashing what some readers interpreted as a gang sign (it could just as easily be a peace sign).

As Bullett’s Luke O’Neil pointed out, Brown’s Facebook page featured many pictures of him smiling, hanging out with his family, holding a baby and, in general, looking like any 18-year-old boy. The observation led to #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, in which young men posted two photos of themselves—one as “upstanding citizens” and the other looking more stereotypically threatening. The hashtag poses a keen question: Which photo would the news media run with if the men in them were ever found dead? …

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