The death of Mike Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old who was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, on Saturday, has created a renewed sense of sadness, frustration and confusion not only within that small St. Louis community but throughout the country. This became increasingly clear on Wednesday (August 13) when the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown snowballed on social media.
The shooting has raised questions about police brutality and the rights — or, perhaps, lack thereof — of young black men and women in public spaces as well as the media’s portrayal of them in the aftermath of Brown’s killing and that of other young people of color like Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Oscar Grant, Renisha McBride, Sean Bell and more.
In response, young people have been posting split-screen photos of themselves, questioning which image the media would use to report on their death if they were to meet an end similar to Brown. Using the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, Twitter and Instagram users shared side-by-side images: one depicting them engaged in wholesome activities like sports or education, the other showing more casual poses or featuring what’s stereotypically described as “hip-hop” or “urban” attire.
Particularly from a visual standpoint, the ramifications and implications of those images has come into question.
Here’s an image of Mike Brown, used by NBC, as well as other outlets, that helped spark the digital push-back
— NBC News (@NBCNews) August 10, 2014
Many wondered why an image like this wouldn’t have been used:
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) August 10, 2014
And in response, young people sought to bring the media to task with their own photos
— Lance Tejada II (@CantGuardL) August 13, 2014
— Mr. Exclusivity (@iBostic) August 13, 2014
— PeeWee™ (@_itsrico_) August 11, 2014
— MALIK X (@mr_mookie) August 10, 2014
— Blvck 5heep (@ZelThaGreat) August 11, 2014
— Norris & Norris LLP (@NorrisLawyers) August 11, 2014
— Je Suis Déanté (@WhoISdeante) August 11, 2014
Chances are you want to learn more, or take action on what is happening in Ferguson, so we’ve put together some ideas for you
+ What is happening in Ferguson has drummed up a lot of talk about racial bias. If you have an idea for a digital tool that would help you and your friends have productive conversations about bias, you should take part in Look Different’s Challenge. There’s $10k prize at stake.
+ Get educated and check out Look Different’s Implicit Bias Quiz. It’s important to know exactly why we are talking about Ferguson, and that might mean examining our own hidden biases.
+ Take the conversation offline. Talk with your friends about their feelings about what is happening in Ferguson, and the shooting of Mike Brown. Use this as an opportunity to connect and learn from each other.