Following the police killing of an unarmed, black teen Mike Brown, public protests in Ferguson and a strong social media hashtag movement, connected to the Black Lives Matter Movement arose soon after, which addressed question that resonates among people in the black community: “If they gunned me down,” what picture would the media use to represent me?”. The #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag went viral, and it was was a response to how Mike Brown was initially shown in the news and media. Rather than using photographs of the innocent teen in a school picture or in a sports team, many news outlets used the picture below, even though his friends described him as a “gentle giant”:
As a result, many people’s responded by calling Brown a “thug” who was flashing “gang signs”, along with many noting that similar images of Trayvon Martin were put in the media after he got shot, which caused a similar response after these images were used in the news. There has been an anti-victimization of Black people in the media when they are being killed for no reason, and it has to stop.
According to Laura Stampler on Time.com, “in frustration at what they see as media reliance on menacing stereotypes, Twitter users have been posting contrasting images of themselves on social media, tagged with #IfTheyGunnedMeDown . So a photo of a minority male reading to children in army fatigues, for example, might be juxtaposed with that same man in a chain necklace mugging for the camera”. Below are some tweets from some of the popular tweeters of the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag that first kick started the movement in 2014:
For this post, I will create a basic archive of tweets based on the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag. I will then discuss what I have learned about my hashtag and the people tweeting it, judging from the TAGS 6.1 archive I created and the tweets from a search from my hashtag on Twitter. Below the TAGS archive search engine that was used in my research:
According to the TAGS Explorer, the top tweeters currently are @mialee932 and @Gossippress. All of @mialee932’s tweets were quoted retweets with the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag, and these retweets mainly consisted of accounts asking which picture (a picture of them in a compromising position, or a picture putting them in a positive light) would the media use if they were gunned down by the police, as well as who this hashtag was for (black people), and who is was not for (people with privilege, mainly white people), and lastly the ongoing relevancy of this hashtag. Below is the visual that the TAGS Explorer gave me of the top tweeters:
Like said before, this hashtag is an extension of the #BlackLivesMatter movement.The TAGS Explorer pointed out that #BlackLivesMatter, #BLM, #celebrity, and #viral Other related hashtags, just from my own social media experiences include #Justice4All, #WorldIsWatching, #ICantBreathe, #BlackoutBlackFriday, #StolenLives, #CrimingWhileWhite, #AliveWhileBlack, and #ThisEndsToday. Below is the visual that the TAGS Explorer gave me on the most common hashtags that the bubble of tweeters used:
Rather than just conversing, most people using the hashtag are just putting up two pictures and asking which one the news will use if they were slain. The main question asked in the majority tweets, (for example, #IfTheyGunnedMeDown which picture are they gonna use?) is rhetorical, so most people don’t actually answer the original tweets themselves. From there, there are a lot of quoted retweets of the these picture comparisons and the opinions surrounding this hashtag, and these retweets and quoted tweets are what is generating the majority lot of traffic. Links are not tweeted very often, unless it is a link to a picture. Below is a screenshot of the TAGS Searchable Twitter Archive, which shows some of the top tweeters from 2018 using the hashtag. As one can see, the majority of tweets are quoted retweets, and that rings true for the rest of the tweets on the page when I scrolled.
All in all, I have learned that people are still passionate about this issue, as the hashtag is still being used four years later. This issue is not as viral as it was when Mike Brown was killed, but this issue is still super relevant and needs to be addressed today. The anti-victimization of black victims needs to stop, and social media movements like this one help make the difference. Since 2014, i have noticed an improvement of portrayal of black victims in the media, but there are still considerable ways to go.