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Around noon on Saturday, August 9, 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, MO, a suburb of St. Louis. He was walking down the street with a friend, and he was unarmed.
As the city erupted into violent protests, the national media has fallen into another feeding frenzy of speculation and commentary about race and racism. In much of the coverage, outlets opted to run an image of Michael Brown throwing up a hand sign. It's what The Root's Yesha Callahan has dubbed "the Trayvon Martin effect" — the biased portrayal of minority youth.
Brown, who was days away from starting at a local college, had no criminal record. Called a "gentle giant" by his friends, he'd recently been photographed in a graduation cap and gown.
Seeing the discrepancy, Twitter responded in an unusually sane and powerful way. @CJ_musick_lawya created the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown, showing a picture of him waving a bottle of Hennessy — next to one where he's at a podium, in a graduation cap, giving a speech to an audience that includes Bill Clinton. The accompanying tweet asks: "Which photo does the media use if the police shot me down?"
Thousands of users have followed suit, uploading some of their nicest pictures next to the shots they imagine news organizations would likely use if they were involved in police shootings.
It's striking, and unlike so much #activism, it has a point: instigating a shift in the way stories about minorities are told by the media.