If you’ve been following this utterly horrible story out of Ferguson, MO—a small community outside of St. Louis where an unarmed teenager named Michael Brown was killed by the cops, who have a completely fishy story to try to justify it—you’ll know that one particularly poignant response of solidarity online involves the hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. It’s a response to the post-shooting propaganda efforts to provoke racist paranoia in white audiences by being extremely selective about what photo was used to identify the victim in the media.
— The Root (@TheRoot) August 11, 2014
You can guess they used the one on the left and not the right, geared as much as possible to convincing white people that Brown was a Scary Black Man® and needed to be shot. It’s particularly provocative in this case because it’s so obvious they were digging at the bottom of the barrel for that shot, hoping the fact that he’s not smiling and that racists will read his hand gesture as a “gang sign” instead of what it clearly is—the peace sign—would do the job of demonizing him. My thought upon seeing it was that there is a nearly identical picture of me at a party when I was around that age—flashing the peace sign, trying to look cool—but you know, white girl in a cowboy hat, which means I get the benefit of the doubt that should be extended to all people.
People have been going on Twitter and Instagram putting up side-by-side photos like this to drive home the point, which is that, you know, human beings are multifaceted and if you comb through photos of someone with an ungenerous—or, racist and paranoid, in this case—eye, you can find all sorts of ways to demonize someone. Yesha Callahan at The Root has some examples, which I will swipe:
— YoungGifted&Black✊ (@CJ_musick_lawya) August 10, 2014
— I Am Who I Am (@King_Ghidorah5) August 11, 2014
— LEFT (@LeftSentThis) August 10, 2014
Callahan has more. The point, I hope, is obvious and it’s frustrating that it even has to be made. But of course, some smug fuckwits had to get involved and issue lectures on how naughty you are to have pictures of yourself in casual wear or partying or mugging for the camera—the implication being that you deserve it if the police demonize you after gunning you down unarmed. This photo is being shared all over Twitter.
It’s indicative of how excruciatingly racist this is that Brown is not smoking weed, at a club, or whatever else the fuck she projected onto him in his photo. He’s standing outside. Flashing a peace sign. Not to dignify her self-righteous rant’s implications, of course: You can bet she deleted all her social media accounts, cowardly disallowing people to subject her photo history to a thorough investigation to suss out the almost certain hypocrisies. Hell, even the picture on the left shows her just sitting there—like Brown—and thus already breaking her mandate that you should be doing something “productive” in every photo that ever existed of you. Man, I cannot believe how much of a reach it is to make up a new rule, applied retroactively, requiring people never to be photographed at leisure.
Anyway, despite her smug assurance that the world would remember her as a productive citizen, hopefully this incident will mean she’s remembered as a morally bankrupt asshole. And in this case, the assessment would be a correct one.