by JayWest on April 2, 2015 - 5:33pm

The representation of African-Americans in American media is greatly criminalizing. As a matter of fact, the most important ethical issue raised by the social media twitter hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown is the portrayal and misrepresentation of African-Americans in the United States media through the pictures chosen to represent them. Thus resulting in a criminalization of the African-American people whereby this criminalization creates a sense of fear towards the black community. Criminalizing the black community also raises the issue of who is threatening who? Also, this act of criminalization in the media aids in increasing stereotypical ideas and more importantly increases racism.

This movement sprung on the Twitter network where about 200,000 people used the hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown in response to the killing of unarmed 18 year old Michael Brown who was gunned down by police in the beginning of August 2014. The hashtag is used in the following fashion: #iftheygunnedmedown, which photo would you use? Further, only two pictures in the media covering the wild protests in answer to the killing of Brown circulated; there is one picture in which Michael Brown is showing a peace sign with his finger that people saw as a gang sign and another where he is smiling in his graduation picture but almost all the media platforms used the picture that is overwhelmingly misleading. 

Pictures that circulate in the media are criminalizing victims of the black community. According to Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change, criminalization happens by the choice of picture made by the media “consciously or unconsciously create a justification for why people are killed”. Criminalizing victims is an issue because the media creates a reason for their killing through this act of publishing misleading pictures to the public; young black people who have died unjustly are criminalized even after they are no longer living, the media aids in creating a justification for the deaths of many young black people who were very well innocent. 

Moreover, media’s portrayal of the young black community creates a sense of fear towards them. I believe the media encapsulates the meaning of unjust labelling. In fact, the African-American community is labelled as being this immense threat to society which in turn results into the appropriation of this label by the black community who fears what people might do to them or think of them when they are in public. The majority of the population, the white community more precisely, also participated into strengthening the label that was associated with the black community. Thus, a sense of fear towards the black community is strengthened through a criminalizing portrayal of the youth in the media by creating a negative label associated to their community.

Furthermore, the sense of fear that is associated with the African-American community uncovers another issue that is created by the domino effect that the act of criminalization by the media allows, such as the question of the legitimate threat that is posed here which was brought to the spotlight through twitter’s #iftheygunnedmedown hashtag. In fact, according to Robin Kelley, a professor of history at UCLA: “whiteness presumes innocence and blackness presumes guilt, and you have to prove yourself otherwise”. What happened to the concept of being innocent until proven otherwise? However, black people in today’s society are condemned guilty unless proven otherwise which is the exact opposite of the lawful concept mentioned earlier that is the basis of the criminal law system. In fact, according to a Malcom X Foundation study a black man dies with his hands up every 28 hours. Further, the hashtag raging on twitter on the negative media portrayal of African-American men fuels the overwhelming issues. As a matter of fact, the stereotypes that are strengthened by the media impact young black men in every sphere of their lives and impact the thinking of society which creates a bias of how the black community realistically is. Additionally, Rashad Robinson states that the emphasis is set on the fear of black men in society but after the killings of unarmed black men, they are the ones who should be scared. In fact, because the media paints an unrealistic pictures of their community people fear them and are ready to protect themselves against any gestures that might seems threatening, but the problem is that anything black men do becomes threatening and the use of the feeling of threat has become a justifiable argument to gun down a black man, but it is not. Thus, I believe that black people in american society are condemned to this negative label that they seldom appropriate because that is who society makes them believe they are; because when they try to prove society otherwise they are either gunned down or discriminated. 

Moreover, this hashtag raises the issue of media’s role. In fact, the media should show its viewers a legitimate picture of society and put thought into what they show because it has a great impact on society. In fact, conscious or unconscious acts of labelling will no matter what have an effect on society’s point of view. Thus, the media needs to portray a true image of society allowing everybody to live on an equal level in society, but the media today is nowhere close to being this neutral platform because their will always be someone in power that will transcend their thinking through that specific nation wide news platform they are responsible of. 

To conclude, the hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown raises great ethical issues in the portrayal of the black men in the US which criminalizes them and makes them threat to the society. Also, the hashtag puts the issues of society and media in the spotlight allowing people to finally seek the truth behind the lies. 

The quotes in this post were taken from this news post and the entire post was written on the basis of the following news article: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/8/14/ferguson-media-iftheygun....






I think you have a very good point. The #iftheygunnedmedown hashtag has brought a lot of discussions about ethics and the media’s role in the portrayal of African-American. I also believe those kind of negative pictures should never circulate. It does create a justification for why the person was killed since people will judge them as bad or dangerous. The way the news chains are representing African-Americans perpetuates stereotypes and racism. However, it is important to note that around 200,000 people has come together to fight against this form of racism. This hashtag did have an impact because a lot of mainstream journals covered the movement. The CBC website did make an article about the hashtag and collected a lot of pictures that were part of the movement. If you are interested, you can access the article through this link: http://www.cbc.ca/newsblogs/yourcommunity/2014/08/iftheygunnedmedown-cal...

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