#IfTheyGunnedMeDown: Why we’re not done yet

Sept. 1, 2014

Alexander Nedd
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I’m different.

Throughout my early years I could feel that there was something about me that didn’t quite match up with my friends. It wasn’t just the color of my skin that threw me off, but how I was perceived by others who didn’t know me.

Did it bother me?

No. It wasn’t until my early adulthood that I would see firsthand from my friends on how I was viewed in a white community. One day I answered the phone in a professional tone, which surprised one of my peers sitting next to me.

“You talk like a white person,” he said as I thanked the caller and put the receiver down to end the call.

I was stunned. The fact that I sounded like I had an education and that that was deemed a white quality, a high value for blacks to aspire to, took me aback. To him he was giving me a compliment; to me, I had never felt more different in my life.

I quickly realized how I constantly was judged by white perceptions based on the stereotypes of black culture. I never listened to rap music because I simply liked it; I listened to it because I was black. My mother fixed fried chicken because she was black, not because she had a family to feed.

Through the years I found myself yearning to belong, whether it was hanging out at the mall or at a place of higher education. I constantly had to show the world that I was not “black”. Until recently, I felt it was a fight I would have to battle on my own. That changed on Aug. 9.

The viral hashtag #IfTheyGunnedMeDown broke on Twitter after the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. With details still emerging of the shooting, media outlets began to show pictures of Brown throwing gang signs, depicting him as a criminal.

Despite details slowly emerging surrounding the case, the media had fueled public opinion into believing Brown was a thug, a stark contrast from what agencies would begin to find out during the later weeks of the investigation.

The hashtag showcases that what’s seen by many is not always the full story. Many took to Twitter to express their unhappiness with the media with the pictures chosen to represent Brown, including myself.

Often blacks are depicted as thugs or criminal types, portraying lifestyles that are condoned by public opinion. Users created the hashtag using two pictures of themselves with one depicting media portrayal of black culture and the other in contrast showing graduations, army attire and model roles we associate with greatness in this country.

The caption asks readers if they were to be gunned down which picture the media would use. Over 200,000 tweets have shed light on what it’s like to be black.

This isn’t about racism. It’s about the injustice that has followed African-American men in the media since the introduction of the TV. This kind of portrayal becomes damaging to our friends, family and neighbors, black or white.

No matter where you sit on the case, the death of Michael Brown highlights how we view blacks in America. We do not live in a utopia, and realizing that there is indeed a problem is the first step towards solving  it.

There is work to be done on both sides. We as a nation shouldn’t succumb to stereotypes. We should learn to base our opinions on fact, not what is thrown to us on paper based on little evidence.

We pride ourselves of being a free nation, overcoming adversity and seeing each other as equals but forget that there is still much ahead of us. The road to equality doesn’t change because it’s 2014.

We’re not done yet.