On August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, St. Louis, Missouri, 18 year-old and unarmed Michael Brown was shot and killed by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson County policy department. Brown was reported to be leaving a local convenient store with a friend, and was in route to his grandmother’s home when the incident occurred.
Since the shooting death, the residents and others who are furious and sympathetic towards the events have taken their emotions to the streets, through what some may call both nonviolent protest in the day, turned violent protest by night.
Despite all of such events, one thing remains at the core of the story, the lack of humanity that was shown by Officer Wilson, and what appears to be shown through the protest that are taking place on the same street in which Brown was killed.
With all being said, the point I want to draw much attention to is the identity of the victim, Michael Brown. As we already know, the media has a huge effect on how one is portrayed. Everyday we post pictures without realizing that upon our very own death, one could use such posted pictures as a complete reference of who we were. Besides, after your death, the only recollection of your life are those pictures and memories that are left behind. However, if I don’t know you, a picture is worth a million words.
Well, many “facebookers, tweeters, and instagrammers” alike, have taken on a campaign entitled with a hashtag: #IfTheyGunnedMeDown. This media protest started because news reporters and others reporting on the event continually used photos of the victim that depicted him as a “thug”. Users of social media sites expressed their concerns and disapproval’s, because there were several pictures of Brown, such as his high school graduation photo, that could have very well depicted him as what he was, a young, educated, black male.
Now, being young, black, and educated does not exempt you from making mistakes, possibly disrespecting authority, or perhaps (as Brown is allegedly accused of doing on the day of his death) strong arm robbing a convenience store. However, is it not important to present a victim in their true character? Is it not important to ensure that we give the victim a positive voice? Because at this point, as was also done in the case of Trayvon Martin, when we depict such victims who die due to what are seen as racial profiled shooting deaths, we are not giving them a chance to genuinely be the victim- for they are convicted as being the problem or living a life that would result in such a dreadful end, before the alleged murderer is even put to trial.
Just imagine how such depictions change the mindset of the jurors in the case. Just imagine the amount of human error in a case based off of the character of the dead. Besides, in the Trayvon Martin case, in an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper, juror B-37 revealed that herself and two others were ready to acquit George Zimmerman at the beginning of deliberations, and that they felt that Martin contributed to his own death and also sympathized with Zimmerman. Now, this is my own opinion, but at some point in time, I’m positive that jurors concocted their own opinions about Martin. How he looked, dressed, the people he associated with, etc. The pictures, the memories he left behind, they told his final story.
But don’t we know better? Don’t we have more regard for human life than this? Don’t we know that a picture is not everything? Don’t we know that having even an education does not exempt the black man from such brutality in America?
This leads me to my next question: Why does the media feel the need to overly note that Michael Brown was going to begin college that following Monday? Does attending an academic institution make the situation worse? Will it make our communities sympathize more with the deceased because he apparently “wanted more out of life”?
Some may say, “he was trying to make it out of Ferguson”, “he was going to college- he was a good guy”. I understand the sentiments, however, I do not understand why we choose to believe that we as a community must validate why the shooting death of Brown was wrong because “he was going to college”.
As I recall, former FAMU student, Jonathan Ferrell was educated, and Henry Louis Gates (thankfully, not deceased) was educated as well. Did this stop the racially charged profiling? No.
The point I am trying to make, is that in this nation, when you are staring at the barrel of a gun you don’t have time to shout your educational credentials, you don’t have time to explain how you are about to make it out of poverty or the life you once lived, you don’t have time to explain how your parents traveled near and far to ensure you received the best education, and you don’t have time to say, “I am a good guy”.
When you are faced with the barrel of a gun, the only thing you have time for is to believe that just maybe if your life is taken that day, you will be remembered in the best way. You will be remembered for being that young educated male or female, you will be remembered for marching for what you believed in. And if you haven’t done any of that, if you don’t have a college degree or you’re not known locally, or nationally, let us hope that our media will have the decency to display you in the highest form of humanity.