Mike Brown was about to start college on Monday. But on Saturday afternoon, Brown was allegedly shot dead by a police officer while on his way to visit his grandmother in Ferguson, Missouri, a predominantly black suburb of St. Louis. The details surrounding the shooting remain vague, but for many people in Ferguson and beyond, the theme is all too clear: An unarmed African-American teenager was fatally shot. Where have we heard this one before?
St. Louis law enforcement officials have yet to release any motivation behind the incident, though it did confirm that one of its officers fatally wounded Brown, according to The Associated Press. The St. Louis County NAACP chapter is also pressing the FBI to open an investigation into the shooting, citing recent racially charged cases that have triggered tensions between the African-American community and law enforcement.
But with the lack of explanation from local police and growing echoes of the 2012 Trayvon Martin case, the shooting of Mike Brown has sparked protests on and offline. As residents continue to gather outside police buildings in Ferguson, many African-Americans took to Twitter on Sunday and fueled the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag. The hashtag confronts the so-called "thug" narrative that permeates the media and influences law enforcement, which long has been accused of using excessive force against young African-American men.
"#IfTheyGunnedMeDown What picture would they choose?" the protesters ask. "What would make the news? Would they portray you?"
The hashtag, which began trending nationally on Twitter Sunday evening, is raw, honest and upsetting — but long overdue. It's about time we have this conversation.
Image: Justice For Mike Brown/Facebook