Otis Byrd, CNN, racism, black, African-American man, hanging, suicide, murder, Mississippi, lynching

#CNNBeLike Brilliantly Skewers Mainstream News For Racist Coverage

cnnbelike-brilliantly-skewers-mainstream-media-for-racist-news-coverage-1When CNN covered the hanging death of 54-year-old African American Mississippi man Otis Byrd, they chose to reference his previous criminal history (the 1980 murder and robbery of a woman for whom he was imprisoned until 2006).

But many wondered, why reference the criminal past of a man who had either committed suicide or was murdered? Would CNN do the same for a white suicide/murder victim? Many thought not.

So in response, Twitter users began using the hashtag #CNNBeLike to parody racism in the media. It’s reminiscent of the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown hashtag started last year after mainstream media showed pictures of shooting victim Trayvon Martin in a basketball jersey flashing a peace sign (or as some news sites called it “a gang sign”) rather than using a picture of him in his graduation robes. People began posting photos of themselves sloppily dressed alongside ones of them looking professional and asked, “Which photo would they use #IfTheyGunnedMeDown?”

While it makes sense for media to look into a victim’s criminal history, there’s a continued (and well-substantiated) perception of media bias against people of color. #CNNBeLike makes you think about how and why the media portrays people of different races with varying levels of sympathy, caution, ambivalence, indifference, or outright hostility.