The recent discovery that police in North Miami Beach were using mug shots of African-American men for target practice at their shooting range sparked protests from critics who say the practice fuels racial profiling.
A Minnesota pastor, Rev. Joy Gonnerman, chatting on Facebook with other clergy members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, suggested it would be harder for officers to pull the trigger if they were shooting at different images, the Washington Post reports.
#UseMeInstead was soon created. That hashtag and a Houston pastor's event page on Facebook became repositories for photos of clergy members volunteering themselves as substitutes for the young black men officers had been aiming at on their shooting range.
The city council and mayor of North Miami Beach condemned the police department's practice last week and passed a measure banning it, the Miami Herald says.
Gonnerman tells the Post: “It’s such a desensitization thing, that if you start aiming at young black men, and (are) told to put a bullet in them, you become desensitized. Maybe, to change the picture, it’s you know what, dare ya, shoot a clergy person.”
Even though North Miami Beach has discontinued the use of mugshots on its range, Gonnerman said she still planned to send the police department dozens of photos of clergy members supplied to #UseMeInstead, to send the message "We're watching; we're paying attention to this."
The fact that most of the clergy speaking out at #UseMeInstead are white led to some backlash against the movement, the Huffington Post reports.
A student at Virginia Theological Seminary, Broderick Greer, told the website:
“I’m conflicted. I have so many wonderful white clergy friends involved in that hashtag. But it’s fallen into a ‘white savior’ narrative, that these white clergy have come to the aid of these helpless black people. And I don’t think that’s what we’re trying to promote."