If I were compressing “the history of relations between the powerful and the powerless in America” into a single image, I’d represent “the powerful” with someone old enough to vote, not a scrawny high-school kid. My horde would look like the Confederate army, not a pep rally.
Treating a smirking teenager as a stand-in for the wanton slaughter of indigenous people, the brutal abomination of chattel slavery, the persecution of anti-war activists, the racial terrorism of the Ku Klux Klan, the exclusion of Chinese immigrants, or the internment of Japanese Americans utterly trivializes bygone atrocities. Did these commentators swallow the trendy notion that microaggressions are “violence,” and apply it backwards in history?
Were I to distill “the dynamics of the current moment into a single image,” focusing on negatives, I’d seek out photos of children forcibly separated from their parents at the Mexican border; or addicts dead from opiate overdoses; or mass-shooting victims at a synagogue; or white supremacists beating counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Virginia; or lobbyists facilitating rent-seeking; or homeowners blocking the construction of apartments in their neighborhood; or segregated schools; or signs of climate change.