It started with a video I took Christmas morning of my girls opening their American Girl dolls Christmas morning. A couple weeks later a video went viral of two young white girls being gifted with black dolls and subsequently expressing their disapproval. I decided to upload a video of my girls receiving their dolls and the joy they felt as an alternative reaction.
The video of my girls was up for a week with very little fanfare, but then suddenly the video starting to get a ton of traffic, and with it, nasty comments. I was getting daily, and then hourly, comments about how disgusting I was, how my boys were going to kill me, how they would rape my daughters . . . all kinds of vile hate. Initially I was deleting the comments. Then they started coming in too swiftly for me to stay on top of it. I contemplated removing the comment option on the video, but then decided to leave it up. I wanted to write about what was happening, so that people could see this kind of overt racism in action in our “post-racial” society. But before I had time to do that, something else happened.
I finally figured out the source of all of the traffic on that video.
A prominent white supremacist “news outlet” had created a video defending the video of the girls reacting poorly to black dolls, making a case that it’s natural for children to only be attracted to dolls of their own race. The video attempted to debunk the famous doll study from the 50’s with all manner of pseudofacts, even suggesting that Martin Luther King Jr. was a puppet of the Communist party. After a tangent on the history of civil rights and the dangerous “Marxist” ideals of desegregation, we’re treated to about 5 minutes of irrelevant footage of white rappers that is, apparently, supposed to horrify us into realizing the ills of race-mixing. And then the video turned it’s attention on me . . . stealing footage from my own youtube channel, my blog, my TEDx talk, and the interview I did with Yahoo news. I was portrayed as a “nauseating” woman who hated her own race and who was training her daughters to be ashamed to be white. Which, listen. I do promote diversity. But I can also appreciate a good English scone, and I’ve never met a kale salad I didn’t like, which is about the Whitest thing anyone could ever eat. It’s possible to value diversity and enjoy your own heritage at the same time.
When I saw that this white supremacist organization had used images of my kids, without my permission, in a propaganda video for segregation, I was livid. So I took to twitter, asking both the organization and the “reporter” in the video, a woman by the name of Lana Lokteff, to remove the video. Until then, the harassment from racists had been contained to youtube, but me calling out these sacred cows of white supremacy on twitter created a firestorm. The racists circled their wagons on 4chan and other online white supremacy forums and came after me.
For several days, I fielded comments coming so fast that my twitter feed looked like the NYSE ticker. The comments all had a general, not-very-creative theme:
- I’m disgusting
- I’m teaching my white kids to hate themselves
- I’m probably Jewish
- I’m probably cheating on my husband with a black man
- My black children will sexually assault their siblings
That last one was the worst to stomach, but after the shock wore off, the absurdity of it sank in. These men (they are predominantly men) are totally obsessed with the sexual virility of black men. It’s fetish-level obsession. They just cannot stop thinking about black men, sexually. And yeah, it’s racist as hell. But it’s also all kinds of Freudian weird. They are seriously, seriously threatened by the idea that black men are getting more action than they are.
When I was a therapist, I saw a few clients who dealt with psychotic breaks, and several of the men struggled with the compulsive fear that they might cut off their own penis. The paranoia around black men that these guys hold . . . feels about at that level.
However, as ridiculous and ignorant as these people are, they are one thing: committed. Granted, this is probably because they are living empty lives with nothing better to do:
The harassment was coming in faster than I could report it, so I instead asked people to report the abuse that I retweeted. My friends rallied and a number of the worst offenders had their accounts suspended. I’m sure this post will bring a fresh wave, and I will continue to do the same.
Honestly, I am less bothered by the minions in this whole operation than I am with the leaders. By and large, the people harassing me on twitter seem like uneducated idiots. Most of them are anonymous and have under 50 followers. They are spewing talking points (which they can handily read through on their forums.) They are one-dimensional and their criticism is irrational and repetitive. Dealing with the on twitter is like swatting at flies. Oh, a picture of my black child with fried chicken superimposed on it? How original. Block and report.
But the leaders of this movement? They scare me. Case in point . . . Lana Lokteff, the shrill and smug host of the internet show that stole my content. She’s quite savvy at spinning a narrative to incite fear. She mocks the idea of systemic racism, pointedly mentions anyone who is Jewish, and refers to scientists who attempted to prove that race is merely a social construct as “bullshitters.” She suggests that the ideals of the civil rights movement were Marxist. And her twitter feed is a curated list of crimes committed by people of color – as if rounding up bad things that only people of color do is solid proof of her premise instead of a bad example of confirmation bias. But her minions buy it. (And probably don’t understand the concept of confirmation bias to begin with.) She presents her videos with a mix of history, politics, and science, relevance-be-damned, and speaks in a quick tone like she’s trying to imitate an episode of Crash Course in History. However, her “data” is full of holes. She presents something true and then projects people’s fears into an outlandish outcome. For example, she plays on the idea that eventually scientists will implant a chip into our baby’s brains to cure them of racism. Lana’s currency is fear and xenophobia, and her customers are people who aren’t smart enough to smell the bullshit.
Now, because I’m guessing the trolls will find their way over here, I’m going to address Lana’s minions who keep asking me why I won’t engage Lana in a debate on twitter. Let me try to break it down for you. A straw man argument is a logical fallacy in which one person introduces an idea into a debate that their opponent never even presented. For example, Lana has suggested that I don’t allow my girls to like white dolls. This isn’t true. I never said that. But it gets people riled up. Lana’s recent video about dolls was chock full of straw man arguments.So were ALL of her tweets to me. In fact, it is her main persuasion technique. If you can’t see that, you need to work on your critical thinking skills. But the reason I won’t be debating Lana is because I don’t engage in debates with people who rely on straw man arguments because it’s a waste of time. And an insult to my intelligence. And also because I have a very full life outside of the internet. You should try it!
I know the other question I will get: will this make me stop posting on the internet? No, it won’t. As I mentioned before, this is swatting at flies. I’ve got some plans in place to deal with a few of the offenders (remember, the internet is never as anonymous as you think), but I also think that this kind of harassment is always a possibility for people with a public platform. (Now that doesn’t mean that they deserve it . . . that’s victim blaming. But I’ve always been keenly aware that public criticism is a part of this gig.) I’ve always viewed my blog as a space to promote social justice and racial reconciliation, and this is not going to stop me.
At the end of the day, as my anger about the whole thing recedes, I really actually feel sad for these people. Sad for their miserable little lives in which trolling people with hate is fun. Sad for how sheltered they are. Sad that their world is so small. How pathetic it must be for them to spend their life avoiding things that involve non-European cultures. The experiences they will never have. The places they will never go. The people they will never meet. The food they’ll never eat.
As for me, I’m gonna put some Earth Wind and Fire on the stereo, pour myself a glass of French wine, fry up some Cuban-style tostones and Italian sausages and open a can of Indian chutney to dip them in, and I thank the Lord above that I’ve evolved way beyond the limiting mind of a white supremacist.