Because White people are out of pocket right now and we need to protect ourselves.
We’re Unprotected On The Wild, Wild, Interwebs
Writing about race is hard. Dealing with the racist trolls and difficult racist folks unwilling or incapable of understanding the whole concept of race is harder.
For Black women, the social hierarchy in America applies to us online as well. You can read any comment section of a Black person writing about race and you’ll find trolls. They seem to be triggered by generals (i.e. White people), so triggered they need to let us know they’re triggered. One of the worst things about free social media is that anyone can use it, meaning we get more rift raft, trolls, and swarms of bots when we write about certain subjects. When I first started writing I would need to take breaks because certain topics would draw so much negative attention it would really just be like reading a toxic toilet bowl stew of hate and taunting.
As I’ve gotten more comfortable with this online space, I’ve learned how to navigate weak-assed online racists. All online racist trolls aren’t alike, so Sisters, we need to learn them and their tactics in order to make our writing experiences more enjoyable.
When Two or Three Touch and Agree
Fellow Black antiracism writers, I follow on Twitter Sharon Hurley Hall, Jeanette C. Espinoza, and Rebecca Stevens A. were having an online discussion about the racist trolls we encounter in my comment sections and how toxic Medium is in particular. I appreciate and value the opinions of these ladies because they understand how hard it is to do this work. We see what’s happening in the world through racialized lenses and we share that info in our own unique ways in this international space.
But the trolls have been obnoxious over the past few weeks, especially towards Black women. Black women who write about race have been doxxed, stalked in stores, and have had their homes and workplaces violated by psychotic White men who walk in their forefathers’ footsteps of engaging in White violence and intimidating Black people.
There is no place or space on earth where Black people safe. Not even online.
Not even online when we speak about the things we experience personally. So, we Black women stick together. We have some great good White women also in the mix, but like so many of them will admit, they have no clue what it’s like to be on the receiving end of the type of hostility we receive day in and day out.
I’m harassed every single day online by a White person. By mostly White men.
My email is littered with Medium, Instagram, and Twitter notifications from racists. They enter my comment sections, even famous White blue check White men from time to time trying to “correct” me on my way of thinking. I make time for their asses.
I make time to give racist White men the business their mothers never gave them when they cross that line. It’s a matter of principle, and I’m petty like that.
The reason many Black women form bonds unbreakable bonds even with total strangers online is that we understand often we’re left unprotected in certain spaces. Just like we’re often unprotected in the streets, online, we’re unprotected on social media as well. Racism is protected online, so is harassment.
“The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” — Malcolm X
Malcolm X told the world the most unprotected person in America is a Black woman. Just check out her comment sections. White folks say anything to us and we’re often left to defend ourselves from the onslaught of assaults. White people will weaponize anything at their disposal to do harm to us, even their words. I stand with my sisters as we fight all the fights, mostly alone. I wanted to share some of the tips that I’ve learned over the years to make the antiracism journey a little better for my Sisters online. It’s still going to be lonely, but at least you’ll be equipped with more tools to navigate the Wild Wild racist interwebs.
Understand Social Media Racism Starts At The Top.
The reason social media is so racist at the bottom is that it’s racist, immature, and privileged at the top.
The founder of Medium is also one of the co-founders of Twitter, the same social media vehicle that gave Donald J. Trump a haven to engage in hate speech for years until the final few months of his presidency. They gave him a haven for his hate speech until it led to an attempted coup. In peak racist, White peopling, White folks always need proof before they act. Most White men also love their freedom. They don’t care if their freedom to hate, harbor hate, condone hate, rationalize hate, and sympathize with it trumps Black folks’ desire to be free of it.
The bottom line peace and freedom mean different things to White people and Black people.
Most White people think their freedom, their safety, and their peace matter. That’s what happens when you’ve had White rule and ivory towers for them to hide in away from the Black help for 400+ years. They don’t know danger. They don’t care about our dangers. Most don’t realize they are a danger to us either.
So when I say racism starts at the top, that’s what I mean. The rich create ways to isolate themselves from us. They don’t really know what it’s like for us Black women on social media.
White people gotta see the danger. Somehow though, they manage to not see or understand themselves to be threats/danger. Our words and warnings just aren’t good enough for them. I don’t know what that shit is about, but it is deadly and so bad for Black people it’s indescribable.
It’s the reason I cannot trust what White people see. We can be looking at the exact same thing, but they’ll see it differently almost without fail. We can be looking at the same danger, and they’ll see it as non-threatening while the rest of us are taking shelter. And the White optimism is often a slap in the face.
Think about Mark Zuckerburg. He was a fucking rich kid when he created Facebook. His world was white, Black-free, maybe even anti-Black. When he founded Facebook, he was surrounded by nothing but rich White and Brown model-minority folks like himself, so he didn’t know how to create a product free of racism, because he’s racist himself. Maybe he wasn’t racist intentionally, but it doesn’t matter. He was raised in a racist environment, in a racist nation, attended segregated schools.
You know the rest. He’s really not trying to learn, he’s just a rich White businessman now. He doesn’t care Black women are abused, harassed, and censored on his platforms.
The harm done by his ignorance is all that matters at this point. The same for everyone else that created social media platforms. Almost every mainstream social media platform we love in this country is created by White men or their favorite model minorities in tech who usually have the same racist views about Black people as Whites.
Different caste systems, same problems.
These people are the next generation of racism. They’ll make children who will make children who will walk in their racist, privileged footsteps. This shit is never-ending. Being racist is lucrative, which is why Facebook, Twitter, and other tech platforms are doing so well (for now) financially. In any event, their lack of concern about racism is a problem for Black women. We’re not safe anywhere and there is no need for us to believe their are going to change anytime soon.
It is what it is.
We’re a segment of their product Sisters. Black people are good for business though they’ll never admit it. We add flavor, we drive trends, we make things cool, and we make everything we touch our own. Just remember with all social media and anything free, we're the product. If Black antiracism writers are going to use free social media platforms to spread the word about our work and educate the masses, we need to understand why racism is pervasive in these spaces and figure out what we can do to protect ourselves personally. We’re not the White blonde-haired, blue-eyed damsels in distress, so nobody’s coming to our rescue.
Let me share some of the things I’ve learned to make life better for us. We’re all we got. Let’s arm ourselves with a little knowledge to survive BWW (Black While Writing).
Navigating Racism in Antiracism Spaces
Check out those profiles: Don’t be fooled by a Blackface profile. There are plenty of profiles here and on other social media platforms practicing digital blackface. White people no matter how hard they try can’t be us. We know our people. Check when they created the account. If it’s new, no post, or they only respond to Black people in ways that appear to be disrespect or taunting, just report and block them. Medium isn't going to clean up this site. They won’t even clean up Twitter, so we are on our own. Don’t engage with fake profiles, just block and report. Save your brain cells.
Don't debate avatars (aka avis): Most of us with real accounts take the time to use a real photo of ourselves, and even if some of us don’t use our actual photos, we do take the time to complete our profiles. For me, avatars are a dead giveaway.
Don’t believe the new follower hype: If you’re a Black writer writing on unpopular subjects to White people (i.e. racism), check your list of followers. Set your notifications to alert you when you get new followers. Sometimes we can eliminate half of our trouble with racists by blocking suspect profiles before they ever have a chance to bother us. Though I have no proof, I believe this site has bots, the kind the marital affair site Ashley Madison got busted out for having when they were exposed. Anytime we use sites like these, we’re at risk of being scammed.
It may take a little time to go through your followers, but once you block the suspects and the non-active accounts, you can maintain new followers. I have 12,000 followers, but only about 100–200 engage. Pay attention to followers and engagement. There are a lot of people who read and clap and just can’t comment because they don’t want to be caught up supporting something so blunt about racism, but racists don’t clap. They just comment.
Don’t comment for racists who don’t clap: A tell-tale sign someone is looking for trouble is when they read, highlight, comment, yet don’t clap. Let them argue with themselves. If your work is behind a paywall, again, pay attention to whether they are behind a paywall and watch their behavior. Some folks get joy running you up a tree. Don’t engage with people who aren’t adding value to your life or money to your pockets.
Mind their words: Sometimes trolls and bots will use short sentences with a few derogatory words. No need to be offended by those. They are just sick-asses who have nothing to do better in life but harass us Queens. If they aren’t saying anything worth responding to, then don’t. Block them and move on.
Watch for swarms: I noticed about a year ago Medium has certain times we Black writers are swarmed by trolls coinciding with politics or something big event (like a fuckin coup). There are lots of racist White men and lame incels who get up every day and choose violence against Black people, online where they can do it safely without any repercussions. The more domestic violence they can get away with the better. Swarms of racist trolls have accounts they use to swarm sites and real Black accounts. I’ve had swarms (dogpiles) many times over the years. At first, they used to make me nauseous. Now that I’m armed with spotting fake accounts and noticing the rate at which the fake responses come to certain posts, I don’t let them bother me. Stay unbothered. Block, hide fake accounts, move on.
Give real racists all the business. There will be some real asshole racist White folks who follow you intentionally, then bitch about seeing your posts in their timeline. It’s actually ridiculous as hell, and if you listen to the bs it never passes the smell test. Anytime you have complaints from White folks claiming to be tired of seeing your posts yet they keep complaining, check to see if they are following you. They probably are. Block them, but not before you cuss them, bigly. While this may not be your forte, let me explain why it’s important for you to do so and why I do it.
Most White people are emotionally immature and cannot handle what they dish out. I take pride in my petty, sassy-mouth game when I have time. Additionally, White people rarely care about our feelings when they come into our comments letting us know their opinions. Their lack of understanding about power dynamics and inability to communicate with Black people jumps off the page, therefore, I must repay the favor. Ain’t nobody got time for real racists commenting on something rudely when they could just scroll if they didn’t like it. Be respectful or give them their asses handed back to them in a croaker sack is all I gotta say.
Make time for the real racists.
Beware of long-winded crazies: Every now and then you’ll get a real person, usually someone not American or with a firm grasp of our English (you just know) who will take the time to write you something long, ranty, and borderline offensive. Go with your gut. Check the profile and if it ain’t passing the smell test, block them and hide their comment. It’s not worth your energy Sis.
Block and hide comment: When you don’t block or hide comments of trolls, they are able to find you, follow you, and see everything you post. Some trolls are waiting on Black women to hit publish so they can not only comment but share our stuff in racist circles so we can get swarmed. I’ve had bunches of comments in one day only to find someone shared my piece on social media and a racist latched on. They come and they bring friends. Again, the social media platforms don’t care. They are busy making money from us suckers, creating new revenue sharing models to scam us out of our hard-earned money, and catering to the rich and famous. Use that block and hide option to make your lives a little better.
Circle jerkers are time wasters: Racists will come right in and tell you why you are wrong every time. You may even think they are loyal because they aren’t overtly racist, but they are a pain in the ass. No matter what you say, they aren’t going to agree with you. They feel your opinions are wrong and aren’t valid. They love talking you around trees and up and down mountains on matters they know nothing about validating your point. When I first started writing I had a person with a fake profile but really decent comments, until I realized he never agreed with anything I said. Every comment told me I was wrong and then he’d give me his thoughts. He started getting on my nerves really bad. Eventually, I blocked him. I don’t know why people will follow people they dislike or disagree with on regular basis, but racists will do that often. Block, delete, hide. Keep your peace honey.
Pay attention to social media mentions and shares. Once I had a Fox News Correspondent with 5 million followers share my essay on racist. That was not a good night or week. A friend told me to download Twitter BlockChain on my PC via my Google Chrome browser. Best thing ever! If I share a post on Twitter in the Everyone setting and it goes viral to the wrong kind of audience because of retweets or dogpiling, it’s a problem. Social media can be a blessing for Black antiracism writers and a curse. Don’t be afraid to block your troubles away.
Beware of digital Blackface: There will be people who will work hard to engage with Black people pretending to be Black. While we understand we’re not a monolith, we know how we speak to one another in general. You know, you just know. Make certain you are doing the best you can to not engage with people pretending to be Black. If it’s on social media, search profiles and see what kind of people they are affiliated with/follow. A lot of times a little investigating can go a long way.
Know Medium and other social media platforms won’t help us: Over the years I’ve reported lots of bad accounts here and sometimes as fast as I block and report them they are right back until I get around catching them again. I report harassment on Twitter and 99% of the time they tell me they saw nothing wrong with the posts I flagged. There is no such thing as help for Black women. If we can’t address racism in our communities, we can’t fix it online. Racism is a personal flaw. Everywhere racists go and everything they touch, the flaws manifest themselves. We’re supposed to save White America, but White America never has time to save us. We’re on our own, so get used to it. Sisters, don't hesitate to open up about racism the racism you’re experiencing.
Trust your gut: If you’re engaging with someone and something just doesn’t feel right about it, it’s probably not right. Disengage, regroup, investigate, and cut off all ties if you learn there are harmful racist motives behind social media engagement. Racists don’t care how they gas us up, as long as they can disturb our peace, they’re good. When it feels off, it’s likely bait. Psychopaths and narcissists gonna be psychopaths and narcissists. Don’t become their next victim.
Being safe at home is impossible when racist trolls are attacking us online. We must find ways to combat racism as much as we can. As we navigate these new landscapes, we’ll continue to run into issues, especially issues where race is a topic.
Be safe, be vigilant, and smart about the people and profiles you give your time to. After years of being on Medium, I know who my day ones are. I know my loyal followers, and I know my newbies. I appreciate them all.
We can only expect AI and tech companies to do so much. It’s up to us to not only protect our loyal followers in our comment sections, but it’s also up to us too. If you receive physical threats of harm, you need to report it to your local police and the FBI. That shit is illegal. Not that they are any better about prosecuting or doing anything to White terrorists, but at least when the story is told should something happen to you, they know you tried to protect yourselves. All we can do is try.
Protect your mind, body, and soul from online trolls, bots, and racist assholes ladies. When you feel overwhelmed, take breaks. Start a private chat. Tag us on social media to let us know you’re having problems with trolls. Maybe there is something going on you’re unaware of.
Black female antiracism writers must do what they can to look out for one another on social media. Hopefully, these tips will help us navigate social media platforms.
Be safe Sisters. Love ya!
Marley K. 2021
Originally published on Medium