‘Racist cunt’ and Cyberbullying: Ruminations on the Troll Life
Over the past few years, I have blogged about whiteness, racism, and veganism in a way that is mindful, holistic, and critical. Despite my attempts to present such ‘sensitive’ issues in scholarly and mindful ways, I have experienced comments that are downright violent and full of hateful rage from white-identified people. Most recently, someone posted a response to my 2012 blog article about the racial politics of dread lock wearing and cultural appropriation. The exploration of the topic earned me the label of ‘racist cunt’ from commenter “geoff” on April 8, 2013 at 844am. Thank goodness for cyberspace; what normally would not be said directly to my face, in a real physical space (like in my former university or my professional place of employment), can be now be spewed towards my avatar in the comfort of one’s home, library, or even a smartphone/tablet from the commuter train.
The other summer, I spoke of my experience at a Buddhism retreat for women of African descent. The retreat mindfully acknowledged how the repetitive trauma of structural, institutional, and individual acts of racism-sexism have uniquely shaped our Black female collective consciousnesses. My open-hearted blog post about my spiritually healing experience at this retreat was met with easy dismissal and calling me ‘racist’, by white male Buddhist practitioners. It would seem that they sincerely did not fully understand what ‘racism’ actually means; or how they as beneficiaries of whiteness in the USA (or in other white settler nations), have probably never had to find a healing retreat that mind fully acknowledges their experiences of surviving through a society that simply covets whiteness (phenotypes as well as ‘whiteness’ as performance and ‘ways of thinking’); a society that is usually repulsed by those bodies and systems of thought that deviate from “whiteness.”
Instead of engaging with the lived realities of ‘the other’ in a mindfully engaging way, it would seem that a significant number of these folk who don’t agree with me resort to what I would consider ‘the troll life’: cyber-bullying, the usage of discursive violence, etc., versus more open-hearted ways of explaining how or why they disagree with my interpretations/analyses of my own experiences with race, whiteness, and power in the USA. I have actually never responded to those engaging in the “troll life” in the same violent ways that they have done to me. Sure, go ahead agree with or disagree with someone…. But why not do it in a way that is not violent? What purpose does it serve to resort to the “troll life?” I don’t believe that anyone deserves to receive hate filled rage and discursive violence; after all, when has anger and hate created love and understanding amongst people? If I were to go that ‘hate-rage’ route, once I jump into their world of trolling logic, it is a lost battle. Instead, I have chosen to use my energy in other ways. However, recently, I have began to revisit the overall meaning of such hateful and violent language that is so easily used against me by these folk who end up on my blog-space.
Over the past 8 months, I applied to a lot of full-time academic, non-profit, and industry positions. I have easily applied to over 100 full time positions at this point. Even though I know that the job market is intensely fierce right now, I have been quite perplexed that I have not even been called for one initial ‘phone screening’ interview. I have begun to wonder what the likelihood is that these ‘honest’ but hateful feelings towards my online articles about race, whiteness, and power may potentially represent how I am actually viewed by those that look over my resume and cover letter. Do they eventually conduct an Internet search of my name, only to find my Sistah Vegan blog and its ‘confrontational’ topics are not ‘suited’ for a ‘post-racial’ USA?
However, I also want to give most people the benefit of the doubt and suggest that ‘discomfort’ and ‘defensiveness’ around my work may not even be a ‘conscious’ act; it could very well be dysconscious. Negative and uncomfortable reactions to my ‘online presence’ could be at the deeply somatic level. Perhaps most of the mainstream do not even know how to begin to interpret or come to terms with their reactions to what my work means or represents within their lives and the overall scheme of power, race, gender, and ['white'] nation-building. Even though it was back in 2005, I will never forget the plethora of hateful comments made about my initial call for papers for the Sistah Vegan anthology. White vegans and vegetarians were angered by the idea that racialization and gender in the USA could influence one’s practice and rationale of veganism. I even ended up analyzing a vegan site’s 40+ pages of ‘annoyed’ white vegans’ responses to my CFP. I turned it into a Masters Thesis and published an article from it the other year in a peer-reviewed volume.
For my own highly degreed self, what does it mean that despite getting a PhD with critical race studies oriented emphasis in a social science (critical food geographies), it wasn’t/isn’t enough to earn the ‘respect’ of not being a recipient of such hateful rage? After all, I’m using ‘social science’ training from a PWI to ‘show’ that racism, whiteness, and power are very ‘real’ in a ‘post-racial’ USA. Graduating summa cum-laude from Harvard Master’s program, as well as from my University of California-Davis PhD program, having received the Dean’s Award at Harvard for my “critical race feminist” thesis, or having received the two-year GSRM UCDavis Fellowship to academically theorize about race and food does not ‘yield’ a pass to exempt me from such trolling hate.
Whether it is direct, unconscious, or dysconscious, if this how I am seen (i.e. ‘racist cunt’) by a significant number of [white] people , then what does it mean, or should it mean, for my future scholarship, activism, and my search for post-PhD full time employment? What does it mean for so many of us non-white women in white-settler nations who are doing similar work with love mindfulness, only to experience similar hateful reactions? And even the job market is really ‘tough’ right now, is it ‘equally’ as tough across the board, or does it become significantly tougher and more fierce when one does the type of work that I do while doing it in a body that is not ‘markedly white’?
If you enjoy these types of dialogues and want to keep on supporting the Sistah Vegan Project, feel free to donate what you can by clicking below on gofundme. You can find out all about our goal to turn the Sistah Vegan Project into an official 501 c 3 non-profit organization!