As someone who has been writing on the internet for a few years now, I know that trolls come with the experience. But perhaps the most mind-boggling part of this is when you explicitly spell out racist or otherwise overtly offensive things and explain why they are racist or otherwise overtly offensive, people stampede to the comment thread to literally prove the article’s point.
And the thing is… they always respond with the same old tired arguments. Always.
Many Americans just do not know that much about racism and its systemic nature. So when there’s a discussion, they get defensive at the very least, and cruel at the very most. It’s not surprising that the responses follow the same pattern when studies have shown that white Americans think “reverse racism” (which is not a thing) is a bigger problem than anti-black racism, despite virtually no peer reviewed evidence to support this. Or, perhaps worse even, many take their uninformed opinion and preach it forward to the next generation, so that their children also do not understand racism (or “see color”).
But that doesn’t mean it’s OK to respond to someone who says “you’re racist” or “this is racism” with an attack.
So allow me to break down (once again) exactly why these arguments are full of it:
You say “I can say what I want because I have freedom of speech”
Writing an article or calling out racism/homophobia/xenophobia/transantagonism, etc., is not oppressing free speech in any way, shape or form. Ironically enough, the First Amendment’s existence allows us to shout from the rooftops our displeasure at the awful shit that bigots have to say. Additionally, freedom of speech does not and has never equated to freedom from consequences; there are many instances in which free speech is already regulated in our society (in the public and private sectors). Try again.
You say “I’m not racist; YOU’RE the one who’s racist”
When many of us speak about racism, we are speaking about the institutional and systemic way in which nonwhite people in America have openly and covertly been kept from the opportunities of their white counterparts. So in that framework, nonwhite people cannot oppress white people. Even if we could, talking about systemic inequality and the microaggressions and words and actions that perpetuate it is not oppression in any way. Additionally, the Obamas barely talk about race (I wish they did more), so it seems that what divides the country regarding the Obamas is their very existence as being black in the White House.
You say “If you stop talking about racism, it will go away”
When is the last time covering literal feces up with a paper towel made it go away?
You say “You’re just not objective”
Because apparently only white men/people are capable of being objective, rather than being influenced by their place in society and experiences because of that place.
You say “People just get so offended so easily”
I see people angry at “social justice warriors” and people of color speaking out against racism, saying that those of us who do are just overly sensitive — and yet some of those very same folks will say that Star Wars’ casting is white genocide, and that Old Navy hates white babies because they have an ad with an interracial couple. See also: anger and refusal to understand anything about racism or the meme utterance of “white privilege.”
You get personal
Calling a writer ugly, her interracial marriage “gross,” drawing Michelle Obama as a man and creeping on a stranger’s Facebook profile to poke fun at their weight are personal attacks that do not at all engage with the actual arguments. That’s being both defensive and cruel, and demonstrating you do not have an actual argument to fall back on.