When do I respond to racists and/or trolls?

A friend recently asked how I formulate responses when I am engaged by racists, as I was on my Tumblr blog a few weeks back. Further, she wanted to know how I choose when to cease engagement, and whether or not I get bummed out by these exchanges.

With regard to the racist, I said my piece and then exited the exchange when the style of his argument underscored his disinterest in substantial engagement. In saying my piece, I was afforded an opportunity to think through some of my own feelings on race and privilege. His employment of bullying language made apparent the fact that he was less interested in making resonant his racist vitriol and more interested in feeling superior about his ability to agitate effectively.

I was a little sad for him until he got in touch with me directly, called me “beta male” and insinuated that I possess a “hatred” for my “own people.” It was then that I realized that he is either virulently racist, or he is a troll, and both options reduce my interest in continuing an exchange with him as there would be no point in doing so. Sure, I had urges to continue the conversation, but they all came from a place of frustration and desperation on my part, and giving in to those urges would have set me up for losing my time to an asshole and potentially losing my cool or ability to reason, which, in a public exchange, sets him up for rhetorical gain.

On one hand, if he is the racist he appears to be, or if he is a troll, then yes, I am terribly saddened when confronted by exchanges like this one. It is sad enough knowing that all of the residual, insidious mechanisms of institutional racism exist, so whenever I am confronted by a young person reflecting traits of regressive, old-school, white pride racism, I am extra daunted. I hate knowing that this person is representing people who look like me, and I hate knowing that this person is serving as a representative of our country by way of his military service (we have enough old school racists our government, thank you). That this cancer on humanity remains malignant is abhorrent. I was depressed by this for about 10 minutes yesterday, but I am unwilling to give him that power for any longer than that.

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Alex Steed

About Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory with two guys who are a lot more talented than himself.