Fandom Racism 101: Don’t Feed The Trolls

One of the things that we all have to learn is when to block in silence. It’s very easy to get caught up in engaging with someone who is vocally a bigot. Because you think “Oh, I can change them, I can show people not to be like them.”

But at the end of the day, they want the engagement, y’all.

They want to know that they rattled you enough that you know them by name, that you are willing to tussle with them, that they’re able to get you to stop doing something active about racism in fandom or in media, that they’re able to get you to throw down your keyboard for things that actually matter and square up with them.

There’s a Toni Morrison quote I quoted in September at a point where I thought that battling my own trolls was helping, where she talks about how racism serves as a distraction— where it derails you.

“The function, the very serious function of racism is distraction. It keeps you from doing your work. It keeps you explaining, over and over again, your reason for being. Somebody says you have no language and you spend twenty years proving that you do. Somebody says your head isn’t shaped properly so you have scientists working on the fact that it is. Somebody says you have no art, so you dredge that up. Somebody says you have no kingdoms, so you dredge that up. None of this is necessary. There will always be one more thing.”

How much work do we get done when we have to pause from what we’re doing to try and smack down an unrepentant racist troll? How much of our own valuable and valid content gets done when we’re feeding the trolls by focusing on their beef with us and their racism instead of our work?

I know it’s hard to sit back in silence and let someone be a piece of shit where you can (sometimes) see it.

I know, I struggle with it too.

But what’s more important: being right about someone who does not care and will never change, or making a difference in your fandom spaces by modeling the behavior that you want to see in fandom?

What’s more helpful?

Sometimes, I struggle and I do get so caught up in the fact that I am right. I keep trying to unpack my trolls’ shit and use them as learning examples because I am right about racism in fandom. I am right about white supremacy having made serious inroads in transformative fandom and sometimes I get caught up in the rightness that I have (in brief past moments) forgotten that I’m not actually writing to combat those racists.

Seriously, accuse me of “not caring about racism” all you want for not rushing to fight other people’s battles for them, but I’m not trying to change the minds of the unchangeable.

I’m writing because I want people to know what they can do in fandom, how they can help, and how they can be better.

I’m writing because no one is born a level 100 social justice bard and because even people of color struggle to recognize racism in fandom or figure out how to handle it as people possibly perpetuating it.

I’m writing so that people of color who’ve spent time being gaslit in fandom and by racists here can know they weren’t imagining the behavior that’s harmed them.

And at the end of the day, I’m not writing for trolls and you shouldn’t be either.

If you want to document stuff document it on your own time, go for it. After all, unless you’re actually in academia or journalism covering these things… this is all your own time, but don’t make it your driving passion. I thought this with the Voltron fandom, and even with the Star Wars fandom: you have to be doing stuff that you like.

You cannot devote your time and energy to people who aren’t worth it, and with whom engagement just harms you.

They pull you off the path.

And once they do, then you’re not fighting racism, you’re fighting that one racist— someone who’s never going to change… because they don’t need to.

Think about it: that racist that you’ve been going back and forth with either directly or via subtweets is not going to change because there’s nothing you can offer them that is more effective and awesome an attention getter than being that person who is fighting for “freedom of speech in fandom”.

There’s nothing more you can offer them that gets them more attention from fandom, than appearing to have “bested” you, drawing you from your path, or pretending that they’ve proven that you’re actually problematic.

So the best thing to do is focus on you.

Focus on what drives you. Create content that moves you and lets you model anti racism within your fandom spaces.

If someone is being racist in fandom, and you’re like, “well, this person is a recurring problem,” report them if you can and block them, but don’t waste oxygen on them.

It’s not worth it. They’re not going to change and, at the end of the day, you will have spent how much of your precious time thinking about someone who literally doesn’t deserve or matter?

Come on. We are better than this.

It’s okay to admit that some people just are wastes of space and time. It’s okay not to feed the trolls. It’s okay to block someone and then will yourself into never thinking or talking about them again, because you can’t change people.

You can only be your best self, model your best behavior, and block a bunch of people. That’s it.

So as you’re planning your future content, for your fandom, for your publishing career, for whatever, think about how you can be your best self without letting some random ass racist troll tug you into their garbage heap.

Trust me: what we need more of in fandom are more people who are willing to walk the walk, and talk the talk.

Push back in general, sure. But the second you go toe to toe with any one person… they’ve won, or they’ll think they’ve won and they will never leave you alone again— and nobody wants that.

About Zeenah

Zina writes about comics, nerd history, and ridiculous romance novels when not working frantically on her first collection of short stories and complaining about stuff. One day, she'll settle down and write that novel.
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1 Response to Fandom Racism 101: Don’t Feed The Trolls

  1. ILikeYourBlog says:

    Thank you for writing this, I have been struggling with this a lot because I have this idea in my head that I can call out bad behavior and model good behavior and somehow, somewhere it will make a difference and change something, even if it’s just one person. Like that time Arnold Schwarzenegger called out a troll on YouTube.

    But I never do make a difference. The troll doesn’t care. They go on to write something else nasty tomorrow. What have I changed? At the end of the day I feel bad about myself, and end up questioning: “What right do I have to try to correct someone if I spend my time … doing … this?” How can I be more right than the troll when I spend my time doing the exact same thing that they are, just with the opposite viewpoint?

    The more I think about it, the more I think that I’m ignorant for believing that typing back is enough to change a view from someone like this. Life experiences create views which actions are founded on. If someone has a nasty view, how can a few words fix their entire life experience?

    Heck, I know people who don’t want to change and spend years attending therapists who know exactly what happened to them, exactly what is wrong with them, exactly what to say, and exactly how to say it, all backed by Science!, and it doesn’t work; because the person doesn’t want to change. If a therapist can’t change someone who doesn’t want to change, neither can I.

    You’re so right. By engaging, I make myself look like an idiot thereby disqualifying everything I might have to say. Because the troll pressed my buttons enough to get a response from me, they have won, and I have lost.

    Like

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