There’s something about the sight of a powerful black woman that brings out the trolls. After Kamala Harris’ impressive debate performance, they began to crawl out of their caves. Given Harris’ rising poll numbers , we can expect to see more of these trolls. So, it’s a good idea for us to get to know the various troll sub groups so that we may identify them and dispatch them accordingly.
Traditional Ugly Racist Trolls: These trolls are the easiest to identify. They are the ones who post overtly racist memes and use obviously racist language. I don’t need to go into detail here. You know what these ones look like. These ones are brought to you by the “alt-right”/your racist uncle who not only never voted for Obama, never felt the need to pretend that he disagreed with him for any reason other than the color of his skin.
There is also the Traditional Ugly Racist Sexist Troll subset of this group. They wish to inform you that not only is Kamala Harris black, she’s also a “ho” or a “skank.” These trolls come from the same dank holes as the ugly racist trolls, but for them, it is the potent combination of Kamala’s gender an race that is the focus of their ire. They are, of course, the ones who proudly wore “Hillary for Prison” shirts and called Hillary a bitch whenever they could. These trolls are also co-sponsored by Russian trolls.
New(er) Ugly Racist Trolls: These trolls are ones who post things questioning Harris’ citizenship. You know, birtherism take 2. These trolls are not hiding their racism, they’re just using the same racist tropes they used against Obama. No need to say the problem is that the candidate is black, you just need to equate blackness with foreignness thereby making being American solely the province of whiteness. These trolls are from the same basic regions as the Traditional Ugly Racist Trolls, but they just speak a different dialect of awful. These trolls are co-sponsored by Russian trolls. And also members of the Trump family.
Enlightened Racist/Sexist Trolls: These are the trolls want you to know that they are not racist or sexist. In fact, they voted for Obama and they would have voted for Hillary if she hadn’t, you know, been Hillary. These trolls may tell you that they really liked Kamala before the debate, but after her performance, they now have serious doubts. She was so aggressive. She seemed really angry. She was cold and calculating. She was disrespectful. She seemed to have planned the attack on Biden and was trying to capitalize on it.
These trolls are more diverse in their origins. They may be your older Aunt who wants you to know that she really doesn’t like Trump and is not a racist, but you know, both sides have become so extreme. These trolls may also be your Bernie Bro cousin who just doesn’t understand how anyone could like a candidate who seems as angry as Kamala Harris (irony is indeed, dead). These trolls are co-sponsored by Russian trolls.
Left Wing Trolls: These trolls argue against Kamala Harris from the left. These trolls want you to know that Kamala Harris is not really black. Her father was Jamaican and that doesn’t count. They want you to know that even though she went to an HBC, she married a white man. They want you to know that Kamala Harris was a cop. It’s not that Kamala Harris is black, it’s that she’s not black enough. Also, they want you to know that actually, even though she was the first black woman to hold elected office as Attorney General of any state and is only the second Black woman to serve as Senator, all of that is just identity politics and what really matters is that she is a neoliberal corporate shill.
Left Wing Trolls are tricky because they come from diverse encampments on the left. It is also really difficult to identify the true origins because the left has proven itself to be highly susceptible to Russian trolls who either by amplifying existing voices, or generating fake ones, have pitted different left leaning factions against one another.
Concern Trolls: These are the trolls that have no problem personally with Kamala Harris, but think that she is just too divisive right now. They think what we need is healing and that, although it’s really too bad, only a white man can bring us all together now. These trolls want you to know that they themselves have no problem voting for a woman of color, but that America really isn’t ready for that. Now is not the time.
Concern trolls come from many different locations. Some come from Republicans who, after destroying their own party, feel qualified to give advice to Democrats on how to run ours. Some come from Democrats who are backing white male candidates because they really do fear the country is too racist/sexist to back a woman of color. Indeed, sometimes people who raise these concerns aren’t trolls. They’re just scared. But again, we must remember that Russian trolls weaponize these concerns by amplifying them.
So what should one do about trolls? Sometimes, the best advice is the (internet) age-old adage of “don’t feed the trolls.” But in some cases, it makes sense to call them out. In order to do so effectively, know your facts. Call out the racism and the sexism. Familiarize yourself with Kamala Harris’ record so that when people come at you from the left, you can actually engage in a substantive conversation of her role as a prosecutor (guess what- it’s complicated!).
For concern trolls, gently remind them that Barack Obama, a black man with a “foreign” sounding name, won more votes than any Democrat or Republican in the last 30 years and that Hillary Clinton, even with all her baggage, won more votes than Donald Trump, Mitt Romney, John McCain, John Kerry, George W. Bush, Al Gore, and even her beloved husband, Bill Clinton. It turns out, for many voters, neither race nor gender are the deal breakers that the concern trolls would have us believe.
You may say that not all of the things I have outlined are necessarily arguments from trolls. That may be. Kamala Harris’ record should be scrutinized in the same way that we scrutinize the records of all presidential candidates. We can argue about what we find. But know for a certainty that Russian trolls will weaponize those arguments.
Russia hacked our election and one way it did so was by targeting people on the left hoping to move get them to vote 3rd party or simply stay home. Russia’s already at it again. We cannot stop it, but we can stop ourselves from falling for it again.