Ricky Rawls (not his real name) is a black American man who tweets from the handle @RickyRawls. I first began following him a year and a half ago and, not long after, noticed that he regularly engaged with members of the alt-right instead of blocking them.
Much of the media has attempted to discuss the alt-right/African American racial dynamic by taking an academic approach. Ricky approaches the issue for a far more common sense angle. Below is my interview with him.
First off, so readers known where you’re coming from a little bit, how would you describe yourself politically or ideologically? Liberal? Conservative? Some mix?
I consider myself neither, although at one point I did consider myself a black conservative and before that a black liberal. I think liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican or Socialist or whatever…unless you specify otherwise, with whiteness being normative and the default in America, what you really end up describing are white liberalism, white conservatism, etc.
Democrat or Republican, those to me are basically white organizations at the end of the day. I don’t agree with black people overly identifying and aligning themselves with any of those labels anymore. It’s cool to negotiate and work with them to whatever degree they are willing to help fulfill your needs for your family and your people, but to really believe they are there to represent you as a black person is delusional.
I’m basically anti-white supremacy, pro-black empowerment. If you’re a white politician with serious proposals to help accomplish either of those goals, I’ll entertain you, whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Whig, Marxist, Capitalist, whatever. If you’re just peddling an ideology centered on white people’s needs and telling me to just get overly invested in it just for a seat at your table and some lip service, I’m good.
I think black people have to get out of the mindset of overly identifying with and trying to force ourselves to get invested in causes and organizations not created with us in mind.
Tell me about your first experiences with the alt-right online. Were you already aware of this group the first time you encountered them?
I had a blog that unfortunately attracted many of them, because at the time I considered myself a black conservative (this is back when I had the limited belief that if one didn’t like things about liberalism, one necessarily had to be a conservative). At the time, many of them were more benign in how they expressed their views, and as a new blogger I was so happy to have readers I didn’t question them much. I took them to be just regular conservatives. Post-Obama though, it seems many of them just lost all ties to sanity and became more overt in their racism and stopped any pretense at not being racist, which is when I caught on to how messed up and toxic they were. Of course looking back the red flags were always there.
I’ve seen you not only stand up to some of these people online but, it seems, actively seek them out. What spurred you to do this instead of doing what many others do, Block and move on?
I don’t actively seek them out. They seek me out most of the time. However, if I do inadvertently come across one of them saying something easily refutable and no one is challenging them, I usually bite the bait and end up doing replying. I don’t like to block them when they interact with me because as trolls, they view it as some strange badge of honor to interact with someone and get them to block them. They like to act like the act of being block somehow proves that they were right and that the person they interacted with simply couldn’t handle their “real talk.”
The only exception to my “don’t block” rule is when it’s an alt-right account I’ve never interacted with. I’ve block hundreds upon hundreds of alt-right accounts that I’ve never interacted with. I preemptively block far more of them than I actually engage, but a casual onlooker has no way of seeing that. I find that’s the only time blocking actually makes them mad is when you do it before they even had a chance to troll you or hit you with their dubious “facts” and “data.” It makes them feel ignored, which they really hate.
Once an alt-right account does interact with me though, I usually don’t block them because like I said they take blocking as a trophy. Once they interact with me, I embarrass them by counter-trolling them, pointing out their logical fallacies, then muting them once I’ve made it obvious to any objective onlooker that the alt-righter is moronic, dishonest, and incredibly fragile. At that point, I mute them so that they can just keep tweeting away into the ether at me in vain. One thing they really can’t stand, as I said, is being ignored. So when they just keep tweeting away at you nonstop and you don’t answer because you’re no longer even seeing their tweets, I find that really drives them nuts.
The alt-right is known for trolling on Twitter and elsewhere, often behind anonymous accounts, but some operate under what seem to be their real names. Does the difference effect the kinds of interactions you’ve had?
Doesn’t really make any difference to me.
The alt-right is notoriously white, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what interaction with them is like online from that racial angle. Also, any explanation for the “cuck” stuff ie Cuckservative which seems to be another term for “race traitor”?
Before I start, I must confess I have mixed feelings about this because on some level I don’t really like the idea of unpacking examinations of the black penis for digestion by white intellectuals, because I feel like black people do that way too often…explain black things to white intellectuals and operate as cultural informants. There was a recent piece in the NY Times by Wesley Morris talking at length about the black penis and I was really bothered by how directed at the white gaze the whole affair was, particularly in how it all seemed like an appeal to white empathy for black humanity.
However, I’m somewhat okay with it in this piece because we’re discussing it more with the intent of examining white supremacists and their perversity and sadism more than to examine and dissect black sexuality.
The “cuck” stuff comes from an obsession with black penis, and an obsessive sexual inferiority and probably repressed homoerotic attraction people who use the term seem to have in relation to black men. They have some strange fixation on black men, specifically black penis, and it’s a longstanding tradition in American racism.
Southern racists often used fear of sexual relations between black men and white women, both real and imagined, as a pretext to lynch black men, and a little discussed aspect of these lynchings is that they would often castrate the black men either before or after the lynching and keep the phallus as a trophy, or they would force feed the penis to the person they were about to lynch. There is also some literature such as the journal article The Sexual Abuse of Black Men under American Slavery by Thomas A. Foster that goes into how it was common for white slavemasters to sexually abuse the black male slaves as well as the black female slaves. The exploitation of female slaves is much more discussed but there is scholarship and records describing the former.
Interestingly, one of the things described in Foster’s journal article is examples of white slaveowners, for their entertainment, at gunpoint, forcing black male slaves to have sex with white women. If you think about it, the current popularity of cuckold porn, powerful white men arranging for black men to have sex with white women for their own entertainment and titillation, descends from this tradition and is a refined form of it. I think the alt-right’s fixation on “cuck” porn in the imagery they’ve used isn’t new but just a refined, updated version of this old white supremacist fetish.
Furthermore, I think this homoerotic attraction the alt-right has toward black penis is something they often try to mask by overcompensating with a stated revulsion toward black penis, but either way they can’t stop talking about it. Like, if you keep bringing up and talking all day long about how you hate hearing about black penis, you’re still in effect making yourself hear about black penis.
For example, say I have a crush on a girl named Veronica. So every time I see someone, whenever I find a person who will listen, I say “You know who I hate? I hate Veronica. Veronica and her big fat juicy ass. What a bitch. And she’s always showing off that fat ass. And her tits. She’s always showing off those big luscious tits. It’s like she knows those tits are so great. They’re not so great. I bet her pussy doesn’t feel all that great either. I can tell she thinks it’s juicy and tight and wonderful though. You see how she always wears pants that highlight it. I also hate anyone who likes Veronica. Why are people always bringing her up to me? All the time, people come up to me talking about Veronica. And how fat her ass is. And how juicy her tits are. And how her pussy is the bomb. They’re as bad as her!”
Obviously, if I keep bringing up this topic all the time, even if I’m pretending I hate Veronica, even if I am claiming my problem is Veronica talking about how hot she is or Veronica’s sycophants talking about how hot she is, it’s obvious I’m projecting. I am the one who is constantly talking about Veronica by talking about how Veronica and everyone else are the ones actually talking about it. I am the one who thinks Veronica is sexually desirable and points it out all the time by constantly wanting to discuss how Veronica thinks she is sexually desirable and is always highlighting her own sexuality. By blaming Veronica and third parties for always talking about Veronica and fixating on certain aspects about her, I get to discuss these things without having to claim ownership of them, without having to admit that they’re my obsessions, my fixations, and my attractions. I can engage in all the behaviors I am criticizing, while claiming a moral high ground and blaming them on others. It’s classic projection. I’ve given myself a “safe space” to indulge in something I’m ashamed I enjoy and am drawn to.
It also becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If Veronica or people who like Veronica catch wind of you constantly doing this, they will pick up on the fact that you are angrily obsessed with Veronica, that you find her sexually attractive, that you are ashamed of this attraction you have for her and can’t own it, and that anything that reminds you of that triggers you. They’ll know that bringing this topic up will push your buttons and is the easiest way to get you mad. So it would be reasonable to expect whenever Veronica or her friends want to piss you off or get back at you, they would bring up how hot and desirable Veronica is and how much she knows it. They are only bringing it up because YOU made it clear how much of a hot button it is for you and YOU made it clear that it’s the easiest way to piss you off. But now you can tell yourself “See, there goes Veronica and her friends bringing up her hotness again. She’s a sex-obsessed narcissist, just like I said.” To you it’s proof you’re right about Veronica, but the truth is, they’re actually just responding to you in kind. You actually created that behavior. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, something you yourself created and attracted into your life, not a preexisting thing you were documenting.
Similarly, I think the “cuck” stuff is a way the alt-right has found to give themselves a “safe space” through which to talk about black penis all day while denying to themselves that they’re totally gay for it. Black dick is their “Veronica.” Before the “cuck” thing, their previous favorite method for creating a safe space through which to fixate on and celebrate their obsession with black penis all day was to use this meme called “Muh Dik.”
“Muh Dik” worked like the “Veronica” example. “Muh Dik” was supposed to be an imitation of a black guy talking about his own dick in ebonics. What white supremacists would do was just keep bringing up “Boy, these black guys won’t stop talking about their dicks. They just keep bringing up their big, juicy, throbbing, veiny cocks all day. Any chance they get, they bring up those big old cocks. And how they want to plow white women with them. Why won’t they shut up about those incredible cocks. I bet they aren’t even that big. All the time black guys going on about ‘Muh Dik.’ It’s their answer to everything. Anything you say to a black guy, his answer is always ‘Muh Dik.’ They even created cartoons and jokes all about ‘Muh Dik’”
And like the self-fulfilling prophecy I described above, a similar thing does happen with “Muh Dik.” Because from the days of slavery to Jim Crow to the present with “Muh Dik”, white racist men have made it clear that they have a very strong fear as well as sexual attraction to black dick that they’re deeply ashamed of, and also are very scared of losing sexual access to white women to black men. Black men have learned that this is the best button that they can push to piss off a racist. It triggers them.
So ironically, even though the “Muh Dik” thing is actually something totally fabricated by white racists and something they are the ones bringing up the most, they ended up making it a real thing to a degree.
By letting black men know that black dick is their greatest fear and desire (classic cognitive dissonance), it only makes sense that a black person who wants to get under their skin is going to refer to their own dicks and refer to sex with white women just to piss them off.
So, they actually end up creating and attracting the exact behavior from black men that they claim they hate from black men. Then the alt-righter can use it as proof: “See, look, a black guy just wrote me talking about his dick. “’Muh Dik’is a real phenomenon!” not realizing that the only reason the black guy is even saying it to them is because alt-righters themselves started the conversation about it, never shut up about it, and made it clear that it’s their biggest insecurity and the easiest way to piss them off.
But it’s also a win-win for alt-righters when this happens because deep down, for all their phony criticisms, deep down they actually WANT to hear black guys talk about their own dicks. It both makes the fear feel scarier and more immediate coming from a black man directly and from a homoerotic perspective it also makes it more sexually attractive for them to hear the black man talking about his own dick than to hear a white guy talking about a black man talking about his own dick. The latter will do, however, kind of like how vanilla extract will do when you’re an alcoholic and there’s no real liquor around, but the former is the top-shelf stuff they really get off on.
Anyway, back to the heart of your question, the “cuck” is the latest iteration of this psychological dynamic and defense mechanism. They can now talk about black penis all day and do so in a safe space by making it seem like it’s political engagement. They can even incorporate visuals of it in memes, describe it in tweets and blog posts, and pretend it has nothing to do with fears of sexual inadequacy and losing sexual access and also pretend they’re not totally in love with black penis. It’s just a more politicized version of “Muh Dik.” It combines two of their favorite passions, black dick and bashing their political enemies, into one insult.
During these interactions, how often does Chicago get mentioned? What do you think this says about the alt-right’s worldview regarding black men, women, and families?
Chicago is always eventually mentioned, along with FBI stats that are either fabricated or are real but misinterpreted and removed from all proper explanatory context. The fact that they have to keep resorting to discussing the same single city over and over again when there are so many functional communities with a sizable black population out there is itself very telling.
They have to keep using the same city as an example over and over again because it’s an extreme, rather than commonplace.
Have you ever had a good interaction with anyone online that appeared to be a member of the alt-right? If so, what was it and why was it good?
No, unless by good you mean made them look stupid and got a lot of people to join in on mocking them. If that’s what you mean, I’ve had plenty of good interactions with them.
Personally, I’ve battled viciously with people online in the past and eventually come to a mutual understanding on some matters with them. Any of that here or is the divide too great?
Many of these people are literal white supremacists and Nazis. Plus almost all of them are incredibly stupid. So, no, for me, I interact with them for a few reasons.
One is I enjoy inflicting narcissistic injury on them. As long as the narcissistic injury I inflict on them outweighs any narcissistic supply they derive from me paying attention to them, it’s a worthwhile interaction to me.
Second is I want onlookers to see the holes in their arguments, the flaws in their data, to catch them telling lies, etc. I see many people who go for the bait when dealing with trolls or get sucked into circular arguments or don’t know how to counter their arguments. So I engage trolls not to educate them, come to a mutual understanding with them, or teach them about the humanity of black people, but to help onlookers, especially black onlookers, get better at combatting them.
They are not very strong independent thinkers. They only have variations of about five talking points, and once you can counter those five talking points and force them to go off-script, they’re pretty useless and easy to deal with from there. So I like showing people how to do that.
Lastly, I’ll be honest, it’s a fun guilty pleasure to embarrass them.
Okay, big question where I ask you to make grand predictions you can’t possibly be qualified to make but I’m asking anyway: What does the existence of the alt-right say about race relations in the U.S. today and why?
That not as much has changed as people like to pretend.
The alt-right seems to have sprung up mostly as a reaction to “PC culture” as some call it and bolstered but Mr. Trump, what’s your opinion of Trump as a candidate and what do you think of his pet issues (if not solutions) regarding trade and jobs? Also, do you think Trump has empowered racism in reaction to “PC culture”?
I don’t believe the alt-right has sprung up in response to PC culture at all. That, to me, is buying into their narrative. The alt-right haven’t “sprung up” in response to anything because they’ve always been here since America was created. Alt-right is just a new name for white supremacy.
Just about everything they believe, all the arguments they make, are just rebranded from the old white supremacists, from their sophistic genetic arguments to their homoerotic obsessions with black penis and fear of losing sexual access to white women to black male competitors, to their stereotypes of black people and their hysteria about black crime.
They didn’t spring up in response to PC culture. PC culture, to the extent it’s a real thing, is something that sprung up in response to people like them.
The alt-right isn’t something that “sprung up” in response to PC culture, it’s an existing racism and sexism that just became more vocal and indignant due to the feeling that they were losing ground. It’s a form of narcissism.
Narcissists are interesting because they feel entitled to treat other people badly. Their worldview is so twisted that, to them, just not being viewed as superior to others registers as being called inferior. Not being given preferential treatment, to a narcissist, equals being treated as an inferior. Not being allowed to insult others without consequence, to a narcissist, is the same as you actually insulting them. Being forced to practice reciprocity and being forced to treat you as they expect you to treat them registers to them as actually being subjugated. Only doing twice as well as you are doing when they feel they should be doing four times as well as you registers to them as losing to you.
That is actually what the alt-right is. It’s preexisting white supremacy that has become more vocal due to a racial form of narcissistic injury. In fact, one of the heroes of the alt-right, Charles Murray, wrote a “sociology” book and the title was Losing Ground. And that’s basically how they feel. They’re only two laps ahead instead of three and that’s unbearable to their narcissistic sense of racial entitlement.
This so-called “PC Culture” that they like to pretend oppressed them and forced them to come into existence is really just women and people of color not letting them insult them at will, which to a narcissist is their right to do to those they perceive as inferior. Not only is mistreating perceived inferiors without consequence a right narcissists feel entitled to, it’s actually one of their major sources of joy, a life need that ranks up there with food, water, and sex, and they react angrily to being deprived of it.
By comparison with Trump, do you think that Sec. Clinton offers a better way forward for working class black Americans? If so, why?
No. I think she’s just a refined, reassuring form of white supremacy as opposed to Trump’s more overt, honest form.
What do you think opposing the alt-right online as a black man accomplishes?
I don’t know how much it actually accomplishes in the big picture. I think, at the end of the day, real life work dealing with black empowerment and ending systemic white supremacy is what matters. This is just a fun distraction and countering of white supremacist propaganda. It has its uses but it’s not the main battle.