On Martin Luther King Day, the trolls all come out to play.

January 18, 2011

As I wrote before, being here in America for Martin Luther King Day, for the first time since 1998, has really meant a great deal to me. I have deeply enjoyed meditating on the late, great Dr. King’s wisdom over the past week. His words spoke to places in me that have been injured, if not dead for a while, and his wisdom brought life; something, unnamed but important, is again stirring in my soul. I must say, however, that my ending to MLK Day was slightly tragic, though maybe somehow just as important in some unknown way or another.

I was just about to go to sleep when a tweet from Ferrari Sheppard (@stopbeingfamous) caught my eye. He simply said, “Looking at MLK’s FB makes me sad. So, I stopped. Doesn’t make what I saw go away.” Until that moment I was not even aware there was a Martin Luther King, Jr. Facebook page. And though I assumed Ferrari was merely touched by the outpouring of well wishers, the memories of Dr. King, and just the swirling emotions of the day, I was curious to see what made him so sad. I hopped over to Facebook and looked up the page. What I saw when I got there sucked me in to a dark, disgusting, unthinkable rabbit hole of hatred, racism, and general distastefulness.

It hit me in the face like Mike Tyson’s boxing glove dipped in concrete. I very quickly realized what made Ferrari sad was not the positive thoughts and memories of the life lived, and sacrifices made of the late legend MLK; but rather, in and amongst genuine well-wishers and admirers of Dr. King, the outpouring of the worst forms of hate, splattered all over the wall of this page that was created to give honor to Martin Luther King, Jr. It was one of the most atrocious forms of cyber-vandalism I have ever seen in my life; people posted racist comments with the sole purpose of angering others, they used the “N word” regularly, they posted derogatory pictures depicting black people in pejorative ways, and they just generally spewed hate. It was disgusting. It disturbed me on a deep level.

These posters went to great extents to show their apparent abhorrence of the black race, in general. There was one picture that I have not been able to get out of my mind. It was of an African mother, weeping, holding her naked, malnourished, deceased child in her arms; he was basically a skeleton with nothing but skin hanging from his thin bones. Someone had photoshopped the picture to say something to the extent of, “That’s what KFC meat is made of.” My eyes welled up with tears. I wanted to vomit.

I got completely sucked in. I read and scrolled, and read and scrolled, and read and scrolled. The more I read and saw, the more repulsed I became. I could not believe the audacity of people to taint such a loving, peaceful, selfless man’s Facebook tribute page with such a display of hatred. I noticed one of the protagonist posters informing others that a specific antagonist poster was a “troll”, with the alleged “troll’s” response being something to the extent of, “I’m not a troll. This is my real account and these are my real thoughts.” Now, when I had first read the protagonist calling the antagonist a troll, I thought it was just an unfavorable name she was calling him, but by his response I could tell there was more to it.

I Googled it and found out that internet trolls are people who make fake accounts on various internet platforms and they post comments with the sole intentions of fueling debate, argument, and extreme emotional responses; they basically get thrills out of pissing people off. You might have already known that, but this was the first time I had ever heard them be labelled as trolls, with even the act being called “trolling”, though I had seen it done before on many different venues. For a brief second, I was relieved to think that some sad person was just bored enough to create an account and get a kick out of seeing other people get all riled up. I said, for a brief second. Then I was hit with the concrete glove again, realizing that, whether they truly believe it or not, they are indeed real, live people behind these so-called “trolls”, and hate is hate, plain and simple.

I stayed on the page way too long; way more than an hour, possibly two. It put me in a real funk! It made me sad on the deepest level of my being. I know I shouldn’t have let it get to me that much, but I could not even imagine speaking about my worst enemy in the way these people were speaking about an innocent, entire race group of people. It was such a strange ending to a week of literally basking in the greatness of Dr. King. And it reminded me of important lessons; that, as a society, we are only as far as the ones who are farthest back, we are only as free as we allow ourselves to be, love is a choice and a calling, hate is an easy cop-out to love, and that the struggle is far, far from over. Though it saddens me to even think about the hypothetical event of Martin Luther King, Jr. ever seeing that hateful display on his Facebook fanpage, I know for a fact he would handle it in a graceful, intelligent, loving, firm and peaceful way; he would show his superiority over the hateful words of those people, by merely not succumbing to hate himself, and choosing the path of firm love. And that is why he is one of my biggest heroes who ever walked the face of this earth.

Aluta Continua. Viva comrade Martin Luther King viva!