The Troll Under the Rainbow Bridge
After writing the article "Navigating Through Pride and Prejudice" about what it’s like to be black and gay during Pride, I needed to regroup. I had this pit in my stomach and started circling the black, brown, red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple wagons. I had an existential moment after reading comments on the article and chatter within the “Social Thunder dome” (aka Facebook and Twitter). Most of the feedback was great, encouraging and what I kind of expected. When you learned how to tap dance for “the audience” at an early age, you instinctively start speaking in a more accommodating second tongue. The self-fulfilling prophecy of “the magical negro” has always been my pop cultural destiny. The struggle is real and the burden is black.
Like I mentioned, some of the feedback was uber positive; but there were a couple of valid points that some astute strangers made in the comment section of the article that kept me awake…until I took an Ambien. For all the discrimination and prejudice, I lamented on in my first article, there was no acknowledgment of the disabled community and their struggles. Even though I, myself, am not disabled, if I was going to get on a gay soap box about equal representation, I might want to make sure I’m not showcasing the same bias that was such a sore point for myself. I, therefore, am a troll.
According to Urban Dictionary, a troll is “one who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.” You have no idea how much it hurts to admit this. If I look past the embarrassment, it’s cathartic as hell.
As a troll, I scuttled from under my gay rainbow bridge during the month of June just to uncover some foul truths that normally avoid the light of day. The source of truth for all trolls is a point of frustration. Something has royally pissed us off. We leverage the inter-webs as a kingdom of clicks, conversions, keywords and conversations.
What was I so frustrated about? What turned me into a Shrek-like, fire-breathing troll monster? I honestly think it was the almost dumbfounded responses I empirically observed about the revised gay flag that now (clutch your pearls) included a black and brown strip. Keep in mind, there have been countless variations of the gay flag: a flag with heart and crossed bones, a peace sign, smiley face, double Venus symbols, cowboy hats and even a bloody Hello Kitty. But we are going to have a call to arms about two color stripes? B!#$h please.
I am not naïve enough to think this newly-designed flag will change closed minds but it makes a statement. A statement I feel is personally addressed to those that look like me. It simply says, “We see, we thank you and love you. You’re home.” Some of the most powerful milestones for the LGBTQ community involved people of color. Two hidden figures who made an impact that night during the Stonewall Inn riots were transgender women of color: Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. This flag is not just for me. I haven’t done anything amazing for our community but there are too many unsung heroes that should be honored, known and celebrated.
The core of my frustration is more systemic. There are times when the right words escape me. I look to better writers and thinkers that have successfully encapsulated how I feel. I was frustrated by the digital backlash about the flag, the black and brown hidden figures in the gay community and the lack of representation in hearing our stories.
Franchesca Ramsey, the chocolate Khaleesi of comedy, was interviewed in September of 2016 for Vox. In this glowing article, Ramsey said about being black, “Our frustration comes from not being able to tell our own stories.” That’s why I am not only an unapologetically angry, black gay man but a furious troll. The fellow trolls that threw shade on my previous article are not what stopped me dead in my tracks. It was people who know me (well) critiquing my own story. I didn’t ask, need or require their opinion to write or publish my story. If anyone feels so strongly, please publish your own article on the Grand Rapids Rapidian or here on The Echoes Blog. It’s not that hard. Validation is for parking not my opinion-piece.
I almost feel this is my humble reprieve because I became (in record-timing) an internet troll.
I had the best intentions but even the best intentions can lead to digital / editorial purgatory. While I was writing my sophomoric attempt at an opinion-piece, I had dreams of grandeur. I wanted to be Aunt Viv from seasons one through three of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, the popular sitcom starring Will Smith. The original Aunt Viv was woke, regal, relatable and most of all real. Instead, I didn’t stick the editorial landing and turned out to more like the Aunt Viv from seasons four to six; one-dimensional, conservative and basic as hell. For that, and only that, I apologize.
Whether I’m a troll, unicorn, your magical negro or the true Supreme, these words from the reigning hottie humanitarian and crowned “Woke Bae,” Jesse William ring true, “just because we’re magic, doesn’t mean we’re not real.”
Follow Kwesi on Twitter @kwesirobertson. One love!