Posing As An Online Right Wing Provocateur Changes A Colorado Black Man

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Photo: Denver slam poet, activist Theo Wilson
Denver artist and activist Theo Wilson.

For Coloradan Theo Wilson, the recent violent protest in Charlottesville was "as predictable as gravity." He believes this because a while back he created an alter-ego to lurk in the comment sections of sites like Breitbart, and Infowars. But he tells Colorado Matters he didn't lurk for long.

His alter ego called out Barack Obama as a "race baiter." He threw out slurs online that he'd experienced as a black man. And his July talk at TEDxMileHigh about his experience and what he learned has gone viral, with more than 5 million views.

On why Charlottesville was so predictable:

“The forces that propel racism in a real sense in this country have never been uprooted. They say that history is cyclical and because of that, this was coming. Unfortunately, it manifested as a death in one person.”

On how white supremacy comes from “environmental learning”:

“You learn how to make recipes from your mom. You learn your world view from the paradigm of your parents. And no integration ... will uproot that environmental learning piece. So we haven't actually attacked the roots of why racism sprang up in a brand new generation of white kids who had never even seen a lynched body in public before.”

On how to address the root causes of racism:

“One of the things that can be done institutionally is to tell the truth about what actually happened in history. Count the bodies. Be sure that you tell about slavery not just being an economic means, but a means by which African bodies were subject to medical experiments and that the cultural teaching of inferiority, the science of phrenology was considered cutting-edge science at the time. Tell the whole truth, and you may have the ability to uproot and counterbalance the environmental learning piece that makes racism spring up again.”

On what he discovered about liberals while he was undercover:

“Liberals have this wide acceptance for everybody, except for those with honestly-held conservative viewpoints. Heaven forbid, you love God, this country and mean it, right?

...What happens to people is that when they get any kind of negative feedback for who they cannot help but being, who they cannot help but be, it creates a defensiveness. If there is a historical basis, there is clearly, if you take a look at who has been president for the last 200 years, it's clearly something that enables white maleness into power. But for those who don't feel like they have that type of experience, putting them in that category makes them defensive without context, and that's what happened to the left. Now this entire narrative of, "No. This is the devil. This is always the evil person, the bad person," really, in a same, similar, and screwed up way is reductionist to the humanity of folks who fit that description, even if there might be historical background behind it.”