- Conspicuous Blackness:
- Use of Mock Ebonics. This is pretty much a dead giveaway. Most Black Americans use Standard English in a public, written medium like a blog. Meanwhile, few whites can use Ebonics properly.
- Act to stereotype. They do this to “seem black”, if only to themselves.
- Use a name that seems “black” or “African”, like “Trinidad African” or “Naija Girl”.
- Say they are black in their first comment. You might think this is pretty common among black commenters, but at least on this blog it is not. Most make their race implicit in what they say, not explicit. Presumably because, unlike black sock puppets, they do not feel the need to point out their race or expect it to be doubted.
- Have a stereotyped view of blacks. Particularly one that never seems to go beyond the misrepresentation shown on American television. Most blacks have a broader, more fleshed-out, subtle, ordinary-life view of blacks.
- Push whitewashed opinions. Either by word or by acting to stereotype. There is little point in being a black sock puppet otherwise.
- Trolling. At least on this blog, nearly all trolls have been white. They create disagreements for their own amusement and then make it about winning the argument – because deep down they do not take the subject seriously.
In short, black sock puppets tend to be trolls who are Conspicuously Black yet whitewashed!
These behaviours flow from the nature of being a black sock puppet yet are things most black commenters do not do. Any one of them in itself might mean nothing, but two or more together is a bad sign.
It is possible for a black person to do everything on the list, of course. Some blacks are Conspicuously Black. Some blacks are whitewashed. Some are trolls. Yet it is far more likely that these qualities will come together in a white troll than a black person.
That said, there are two things to watch out for:
- Judging blackness based on ideology. There are 40 million blacks in America, a billion worldwide. They cover the full range of opinion, from Clarence Thomas to Angela Davis to beyond. There is no ideological purity test.
- Ad hominem fallacy: Arguments stand or fall in the end based on fact and reason, not on who makes them. Even black sock puppets can be right.
The trouble with black sock puppets is not that they are wrong – sometimes they are right – but that they are arguing in bad faith.
Commenters and race: Generally speaking, I try not to concern myself with a commenter’s race, particularly since it is nearly impossible to prove over the Internet (and, in any case, letting people self-identify however they want is probably the best policy, online and off). Instead I try to concern myself with their arguments. White racism is wrong no matter whose mouth it comes out of.