Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjiani and Thomas Middleditch Harassed as #EmboldenedRacists Get Even Bolder

November 14, 2016
HBO's Silicon Valley's Thomas Middleditch (left) and Kumail Nanjiani (right). (Photo credit: Getty)
HBO’s Silicon Valley’s Thomas Middleditch (left) and Kumail Nanjiani (right). (Photo credit: Getty)

Silicon Valley‘s stars Thomas Middleditch and Kumail Nanjiani tweeted over the weekend that they were targets of harassment Friday night by two Trump supporters who decided to use the occasion of Donald Trump’s presidential election to threaten the actors with sexist insults.

According to Nanjiani, who tweeted about the incident on Saturday, the stars were at a bar when two White men in their twenties approached them unprovoked. Confessing that they were internet trolls who had previously harassed the actors on Twitter, the unidentified men accused Middleditch and Nanjiani of being “wrong” about Trump. When Nanjiani and Middleditch attempted to defuse the situation by saying that they weren’t interested in a political discussion, the two men began yelling at them, calling the two actors “cucks”.

“Cucks” is a disparagingly sexist term popular among the alt-right movement to refer to people — typically men — whom the user would like to disparage as weak and effeminate. As noted in an article by GQ, the term originates with the word “cuckold”, which references the perceived humiliation of a man being forced to witness sex between his female partner and another man; often in pornography, the word takes on a racial connotation as it is often used in scenes where a White man is “cuckolded” by his wife or girlfriend and her Black sexual partner. In this context, the use of “cuck” to disparage others relies upon distinctly misogylinist reasoning.

The word was adopted by the alt-right, and can be seen as symbolic of White male political impotence. Although it is often used to attack the perceived non-masculinity of liberal — and centrist conservative — men, the word is actually an expression of the alt-right’s own masculine insecurities. Writes GQ:

Those who call others a cuck do so in the desperate hope that shreds of their own masculine and racial prominence can be protected.

Nanjiani recounts how the two harassers threatened to fight Nanjiani and Middleditch before a bouncer intervenes and ejects the two attackers. Nanjiani and Middleditch confess that they were left stunned and despondent. Nanjiani reflected:

Middleditch chimed in:

Already, alt-right trolls are accusing Nanjiani and Middleditch for fabricating the story; this is part of their larger skepticism of the rising reports of hate crimes targeting people of colour and women in the wake of Trump’s election. I reported recently that #EmboldenedRacists have committed acts of violence and harassment across the country.

Last week, the Southern Poverty Law Center issued a preliminary report saying that they had accumulated accounts of over 200 hate-related incidents since last week’s election. The vast majority of incidents targeted Blacks and immigrants, with additional incidents targeting Muslims, Asians, women, and the LGBT community. Images of many hate-related incidents are being independently documented on the Instagram page Thank You, Donald. In one of the more awful examples, an Asian American woman recounts that she was attacked by egg-throwing racists who called her “chink” while she was out walking her dogs.

An image posted to social media of an Asian American woman in tears after being the victim of an egg-throwing hate-related attack by #EmboldenedRacists late last week. (Photo credit: Instagram)
An image posted to social media of an Asian American woman in tears after being the victim of an egg-throwing hate-related attack by #EmboldenedRacists late last week. (Photo credit: Instagram)

Meanwhile, CNN producer Wilfred Chan has been the subject of a torrent of hate and death threats for the better part of last week, all in response to an image Chan created of a hypothetical electoral map that might result if only non-White voters voted. Chan says in Fusion, where he has also included screen captures of many of the tweets he’s received:

As I type this, people are tweeting that I’ll be deported or killed once Donald Trump takes office. It’s surreal, but it’s useful to explain how I got here, because stories like this will be happening a lot more for the next four years.

This shit is happening. We have photographic and video evidence. We have first-person accounts.

For those who continue to disbelieve it: your decision to remain skeptical about rising racism and hatred targeting marginalized people is a political one, and it says more about you than it does about the victims of these attacks.

For what it’s worth, President-Elect Donald Trump was asked over the weekend about the rash of racist attacks in his most in-depth interview since last week’s election. He acknowledged that attacks were occurring at the hands of some of his supporters, and urged them to “stop it.”

“I would say, ‘Don’t do it. That’s terrible,'” he told Lesley Stahl in his first televised sit-down as president-elect. “Because I’m going to bring this country together … I am so saddened to hear that, and I say, ‘Stop it.’ If it helps, I will say this, and I’ll say it directly into the camera: ‘Stop it.”

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