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What going undercover online taught one man about racism and awareness

Posted at 1:37 PM, Sep 07, 2017

With the country so politically divided, it can be hard to understand what the other side thinks and why. But to what extent would you go to find out? One man decided to explore a world and belief system he's never known.

For most of us a phone is just a phone. But in the hands of Theo Wilson, it became his portal into a different world. A community activist, Wilson shares his thoughts in sometimes controversial videos on race. Wilson says some people started sharing their reactions to his videos.  

"This dude literally asked where is my cotton at boy," Wilson shares.  

Wilson says there were other comments like, "Go back to Africa," and "Like I care about your sub human peoples and how many we slaughter."  

Wilson realized some of the comments were based on information other people were getting, but he couldn't see.   A big reason for that are digital echo chambers. From Facebook to YouTube algorithms show you more of the news and videos that you like and tend to align with your viewpoint.  

Wilson decided to go undercover. He created a new YouTube account not revealing he was black. He got new videos he wouldn't have seen on his own account, and new perspective.

"What surprised me most is that there were still people out there who believed in the genetic inferiority of black people," Wilson says. "And that fueled their political narrative in a way that made it very toxic."  

Wilson says the experience educated him, but for many in our country, it took seeing the images from Charlottesville.  

"We didn't see it coming because we were trapped in our own echo chambers," Wilson says. "Once you break outside of your own echo chamber you begin to get other bits and information and that's why this experiment was so important. If you can't get the other side of the story then things blindside you in terms of the political spectrum."  

Now Wilson is sharing his experience through venues like the Ted Talk he recently did in Denver. And although the undercover account is shut down, he says the lessons from it remain.  

"These are fellow Americans," Wilson says. "These folks are all around us you might as well figure out how to get to know who they are and how they think. So that if there is a way to save the fabric of society we have the tools to do that."