Like millions of millennials online, Nicholas McCrary pinned inspirational quotes to his Pinterest page, picking guiding words like Kendrick Lamar’s line, “Every day I try to escape the realities of this world.” Alongside Kung Fu Kenny’s bars, McCrary also pinned a number of images of Temple Grandin, the autistic author, noted public speaker and animal-loving professor whose life was the focus of a 2010 biopic starring Claire Danes. McCrary seemed fond of Grandin’s gentle way. Over on YouTube, he ran a channel called BarakaTV, where he, much like Grandin did in her books, spoke about his personal struggles. The thing is, his struggles had a much less inspirational bent than Grandin’s: He mainly discussed life as a Black incel.
As with many incels, his YouTube channel wasn’t hugely popular, but McCrary was an active member in the online community of sexless Black men. He spoke candidly and regularly about his plight. Others often commented on his videos, recognizing themselves in his pain and loneliness. McCrary complained of his days spent in rural Oklahoma, and how he felt alone and unwanted by women. As such, he bonded with strangers online about their mutual resentment of others — the ones for whom it all came so easily. Anger, especially at women, was their glue.
Like most Americans, McCrary placed a high value on looks. But unlike most Americans, he was a beauty pageant winner. He won 1st Place in the 1990 Tulsa Baby Beauty Contest. His family made sure to include this fact in his death announcement. They wanted the world to know their boy was once prized for his looks: “Even though he was a loner, he enjoyed playing soccer, tennis and baseball. He developed the most beautifully athletic legs from walking and jogging through the neighborhood.”
After high school graduation, McCrary had worked as a stock associate at an employee-owned regional grocery store called Reasor’s Foods. He hoped to one day become a warehouseman. Instead, on September 19, 2018, after years of posting confessional YouTube videos, the pained and lonely vlogger set himself on fire. He was 29.
This was his final tweet:
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An incel is a person who is “involuntarily celibate.” They can’t get laid, no matter how hard they try. The term “incel” was originally created by a feminist, for what she called Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project. It was a way for people to express feelings of alienation, loneliness, etc. But in short order, the term became quite the opposite: She now says it was hijacked by men. “It feels like being the scientist who figured out nuclear fission and then discovers it’s being used as a weapon for war,” she explains. (This may be the same reason she’s asked that only her first name be used in news stories that mention her as the original creator of inceldom.)
The majority of incels who make national news for their acts of violence are young white men. The term is most synonymous with Elliot Rodger, who in 2014 murdered six people in Isla Vista, a neighborhood in Santa Barbara, California predominantly made up of University of California, Santa Barbara students. As his entitled rage spiraled out-of-control, Rodger began to blame women for his years of pain and rejection. In his sprawling 141-page manifesto that he wrote to explain his planned massacre, Rodger recalled how not having a beautiful, blonde white girlfriend became the fuel for his violence: “I thought it to be such a tragedy that I was actually going to war against women and all of humanity. But then again, women’s rejection of me was a declaration of war.” Eight pages later, Rodger added, “I will punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex. I cannot kill every single female on earth, but I can deliver a devastating blow that will shake all of them to the core of their wicked hearts.”
Rodger’s murderous rage quickly inspired copycats. In 2017, William Atchison, 21, left his parents’ home, crossed the street and walked into his former New Mexico high school, where he shot and killed two students. In online forums, he had a history of posting as “Adam Lanza” (the Sandy Hook shooter) as well as “Elliot Rodger,” and, most chillingly, “Future Mass Shooter.” This had drawn attention — e.g., the year prior to his killing spree, the FBI visited Atchison after he’d posted a question, paraphrased by the FBI as, “If you’re going to commit a mass shooting, does anyone know about cheap assault rifles?” He and his family were interviewed. But the FBI decided no action was necessary since the boy didn’t own a firearm.
In 2018, Alek Minassian, 25, drove a van into a crowd in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 16 others. Minassian also blamed women for his violence. In a message he posted on Facebook just before his rampage, Minassian cited his hero, his incel inspiration, Elliot Rodger: “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
Yet white men aren’t the only men who hate women, who seethe with rage and who blame the state of their lives on stereotypes and social games that deem them losers. Black incels exist, too. They’re just as angry. They’re just as self-pitying. And they’re just as in dire need of therapy and personal attention. The Black incel movement is a parallel world of angry young men who hate women. And they’re a group very few people are talking about — or with.
The anger of Black incels is so great they eagerly spend the valuable hours of their young lives in racist online spaces, arguing with other incels about who has it worse. Blackcels, an alternate term for the sexless brothers, say there’s no argument — in the U.S., they have it the worst. No women want to be with a Black man because he occupies the lowest position on the social hierarchy thanks to racism, they claim. But non-Blackcels disagree. They argue that women are stupid, and thus, are attracted to Black men purely for their large penis size. If anything, Blackcels are lucky — they have a natural advantage: All they need to do is JBB, or “Just Be Black.”
This is merely a taste of what Black men endure in incel spaces. They endure nonetheless, because more than racial loyalty, they feel devoted to misogyny. Connecting over a hatred of women is the strongest bond they’ve experienced. It’s so powerful, they’re willing to put up with a whole bunch of racism just to keep it.
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“The alleged whiteness of incels is often a talking point amongst people, but I don’t think it necessarily reflects this whole noxious subculture accurately because it’s surprisingly racially diverse,” says Arshy Mann, a journalist based in Toronto. He devoted months to researching incels and their online spaces, habits and behaviors following Minassian’s van attack in his city. “There’s no stats, or anything, so you have to go off the conversations that you see in these forums and by how people self-identify.”
“I’d say you’re more likely to see people who self-identify as white or of South or East Asian descent,” he continues. “In general, you see fewer people who are Black, Hispanic or Indigenous. Although there are people from all of those groups within these forums and in these subcultures. Even Minassian, I don’t think he’d self-identify as white.” (Minassian is Armenian.)
This spectrum of incels is represented by a range of nicknames, collectively called the ethnicel. There are South Asian men known as currycels. There are East Asian men called Ricels. There are also Arabcels, Turkcels and, obviously, Blackcels. “From what I can tell, there are many paths-in one can take. For a lot of Black incels, they started out in different YouTube communities,” Mann explains. “What happens is, a community like TFL [True Forced Loneliness, the largely ethnic precursor of the current incel movement] was a subculture, but it started to interact with these other subcultures and misogynistic bits of the internet. Whether it’s incels or MGTOWs [Men Going Their Own Way], they get subsumed as incel spaces develop online. Now what you see is a lot of these subs — whether or not they’re non-white or white — interacting with each other in the same spaces.”
That said, there are countless YouTube channels and hosts that speak directly to Blackcels. In particular, Blackcels prefer outspoken media personalities like Tariq Nasheed and comic Patrice O’Neal, who was like a Black Moses for the angry and sexless. When O’Neal was actively performing as a stand-up from 1992 until his death in 2011, he handed his rather sizable army of fans simple laws (and a sexist’s certainty) for the ways men should love women. For example, he once told Marc Maron:
O’Neal: I generally don’t like what women… are.
Maron: Which is what?
O’Neal: I generally don’t like living in a world where being what a man is, is a horrible thing. And no matter what a woman is, it’s a wonderful thing. This is what they doing! They are — society — bringing men down. And women are up.
He later covers topics like the hyper-gamy of women, a term that refers to using one’s partner(s) to attain higher social status. He similarly cites how women have a “shark logic” about picking mates for sex, and also employ various other “laws of the jungle,” which he cautions men still motivate our modern male-female dynamics.
Taking cues from sexist jokes like O’Neal’s, Blackcels typically begin to engage in misogynoir and aggressively compare Black women to women of other ethnicities. To them, Black women are impossible to deal with and date. There’s also a tendency to fetishize Latinas and Asians. Blackcels, though, complain they miss out on dating other ethnicities because most non-Black women prefer “Chads.” So they’re “stuck with Black women.”
A Chad, of course, is a conventionally handsome, confident, well-to-do white man. But there are also “Tyrones,” or the Black equivalent to a Chad. However, Tyrones aren’t really equal because “incels believe that women will always prefer white men because of the power and status they hold.” (This idea gets referred to as Just Be White, or JBW, the counter to JBB [Just Be Black].) Blackcels tend to joke and troll this ideal. Yet they still seem wholly convinced that if they were a Chad, they could get whatever woman they want.
“Blackcels are different because as a society, black people, namely black men, are raised with a bit of normalized misogyny as far as how we’re raised to think about women. For black incels, it’s a situation of pure hopelessness, made in part by people who refuse to admit there even is a bit of a problem. When blackcels complain about ‘Tyrones,’ the Chads of the black community, the fact is, yes, SOME black women have a thing for shitty men. Plenty of black men see it. I’ve seen it. Plenty of black men see it day in and out and while I won’t say that the problems of the black community would be solved if we made all the black women go into some sort of ‘enforced monogamy,’ if you want to make black incels fix themselves, the first thing you have to do is level with them and admit that on some level, they are right in what they see.”
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KenTV was easily the most popular young Black incel on YouTube. According to a comment left on one of his most recent videos (sic throughout), “Kent is history in YouTube he was one of the first Black man that talked about the incel problems in the Black community.” He was — as in past tense. But KenTV didn’t kill himself; he’s just tried to kill-off his digital self by deleting his old channel and videos. Despite his efforts to erase his past, however, many of his video confessions are still online, reposted by others, bobbing around like embarrassing flotsam. (Which means he remains YouTube famous for how he once constantly shouted that he was a “Looooseeerrrrr!!!”)
KenTV would typically sit in his car or on his couch and speak his mind. Eventually, he’d reach a point where he’d fulminate and fury. He’d yell at his phone’s camera over and over again, berating himself for what a loser he is. Naturally, his free-floating diatribes often focused on his struggles with women, but he’d also yell about American culture, or say, fluoride in the water. Whatever the topic, though, he was insistent that he was a loser and he had receipts to back him up.
It was a self-critique some KenTV commenters couldn’t understand. In their eyes, KenTV always wore clean-fitted ball caps, sharp glasses and polos and had his own car. How could a man like him possibly be complaining, they’d ask in the comments. KenTV, however, remained unconvinced: “I’m just a boring guy. I really feel that since I’ve never been in a relationship, I never been on a date yet — then why the heck, did God give me a penis, then? If I’ve never been in a relationship, if I’ve never had sex, then why the heck do I have a penis, then? That don’t make any sense, man.”
I contacted KenTV for an interview, and he was interested at first. But after he thought more about it, he said he wanted to put that part of his life behind him. He’s a different man now — a WWE pro wrestling-hopeful to be exact. Thus, his new YouTube presence is dedicated to the squared circle. He stays busy training and no longer considers himself a loser. He’s found confidence and a self-image not tied to expectations of how women should treat him or behave.
In March, KenTV released a video about his transformation: “I’ve been trying to work on myself — I’ve been doing a good job at it. I’m trying to build myself up mentally, physically and financially. I’m only human. I make mistakes. I’ve made a lot of mistakes. As I think about it, I really, really, really regret making those videos. As I think about it, sometimes, I really wish I just kept my mouth shut. I really shoulda just kept my mouth shut, man. But you live and you learn.”
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Thirty-five-year-old Calvin D’souza works at a grocery store as a deli clerk. Online, he’s known as BigBOSSCalvin83. His YouTube channel description gets right to the point of what he offers to the world: “I speak TRUTH to power and I speak about my life experiences. I will address racism and Caucasian Supremacy, men’s issues, gynocentricism, feminism, women, anti-feminism, government, politics and current events!”
D’souza started making YouTube videos back in December 2008. He’s been steadily speaking to the people ever since, mostly about how to live with loneliness. “What motivates me to record a video is what’s on my mind, how I’m feeling, a topic that’s trending or something that’s happened to me recently. Then I share that,” D’Souza says. “Most of my videos are in the car, because I’m on the road and I commute a lot. So I don’t have time to be at home making videos since I’m usually on the go. I’m living with family, living with relatives, so a lot of times I can’t speak my mind as I’d like to.”
He prefers not to label himself as an incel, but he was once an active member of the aforementioned True Forced Loneliness. “TFL is more mainstream than being a Black incel or part of those social media communities,” D’souza claims. However, per incels.wiki, which tracks the incel movement’s many online spaces: “The only differences between TFL and involuntary celibate communties are that many antecedent TFLers tend to be mostly unaware of the term ‘incel’ or the incelosphere, lean toward a MGTOW perspective and vlogging style more often than incels, use poorer recording techniques and advertisement, and are mostly non-white.”
Interestingly, TFL was founded by a conservative, rural white guy named William Greathouse and popularized by early TFL YouTubers Steve Hoca (“Roller Steve”) and self-described Black fatcel, Dwayne Holloway. After infighting between the founders, the movement shrunk and left D’souza wary of labels. Now, like a digital shepherd, he tends to his own online flock. “I’d call myself a men’s rights activist for Black empowerment,” he tells me. “Or a Black activist, you’d probably say. I’m my own man. I just speak on my life and my agenda. I’m just being me. I’m just being a social activist, speaking for those who are afraid to speak or those who can’t speak, who don’t have a voice or who don’t know how to express themselves.”
D’souza pauses — not so much to distance himself from other incels, but to clarify that it’s the label he objects to, not the misogyny. (In one of his videos, D’souza argues that the murderous rampages of incels like Elliot Rodger occurs for one simple, expected reason: “Men like that have mommy issues”; in another, he refers to women as “slave masters” and calls beta men their “slaves.”) “See it’s hard for me,” he explains. “Because I don’t call myself a Black incel. But I can relate to certain things when Black incels speak about being a Black man, dealing with racism and dealing with feminism.”
“Society has been very gynocentric, just catering to women,” he continues. “We’ve been conditioned as men, ‘Oh you protect women,’ and ‘You believe women’ — no matter what. I do not agree with that.”
For D’souza, the #MeToo movement represents an especially dangerous threat to men, regardless of race. “That #MeToo movement turns up this blatant feminism. And what I see out here — across the board racially and internationally — this scared wave of feminism allows women to be like children and do whatever they want and never be held accountable. It’s just always the man’s fault.”
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Tyrone Magnus was once a scrawny, geeky Black kid. Now, though, he calls himself the Black Viking. His one million YouTube subscribers follow him for his videos dispensing life advice and his movie reviews. He was moved, however, to make a reaction video when he first found KenTV screaming that he’s a “loooooserrrrrr!!!” In some ways, he saw his younger self in KenTV. He wanted to help this confused, self-defeating brother to become a better version of himself.
“Nobody’s going to want anybody that doesn’t care about themselves and love themselves,” he tells me. “In his videos, [KenTV] says, ‘I’m a loser. I’ll always be a loser.’ I think it has a lot to do with your own energy and what you put out there.”
As a man who’s made it his profession to be charming, confident and attractive, Magnus receives countless messages from young men seeking his secrets of how to build (or bolster) their confidence. “Do incels and other guys struggling to date reach out to me? All the time,” Magnus says with a booming laugh. “Sometimes, I think you need to take a look at yourself to see if…” he pauses to think for a moment. It’s a long pause. But eventually, he picks up his train of thought and asks the question most incels avoid: “Are you really something that a woman should want? A lot of us guys look at certain situations like it should be ours but without putting in the work.”
“Kind of like with me — when I was younger, I was the skinny, awkward kid,” he continues. “Girls would say that I was cute, but I was friend-cute. I didn’t have the game. I couldn’t talk to women. I was shy. But I did have that funny thing going for me. So when I started working out — because I wanted to go to college and run track — I started to notice women really began to respond to me because of my body. I was like, ‘Okay, I might be onto something here.’”
He knew, though, that it needed to go beyond looks. “Women respond to your looks, but they respond to your career, your mind and your intelligence, too. Can you carry a conversation? Can you stimulate her mind? I’d pull certain women, but I couldn’t keep their attention ‘cause I couldn’t carry a conversation. One day, I just got it.”
In a lot of ways, then, the key isn’t attractiveness, but being present enough to connect with others and imagining the world from their perspective. “Some people have a really hard time with that,” Magnus tells me. “They’re just worried about themselves. The world revolves around them. They cannot see it any other way. If you could teach people to see things other people’s way, maybe they could figure things out.”
Of course, to see things from someone else’s perspective requires a willingness to do so. It also requires seeing the other person as a human being. And therein lies the rub for Blackcels (and incels more generally): To them, women aren’t real people; they’re just symbols for everything that’s gone wrong in their lives.