Why is clapping back so important? I’ve been asked that question a million times (I’m bad at math). But I thought we should take some time to explore this question.
It might give our readers some insight into why we choose to jab back at those who send us hate mail, insulting tweets and ugly comments. It might help you understand why The Root started this weekly tradition. But mostly because Deputy Managing Editor Yesha Callahan makes me write these introductions every week [Hey, Harriot, I see you talking about me because I’m editing this. Introductions are important! —Yesha].
When I was 11 years old, a bully named Jamaal was about to beat up one of my friends when Jamaal tripped and fell on the sidewalk. I quickly quipped, “That nigga Jamaal be tripping,” and everyone burst into laughter.
Jamaal got in my face and kindly informed me that he was going to kick my ass. Scared, I ran home and hid in the house. My mother saw the fear in my eyes, and do you know what she did? She grabbed me by my collar and said: “Aight. I mean ... Jamaal is pretty big.”
The next day, no one remembered me running home like a scared rat, but they remembered that joke I said about Jamaal. That’s when I realized: A smart, witty retort is even better than kicking someone’s ass.
Also, that story is 100 percent fake. The following emails are 100 percent real. Blame Yesha.
[Thank you; that was a good fable/introduction. —Yesha]
The following is a direct message from a Twitter user named P0lymorphic:
To: Michael Harriot
You are aware hate crimes apply to all people. Not just people of color. https://www.theroot.com/when-the-irish-weren-t-white-1793358754 … this article is offensive, remove it or I’ll call your local pd and file a complaint for hate crimes
I rarely do this, but I am reaching out to you because I am confused. A few weeks ago we published an article about Nazi furries that engendered a furtwa against me. Every day since, I have received hate mail from people who like to dress up as magenta German shepherds.
I can see that your Twitter bio picture is some kind of animal in a Nazi uniform. Because of the past few weeks, that’s not so weird. The crazy part is this: In your direct message accusing me of a “hate crime,” you never mentioned furries, the alt-right furry article or anything about your polymorphism!
This leaves me with some questions for you, P0lymorphic. I hope you can provide some clear answers:
- Why are you dressed up like an alt-right golden retriever? Look, I get it, we all have our preferences. I am not a human supremacist. I feel like blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians and people who want to walk around like the love child of Sonic the Hedgehog and a Teletubbie all deserve the same rights. What puzzles me is why you want to marginalize others. Who are you specifically against? Black bears? Do you want to build a wall to keep out the chihuahuas coming here to take your furry jobs? Are you Homo (sapiens) phobic?
- Are you Irish? The link you provided is to an article about the false notion that the Irish were slaves. Was that a mistake, or are you willing to forgive me for making fun of your predilection for polymorphism, but the fact that I wrote about the Irish upsets you?
- What are you going to tell the police? When they come to your home to answer the complaint, will you be wearing your SS-officer fox outfit? Are you going to ... wait. I think I just figured it out.
I know what’s going on. You’re trying to fuck a police dog, aren’t you, P0lymorphic? You’re using my splendid name to lure an unsuspecting K-9 officer to your home so you can make sweet love to another animal in uniform.
I refuse to be a part of your sick games, P0lymorphic. I see through your little ruse. Shame on you!
The next message is from the comment section for Monique Judge’s article about why emotional maturity and emotional intelligence are important in healthy relationships:
Monique’s definitions of emotional intelligence and emotional maturity come directly from psychological definitions, specifically, Psychology Today. But it brings up a greater point about a subject we need to discuss: I don’t think you’re very emotionally intelligent or mature, AluNoir. I have never met you personally, so I am basing my conjecture on one theory:
There is an old Southern saying that goes, “A hit dog will holler,” meaning that when you say or do something to a group of people, the one who is offended will let it be known. This happens often at The Root. Allow me to present you with another recent example:
This week I wrote this article:
I could easily find 10 comments that objected to the article, but I think the easiest way would be to just post this letter (that’s right, you are about to see a clapback inside a clapback. That’s some Inception-level shit):
From: Kristi Z
To: Michael Harriot
Michael, it’s hard to understand how you could write an article about Trump calling Elizabeth Warren Pocahontas being racist and then call all white women Beckies. Don’t you think that’s just as bad? Using your logic, if Trump using a traditional native American name as a slur means he hates Indians, does this means you hate all women? I can tell youdo but I want to hear you say it.
AluNoir, Kristi is a Becky.
She makes a good point that, all things being equal, calling a woman “Pocahontas” is the same as calling a white woman a “Becky.” But here is the thing—and I’m going to type it in all caps, which, in internet parlance, means I am yelling. Because I am about to yell:
ALL THINGS ARE NOT EQUAL!
That is the entire point of the term “Becky.” That is the entire point of the term “wypipo.” If the infinitely small dig of “Becky” and “wypipo” upsets you, then imagine how white supremacy must feel. Imagine how being labeled a “thug” feels. Or “underprivileged.” Or “urban.”
But most important (here is where I tie the point up in a neat little bow), anyone who objects to the the truth of a psychological definition or a hackneyed joke of a quiz is probably a hit dog.
AluNoir thinks that Monique must be living in an alternate reality because she believes in psychology. AluNoir believes that anyone who uses the actual definition of a term is delusional. AluNoir is emotionally unintelligent and emotionally immature. Alu Noir is a hit dog.
Just like Kristi. Kristi literally believes that anyone who makes a joke about white women must obviously hate all women. According to Kristi, that is the only possible explanation. I mean ... who could possibly dislike white women, with their entitled attitudes and their credit-card-shaped buttocks?
By Kristi’s standards, either I’m a hater or there are people on this earth who actually believe that there are some white women whose entire existence is predicated on their privilege. Kristi can’t fathom that it could possibly be the former, so it must be the latter. Kristi is a hit dog. Kristi is a Becky.
I beg of you, AuNoir ...
Don’t be like Kristi.
The next letter is an email to one of our female writers. I have concealed her name in case there are others out there like this:
From: Ron E.
Subject: Your worn panties
Would it be possible for you to sell me your worn panties? Please let me know.
Thank you kindly.
First of all, I am jealous. I have been writing for The Root for quite a while and no one has solicited a pair of my boxers. Even though I am disappointed, I will let it go so that I can bring up another salient point:
Why do you want a pair of panties? More important, what endows you with the confidence to ask?
I have often wondered how men like Louis C.K., Harvey Weinstein and Mark Halperin would think that a woman would want to see them masturbate. How could they pose questions like, “You wanna see me wash my bloated, fluorescent dad bod in the shower or watch me manhandle my penis like a bicycle pump?” I have come up with a theory:
I can’t believe that these middle-aged men would continue to ask women these obscene questions if no one, at some point, said yes. Human nature doesn’t work that way. Therefore, I have come up with a solution I call the “Thanksgiving rule.”
If you are a man, every Thanksgiving, you should gather your aunts, sisters, mother and grandmother in a room and reveal your sexual proclivities. Tell them, “I’m trying to find a woman who likes when a man grabs her breasts without asking.” Ask them if they know a nice girl at their church who might be looking for a guy to furiously masturbate into their house plant.
If they look disgusted or throw mashed potatoes in your face, take that as a sign that you shouldn’t do it to strangers. If you can’t do it at home, don’t do it in public.
I think I just solved the entire sexual-misconduct crisis. That’s what the mailbag is here for.