Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: A Conspiracy of Dunces

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Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/GMG)

On Fridays, instead of getting our orders from our white slavemasters at the Illuminati regional headquarters, The Root responds to emails, tweets, DMs and comments from our readers. Sometimes we get it in early and other times we have to wait for it to be approved by the Pope, the Jews and the Bilderbergs.

They don’t want you to know that there is a secret conspiracy to keep black people from reaching our full potential by graduating from Umar Johnson’s Hotep Hogwarts, earning a Bachelors degree from Boyce Watkins’ White-Owned Black Bitcoin School, and submitting our Ph.D. dissertation on the Willie Lynch letter.

But we know about the conspiracies.

The mailbag keeps us woke.

I received this direct message on Twitter a few weeks ago. I don’t know which specific article prompted this, but it is not atypical.

From: Greg B
To: Michael Harriot

Hello, Mr. Harriot

I have read your articles for quite some time and I would love the opportunity to have an open honest dialogue with you. I am one of the growing number of black conservatives who reject the notion that the Democratic party has our best interests at heart. Like you, I think that racism is a large problem in America but I don’t believe the answer is causing more division by attacking white people. I also don’t believe the answer is asking for handouts. I think the Democratic agenda is to further handicap our people by making them dependent on the government and to convince them that they are the victims of hate instead of concentrating on rising above our circumstance. I know your playing up racial differences somewhat keeps you employed, but there is no conspiracy against our people.

I would like to invite you on my podcast to debate me on these issues and more. We could live stream it and choose moderators. I think it could be enlightning.

What say ye?

Dear Greg:


Every so often, The Root will receive an offer to debate from someone who swears they’re going to dismantle all of our notions about blackness, racism and white supremacy. We actually had a lengthy discussion about it a few months ago. (Or a year ago. Or maybe two years ago.) I’ve also received appearance requests from black conservative talk shows, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham. I know there has been a lot of discussions recently about how conservatives never appear on liberal outlets and vice versa. After considering each request, I always reach the same conclusion:

For fucking what?

If you’ve read some of my writings, you might know that I firmly believe that when it comes to racism, black people needn’t lift a finger to dismantle it. We didn’t create it. We don’t perpetuate it. We don’t control it. Racial inequality and white supremacy is a problem invented, perpetuated and controlled by white people. If it were up to us, it would have been dismantled a long time ago.


I do, however, reject your premise that black people believe that the Democratic Party has their best interest at heart. Do you seriously think any black thinks that Nancy Pelosi is riding for black folks? When the shit goes down, no one thinks that Chuck Schumer will be on the front lines tossing Molotov cocktails in his Black Lives Matter fleece hoodie. But as my grandma used to say when we had okra for dinner, which my sister hated: “It’s better than starving.” Black people stomach the Democratic agenda because we know that the Republican agenda is worse than starving—it is poison.

The fact that you think universal health care, financial support for the poor and government assistance for the needy amount to a “handout” is indicative of the white nonsense that you have allowed to seep into your brain. Is the $1,600 more per student that white school districts receive versus districts that serve mostly students of color a “handout?” According to a study by the Brookings Institute, homes in majority black neighborhoods are undervalued by $48,000 per home on average. Do you feel that the $156 billion-dollar advantage that white neighborhoods enjoy is a handout?


And you’re right, I do believe there is a conspiracy against black people. Redlining was an actual conspiracy—“an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons.” So was Cointelpro. So is the FBI’s current monitoring of black protest. So is the plot to cover up police brutality. 

Furthermore, white people are perfectly aware of this data and these facts. I did not discover this information by going to a secret, black database. This information is readily available on Caucasian Google (I think it’s called “Bing.”) If you don’t think there is a conspiracy, then one must believe that the advantages whites receive in mortgage loans, auto loans, car insurance, income, bail, sentencing, education and almost every quantifiable thing in American society is a coincidence, in which case you are—at the very least—a blind, ignorant, bootlicking, anti-black, fool.


In either case, I have neither the desire nor the words to convince you, Fox News viewers, or your white compatriots otherwise. I don’t think I’m good enough to change the mind of someone who willingly chooses to ingest poison.

And if I was inclined to participate in this kind of discussion, it would not be with anyone—black or white—who uses the phrase “what say ye”?


This ye says: “Nah, I’m good.”

This email is in regards to the article about conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Nipsey Hussle.


From: Step
To: Michael Harriot

Did you see this?

Are you gonna clap back at it?


Dear Step:

If I were going to clap back at this, I might point out that perhaps no other person on Twitter or in the real world attacks more black people than this assclown. If I clapped back, I would say that it’s possible to fight against white supremacy and hold ourselves accountable for our faults at the same time. I actually think there was a conspiracy to murder Nipsey Hussle. Here is who I think was involved:

  • The person who shot him: Obviously.
  • The criminal justice system: Nipsey was reportedly at his clothing store to help a friend who had spent 20 years in jail. I’m always amazed when something like this is casually reported. Aside from murder, rape or child abuse, there aren’t many reasons I could come up with to lock someone up for two decades and then think it was ok to release them without even the ability to buy clothes.
  • The gun industry: The man who reportedly killed Nipsey Hussle was a felon who was ordered to stay away from guns. It’s easier for a felon to get a gun than it is for a felon to get a job ... or clothes.
  • Fake masculinity: I don’t like to use the term “toxic masculinity” because it implies that the false concepts of machismo that we perpetrate is real manhood. It is not. Masculinity is not toxic. Whatever this is ... this thing that makes people shoot someone in the face for “disrespecting” them has nothing to do with manhood. In fact, it is the opposite of masculinity.
  • Barack Obama: Because he hired Eric Holder and allowed him to serve as attorney general knowing he was a dangerous felon and—Wait ... It’s not the same person? My bad.

And if I intended to clap back, I would point all of this out to people who used logic and reason. But I won’t, because, after all ...

It’s Tariq Nasheed.

Nah, I’m good.

This next email is in regards to the story about the discovery of Redoshi, the last survivor of the American slave trade.


From: Watermelonia L’negrola Koolaid
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Erased from history?

The best thing that happened to youre people is slavery. That’s the last time you were good for anything.

Why are you written about a slave bitch from Alabama? Your history is full of half-monkeys. Why would anyone try to hide your shitty history form you? You think anyone is cared of letting you find out abot nigger woman who pickec corn? The reason no one knew about this womna is that litterally no one cares.

Get over yourself.

Dear sir or madman,

I had no plans on responding to this letter before last night.

Last night I was among the elders.

I don’t know why, but I always loved sitting around older people and listening to them talk. Maybe it was because my mother told me to “keep my mouth closed when grown folks is talking,” but I’ve always been this way.


At round noon, I interviewed a 94-year old woman named Vivian Ayers Allen, who was being awarded the Trailblazer Award for the South Carolina African American Heritage Commission (SCAAHC.) In 1939, at the age of 15, Ayers Allen was in the last class to graduate from Brainerd Institute, a school founded to educate the children of freed slaves. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She educated children in the arts all her life and everything she did, she said, points back to Brainerd. She is still fighting to preserve its legacy. Her daughter even spoke of how her mom infused the principles from the Brainerd Institute into her and made her recite aphorisms, including:

“The Universe bears me no ill will. And I bear no ill will to it.”

Later that evening, I spoke at the opening for a black history exhibit at the University of South Carolina’s Special Collections Library, sponsored by the SCAAHC. The professor who invited me to speak said that the items on display had been kept in boxes for years. Just before I left, one of my hometown friends asked me if I had seen an item that was from Thornwell Elementary, a school in the small town where we grew up that we used to refer to as “the racist school.”


At the end of the night, I wound up in a room with a group of historians, professors, archivists and educators on the commission who fight for black history every day. They were all older than I was and had forgotten more black history than I have ever known. One of the factoids I learned was that nearly 60 percent of all enslaved people who were imported to the U.S. came through South Carolina ports. Sitting beside me, one man casually mentioned that you can’t learn about African American history unless you learn about the history of South Carolina. And as they sat reminiscing, little bits of black history leaked out. They spoke of black artists I’ve never heard of. One of them literally had a Green Book in her car.

But they didn’t really talk about history very much. For three hours, their conversation was about how they had to fight bosses, legislators, governors and senators to change school curricula, preserve historic black sites, or get recognition for historic black people. At every point, their obstacle was either the apathy or the intentional antagonism of white people. For three-plus hours, I listened to their firsthand stories about the intentional suppression of the history of black people. And the only way they overcame it was because they each had this secret network of black griots, educators, and elders who wouldn’t let our history die.


Now here is the thing:

Growing up, there were a lot of elementary schools in my town that were whiter than Thornwell, which is why I couldn’t figure out why black people in my hometown always said it was the “racist school.” That is, until I saw this at the exhibit, where it had been locked in a box for years when this professor, along with this commission, dug through those archives.

University of South Carolina Hollings Special Collection
University of South Carolina Hollings Special Collection
Photo: Michael Harriot

Not many people are aware of the work of Vivian Ayers Allen or the Brainerd Institute. But she has influenced black culture and the way black people are viewed in a significant way because you can see her work through her two children—Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen.


As I sat in that room, after the exhibit, after the interview, I realized that this small group of fewer than 20 people is responsible for preserving the history and culture of black people in that state and—by default—the history of black people in America.

Twenty fucking people.

So, today I understand why my mom didn’t want to go to “the racist school,” because she remembered it as the meeting place where people conspired to oppress her people. Now I know where two of the most iconic and respected women in the entertainment industry got their poise and nobility—from a slave school. Now I realize why black people can’t find their lineage or discover their own history; because it’s hard to fight against the forces colluding to suppress that history.


And do you know how I found all of this out?

A motherfucking conspiracy.