The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: I Don't Wanna Be A Race-Baiter No More

Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/G-O)

What happens to a race hustle, deferred?
Does it get whipped
Like a slave in the sun?
Or shot,
Like a suspect who tried to run?
Does it splatter, like MLK’s jaw
Or leave a stain on the Audobon Ballroom floor?

Maybe it just sags,
Like a black boy’s jeans...

Or is it just a white man’s dream?

Today, as everyone recovers from The Root 100, they made your friendly neighborhood race hustler wake up early to answer a selection of queries from the victims I have suckered into reading the unfiltered truth about black people. If you’re new to the Clapback Mailbag, here’s how it works:

An algorithm created by The Root’s engineering department searches every tweet, email, comment and direct message for keywords and then informs us whenever we receive a thoughtful, nuanced question from one of our readers.

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That almost never happens, so we just pick the stupidest ones.


This was in the secret section of Facebook Messenger called “filtered messages.” Or, as I call it: “The racist mailbox.” I don’t quite know which specific article he is upset about, but he is.

To: Michael Harriot
From: Adam Tucker

You gonna blame white people for all the fucked up videos of blacks on WORLDSTARHIPHOP??? Fucking fast easy money cuz that’s how the black community lives now fucking lazy as fuck at least slaves were hard workers. Cant say that much about you guys. I ain’t even racist I’m sick of blacks claiming shit that is untrue

White dont hold the black community down. Blacks do that shit on there own.

Why dont you talk about how the black community is fucking is a cycle of fuck ups cuz the drugs the cartel gives you not the white people. Talk about black rappers glorify gang banging and how because 60% don’t finish high school cuz pregnancy or they want quick cash they keep themselves there. I sold drugs never got caught cuz I wasnt dumb enough to stand on corners. We hid shit didnt sell to everyone made enough to be ok. Didnt need 1000 a day its fucking a big as target when you do that

That piece you did on TRUMP INVADING MEXICO WHERE YOU STARTED WITH A WHITE COMMENT CUZ YOUR RACIST. THEY KILLED WOMEN AND CHILDREN DUMB ASS SKIN DIDNT MATTER ITS WHO WAS KILLED. AMERICANS!!!! NO ONE SAYS YOU HAVE TO STAY HERE THE BLACK SLAVE OWNERS IN AFRICA WHO SOLD YOUR GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GREAT GRAND DADDY DIDNT WANT YOUR FAMILY THATS WHY THEY KICKED YOU OUT OF AFRICA AND SOLD HIM

Dont forget if OBAMA DONT PULL OUT OF IRAQ 100,000s of IRAQ & SYRIAN PEOPLE WOULDN’T HAVE DIED FROM ISIS. If Democrat Bill Clinton kills OSAMA BIN LADEN in 98 9/11 never happens and if George Bush doesnt goto IRAQ the middle east wouldn’t be so fucked up. Black white president both fucked it up in IRAQ

Unemployment rate for blacks is at the lowest it’s ever been in the history of America. Fuck you wanna shit talk that?? Hes putting more people to work but you’ll never admit he has help the black community

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Dear Adam,

Last night, at The Root 100, I stood next to Nikole Hannah-Jones, a board-certified genius whose 1619 Project is projected to win 1,202 Pulitzer Prizes this year. It might quite literally be the most significant piece of journalism since Woodward and Bernstein’s Watergate investigations. I stanned Joy-Ann Reid, whose The Man Who Sold America, told the story of all the corrupt shit most people are just now discovering about Donald Trump’s White House. Every few minutes, I would peek outside to see if Elie Mystal was outside having a smoke so I could pretend to wander outside and casually bump into him. Sadly, it didn’t happen.

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There were doctors (Dr. Karen Reynolds), best-selling writers (Bassey Ipki, Damon Young), politicians (Stacey Abrams managed to settle the salt versus sugar on grits debate) and a couple of entertainers. The people who were in attendance at this gathering of black excellence reach tens of millions of people every day. They are Ivy-League and street-educated.

But the weird thing is, they aren’t rare.

Every year, our committee fights for months trying to decide who should or shouldn’t be on the list. Some people didn’t make 100 list because they were too old (That’s always my excuse). Some were too young. Barack and Michelle Obama have never made the list. Beyonce or Jay-Z didn’t make the list this year. We could have done a Root 1000 list but someone on our staff may have stabbed themselves in the eye after one of the contentious meetings.

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Let me tell you how racist you and your president are:

When you mentioned of black people, the FIRST thing you mentioned is unemployment, drug dealers, crime and World Star Hip Hop (honestly, I didn’t know WSHH was still a thing, but I’ll take your word.)

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It is easy to believe that the educational, criminal justice and economic disparities between black and white people is because of drug dealing thugs who drop out of school and refuse to work.

But the vast majority of black people are employed. The vast majority of black people graduate high school (78 percent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics). Black adults use illicit drugs at the same rate as white adults (white kids start earlier). In fact, you admit that the only difference between those belligerent negro scofflaws and yourself is that you didn’t get caught!

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My point is, that the image in your head of black people is one that has absolutely no basis in fact. Every single one of the negative black stereotypes was created and perpetuated by white people with nefarious intent because those perceptions aren’t based in fact. There are only three reasons that anyone would conflate blackness with undereducation, laziness, unemployment or dope dealing:

  1. You’re stupid.
  2. You’re lying.
  3. You’re just racist.

Pick one.


We received a lot of letters regarding this article:

To: Michael Harriot
From: Leroy G.

Michael I just read your article on Kapernick. You should be ashamed of yourself. I believe you one of the people that this quote describes, “There is a class of colored people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs. There is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don’t want the patient to get well.” You are a bad person, my boy or just blinded by your own racist bigory. Feel free to reach out to me if you care to. I am not a big fan of people who are too weak to stand up for what they say. I am not one of them guys.

Leroy G.

Louisiana

From: Barry Funk
To: Michael harriot

Everybody loses with your race hustling

Leroy,

Even though I know you’re probably a white dude named Brett, I’ll play along because I’ve been thinking about a career in race-hustling. How much are they paid? When I looked on payscale.com, there wasn’t a “race hustling” category. Either this is an incredibly difficult career path or they’re hiding something.

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Oh, wait... It’s probably because there’s no such thing. It’s just something that white people made up to tell black people to shut the fuck up. That made-up Booker T. Washington quote (it’s actually a combination of quotes) is used by conservatives every time they disagree with a black person.

But I still have never seen anyone with a race-hustling empire.

White people called MLK a race-baiter. And Marcus Garvey. And Malcolm X. And Bob Marley. And every person in history who ever tried to do something for black people. And when it didn’t work, they killed them and made them martyrs.

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Now that I think about it, I don’t wanna be a race hustler no more.

The retirement benefits suck.


One more:

To: Michael Harriot
From: Jerkmasters

Hey Brother.

I read your article. And I just want to ask you a rhetorical question. Why is it that if you don’t agree with popular way of thinking amongst the black community, you’re a sellout? I supported Kap and boycotted the NFL for 2 plus years. And I don’t agree with the way he handled the situation. Does that make me a coon? Come on brother.

We as black people have to be able to disagree with each other without having our “blackness” attacked. You’re your own man and you can totally blow off what I’m saying. But as a brother with a platform I would challenge you to at least be receptive to what other brothers are saying and be able to agree or disagree without the personal attacks. We already have enough division in our community. We have to do better.

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Say “white people.”

Say it.

I hate the “free thinker” narrative that is built on this false premise. You know the one—that anyone who strays from the “Democratic plantation,” or objects in any way from the prevailing black narrative is attacked because they aren’t part of the black monolith.

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This has never been true.

It is a lie.

It has always been a lie.

Booker T. Washington disagreed with Marcus Garvey’s philosophy. Martin Luther King Jr. disagreed with Malcolm X’s approach. Cornel West disagrees with Ta-Nehisi Coates. Christopher Wallace believed that one should rub your titties when you saw him, while Tupac Shakur advocated for the grabbing of Glocks.

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The point is this: You ain’t special. People are going to disagree with you.

I didn’t call Stephen A. Smith a sellout because I disagree with the merits of his argument.

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However anyone feels about Colin Kaepernick, every black person knows that existing in any corporate space controlled by white people—in this case, the NFL—requires a certain capitulation. Every black person, to some degree, must hide a tiny bit of their blackness to even exist alongside whiteness. While I disagree with their point, many other journalists (including one of my favorites, Michael Wilbon) also noted that Colin Kaepernick appears to not want to play in the NFL. But, when they made this point, they also pointed out that the NFL definitely doesn’t want Colin Kaepernick to play for them. They noted that this event was a farce. They noted that it had a lot to do with Kaepernick’s unapologetic blackness making people uncomfortable. Not only is this required of any truth-telling, objective journalist, but it is their responsibility as black men.

Not Stephen A. Smith.

In his inimitable glee, Smith took joy in slandering Colin Kaepernick. He didn’t do it on tv or radio, he did it publicly on social media. He did not say “white people.”

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Stephen A. Smith ain’t dumb. He is also the highest-paid ESPN personality. To bluntly say Kaepernick “don’t wanna play” without noting the NFL’s duplicity is not only malpractice, but it had to be intentional.

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Maybe Stephen A. Smith didn’t want to talk about the black part of the issue because it might interfere with his massive paycheck, which makes him a sellout. Maybe he was told to say it, which makes him a sellout. Maybe he was told what not to say, which makes him a sellout.

The only other alternative is that the one man who speaks louder and longer than almost any other single individual, honestly believes that Colin Kaepernick, who broke no NFL rule, kicked himself out of the league and the NFL s not at fault...

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Which brings us back to your “free-thinker” premise.

Fuck unity.

The reason racism persists is not that black people call each other names on the internet. White people aren’t united. They don’t have meetings and agree to be cordial. They are just racist, and all the smiley emojis in the world won’t ever solve white supremacy. So, when a black person agrees with conservatives, white people or disagrees with the prevailing black narrative, the reason they are often attacked is because, when it comes to race, white people are always, always wrong.

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Every fucking time.

I do not want to unite with black person who calls themselves a “free thinker” because I know there is only one group in America who is free:

White people.

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About the author

Michael Harriot

World-renowned wypipologist. Getter and doer of "it." Never reneged, never will. Last real negus alive.