Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: It’s Not My Fault

We may earn a commission from links on this page.

It’s not my fault. You know black people—we never accept responsibilities for our actions.

When I was hired by The Root, I stupidly pitched the idea of the Clapback Mailbag, where I would respond every week to the emails, tweets and comments received by the staff.

I blame David Letterman’s “Viewer Mailbag” and Deadspin’s Funbag (Drew Magary, coincidentally, was the first person to ask me to write for GMG) for convincing me that black writers receive funny, inane comments from readers. I blame Deputy Managing Editor Yesha Callahan for saying it was a good idea. I blame Senior Editor Stephen A. Crockett Jr. for asking me if I was OK because I seemed to be taking it easy on the white people lately.


But most of all, I blame you. You like this bullshit. Now I’m stuck doing the Mailbag on my days off.

It’s all your fault.

One of our favorites is back! Derp Derpington has a few questions about the article on the criminalization of black America:


From: Derp Derpington
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: criminalization

Can you please explain why, in 2016, black people killed more white people than vice versa? Can you please also explain why blacks killed more white people than white people AND cops killed black people COMBINED(553 whites killed by blacks vs 243 blacks killed by whites and 266 blacks killed by cops)

Furthermore, can you please acknowledge that black people are the most homicidal (i.e. they kill the most people) and most racist (I.e. they kill more people outside their own race) in this country? Because it’s true.

Finally, can you please acknowledge that, going off of the black against whites homicide rate in this country white people would have to kill 3,198 blacks to be even, considering we are 6X the population you are? If we went off of the white against blacks homicide rate, blacks would need to reduce their rate to 40.5 people to be even with our rate (243)?

You mention that poverty, not race, is the determining factor for comitting crime. You then go on to mention that blacks are more than 2x more likely to be poor then whites. Do you think poverty is an excuse for homicide, if so,do you not agree that since there are FAR more poor whites that the white homicide rate should be higher than the black homicide rate? How can you explain the fact that there are so many poor whites and yet we commit far less homicides, per capital, than black people? Can you please explain what is causing this extremely high homicide rate within the black community. You yourself mentioned it is less than 5% of the black population committing these crimes and yet the homicide rate in this small group of blacks is exponentially greater than any other race. Why is that? What is it about the black community/culture that brings this about?


Sure, Derp.

I will acknowledge that the 553 white people killed by blacks are more than the 243 black people killed by whites. I even acknowledge that you asked this question, because ... math. Now let’s say that each of those 553 killings was by a different person. Those 553 black people are homicidal. I totally agree with you. I will even agree to call all 4,347 black people who were arrested for any kind of murder or manslaughter “homicidal.” I don’t want to be racist, so I will just say that all killing is bad.


Using that thing called math, this also means that 99.999 percent of black people are not homicidal.

I agree with you 100 percent that, according to the arrest rates, black people kill more people than white people do. I won’t even argue that you choose to ignore the fact that white people rape more people, rob more people and commit more sex offenses than black people do.


Derp, my question is: Why do you choose to focus on that 0.001335 percent of homicidal black people? Why do you, and people like you, bring up this microscopically small number of homicidal black people? (See, I said it again.) I think it’s racism.

It’s the only logical reason why you would focus on something that small and ascribe it to a large group. It’s the only reason you would cherry-pick statistics.


Well ... there might be one other reason you’re so concerned about and focused on such a tiny number. Maybe the 553 homicidal black people (again) worry you because that is the exact number of black people whom you have encountered in life.

Maybe you are so worried about a number that’s smaller than your chances of being struck by lightning, bitten by a snake or writing a complete sentence without a grammatical error because that tiny number of black people once met someone as vile, racist and full of hate as you are, and those 553 homicidal black people thought, “Fuck this, I’m gonna start killing white folks, just to make sure.”


In that case, I understand.

This message sums up a lot of emails about the article “White People Are Cowards.”


From: Bryan R.
To: Michael Harriot:

Just read White People are Cowards.

Your words ring well in an ongoing internal argument and a few external ones with colleagues, parents, and some of their children.

Speaking from memory, I may assign some mixed up courses of thought to Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois and Tupac. Booker sought to make gains he believed he could. WEB wanted full on second order change. Their work is nowhere near done, and Tuskegee still stands.

The argument goes a little like this: Make it so they will listen to you, and then correct them.

No - that takes too long - tell them they’re wrong and what’s right now.

In my time I’ve worked (school teacher and principal - Baltimore City, and Glendale, AZ) in two different communities, and in both, I haven’t looked like most of the kids around me. In practice, I default to the first argument. I grow increasingly frustrated with the time it takes and the interrupted process when someone leaves before I’m able to make it so they’ll listen to me; and I’ve become complicit.

Though, if I were to go after the second, I could see myself very quickly turning off dialogue and any momentum towards ending racism and making equality and social mobility a reality. (And then there’s that little bit about this being written by someone who’s lived in white skin and seen through white eyes their entire life.)

Despite the argument, Tupac chimes in talking about his rose garden. There are a lot of roses growing in concrete.

Perhaps some of the cowardice you see and describe is the gardening going on that hasn’t yet shown a crop. Some of the students are learning how to use the sledge hammer to clear the concrete for the garden, some are learning how to make the ground fertile, and some are seeing to the roses’ needs while they grow in the concrete.

They work together. It’s not enough, but gardens grown.

Dear Bryan:

Here’s the problem with your argument about waiting for the fruit to grow:

Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass had the same debate in the late 19th century.


W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey had the same argument in the early 20th century.

Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X had the same debate in the mid-20th century.


The NAACP and Black Lives Matter are still having the same debate.

How long does it take for white people to use a sledgehammer? How long does it take to till the soil? Black people have been waiting for the fruit of our labor for 400 years, and white people continue to tell us that it’s coming. We see you eating while you tell us to wait for the harvest. Bob Marley said it more than 40 years ago: “Them belly full, but we hungry.”


I’m beginning to suspect that you have been eating our food while we have been hard at work in the garden. I hear your pleas for patience. But Bryan, there is only one thing more dangerous than a liar and a thief:

A hungry man.

From: Dgbaker
To: The Root Staff
Subject: Racism

Your ENTIRE website


you ARE hate filled racist bigots

nothing but thugs

why do black people HATE?

Why do you KILL YOURSELVES so much?

Why do black people have OVER ONE STANINE IQ …BELOW the MEAN?

Why did black people REFUSE to vote for a WHITE woman?

keep up the great work; killing yourselves

Dr. Dean Grant Baker


For the FIRST TIME in the HISTORY of the USA

Black people’s wages have NOT ‘just’ kept up with inflation; black people’s wages ARE AHEAD of inflation;

Obama SET BLACK people’s incomes in to the NEGATIVE; for EIGHT YEARS

look what he did and the Dems TO YOUR DRINKING WATER

President Trump is FACTUALLY the BEST PRESIDENT to have EVER helped black’s in the USA

but your HATE and LOW IQ’S PREVENT you FROM ever being successful

EVEN WITH all the HELP Trump has given you



Nelson Mandela org. calls to drop OBAMA as guest speaker; as THEY; AFRICANS, HATE OBAMA


Why do black people HATE black people so much?

Why do you hate punctuation so much, Dgbaker? Did a period fuck your girlfriend? Were you accosted by a semicolon in your youth? I want to help you, sir.


I agree that Donald Trump is factually the best president to help blacks. He has helped black people much more than Barack Obama ever did.

Obama fooled us.

During his presidency, black people believed that if they educated themselves, treated women well, went to the best colleges and carried themselves in an immaculate fashion, we could achieve anything.


Then came Trump.

Trump showed us that Obama was wrong. People like you and him, with such obviously low levels of intelligence, proved that all it takes to succeed is whiteness. He proved to us that, if you’re white, you don’t actually have to know shit or even achieve shit to become whatever you want in this world.


The most educated president in our lifetime, who happened to be black, stands in stark contrast with the entitled, insulting, scandal-plagued, cheating imbecile who now occupies the White House. He taught us a valuable lesson.

Thank you for mentioning that.

Michael Harriot
Time traveler
Super Bowl MVP
Resident of Wakanda
Owner of perfectly sized penis


And finally, last week I mentioned that I received far more positive emails for the “White People are Cowards” article. This is by far the best one:

From: Andrew Scibetta
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: 123 Dems against “some Gestapo shit, man.”

Hey Michael,

So I read “White people are cowards” on Tuesday, where I saw:

“Just before he shook my hand and said it was nice meeting me, he explained that it was entirely possible that those children might never see their parents again. Then he said something that I still cannot erase from my brain. He paused, his hand still gripping mine, and looked past me as if he were recalling something, and said, ‘This is some Gestapo shit, man.’”

Tuesday night our office wrote a letter to Sec. Nielsen demanding answers on how this could be.

Today, we’re leading 122 other Democrats in demanding our government investigate DHS and HHS and hold this administration accountable.

If it wasn’t for your piece, I wouldn’t have known about the degree of this tragedy. You moved the needle.

Thank you for that.

Andrew Scibetta | Communications Director
Office of Congressman J. Luis Correa (CA-46)
1039 Longworth Building | Washington DC 20515


Then I saw this CNN report, which stated:

In a letter Friday to the inspector generals for the Departments of Homeland Security and Health and Human Services, a group of Democratic lawmakers write that they are “deeply concerned” about the the Department of Justice’s “zero-tolerance” policy that has resulted in family separations and “gravely disturbed” over reports about separated parents and children and the possibility that they might “never be reunited again.”

The letter, organized by California Rep. Lou Correa and signed by more than 120 House Democrats, outlines a series of questions such as, “How quickly (average time) can DHS and/or HHS locate a child’s parent?” and “What is the process for DHS and HHS to reunite parents with their children?”


Then this happened:

The visit was part of an expanding campaign by Democrats to attack the president’s policy of splitting up families caught entering the country illegally, with lawmakers on Sunday joining protests at detention facilities in New Jersey and Texas...

Rep. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, [emphasis added] echoed that sentiment: “When these kids are growing up in Central America they’re given a choice. At a certain age, you either join a gang, MS-13 that the President talks about, or you die. They pick a third, which is go north in search of possibly a survival alternative.”

House Republicans are now making tweaks to a so-called compromise bill on immigration reform that would allow many immigrant children to be detained with their parents.


Hey, Andrew:

If you’re reading this, could you write a letter to Derp Derpington for me?