The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Smile, Bih.

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

It has been a tough week here at The Root and all of G/O Media.

First of all, I discovered that many of my co-workers here are fans of candy corn and putting sugar on their grits (which is kind of the same thing because sugar grits are technically candy corn). Later in the week, I discovered that Run, DMC, Elvis and “your love” are now looking for work now that Jesus is king. Then John Witherspoon passed away.

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I guess that’s why the employees here seem a little angrier than usual. I haven’t asked, but I’m sure that’s it. That’s also why this week’s mailbag will be a little more mirthful. Because sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying.

And sometimes, you still cry.


I got this DM from someone who is probably a bot:

From: Probably a bot

To: Michael Harriot

I have a question for you. I was reading some of your articles and tweets. I am not from the US, so the kind of post racism that is going on there I can’t relate to. But just from an outsider point of view it seems like you got a loooot of hate going on there for white people in general. I get it, that some are pieces of shit. But to only talk negatively about them, label them as being the bad guys instead of talking about a mindset instead is really alienating to me. I know that white people treated black people horribly wrong in the past. Now it is slowly getting better but of course a lot of especially older people are still super racist. But not white in general. Saying white people are like that and generalizing how they are is just being so wrong.

It’s not white people. It’s people who have the wrong mindset. So I was wondering: if you think about it: who do you like better, black or white people? And if your answer is black people then isn’t that weird? No race is better than the other. There are bad and good people everywhere. Race has nothing to do with it. And I understand that you have to call out stuff that is going wrong. But it just sounds like a personal war against white people in general. And that kind of passiv hate will help nobody but widen the gap between black and whites. Just saying as I read it. I don’t know you, so maybe you are nothing like that. But from the stuff I read I get that strong vibe. And I guess you can see for yourself, how many people do you follow on Twitter or Instagram that are white? And saying white includes all whites from all around the world, right? But it is mostly in America where there is a problem with black and white people. So isn’t it white racist Americans you should be talking about instead of just “whites”? You know that white people can also be good people and actually not being racist or at least not more race conscious than everybody else. I don’t wanna be offensive or judge you, I just wanna know how you see it so please don’t attack me for asking.

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I haven’t met all the black people yet, but here is my definitive ranking of the races:

  1. Black people
  2. Other races
  3. The human race
  4. The Race for the Cure
  5. Rayce, this white guy who owned a convenience store whose kid used to take fencing lessons with my daughter and invited us to a pool party.
  6. Devil rays
  7. The Olympics 4 x 100-meter relays
  8. Kangaroos (they seem cool)
  9. White people
  10. Aliens (not Aliens aliens but E.T.-type aliens)

See! You’re in the top 10!


These messages are in regards to the article comparing the presidential candidates to Halloween candy.  

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From: Star D.
To: Michael Harriot

Why does the Root actively participating in the erasure of a black woman by hating on Kamala Harris? It is obvious that you are in the bag for Bernie.

From: Jesse
To: Michael Harriot

You’re still calling Joe Biden racist? He worked with Barack Obama for five years and Obama never said that but someohow you know him better than Obama.You still owe him an apology for calling him a lair about Corn Pop story. And a big toe. You don’t believe that any white man can’t be racist but that’s your personal problem. You kiss Kamala Harris’ ass every day but she cannot win.

From: Sheila S.
To: Michael Harriot

Old lady pocketbook candy? That was downright offensive. Elizabeth Warren actually has her plans on her website and can thoroughly explain each one. But I’m sure you don’t bother to read a=facts.

From: Jeff D.
To: Michael Harriot

Your article was ableist and ageist. Jason Johnson and your entire staff are activiely working to turn your readers agains Bernie Sanders. First you criticized him for telling a kid the same thing any black person would have said and then you cirique him for being white when he is Jewish and has marched with Dr. King.

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Dear all,

My grandmother once told me that you can’t make everyone love you but if you tell the truth, everyone will hate you.

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I think our job here is done.


This first thread is a transcript of a back-and-forth between me and a curious reader is simple, although I don’t know which article it is referencing.

From: Ken
To: Michael Harriot

Do you think about anything other than white people?

It’s obvious you are obsessed.

From: Michael Harriot
To: Ken

Dear Ken,

Chicken, sometimes.

From: Ken
To: Michael Harriot

haha

I mean, you’re always blame white people for everything

From: Michael Harriot
To: Ken

And Tacos.

From: Ken
To: Michael Harriot

seriously why cant you answer the question

From: Michael Harriot
To: Ken

Lemon pound cake, too. Or is that just called “lemon cake?”

But only if the icing is melted and then drizzled on the cake.

I’m lactose intolerant so I can’t eat tacos with cheese. It doesn’t give me the bubble guts, it makes me puke immediately. Real Mexican restaurants tend not to put cheese on everything like these bootleg Alabama Mexican restaurants but they’re hard to find. So... scratch what I said about tacos.

From: Ken
To: Michael Harriot

Your a racist.

From: Michael Harriot
To: Ken

There’s this pair of Adidas, I think it’s called the Kamanda. I can’t decide if they’re ugly or if they’re dope. I’m not even a sneaker aficionado but I want these. I almost bought them yesterday. Put them in my cart, checked out and everything. But for some reason, the transaction wasn’t finalized.

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If I want them now, I’d have to go back and do all of that all over again because I didn’t log into the site. I checked out as a guest. Or, at least I thought I did. I obviously didn’t. They were on sale, too.

Maybe God is trying to tell me something.

Nah, I just have a short attention span.

Anyway, I was thinking about that.

From: Ken
To: Michael Harriot

why do you hate us?

From: Michael Harriot
To: Ken

One time, I took a girl out on a date to a Carnival. It was a first date, and she wanted to get on the Ferris Wheel. I am not afraid of heights so we did it. When we got to the top, the ride turned us upside down. I had a pack of Altoids in my pocket and they fell out. And they opened. And I got Altoid crumbs in my eye.

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It burned like a motherfucker, too. I will never forget that but I don’t think about it much.

Now I can’t stop thinking about it.

From: Ken
To: Michael Harriot

????

From: Michael Harriot
To: Ken

One summer, I took a job at a local paper factory in my hometown. We made huge, heavy tubes out of layers of paper, coated them in hot wax and loaded them onto trucks. Some days it was backbreaking work, other days there was nothing to do.

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The foreman’s name was Jerry and he largely determined how hard you’d have to work, how many hours you’d get that day or if you could stay around and do nothing. Jerry was this old, long-faced white man who was mean as fuck. He never smiled. He chewed tobacco and spat between sentences. He cussed at everyone, told racist, offensive jokes and was aggressively hateful. The black guys who worked in this factory were older, skilled laborers who actually made a really good living. Because of this, they weren’t apt to every contradict or raise their voice at Jerry. They treated him like a God to his face and called him the devil behind his back.

Everyone hated Jerry. They told me he was a mean motherfucker but I decided to give Jerry a chance. So, no matter how hard he mean-mugged me, I smiled back. I told him jokes. I volunteered whenever he needed help. And through all of that, Jerry didn’t give a fuck. He’d give me the worst job every day. He’d punctuate his periods with thicker globs of spit when he talked to me. I think he hated me because he thought I was some entitled college kid. I knew he wanted me to quit. But $12 an hour was good pay at that time. Plus, I was praying that he’d let me work the summer shutdown when all the regular employees get full time off while the company paid a skeleton crew to clean and reorganize.

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So I decided I would change Jerry’s mind. I worked my ass off that summer. I was the smallest dude in that factory but I sometimes loaded entire tractor-trailers by myself. Some days, it would get so hot and my legs would get so weak that my knees would buckle, so the guys at the factory nicknamed me “Worm.” Everyone told me that it wouldn’t matter because Jerry was just a mean, racist motherfucker, but I was convinced Jerry would pick me for that crew and I needed that money. And when it came time for them to announce who was on the skeleton crew, Jerry read all of the names and the last one was...

“And that nigger worm.”

No one in that room, including ten big black dudes who could’ve beaten Jerry to death with their bare hands, said a word.

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So, you know what I did?

I worked that motherfucking skeleton crew.

The last time I visited my hometown, I went into a chicken restaurant and saw one of the guys who still works at that factory. He has to be in his 60s now. His daughter is actually my age and she was trying to tell her dad that I was a tell-it-like-it-is writer who speaks truth to power but her dad interrupted her.

“Yeah, I know Mikey,” he said.

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“We used to call him ‘Worm.’”

I think about that, sometimes.

So, chicken, lemon cake, Kamandas, white people, then tacos, peppermint eye and when Jerry called me a nigger.

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In that order.

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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.