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

It’s the Friday before a major holiday, and the regular writer of the Clapback Mailbag, Michael Harriot, has decided to take the day off for whatever it is he does when he is not pulling white people by their taint hairs on The Root.

Before he took off the other day, he asked me if I would step into his very big shoes to write the Mailbag myself. I happily obliged because I have some shit I want to get off my chest. I want to thank Michael for the opportunity to do so.

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I felt like this would be a good opportunity to go over some rules and reminders for people who come to our site to consume our content. We have some of the best writers and video producers on the internet working for our site, and we consistently put out a great product.

As news editor, I am particularly proud of the work we do here, so when y’all slide through with these feeble attempts to slight and belittle us in our inboxes, I often have to fight to resist the urge to respond in kind.

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And let me tell you—if you know anything about me, you know how hard that is to do. My mouth is flip, slick and quick. Exercising that kind of restraint on a daily basis leaves my tongue swollen and my fingers itching for something to do, so this is my moment to shine.

The Root is a black website that offers news, opinions, politics and culture from a black perspective. That means it is meant to be consumed by black people. Of course, we understand that people of other cultures are going to read our work, but we assume you do so with the understanding that this ain’t about you. We don’t need you to try and insert yourself and your feelings into every news story we cover because it ain’t about you. Even when it is about you? It really ain’t about you. Likely, we are telling the story from the view of black people just so we can collectively be in shock and awe about the absurdity of it all.

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That said, racism is a topic that is going to come up frequently because racism is a part of our everyday lives. We can’t escape it. It is out there waiting for us no matter how much white people claim not speaking of it will wish it away. It’s there. The only way it will ever go away is if white people make it go away. Please understand that.

So when y’all hit us with those “your [sic] the real racist” emails and DMs, we laugh at you.

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Consider this email that was sent to Michael earlier this week:

From: Jeff Smitherman

To: Michael Harriot

Subject: You are a resentful racist.

It’s people like you that keep all the hate going in this country.

Oh, Jeff. If you are going to read our website, the least you could do is keep up.

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While Michael may very well be a resentful person, I doubt any of that is tied to him being a racist. We have explained racism to you people (yes, you people) time and time again. We have even explained to you what it really means when a white person calls a black person racist. We’ve discussed the nonexistence of reverse racism and we have touched on the dangers of white fragility.

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With all of this free knowledge right at your fingertips, you insist on skipping over every opportunity to learn and instead lean heavily on old and outdated thinking that doesn’t help or fix anything.

Y’all are dumb.

I will say it one last time for the white people who refuse to understand: Racism is a power construct. It only works when one group has power over another. I know y’all want to rely heavily on an antiquated dictionary definition of racism, completely ignoring the years of historical and sociological research that has helped to define racism as it is seen and known today.

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The dictionary definition gives you an out while all the research and work done in the field tells you exactly what you need to know: In the United States, only white people have currently and historically held the power to exact racism on other groups, including black people.

Look no further than the current resident of the White House if you need to see this in action.

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I am not a racist. Michael Harriot is not a racist. Pointing out inherently racist things does not make black people racist. Nor is it the fuel that keeps racism going. You know what is keeping racism going?

Actual fucking racists. The end.

Get that shit the fuck out of here, and don’t come over here saying it again. That’s why your ass is mad and in “the greys” right now.

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The play cousin to the “your the real racist” argument is the “What about Chicago?” or “What about black-on-black crime?” argument. Y’all like to pull that trump card out whenever you find yourselves feeling uncomfortable after reading a story about the police killing, injuring or otherwise causing emotional harm to a black person. It’s kind of weird how y’all think bringing that up will somehow cancel out the crime or incident we are reporting on. It doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop y’all from trying to use it as the basis of your arguments. An example:

From: Jack Mehoff

To: Michael Harriot

Subject: Black black crime

If black on black crime is not a thing, why do black men find it so easy to murder other black men? 6% of the population (young black men) is responsible for the majority of murders in America. They do a better job at killing blacks than the KKK ever did.

It’s quite funny that people like you assume racism is the driving factor in young black male homicides, when cities like Baltimore are majority black, have black politicians, and black law enforcement leadership. If racism is the driving factor, shouldn’t these people be able to stop It? I mean, they’re black right?

Apparently, black people in positions of power in these majority black cities don’t seem to care about their own people.......or are they just “uncle tom” types who are “perpetuating” a system? I’m just following your stupidity. A predictable argument.

Either way, it all boils down to a cultural deficiency within the black community. Before you call this racist, you should actually explore it.

Stay black (and racist)

Listen, Jack (I have always wanted to say that the way Pam Grier would in a ’70s blaxploitation film), black-on-black crime is a myth, and attempting to use it as a means of devaluing a black person’s argument against racism is in and of itself racist.

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It’s also dumb.

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Most crime is about proximity. Criminals act against those closest to them. If you are a white criminal who lives around a lot of white people, it stands to reason that the people you target for your crimes are going to be white. It works the same with black people, or Asian people, or Mexican people or whatever other culture you want to insert into the equation. It’s how things work.

So, as Michael has previously explained, FBI data for 2016 showed that 90.1 percent of black victims of homicide were killed by other blacks, and 83.5 percent of whites were killed by other whites. Oddly enough, you never hear people talking about white-on-white crime.

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Perhaps it is because “black-on-black crime” as a phrase has been used to demonize crime in urban areas and make it seem like a larger issue than the same crimes being committed in other areas. It is a bullshit crutch that people have relied on time and time again to play into the myth of the deadly negro.

Which is hilarious when you consider the fact that white domestic terrorism is a real thing that exists in America right now, but no one wants to talk about that.

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Fuck y’all. Get another schtick.


And please know that we realize there are black people who have fallen for the myth of black-on-black crime as well. We know they are out there, and we call them out when we see them.

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These are the same type of negroes who think it is wrong for us to openly criticize other black people on our website. These people think our critiques of our fellow blacks should be done in private because they somehow equate it to the way white people treat us as a whole.

Shut up. That is not accurate.

From: jwfry@xxxxxxx.net

To: Michael Harriot

Subject: Article Steve Harvey

Mike Harriot,

Tsk tsk tsk, just what the black folks needed another black man slamming another black man.

It seems blacks will never get it. Divided we fall.

There is power in numbers.

Did you ever think, not a new age idea, that contacting Harvey and having a one on one just might open up a meeting of the minds ???

Instead of degrading and demeaning, understanding should be

the prize of the day.

Think about it, nigga

If we didn’t critique our own, there would surely be someone to complain about that as well. Oh wait, they are already here, in the greys in the comment section of all our posts.

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As black people, we are in a unique position to offer cultural criticism as it relates to black people. We know our culture inside and out, and we know when something is shady and needs to be spoken up on.

Steve Harvey is shady. He is a big-toofed goofy who runs around spouting nonsense while simultaneously aligning himself with Donald Trump and trying to be the male comedic version of Iyanla Vanzant. What in the casket-sharp hell?

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As a people, we need to call Steve Harvey out every chance we get. He doesn’t get a free pass to dispense worthless relationship advice, coonish jokes for the Family Feud audience and that ridiculous yuck-yuck-yuck goofy laugh without another black person pulling him to the side and being like “bruh” at some point.

It’s the order of operations.

Now, I promised Managing Editor Genetta Adams—who has to read this before it goes live—that I would not make this extraordinarily long, so let me just touch on a few quick points before I go.

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Consider these some rules for moving forward:

  1. While The Root is in the position of providing news and information for our people, that does not make us a news jukebox. You don’t get to hop in our emails or our DMs yelling at us and asking WHY DIDN’T YOU WRITE ABOUT XYZ?!?! It’s because we didn’t. If you want to see that covered and you don’t see it here, you are more than welcome to go read where it is covered. Or, you can create a website and cover it yourself. Either way, please understand that unless your name is Danielle Belton or Genetta Adams, you are not directing the editorial direction of The Root. We appreciate your tips, but we don’t need you yelling at us about what you don’t see here. Cut that shit out.
  2. Stop begging for us or other people in the comment section to “ungrey” you. WE NOT FINNA DO IT. There is a reason your ass has remained in plebian status this long, and that is not likely to change unless you change. And since we know that is not going to happen, carry on with the knowledge that we are laughing at or ignoring your ass. You can figure out which one.
  3. On the other side of that, STOP REPLYING DIRECTLY TO PEOPLE IN THE GREYS. This helps to ungrey them. You can use the handy trick I use, which is to screenshot their comment, post it in the main replies and comment that way. Or just use their name and say what you want to say. Either way, stop setting these dumb animals free. They need to be locked up, and if you keep unlocking them, you may just find yourself locked up with them. Fair warning.
  4. Yes, The Root is owned by white people. This is a known fact, so y’all can stop trying to throw that out there whenever you disagree with something we write. We are owned by white people, but we are written and edited by black people. The white people don’t tell us what to do. We have a contract that prevents that. So, stop trying to use that as a means of discrediting us. Do better, dummies.

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I’m not sure if Michael will ever allow me to do this again, but it was fun.

Y’all get on my fucking nerves, but I love that you read and enjoy The Root!