The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: What I Know

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: What I Know
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/G-O)
Clapback MailbagEach Friday, we select the best (or worst) emails, tweets, DMs and comments from our readers and respond to them in the The Root's Clapback Mailbag.

When I sort through the emails, tweets, direct messages and comments for the mailbag every Friday, I am always surprised at the suggestions The Root’s readers are willing to offer. You have no idea how much invaluable advice I receive from our readers every day.


Sometimes, when I am lost, I remember all the times our gracious fans told me to go to hell. They have even offered sexual tips that range from masturbation techniques (“Go fuck yourself”) to proposals at teaching me the art of fellatio (“Suck my dick, nigger”).

But the most common bits of advice I get are tips on ending racism and boosting the black race. There seems to be an infinite amount of white people who believe they know how to, so I decided to share some of those with you today because if we can’t lift each other up, then what are we here for?

Here’s some advice from Lauren. Now I don’t actually know Lauren’s race because she did not say...

But Lauren is white.

Hi Michael,

I am a senior at (redacted) University and I’ve read quite a bit of your work. I also do a lot of social justice and social equity work and wanted to ask if you are really interested in dismantling white supremacy or more interested in pointing out that it exists.

I’ve found that people are sometimes more willing to help dismantle a thing if thwy aren’t shamed or belittled. I’m not telling you how to do your work but I think that people of color and whites would do better to remove all the resistance and use each other as resources instead of viewing each other as combatants.

On the other hand, if your aim is to point out that some white people perpetuate racism, I don’t think any of your readers would doubt that. So the work is fixing the problem and asking ourselves what that construct looks like without making people uncomfortable and unwilling to fight.

I think it looks like acknowledging the efforts of those who are using their privilege to fight racism. It looks like welcoming the small acts of bravery and pointing it out to whites so that they can emulate it. We have to ask ourselves what is more empowering, applause or scorn?


Dear Lauren,

I know a lot of really smart people and I have also met a lot of dumb people. There is one trait that is consistent among these super-intelligent people that is in direct contrast to all of the thick-skulled nitwits I have ever known:

Stupid people think they know everything and smart people realize how much they don’t know. Dumb people are sure they know the answers but intelligent people ask questions. And my question is this:

Why is it that white supremacy is the only problem the world has ever seen that can be cured without examining the people who caused it?


White people keep pushing this narrative that talking about and pointing out racism only divides people. Now, I don’t claim to know how to dismantle the system of white supremacy that has entangled itself with American society until its racist roots are indistinguishable from this country’s foundation. But I do know that we would have never cured the bubonic plague if we ignored the rats. We won’t find the answer to wiping out malaria if we refuse to admit that it is spread by mosquitos.

And we can never dismantle racism if we don’t point our fingers in the direction of white people.


Until we acknowledge that white people are responsible for this sickness, it won’t go anywhere. However, I do acknowledge that it is uncomfortable to face the reality that every white person in America is complicit with preserving this system. I don’t like getting pricked with a needle to avoid tetanus. But it is the height of white privilege to suggest that we shouldn’t inflict a small bit of discomfort on white people and, instead, find other ways to cope with this disease.

I readily admit that I don’t know much about molecular biology or infectious disease, but I would bet that no one asked the rats for input when they wanted to end the black plague. I’m sure most of the bovine livestock think there is a better way to stop mad cow disease other than slaughtering cattle. And if I had to take advice from anyone on how to address racism, I wouldn’t ask the people who created the virus.


But if you think this is uncomfortable, imagine having a child born with an incurable disease that affects their education, their ability to succeed, their pay, their wealth, how they are perceived by society and whether or not they will spontaneously combust into a bullet-riddled corpse. Imagine how tough it must be for a black woman to carry a child knowing that she has a greater risk of dying in childbirth in the richest country in the world. Imagine how uncomfortable it is to live in a country whose president wants to eliminate everyone who is carrying this disease.

Now, just think what it must be like to have someone who never had to worry about suffering from this sickness write an email filled with self-righteous, privileged conjecture about how you can cure the disease with thoughts and prayers and “applause.”


Most people would say: “Fuck that person.”

This much I know.

I found the following letter in my filtered messages on Facebook regarding this article:


From: Mike J.
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: A better way

Hey Michael - Just read your 2017 article about black on black crime. We all understand that there’s just as much “white on white” crime as black on black. The problem is that (I’ve never seen it - MAYBE it’s out there somewhere) there aren’t white groups complaining about black cops. Just as you point out how stupid it is to talk about black on black violence when blacks raise the subject of police brutality - it’s JUST AS STUPID to claim it’s RACIAL. Whites are VICTIMS of police brutality. I’VE BEEN A VICTIM OF POLICE BRUTALITY and false arrest - in a 99% white community. The problem is the ATTITUDE OF MOST POLICE today. They have carte blanche authority and prosecutors and judges won’t go against cops. I’m going to be suing my local police for targeting me, falsely arresting me, and lying in trial - over a NOTHING case in a community with ZERO violent crime.

And please my friend - you’re far too intelligent to be beating the “Trump and all his supporters are racist”. Calling out Omar for her anti-semitic statements and BDS support isn’t racism, and telling elected congresswomen that if they don’t love America they’re free to leave has NOTHING to do with race. You don’t find it just a bit ironic that the nation and flag that represents it is WHAT GRANTS THE FEEEDOMS of protest ...??? You don’t see YOUR RACISM in stereotyping and labeling white people as “privileged”...??? You’re too intelligent to be doing this my friend.

Separating these four women out from what President Donald Trump called the “greatest and most powerful nation” and telling them to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime-infested” countries “from which they came” was not only an example of prejudice, discrimination and antagonism, but shows that he was targeting these duly-elected congresswomen for one reason:

They are not white.”

Why FOR YOU is SKIN COLOR ALL THAT MATTERS...??? Who’s the RACIST...??? Sooo... The four identified congresswomen are SOLELY judged by the color of their skin - and not THE CONTENT OF THEIR CHARACTERS...??? If President Trump or I DISAGREE with their words and actions - and call them out because of their words and actions - we’re RAAAACCCIIISSSSSTTTS... That’s how it works Michael...???

...and you musta been sleeping during Barack Hussein’s administration on the immigration we need to discuss FACTS, or am I a white nationalist RAAAACCCIIISSSSSTTT if I call out Barack Hussein for the same policies you attack Trump over...???


Oh, I have absolutely no intention on responding to this psychobabble, I just want you, Lauren, to see what kind of white people are actually out there.

I went to look at Mike’s Facebook profile. I don’t want to give away too much information about Mike but he lives in Utah, one of the most conservative places in America. Here are the most recent demographic statistics about Mike’s current residence:

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: What I Know

Without revealing specifics, here are the demographics of Mike’s original hometown:

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: What I Know

This low-wattage white man is absolutely convinced that he knows what the fuck he’s talking about even though he has never been around black people in his entire life. His hometown literally had two black people! But, regardless of facts, Mike is comfortable sharing his racism-disguised-as-conservatism because he lives in a city that affirms his whiteness and there is absolutely nothing a black man can say to Mike J. to convince him that he is wrong. He is not smart enough to comprehend data or logic. Only white people can be this stupid and think they are smart. Only white people can successfully coast through life in third gear. And that is white privilege.

The worst part about white supremacy is not the hatred or the oppression. The inherent problem of white supremacy is the supremacy part. The part where white people think their vapid reasoning is the truth. The part where they automatically get to be right. The part where they automatically get to be something better even when they are this stupid.


But thanks for your input.

Wait... Lauren wrote back!

From: Lauren
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: A better way

I haven’t heard back but I am really interested in hearing your thoughts.

How do we dismantle the system?

Dear Lauren,

Hell if I know.

But you might wanna start by talking to Mike J.

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


Raineyb1013, Misfit Black Girl Island Denizen

If Lauren’s letter wasn’t enough to convince anyone that she is indeed white, the fact that she had the nerve to reply back making a dig about not having received a reply (as though she were entitled to one) should remove all doubt.