The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: All Mailbag, No Clapback

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: All Mailbag, No Clapback
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (GMG)
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.

Don’t hate me for this.

I am often asked if people who send us tweets, DMs and emails are really as mean as I make them out to be or if I have to wade through the positive emails to find the couple of idiots who want to use the n-word.


So today I decided to do something very meta and let you read every submission under consideration for the Clapback Mailbag to get a sense of how reasonable (or not) our readers really are. I won’t respond to any of them this week, but before we begin, I’d like to point out the gentlemanlike politeness of the one guy who called me “sir” and “nigger” in the same sentence.

One more thing:

You’ll notice that two mailbag favorites are back, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.



[Editor’s note: First North and South Korea, now this? A Clapback done before noon? Jesus be an early happy hour. Thanks, Harriot! —Yesha Callahan]

Juan is one of two mailbag veterans returning this week.

From: Juan
To: Michael

Dear Michael,

You should check out Candace Owens. She will scare the living racist shit out you dude, once you hear that she is educating and leading black people to stop being brainwashed by racist black people like you who want to demonize everyone and everything, live in the past instead of the future.

People are listening Michael and you and the rest of your cronies should be shaking in your gators. The jig is up bro. People are really starting to see through your bullshit.

Remember when I reminded you of what the great Booker T. Washington once proclaimed, “There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do not want to lose their jobs.” BTW

Oh Michael, soon you and the likes of Shaun King will be standing on a street corner with a broken down speaker and microphone, maybe a bullhorn, screaming out racist hate speech, hoping to get some interest from literally anyone, but you won’t, all the while free minded, future thinking folk walk right by you evil and ignorant degenerates and laugh. Smiles!



One very interesting offer, but I think I’ll pass.

From: Liz
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Mike is a coward


You are a computer warrior. Let’s meet and go 5 rounds. Let me prove that black power with this Italian does not exist .You are a piece of shit... All bark, no bite. Candace Owens is the real deal. Not a slave like you. Come on pussy boy.


From: Ralph
To: Michael Harriot
Subject Sean Hannity

What are you insane.You should be kissing Hannity’s ass for investing in those “shithole” neighborhoods


From: Shannon
To: Michael Harriot
Subject Your Roots Article

Mr. Harriot, I am very sorry that your ideas are so distorted about life in general. Our American history shows that, yes, white people did come over here and that Indians were here first. Beyond that, black Africans sent slaves over on ships. In Africa, you had both white and black slave owners. More documented history shows that we had the same thing going on over here in America. Black & white slave owners. Neither is right my friend, but that was how it was back then. As time has evolved, so have all of us (history also shows that Democrats started the KKK, do your homework, if you want to go there). It breaks my heart to see what is happening to this country, and it is not the fault of the President Donald Trump. Again, documented history shows that our last leader was raised as a socialist/communist, friends w/ Bill Ayers (please look into his past), and Louis Farrakhan. Both hate and condemn America. I voted for our last leader for both terms, and now in hind sight I cannot believe what I was actually choosing. Our country began to be divided by him, it is as plain as the nose on my face. I do not want to live in a socialist/communist country, I love this country, and you should too. We can learn from the past, if we make that an option, or we can keep putting salt in an old wound and keep making it worse. I believe that Jesus Christ is my savior, and I will continue to pray for his will, I will pray for you as well, that the Lord who created us, softens your heart and allows healing to begin. In socialism/communism, there is no freedom of speech, there isn’t wonderful health care (it is horrible), there is no one person doing better then another and furthering themselves in life (everyone is poor). Socialism starts out using the money from capitalism (the very thing that is hated), then when you have run the capitalism cup dry, that is when there is no more money for free this, free that and the system falls apart. Look at Venezuela, and Europe is not far behind. The only ones who benefit from socialism and communism are the leaders of it, and it sure as heck will not be you and me. The most important of all is..............there is NO God in those systems. No one is a victim unless they decide that they are, life is about overcoming obstacles and moving forward, not infecting others with words of discouragement and having it spread like cancer. God Bless you


I’m not the only one. News Editor Breanna Edwards received hate mail literally for telling what happened.

From: Liz G
To: Breanna Edwards
Subject: Breanna is an idiot

Just watched the video. Total ratchet black women and you support that. The video was edited and you hear the cop saying I heard your f bombs walking in. There are cases of TRUE racism . Sorry dumb ass, this is not 1 of them. You cry racism so much that it has become watered down and when TRUE racism happens, why listen.The video was also edited. Fuck you!!

From: Liz G.
To: Breanna Edwards
Subject: Breanna is an idiot

You are a special kind of dumb. Jumping to conclusions for the Waffle House incident and once again supporting bad black behavior. This was not about the damn utensils. The lady was threatening to come back with a gun and shoot up the place. Common sense, which you obviously do not have says no one is going to call police on someone for utensils. There is more to this story. You are a special kind of stupid for jumping to conclusions.


OK, this is my favorite of the week:

From: Ryan
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Your Dumb Article


Name one developing nation with a majority white/caucasian population? How can an intelligent being not be racist? There are also exceptions to generalizations that can and should be made about the traits of a race and culture. Peoples of different types (cultures) have developed differently and therefore have different roles in the world/universe.

WIPIPO? Ebonic phonetic gibberish from a lowbrow. Here is a much more intelligent brain twisting phrase for you. Pay attention blue gums.

“Just look at your female plantation family people suck my pee-pole thru the peep hole.”

You sir are a nigger. Based on your thought patterns, you will always be a nigger.

It’s not your fault per se but your ideas do not find an ear with developed people.


Now, before we get to our positive email of the week, I have some good news.

A few weeks ago, we had one of our greatest emails ever from a rich and famous woman named Starrlene. (The Holloways, bitch!)


Well, Starrlene and I have kept in constant contact and she will probably become a recurring guest in the Clapback Mailbag.

From: Starrlene
To: Michael Harriot


Yes, my Husband and I do put our Spiritual Armour on Every Single Day. Can you speak in tongues? Curious? Cause my husband does. And I’m getting dunked babtised this very weekend after church. I think you &I could learn a lot from each other, and I believe we just got off on the completely wrong foot. I apologize for anything said that hurt your heart or your beliefs. I’m TRULY Sorry


So I responded:

From: Michael Harriot
To: Starrlene

I cannot speak in tongues, but I took Spanish 1 & 2 in high school and Chinese in college. Does that count?

I accept your apology.

Also, Lisa is watching you.

From: Starrlene
To: Michael Harriot

What? That’s complete and total B.S.!!!! My property has infared cameras literally everywhere. I have weapons & so do my bodyguards, and YES I DO know EXACTLY how to use them if someone is to come onto my property. Now I know that you are lying by saying that this LISA person is watching me. Lier! No need to lie. Try the truth for once. It works! Do you constantly receive favour like my husband &I do? I will get my people on this ASAP.

From: Michael Harriot
To: Starrlene

Yes I receive flavours. Strawberry is my favorite.

Lisa says hi

From: Starrlene
To: Michael Harriot

You’re such an idiot cause you know I meant favors. WHY ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE EVERYTHING SO HARD WHEN I’M Just Trying to relate to you? Can You Tell Me Why That Is? Most likely you will not. I truly pray for your entire soul to end up in PARADISE when you pass. Also, what’s so funny is that I don’t know anyone named LISA and I never leave my compound without my bodyguard. Do you know how often I leave my home? Does this Lisa person? I guarantee you are just trying to poke at me. But I and my husband put our special SPIRITUAL ARMOUR on EVERY Single DAY. I honestly can’t believe you don’t know who my Husband is and WHO HE WORKS WITH IN MY Husband’s business? I’M Praying for you. You seem to be angry at something or someone. But we will honestly pray for you. Also, if someone comes onto my property, that has signs warning that you will be in harms way if you enter on my large piece of land. By the way, I think you are such an un- peaceful person that you will speak to a person that’s dying. Jesus Christ is weeping for you......


There will be more from Starrlene (trust me), but here is our positive email of the week:

From: Michael Harriot
To: Michael Harriot

Mr. Harriot,

I just wanted to thank you for doing what you do. I have been thinking about writing you over the last few years. While I know you are not writing for me, (I am a very liberal white woman with 2 kids in the lower middle class), I can’t tell you how much I have learned from you and from your commenters over the last few years.

Blindspots are dangerous because we don’t know they are there. And I think that in the liberal community sometimes we are more dangerous than the right because we are not always willing to self-evaluate and see our own racism. The defensiveness in this community can perseverate and racism. And we (white liberals) really need to cut this shit out. We need to be humble enough to know that in issues of race, we will probably always be wrong, and be continuously actively learning.

We don’t like to use the word racism. But that is what it is - even if we aren’t wearing hoods or in awful fraternities chanting old racists songs. Liberals like to call it ‘subtle racism’, ‘systemic racism’ or ‘unintentional racism’ or ‘ignorant racism’ to soften it. But that is bullshit.

Excuse my profanity here, please. But as I have become aware of my own blind spots, I am personally just so sickened. There is so much that even 5 years ago, I just didn’t know. I am sorry. I can make all kinds of excuses about the education system and the lack of cultural diversity and bla bla bla. But in the end, none of that really matters.

You are not my priest. I am an atheist. I am not making a confession here. But since your writing has been a large part of how I have learned about my own blind spots, I just wanted you to know. So thank you. You are a great writer. I appreciate your humor and wit and really look forward to your articles specifically. I hope you know how many people you touch with your gift.

So what am I actually doing with all of this? Because that is the real question here right? Knowledge is power but action matters most of all. First of all, I am trying to get everyone I can to read your publication. Also, money matters right? We live paycheck to paycheck and have about $4,000 in the bank. But we got a small inheritance and decided to give 1/4 of it directly to POC here on campus (students, single mothers, families we know who are struggling etc — because capitalism and racism — not many POC I know have grandparents who can give them an inheritance). Also, we will continue our political activism directly with the BLM movement on campus and in the community and vote accordingly. Most importantly though, as a white woman, I think I can use my experience here and work within the liberal white world and talk about my experience here and help other white people learn about blindspots and humility in general and continue learning and keeping my defenses down.

I am not looking for a pat on the back or an ‘attagirl. I think this is the bare minimum that humans should be doing for other humans. But talk is cheap. I guess I just want you to know that I am not another white person who is spouting off crap and not really doing anything.

I am sorry for the book here. But what you do is so important. I just wanted you to know that you have impacted my life greatly.

Thank you Mr. Harriot.


PS. Oh, one more thing — I am raising two kick ass kids who know all about this stuff. My 10 year old refuses to touch play guns because he cries about the deaths of young black men and says that guns should never be toys. And my daughter (13) is a fierce activist who goes to every BLM rally and march she can go to. I don’t know if you are a parent or not, but as a mom, more than anything, I am proud of my children’s ability to understand these complex issues. That I will take pride in. <3

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

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hocuspocusoctopus says wash your damn hands

I’m pretty sure I want a daily Starrlene post.

It’s what we deserve because I can’t believe we don’t know who her Husband is and WHO HE WORKS WITH IN HER Husband’s business?