Illustration for article titled The Roots Clapback Mailbag: Black-on-Black Clapback
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.

Y’all won.

Every week, as I prepare for the Mailbag, there’s always at least one very angry white person asking why I blame racists instead of calling out my own people. So this week, I decided to do that.

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This week, I decided to highlight anti-black black people who are so enamored with whiteness that they are rooting against everybody black—including themselves. To show their insanity, I decided to pair their correspondences with emails DMs, tweets and comments from actual, real-world racists.


Our first pair of DMs comes from two readers who saw the article about Michael Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk hobby and vomited forth our favorite overused rejoinder: “But what about black-on-black crime?”

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From: Andy L
To: Michael Harriot

YOU POINTED OUT THAT THERE WERE 158,000 BLACKS BETWEEN 14-24, AND THE STATS SAID 168,000 WERE FRISKED. YOU CALLED IT - RACIST STATS, NOW, THERE ARE MANY OF THOUSANDS OF BLACKS VISITING NYC FROM RIGHT NEXT STORE IN NEW JERSEY AND CONN, AND FROM ALL OVER THE COUNTRY AND THE WORLD, SO THEY ARE NOT RACIST STATS, THEY ARE THE TRUTH. JUST AS ARE THE MURDER AND VIOLENT CRIME STATS IN THE USA , BY BLACK RADIO TALK SHOW HOST LARRY ELDER. LARRY SAYS THAT BLACKS 12% OF THE POPULATION - COMMIT 50% OF THE MURDERS AND 50% OF THE VIOLENT CRIMES IN THE USA.

From: Sick of Trash
To: Michael Harriot

You are one of the smartest men on Twitter. Stop looking at it as Black vs White. See it as a Black on Black crime. Most Blacks in America still have that slave mentality. House vs Field vs Uncle Tom negroes mentality. Even MLK, Jr. Knew that. Every atrocities that our ancestors to Blacks in America today have gone through, we’re helped by diverse groups of people including whites.

Today, white nationalist aren’t smarter. Blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, even Whites understand that it will take all of us to rid ourselves from Trump. Once that happens, we must teach our children to keep a watch, be vigilant and this time hold these political prevaricator accountable. The way to do that is by the white man rules. Smash them with their own darn rules. That’s exactly what Yrump and his hired lawyers have done while you all have been asleep. Read the Constitution.Teach our people.They will listen. Black children are ignorant to there own history. This time is bigger than today. It’s about returning children returning to slavery bc they are so weak and dollar hungry not millions.

Hopefully, I didn’t bore you Sir

Dear Andy and Sick,

I have refuted this racist “black-on-black crime” argument in every single way. Here are just a few arguments I’ve made:

  • If every crime attributed to a black person in the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting statistics was committed by a different person and they all were guilty, that means, in any given year, 96 percent of black people don’t commit a crime.
  • Crime is a socioeconomic problem. If you fix economic inequality, you fix the crime problem.
  • You can walk into any black church, barbershop, cookout or community center and they will tell you how they work to combat our own problems. Just because white people don’t hear the conversations doesn’t mean they aren’t taking place.
  • There are 10 times more black organizations pushing education, anti-violence, self-determination and self-respect than there are groups who blame white people.
  • White people commit crimes against white people. Black people commit crimes against black people.
  • Poor urban whites are the most violent demographic in America according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

But, just in case you are too ignorant to read or too dumb to understand numbers, I have a better idea. (I’m not being mean. I’m basing my assumption on the fact that you can’t seem to figure out how the “caps lock” button works). I’m gonna make you an offer that you can’t refuse:

I’ll let a black person murder me.

That’s right. You heard it here first. Print this out and show it to your friends. Email it to your loved ones. CC it to the king of white people. In exchange for the end of racism, discrimination and white supremacy, I’ll let any black person volunteer to kill me, any way they want.

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They can stab me, shoot me, Coronavirus cough on me, inject Charlie Sheen’s “tiger blood” into my veins, build an oversized version of one of those air fryers and crisp me to death while leaving my insides moist—it doesn’t matter—they get to choose!

Of course, I’ll have to verify the agreement before I submit myself to this celebratory crucifixion. I’ll need to see black schools funded at equal levels as white school districts. The Republican Party would have to cease to exist. Trump-appointed judges would have to step down. You’d have to schedule Confederate flag flag burnings and smash the statues to white supremacy.

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Mike’s Murder Day parties would be so much fun!

They would start out with a brunch when black people realize their homes are valued, on average, at $48,000 more. Because white supremacy cannot end unless there is restorative justice, can you imagine the shindigs we’d have when we receive our reparations check? I can’t imagine how much brown liquor would flow when everyone finds out that Trump disappeared from the face of the earth. (Because...duh! Of course!)

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I’d probably get tired of every black man high-fiving me after they realize they have a 27 percent pay raise to correct the racial wage gap. I wouldn’t know what to do with all those black women throwing themselves at me when their pay increased 38 percent, making their pay equal to white men.

To be fair, I’m not being brave.

Using the FBI data, 99.999864 percent of black peopled don’t murder anyone in a given year. Most people know their killers so I’d just look out my window and make sure “Sick of Trash” isn’t outside.

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She’d have to find my address and get my kids to open the door (they’re always wearing those damn headphones) and it would have to be while Rachel Maddow is on because that’s the only time my wife doesn’t turn into a member of the Dora Milaje. Plus, most violent crimes are crimes of passion or have financial motivations and who’s gonna be mad at “Reparations Mike? (That’s what’ they’ll probably call me.) My kids are much more likely to be discriminated against than be a victim of black on black crime. I’m not half as worried about niggers with guns as I am about white people. Or the police stopping my kids. Or white supremacists president. Or a Republican supermajority in the House and Senate.

Still, I’m willing to risk it.

If it’s really not “black vs. white” as you so often contend, I’m sure they’d be willing to agree to my offer. So if you can get this agreement signed and notarized by white people, after a week of making sure the Caucasian contingent kept their side of the bargain, I will put my life on the line and make the “feel free to murder me” announcement as the guest of honor at Diddy’s Grown & Sexy All White Reparations Yacht Party.

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Let them kill me.

If, after my death, you renege on your promise (And if I know white people, you definitely will), at least I’d die happy. Even if our oppression vacation only lasts for a limited time, at least we’d know what equality is like. Trust me, it’s not the first time black people have made this crazy offer

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It’s the same gamble made by runaway slaves, freedom riders, bridge-marchers in Selma, protesters, and every black person who has ever existed in a white space. I actually stole this idea from them.

I honestly don’t want to die.

I just want to know how it feels to be free.


Many people—black and white, disagreed with the article on “low information” black voters.

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From: Reuben T.
To: Michael Harriot

There’s a lot of truth in this article—Truth about Sanders (whom I support), truth about white people, truth about the political system in AmeriKKKa, truth about our collective history.

I acknowledge ALL of it.

What I also recognize and acknowledge is this:

This is Joe’s third time running for President. Prior to last Saturday, he’d never won so much as a primary, and he was NEVER on our radar before 2008 The evidence here is clear—BLACK PEOPLE SUPPORTED JOE BIDEN ON SUPER TUESDAY BECAUSE HE SERVED AS PRESIDENT OBAMA’S VP.

Period.

...And as long as that proximity represents the depth of our decision making, the Joe Bidens of the political world will forever be the best we can do.

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From: Tee
To: Michael

Hey Michael.

I want to start with two apologies. One, I don’t have a lot of experience with Twitter DMs, so my formatting game is trash—sorry for the wall of text. Two, I want to admit up front that I’m about the whitest, most ignorant-about-black-politics blue voter you could find—I’m sorry for my lack of knowledge, but I figure I’m never going to get un-ignorant if I don’t try to learn things.

After seeing your tweet thread about your family and their accomplishments, it had me thinking about the media narrative of black support for Joe Biden again, and how I just don’t understand it. I’ve asked black friends here in New England (who, disclaimer, are mostly Warren supporters), and they didn’t really have a good explanation either, so if there’s any chance you’d be willing to share your perspective, I would love to hear about it. When I look back at Biden’s political history (from the integration era all the way to now), nothing jumps out at me to help me understand why he is so well-regarded in the African-American community. I know there must be a large piece of the picture that I just can’t see from my perspective. I realize you have no reason to spend time enlightening me on this and broadening my view, and if you would rather ignore me I wholly understand—I’m not entitled to anything, let alone someone else’s time and energy. But if you have any willingness to do it anyway, I would be hugely grateful for the opportunity to learn.

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Dear everyone,

I get what you’re saying. I cannot speak for every black voters, but I do believe I have some insight. Let me explain why black people love Joe Biden with a story I just remembered.

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I had completely forgotten about one entire part of my youth until one day, a few weeks ago, I was on the phone with my cousin, Metia. I asked her why she was in town visiting her mother when she told me the sad news:

“Mr. Dell died.”

“Who?” I replied.

“Mikey, you don’t remember Mr. Dell and the dry cleaning route?” she asked.

Then I remembered.

The richest, most wonderful white man I ever met was named Mr. Dell. Mr. Dell owned a chain of dry-cleaning stores and lived in a big house outside of town at the top of a hill. One of the reasons he was so successful is because he delivered people’s dry cleaning to their homes.

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Well...not quite him.

On Tuesday and Saturday nights, Metia’s mom, my saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost aunt Marvell, who I have never heard say a bad word about anyone in my life, would take us to Mr. Dell’s house. We would load a pile of plastic-covered, dry-cleaned clothes into my aunt’s van and deliver it all around the county. Aunt Marvell would pull up in the yard, blow the horn, and one of us would hop out with the clean clothes. We would also pick up people’s dirty laundry and take it back to Mr. Dell to be cleaned. Some of them would even tip us a quarter or even 50 cents. If you got a dollar, you hit the jackpot.

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I loved that shit.

When we arrived at the store, Mrs. Dell would give us a lollipop or a popsicle and make us so happy. On the best nights, she made candy apples. Each week, it was almost like an adventure where I got to interact with white people close up! Unlike us, Aunt Marvell’s kids (who were older) hated the route. They eventually got their own jobs and quit going. But all the younger cousins would actually fight for the chance to deliver the dry cleaning. Especially if it might be a candy apple night.

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The dry cleaning route was never Aunt Marvell’s full-time job. It was her side hustle. She eventually moved out of that little town (curiously, into a much smaller house) and the dry cleaning route ended. But when my cousin brought it up, it conjured up memories of riding through the Carolina countryside, fighting and laughing in a van full of cousins, hands sticky from candy apples and evaporated popsicle, trying to get a quarter.

I asked my cousin how was the funeral (I don’t know why. It’s not like anyone ever says that was a great funeral!” It’s just a thing to do.)

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“I don’t know,” my cousin replied. “I didn’t go. You know I can’t stand that man. You know he used to call my mama a nigger right in front of us.”

It turns out, that Mr. Dell was a racist asshole. So was his wife.

It also turns out, that Mr. Dell was my aunt Marvell’s landlord. In fact, Marvell was actually running the route for free rent, which is a pretty good deal—two nights a week to live for free. The house was decent, not great. But, according to Metia and my aunt Marvell, who spilled this all over the phone, the deal expired when Mrs. Dell said some slick shit about Marvell. And while her mama was a child of God, Metia wasn’t.

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Apparently, Metia slapped the shit out of Mrs. Dell.

That’s why Marvell moved. That’s why the dry cleaning route ended.

Now, you may think Metia did the right thing. But Metia told me that her mom whipped her behind for slapping Mrs. Dell. Aside from the violence, she essentially made the whole family homeless. And even when they found another home, they had to pay to live there!

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Mr. Dell is Joe Biden.

Black people don’t love Joe Biden. Some of the cousins who don’t know him might like him, but for the most part, its not like we love Joe. It’s that he represents the Democratic Party. It’s decent. Not great. But it has also kept the Republican rain from falling on our head for 100 years. We know he is trash.

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And sometimes, like when we elected Barack Obama, we get a candy apple.

And here comes Bernie, offering us a mansion, sight unseen. Black folks know that Bernie’s house might be better. But they are also aware that there is absolutely no proof that this house will ever exist. It’s easy to say “I’ll find my own house,” if you don’t have three children to feed. And even when he’s gone, you still feel it necessary to “pay your respects.”

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So what would you do? Would you take Bernie’s imaginary mansion, at the risk of having to move in with Trump for four more years? Or do you go with the security of Mr. Dell?

And sometimes, there’s candy.

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

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