The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Caucasian Race Theory

Illustration for article titled The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Caucasian Race Theory
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante
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.

Like most people, I have a special alert for when I receive emails from important people. And, of course, The Root’s Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton is on the email VIP list. Sometimes, it’s something important like when Crown Royal announces a new flavor or a video of a white woman calling the police on a Black person. But most of the time, she’s just forwarding a complaint for the Mailbag.

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No other editor-in-chief would have ever approved something like the Clapback Mailbag. She’s the reason why it exists. There’s no way she can read everything on our site but I know her sister tells her when the Mailbag is particularly interesting. So, I hope her sister will call her and sing this song to the tune of Boyz II Men’s greatest hit:

How do I say goodbye to The Root’s EIC?
The puns that made us laugh
at animal attacks
I thought that we’d clapback forever
But Huffpost had other plans
It’s so hard to say goodbye to D.B.

I don’t know if the new place
will have a writer who covers Dr. Umar.
All I know is that you won’t hear this sound
At your new job.
If a writer asks to call Pete Buttigieg a “lying motherfucker”
I hope you remember me.
It’s so hard to say goodbye to D.B.

And I’ll take with me the memories
Like the NRA calling about me on Christmas Eve.
It’s so hard to say goodbye to D.B.

So I’ll clapback at all these assholes
For the world’s best Editor-in-Chief.
It’s so hard to say goodbye to D.B.

Let’s look at some mail before I start crying.


Technically, this is not about an article that appeared in The Root. A couple of weeks ago, after the mass shooting (or serial killing...or sextuple homicide...or mass murder... or terrorist incident) I tweeted this: 

Literally, minutes later, there was a mass shooting in Boulder, Colo. So a writer at Newsweek wrote me:

From Daniel Villareal

To: Michael Harriot

Dear Mr. Harriot, My name is Daniel Villarreal and I’m a reporter with Newsweek. I noticed in one of your tweets, you seemed to allude to the Boulder, Colorado shooter as a “white” person. I have seen in subsequent tweets that you have said you’re referencing his skin color rather than his nationality. My two questions:

1) Are you aware that the suspected shooter has Syrian parents? Does that change your perceptions or the language you would use to describe him in the future? Why or why not?

2) Do you think tweets that misidentify the shooter’s race, skin color or nationality should be flagged or deleted as part of Twitter’s policies against misinformation?

Why or why not?

Any comment would be greatly appreciated.

Sincerely, Daniel Villarreal

I replied:

He didn’t respond, so a few other right-wing outlets assumed I was referring to the Boulder mass murderer/shooter/serial killer/terrorist in my “leftist,” “racialized narrative” and called for me to be expelled from Twitter.

From: Tom

To: Michael Harriot

You assumed a white right wing male shot up Colorado when in fact it was one of your Trump-hating Muslim friends. You are both ignorant and racist. Be careful when you start talking about ass whoopins, lest history repeat itself. Sadly, violence and racism are your only tools.

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But instead of replying to them, I’d like to talk to the people at Twitter instead:

Dear Jack Twitter,

I know you have received reports about my blatant attempts to categorize white people as violent. While I know you have a job to do, I hope you will consider my reasoning before you exile me to Facebook and Parler.

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First of all, I’d like to thank the people who believe that I am so smart that I know things before they happen. That they believe I somehow knew that police was going to capture the Colorado shooter alive before it even happened is a testament to my mother’s anointing oil that gave me the gift of premonition.

Illustration for article titled The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Caucasian Race Theory
Screenshot: Michael Harriot/Twitter
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Furthermore, despite the right-wing media’s assertion that the shooter was Muslim, according to a thing I like to call “actual facts,” the shooter was indeed white.

Illustration for article titled The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Caucasian Race Theory
Screenshot: Boulder County
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Also, I’m not sure about this, but I don’t think “Muslim” is a race. If religion was equivalent to race, instead of “crackers,” I’m sure some Black person would have already started referring to white people as “Lutheran-ass motherfuckers.”

But that’s not what I’m writing about. I’m actually writing to confess in hopes that it will factor into your decision. I openly admit before the court of Twitter, that I believe that white people are violent.

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Before you delete my account, ask yourself: What is violence?

I admit that when a gang member commits a driveby shooting, that should be considered violence. But why isn’t it violent for a whole political party to deny healthcare to millions of people? Why isn’t ripping the right to vote out of Black people’s hands considered an act of violence? Is it violent to make an explosive device and sell the bomb to a terrorist? If so, then why isn’t violent to make a gun and put it in the hands of a killer? Why isn’t it considered violent when firearm manufacturers protect loopholes that allow people with mental illness or felonies to purchase death tools?

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Also, what about all the violent people who advocate against criminal justice reform, wearing facemasks and referring to trans women as “women”? Their actions have caused more casualties than mine. What about the people who spread information like America is a democracy or that hard work and education equals success? Your Black users know that’s bullshit.

And if you think I am promoting hate against whites, then I’m sure you’re going to delete all the people who support Blue Lives Matter, the NRA and anyone who follows Tucker Carlson. But if you cancel those accounts, Twitter will be all Black and I will be a hero.

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So please delete me.

At least these Lutheran-ass motherfuckers will be silenced.


The article about Critical Race Theory caused a lot of emotion:

From: Proud Boy 814:
To: Danielle Belton

As a person that’s in and from a multicultural household almost everything you spew, your hate for all other races is completely disgusting. Doc King would be ashamed of all of you as you are no better than the Nazi’s with your hurtful narrow minded views, dialect and propaganda. Just like the uneducated fools and politicians in our beautiful country all you seem to want to do is create more problems and watch it burn. Racism was dead and its people like you that bring it back, great job.

-concerned

From: Isabelle
To: Danielle Belton

Hello

I’m emailing you to express my concern with the article “Whiteness is a Pandemic” posted on The Root. I find this highly racist (yes racism goes both ways). The suggestion of mass genocide of white people is a major concern to me as well as the comments about how white people should be ashamed of their color.

How can someone be so concerned about the siege on the capital building and only a few sentences later express their passion for mass genocide?

I find this behavior highly unacceptable and I suggest you support blackness with a more non-violent approach. A condemnation on your firm’s behalf for “white violence” towards other races is reasonable, but stating black violence towards the white race is severely hypocritical.

On the suggestion of shame for the white skin color in this article, I also see this as highly unacceptable. I believe that God made everyone to be the person that they are and no one should make them ashamed of that. I am white and many people have called me exotic and unique due to my Italian complexion and curly hair. Nevertheless I do not call these people supremacists, nor do I consider degrading them because their complexion is different than mine.

I believe in equality for ALL people. I don’t believe in a white supremacy or a black supremacy. You can try to ruin my reputation, threaten violence, or write further inappropriate articles about people, but I will never be ashamed of my skin or my beliefs. I am not afraid of this article’s threats or accusations and I will always fight for justice and equality for ALL.

All lives matter.

In Jesus’ name, I pray that you reconsider the approach of your articles and find more peaceful authors.

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Wait, I think I got these by mistake.

I think these are supposed to be Danielle’s job references.


Of course, the Critical Race Theory article brought out Dwights:

From: Rusty
To: Michael Harriot

I am a white person.

I came here curious what Critical Race Theory was. I didn’t learn it here - couldn’t get through the diatribe. You know why? Here’s why:

“white people are so upset by....”

“So, to separate truth from white lies..”

“white people briefly considered boycotting...”

“They (white people) believe Black Lives Matter means white lives don’t.”

What did I boycott, or lie about, or what am I upset about? And, hey, forget the BLM march I attended with my nephew’s (black) fiancée.

If I were to say “all black people….”, that is wrong because there is no monolithic behavior or attribute that universally applies people with more melanin. If I were to say “all women are bad drivers”, that is stupid, false, and offensive; no woman would listen whatever I said past that phrase.

So your “all white people....” statements are also stupid, false and offensive.

Why did you even bother to write this? To further the rift between us in your self-justifying rage? Not only will not educate any interested “wypipo”, it actively repels those who might otherwise be an ally.

From: Commenter
To: Michael Harriot

You want to put stupid kids into schools because of their race, and not fix the education system that spits out stupid kids.

From: Edward
To: Michael Harriot

I laugh at this racist article. The dominant culture is not white, The dominant culture are the Oligarchs, the elites, both black and white that rule our “society” That is why black politicians never do anything for black people, ever.

We should be talking about this class system we have. Assholes like Bill Gates want you to think Math is racist. How is that going to help black people. It’s not.

We got white people and black people in ghettos and trailer parks and no one is feeling very privileged.

They talk about equity a lot. These elites intend to make slaves of us all. So before you go on thinking everything wrong in the world is because of white people, that guy you call a racist might just be as much a victim of the system as you are.

The Chinese are banging on our door and however much you hate this system, Communism has been known to kill a lot of people. The Oligarchs who own this country want to bring in a Chinese style totalitarian system...

Where you won’t have the freedom to write a stupid article like this.

Thanks, guys,

Because I couldn’t write an entire book on the subject, I couldn’t stress what I believe is the most important part of CRT: The idea that racism is ordinary. I know it seems like a weird term, but it accurately explains why white people assume whiteness to be the default.

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Racism is so ordinary that, Rusty literally typed quotes from the article about “white people,” yet somehow equated it with “all white people.”

That’s because, in Rusty’s mind, referring to non-white people’s race is normal but it is not ordinary for him to see the term “white people.” In fact, it is so extraordinary, that he can’t even see when I refer to Black people as “Black people” or “negroes.”

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Take the second commenter for example. There is not a single sentence in the entire article about admitting Black people—qualified or not—into colleges. But somehow, he equates the criticism of the admissions testing system, which was created to exclude non-white people, with advocating for stupid people. What’s more, nearly every academic and scholar agrees that the SAT doesn’t accurately measure a student’s ability to perform in college.

But, because a system that is provably biased has been normalized, he’d rather argue against a strawman that doesn’t exist than believe all the sociologists, scientists, academics and researchers who know more than him. Why? Because, the system that is verifiably racist is also ordinary.

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And Edward drags out the “class versus race” discussion even though it has been disproven a million times. A white high school dropout earns more and has a better chance of getting a job than a Black college graduate. A Black kid from a rich, two-parent household has a better chance of ending up poor than a white child from a poor, single-parent family. A home in a safe, Black neighborhood is worth $48,000 less than the exact same home in a white neighborhood. Schools with poor white children are better funded than middle-class Black schools.

Illustration for article titled The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Caucasian Race Theory
Graphic: Edbuild
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But the reason that you can’t believe it is because you, like a lot of white people, have been taught that hard work, education and values will always equal success, which no one disputes as true...If you are white. All I am saying is, that concept is so ordinary, you can’t see any other perspective.

And to help you see it, you would need some kind of lens, not much different than how you, a person who lives under capitalism views communism, or the a person with pasty skin views melanin (not all Black people have melanin...See how it works?), or how Rusty sees invisible words.

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But thanks for helping me help you.

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

DISCUSSION

I am a white person. I came here curious what Critical Race Theory was. Alas! I didn’t learn it “here.” By “here” in this context, I mean “in that one referenced blog post.”

I have to say, and I hope Prof. Harriot will not be too offended by this judgment, that as a compendium of all practical knowledge, that one blog post was insufficient. I am considering sending a complaint to The Root’s Cotomer Sevis department. Not only did that one blog post fail to teach me all about Critical Race Theory, but here are several other things it did not teach me:

  • How to change the oil on my car
  • The shortest route from my house to El Paso, Texas
  • The weather tomorrow
  • How to conjugate the verb legere (to read) in the future perfect tense
  • The diameter of Venus
  • How to pick up girls
  • A fast way to compute the inverse of a matrix

But I haven’t given up! Enquiring minds want to know. As I was already sitting in front of my computer, the next step was to search for “Critical Race Theory” in Google. This led me to the Wikipedia entry for “Critical Race Theory.” The second line in that article is:

CRT originated in the mid-1970s in the writings of several American legal scholars including Derrick Bell, Alan Freeman, Kimberlé Crenshaw, Richard Delgado, Cheryl Harris, Charles R. Lawrence III, Mari Matsuda, and Patricia J. Williams.

The next step was, I went to a vendor of used books and typed in a couple of the names on that list. Next, I ordered a copy of Derrick Bell’s “Faces at the Bottom of the Well,” which ended up costing me $11.28 including shipping. Provided this order ever actually shows up, the step after that will be to actually read a book.

After that, while one book will hardly make me an expert, I may end up with an opinion about “Critical Race Theory” that is more substantial than parroting some critic’s second- or third- or fourth-hand opinion about the topic.