The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Clapback to Reality

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

Every Friday, when I wade through the emails, tweets and direct messages received from the readers of The Root, I wonder how they can disagree with science, statistics, and history.

Whether it’s Hoteps, Trump supporters or store-brand, Great Value white people, they are willing to discount verified facts, peer-reviewed studies, documented accounts of history and anything that disproves their version of reality. It was only when I was reading about the multiverse that I realized what was going on:

White people live in an alternate universe.

The multiverse theory posits that, if time and space are infinite, that there isn’t just one universe, there are multiple universes. And somewhere, in the vast beyond, is a place that is identical to earth where wealth disparities, inequality, and structural racism are all caused by black people. In this Bizarro Wypipoverse, there are real incidents of reverse racism, black supremacy, and bootstrap-pulling. In the United States of Caucasia, slaves emigrated to America for better lives, Confederate secessionists were patriots and Martin Luther King Jr. was a nice, compliant negro.

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And there is a fault line in the time-space continuum that allows articles from The Root to reach the Milkiest Way Galaxy.

And that’s where the Clapback mailbag gets its content.


Our first email comes from Bill Cosby’s actual spokesperson regarding Jay Connor’s article about Cosby’s Fathers Day Tweet:

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To: Jay Connor
From: Andrew Wyatt
Subject: Please Do Your Research Pertaining To Mr. Cosby - Will You Run Or Publish

Good Afternoon, Mr. Connor;

It’s unfortunate that Black people are being used to tear down each other in-order to gain notoriety, which might pull in a few inches of fame - not the 15 minutes anymore my Brother.

Maybe, the kool-aid that you drank, which was probably made by you, helps you to believe your own hype....that you’re the prominent voice for Black America. In Journalism 101, we were all taught that our role is to be objective, meaning non-opinionated and let the readers, viewers and listeners come to their own conclusions. Perhaps, you purposely missed that particular course, and decided to create your own prerequisite, “Journalistic Bullying & Malpractice 101.”

My fellow journalist, if you took the time to show-up for a few days of the trial, you would have heard the facts and truth of the case, oppose to making many false assumptions.

In Mr. Cosby’s deposition, he never admitted to giving women drugs for sex; Mr. Cosby criminal defense team showed that he was in a relationship with Andrea Constand (she called him over 150 times, he made a total of 20 plus called to her, and she spent many days at this married man’s home knowing his wife wasn’t present); Andrea Constand was interviewed by (5) law enforcement agencies, and she gave them all inconsistent statements; the 404(b) witnesses allowed to testify in Mr. Cosby’s criminal trial, couldn’t remember if they ever had sex with Mr. Cosby, even Janice Dickson admitted she lied in her book and called her lie, “Poetic Licensing;” and for the record Mr. Cosby was not convicted of sexual assault, but Indecent Aggravated Assault.

I reside in one of the greatest Civil Rights cities, Birmingham, Alabama. Those Foot Soldiers and Civil Rights Leaders left their DNA on the streets, so that we would have better opportunities, not to tear down our Black Legacy, but to salvage our legacy for generations to come. Your untruthful words, are know different than Black Men killing each other everyday with a gun. You’re doing that same form a killing, but your instrument is a keyboard, which makes you worst than a coward, because you’re throwing the rock and hiding your hand.

Again, I encourage you to visit Montgomery County Pennsylvania website and read all of the transcripts from Mr. Cosby’s first/second trial(s). You will then be equipped to speak the truth, but when you’re enlightened, I wonder will you be given a platform. Probably Not. I guarantee that mainstream media and all of the entities (TheRoot.com & Grapevine) that cut you a check... will disown you and your voice, because you decided that I’m not going to drank the Kool-Aid made by the Plantation.

Have A Great Day!

Kindest Regards,

Andrew Wyatt
Purpose PR Firm

Dear Mr. Wyatt,

It is unfortunate that people are being used to tear each other down in order to gain notoriety, which might pull in a few inches of fame, Maybe, the Kool-Aid that you drank, which was probably made with Cosby Quaaludes, helps you to believe your own hype—that you’re defending America’s Dad who has been railroaded by an unscrupulous group of 60 women who don’t know each other but happen to have remarkably similar stories, many of which Cosby acknowledged were at least partially true.

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In your email, you say: “In Mr. Cosby’s deposition, he never admitted to giving women drugs for sex.” Well ... there’s this:

Screenshot: Troiani/Kivitz Attorneys at Law
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Screenshot: Troiani/Kivitz Attorneys at Law

Jay confided in me that part of what you wrote is true. He told me that he couldn’t sleep on Father’s Day Eve because he was desperately trying to come up with a way he could tear down Bill Cosby and knock him off that vaunted social pedestal he occupies in federal prison. Luckily, Jay was given a gift from the news fairy when Cosby decided to send out that tweet referring to himself as “America’s Dad.”

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Even though Cosby was convicted of three counts of sexual assault, the first and only time he ever faced criminal charges, Jay won’t rest until Bill Cosby is totally disgraced.

He’s petty like that.

But that’s not what I want to talk to you about. I am not here to defend Jay. Instead of disparaging you or Mr. Cosby by stating actual facts and pointing out his stupid tweet, I am here to ask you for a favor. I’d like to discuss your oft-used assertion that people who report the news are looking for “15 minutes of fame” or some kind of notoriety. This is something that many other writers, including myself, are accused of doing by people both black and white.

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I need your help, Mr. Wyatt.

I speak for every writer and journalist in America when I ask: Where the fuck is my fame? Where’s my notoriety? Millions of people read my writing. Yet, when I walk down the street, no one throws rose petals or pops champagne. They don’t even ask for autographs!

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Not to mention that my boss here at The Root doesn’t even acknowledge my celebrity status! At our weekly meeting, she didn’t even mention Jay’s plan for turning Cosby into a pariah by pointing out your client’s publicly available social media statement. What’s up with that?

Like you, I live in Birmingham. I know foot soldiers. I advocate for black people. But everyone here calls me a “Bama.” I think, with your help, Jay and I could finally reach the level of fame that we have been working toward by writing about shit that actually happened.

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Will you represent us?

Please send a rate sheet or an estimate of how much you charge to defend despicable shitbags. Since Jay has proven himself to be a twister of facts and an unscrupulous degenerate who is willing to lie for the sake of his own career advancement, I’m sure you will be more than comfortable representing him. After defending Cosby, this should be a cakewalk for you.

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Sincerely,

An Almost Famous Writer


Our article on Ta-Nehisi Coates’ clapback at Mitch McConnell stirred up the sleeping Caucasian community and prompted a number of responses:

From: Codahz
To: Michael Harriot

You can measure the number of factors that might be involved in white privilege or reparations, but as more and more generations come and go, its harder to quantify exactly how the generations would be different if no slave trade, jim crow laws, etc existed. There would be the classic overreach, followed/lead by an attempt to minimize them as much as possible, all sides would have numbers and “data” to back up their claim, but its absurd to arrive at an idea of what appropriate reparations should be with any confidence because generational causation issues. I dont really have anything to my name worth taking, and i dont know how to “offer” opportunities. How much do you want from a white christian, grew up in a predominately white neighborhood and went to a majority white high school, who paid his way through community college and night school, works in a cubicle and is a sole breadwinner for a family of 5, making 60k a year? What do i owe you? and what do i own the rest of black america? and what counts as black america? Do i owe OJ anything?

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From: Midas
To: Michael Harriot

I expect some sort of backlash for this comment. I’ll start with that I’m a 27 year old white male. I’ve had a rather fortunate life in some areas and not so fortunate in others. I’ve likely taken what I have for granted whether I know it or not. I’m aware of our nations history, though I don’t know every event that has occurred. Africans were enslaved and sold to many nations. African Americans were deemed lesser humans and were segregated and often assaulted. Chinese workers were treated as lesser people as they built the railroads. Asian americans were interned during WWII after Pear Harbor. Native Americans were corralled and lost their homes. There’s no shortage of horrible crimes committed by white people. A lot of these crimes continue today, whether its the majority of white people or not. I do not believe that anyone alive today can be held responsible for slavery. Sins of the father and all that. I don’t believe any amount of reparations would ever be enough to make up for what was done to slaves. I think the most we can do for it is acknowledge that it happened, and work to make sure it never happens again. I do believe however, that reparations are due for things that have happened in recent history, and continue to happen today. I acknowledge that white people have and continue to discriminate against people of all color, not just black people. In the 1930's Harry J. Anslinger (a white male) created the narcotics department that started the war on drugs by pushing racist propaganda that marijuana caused people of color to become violent and sexual, because he was about to lose his job. I agree that reparations should be paid, but it won’t solve the greater issues. I’m not confident that slavery should be part of the reparations, but for discrimination, segregation, unfair treatment, and all the other things that have and continue to put people of color at a disadvantage to white people should be.

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Dear Whoever,

Although there was no room in the article for this, I’d like to respond to three of the prevailing counterarguments to reparations that were illustrated by these readers, mainly that slavery and Jim Crow was so long ago and that the people who are alive now shouldn’t be held responsible.

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First, no one has ever suggested that the people who are alive now were responsible for Jim Crow and the Triangular Slave Trade. No one is asking individual white people to reach in their pockets and pay for slavery any more than a person who wants a pothole fixed is asking their neighbors to take up a collection.

We are asking America to pay.

But I would like to illustrate how long ago slavery was.

I also have a nephew named Earvin.

Earvin is 11 years old.

When I was a kid, my grandmother would tell me stories about slavery. But she didn’t read these stories from history books or get them from documentaries. These were stories she heard from her grandfather, who was named Earvin Harriot. And, according to my grandmother’s grandfather, I come from a long line of subversive rabble-rousing loudmouths. She often told me that her grandfather was kicked off the plantation for being too smart.

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Supposedly, Earvin was a slave on a plantation who secretly taught his fellow slaves to read—even teaching slaves on other plantations. Earvin was supposedly too smart for his own good, a loudmouth and a troublemaker but he was a blacksmith, which made him valuable to his plantation owners. The story goes that, when Earvin’s slave master died, his slave master knew he’d be trouble because Earvin was too smart and such a loudmouth. So they forced Earvin to teach another slave how to blacksmith and then, just literally set Earvin free. But Earvin would supposedly sneak back onto other plantations and teach the slaves’ kids to read in exchange for tobacco that the slaves had cropped and given to him in payment.

He took that tobacco and sold it back to the local plantations, eventually convincing his former slaveowner’s son to sell some land. He built a house and a blacksmith shop, purchased his wife’s freedom, and raised his family on that land as a free black man.

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When the plantation owners found out about his scam, during the Civil War, Earvin was run out of town. They supposedly burned his house and his former slaveowner’s son took back the land.

But Earvin escaped, took his family and that bootleg tobacco money he saved and bought a piece of land in a little town about 40 miles from that plantation. That’s where he raised his family. He worked as a sharecropper because he was always afraid that he’d be found out. He bought another little piece of land and built a house, which is the house my grandmother grew up in. This is the house I grew up in. This is the house my family still lives in ... That’s the story I grew up hearing all my life.

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Oh, how I wanted it to be true!

I believe part of the reason my aunts, uncles, and cousins stressed education and learning so much is that my grandmother embedded that story into my family’s DNA. I also think that story made us cherish our rebellious nature and made us love our lineage. That’s why my nephew is named Earvin—as an homage to our family history. That’s why my aunt’s name is Phyllis, as an homage to her grandmother (my great-grandmother). I have an aunt and a grandmother named Marvell. My sister named every single one of her children after our mother. My family is very intentional about passing down generational names to honor our ancestors. So if you ever meet a younger and more handsome Mike Harriot, don’t worry, that’s just one of my nephews.

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A little more than a decade ago, my mother decided that she wanted to trace our family genealogy and she managed to trace it back to literally when our ancestors arrived in America. She didn’t think it would be very hard because she was living about 40 miles from the plantation where Earvin was born. Plus, she was living in that same house, on that same land that Earvin had supposedly bought when he fled Lee/Sumter County.

She found no mention of Earvin.

It turns out, the tale of Earvin, the slave who outsmarted the white people was totally made up. My entire family was heartbroken. Our entire identity vanished into thin air.

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And then, my mother managed to find a family will from the former plantation of a Scottish slave-owner. The will listed the names of all of his slaves, dividing them among his brothers and his two male children. The last line of the will and testament says:

And of the negro servant Irby who is a Hallion. He shall be set free with no liens or encumbrances, lest he (illegible) our family name.

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Because, in those days, a free black man had to prove his freedom, the 1860 census records show that there was a free black man named Irby Hallion who was listed under as a slave under the 1850 census. That same Irby Hallion was also a landowner—one of the few negro landowners in Lee and Sumter Counties before the end of the Civil War.

And when Irby Hallion fled to Hartsville, S.C., he became Earvin Harriot.

It turns out that Irby’s last name wasn’t even Hallion. My best guess is that the will was Irby’s only proof that he was freed by his former master and they didn’t understand that hallion was is a Scottish word that Irby’s slaveowner was using to describe his property. It is the word that would have perfectly defined my entire family:

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That’s how long ago slavery was. It is my grandmother’s grandfather. It is my nephew. It was then. It is tomorrow. And that’s why I want my reparations.

Not just for Irby’s land or his business. I don’t give a damn about the inheritance or what my family could have been worth if we had passed it down like we passed down the little we were left with. Not even 100 years of erasure could wipe away that history because my family passed it down like historical contraband.

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My grandmother told me this story a thousand times. I imagine that her grandfather told it to her the same way she told it to me. I love that woman more than life itself and I know she loved her grandfather the same way. So I want the most valuable thing that was ever stolen from her. I want what was stolen from me. I want what was stolen from my nephew.

I want my family’s motherfucking name.

I don’t know if I could ever calculate the value of my family’s lost inheritance. I don’t know what the Harriots would be worth now had someone not stolen 150 years worth of prosperity. I couldn’t calculate it, but I know it’s worth something.

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You wanna know how I know?

Because I have a nephew named Earvin.

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About the author

Michael Harriot

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