Photo: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/FMG)

Sometimes, when I sift through all the emails, tweets and DMs for the weekly Clapback Mailbag, I’m astounded by the fact that many of the letters are variations of the same theme. So I decided to answer some of our most frequently asked questions so that we can move forward.


From: Donato
To: Michael Harriot

Do you dislike white people in general?

Although I hate when people answer a question with a question, the only way to explain my answer is by giving you a short, five-question, multiple-choice quiz on Black History. But you must promise to only answer from your memory, Donato. You can’t use Google.

Advertisement

Here are the questions:

1. Who was the first person or group to transport slaves from Africa to the continental United States?

a. Zachariah Jenson
b. James B. Haynesworth
c. The Virginia Import Company
d. White people

Advertisement

2. In 1918, after black sharecroppers in Arkansas decided to unionize, the landowners lynched 237 black people in Phillips County, Arkansas. What was the lynch mob called?

a. The Phillips County Sheriff’s Department
b. The Gladburg Posse
c. The Patrolmen
d. White people

3. What group was responsible for the 50 dynamite explosions that occurred in Birmingham, Ala,. between 1947 and 1965?

Advertisement

a. The White Citizens Council
b. The Ku Klux Klan
c. The Birmingham Improvement Society
d. White people

4. Black men receive 20 percent longer prison sentences than whites who commit the same crime. Who is responsible for this?

a. Overzealous prosecutors.
b. District court judges
c. Biased law enforcement officers
d. White people

Advertisement

5. Studies show majority black schools receive less funding and black students receive harsher punishments than whites. Who creates these problems?

a. Local school boards
b. State elected officials
c. The Department of Education
d. White people

Now, allow me to explain this:

For most of their existence, black people in this country had to suppress their feelings about white people, so white people were largely unaware of the sentiment of a lot of blacks. Even though what I write might seem resentful and accusatory, I can assure you that I do not hate white people.

Advertisement

I think we can agree that America has a race problem and the only way to address it is to begin from an honest, objective starting point. I am aware that white people are so accustomed to living in a world that offers them so little resistance, that honesty sometimes feels like hate.

When I talk about race and use the words “white people,” no one ever refutes the substance of the argument. They have a problem with the word because they think it insinuates all white people.

I assure you, Donato, I do not hate white people.

I’m just bad at remembering names.


From: Don S.
To: The Root

Just a heads up your wypipo poll is being rigged. I’d take the results with a grain of salt. Dude says he’s trolling the groups most likely to support your site. Last year it was white allies and this year it’s white feminists. Feel free to ignore this, I don’t have a horse in this race.

Advertisement

Bullshit.

There’s no way you could convince me that people are willing to rig a system so that it can produce the outcome they want.

Fake news.

#Sad


From: Peggy
To: Michael Harriot

HI,

I realise you are very busy and the last thing you need is to have a white girl from Australia contacting you but I wanted to give you a different perspective as an outsider looking in. Why? bc firstly, I love your writing - your write up about that woman singing Missy is the funniest thing I have heard or read for a long time, my favourite line was the sneaker joke you made, I could not stop laughing, I am still laughing as I write. Secondly, bc of your article about a black cop beating a black guy today and also the comments on the article about the nazi who is now anti racist.

I wanted to tell you first that as my dad is Italian, growing up in Melbourne Australia was not fun! I am white as snow but still have experienced a small form of racism. I was born in 1975, going to school in the 80s meant bc I was part Italian no one wanted to be my friend. The boys were the worst but although the girls never bullied and some even tried to befriend me and one did become my good friend, I still was considered different and not an equal. The worse behaviour I experienced was walking to school every morning and having to go past a group of white boys from an all boys private school. I was only 6 or 7 at the time but the anxiety i had about going to school and encountering them was terrifying. I would literally cry myself to sleep at night. They did it all - kicked me, told me to go back to Italy, called me names, threw my school bag across the street, every single day! Not fun

I have lived in America, so not a stranger of race relations there. But when I lived in America it was from 1997- 2000. Can I say that although our history is different and I know history is important, that race relations in Australia are no different to what you experience in America. All the problems POC experience in America we get here. A person in the comments mentioned that America has a problem with race - unfortunately all countires do. I even had friends from India who were blatantly racist toward POC from other cultures and there are countries right now experiencing civil war - POC fighting POC. All bread of hate of the “other”

But, I wanted to say that from my experience, as a woman who also walks around with my own form of oppression, that toxic masculinity is real and is part of why cops - even black ones - display aggression in such large numbers. I know you will scoff at this but if you worked with children, as I have , you will know that boys of all colours display toxic masculinity in varying degress. Mix that with power and entitlement and you are fucked.

I have an interesting anedote for you. I was driving to Ikea around 12 years ago in a shitty car (am doing better for myself and my car in nicer now) and I was pulled over by a white male cop bc one of my headlights wasn’t working. You should see me, I was tiny white girl, not badly dressed, I wasn’t poor by any means. I did not know why I was being pulled over, and bc I was stupid and it all happened so fast I hadn’t opened the window and the cop screamed to me to open the window so he could talk to me. I went to do so and he pulled a gun on me, obviously I wasn’t shot but he was shaking. Hello, the fuck was that?? I remained as cool and calm as possible bc this guy was fucking nuts. He didn’t put away his gun the whole time he spoke to me!

lastly, You can blame Murdoch for most of our woes in the Western world - the dumbing down of the population from his vile and biased media. Keeping people dumb and ill informed and racist is what he wants so he can keep the right wing in power. He does it here just like he does in the States. Plus he is also in cahoots with Russia - there is no way Wendy Deng was really going out with Putin, she obviously has bad taste in men but come on now, that bad? Putin is quite literally evil

Thanks for hearing me out if you read this! P

ps i actually don’t know why I wrote you but mainly just wanted to say - keep up the good work! I really appreciate you and even though sometimes it hurts when you come for white girls ( most white girls have been through a lot of shit too) - I get it and it needs to be called out and we really need to do more for our most vulnerable everywhere in the world! I suppose you have a fan - i am sure you have many

pps If I have offended you in any way - sometimes I can be quite clueless, please don’t mock me - i have been through a lot in life , just block me.

Advertisement

Wow, Peggy, that was a lot. I think I know what you’re getting at.

Actually ...I don’t.

I just want to comment on one part of your article letter that appears in almost every letter I receive. It was the part about you having a gun pulled on you when you were stopped by the cops.

Advertisement

62.9 percent of all the letters I receive contains an anecdote from a white person about how they were pulled over by the cops. Here is a deeper statistical breakdown:

  • 14 percent were perfectly fine because they did as they were told, which they offer as a lesson to us belligerent blacks that if we would just stop resisting...
  • 32 percent were beaten or arrested, which proves that cops aren’t racist because it happens to white people too
  • 43 percent said it was a “misunderstanding.”

But I would like to point out one thing:

You remembered.

During your brief three-year racism tour, you perfectly recalled that incident. I would donate my left testicle to science if my interactions with the guns of police officers were limited to so few times that I could remember them in such detail.

Advertisement

Yesterday, my friends were arguing either about the systematic oppression of black and brown juveniles, mental health in the African-American community or the Thursday tweets from SixBrownChicks, I can’t remember. Anyway, halfway through the group chat conversation, my friend interjected:

“I just got pulled over by a cop and buddy’s hand was on his gun the whole time.”

And the conversation just continued.

For black people, it is an everyday occurrence. It is a circus acrobat swinging on the monkey bars.I cannot recall the details of my worst police interaction any more than I can remember what I ate for dinner on March 3, 2014.

Advertisement


From: Patrick
To: Michael

Is Yesha as mean as you say she is?

Although I hate when people answer a question with a question, the only way to explain my answer is by giving you a short, one-question, multiple-choice quiz on Black History:

1. The meanest person in the world is:

a. Yesha Callahan
b. The Root’s Deputy Managing Editor
c. Pronounce “Eye-eesha Callahan”
d. White people

Advertisement

[Editor’s note: It’s been two weeks since I’ve moved to Los Angeles, and Kinja user Matíz, a Yahoo - For Serious! can attest that I am not mean, since he was a huge help after I moved here and even brought by some items to help me get by until my stuff arrived, and his wife sent me homemade preserves. And since he’s white, you should believe him!]