The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Farewell to the Queen

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Farewell to the Queen

Today’s clapback is dedicated to the memory of a real diva and a true Queen. But despite this overwhelming sadness, I know you will be in a better place. In lieu of tears, I thought it would be more appropriate to celebrate you by remaking an old classic that I sometimes sing to myself when I think of you:

Ain’t no way for me write this mailbag
If you won’t let me
It ain’t no way for me to give you all you need
If you won’t let me fucking breathe

I know that an editor’s duty is to guide a writer’s hand
And that’s the way It was planned
But how can I, how can I, how can I
give you all the pettiness I can
If you keep making so many demands

Oh no, it ain’t no way
(Ain’t no way)
It ain’t no way (Ain’t no way)
It just ain’t no way, Yesha (Ain’t no way)
Ain’t no way, Yesha
(Ain’t no way)

There ain’t no way for me to write the mailbag
If Yesha won’t let me

Oh, you thought I was talking about Aretha Franklin?

Nah, bruh. Yesha’s leaving me today.

I always knew this day would come, but I didn’t think it would be this soon. I also pictured it much differently in my mind. I just assumed there’d be a knife. And blood. And Yesha standing over my hospital bed as I drift into the great beyond, asking:

“Sooo, ummm, you think you could bang out another mailbag before you die?”

If you’ve seen the reports on CNN or caught Barack Obama’s farewell message, it’s all true: Today is Yesha’s last day with The Root.


Although I could have sent her a personal message or called her, I figured: What better way to send her off than by summoning her spirit of pettiness by responding to the emails, tweets and comments received by the staff at The Root?

Therefore, I humbly submit the last real clapback mailbag with true love and R-E-S-P-E-C-K (That is what you mean to me).

[Editor’s note: About time you wrote a decent intro!! -Yesha]

I think this email might have something to do with White feminists winning the 2018 World Wypipo Tournament.

From: MatPeg

To: Michael Harriot

I wanted to tell you i agree with your article. I am also finding it hard to express what I wanted to say. I think partly bc I don’t want to be labled as not “not getting it”. but i wanted to give you as a writer some feedback bc there are consequences to everything we do and language is important.

When Trump was elected I wanted to kill every white women alive who helped him get in - i even went on social media, something I rarely do and declared I hate white women, I was pissed and I am not even American ( as an aside, I think Americans would be shocked to know how much Hillary C is adored around the world! We really did not want Trump voted in, but we also love Hills so much, she is very respected. It is very telling the way she has been treated by Americans in the last years - it smacks of sexism. Certainly out of respect to the thousands upon thousands of ordinary people who donated to her run as pres, she deserved to be heard and have a voice esp as she would be pres right now if she ran in most other countries, having won the popular vote).

I recently have been feeling very worried about attacks on white women, see my daughter who is 12 has been called basic bitch and basic white bitch at school in a very nasty way by boys. Constructive criticism is one thing but when does name calling and demeaning start punching down? I also feel like the language that I have heard on The Root and elsewhere, is very gendered and sexist and at the end of the day that hurts women of all colors.

The average person doesn’t catorgorise women by color. Women are already considered inferior by a lot of men and boys, it doesn’t need to drummed in by the media. It is also another case of women being blamed for everything and men, who should be noted vote Repub in much higher numbers than women, not getting anywhere near as much hate. White men elected Trump - but boys will be boys, right? i also think you should know that Tamara Burke ( of #metoo) is active with a feminist run (by mostly white women) objective that I participated in ( I answered the survey as a victim of rape and attempted gang rape, my attackers in the attempted were men of color). I’d hate for victims not to be involved in this bc they hear over and over and over again that white women are the enemy. The work that this org is doing is helping A LOT of black women as they are over represented in domestic and sexual violence incidents.

Anyway, Peace (sorry for the whitesplaining)

Dear MegPeg:

You said you wanted feedback, so here goes:

Please don’t blame me. I just count the votes. White feminists’ victory in our tournament is the will of the people. If you want someone to blame, you should point your finger in the direction of the closest mirror.


However, you are partially correct. White women have been subjected to abuse, and that is despicable. You were denied the right to vote for more than a century, and that is unfair. You have been stereotyped, marginalized and treated like second-class citizens ...

Compared to white men.

When you talk about “punching down,” I don’t like to play the oppression Olympics, but it is clear, by any measure, that white women sit close to the top of the pyramid of importance in America. Not only that, but you have been complicit in society of doing the same thing to every other class and race of people in this country including people of color, non-Christians, gays, trans people and anyone who doesn’t identify with at least one character on Friends.


And all the while, like white men, you refuse to acknowledge your part in doing so. Whether it is Emmett Till’s bloody body, the charred remains of Black Wall Street, immigrant children being snatched from their mothers’ arms, or white nationalists making the White House their national headquarters, you are willing to sit atop your throne of privilege with blind indifference while declaring your hands clean of the blood.

And what is the greatest example of this?

One, it’s not the fact that, if a white woman (Carolyn Bryant) had not told a lie, Emmett Till would have lived past 14. If a white woman (Sarah Page) had simply said:,“He didn’t do anything,” the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Okla., might still be thriving, but that’s not what I’m talking about. If a white woman (Kirstjen Neilsen) had simply said, “We can’t do this,” the Trump Administration’s child separation policy would have died behind closed doors, but that’s still not the greatest example.


If only 49 percent of white women had voted for Donald Trump instead of 53 percent, we wouldn’t have a president who lies like a ... (Honestly, I don’t have an analogy for this one. I have never witnessed anyone who lies like President Trump except for white women. But again, that’s not a specific enough example). The fact that you thought it necessary to mention that you have even worked with a black woman (Tarana Burke) and your attackers were men of color (as if it matters in the grand scheme of things) is also not what I mean.

The greatest example of white women using their womanhood as a sorrow-gathering bucket while still getting to use their whiteness as a suit of armor is your letter.


For that, I thank you.

This next correspondence comes from a reader whose tweets I have apparently missed. A week or two ago, I asserted, in the mailbag, that there were no black Confederate soldiers. Apparently, there is a Civil War historian who, for years, has been miffed about an article written by a freelancer arguing that there were indeed back Confederates.


Here are two of his tweets:


Dear Kevin Levin:

I honestly never noticed your tweets, but now that I see them, I agree, it’s time to correct the record.


After going back and reading the story published here three years ago, as well as your clapback, I came to the conclusion that I agree with you. There were no black Confederate soldiers. I don’t know how I am responsible for this, but I will go on record as saying that I don’t agree with this guy who wrote this thing before I even arrived here.

But damn you Kevin, I hate you for this. You sent me down a rabbit hole!

Because I am not a historian, I tend to either research a subject or ask people who know what the fuck they are talking about. I emailed a friend who is a history professor and he forwarded it to another professor who is a Civil War historian. After reading both articles, he also agrees with your challenge for anyone to give one real, primary sourced account of a black Confederate soldier.


But he also warned me that, being familiar with John Stauffer’s claims, the dispute lies in Stauffer’s ultimate definition of “soldier.” Stauffer seems to characterize slaves who were impressed into service as cooks, laborers, etc. as “soldiers.” I disagree with that assessment, but my professor friend asked a very important question via email: “Should the thousands of black men who were drafted during the Vietnam war and only served in support roles be considered ‘soldiers’?” I think there is a difference, but even though I am on your side of this issue, I am not willing to parse the subject for one reason:

I kinda don’t give a fuck.

Whether the tiny number of black Confederates is zero or 6,000, it is the same as when Conservatives ask me to defend black-on-black crime because of the less than one percent of black people who commit violent crimes. It is the same as explaining to Fox News viewers who believe Black Lives Matter is a terrorist group that Micah Johnson, who killed five Dallas police officers, was not affiliated with Black Lives Matter in any way.


Racists, neo-confederates and people who watch Fox News don’t give a fuck about facts. If we erased John Stauffer’s article from The Root, they would find another example. I should also point out that, when I checked our data, the biggest bump in the article’s readership seems to be the times when you mentioned it.

I disagree with Stauffer 100 percent. I can tell that you disagree also. But I am also not in the habit of censoring thought because I disagree with it. If I were, I would have simply blocked you. But I am called the n-word every day and I rarely block those people.


If you think it is an “insult” for me to denigrate people who believe in black Confederates, I would like to point out that I have yet to mention that your name is fucking Kevin Levin. I haven’t made a single 7-11 joke or wondered if I knew you from your cameo in a Dr. Seuss Book. Nor have I asked if your parents were struggling rappers.

And if you think that it is wrong for me to not call out The Root for posting things I am not in favor of, I remind you that writers here have written about the flat earth theory, Christianity, sugar on grits and Cardi B’s rapping ability, all of which I believe are trash.


I choose not to censor. I choose to clap back.

Like a true soldier.

From: Michael Harriot
To: Yesha Callahan

I love real niggas.

Because I tend to have an affinity for shit-talking abrasive people who like to fight, most of my friends are people who can’t hold their tongues or “stay in their place.” Some of them were frat brothers, teammates or homeboys, but most of them were black women. All my life I have been surrounded by people like this, including my mother, my sisters, cousins, neighbors and friends. If you ever find yourself with your back against a wall and you need someone who’ll stand beside you and help you fight your way out, find yourself a black woman.

They are the realest of niggas.

A few years ago, when I was immersed in macroeconomic data, I occasionally got the chance to exercise my real passion, writing about black shit, mostly for myself and non-black outlets in hopes that people would read it. One day, out of the blue, I received an email from some lady, a black woman, telling me that she was accepting pitches.

Her name was Yesha Callahan.

Eventually, I began working at The Root, and got to know this Yesha lady. When I received a job offer from The Root, she texted me and told me what to say, even though I hadn’t asked. Sometimes, even when I am not bothered, she will attack people in my name. She’s a little overprotective like a pit bull on the front porch.

She and I have had real-deal arguments. She just sent me a mean-ass message as I was typing this. She has called me in the middle of the night. We have discussed everything from sexism to catching the Holy Ghost. She annoys me a lot. I know I annoy her a lot. I consider her a friend.

You’re the realest nigga I know.

So I know you won’t mind me singing a farewell song:

How do I say goodbye to what we had?
The times you cussed me out, or got big mad?
I thought we’d get to see a Pulitzer, or at least a Peabodaaaaay
It’s so hard to say goodbye to Yesha today.


[Editor’s note: Thanks, Michael, for fucking making me cry! -Yesha]

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



Damn, I never sent Yesha that Boss Sauce. She’ll never rediscover how “too damn vinegary” that stuff is. :(

Best of luck in your new opportunities, I hope we see you in the comments here. (Also, if there’s a place to follow your writing or editing, let us know. <3)