The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: I Think We May Have Solved Racism

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: I Think We May Have Solved Racism
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (GMG)

According to Wypipopedia, racism has been around for at least nine or 10 years. It started with the election of President Barack Obama, who invented racism in a Kenyan laboratory with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Saul Alinsky and that terrorist dude from the Weather Underground. (I know his name is Bill Ayers. I’m just using his white-people name.)


Ever since Obama released this terrible plague into our society, people much smarter than I have been trying to solve the racism riddle and banish it from the planet. They’ve tried sensitivity training, revising history to make the Civil War about states’ rights and—most notably—developing an antidote called “reverse racism.”

But the scientists here at The Root have finally figured out a cure. Our researchers ran our most racist emails, tweets, comments and direct messages through our proprietary software and analyzed the results. They detected a pattern that shows racism is inversely proportional to the ability to spell, capitalize and punctuate.

Yes, the cure for racism is grammar lessons.

Today we share our peer-reviewed study. (Although, to be fair, Deputy Managing Editor Yesha Callahan does not consider me her peer.)

[Editor’s note: Wait .. I thought you said ‘pear.’ No, I don’t consider you my pear. —Yesha]

(Sidenote: Instead of including our positive emails at the end, this week they will be used as control subjects for our data comparisons.)


Here are our results:

In our first test case, we examined the responses to our article on O.J. Simpson:

From: Connor
To: Michael Harriot

you are such a smug racist spewing piece of shit. Don’t hate white people of this generation you fuck; we did’nt do shit to you or your race. stop spewing hate. the fact you celebrated OJ’s acquittal shows how dumb you are. karmas a bitch. really hope someone doesn’t murder someone close to you. imagine that feeling you narcissistic fuck.


This is an example of our typical racist reader. Notice the lack of capitalization at the beginning of each sentence, something most people learn in their early elementary school years. While I am thankful for his hope that someone close to me isn’t murdered, I question his use of a semicolon instead of a period. It could be a mistake, but when I combine that oversight with the fact that he misplaced an apostrophe in “didn’t” and just eliminated the one in “karma’s,” it shows how grammar has affected his mind state.

None of this indicates that the reader is dumb because—wonder of wonders—he didn’t misspell “narcissistic.” Plus, unlike some of our most racist readers, he didn’t sprinkle ellipses throughout his message.


Now let’s take a look at a thread from a Twitter user who doesn’t appear to be racist:


Now, Sarah, in her egalitarian white feminism, simply wanted to inject her narrative into an article that had nothing to do with her. She wanted to discuss sexism in an article that was specifically about police brutality and black lives. She wasn’t necessarily being racist. She was exemplifying the white privilege that seeks to change every conversation and divert it to a subject she wants to talk about. As such, her only mistake (other than a comma instead of a semicolon after “I understand you”) was spelling “say” as “day.”


See ... not as racist, better grammar.

And, finally, this:

From: Edith
To: Michael Harriot

I really enjoyed your article on OJ. I guess I’m one of the few white Americans who really thought he was innocent. I recorded but haven’t watched the Fox News interview but I will now very soon.

I like to think that everyone judges people by their character and not the color of their skin but I know I’m wrong. At 67 it is hard to understand why in this day and age color is still so harsh a feeling by some people. I grew up while the civil rights movement was in full force and saw the injustices that were going on in Selma. I guess I have spent my life wearing those 60’s “Rose Colored Glasses” but it was easier than reality.

We now have a man in the Oval Office (I refuse to call him President) who does nothing but preach hate belittles people. He is doing everything in his power to destroy all the good things that President Obama accomplished. I voted for President Obama twice and would have voted for him a third time if I could have had that privilege. I’m praying constantly for impeachment but I’m not sure it will happen.

I work with black women that are some of the greatest women I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. We are all nurses and they are great. How anyone can judge a person by their color instead of their character is beyond my school of thought. Throughout my career as a nurse I have had the honor of taking care of many people of color that were amazing. I have heard of the difficulties of being black from the 1930’s and onward. Some stories were absolutely fascinating while others just ripped your heart out. I can’t imagine how black people felt with the way they were treated.

I’m also very proud that I have never treated anyone the way blacks have been treated. I think my parents had a great deal to do with that.

I know you probably won’t read all of this and I can’t say I’d blame you if you didn’t but I wanted you to know there are some people out here who grew up in your parents or grandparents day that didn’t grow up thinking they were better than people of color. My daddy use to tell my brother and me that “there was not one person in the world better than we were and there isn’t one person in the world that we are better than anyone”. I just know that if we remove our skin we all look the same.

You, Mr. Harriot, have managed to be the person that I elected to send my rants and raves at because of that dummy in the Oval Office, he is the one person that we are all better than. I get so angry at his actions I find myself hoping he will meet his Lee Harvey Oswald soon and I know that’s not right.

Please know that believe it or not I don’t write people like this but your writing was really great. I know you have probably turned blue at the length of some of my sentences but that’s ok, you’re right. Keep up the good work and please pray for a Democrat win EVERYWHERE.

Thanks for listening. God Bless.

Sincerely yours


Now, I’m not trying to grammar-shame anyone, but this is from a white woman. Notice that—instead of saying that she doesn’t see color—she acknowledges the fact that she can actually tell the difference between black women and everyone else!


Not racist. Better grammar.

Good looking out, Edith.

This week, News Editor Breanna Edwards rankled a legion of white people when she wrote an article about the sentient colostomy bag who smeared her bodily fluids all over her roommate’s belongings and got off Scott-free.


I honestly can’t explain why they were upset ... they just were. They weren’t just mad ... they were big mad. Take this comment, for example:

From: LT1990
To: Breanna Edwards

Dont even have to read the article to know that it is written by a racist bitch. Just because that nasty bitch got off with little more than a warning, it doesn’t mean it had anything to do with her race. STOP RACE BAITING!


That’s kinda racist. You will notice that the only egregious error is the lack of an apostrophe in “don’t.” But it gets worse:

To: Breanna Edwards


See how—as he or she upped the racism ante—the number of capital letters increased? And what’s with the random period?


Also, I’d like to point out that, for black people, “cunt” is not really a thing. I understand that it’s one of the worst white insults, ranking second only to “white people.” Also, what is a slag? I’m sure I could look it up, but I don’t know if I want to know.

Also, I don’t think I want that in my Google search history.

Here’s another one:

To: Breanna Edwards

Just goes to show you your BL DON’T MATTER any more than anyone elses. Your still 2nd class. Better yet NO CLASS THATS WHY YOU LIVE IN GHETTOS ITS WERE YOU BELONG.


Case closed.

And finally, this series of comments on the article about cultural appropriation and Bruno Mars:


From: borgohugis
To: Michael Harriot

One of the other hallmarks of appropriation is using someone’s culture to demean, make fun of or diminish it.

It’s demeaning when money is made from Black music but doesn’t go to Black people. It’s demeaning when Black music is used to gain influence and power to a person that is not Black. It’s making fun of Black people when a non-Black person pretends and is a mockery of Black music, dance and culture. It diminishes the Black legacy because Black artists aren’t getting awards for the Black music they create. This deprives us of historical records and credit.

Michael, I don’t know what’s going on but a pattern is emerging. A black woman broke this shit down and you said “nope”. When Mo’Nique broke the shit down, you said “nope”. Why is your response “nope” when your argument is as weak as “Or maybe they’re just tired of seeing Bruno Mars”. Wut?? You see fit to use your aunties as proof of Blackness but you are never here supporting the words of Black women. This shit is fucked up and you need to start thinking about what and who you are trying to support. If it isn’t the words of Black women then I don’t even know why you see fit to write anything especially something as weak as this. Bills must be paid and clicks must be had but damn do you really have to do it at the expense of Black women who are speaking truth?

From: Kalx
To: borgohugis

Thank you for saying this. I’ve been noticing that I disagree with Michael’s takes 87% of the time. It’s mind numbing at this point. He’s a lot like Charlemagne the Charlatan.

From: borgohugis

To: Kalx

When he round about defended Charlemagne was egregious enough. Also the writing is so weak. He tries to wrap up the header in the last paragraph with the flimsiest reason after spending half the article giving evidence that goes against his argument.


Dearest borgohugis and Kalx,

I could tell you that I am the least sexist person I know and that I don’t see gender. I could easily dismiss your criticism by saying that some of my best friends are black women (actually, just three; but three count as “some,” right?).


Instead of rejecting your comments out of hand, I did what I wish some white readers would do. I examined myself and what you call “a pattern” that is emerging in my work. I didn’t just examine myself; I examined my content. Here’s what I found:

In 2018, I have written 148 stories for The Root. Twenty-five of those stories were about, or had something to do with, black women. Here is the list of black women I said “nope” to:

  • Seren Sensai: Although I disagree with you on characterizing what I said as “nope.” I specifically said she “makes a convincing argument breaking down why Mars is a derivative artist,” and that “Every single word Sensei said was correct, but none of it defined cultural appropriation.” If you disagree on my interpretation, that is fine, but you should know that this article was sparked by my hearing the argument from men and women about cultural appropriation.
  • Omarosa Manigault Newman: I admit that I wholeheartedly disagree with almost everything she does. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive me.
  • Priyanka Banks: A reality-TV star actress who sued her sorority for kicking her out of Delta Sigma Theta.
  • Karima Garner: A black woman whose actions I vehemently disagreed with ... only because she killed another woman by injecting her booty with Home Depot silicone.

That’s the list.

Notice that list does not include Mo’Nique because when the “boycott Netflix” debate emerged, I was one of the first writers not only to defend her position but also to attempt to dissect it using the history and economics of Hollywood.


Even in the article you pointed out, I concluded:

I wish I had Mo’Nique’s level of confidence and self-value. The idea that others cannot determine the value of your work is an important lesson. Maybe she should treat people better. Maybe she isn’t as funny or as popular as she and her “Daddy” believes (I feel like I should put my name on the sex offender’s registry every time I type that), but her willingness to say “Fuck your couch” and stand on principle is admirable.

Mo’Nique is right. Black is often devalued because it is black. Women are often lowballed because they are women. It is difficult to live in that reality and reject it as a reason that she believes Netflix undervalued her. Even if she is wrong about Netflix, her larger point is also correct.


Again, I don’t object to your characterization of my argument, even if you feel like I sided with “Charlemagne the Charlatan” or didn’t castigate him enough. Maybe I didn’t write it well enough or left it open to interpretation. Perhaps I was too evenhanded. I can accept that. I find it interesting that you think I dismissed Mo’Nique while other readers thought I sided with Mo’Nique too much.

In fact, one particular reader disliked my initial commentary so much that he called to explain his viewpoint as soon as the article appeared. I can’t reveal our conversation, but let’s just say he is a high-ranking executive for a company that rhymes with “Metflix.”


Again, I don’t dismiss your criticism. If either of you feels that I am dismissive of black women or that I am wrong 87 percent of the time, I invite you to skip my byline. I can’t imagine reading someone whose writing was “so weak” and was so wrong so often.

It is my job to examine and critique race and culture. I try not to be too thin-skinned to accept the backlash or to ignore those who are critical of me. But Kalyx and borgohugis, I must admit that your comments made me rethink a lot of my prejudices for one reason:

Your grammar was impeccable.

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



Now Sarah, in her egalitarian white feminism, simply wanted to inject her narrative into an article that had nothing to do with her. She wanted to discuss sexism in an article that was specifically about police brutality and black lives. She wasn’t necessarily being racist. She was exemplifying the white privilege that seeks to change every conversation and divert it to a subject she wants to talk about.

Coming soon to JezeRoot!