Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/FMG)

It’s Good Friday and Passover Eve. The Root’s deputy managing editor, Yesha Callahan, is not here to force me to write an extensive lede because last night, Very Smart Brothas and The Glow Up had their first joint event, Urban by Nature, in Los Angeles. A lot of the staff from The Root attended, but they wouldn’t let me go because I had to sort through the letters, emails and tweets to write this week’s mailbag.

Moses didn’t die on the cross for this.

Since I’m being treated so badly, today’s mailbag won’t be long and neither will the lede. I mean ... who’s gon’ check me, boo (besides the copyediting team)?

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Like Jesus told Pharaoh way down in Egypt land: Let my people go.


From: Derp Derpington

To: The Root

Subject: You won’t clapback to this

Long time reader, long time not a big fan.

After reading your work for a few years now, I have grown tired of your one(maybe two)-trick pony style of writing. Early on, I noticed two things about you and your approach to “journalism”: 1. You use the same trite technique in all non “self interview” stories -that is you start off with a paragraph insulting your subject, another paragraph attempting to relate those insults to your byline and the rest of your article pounding your chest in proclamation of subjective claims with cherry-picked data to try and help make your argument appear less subjective. 2. Your boring “self interview” tactic regularly contains one-sided, cherry-picked, softball-sized questions meant to make you look like a home run hitter, when in actuality you are likely an easy strike-out by anyone with some real facts and knowledge about the world. Every story you write is like a first year undergrad trying to simply make the deadline with a paper that is poorly researched and woefully inept. If I were grading any work you have written, you would be scraping by with D’s and C’s (likely what you received on your work in your time in school) simply because you have heart and a little bit of gusto.

I challenge you this; invite me to the Root’s office in NYC to interview you in person (in-person interviews are always the best because you don’t have the opportunity to research and educate yourself about a response to a question I ask you). The whole interview can/will be audio recorded by both sides, so that both sides have the whole story. You may have me searched or vetted any way you like/choose to feel safe about inviting some random “cracker” (I know how dangerous us wypipo -especially us cracker Jacks- seem to you) to your offices and in turn, I get to ask you any and every question I wish, in order to find out your true level of racism and understanding or comprehension of the world and especially race in the US.

I work two jobs(EMT and residential aid for students with intellectual disabilities) and am back in school currently, but will have some more time this summer before the summer programs start.

Let me know. You could even make it a multi-part series and bill it as “the intellectual fight of the new century!” Only on the Root! See the smartest, most talented writer on The Root staff take on a poor, uneducated wypipo representative! Because, after all, I am poor, uneducated (don’t even have a bachelor’s degree) and used to be nothing but a grease monkey with a wrench. I do not write for any sites, I have no social media to build a following with or to lie to and my only gain from this is a chance to get out of the greys and into the real-world of The Root. You could even post this email and ask the readers of the Root what they think you should do!

I think it would be fun and it would help you to get out of this boring, repetitive rut of writing crap articles about subjects who aren’t able to or haven’t been given the chance to defend themselves against your attacks. It would also give you the chance to prove your (intellectual) might and take down a mighty whitey in all of your racist friends. That would make you some sort of super negus!

You can contact me via this email and I will give you my real contact info later. I don’t trust you as far as I can throw you(something your mammy taught you about whitey, right?) to give you my real info and not have you put me on blast.

So, what do you say, Mr. Racist?! Let’s make this happen. Or are you too much of a chicken shit to step up to the plate against a real intellectual challenge?

Sincerely,

Bored of you and your lame-ass, tired-ass, writing.

Dear Derp:

To be honest, I didn’t even see your email until Yesha pointed it out to me. I thought about it and was down to do what you suggest until we discussed it as a staff and someone destroyed our plans by asking a very important question:

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“Why, though?”

Let’s suppose my dumb wittle Negro mind is able to withstand the onslaught of your superior white brainpower and emerge victorious in this “intellectual challenge.” What will I win?

Do I get to keep writing for The Root? I already do. Perhaps Cambridge Analytica will alert the Nobel committee to how I destroyed a poor, uneducated “grease monkey with a wrench,” and I will win the Nobel Prize in accomplishing nothing. I’m sure that racist white people check this site every day hoping to hear a conversation that will lead them to say: “You know what? I’ve changed my whole mind about this racism thing. Maybe it’s wrong.”

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And what happens if you win?

I’d be exposed as a charlatan, no one will want to read what I have to say anymore and The Root will fire me. I’d have to move into my mom’s basement, and my mom doesn’t even have a basement. She lives too close to the ocean. Her city’s code doesn’t even allow for basements. My mom likes her house, Derp. Why would you do this to her?

After you wipe the floor with my pea brain, you’d be hailed as the conquering Caucasian hero and immediately hired by Fox News to become the new Tucker Carlson. But what about Tucker, Derp? Don’t you care about him? You’re being insensitive, Derp.

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So, on behalf of my mother’s nonexistent basement, the family of Tucker Carlson and all the people who would be left abandoned without someone to repair the alternator on their 1998 Pontiac Grand Prix, I’m going to decline your offer.

The world will be burdened with my shitty, D-level writing for a little while longer because—unlike your callous disregard for Tucker’s kids, my “mammy,” and all the good citizens of America who need an oil change and someone to check their brake lights—I care.

I really do.


From: Another White
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Common Ground

Have you noticed the growing amount of anti-white rhetoric and shaming in the U.S.? It’s become more apparent to me in the past decade, but far more apparent with the election of Trump. Before anyone jumps to conclusions, no I did not vote the fool in. The only point I want to bring to light is that the same evil you fight lies within your writing. What’s especially wrong is that you or anyone don’t recognize it and justify your actions with hate and stereotyping. See where your argument goes wrong is that you have a misconception that this country or white people in general must owe you something and that the U.S. system has put you at a disadvantage based on the fact that you’re black. This is entirely incredulous. The fact that you are a successful writer, poet, podcaster, and person in general proves that black people are absolutely capable of success in America. It’s just takes hardwork and courage, it’s the same for everyone. Good luck with you, and I respect your passion as an individual, but not your ideology.

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Dear Another White:

I’ve definitely noticed the rise of white-shaming. As someone who is dedicated to fighting racism, I see this as a problem that must be eradicated.

You’re correct that my “misconception that this country or white people in general must owe” me something is without merit. Why would I think that a country that offered some form of compensation to interned Japanese Americans, displaced Native Americans and Holocaust survivors owed me anything?

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In fact, my belief that the U.S. system “put [me] at a disadvantage based on the fact that [I’m] black” is a dumb idea based only on constitutionally allowed discrimination, 400 years of legal slavery and another century of Jim Crow. You’re right. Me pointing out state and federal laws that outlawed black people from marrying whomever they wanted, living wherever they wanted, eating whatever they wanted and going to school wherever they pleased is anti-white, flawed logic.

This white-shaming must stop.

Just yesterday, while watching the funeral of Stephon Clark, I thought about all the white people who aren’t disproportionately killed by police this year and wondered how they endured the stress of not having to tell their kids what to do when they will inevitably not be stopped by police officers for driving while white.

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I can’t imagine how rough it must be to have nothing to worry about except your credit score when you buy a home. I don’t know if I could make it if women felt comfortable around me in dark parking lots or my children didn’t have to be taught that they can’t laugh in class like their white friends because black children receive harsher punishment.

Even though peer-reviewed studies say that those things are true, I know how those majority-white colleges produce studies done mostly by white people who are looking to white-shame your people with those racist things we call “facts.”

As a matter of fact, let me tell a story:

A couple of years ago, I attended an event with four other fraternity brothers who graduated from the same college I attended. Four of us—all black men—live in the same city, so we decided to park our cars and ride in one SUV. We returned late at night and stopped by a convenience store because we needed some gas and one of us had to pee. When we pulled up, we saw a group of white kids walking out of the store as we walked in.

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As we entered, the clerk stopped us and informed us that, during late nights, it was “store policy” that they could only allow one person in the store at a time. We could have pointed out that we just saw a group of white people leaving, but we said, “Fuck that. They’re being racist.”

But my friend really had to pee, so we decided that he would go inside and pee and we would spend our money elsewhere. When he got out of the car and went back inside, the clerk had already placed a sign on the door that said: “Closed. Will return in 30 minutes.” My friend decided to go behind the dumpster and relieve himself and we left.

As soon as we left the store, a cop pulled us over, and we assumed that the clerk called the cops for my friend’s dumpster piss. The officer made all of us get out while he searched the car for ... he never said what. After he finished his search, he didn’t write a ticket, so we asked him why he pulled us over. His reply was, “We have a gang problem in this area, so I was just making sure.”

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I remembered reading a quote from a police officer who said he was taught: “One black man is a black man. Two is a gang.”

The next day, I went to a dealership to purchase a car for my son, who would be attending college soon. I went to the dealership intending to purchase a pickup truck because I didn’t want him driving around with a carload of his friends. Like my college-educated friends, my son is “capable of success.” He has the “[hard work] and courage” it takes to make it in life.

I should have been able to buy any car I liked because I work hard for my money. But this “successful writer, poet, podcaster, and person in general” knows that there are times when none of that bullshit matters.

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For me, my son and everyone who looks like us, no matter how hard we work, there are times when the color of our skin means that each of us is just another black man in America, pissing into the wind.


Finally, one article received both positive and negative reactions.

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It seemed as if the author who wrote the recipe in question, Helen Rosner, took the article in good-natured humor. But some of her fans had a problem with the article, even accusing me of lightweight anti-Semitism:

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Ms. Rosner:

First, I would like to send my sincerest apologies for misspelling your name. While I would never want to use the excuse of “I’m not racist because ... ,” my unintended slight had more to do with my lack of attention to detail than it had to do with your heritage. To be honest, until reading those tweets, I had no idea your name was Jewish.

But this doesn’t excuse my rant toward your recipe and the New Yorker. I am willing to admit that I allowed my own prejudices to seep into my writing. Yes, I am an unapologetic bigot. Your article represented three groups of people I often discriminate against:

Hair dryers: Growing up with three sisters, I am familiar with the appliance. But because I’ve been black for a few years, I only recognize the type of hair dryer that requires a person to sit under it. In a black household, you don’t fuck with the hair dryer because it is an important piece of equipment.

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To see you appropriating your hair dryer all willy-nilly made me uneasy. Plus, the fact that you used a $400 piece of equipment so carelessly revealed your blow-dryer privilege. Why don’t hotel rooms have a sit-under dryer? Why didn’t your recipe include instructions for the black people’s blow dryer? Isn’t that a form of prejudice?

People who allow bathroom stuff in the kitchen: One day, when I was a young boy, I used a perfectly clean bath cloth to wipe up a kitchen spill and my mother lost her mind. I tried to understand why she was so upset, but even when I pointed out that the bath cloth was clean, she continued to assert: “Bathroom stuff belongs in the bathroom. Kitchen stuff belongs in the kitchen!”

I now believe this with all my heart.

Helen, unless you have a bathroom hair dryer and a separate kitchen hair dryer, I stand by what I wrote. And if you have two separate hair dryers, I’m calling the police because you’re obviously involved in some kind of mob-related money-laundering scheme.

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New York niggas: The part where I castigated your publication was caused by my deep-seated bigotry against people from New York. I don’t hate the New Yorker. I like Andy Borowitz. My mother even called to remind me that I have two opera-singer cousins who were reviewed favorably by the New Yorker. It’s just that the New Yorker is so ... New York.

Being raised in South Carolina and living in various places throughout the South, I find the superiority complex of New Yorkers unbearable. Being from New York is the geographical equivalent of being a vegan: They have a biological directive to let you know they are from New York within 17 seconds of meeting you because, in their minds, it means they are better than you.

The only thing worse than New York niggas is Brooklyn niggas. (Which, I may add, are technically one and the same.) Brooklyn niggas are the New York niggas of New York niggas.

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Perhaps I allowed the fact that your magazine is named the New Yorker to sway my opinion.

It’s not my fault. I was raised this way.