The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Make the Mailbag Great Again

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Make the Mailbag Great Again
Graphic: Oscar Bustamante (FMG)

Deputy Managing Editor Yesha Callahan is gonna be mad at this short-ass lede, but today there’s no need to pussyfoot around. We all know why we’re here, so let’s address the elephant in the room.


Dear Ted Cruz:

I can’t believe you did this to me. I thought our mutual hate for each other had fostered an understanding. Over the years, I’ve said so many terrible things about you. I’ve said that your face resembles that of a man who took out his false teeth before going to bed. I’ve called you a humanlike racism robot with an exoskeleton stitched together from the skin of the babies you eat, except for their innards, which you spread on dry toast every morning.

So on Monday morning, when I awoke to a flurry of Twitter messages and numerous articles that said Ted Cruz had written to Mark Zuckerberg about The Root’s slandering of Taylor Swift, I prepared myself for the onslaught of messages I would receive from people who were just learning about my repeated dragging of Mayo Magdalene. I knew that anything involving Ted Cruz, Taylor Swift, The Root and hate speech would point directly at me.

Then I saw a screenshot of the actual question:

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Make the Mailbag Great Again
Image: (pdf, page 38)

Monique Judge?


How the fuck could you do me like this, Ted? I’m not a jealous person, but how could you choose Monique’s Taylor Swift hate speech over mine? Monique is from California. She probably listens to bullshit like that Hispanic cover band Green Mild Jalepeño Peppers! I don’t want to besmirch Monique’s name, but I have it on very good authority that she probably, maybe, possibly, might actually like Taylor Swift.


What I’m trying to say is that Monique Judge’s comment about Taylor Swift was not hate speech. I don’t like to judge people, but Monique’s musical tastes skew very white. She once told me that she went to an NSYNC concert one time and tried to slip a love note to Joey Fatone. I think that was Monique. I’m sure she won’t mind me sharing this with you. In fact, I am willing to bet that Monique has at least one Taylor Swift CD.

When Monique wrote that “Taylor Swift needs her ass whooped,” everyone with half a brain knew it was a joke. I don’t know if you read The Root or you have a Google alert set for Taylor Swift (and I don’t know which of these, if true, would be creepier), but until you can point me in the direction of someone who was sitting at home until they ran across Monique’s article and decided to go assault Taylor Swift, I reject your assertion.


I, on the other hand, am a notorious hater of Taylor Swift. Anything I say about Taylor Swift should be considered hate speech. I don’t like to brag (I leave that to Senior Editor Stephen A. Crockett Jr.), but I probably have more Taylor Swift insults per capita than any other writer at The Root, which is why I can’t understand why you chose to make Monique Judge the example of our disdain for the white Urethra Franklin Erykah Badon’t Brie-yoncé.

It should have been me, Ted!

Taylor Swift’s need to have her ass whooped is a passive observation by Monique, not hate speech. If Monique wrote, “Ted Cruz needs to take better acting classes if he wants to convince people that he’s a human and not an alien from an evil planet dressed in baby epidermis sent here to infiltrate our government,” she would not be calling for acting coaches to show up on your front door.


Teddy, had you written that about me, I would have brought up the whiteness of your question. I would have pointed out how you skipped over the spread of right-wing extremism on the internet; the increase in Islamophobic and anti-Semitic hate crimes since 2017; and the rise of the “alt-right,” which has injected a new kind of white supremacy into politics.

It is telling that the best example of hate speech you could find was a joke about a pure and innocent white woman like Taylor Swift by an intelligent black woman. Because that is what is wrong with Facebook. Not the Nazis. Not the Russians. Not the rhetoric that inspires white men to slaughter Americans in school hallways, churches and Las Vegas concerts. Monique’s joke is the problem.


Sure, Ted. If you believe that, then here’s some real hate speech for your ass:

Ted Cruz needs his ass voted out of office and replaced by someone who really knows what the fuck he’s doing.


From: Dawn
To: Michael
Subject: Illeterate poor excuse for Journalism

Keep slandering our president and making racist remarks against my race and you can expect a 130 million dollar lawsuit to follow.

This is not a joke- my attorneys are on retainer- 150k per month.


The Lincoln family (President Lincoln)

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Make the Mailbag Great Again
Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Make the Mailbag Great Again

From: gsgshaahah on Twitter
To: Michael Harriot


From: Spank 1
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Niggers

You should stop writing your stupid bullshit. Niggers anren’t intelligent to understand and if an intellegint white person like me reads it they are probably some kind of sellout or leftist. Or someone smart is going to find you and put you out of your misery.


Dear Dawn, @Pickemlegend, @gsgshaahah and Spank1:

Wait until Ted Cruz hears about this!

The next letter is from a reader who disagrees with this article:

From: R.C.
To: Michael Harriot

Your article about black voters and conservative movements lacks a justification for us to continue being loyal to the Democratic Party but I’m not going to try to force you to think critically about that.

I did want to say that I can prove that blacks are starting to align their voting with their ideology (aka voting Republican, blacks are generally conservative but vote Democrat for stigma purposes).

I can prove as such with analytical data I’ve obtained as a staffer with the RNC but you probably wouldn’t want to analyze it because you’re a sham of a writer LMFAO.

R.C. Maxwell

Dear R.C.:

Stop lying.

Republicans don’t know math.

Look, R.C. I actually agree with you. I am not a stan for the Democratic Party, and I believe that the only way black people will ever have political power is to stop voting for Democrats, because they take our votes for granted without sharing the privilege of their power or putting us on their policy agenda.


As Audre Lorde said: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” I have no blind allegiance because I know that ultimately, the Democratic Party is built on the same foundation of political white supremacy as the Republican Party.

Also, as someone who studied macroeconomics, I know that there is value in economic and political conservatism, even if I disagree with it. I know that black people aren’t a monolith. But here’s the thing, J.C.:

The Republican Party is not for black people.

Republican politics are embedded in one principle: whiteness. When people like you tout the appeal of the Republican Party, I understand the theoretical political position from which your argument originates. But you conveniently leave out the fact that not even Republicans believe that shit.


If it were just about economic and political conservatism, the Republican Party’s latest tax bill wouldn’t be lowering taxes on corporations, increasing the national debt and giving the tax dollars to the wealthy. If it were about Christian conservatism, Republicans wouldn’t have elected Satan himself as their leader. If it were about the greatness of America, they wouldn’t be holding on to the fact that we are the richest country in the world not to offer its citizens health care.

If it were about “the troops,” they wouldn’t be prancing around the globe starting wars. If it were about Jesus, they wouldn’t allow the death penalty. If it were about equality, they would fix the criminal-justice system. If it were about law and order, they wouldn’t be trolling the FBI and allowing criminals on police forces. If it were just about personal liberty, they wouldn’t campaign against abortion and the legalization of marijuana.


No Republican should ever talk about the party to black people. The reason black people don’t vote Republican is not because of a “stigma.” Telling us what the GOP stands for will not convince black people to become Republicans because the party doesn’t actually stand for anything. Republicans don’t even do anything for the poor whites who vote Republican. And in the immortal words of André 3 Stacks: “If they kill their own folks, what you think they gonna do to you?”

From: Vilhelmiina

To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Kim Kardashian exercising white privilege?

I recently took the time to read your thank you letter to Kim Kardashian West. I want you to know that the premise of the article fails entirely because Obama was given the option to release the women in question and he choose no. This is a black person who was in charge who said no. I am not arguing about the existence of white privilege or privilege of some ethnic groups over others owing to societal preconceptions, but I think that this argument falls flat. Also, Kim Kardashian identifies herself as Armenian-American, where people have skin colours not dissimilar to those from Iran and Lebanon. I think that, had she hailed from one of these countries, you would not have automatically called her white, but because her heritage is European and white American she is white by default. Not to mention Armenia is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Time and time again the movements again white privilege are happy to paint the term white across more nuanced origins even though this is something that black people complain was done to them, ridding them of their heritage and thus putting black as a precursor to their being. It is not about making things equal with the word white, but leading by example. She was an Armenian-American who influenced somebody that was orange for the benefit of a black woman...

Put your own narrative on that story if you must, but it will help nothing.

Kindest regards, Vil

Dear Vil:

Thank you for your letter. You are not the only person to bring up the fact that Kim Kardashian West is Armenian.


Which is in Europe. In the Caucacus Mountains. Where white people come from.

I understand why some people think the science of racial classification is blurry. There is a very important reason for this. That reason also explains why the Kardashians are white, and I would like to illustrate it with a story.


I have a very traditional name. If you saw my name on a résumé, you wouldn’t know my race. But my sisters’ names are very unusual. Some people would call them “black” names. I remember a teacher at a summer camp calling the attendance roll on the first day. She told the kids with nontraditional names to help her if she made a mistake. When she reached my oldest sister, Seandra (pronounced “shon-druh”), the teacher pronounced it “See Ann Dray.”

When my sister corrected her, the teacher responded: “Ugh! These made-up names!” To which my sister replied: “Aren’t all names made up?”


A name is just a collection of letters or sounds that denote someone. A dollar is just a blend of fibers shaped into a rectangle. It is our mutual agreement on the value that gives it value or meaning.

And so it is with whiteness. There is no scientific basis for racial classification. In fact, white is a uniquely American thing. It is mutable and ever changing. Italians weren’t considered white. They were considered savages, overly athletic and criminal until they began to build wealth in America. The Irish weren’t considered to be white until they began gaining political power in unions, police departments, firehouses and local government. Then they automatically were made white.


The same with Jews, Catholics and people from Eastern European countries. It was not until their communities gained power and wealth that they were regarded as white in America. That is what we mean when we call race a “social construct.” It is a stupid, arbitrary thing.

I would guess that the people who send these messages are either white or Armenian. But from the black perspective, we can see that Kardashian West benefits from the construct of whiteness. If she were a black woman, she would be called a “former porn star,” not an “icon.”


And if the privilege of whiteness hadn’t been handed to her, she would not assume that she could walk into the White House and state her demands. No black woman could do that. No Hispanic woman could do that. Only a white woman.

So it might be true that some people don’t consider Armenians to be white. I wouldn’t know. By virtue of my black skin, I know I am eternally excluded from ever joining the club of whiteness.


I don’t have the privilege.

Name: Penley
To: Michael
Subject: Kids

Message Hi Michael I have a 4 year old. She’s white, I’m white. How would you suggest I teach her about racial injustice? I recognize that black mothers don’t have the privilege of tip toeing around racial issues or introducing topics gently when the child “seems ready”. So far we just talk about how beautiful brown and black skin are; we talk about important black men & women from the civil rights movement, but when it comes down to explaining that people were treated badly for the color of their skin, I don’t know how to explain it.

It’s even harder to explain to her that it is still a problem today, in her own preschool. All the library books that gloss over the harshness of racism, as kid books do. Again, I recognize that black mothers don’t get to pick and choose how they teach their children about racism, because it is shoved in their faces in a way they can’t protect the child from. I realize that just by seeking this guidance from a black parent, I operate from an undeserved place of privilege that sheilds my white kid from the brutal realities that black and brown children cannot be cushioned from. But in the off chance that you’re willing to help me out anyway, I’m interested in your input. Thank you for your writing.



I wouldn’t possibly think that I was educated or experienced enough to try to explain to you how to raise a white child. Shit, I wouldn’t try to tell a black parent because the truth is—none of us knows what the fuck we are doing.


I’ll just tell you what my goal is.

My entire goal in life is to raise children who honestly believe that they have no limits. I want them to know that money, power and things should not be their ultimate goal. Their ultimate goal in life should be to leave everything—the room they are currently in, the school they attend, the town in which they live—better than it was when they got there. It is up to them to define “better.”


But when it comes to you, Penley, I ain’t worried. I am 100 percent sure that whatever you’re doing is good enough. While we could all improve, without even knowing you, I am willing to bet that you are guiding your kids in the right direction, toward the light.

How can I be so sure?

Because, Penley, you wrote the letter.

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


Not Enough Day Drinking


anren’t intelligent to understand and if an intellegint white person

Mmmm...that’s the good stuff. But my question is how that even possible? Do these people see the bright red lines under their words and think ‘I dun need no librel speling mashine telling me how to talk rite!’

My mom grew up in rural Brazil, went to her first formal class at age 11, and never finished 6th grade. She could barely write in Portuguese, but thanks to technology, she can send a more coherent message in English than these morons.