Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Nobody Knows the Trouble Whites See, Nobody Knows Their Sorrow

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Image for article titled The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Nobody Knows the Trouble Whites See, Nobody Knows Their Sorrow
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante

The Clapback Mailbag is a negro spiritual.

White people love negro spirituals. They love the pain in the songs and the hope in the lyrics. If you ever want to steal shit from white people, just start singing a nineteenth-century slave song and I guarantee you they will close their eyes, lean back and enter the white version of the sunken place—I think it’s called the “White House.” (Not that one, but also that one.)

They never want to hear the truth and the history behind those songs, but they enjoy the music. Readers comment, email and tweet us as if we were old-time gospel singers. They want us to know that they like The Root’s content when it’s funny, entertaining and delightful, but they don’t appreciate that “truth” bullshit we insist on doing.

So today’s Mailbag is for all those people who laid down their burdens in our inbox.


Carmen insisted on speaking to The Root’s manager about Ishena Robinson’s attack on the woman who attacked a black teenager:

From: Carmen L.
To: Danielle Belton

Ms. Robinson’s comment “things haven’t changed all that much in terms of everyday racism in America,” is as racist as the stupid white woman who falsely accused the black teenager. Why do I say that? Because in all my 77-years in life, the majority of what I’ve seen is kindness from whites to blacks and to my Hispanic race. Oh yeah, there have been racist instances, very few, of prejudice, maybe like that from the white woman. And yes, there are bad cops, but the whole majority are racist? Please.

So the writer because of this incident accuses everyone of racism. Give me a break!

When I grew up in New York, everywhere I went blacks had very good jobs, and I saw opportunities for all. There were many like me in clerical jobs. Blacks and Hispanics were treated with great respect, and offered promotions. Even in Miami where I worked most of my life, the opportunities were there. Again, few instances of prejudice.

Racism is a two-way street. There are racist whites and there are blacks. There are also racist Hispanics. Most of those folk will never own up to the fact that they are racist.

I am a dark-complected Puerto Rican of white, black and Taino Indian heritage just saying...

Dear Carmen,

I truly believe you when you say: “In all my 77-years in life, the majority of what I’ve seen is kindness from whites to blacks and to my Hispanic race.” I also believe that you’re right when you say: “Racism is a two-way street.”


In fact, you make a great argument for why I don’t believe we should be spending so much time talking about cancer. In all my years, the majority of what I’ve seen is people dying of old age, heart attacks or complications from diabetes. Oh yeah, there have been instances where a few people died of cancer. And yes, there are bad cells, but the whole majority are cancerous? Please.

I pay doctors no attention when they suggest that everyone needs to have a cancer screening and stop smoking because of a few incidents of breast cancer or brain tumors. How dare they accuse every cell in my body of being malignant?


According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, women are 20 times more likely to be victims of a sexual assault than men. But, according to your logic, we shouldn’t focus on physical violence against women. When they point out that most instances of domestic violence occur between intimate partners, I assume they weren’t suggesting that all men are violent. I thought that they were trying to address a problem.

When I grew up in South Carolina, I knew a lot of men. I’d even venture to say that half of the people I knew were of the male persuasion. But everywhere I went, women were smiling and I saw no instances of abuse.


It is possible that I didn’t see any of these things because, as a man, I am unaffected by domestic violence, sexual assault, and gender discrimination. I would also guess that most people who abuse women don’t openly exhibit their predilection for violence and sexism. But according to you, I should dismiss all incidents of violence against women and ignore the possible trauma because, according to my singular personal experience, I haven’t seen it very often, therefore it doesn’t exist.

Racism is a cancer, a form of violence and a source of trauma. But you’re right; it is also a “two-way street.”


You know what else is a “two-way street?”


However, it is stupid to compare white people driving luxury cars of privilege down on a four-lane freeway to Black people who are desperately trying to merge into traffic. Which is why people who are actual experts on streets would tell you that, even on two-way streets, “drivers should think of each side as if it were a separate roadway.”


I am a dark-complected man of Black, African and African American heritage.

Just saying...

I received this letter over the holidays concerning the article about Trump planning a coup:

From: Pangong
To: Michael Harriot

You should stick to writing what you know about it. Your uninformed and totally hacked job of an article, if you can call it that, about Trump’s Coup, is pathetic. Having a big mouth doesn’t entitle you to anything, quite the opposite. Zip it up and be a lazy coward, which doesn’t do research, somewhere else. You’re still on the Democrat mind plantation enslaved by their empty ideology.


Well, this aged poorly, didn’t it?

Zack Linly was scolded for smearing a Minnesota church as racist just because of their “whites only” policy.


To: Zack Linly
From: Don M.

With all due respect, how is a single, 250 member Church, any more racist and isolationist than the following organization?

YOU can call a Nigger a Nigger with impunity, but I cannot use the word even in a joke or repeated in a rap song? Your double standards are ridiculous. It is simply a word, when you choose to give that word the power that you have done, of course it is going to be used against you. Call me a Cracker, Casper, or whatever, I simply laugh, as I did when Mr. Richard Prior used to joke about semasiology.

When “I” watched the 1994 riots in Los Angeles as a resident, I saw equal amounts of Blacks, Brown and White looting. Rioting and burning was done by ALL Black factions. I would be happy and humbled to speak with you about the 1964 Watts riots that I witnessed first hand as well.

I have been a “victim” of the Civil Rights Act, Affirmative Action, Title IV, BLM, on and on and on. I have been blamed for 400 Years of oppression. I am a white man of privilege, but I did not ask to be one, any more than you asked to be Black. Do I recognize my privilege? Absolutely. Can I change that perception? Not as a 63 year old, unemployed, middle class man, struggling to pay my rent. I am not an angry man, but you need to learn from much more educated men than myself. I suggest you Google Walter E. Williams for a start. A Black man.

It’s like Kwanzaa, when you choose to exclude, you should also be willing to be excluded.

Humbly and respectfully,

Don M.

Dear Don,

I bring you greetings from the First United Church of Knowing Why Yacubians Perceive Imaginary Persecution and Oppression(FUCKWYPIPO). Here, we seek knowledge and understanding of why white people always feel aggrieved when Black people celebrate themselves.


One of our most faithful “missionaries” (he said it was his favorite position), Zack Linly, recently alerted me to your concerns about our membership policy. Namely, that you think Black churches—or other predominately Black organizations—exclude whites. I was going to ask you for an example but thankfully, you provided one, the Black Church Collective. I agree with you. It is time to put these racist churches on blast. How dare they! I can’t believe these churches want to...

Hold up, let me go see why this white-hating religious organization wants to kill white people or fund concentration camps for choirs who only use pipe organs as accompaniment. Let me check it out. I’m sure it will take some time so—


Oh, wait. It’s right there on their front page:

Image for article titled The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Nobody Knows the Trouble Whites See, Nobody Knows Their Sorrow
Screenshot: ISAIAH
Image for article titled The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Nobody Knows the Trouble Whites See, Nobody Knows Their Sorrow
Screenshot: ISAIAH

Anyway, I get your point. For instance, white people are excluded from celebrating Kwanzaa because...well, white people don’t want to.


And that is the explanation, Don.

The reason why Black churches, schools and holidays exist is that white people are racist as fuck. Black people didn’t create “Black churches,” they just created churches, the same way that white people did. Black people didn’t create “Black schools.” Black people didn’t create specifically “Black fraternities,” “Black sororities,” Black holidays or even Black neighborhoods. Black people just created schools, fraternities, sororities, and other institutions because white people specifically banned Black people from attending the already existing institutions.


The reason these institutions, places and holidays remain majority black is because white people don’t want to be around black people. Anyone can attend an HBCU. Anyone can attend a Black church. Who’s stopping First Baptist Church of Wypipville from throwing a Kwanzaa celebration?

White people, that’s who.

But your problem is much bigger than this explanation. Churches, schools and holidays are emblematic of the white way of thinking. You don’t perceive your church as a “white church.” You think of it as just a “church.” You don’t think of predominantly white universities as “white colleges” because white people see whiteness as the default. They see themselves as human, which begs the question:

What is everyone else?

That question is rhetorical.

The reason you think you “have been a ‘victim’ of the Civil Rights Act, Affirmative Action, Title IV, BLM” is because you are white. And, because you are white and because you think of yourself as a default human, you can’t recognize the fact that the Civil Rights Act, affirmative action, Title IV and Black Lives Matter had to be created to counteract the insipid malevolence of whiteness that is so ingrained in your soul that you can’t even comprehend separating it from your very existence.


That’s why we invite everyone to FUCKWYPIPO...

Because we care.

The doors to FUCKWYPIPO are now open.


Stanley also wanted to speak to the manager about our content:

To: Danielle Belton
From: Stanley O

I happened upon your website and read several opinion pieces and have concluded, the root is a hate filled and racist page.

I shall never again visit The Root. While this makes you very happy, it is only confirming the biggest racist claim to be underserved but is in fact inciting violence and subversion.

I do wish you well in your future endeavors.

Dear Stanley,

Well, this aged—

Wait, I already did that one.

The reason The Root exists is because white media outlets don’t perceive white people as—


Damn, I did that one, too.

OK, Stanley, let me tell you a story.

A few weeks ago, while covering a story on the plantation tourism industry in Charleston, I visited four plantation homes. The point of this entire article was that these tours never mention the enslaved people. At one downtown “urban mansion,” The Aiken-Rhett House, no more than three people lived in the house at any given time, while 12 to 18 enslaved Africans lived in the slave quarters out back. Another, the Magnolia Plantation, had at least 100 slaves. The Mcleod Plantation held dozens of Black people whose labor was extracted by force, including some of my direct ancestors.


During these tours, visitors were able to learn about slave owners’ life, wealth and the history of the families. The most astonishing part, to me, was how unremarkable these families were. They did not invent anything. They were not particularly skilled or educated. They just owned Black people.

Charleston earns $8 billion on tourism every year, mainly because of the plantation tourism industry. Because 40 percent of the Africans who were sold through America’s intercontinental human trafficking trade came through South Carolina, Charleston was colonial America’s wealthiest city and remained one of the richest until the Civil War. Even though that wealth is built on human ownership, it is no wonder that people want to learn this city’s rich history.


But there’s one thing no one ever mentions:

Charleston was always a majority Black city.

In fact, South Carolina was a majority-Black state until the 1940s. So all of that history that people learn isn’t just whitewashed, it is not the story of the state. They are learning the history of a small minority of people. But as Joe McGill, the founder of the Slave Dwelling Project told me, the plantation tourism industry whitewashes the past is because that’s what visitors want to see. When these plantations hire McGill to curate a tour telling the real story, which tour do you think gets more visitors?


“Every time I sit in front of an audience under that pavilion—usually it’s couples—I gotta figure one half of that audience didn’t want to come, McGill explained. “Your chances of getting a couple who both want to be there—I mean, it happens, but it’s rare. And the biggest pushback comes from white males.”

So, should a city whose residents depend on that industry, throw away $8 billion dollars for the sake of accuracy? Or, should they tell the true story and make white people uncomfortable?


Stanley, everything you read is built on this premise. All the history books, magazines, newspapers, television shows are tailored to make them palatable for white consumption. It’s not that the New York Times and Fox News are lying to you, it’s that they are catering to the sensibilities of the white majority. And when they talk about race, they have to figure out a way to do it while not offending you.

Honestly, Stan, you should stick to those places. The Root is not here to make you comfortable. If you think we are “in fact inciting violence and subversion,” because we hurt your delicate sensibilities, The Root is not the place for you. I’m sorry to see you go.


But before you leave, Zack Linly would like to invite you to church.