Illustration for article titled The Roots Clapback Mailbag: Not-So-Black Twitter
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/G-O)

I love white Twitter.

Twitter offers a unique opportunity to those of us who never had the chance to bask in the glow of whiteness. Because of social media, we can get an up-close look at Karen-related outrage, Caucasian fragility and — the best of all — white tears.

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And sometimes, they clap back.

So today’s Mailbag is dedicated to the joy of White Twitter.


I was just informed via direct message that, not only is The Root responsible for ending Bernie Sanders’ campaign, but we are also part of the “black elite.”

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From: Cher
To: Michael Harriot

I hope you, Jason Johnson, Joy Reid and the rest of the black media elite are satisfied. Bernie was the best candidate but you couldnt focus on anything but repeating what the dem. establishment wants you to say.

Maybe Roots should focus on helping blacks instead of selling them down the river for a good story.

From: You Don’t Know My Story
To: Michael Harriot

Honest question, why didn’t/don’t you join the current movement??

Hey guys,

Let me tell you a story about Johnny and Mary, a white revolutionary and a black sellout.

Johnny was white, but he was down with black people. He spent most of his life trying to convince black people and white people to join his anti-slavery cause. Now John wasn’t for incremental change. He realized, early in life, that the only way to change the system was through armed revolt. Most white people were resistant but he convinced a lot of progressive white people to join the abolition movement.

Johnny always wondered why more black people didn’t join him. There were black people who donated to his campaign against slavery, but every time a few blacks joined him, people would whisper to the black supporters:

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“You know them white folks ain’t gonna let that happen, right?”

But Johnny had a plan. He was going to build his own army and go to war against the enslavers. He planned it for years. He recruited soldiers (mostly white), bought guns and trained for months. He managed to get a few black people to join his cause but most black people —even the abolitionists— continued to say:

“You know them white folks ain’t gonna let that happen, right?”

Just before his planned attack, he met with a famous black abolitionist, Freddy.

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Now Freddy was a famous writer and political commentator. He was a revolutionary, too. Black people listened to him. He had also been a slave so surely he was down for the cause. But when Johnny told Freddy about the plan, Freddy was like: “I agree that slavery is some bullshit, but ummm....Why not just take your army and...You know...Free some slaves?”

But Johnny couldn’t be deterred. He was a revolutionary. Johnny wasn’t even mad at Freddy. Just before Johnny left, Freddy pulled Johnny aside, gave him a few dollars and said:

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“You know them white folks ain’t gonna let that happen, right?”

Anyway, Johnny took his mostly white Army and attacked the white slavers. It was a fierce battle, but Johnny lost. In the end, seven of Johhny’s co-conspirators were captured. They hanged Johnny.

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Now Mary was a sellout.

She was half-white but she told people she was white. She was literally a part of the elite. Even the governor of California rented his home from her.

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Unlike Johnny, Mary believed in capitalism. She made a lot of money and slept with rich white men almost exclusively and Freddy talked shit about her. She owned real estate, housing and was almost a billionaire. She was one of the richest people, man or woman, black or white, in California. She was not a revolutionary like Johnny.

In fact, the only non-rich white man that anyone ever remembered Mary being with, was Johnny.

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But Mary outlived Johnny. And after the Civil War, Mary did something strange.

She changed her official racial designation to “black.”

It turns out, Mary was taking all the money from those rich white men and using it to free slaves. Then, she would move the slaves to California and hire them to work for her. She wasn’t just funding the Underground Railroad, she had created a whole Slavery Relocation Program!

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I do not trust white “movements.”

Not because of the people involved, but because I know what happens to white progressive movements like Johnny’s and Bernie’s.

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Them white folks will not let it happen.

Because you are white, you have no idea how racist it is to accuse me, or any black person, of “selling someone down the river.” But I’m sure, had I joined your movement, I could have expected more of the same.

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Nah, I’m good.

See, “Johnny,” that was John Brown, who led the attack on Harper’s Ferry. Many people don’t know that shortly before that happened, John Brown secretly met with Frederick Douglass. After the raid, another captured white man, John E. Cook, revealed that Frederick Douglass was supposed to show up, but, as he said: “The coward did not come.”

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Perhaps Frederick Douglass knew the outcome like I, and many others, knew white folks would not vote for Bernie. Perhaps that’s why Mary Ellen Pleasant —the Mary in this story— pretended to be white while working below the radar funding revolutionaries while absorbing the scorn of other “woke” revolutionaries.

See, when the government tried the people responsible for John Brown’s Raid on Harper’s Ferry, aside from John Brown, only two people from his mostly white “army” were hanged: Shields Green and John Copeland.

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Both were black.

Now who was more courageous, Johnny and Bernie the revolutionary, or Freddy, Mary, “cowards,” and the “black political elite” who were simply reporting that black people were too familiar with whiteness to sacrifice their futures to a lost cause?

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Well, after they hanged John Brown for treason, officials discovered a note in his pocket:

“The ax is laid at the foot of the tree. When the first blow is struck, there will be more money to help.”

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For years, investigators tried to figure out who wrote it. They thought it was a wealthy white man who was a secret abolitionist. They were half right. The note was from a wealthy abolitionist.”

Nah, homey, it was Mary Ellen Pleasant, a black woman. Or, as you would have called her:

A “black elite.”

Now some might say Bernie’s cause was lost because he didn’t have enough support. But ultimately, Joy, Jason, Freddy, Mary and all of the other black voters were right about Bernie and Johnny.

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Them white folks did not let it happen.


People are still mad about our reporting that coronavirus is attacking black people. They’re even in the DMs. But again, they hate everything black.

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From: Chuck at home
To: Michael Harriot

The virus isn’t racist. Yo are.

Instead of trying to make everything about race, why not focus on helping everyone

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Dear Chuck and Adam,

Remember the two women in that story about coronavirus? Well, here’s an update.

Tamara told me this week that Alabama’s Assistant Director of Human Resources came to the office on a rampage and cursed everyone out for being “snitches” (And, apparently, about a rodent problem in the building). The entire department is still going to work every day, putting themselves and their families at risk because they are considered “essential.”

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Joyce is dead.

She’s been dead for a few days now but Coronavirus didn’t kill her.

She died because she didn’t have a job. She died because she didn’t have healthcare. She died because the medical system is profit-driven.

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And she died for the same reason that racism exists.

Every single time I write about racism and white supremacy, I am careful to mention that institutional inequality is not about hate or animus. The reason it remains has nothing to do with the KKK or Nazis. It’s not even about the white nationalist president.

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It’s because white people don’t care.

I don’t know if they are too embarrassed or too ashamed to face the facts that they are buoyed by a system that poses for pictures with its foot on our necks but their inaction has allowed racism to foment and expand for centuries. Even if it’s not their fault, even if it gives them the heebie-jeebies, I cannot for the life of me understand why they don’t want to talk about it.

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But I get it.

In your minds, if we don’t say it, it doesn’t exist and, conversely, if you say it, it must be so. So, if that is true, I beg of you to help me end this week’s mailbag by saying the following:

Coronavirus isn’t racist.

America isn’t racist.

Joyce is alive.

Joyce is alive.

Joyce is alive.

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

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