The Root's Clapback Mailbag: One of the Good Ones

Illustration for article titled The Root's Clapback Mailbag: One of the Good Ones
Clapback MailbagEach Friday, we select the best (or worst) emails, tweets, DMs and comments from our readers and respond to them in the The Root's Clapback Mailbag.

I am the threat.

Look at these hands, all knuckle and fist potential. Look at this skin that yields to nothing, not even the sun. Even my hair refuses to behave. I am the defiler of white women’s purity. The thug. The thing to fear. The threat.


And the only way to mitigate the perception of my inherent menace is to become one of “the good ones.” To smile brightly as proof my teeth are not clenched. To dance. I remove the bass out of my voice by restricting my vocal cords... and my blackness. And my humanity.

And that is why, every Friday, in an attempt to prove that I am not angry at white people and America, I answer your emails, tweets and messages. I want to show you that I am on your side. We are the good ones.

And when we show this good part; the white part; the part that is a facsimile of a human, all light and no shadows, do you know what we become?

The threat.


The good niggers.

But nigger just the same.

But at least you get to read some mail.

From: Andrea
To: The Root Staff
Subject: Complaint

A legitimate media outlet does not need to use the vernacular of the street to make a point. Bring some class to The Root by removing the curse words and educating African Americans with creative and non-offensive words from the dictionary. Not all of us curse and we don’t need those words in our daily news. Do better!

Word up, my nigga.

I be tryna tell these muhfuckas at The Root that there ain’t no need to be spittin’ that street talk but they never listen. It’s mostly Senior Politics Editor Stephen A. Crockett Jr, Damon Young and Panama Jackson (who, I’m told, may not even be from Panama).


As a legitimate media outlet, I think that we should type on crepe paper and wrap our words in the daintiest threads of lace. Yet, they somehow insist on talking to black people using African American Vernacular English, or, as you would call it—street language. I don’t know why black people continue to embarrass themselves in this manner.

Now there are some, not me of course, who would point out that there is nothing wrong with speaking in a particular dialect. They would say that Dan Rather wasn’t accused of using “dirt road vernacular” when he peppered his CBS News broadcasts with colorful Texas language. They would point out that Rather’s Good Ol Boy vernacular was thought to be endearing. A southern drawl is considered sexy to some and anyone who speaks with a British dialect is automatically assumed to be cultured.


But we’re “street.”

As far as journalism is concerned, I’m sure you wrote the Boston Globe about their use of street talk when they called the children of Red Sox players “wicked cute.” How about when reporters use language like Trump’s “beef” with the press? Are they being uncouth?


Ultimately, Andrea, The Root is a news outlet for and about black people. Every minute of every day, black people engage the age-old art of code-switching in order to assimilate into the white majority. The practice of respectability politics, language or action does not make anyone “ghetto” or street. Our newsroom here is filled with people who have written successfully for some of the same outlets at which you point as an example. We are not them.

And if you find the language offensive, I honestly don’t know what to tell you except that you might be better served by a more erudite, reserved media outlet like VeryRespectableNegroes or


Of course, I’m not like that. The last butt-whipping I received from my mother was because I went somewhere with my cousin Squeak and wasn’t home by the time the street lights came on. As she swung that belt (the thick one, with two rows of holes) she told me she “Wasn’t. Raising. No. Street. Nigga.”

Because of that, I make sure my pants are cinched tightly around my waist. I read the Bible when I’m on the toilet. I don’t wear hoodies, refrain from looking white people in the eye or replace the R at the end of words with “ah.” As you can guess, it has made me immune to racism.


When Damon Young speaks at Harvard, I’m sure they worry about how he can educate their students because he uses the n-word so often. I bet the people at the Washington Post only hired Stephen Crockett out of sympathy. I would wager that Oprah Winfrey reprimanded Panama Jackson for his language before they took tequila shots right but after she invited him to her studio after reading something he wrote.

Or maybe those people, the smartest people, are smart enough to understand that language is malleable and the people who use it according to strict specifications aren’t necessarily smarter than those who mold it into something relatable.


Now I can’t vouch for some of our writers like Monique Judge. After all, she called me a “country-as-fuck.” Then again, she likes the Oxford comma.

Now that, my nigga, is offensive.

And this, just because I love her letters

From: Matpeg
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: P

Brazil’s election of a far- right dictator is what you get when you focus and shame women who have done absolutely nothing wrong, instead of focusing on men. Especially as men vote far-right at much higher/greater levels. You poor fools.

My cousin works in Brazil, he says women are not the problem, it’s men who need to be converted. But i suppose you’re site hasn’t got the balls to come for men, as seen for your complete lack of care for black women and their abuse at the hands of black men Oh and i looked it up - white women also are abused by black men at very high numbers. But that doesn’t fit your narrative

From: Matpeg
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Truth isn’t subjective

It’s so funny how wrapped up in a bubble even journalists and people who work in media are. Even cool black twitter is really in its own little bubble. It pains me to see people who sound pretty smart not realize how out of the loop they are. Just bc you get thousands of likes on Twitter means nothing. Far-right conservatives also get thousands of likes on many of their posts.

The best example is Taylor swift though. If you were to go on black Twitter only a couple of months ago you would think that Taylor was a washed up has been. Yet she has just had the highest grossing tour of all time in America. Her album is the highest selling album this year around the world, it came out last year. She is only in her 20s but has sold more albums than Beyonce, including her time in destiny’s child. She is the only western artist to sell over a million records twice in China. The airport was closed down last time she toured Japan bc of fans trying to see Taylor. Taylor’s 1989 album is the most streamed album in history for a female artist and not far behind the top Male artist. You make a fool out of yourselves and show your deep rooted misogyny all at the same time

From: Matpeg

To: Michael Harriot

Subject: Sorry for spamming you

Just thought, you know when i lived in the States, the only men who cat called me were black. Honestly The only man who pursued me relentlessly was black. One time in Darien CT a group of black men surrounded me at the bank parking lot and asked me to come home with them. I don’t know what would have happened if it wasn’t broad daylight and a couple of people walked my way so i could get away.

I am sick of making excuses (and that wasn’t the time i actually was sexually assaulted by a group of black men and nearly raped) When i have a daughter being called basic white bitch for fun, enough, you haven’t achieved anything. You have become what you rail against


This is something about a thing Anne wrote... I think:

From: D’Ellis
To: The Root

I tried to READ another , ( Danye Jones), article you’d presented... BUT, JUST “LIKE” the “LINEN” folk, YOU had to interrupt the MIND’S flow by CHOOSING MONEY over the GREAT ATTRACTION of RESEARCH. I DO NOT continue to seek ENLIGHTENMENTS from entities that INSINUATE a CROOK’S desire... i.e. COMMERCE / CON- MERSED. It’s bad enough that stories have a JUNIOR HIGH presentation, ( to current age group “MINDSET”.), but to interrupt content for STUPIDITY is reprehensible. And, THIS IS coming to YOU from ONE “MENTALLY DISABLED”. DO YOU WEAR, (“SECRETLY”),MAGA hats!?!


D’Ellis, I have no idea what the hell you are talking about. I don’t know if the advertisement on the page offends you or if you are so “woke” that I can’t understand you because I don’t drink enough alkaline water.

As it relates to Anne Branigin’s article, oftentimes Anne will not use her third eye when she is reporting on a story. She doesn’t trust her pineal gland (PIE - which is sweet; and KNEEL - to protest or worship) to give her the correct information so she runs to the white man’s news. Also, if you break down her name into the hieroglyphical symbolism, you will find that the truth behind her methods.


Anne: As in “any,” meaning she will try anything.

Bra: Something that controls or confines the breasts, or in this case, the heart.


Nig: A word sometimes used for black people.

In: Inside.

See, when you break it down, she is using any means possible to confine the hearts of black people from the inside.


You can’t trust her, King. She has CON-VINCED me that she is a tool of the oppressor. She probably needs to get those toxins out of her body and eat more food from the earth so that she can obtain true wisdom knowledge and understanding. I’m glad you pointed this out.


This last letter is about the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting:

From: Joey
To: Michael
Subject The Jewish Community and The Black Community

Dear Michael Harriot, When I saw the outpouring of support from the Black community after the terrorist attack in Pittsburgh, not because of the kindness which was shown (the Black community have always supported the Jewish community and been kind to us), but because I realized how much we have shirked our responsibility to the Black community. Once upon a time Jews would march and walk in lock step with the Black community, when signs on restaurants in Miami would say “no dogs, no jews, no blacks”. We saw each other’s struggle in a similar light. When the Jewish community achieved the goal of pushing anti-antisemitism to the fringe and ostracizing those who would hold those views, we assumed the problem was solved. In our haste to be part of the institutions, we abandoned our brothers and sisters who were still fighting racism, institutional bias, and hostility. I weep for what we have lost not just in a Shabbat attack, but in what we have lost by abandoning the oppressed when we believed we were safe. I do not know what impact I can make, but at services and schul, I plan on forevermore discussing with other Jews the importance and moral obligation of supporting our brothers and sisters in the black community, and convincing others that the equality both communities demanded those years ago has not yet been achieved. I am in awe of the support given from the Black community, and in shame that my community has not done more.

From: Joey
To: Michael Harriot

In my haste of writing my previous letter, I recognized my own implicit bias, striking like a bolt of lightning. Lamenting of the terrorist attack on Saturday, I neglected to aim my writing and rage at the terrorist attack which took place in Kentucky on Friday. That alone may be further evidence of the general problem. I was wrapped up in my own grief and its implications, I overlooked the grief of two people whose lives were ripped away by someone who was fueled with hate and ignorance. I have a lot of my own work to do clearly, but when I recognize that I am wrong I will do my utmost to rectify it.



Honestly, I don’t care about the Jews. I know a lot of people do, but I am not one of them. In fact, I would venture to say that a lot of black people can’t tell the difference between a Jewish person and a Great Value white person.


I don’t know how much the Jewish community supports the black community because, here is the thing: Jewish people can’t really help end racism. Nor can black people.

It is a white people problem.

The mass murderer who shot up the Tree of Life Synagogue did not care about your religion as much as he cared about whiteness. The people wearing swastika armbands in Charlottesville did not have a organizational chart of hate where the Jews were below the Hispanics but above the blacks. That’s not how this works.


They are afraid. They are weak. They are evil.

And there are no shades of evil. You are either evil or you are not. The demon is theirs to be exorcised and, while there are some things on the margins that we can do, racism, antisemitism and hate are neither growing nor diminishing. It just is.


I say that, to say this:

Oftentimes we separate ourselves into corners and think our enemy is not common. If that particular brand of whiteness has its way, they would eventually kill all the black people in America, then they would come for the Hispanics. The Jews.


Or maybe the Jews would be first. Then the Hispanics. Then the blacks. Or maybe there would be a different permutation. My point is that extermination is the plan. Ownership is what they want. Whiteness is the ultimate goal.

And no one has to help black people as much as they must all fight against the insidious idea of whiteness. It is all a part of a singular goal that includes a wall at the border, a Muslim no-fly list, rescinding birthright immigration and a war on everything without true Aryan blood.


You shouldn’t have to worry about who you are standing with, it is what you are fighting against that is important. The reason black people don’t give a damn about the Jews is the same reason they cried when they heard the news out of Pittsburgh last week. They have an abundance of the one thing that makes the idea of whiteness impossible to accept:


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


Monique Judge

Now I can’t vouch for some of our writers like Monique Judge. After all, she called me a “country-as-fuck.” Then again, she likes the Oxford comma.

Now that, my nigga, is offensive.

This is some shit up with which i will not put, my nigga.