Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/G-O)

When professor Henry Louis Gates founded The Root 11 years ago, he probably had no idea that its creation would one day become the internet’s number one source for black news (it’s not bragging if it’s true). He probably assumed he and his team were creating an outlet to give voice to a population that was ignored by much of the media. But according to the thousands of emails, tweets, comments and direct messages received by the writers, editors and content creators at our esteemed organization, we have an entirely different goal:

The Root keeps racism alive.

Apparently, The Root’s main goals include disparaging white people, starting a race war and, most importantly, providing an outlet for “the real racists.” A few of our readers believe that racism would disappear tomorrow if we stopped pointing it out because, of course, that’s how everything works.

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So, instead of boasting about our accomplishments, this week’s Clapback Mailbag will let our readers tell you just how successful we truly are.


Our first email was sent to The Root’s editor in chief, Danielle Belton, applauding her for The Root’s rampant reverse racism.

From: Paula
To: Danielle Belton

The Root is more prejudice than the people you complain about. Must be nice to be two faced. If you live in this country the National Anthem is your anthem. Anyone who doesn’t like it here can pack up and leave. You hypocritical negros are as repulsive as the LGQBT community. Since reversed racism seems to be your forte, when a race riot in this country occurs, black folks are the first ones we’re coming for. Fuck The Root and it’s entire staff fuck Colin Kaepernick(half breed).

Gegrubet seist du von der weiben rasse.

FOAD

Dear Paula,

I admit that I had to search for some of the terms in your email. I learned that “FOAD” stands for “fuck off and die” and, using Google Translate, I found out that “Gegrubet seist du von der weiben rasse” means: “You are plowed by the white race.” Although I have used the term liberally in some instances, you might be the Clapback Mailbag’s first actual Nazi. Congratulations on your groundbreaking achievement.

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As far as packing up and leaving this country, being that every single person on The Root’s staff is either a descendant of an enslaved person or immigrants, we consider your statement that we are as “repulsive as the LGBTQ community” to be an endorsement. Thanks for the compliment. At this very moment, we are considering adding this to our masthead and changing our motto to:

“The Root: Actual Nazi repellant.”

But you know what they say: “Flattery is the sincerest form of racism.”

However, the purpose of this response is to discuss the specifics of how “black folks are the first ones” you and your ilk will be “coming for” when the race war begins. I’m not asking you to reveal your battle plans or anything. I have other questions.

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Considering the disproportionate police shootings, the insidious underfunding of black schools, the undervaluing of black homes, banking discrimination, criminal justice disparities, the wage gap, the employment gap, the opportunity gap, voter disenfranchisement, white people calling the police on black people, and most white voters choosing a president who is an open white supremacist, I just have one question about the start of this impending race war you mentioned:

How will we know?

Will you send engraved “save the date” cards? Will there be an Evite? Can we sign up for a Google calendar alert?

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And what will it be called? The Wypipo World War? I know it won’t be called the Second Civil War because you don’t even like to refer to the first one as a Civil War. You’ll probably name it something like “The Battle for White Rights” or “The War of Nigger Aggression.”

Because the staff of The Root is forward-thinking, during our most recent editorial meeting, we reached a decision on how we refer to that inglorious Tuesday morning (because everyone knows Tuesday is the most racist day of the week) when white people rise up and decide to attack black people in America:

Just another motherfucking day.

Unlike you, Paula, I would never tell someone to fuck off and die.

The “F.O.” is optional.


This email was in reference to Jay Connor’s article on AfroFuture’s decision to charge white people more for concert tickets than black people.

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To: The Root Staff
From: Bryan

People of color continuously talk about how the white man is racist. What is interesting is you all perpetuate racism with your demands of reparations and higher ticket prices for white people. Don’t you think that white people are going to look at that and resent that? You know they are but you don’t care because you are the ones that are racist. You don’t want to end racism, not in the slightest, you just want to hate. I have news for you, I have never in slaved a black person or treated them differently because they are black, nor has my father or my grandfather. When I see two men I see two men, when you see two men you see a black man and a white man. This kind of behavior is what is keeping racism alive, you are the racists, you are the race baiters and Dr. Martin Luther King would be ashamed of a good portion of the black people today. You are an embarrassment to your people and people or this nation as a whole.

If you wanna fight for true equality then don’t be hypocrites and fight on your side as well because I guarantee you if there was an event where white people charge black people more you would go absolutely ballistic.

Thank you,

A non-racist Caucasian man

Dear Bryan,

I agree with you that AfroFuture was out of line. In fact, I’d like to thank you for your tireless efforts in ending economic racism. I can feel your passion about this issue, so I’m sure that this email to The Root was the last in a long list of letters you wrote to organizations who employ this racist practice, including:

  • Banks who charge black people higher interest on mortgages even though they have the same credit rates.
  • Auto insurers who charge people who charge people in majority non-white neighborhoods higher rates than people who live in white neighborhoods with similar crime and accident rates.
  • Car lenders who charge black and Hispanic people higher interest rates.
  • Grocery stores in Denver that charge shoppers in poor black neighborhoods up to 20 percent more for the same groceries from the same chain in the city’s more affluent neighborhoods, according to an investigation by the Denver Post.
  • The IRS, whose audit rates are 50 percent higher in poor black counties than affluent white counties.
  • Judges who set bail for black defendants, on average, $10,000 higher than bail for white defendants, according to a recent Princeton study (pdf).

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Now, some people would look at your letter and think you managed to find the one time that white people have been discriminated against and you decided to whine about a $10 upcharge for a concert you had no goddamn intentions of attending, anyway. Some people would even implore you to fight against all forms of economic inequality the way that you manufactured outrage over this no-name event. Some people would ask that you keep that same energy when it comes to all forms of injustice.

The Root is “some people,” Bryan.

“Some people” is me.


One of the most common arguments appearing in The Root’s inbox concerns the fact that the Democrats are the real racists, and that this outlet and I are shills for a party that is really holding black people back. Here is one of the more cogent examples:

From: Sue K.
To: Michael Harriot

I’ve watched you on video and just happened across your Nov 2016 article regarding blacks being dehumanized. I was a history major in college and once studied the US cultural period after Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves. This study focused on the Confederacy’s Southern Democrats and their white supremacist policies and laws toward blacks (and whites-mostly Republicans- who supported blacks).

Hard to believe the Dems were allowed to keep blacks down, even in the 20th Century, long after the emancipation act. Margaret Sanger’s Eugenics-sterilization and abortion- was aimed at blacks and minority communities in the early 20th Century because that was “where poverty and limited access to health care was”. Abolishing people instead of attempting to abolish poverty and lack of health care.

Democrats supported Roosevelt’s New Deal for those in poverty in the 1940s which, as an example of progressive cities, the New York City Authority respected applicants’ preferences regarding which project they wished to occupy, guided by a rule established during the New Deal by Harold Ickes, head of the Public Works Administration: public projects could not alter neighborhood racial composition. Chicago’s Dems were notorious for keeping blacks out of housing or gouging them on mortgage payments. To this day, Chicago has not improved the lives of blacks much.

Look at the votes for the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1964 to see who supported blacks and who chose to continue to keep them down. You’ll find the Congressional 1964 votes here:

House: 91 Dems voted against it while 35 Reps voted against it; Dems in majority that year

Senate: 21 Dems voted against it while 6 Reps voted against it; Dems in majority that year

It would be interesting to read a comparison of white supremacy from 1860s-1960s to renewed white supremacy of the new millennium. Assuming this analysis was performed? There is much material about the original white supremacy movement.

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Dear Sue,

I have received several variations on this letter and I would like to rebut all of your points just to finally put an end to this narrative.

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First, while I have never polled the writers at The Root, I would probably guess that the staff here has voted for Democratic candidates more often than they have cast ballots for Republicans. However, that might not be because we are shills for the Democratic party. Could it possibly be that the Democratic party is, at least slightly less racist than the GOP?

Whenever someone brings up this argument, I point out that The Root frequently writes about the Democratic party’s white supremacy, disregard for black voters and ineptitude in general. I am sure that we have written more negatively about the Grand Old Party. But just because the Republican Party is the party of white supremacy doesn’t mean that the Democratic party is devoid of racism. In fact, of the 40 most recent stories about the Democratic Party published on The Root, 25 were critical of its policies and practices, including articles calling the Democratic Party, “trash,” “full of shit,” and “not our friend.”

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The basis for this argument is always the same: For most of America’s history, the Democratic Party has been more racist than the Republican party. The Ku Klux Klan was founded by Democrats. Democrats supported slavery and opposed integration. The first black lawmakers were Republicans. Many of the civil rights leaders were Republicans (although the oft-stated myth that Martin Luther King Jr. was a Republican is a lie). All of this is undoubtedly true.

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People point out the fact that Democrats voted against the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, which is correct. But the fact remains that there is another way to describe those racist Democrats:

Southern white people.

When you count the votes, it shows that 63 percent of House Democrats and 69 percent of Senate Democrats voted for the Civil Rights Act while 82 percent of House Republicans and 90 percent of Senate Republicans voted for the bill. But there is another way to look at it:

  • There were 104 congressmen from both parties representing Southern states. Only seven (14 percent) voted for the bill.
  • Of the 21 senators representing Southern states, only one—a Texas Democrat—voted for the legislation (four percent).
  • Not even one of the 12 Republicans from Confederate states in the House and Senate voted for the Civil Rights Act.

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After the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, Southern whites left the Democratic party en masse, making the Republican party the party of states rights, nullification, and small government. This is why segregationists like Strom Thurmond fled the Democratic Party and eventually joined the GOP. Others, like former Alabama governor and virulent racist George Wallace and segregationist Senator Robert Byrd, simply declared that they weren’t racist anymore and stayed in the Democratic Party. This is also why black people left the Republican party en masse.

But here is the thing that always baffles me about the premise that you have proposed, Sue:

Why do white people think they are smarter than everyone else?

The only conclusion one can reach is that white people assume they are wiser than the vast majority of black, Hispanic, Asian, legal immigrants and every other ethnic group of voters in this country who lean Democratic, according to Pew research and multiple studies. White Americans without a college degree are the only group with a majority of voters who support the Republican party.

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Who the fuck is going to listen to them?

Besides you, of course, Sue.

But you studied it in college.