Oscar Bustamante/GMG/The Root

Hey, look, guys, I need to admit something: This whole mailbag thing may have been a bad idea.

When we started this, it seemed like a grand plan to expose the various kinds of hate mail, tweets and comments the writers at The Root receive on a daily basis. It also gave us an outlet that wasn’t limited to, “Can you believe what this motherfucker just wrote me?” But now that we’ve been doing this for a few months, I’ve realized something:

Racists aren’t very original.

Now, I don’t mean to upset the hardworking racist community out there by disparaging their work ethic. I would, in no way, demean you by besmirching the sheer volume of work put in every day by the people whose hearts are filled with what I imagine to be terrible things like black jellybeans, the crotches of Donald Trump’s post-golf tighty-whities and the rag used to clean Harvey Weinstein’s house plant.

The problem is that along with being not very smart, racism gets boring after a while. It’s not that I am no longer offended—I never really get mad at people calling me “nigger” anonymously; it’s just that I’m no longer entertained. Maybe I have become numb to racism, and every form of it has now become banal. Maybe I’m just jaded like an EMT who can scrape brains off the concrete after a car wreck while eating a peanut butter and Jelly sandwich.

In any case, I’m calling for all you racists out there to inject some thought, originality or at least some common sense into your correspondence. If not, we run the risk of excluding you from the mailbag totally, and no one wants that. The only other solution is, maybe you guys will stop being racist and ...

Nah, that’ll never work.


Our first correspondence concerns an article about an Air Force sergeant who went on a racist rant.

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From: Gary
To: Anne Branigin
Subject: Feedback. ..airforce sergeant under investigation for racist rant

How in the hell is this racist?

All she said was “black”...last I checked, saying “black females “ is not a racial slur. Talking about getting over sensitive and over reacting. So unless you’re kissing black people ass, you’re a racist.

Thats bullshit.

I’ve also ran into quite a few black people with attitude in my life,as have I ran into alot of white people with attitude. ..no difference. ..attitude is attitude. Race dont mean shit when it comes to attitude.

But since shes not black...then shes a racist?? Pfft. Ok,then...good luck with that.

How about Mr. Chi from SNL... he called Trump a “cracker” tell me, why in the hell is that NOT racist? Cracker IS a racial slur when referring to whites.

How about all the blacks that call each other “nigger”...if black people say it, its NOT racist, but anyone else... they’re racist.

Fuckin double standard in this country is getting WAAAAAY out of hand.

They can’t have it both ways. Is it racist...or “a term of endearment” as Kanye West once said?

Make up your minds.

Either way...for a black person to call a white person “cracker” or “wonderbread” or any of the other slurs they use, thats racist and makes them fucking Hypocrites too.

If we all truely want to end racism, we need to stop getting our pants in a bunch over every little thing that has the slightest possibility of being racist, as well as holding EVERYONE, regardless of race, to the SAME standards.

Just an opinion

Thank you for your time

Hey, Gary:

There’s a thing you need to know about racism: I don’t say this to be combative. I genuinely hope that you will share it with your friends at the rallies and cross burnings:

No one gives a fuck what your white ass thinks about racism.

Stop thinking you get to decide or have a voice in anything about the subject. White people thinking they get to define racism is the same thing as a person who is accused of sexual assault climbing on the witness stand and presenting this legal defense:

“But it was just date rape, right? I mean ... she’s given consent to other men, so why should she be so mad at what I did? I don’t see anything wrong with it.”

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OK, Gary, I know you’re dumb, so I’m going to explain to you how white supremacy works:

The woman in this particular article is an officer in the armed forces—an organization that has a strict hierarchy. She also holds an innate prejudice against black women, as do many others. In her world, her feelings are so uncontroversial and widespread that she was comfortable enough to share them on the internet.

I presume that the airwoman, as a member of the Air Force, will be promoted multiple times. She will undoubtedly have women of color under her command. Those women’s careers and lives will depend on a woman who not only doesn’t give a fuck about them but also lives in a world that confirms her prejudices. Those black women under her command won’t have the same opportunities as a white man or a white woman under the same command—even if the black women are as smart, talented and hardworking as their white counterparts.

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Or maybe she won’t have a long career in the military. Maybe she’ll get out and do one of the jobs most popular with military vets, like becoming a teacher or working in human resources or—better yet—law enforcement. I’m sure her racism won’t matter in those places.

That’s how white supremacy works.

Here’s another way that it works: A man with the IQ of a three-toed sloth could watch that racist rant and say to himself: “How in the hell is this racist? In fact, I think I’m going to fire off a sternly worded email about this! And while I’m at it ... why can’t I say nigger?’”

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This one is a direct message from Twitter user Free Radical:

Hello Mike! I figure I’ll get right to the point: I’m a sheltered white person (Spokane is white as fuck and I’m an isolated nerd) who has a question, but I’m worried it might be racist to ask. For starters, I know that black people are not a monolith, and I can easily see how the very notion of ‘asking black people’ could be racist. Still, the question lingers in my head. It’s probably not an original question, but Google has failed me a bit in finding a comprehensive discussion of the subject.

I love The Root. I love that it challenges a lot of my notions, and I’m very much a fan of your work, and you’re the first person I thought of that might be able to point me in a direction in which I could educate myself. My question/issue is this:

I’ve been listening to ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ a lot lately, and the more I listen to it, the more I’m moved by it and the more I fall in love with it. I like to post songs and lyrics on my Facebook page and share them with my friends, and I want to share this album and these songs with my friends.

My question pertains to using ‘the n-word’ when quoting black artists. On one hand, I don’t want to infringe on black ownership of the word. On the other, I don’t want to censor the artist’s work when I’m sharing it. I don’t want to be one of these assholes who goes ‘hey, if they use it, I can use it,’ so I’m at a bit of an internal impasse. Anyway, do you know of any big articles or videos discussing this specific subject (i.e. quoting lyrics)? Either way, thank you for your time.

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Hey, Free:

First, I want you to know that I honestly appreciate your question. I say this with no sarcasm intended. I think your heart is in the right place and I hope you will continue to read and learn from The Root. Here is your answer:

You can’t.

Intentional or not, your quandary is the ultimate embodiment of white privilege. You are not actively seeking to oppress or demean anyone. In fact, it seems as if you want to do the opposite. But the notion that you are even searching for the answer to this indicates that you mean no harm, but also illustrates how you get to live in a world where you get to raise this question.

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I am not accusing you of being a racist, and you seem to want an honest opinion. As a white person in America, you might not be as familiar with this concept as I and many other people of color are, but there is something you need to know:

There are some things you cannot do, simply because of the color of your skin. Most white people never learn this. Almost every black person has learned this lesson.

You. Cannot. Use. The. Word. Nigger.

Full stop.

I know, I know. It doesn’t seem fair. But you must think of it this way:

At worst, you will have to suffer through the horrible possibility that you may have to wade through life under the oppression of never being able to post a Kendrick Lamar lyric on your Facebook page, with the only upside being that you have not inadvertently dredged up the history of lynching, slavery and white supremacy for the simple purpose of showing your internet friends how you totally relate to your favorite rapper.

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And, on the plus side, you get to keep all your teeth!


From: God Bless All Men & Women
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Prayers from white boy

I pray that Jesus enters your heart and breaks the stone off of it that He loves all races as should we all. Saying all whites are this or all blacks are this is the same damn thing dont stoop to that level.

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Dear God:

Is that too informal? Should I call you Mr. or Ms. Women? Imma just stick with “God” because I’d like to think we’re friends, being that you so lovingly reached out to me and you’re praying for me and everything. After all, you love me. Shouldn’t friends be on a first-name basis?

When I refer to you as God, I hope it doesn’t come off as blasphemous, as I do not mean to insinuate that I am talking to the God. I mean, even if I believed in her, I wouldn’t think she’d be stupid and illiterate. I’d know that the true and living God wouldn’t just make shit up because she was feeling so injured by the words that one of the lowly creatures that she created wrote on the internet. I’d know that any God who even insinuated such a thing was a false God.

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You know what I’d tell that God? I’d say: “Stop making shit up, you lying-ass motherfucker!” I’d tell that bullshit God who you just made up in an email to criticize me and make yourself feel good to show me where I said “all.” “Show me!” I’d say.

You know what that stone-heart-breaking Jesus God of yours would do? She’d admit she was wrong and apologize. And then your made-up God and I would keep talking, and I’d ask why, if she loves “all races” so much like the email writer says, then why is the floor of the Atlantic Ocean littered with skeletons of black people thrown from slave ships? Why are we always the ones mopping up blood in Audubon Ballrooms or picking up bits of brain and bone on Memphis, Tenn., motel balconies? Were they not praying loud enough when Dylann Roof plopped down on that Charleston, S.C., church pew?

I appreciate your thoughts and prayers, and I do not want to slander or attack any religion ...

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But your God obviously hates me, and I ain’t letting that motherfucker nowhere near my heart.