The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Secondhand Clapbacks

Oscar Bustamante/GMG/The Root
Oscar Bustamante/GMG/The Root

I am often accused of hating white people. I don’t usually defend myself because ... well ... I don’t hate white people. But this week was different.


You probably don’t know this, so I’ll let you in on a little-known fact: Sometimes I can be a little provocative.

I called the National Rifle Association “terrorists.” I have written a description of all Beckys. I have called the Democratic Party “trash” and the entire Republican Party racist. I once wrote a piece titled, “White People Don’t Give a Fuck.

But of everything I have written in my life, there is nothing that has made the anuses (is that right, or is it anes? anusi? ani?) itch like last week’s letter to Caucasians who were upset about Black Panther.

The narrative goes like this:

Me: Dear white people who are mad at Black Panther, I think you should ...

Wypipo: Hey, why do you have so much hate for white people? We’re not all racist.


Me: But it literally says in the title that I’m not referring to all white people. Only the ones who ...

Wypipo: Racist!

Me: [Sigh.]

Wypipo: Why are you so quiet? It is because you’re racist?

So today we thought we’d have a very special episode of the Clapback Mailbag and present to you a cross section of emails, tweets, messages and comments about one article, and there will only be one clapback at the very end. Some of them are unhinged, so buckle your seat belts:

From: utterback7125
To: The Root
Subject: Fuck You

You’re the fucking problem with America today. You cause nothing but more racial division. You all make many Americans fucking sick to their stomachs, and we wish you’d crash and burn. You’re the fucking racist fascists.

Name Zachary A.
To: Michael Harriot
Subject Black Panther post

Message I’m not sure why you wrote this, but the reluctancy should have kept, because you sound like a racist idiot. I’m not sure that your rant was much better than Ben Shapiro’s, because you both spew shit from your cloudy and skewed perspectives. Also Gal Gadot is not “Brazilian or something”, that’s a derogatory thing to say and shows your true ignorance. So fuck you, and I hope your writing career ends soon. (not that you have any real articles anyway)

From: Jason
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Plea

I came across your “open letter” via my Google feed. I’m extremely disappointed that you feel the need to perpetuate the racial divide in this country.

Admittedly, I’m a white man. Not a white man of privilege, but a whit man nonetheless. I am a descendant of immigrants who came to this country with nothing and managed to build a lineage if success. It wasn’t immediate and it wasn’t easy. It took generations.

I grew up on the east coast in some of the most diverse neighborhoods our nation had at the time. I shared classrooms and meals with people of color. As an adult, my home has always been open to people’s of any origin, race, faith and sexual orientation. My son is gay.

I admit that we all have our biases and some in this country have faced prejudices that I never will.

That said, I have now read much of your work and can come to only one conclusion.. shame on you.

Your work will do NOTHING to bring us together as a people. You clearly embrace the division because it gives you a platform. You are obviously an educated and articulate man. Unfortunately, you have chosen to use those abilities to perpetuate the division you claim to abhor.

It is my hope that you see that your writings are not unifying or constructive. You have a platform to drive change.. instead you choose to perpetuate stereotypes.

From: Michael G
To: Michael H.
Subject Open Letter to White People

Dear Michael, I find myself writing today in response to your article. I have to say that as a white man I cannot begin to understand the struggles that people of color are still going through. That being said, I wholeheartedly believe that within every individual is the ability to change their circumstances. If someone lives in the inner city and needs to get away, they can. If gangs are part of the equation, again, move. No one said this would be easy or cheap, but for the sake of children, what price? The people keeping the minorities down are the politicians and their rich friends who put just enough money into local schools so they don’t close, and also they do things like dump $$ into Black Lives Matter. They want minorities to stay down. Stay angry. It’s a cash cow for them. I truly wish we could all get along. Black Panther is just another cash cow for more elitist old white guys who conceptualized, bankrolled, cast, wrote, and on ad nauseum. I apologize for the rant, but I don’t think that all whites are cut from the same cloth. But, being angry is usually the beginning of a fight. Thank you for your time.


But of all the people who were angry, the people who believed the letter was addressed directly to them were the funniest:

From: Tina

To: Michael

Don’t lump. me in with white people. I have common sense. I don’t lump all people of color based on lack of common Sense of the few. Famous or vocal does not equal common sense.


And the coup de grace:

From: Starlene
To: Michael

Slept w& fell in love w/an African American and had a child. Did I give up on that child cause at that particular time, 30,some ought years ago that was not so very much liked? I lived &STILL live in that same neighborhood. Yes, it’s a weathly neighborhood, buy I could care less about that. Thankfully, most of those people who said that to ME about MY child, have now passed on. R.I.P TO THEM CAUSE THEY’LL NEED IT WHEN THEY ENCOUNTER JESUS CHRIST. U HAVE TO GO THROUGH JESUS CHRIST TO GET TO HIS FATHER, GOD. BET YOU DIDN’T KNOW THAT, DID YOU? I know for a fact that I and my now HANDSOME WEALTHY WHITE HUSBAND are NOT RACIST. VERY FAR FROM IT. FROM WHAT I read in that 1 article,that just popped up on my phone, I simply found YOU JUST HATING WHITE PEOPLE. The white people I & My husband know are SO FAR AWAY FROM BEING RACIST, IT’S NOT EVEN LAUGHABLE. But for YOU to call ME a RACIST IS SO BEYOND FUNNY, IT’S NOT EVEN FUNNY. Unfortunately, by YOU CALLING ME A RACIST, MAKES YOU ONE. If you really want to GO FOR it, DO YOU GET TO HANG OUT WITH THE ROLLING STONES? BET YOU DON’T. AND YES,MY HUSBAND &I HAVE BEEN ON THEIR PRIVATE JET. I HAVE LITERAL PICTURES. Darryl Jones is one of the most kind gentlemen I’ve ever met. I care 4u cause I feel so sad for you. I’ll bet money that you do not believe in JESUS CHRIST? Right? Yes,and my husband and I are the HOLLOWAYS. AND YES WE DO BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST, CAUSE IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO GET TO HIS FATHER, GOD. WHAT’S GOING TO COME OUT YOUR RACIST MOUTH NOW? I can only wonder? THE HOLLOWAYS.....And YES I’ll bet I have MORE money than you do. NOT that it matters, but I’ll bet IT does to YOU? Right?Again.....The HOLLOWAYS


After I didn’t answer, she wrote back:

From: Starlene
To: Michael harriot
Subject: I just reported you for calling me A RACIST. NO ONE CALLS ME A RACIST!

I Will bet you money that you do not believe in JESUS CHRIST. I can practically guarantee you know nothing about JESUS CHRIST/GOD.Do u know how to get into HEAVEN?I guarantee you do not. I will pray for you,cause I already feel & know YOU need help extremely badly. I already know that you will not send me back a comment. Right? Mrs.HOLLOWAY. AND how DARE you call the HOLLOWAYS -BITCH? We ARE a

Famous family that you will NEVER hear of. We are quite people. PERIOD.

OK, guys, as one of the world’s foremost reverse racists, I would never diminish your pain. Although I would chop off my left pinky toe for the privilege of scanning the landscape of everything that offends me and black people and deciding that the biggest act of racism is an article about a movie about a fictional character in a fictional country.


It must be nice.

But I’ll be honest with you guys: I’m not tired of you. Your words affect me in no way, and there is a very good reason why:

Even though I think the fragility of Caucasians and their unwillingness to dismantle or accept their part in creating and upholding a worldwide system of evil, oppression and hate is hilarious, it is not overwhelming. The Root receives far more positive correspondences from people—both black and white—who appreciate the work we do.


I’m sorry to inform you that I will not be clapping back this week. Instead, I have outsourced this week’s clapback to these three individuals:

From: Susie
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Thank You


I just want to send my thanks to you because I have learned so much by reading your articles. I am a white woman who does anti-racism work with adults and children (on a multi-racial team). I thought because I did this type of work for a living I was anti-racist and doing my part. Your writing has made me realize that I have so much further to go on my journey to be anti-racist. I have been reading your column for a year now and it has made me a better person. I think of your writing and you when I make that quick decision-Should I say something? Should I show up for that? Now, I always do. Sometimes I fumble through my words and get nervous and don’t always make the point I meant to-but with your words ringing in my ears I never stay silent.

As a way of saying thanks, I made a donation to the #BlackPantherChallenge in your honor. I wish I could do more.

With gratitude


And this:

From: Nicholans
To: Daniele Belton
Subject: Prolly Just another Chad ... But trying not to beHello Ms. Belton,I am writing you today because I have been finding myself on more and more every day. While at first, I must admit that I felt as though there was a tone of reverse racism in the many articles I have read, especially from Damon Young, and Michael Harriot, I pushed through knowing that further information will conclude that I am simply another Chad who grew up color blind and not knowing I was sitting there oblivious to the atmosphere the black community as a whole is still feeling in this country. Growing up in Southern California through the 80’s and 90’s, racial tensions are nothing new to me, however, my naivety did have me thinking they had improved. Especially with the election of President Obama, and his rise to prominence being achieved not only through the black community striving to have their voices heard and their votes acknowledged, but also because of those of many other races and backgrounds getting woke by the increasingly obvious racism that has come into further light in recent years due to social media and the internet. Growing up in a predominantly black neighborhood, and a very different cultural environment, when I moved to a new place that was predominantly white, I was finally faced with white privilege, and the obliviousness that I had been so naïve to in my pre-adolescent life. I looked around, and felt very suspicious of every person(read: white) I interacted with. Going back to my old neighborhood from time to time allowed me to take some of my newly learned whiteness with me and help me realize how ignorant I really had been. Yet I continued to do nothing. Nothing to further the voices I was familiar with in a new environment who had so very few. Nothing to bring to light to these people, those who are suffering just a few towns away. I believe this is called White Guilt. Hard to say though, I am white after all, and don’t know all of the terms I would suspect I should know. Fast- forward 20 years, and I find myself living in New England. Rhode Island to be more specific. I am now a software engineer at a non-tech electronics distribution company, allotted with an ample amount of time on the internet. This is where I have had the privilege to find the articles on TheRoot. Being that I have never been so aware of how many people in this country are still such racist pieces of shit, TheRoot has provided me at least some solace that not everyone is like these ignorant, ass-backward, self-proclaiming colonizers who still cling to the idea that the Matflower and its ilk are the only semblance of reality that matters. Frankly, I am pretty sure 90% of these people I meet, outside of the city, have never had a real discussion with any person of color.One article in particular that truly got me thinking, and made me want to further make changes in my life regarding activism, and how to behave as a still not fully woke white dude, was Mr. Harriot’s article from 8-14-17 after the events in Charlottesville titled, “For Black People Who Have to Deal With White People This Week”. Not only did this article provide me with insight on what NOT to talk about, it also showed me that, just because I am naively color blind, it doesn’t mean it is my place and duty as such to speak of these things. It informed me to just shut my fucking mouth and let my interactions with people of color regarding such a “yuge” topic, talk to me if THEY feel like it and not because I feel in my whiteness that they should talk to me about it because of my empathetic wanting to appear, well, empathetic. This article pointed me in a direction to re-read most of the articles I had read on TheRoot with a newfound vigor to understand, and dismiss my aforementioned view of “reverse racist undertones”. Also, it allowed me to understand why I feel the ways I do when I go to other news sites, and read the so-called news about current events that are reported by other non-woke writers who are reporting as only they know how to do at this moment. It showed me a way to prevent my “white noseyness” from being my purpose, and figure out WHY I was so enthralled and intrigued to get the information further from those directly affected, and less from those who act as if they are speaking for them. These things mentioned are what allowed me to see even further beyond the reported racial undertones of “Black Panther”, and how it is not just another MCU comic book movie, and see the words I have always had in my heart and soul personified on screen with some of the most beautiful, well written, and brilliantly portrayed films I have seen in a very long time. I look forward to the day I can show this movie to my children to hopefully help them build a world that exists, as T’Challa so eloquently described in the film, as a place where “more connects us than separates us”. I feel this goes even one step further than Jordan Peele’s “Get Out”, if only in its more universal presentation to a public that may or may not make the attempt to see “Get Out”. Which in itself is a tragedy as “Get Out” was amazing! All the way up to the end when every single person, who was paying attention, thought the cops pulling up at the end would inevitably result in the now completely demolished, Daniel Kaluuya, being arrested and not saved. Even writing this I get chills and shakes thinking about it and Black Panther. Both films had me in tears multiple times, and had me questioning what one Chad can do to make a difference without acting like another Susan who thinks they are beyond reproach only because they themselves are not “racist”. In conclusion Ms. Belton, I want to know what I can do to help. Beit joining my local black community in protest or purpose, or even using what I innately have as White Privilege to benefit the movement to end segregation and help others wake the fuck up! Thank you for this site, and hopefully for reading this as “from a man who wants to further devote himself to change”, and not just another Chad, Becky or Susan who doesn’t realize I am speaking out of place. Sincerest Regards, Nick

PS – to Mr. Young, I do not take offense, nor condemn anything I have read that you or anyone on TheRoot have written. I just want to make that clear since it may not be as apparent in my letter as it is to Mr. Harriot. Thank you.


But most of all, this, from Twitter:

From: Nikki
To: Michael

Hi Michael - my name is Nikki (redacted). I read A story you wrote about a month ago about the Storm Lake Iowa High School basketball team and the racism they experienced during their game against neighboring Spencer, Iowa. It made me so mad. I decided to give these guys a happy memory, as well. I made a few calls, sent a few emails and raised some money. Today the team went to see “Black Panther” together, complete with snack combos. I don’t know if i would have learned about this if it weren’t for your story. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. Thank you for all your work.

Sincerely, Nikki


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



Yes,and my husband and I are the HOLLOWAYS.

I think that this broke my brain.