The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Sticks and Stones

Illustration for article titled iThe Root’/is Clapback Mailbag: Sticks and Stones
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/FMG)
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.

Welcome back to the Friday Clapback Mailbag: You already know what this is, so don’t be surprised by the collection of tweets, emails and DMs we receive from people who read The Root.


It’s part of the job.

From: Greg
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: No Subject


I read your satire piece about the “racist” ( according to some) movie, Black Panther.

I was entertained by your writing and found myself laughing out loud a few times. I genuinely like your style of writing and will continue to read your pieces.

But, as I read further into this piece I found myself getting more and more confused by your message.

There was some obvious hate directed towards white people.

I am a “Chad.” I’m about as Chad as they get. Like you, a Jamal, I had only one friend who was not like me. My one black friend, Tim, was the only black kid in our school. I can vividly recall the first time I knew he was different. It’s when my Dad saw him and asked if there were other black kids at my school. That one question changed everything. It made me aware that Tim was supposedly different.

Parents teach their kids when they don’t even know it. As someone who considers themselves not racist, I teach my kids how to not be racist, prejudice, or an asshole by not acknowledging the difference in someone who is not white, heterosexual, or different in any way.

If I were to point out their differences, it would be, at the very least, condescending. And I’d be doing the same thing my Dad did to me, perpetuating prejudice.

Its very frustrating to read about a generalization about white people and how they feel about black people. Why can’t I read your column and just be entertained? Why do I have be lumped into a small group of people or made to feel ashamed or embarrassed to be white? I hate being hated for no reason. I realize that is exactly how you must feel. And that is how you very subtlely came accross.

I’m aware enough to know I’m missing something. I’m interested in hearing your take on this because I feel like you can honestly enlighten me as to why you feel the way you do about white people. And why you feel it’s okay to generalize and lump us altogether.

I challenge you to respond without bringing up what our shitty forefather’s did, what previous generations did, or what you’ve been told to believe. I want to hear what you have personally seen and experienced that makes you so comfortable in perpetuating prejudices.



Dearest Greg:

First, I want to sincerely let you know that I am sorry that you are ashamed or embarrassed about your race. Unlike you, I honestly believe it’s OK to be white.


As a “Jamaal” (you spelled it wrong, but that’s OK), I also want to congratulate you for having one black friend way back in elementary school. On behalf of our entire Jamaal population, I offer our collective thanks for your charitable willingness to befriend someone who is black and to be so accepting of diversity that you remember the one black guy you rescued from the wild so many years ago. It moves me to tears every time I hear a heartwarming story like yours about how you were willing to adopt a Jamaal during your youth.

As for your challenge for me to respond without bringing up something your shitty forefathers did (again, you spelled it wrong; there was no need for that random apostrophe), I need some clarification on the matter.

Would your dad be considered a “forefather” when he pointed out the race of your pet Tim? Because if parents teach their kids without even knowing it, as you claim, then it is obvious that yours taught you well.

But here is what I am trying to get at, Greg/Chad.

You cannot write me letters insinuating that I perpetuate racism against white people that permeates society and infects future generations while simultaneously asking why I am lumping you in with the fucked-up people who came before you. If one Jamaal like me can somehow make black people hate white people, then imagine the effect of an entire nation of Jamaals.


Imagine if, instead of writing on the internet, we Jamaals did this for the next four centuries: passing our hate down to our children. Imagine if we had Jamaal-only neighborhoods and caged the Chads into certain areas with underfunded schools and endemic poverty. Imagine if we threw job applications into the trash if they had the name Chad or Becky on them.

Not only that, but what if every person named Jamaal benefited from the simple happenstance that they were named Jamaal? What if anyone named Jamaal could live anywhere they wanted, do whatever they wished and didn’t have to worry about the random pitfalls of society because their name provided them immunity and privilege?


And then one day, one of them overheard someone named Tim ...

Or Chad ...

Or Michael Harriot, telling people about the Jamaals.

And after benefiting from being named Jamaal for a quadruple century, Jamaal sat down at his desk and typed a letter explaining how he lived in such privileged isolation from everyone else that he remembered the exact motherfucking day, time and year when he first encountered one of those poor, non-Jamaal savages, and took it in like a pet hamster, finally realizing that he lived in a Jamaal-based society.


Now imagine, if you will, after all of that, this douchebag had stored up so much entitlement that he had the Jamaal-dacity to say to someone ... anyone:

“I heard what you said and I’m offended. Now explain why you feel like that without mentioning anyone named Jamaal.”


Jamaal, please.

This next letter is regarding the little girl who saw former first lady Michelle Obama’s portrait and thought she was a queen.


From: j40oaks
To: Anne Branigin
Subject: Oh .... Goof Grief!

Oh ...... good grief....... the little girl looking at the so called portrait of Michelle Obutthole was just trying to figure out who the hell it was the portrait looks NOTHING like Michelle Obutthole! Give us a break.... will you???? We are tired of hearing about the Obuttholes. ... worst damn administration to EVER darken the door of the Whitehouse. Really, Toots, you little millennial cupcakes are the scurge upon this great country! TRY TO GROW THE HELL UP!



First, I want to congratulate you on becoming the first person to have a repeat appearance in the mailbag. Also, your previous letter calling staff writer Monique Judge “one of the most racist bitches to ever breath [sic]” was in all capital letters. Your embrace of lowercase letters shows growth (we’re still working on the ellipses, but that’s a lesson you learn in sixth-grade grammar; you’ll get there), but what I’d like to know is:

Why are you like this?

Who hurt you, j40? Did a black guy steal your college sweetheart? Were you cut from your middle school basketball team and replaced by a Negro with a superior vertical leap?


I want to applaud you for your candor, and for the fact that you embrace your racism. The majority of our hate mail includes the caveat “I’m not racist,” but not yours, j40. I appreciate the fact that despite your obviously low IQ, your inability to dribble and being saddled with the gut-wrenching memory of watching Amber pose for prom pictures with DeMarcus, you know who you are: an unapologetic bigot.

I recognize your hate for Michelle Obama. I know she didn’t sign a single piece of legislation, have any role in governing or affect your life in any measurable way. I understand that it is her blackness that offends you (what else could it be?). The fact that a little girl could admire someone black must really eat away at your nerves.


I have instructed Anne to stop destroying our country with this bullshit because—even though the “millennial cupcakes” appreciate positive stories—I see now that you can’t handle it. She will do better.

And this one, about ... something:

From: David
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Repent

Michael you are a person of the baser sort who is so full of hatred and ungodliness that you cannot even think clearly. Your articles are so vile and disgusting and you are so full of yourself that you cannot even have any other thoughts than the ones you deceive yourself into thinking you are always right. You will have your judgement day and, as you kneel before the Lord Jesus Christ on that day, you will realize how foolish you were. It is not to late to repent, but I think you will only mock me and what I have written to you.


When I thanked him for his letter, he wrote back:

I got to you I see and I am glad. You need to repent Michael and all those Lily white liberals who are falling all over themselves to praise you also need to repent. You have a lot of people who are so in love with you or else they feel so guilty about their deep seated prejudices towards black people that they are so afraid of offending you else they fear they may be found our. It is sickening to read all of these fawners and you eat it up with a spoon. I speak truth to you Michael and I am no bigot. I have lived around all kinds of people all if my life and I can spot a phony when I see one, of which you are. You have deep seated hatred in your heart for white folks and you don’t sound as though you really know any. You disparage President Trump without even knowing what he is trying to do, and yet you give a pass to the last one who was in office and did nothing good for the black Americans who live in the inner cities. Eight years and he only did terrible corrupt things. He was more concerned about men being able to go into girls bathrooms. Ask the black Americans who live in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and other inner cities and ask them what he did for them. Nothing at all. Bring in anyone from any country and support them, but turn your back on our citizens. That is what he did. Hucksters like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson he loves. Also terrorists are his friends, but not Americans. Our new president is trying to put Americans first, or can’t you see that Michael? You need to seek the truth because the truth is the only thing that will set you free. Jesus said that.


Please allow me to pray with you.

Dear White Jesus:

I come to you, Lord, not only on my behalf, but on behalf of all my people who don’t know how President Trump is saving this country. We ask you right now for your forgiveness, Lord.


Forgive us for offending David, precious Caucasian savior. I know you said “the truth will set you free,” which is why we are probably in this predicament right now, untanned Father. But now I finally see the light of your brave prophets, like David, who are out here fighting the good fight, alabaster Jesus. I trust him when he says he’s “no bigot,” because I’m sure there’s something in your word about trusting motherfuckers who say they’re not racist, precious lamb. I know it probably doesn’t say “motherfucker,” my Lord, and I know there’s something about false prophets, but Imma ride with the “no bigot” thing for the rest of this prayer, Jesus.

Your Highness, I thank you for saving me from choking when he talked about how great Trump is and said Barack Obama did “terrible and corrupt things.”


Lord, I need you right now! 

I need you to erase the notion that almost every time someone says they’re not racist, then brings up Chicago, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and transgender bathrooms, they always turn out to be racist, Lord. But not David, sweet Jesus. He is your servant! He has shown me the love of Jesus, precious Father!


In T’Challa’s name, I pray.


And for our positive mail, I will give you a few pieces of mail I have featuring one recurring theme that we often receive: suggestions for names to call white people:

From: Milkshakedave
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Two things:

Dear Mr. Harriot,

In your March 2 Clapback Mailbag, I read the following:

“...they would rather fuck up themselves and the country than admit that he was a decent president.”

Your assertion has been the only one I’ve read that has come remotely close to explaining what I’ve felt for the last couple of years is at the centre of the Trumpling mindset. (As an aside, I’m very disappointed my ‘Trumpling’ insult/nickname hasn’t stuck. Rhymes with ‘dumpling’. The boiled ball of dough served in gravy? Works on so many levels. Maybe it’s not a thing in US cuisine.)

This attitude that you expressed and I maintain is found all too frequently in domestic violence where the jilted ex pursues a murder-suicide solution by thinking “If I can’t have her, no one can”.

In this case, the Trumplings as a collective, who because they feel threatened not being able to adapt to and cannot see themselves in a changed America, are saying: “If I can’t have my America, then no one can”...

For what reason do Trumplings turn a blind eye to the innumerable contradictions, lies, and hypocrisy; to the unethical, unprincipled, and unlawful behaviour of Trump and the Republicans when the slightest whiff of such under Obama would have brought apoplectic screeches of outrage? Because, as you know, they do not want America to be for anyone other than themselves.

From: Fakey McFake
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: none

Hello, Mr. Harriot. I enjoy your writing on the Root. I had a stray thought that I share with you, only half jokingly. I do not feel there is an injurious-enough slur for white people. I am white. When I hear “honky” or “cracker,” I feel no insult. I do not care what a “honky” is, and “cracker” is just funny. However, if someone were to call me a “Trump,” I would lose my mind and turn red with anger. Perhaps one could start a campaign to install “Trump” as the worst possible slur one use for a white person, so that the name of this piece of human garbage will live infamy. Kind of like what the gay community did with Rick Santorum.

This is probably a weird, terrible, divisive idea. In any case, keep up the great work. Don’t ever call me a Trump. Highest Regards, Fakey T (Not my real name.)

From: Charles
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: suggestions

How about the word “ Invaders”? ( or a neologism like “ SSinvaderr”?) , then there’s the word “Parasite” ( or the neologism “ ParaSSite”).


But here is the winner:

From: Charlene
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Names

I love how you have so many names for white people. Being a white person myself, I have a suggestion that I feel is better than wypipo or even cracker. Because white people are prone to skin cancer, it means the sun can kill us if we are out too long.

There are dark skinned: blacks and some Indians

Light-skinned: blacks, mexicans, asians and latinx. and then there are white people, or..


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

Share This Story

Get our newsletter


The Intersectional Feminist part dos

The delegation will accept “weak-skinned.”


Eight years and he only did terrible corrupt things. He was more concerned about men being able to go into girls bathrooms. Ask the black Americans who live in Chicago, Detroit, Baltimore and other inner cities and ask them what he did for them. Nothing at all.

Can the racists try to be a little more original in their racism? I’m bored.