The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: The 10 Clap Commandments

You know what time it is.

It’s Friday. After wading through the emails, tweets and direct messages from The Root’s readers, I noticed a disturbing trend: Some people have assumed that some of our articles have attacked them.


Even though I’m breaking the first rule of clapping back (Rule No. 1: Never talk about clapbacks), I’m doing so in hopes that it will clarify our position on this matter; thus, today we shall explain our rules on clapping back.

This Twitter direct message is in reference to the story of Mayonnaise Yeezy, Tucker Carlson, and correctly analyzing two important Clapback Commandments: 


Rule No. 2: Know what the fuck you’re talking about, because ... 

Rule No. 3: ... They never know what they’re talking about.

From: JG
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Tucker Carlson is not a white nationalist.

It’s funny that you attack Tucker Carlson and Fox News for doing the same thing does. If Tucker Carlson is a white nationalist for saying that white people are being attacked, does that make you and your co-writers black nationalists. You call him a snowflake when he points out theat white men are portrayed as villains by the mainstream media, but you do the same thing when blacks are viewed in a negative manner.

I know you think that white people just want to be racist, but you make yourself look stupid when you ignore the fact that white men are now being constantly attacked. Don’t you think that Tucker is speaking to his corp audience the same way your doing?


Dear JG,

You make a great point. I actually never looked at it that way. But now that you mention it, let me investigate and see how white men are being attacked.


Ok, JG, in 1998, at its highest point, the median wealth of blacks was 18.8 percent of the white median wealth, according to the Center for American Progress. In 2016, the latest year for which figures are available, the median wealth of blacks stood at 9.5 percent of white wealth. Even though the black unemployment rate is much lower now (9.8 percent in 1998; 6.0 percent in September 2018) and the black college graduation rate has increased dramatically, the racial income gap continues to grow larger. So we know white men aren’t being attacked financially.

Maybe white men are losing political power. Hmmm, let’s see. White men are about 38 percent of the country’s population but, according to the Washington Post, “90 percent of elected officials, from the local to the national level, are white, and most are male.”


So if you haven’t lost political or economic power, what the fuck are you and Tucker Carlson talking about, JG?

Oh, wait, maybe you’re talking about social implications. Are you mad at the fact that people are finally calling white men out on their bullshit? After centuries of power, should the rest of America ignore the fact that white men are responsible for all of the wars, most of the lynchings and the vast majority of douchebags named Tucker?


Tucker Carlson is a white man who openly pushes an anti-immigrant, pro-Christian, anti-diversity agenda for the country he lives in. By definition, he is a nationalist. The writers at The Root weren’t sitting back playing spin the bottle when it landed on Fox News. We are contradicting their dog-whistle hate. Which brings us to our fourth commandment:

Rule No. 4: Facts. 

I don’t know what this is about, but as the commandments tell us: Rule No. 5: Be slow to anger, but quick to clap back.”

From: Barry
To: Michael Harriot.

Talking shit about white people will get you nowhere. Look at your mother country Africa. You motherfuckers are worse than monkeys spreading aids amongst your people and you know damn right we invented that shit to cripple you. Why the fuck do you have a European name? You can’t even trace your roots and find your original name back to monkey land. Your people got fucked over worse than any in history and still you speak English and take orders from us. I saw a toad named Patrick Riley.

As a person of Irish descent this is fucking insulting. Change your slave names please if u have so much pride. Your people got broken like horses and you can’t ever change that. Good luck with your toad movement. Aside from sports you’re lambs for the slaughter. Even all you trap stars suck on the white man’s tit. Drugs don’t come from Africa. You will always be slaves to my beautiful European people. May God be with you. Where did God come from? Europeans. Good luck Mr Toad. You can never win. The world won’t allow it. Good luck. Stick to sports, you provide entertainment like a circus monkey dancing for peanuts. At the end of the day no matter what you do, you’re still a nigger. Amen


Dearest Barry:

Tell ‘em why you mad, son!

First, I’d like to thank you for pointing out that I have a slave name. As one of America’s foremost niggers, however, I would like to help you out. It’s obvious that your hate stems from the fact that you know that, even though my people “take orders” from your people, you Barry, are intellectually and physically inferior.


I’m sorry, Barry.

The next time you want to lash out, you shouldn’t use the word nigger; it exposes your intellectual fragility. When people call me nigger, I know it is a last resort. It’s like you ran out of reasonable arguments and resorted to, “Oh yeah? Well ... Yo mama!”


A white person calling me nigger means I’ve defeated them. You sound defeated, Barry. But instead of dancing all over your concussed, limp, racist body lying on the mat, watching the drool ooze from your mouth, I’d like to offer you some alternative insults from someone smarter than you: me.

How about porch monkey? That’s a good derogatory term that has a nice, Confederate feel to it. Or maybe you should consider calling me a moon cricket. I don’t even know what it means, but it sounds disparaging. Moon cricket is far more offensive than nigger. Oh, wait. What if you went international and called me a “Schvartze?” It might make people think you were smart, which, I know, would be a new feeling for you.


That settles it. Schvartze it is.

And the next time I want to clap back at a white person who can’t properly express his frustrations because he has the brain power of a hamster wheel, thanks to you, as well as Clapback Rule No. 6: (Use their weapons against them), I now know what I’ll call every white idiot from now on:


This next message comes from someone who deleted his Facebook profile after sending it (twice), but it is a perfect way to explain commandments number 7, 8 and 9: 

  • Rule No. 7: Kill them with kindness
  • Rule No. 8: But not really. In fact ...
  • Rule No. 9: Just kill them.

To: Michael Harriot

If you would be so kind as to tell me just where is my white privilege. I was raised not knowing my father for 20 yrs.. I wasn’t passed through school I in fact failed two grades. I wasn’t handed anything in life grew up poorer than most black kids that I supposedly have privilege over. I was never given any job over a black applicant’s, they were hired over me. I was a subordinate to many people of color brown and black. But yes I did make it in life. I worked hard took risk and learned every thing I could and I made the best of what the world had to offer me.

At times I was down and out , one time in life I was homeless. But I never had any privilege. I was harassed by colored policemen. I have been the target of racism from people of color called names attacked for working in their neighborhood. So where is my privilege I am a white man 44 yrs.old today where is it because I would have liked to use it instead I worked my butt off many times putting in over a 100 hrs a week at low paying jobs I lived in my truck for a while so my wife and kids didn’t have to. I have a strained relationship with my sin because of having to stay on the road working where ever the next job was for years. So where is this privilege. Do I call the white man at a certain number to ask for it or do I submit my DNA as a application to be evaluated by other white men. Please help me find my white privilege so I can have this great life that you say all white men have. Because looking back I can’t tell if being treated and dealing with life’s struggles is privilege or just what made me try harder to get to where I am today. Please help me find my privilege.


Dear sir:

I am here to help. In fact, I think I know exactly where to find your privilege.

In any discussion of privilege, most white people assume that it means they are endowed with a bag of money or extra entitlement so that they can make it rain on the world. In fact, I hate that white people think of it this way because it comes off as accusatory. “White Privilege” is kind of the wrong term because, even though it is only afforded to white people, it is not something extra. Instead, privilege is just the absence of racism and inequality.


Here is an example. Last week, I attended an event in Atlanta for The Root. I stayed overnight. The next day, I attended a ceremony for one of my best friends, who renewed his wedding vows. Because I was running late for The Root’s event, I didn’t bring the wedding clothes. I decided I would buy something to wear to the wedding when I got to South Carolina.

The next day, I went to a store and purchased an entire wedding outfit. As I walked into the store, located in an exclusive beach town near Charleston, S.C., I noticed I was the only black person. The women at the checkout counters were white. The police officer was white. (I asked her for the restroom and thought, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen a white female police officer working security.”)


Because I was again running late (kind of my thing), I asked the woman at the checkout counter if I could change in the dressing room. She agreed. The white men and women working the floor even offered me scissors to cut off my tags.

I changed, walked to my car and opened the truck. That’s when the security guard approached and asked me to go back into the store because she noticed I was dressed differently than when I entered. I said no. She called to someone inside the store. The person walked out, looked across the parking lot and yelled: “They told him he could dress in the dressing room.”


If a white person had done what I did, he probably wouldn’t have been questioned. I cannot say I was questioned because the officer was racist or because my face stood out among all those going in and out of that store simply because I am black.

When I walk into some places, some people assume things about me, even things that aren’t necessarily negative. If I forget to wear a belt and my pants are sagging, they might assume I am a thug or a gangster. Store owners might assume I’m more likely to steal something. If I worked in a corporate office, they might assume I was an affirmative action hire. I often wonder if people praise my writing because it is “good for a black guy,” or just good.


If I were white, I could have gotten belligerent with the police officer—because I was within my rights to do so. If I were white, I probably wouldn’t have thought about asking to change in the dressing room. If I were white, I probably wouldn’t even notice that I tailor my actions based on the racial makeup of the store. If I was white, people would assume I was just a shopper, a guy who forgot my belt, a man who submitted a resume and got the job, or a man who was running late for a wedding.

None of those things happen to black people all of the time. But they happen so regularly we can’t help but think about it all of the time. If we don’t, the mistake could be fatal.


And that is white privilege because white people don’t have to even consider such things.

And here’s where you can find yours, sir:

You grew up poor, like many black people. You were harassed by people of another race, like many black people. You have an estranged relationship with your son, like many black people. And like many black people, to overcome the odds, you worked your ass off.


That. Is. All. It. Took.

When you failed two grades, the school system didn’t say “fuck this kid” and start greasing the school to prison pipeline like it has done to many black kids. When you were asleep in your truck, cops probably didn’t assume you were a criminal or a vagrant. You are “estranged” from your son, not a “deadbeat dad.”


Oh, what a glorious alternate reality you live in; all you have to do is work hard and you can achieve anything you want!

You are correct; you have earned everything you have. Your whiteness didn’t get you anything extra. But your whiteness is not a barrier. That’s your white privilege.


White privilege is the absence of the obstacles that black people face every day. For a black man, it might not be enough to simply work hard. I often hear stories of white people who suffered in school, were homeless and achieved greatness. Black people get one chance f that. If we stumble in school or fall into homelessness, it is more difficult to recover, no matter how hard we work.

After the first year I started attending school (I was home schooled), I skipped two grades. I was one of only two black kids in honors classes. The only other black kid got better grades than I did because he knew how to study, and he worked a little harder. He was probably a little smarter than me, too. But he never went to college because he was from a poor family who needed him to stay home and help his family.


Do you know who else was in those classes? Mediocre, maybe above-average, white kids. They weren’t that smart and weren’t very hardworking, but they are all doctors, lawyers and engineers now.

At the wedding vows ceremony, I was talking to a friend from my old neighborhood who served time in prison for selling drugs. He had been what one would refer to as a big-time drug dealer. For kids in my neighborhood who were smart or athletically talented, he would slide money to their families, buy shoes, and even hire drivers to take those kids to the prom.


We laughed about a story of him riding around the neighborhood getting the street dudes to put all their one-dollar bills in a grocery bag. He gave that bag of money to me and my sister when we left for college. We kept it in the dishwasher, and that’s partly how we made it.

After he finished his prison sentence, he had to move out of our old neighborhood because he was being harassed by the cops. So he moved to a city where no one knew him and started working at an oil change place. He eventually saved up his money and opened his own shop. Then he opened another. And another.


He owns six now.

He was always a hard worker. Shit, he worked harder than I ever did. He is as good and honest as they come. I know he did a lot better in school than either you or me.


I know you’re wondering how the hell I would know that.

Well, he was that other black kid in my honors classes.

If you are black, overcoming the odds takes more than hard work. No matter how much you put your nose to the grindstone, if you are black, you also have to get dumb fucking lucky.


Here, I think I found your white privilege.

And finally, Masta Ace is still beefing with us:


I’d like to clarify that The Root has a strict policy that is listed under Section 3, paragraph 1 of our company rules handbook. Immediately after the manual spells out our official position on reneging (three books, but you have to point out the specific book that was reneged upon), our last commandment, the “Stand Your Clapback” law, reads:


Now, in last week’s mailbag, I explained that I do not judge an artist based on record sales or number of hits. I will admit that I may have gone overboard when I called Masta Ace a “no hit wonder.” But I remind you that he had referred to either me, or Monique Judge, as a coward after I said I liked his music.

But after reading his most recent tweet, I offer this sincerest of apologies.

Dear Señor Uno:

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that you have so many hits that you find time to beef with someone like me, a fan of your music. There’s only, like, six of us who even remember you, so I’m sorry that you can’t let it go.


I’m sorry that even though I don’t give a damn about record sales and was just answering the question for the article, by the definition of a “hit” song (a top 10 or top 20 Billboard charting single), Soulja Boy and Lil’ Mama have more hits than you.

I’m sorry that, even though you are a hip-hop pioneer (who else was replacing the “er” with an “a” in their names before you?), you are mad about a passing mention in an article. I’m sorry that only 12 people liked your tweet.


I’m sorry about the irony of naming yourself Masta Ace and having your biggest hit only reach number 23. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with 23. Michael Jordan’s jersey was number 23. Lebron’s number is 23. You have 23 fans. It’s an achievement.

I’m sorry about this beef. I’m sorry that you’re mad. I’m sorry about being a coward. I’m sorry that when you stacked your life’s musical achievements up in front of the world, they could be toppled by a brief aside on the internet in an article no one would have still been thinking about if you weren’t whining like a white girl who can’t get Taylor Swift tickets (who, by the way, also has more hits than you).


But most of all, I’m sorry for even mentioning your name at all. If, when I told Monique that I loved “Born to Roll,” she had responded:

“Well, Masta Ace would have had a lot more hits, but you know he died right after that song came out ...” Do you know how terrible that would have made me feel?


Not terrible in the least.

And I’m truly sorry about that.

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About the author

Michael Harriot

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