Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude

The Root's Clapback Mailbag: The Blacker the Content, the Whiter the Tears

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Illustration: Oscar Bustamante

The Clapback Mailbag was never supposed to be about me.

When we first came up with this idea, I assumed every writer at The Root received damp emails, DMs and tweets soaked with the tears of white clowns. In my view, if you can’t make white people mad, are you even trying? (Sometimes, I am definitely not trying.) But, over the years, this Mailbag has evolved into my own personal weekly response column.


But then, a new champion emerged.

Before Zack Linly started writing at The Root, I had known him for years. I met him at a workshop called How to Piss Off White People and knew he was special. A few years ago, we teamed up for a project along with three Black women and trained for an entire summer on how to make D’Wights uncomfortable. When we drove across the country and were forced to sleep in a car because a posh hotel wouldn’t allow us to check in early, he didn’t ask to speak to the manager even once. That’s when I told The Root’s management that we should draft him in the 2019 supplemental reverse racism draft. (Although I am euphemizing a bit, every word of this is true).


And now I am proud to announce that Zack Linly has earned the highest honors that The Root has to offer.

Zack Linly is “the real racist.”


From: Michael P.
To: Danielle Belton

Does this person represent the attitude of your publication?

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: A lot of people need to get it out of their heads that racism will go away once older generations of (w)hite people die off.

The fact is, those generations of (w)hite people raised children and a lot of those children are turning out to be racist AF themselves”

This person, whoever he is, is the most hateful racist I believe I’ve ever had the displeasure to read. If the tone set in this article is supposed to instruct, educate, enlighten, then if fails, unless it is meant to train-up the New Black Panthers. All this sort of commentary does is make White people suspect Black people, because it smacks of a heavily condescending attitude against the White race.

If the attitude of The Root is that your publication does not care what feedback comes from the White race, that is the attitude you will receive on the flip. Linly is annoying and boring, He isn’t shocking. He is just a jerk. He should also be reminded that we are all expected to capitalize race descriptors, now, unless his disdain for the White race just won’t allow his crack cocaine coated pinky from striking the shift key.

From: Bill C.
To: Danielle Belton

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: A lot of people need to get it out of their heads that racism will go away once older generations of white people die off.”

Do you all have any clue at all how racist and age discriminatory and ergo how hate filled that story is ?


Dear Bill and Mike,

It saddens me to hear about Zack’s searing disdain for white people. I had no choice but to forward your concerns to our Department of Intolerance, Complaints, Kerfuffles and Whites Alleging Discrimination. While it is technically against company policy, I thought it was important to share the results of the DICKWAD disciplinary hearing Zack faced after I snitched on him.


The following is a transcript of Zack’s meeting.

DICKWAD: Sir, we have received numerous complaints about you antagonizing many of our readers.

Zack: Yes. I think I forwarded some of them to you. Hilarious, right.

DICKWAD: Zack, this isn’t funny. You have to stop doing this?

Zack: Doing what? Telling the truth? Writing it down?

DICKWAD: Take the complaints from Mike P. and Bill, for instance. Do you think they make a valid point?

Zack: Yes. I found it very flattering that they thought my article could be used to train the New Black Panthers. Did you guys get a request to put it in their training manual? I’ll be honored to sign the release. I want a T-shirt though. And ask them if they could get me one of those Black Panther berets.

DICKWAD: Is that what you got from the letters. That’s it?

Zack: Honestly, when he said my commentary makes “white people suspect Black people,” I stopped reading. I think Harriet Tubman would disagree that I caused it. I was going to ask Emmett Till or Rodney King or Breonna Taylor or Ahmaud Arberry but ... You know.

DICKWAD: You don’t see anything wrong with what you said about a generation of racist white people needing to die off?

Zack: Yes. When I wrote: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again,” I now realize that I may have given the impression that I’ve only said this two times. Or perhaps I may have insinuated that I am the only person who says this. I’m sorry. Black people say this all the time. It’s not just me.

DICKWAD: And you don’t think saying this is wrong?

Zack: Which part? That the older generation of white people are racist? Which ones? The children who spit on black Kids integrating schools or the parents who taught their kids to hock loogies at children who wanted an education? Or the generation of parents who supported segregation? Or the generation of white people who didn’t say shit when the laws were written? Or the generation before them who lynched thousands of Black people. Or the generation before them who taught them how to tie nooses? Or the generation of white people who fought to keep slavery. Or the generation of white people who didn’t mind white people owning slaves? Or the generation of white people who came up with slavery?

DICKWAD: But don’t you see that it’s not all white people?

ZACK: Oh, that’s what’s this is about? Well I could have named all of the racist white people, but I don’t think we have enough server space. And I thought about naming the white people who aren’t racist, but we both know that no white person considers themself to be a racist, so I’d have to name all the white people who ever existed. And if I missed a name, you know how many complaints we’d receive from white people named Bill who don’t see color?

DICKWAD: You have a point. But you don’t see anything else wrong with your approach?

Zack: Yes. I read the part about “your publication does not care what feedback comes from the White race,” obviously he was wrong. You should write back and tell him that our publication does care.

DICKWAD: You really care?

Zack: Not really. But either we’re gonna be nice to white people or we’re gonna lie to them. Which is it?

DICKWAD: This meeting is over.

Zack: OK. Don’t forget to tell the New Black Panthers what I said.

For his transgressions, Zack received a promotion to Senior Racist.

And, of course, a beret.

Of course, this article caused a lot of angst.

From: Jerry
To: Michael Harriot

Dear Michael,

I also sent this message from your website, hope it reaches you.

I am a 63-year-old white woman and closeted Jew from Iowa who never heard about the exclusion laws. I moved here to teach children and ended up teaching in a Black school. I learned to understand a lot about racism but, what would you have me do about these exclusion laws if I knew about them?

Don’t you think this kind of writing stirs up more hate and helps no one? Why not concentrate on bringing people together instead of dividing them?


Dear Jerry and Double SS,

I love to hear your stories about how you worked for everything you earned and learned about racism. It reminded me of when I started working at The Root. When Danielle Belton called me and informed me that I would begin working here, I was so elated that I went into the bathroom of the restaurant where I was eating and did a Holy Ghost shout.


I still wonder why it took her so long to decide to hire me. I think she should have just hired me as soon as I asked and not pay attention to whether or not I had any skills or abilities as a writer. I truly can’t understand why she wanted to divide me from a paycheck. Had she hired me without checking my resume, my education credentials or my experience, how would she know what to expect from me as an employee? It’s almost as if she thought my past would inform her about my future performance at The Root.

Take your letter for instance. It’s almost as if you believe informing me about your past would give me some insight on who you are. And you’re right. I know a little bit about you because I know about the events that created the person you are today. Everyone understands how this concept works.


Except when it comes to Black people

America’s past treatment of Black people is the only subject in the world we are expected to ignore if we want to understand the future. We can understand the Constitution by learning about the Founding Fathersexcept that they own slaves. We can learn how World War II lifted us out of the Great Depression but not about Jim Crow. We can learn about “the greatest generation” but not about how they brutalized Black people and ignored racism.


Why is that?

That was a rhetorical question. The answer is abundantly clear:

Because it makes white people uncomfortable.

Well, think how uncomfortable it must be to hear America praise its past while ignoring what it did to Black people. Imagine what someone who was a product of that past must think when they hear about American “exceptionalism” or “liberty and justice for all?”


That was a rhetorical question. The answer is abundantly clear:

Y’all want to continue doing that shit.

I saw this conversation on The Real Racist’s Facebook page. While the conversation was about Zack’s racism, they contained a complaint we here about a lot—The Root’s motto: “The Blacker the Content the Sweeter the Truth.”


From: Jay
To: Zack

To call this guy Zach a racist is like saying Trump was not that bad a president. Look around at his race inciting works. His White hate is always on display. Zach is right, racism won’t die off when old white people die. Oh hell no, these young black racist will make sure of it. Hate runs deep in this dude.

From: Greg

To: Zack

Have you ever considered having an open and honest conversation about how some of the problems Black people face could possibly be due to their own poor choices or do you just want to continue to blame White people as a whole for all your problems? And you call us racist?? It’s so much easier to blame everyone and everything else for your problems than to take a long, hard look in the mirror. Try it sometime.

From: Jay
To: Greg

Thank you Greg, I just read Zachs latest article on Yahoo about the OKE students. He is beyond racist. Keep in mind he writes for The Root where the motto on the front page is “The Blacker the Content the Sweeter the Truth” Can you imagine that in white? That’s the thing the double standard is beyond laughable of all the Black’s KKK websites. That’s the problem he misses. From what I see the blacks like him are minting a whole new generation of hatred. Let be real. The poor me attitude is old and worn. Some great people of color have risen to every job and level of wealth in the land. We have had a black president and FYI it took the white vote to put him there so lets stop with the underdog shit. What racist Zach doesn’t get we reap what we sow and he sows the seeds of racism in everyone he meets and spreads the white hate to all he can. Greg its clear Zach is a immaterial in the nation healing. Its up to folks with open minds and hearts. Keeping a distance from the black KKK like Zach is a start.


Dear Greg and Jay,

I see you have a problem with our motto. You won’t believe how many emails we receive about this. Even I have a problem with it because no one even considered my suggestions for a slogan.


Here are some of my rejected mottos:

  • The Root: Making white people mad since 2008
  • The Root: You won’t believe what white people did this time!
  • The Root: Because Zack Linly hates white people but he also needs a job.
  • The Root: Blackness, unfiltered (but kinda filtered because of DICKWAD)
  • The Root: Not BlackThought and Questlove ‘nem.
  • The Root: Also, not the movie
  • The Root: Also, not TheGrio. (That’s our playcousin but we all look alike)
  • The Root: Real nigga shit.
  • The Root: If white people wrote this about Black people, we’d call them racists, even though we don’t call them racists because of what they say, we call them racists because of the shit they are always doing and if they stopped being racist and replaced their racism with some content on a website, we’d be pretty happy about that and this slogan is pretty long but it sums up our position and isn’t that what slogans are for?
  • The Root: Y’all muhfuckas think it’s a game?
  • The Root: White people are gonna be mad, anyway.

I can’t believe they didn’t like any of these.