Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/GMG)

It’s my work-iversary!

Two years ago today, I began working at The Root as a staff writer. Since then I have been trying to get a promotion and a raise based on the responses I often receive from our white readers.

In many of the emails, tweets, direct messages and comments, I am often accused of being a race baiter. Many people say I am being racist against whites for clicks and money.

I actually took this to my superiors and asked if I could change my official title to Editor in Charge of Race-Baiting and was immediately rebuffed. They also declined to change my position to Senior White People Correspondent. And when I asked if I could change my pay structure and create some kind of commission for the number of white people I piss off, my higher-ups just laughed.

However, I am not motivated by money or clicks. I do it for the love of the game. After a full day at work, I still sometimes just go out for some recreational, pick-up race-baiting. I even participate in a fantasy league that awards points for making white people mad. On my off days, I’ll go out to the park and coach a little league race baiting team.

Advertisement

So it is not just about the money.

Plus, if I stopped, the mailbag would suck.


This week, we published a story about the players on the Clemson University football team who chose not to visit the Trump Administration’s White House Hamberder Festival.

Advertisement

While many applauded the players’ decision to stand up for what they believe, the story ignited a storm of criticism from white Clemson fans, Trump supporters and even the media.

From: Robert J.
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Clemson football

Seriously dude

Stay outta clemson football

I am offering you an opportunity to come on down to SC for a bit stay at my home, and get a real education about something you know nothing about. Im sure i want hear anything from your pimp.ass since race baiting to make money is all your about. You had me kicked off twitter last time i disagreed with you in a manner no more racist than you preceded. But really man come spend some time learning before spewing bullshit

Advertisement

From: Robert J.
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Clemson football

Where do you think this race baiting is gonna get you ...$$$$

I mean why dont you call it what is assholes being assholes

You know as well as anyone that good white people hate racist assholes just as much as black people, why are ya’ll hell bent on driving a wedge between people.

Advertisement

Dear Clemson fans,

Since this story aired, The Root has gained some information from other sources that we seemed to have missed in our reporting. I would like to personally apologize to our readers for our mistakes and explain what happened.

Advertisement

First of all, it should be noted that not one single player has contradicted the facts in our story. Clemson’s president even appeared on Cheddar, a news channel to which I regularly contribute. When asked about the story, he avoided it altogether.

A few Twitter users wondered how other writers missed the story. Matt Connolly, the Clemson beat writer for SC’s largest Newspaper, The State, attempted to cover his ass and deflect from the fact that he missed the story by trying to debunk our piece.

Advertisement

In his desperate attempt, Connolly even listed every single Clemson player who visited the White House and every single player who didn’t. The Root also had access to this list but decided not to single out individual players. But Connolly’s reporting also uncovered something that we also missed:

  • 45 players declined the trip to the White House McNugget buffet...
  • 43 of those players were black.

So, not only were the players who stayed behind 95 percent black, but 98 percent of Clemson’s white players chose to go to the White House. Only two white players didn’t go.

Advertisement

Which raises a larger point.

Black people are often accused of injecting race into everything. People often say that we “make everything about race” and even turn conversations about politics and sports into racial discussions. This understandably makes some people mad.

As a native of South Carolina, I know that Clemson football is both a religion and a pastime. And as a former football player, it is one of the few places where there is very little room for privilege. At the very highest level of college football, tolerating mediocrity can cost coaches like Dabo Swinney millions.

Advertisement

So imagine being a black football player and living in a universe where your talent and ability gives you at least some measure of equality, if only in the confines of the football field. You are judged solely on your actions. Imagine someone giving you the opportunity for a free college education based on your hard work and athletic ability. Imagine being constantly told that you can achieve your ultimate goal by sticking together and acting as one.

Imagine that one day, that dream comes true and you are crowned National Champions of the sport you have played since you could walk and talk. Imagine how it must feel to have everyone look at you with admiration and respect. Now imagine that, as you are praised by the world and everyone around you, someone invites you to their house for dinner. And you know this man stands against everything that got you where you are.

He stands for division. He stands for mediocrity. He stands for a lack of integrity. He stands for lying and cheating. But most of all, he stands against you; against all the people who look like you. So you make the decision not to go.

Advertisement

Now, imagine what it must feel like to see your teammates go. Imagine how it feels to see your coaches, your friends, the people who scrapped and fought with you all year, decide to overlook the racist statements and actions of a man who believes you are a lesser human being.

Imagine what it feels to know you have sacrificed your body, time and life for those very same people. And in your championship moment you are still reminded that for the 243rd year in a row, there is still one team that you will never be able to beat:

The undefeated, number-one ranked, national champions...

White people.


After the article about Tom Brokaw’s comments on assimilation, this was a banner week for “go back to Africa” letters.

Advertisement

From: Bofdem-Goo
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Great Article

You don’t like America?

Go back to AIDS EBOLA AFRICA. That’s ANYTHING you’ve black produced you stupid begro.

ride the boats back.

You will ALWAYS - always - be stupid

SAT - black stupid

ACT - black dumb

Your names are stupid. Shanequa live in the projects.

Her baby daddy in jail

You are a monkey. Animal

Gang infested baboon.

Go get your dialysis you REGGIN

From: Joan
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Why do you hate America?

If I brought someone to live in my home and they complained about it all the time, I would tell them to go back to where they lived. If all “white people” are racist and “America” is a white supremacy society then why are you still here? There’s nothing holding yoiu here at all.,

i don’t understand why assmilation has to be racist when it is just the culture.

Dear Joan and Bofdem;

I think your ideas are stellar. The only problem is, over the course of history, white people have fucked up Africa, too.

Advertisement

So in my quest for a solution, I have consulted with the original Native American owners of this “home;” the “reggin” population who remodeled it, as well as our Hispanic neighbors. We came up with this letter:

Dear white people,

We, the undersigned people of the United States of America have started a crowdfunding campaign designed to fix all of the problems in America. In fact, we kinda stole the idea from you so we are sure you won’t object.

We want to send white people back to Wypipostan.

Ever since you came here, our neighborhood has decreased in value. And while you brought a lot of white on white crime, littering and destruction of property, researchers say that, as soon as you got here, you brought diseases that were much worse that AIDS or Ebola.

Now I would never be racist by calling white people a “disease” but PBS says: “More victims of colonization were killed by Eurasian germs, than by either the gun or the sword, making germs the deadliest agent of conquest.”

It has also become increasingly obvious that you cannot assimilate to our culture. There was war and conflict before you came here but it never endangered our entire population. None of the Native American tribes thought that the other tribes should be put onto reservations. There were not genocides of innocents.

Not only did you refuse to learn the language, but you also refused to dress in a manner that we were accustomed to, wearing silly tri-cornered hats, powdered wigs and stupid waistcoats. Why won’t you just assimilate into the culture and wear your natural hair? Why don’t you have more non-white friends. Why do you guys insist on living in your own neighborhoods?

Also, we want to talk about your work ethic. You are one of the laziest groups of people who ever lived. I’ve seen people look for the remote control for hours instead of turning the television, but you people sailed across the world to find free labor. That’s just damn lazy.

We can’t understand why anyone would come to another land and insist on keeping their own inferior culture. After all these years you still refuse to season your food, dance on beat or acknowledge our customs. And why do you insist on stealing our cultures? Before you came, do you think Sioux Warriors stole Seminole tribal dances, Navajo cultural markers or Cherokee songs?

Plus, I know it is in your nature to kill for sport. But after you ran out of buffalo, we had no idea you’d just switch to indigenous and black people. I gotta say, it’s disturbing. We no longewr feel safe around you.

So we got together and came up with this unanimous solution. We acknowledge that we had to talk some people into this proposal. For instance, a few of our Mexican coalition wanted to build a wall but we convinced them of the stupidity of that idea.

We promise the trip back to your homeland will be nice, even if the ships might be a little overcrowded. I’m sure you won’t mind. It’ll be nostalgic, like camping. Think of it as a Confederate reenactment. We’ve also built some nice cabins in the Caucus mountains that you will enjoy. It’s kind of a reservation but you can build some casinos and farm all the kale you want.

After all, we’re just trying to Make America Great Again.

Sincerely,

Real Americans.

PS: If you’d like to contribute, go to GoFuckYou.com/GoBackToCaucasia


Finally, these are a couple of correspondences on the subject of why I talk about race so much:

From: CHS
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: White privilege isn’t real

You are obsessed with race. If people like you stopped talking about it like it is everywhere then maybe POC wouldn’t see racism everywhee they look.

I wake up every day and try to feed my family. I don’t worry about what others are doing and how someone feel about me. I take responsiblility for the outcome. Maybe that’s what you should do instead of being a whiny victim.

Advertisement

Dear CHS and John,

This isn’t a clapback.

The other night, I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t go back to sleep so I watched an episode of HBO’s True Detective. In one scene, Mahershala Ali’s character leaves the money on the bar for his drink and exits in a hurry.

Advertisement

In 72 percent of movies, there’s a character eating in a booth in a diner or having a drink at a bar when he receives an urgent call or someone delivers an urgent message. The character will then reach into his pocket, pull out some money, plop it on the table and just leave the restaurant.

Whenever I see this, it gives me so much anxiety.

I think: “What if they see he’s leaving and think it’s a dine and dash?” You know they’re gonna call the police and when the cops show up, the waitress ain’t gonna say shit about the $20 he left on the table because... why would she? I don’t even blame her. She’s gotta survive on tips and it’s not her fault. It’s this capitalist society’s fault.

Advertisement

But now the character is riding around with a warrant for petit larceny until, one day, he’s on the way to his daughter’s dance recital (people in movies always have to go to dance recitals) when a cop pulls him over for speeding. When they run his name, he’s gonna see a warrant. And the character is gonna tell the cop that he’s a law abiding citizen, there must be some mistake.

And the officer will say: “Sir, please step out of the car.” (Because that’s how police talk in the movies. In real life...not so much) But, distracted and annoyed about being late for his baby’s dance recital, he’s going to insist that they just double-check the warrant and run his name again.

Now he’s resisting.

As the innocent officer prepares to drag our beloved character out of the car, the character’s phone ring because everyone is at the recital waiting on his late ass. He hears it ring and —knowing it is his daughter—reaches for it, and BOOM! They shoot him dead.

Advertisement

Now, a single mother has to raise her daughter alone. And every time she dances she’ll remember her father’s murder. And she’ll end up alone for the rest of her life because who wants to date someone who bursts into tears whenever she hears: “Cash Money Records taking over for the 99 & 2000”?

Now, this has never happened to anyone I know, and it is all in my head so it might sound crazy.

But in America, cops are 2.8 times more likely to pull over a black driver and black people commit non-arrestable misdemeanors at about the same rate but black people are still 3-5 times more likely to be arrested for a ticketable offense.

Advertisement

So if you ever wonder what white privilege is, that’s it. It has nothing to do with money or income. It’s the freedom of not having to wonder if you look like you’re “lurking” in this convenience store because you have a hoodie on. It’s being able to live anywhere you can afford to live, to drive slowly through a white neighborhood looking for an address without anyone wondering why there’s a suspicious guy roaming in the neighborhood.

It’s being a Clemson beat writer who is so mediocre you missed the biggest story in your state but still being able to keep your job. It’s being able to make a decision without giving a second thought to the color of your skin when you’re invited for free hamburgers. It’s not having to think about whether speaking your native language upsets white people.

It’s the ability to drink a beer and just walk out without contemplating death, suspicion and the implications of your perceived criminality.

Advertisement

Or maybe the pay-for-your-beer thing is just some bullshit white people do in the movies. Perhaps I’m injecting a racial narrative into something that isn’t about race at all.

Maybe I shouldn’t think about race so much.

But that’s a white privilege, too.