The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: The Reverse Clapback

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

It’s Friday, you ain’t got no job (the U.S. lost 33,000 jobs this month, according to the new unemployment numbers), so you might as well chill with us and check out some mail from some of The Root’s disgruntled readers. (Is that enough of a lede, Deputy Managing Editor Yesha Callahan?* Yes, I’m dedicating this mailbag to you, and will continue to do so until you stop making me write these intros. The title says “Clapback Mailbag!” We clap back at people who send us angry emails, tweets and comments. Do I need to explain that every single time? It’s literally in the title!)


*Yesha’s out today, so please don’t tell her I said this. I’m a little bit scared of her. Actually, we’re very good friends and she knows I’m joking.

Also, I’m a little bit scared of her.

From: Peter A.
To: Breanna Edwards
Subject: Stop feeding Hate

The fact you condemn a white man as racist just proves you are racists yourself. I’ve looked at most of your articles and they are all about blacks this and blacks that. People who think like you do need to realize you are not minorites. You are not victims. Lets take a look at colleges for example. You have some that are for white only and same for black. Same can be said about neighborhoods. It’s the same thing. Instead of writing articles that directly paint color wrongs. Write about how we can find ways to make this better. I’m sick and tired of your crap as well as others like you meaning equality. Everyone has the opportunity to be great and have a fair share. It’s all in the mindset. I’m bipolar and have overcome a lot, stigma included. When i was met with stigma i educated. It’s worked so far. So please stop feeding the machine of hate because just like stigma the more people are divided the worse it will get.

Peter, this is a subject I’ve been wanting to discuss. I’m going to skip over the part where you think talking about race feeds hate because that’s just illogical. Racism is a cancer on American society, and I don’t write my doctor every time the American Cancer Society talks about cancer. You know why? Because I know taking about cancer doesn’t cause cancer. Furthermore ...

Wait ... what?

Peter, did you just say that historically black colleges and universities are like black neighborhoods: Some are for black people and some are for white people? Tell me you didn’t just say that, Peter.

HBCUs exist for the same reason black neighborhoods exist: because, for centuries, African Americans couldn’t live or go to school wherever they wanted. So we created our own. Should we have just remained uneducated and homeless? Is that what you would have liked, Peter?

Let’s talk about something more substantial for a moment, Petey. Have you ever heard of redlining? I’m not just some yahoo who writes drivel on the internet, Peter. I have an actual master’s degree in international economics, so this might get a little wonky for you.


When banks loan people money for homes, a government agency called the Federal Housing Administration insures those loans, meaning that if the borrower defaults on the loan, the bank doesn’t have to eat the loss. Because of this, banks can give people money for homes at relatively low interest rates.

In 1933 the FHA underwriting manual declared that “incompatible racial groups should not be permitted to live in the same communities.” Not only did the federal government of the United States stop insuring homes for black people who wanted mortgages and could afford to pay for them, but it also issued maps for neighborhoods where it was willing to insure mortgages. These maps had “red lines” around the places where black people lived. This meant that not only couldn’t black people get mortgages, but white people who wanted homes in these areas couldn’t get FHA mortgages.


And this, dear Peter, is how segregation became a federally backed government policy. Do you know when the policy ended, Peter?

Never. Countrywide, Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase have all recently lost or settled lawsuits for giving black borrowers higher interest rates than white customers.


That’s why black neighborhoods exist. That’s why it is important to talk about racism. It isn’t just an emotion; it is actionable policy. It is ingrained in the DNA of this country. It is a touchable, brick-and-mortar thing that affects education funding, policing and even ...

Wait ... what? Did you compare blackness to a mental illness, Peter?

Never mind. Forget everything I just said. You’re too stupid to understand.

Earlier this week, Yesha Callahan saw a report of Donald Trump tossing paper towels into a crowd of people in Puerto Rico, so she wrote this:


In response, one of our Trump-defending readers made this comment:

Image for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: The Reverse Clapback

The following is not a clapback at that commenter. It is a response to Yesha:

Darling Yesha,

I’m doing this to let you know the situation of JoJ0418, and why your clapback was inappropriate. You see, there are some people who lash out for perfectly valid reasons. Can’t you see that JoJ0418 is what some physicians, mental-health experts and North Korean leaders refer to as a “dotard”?


You might think it’s a funny word that has crept into pop culture, but it is actually a clinical term that has been used in the medical community for years. People who believe that the treasonous men who declared war on their own country should be celebrated with flags and statues are dotards. Fox News and Breitbart built media empires dedicated to dotards. Dotards love the lyrical genius of “Bodak Yellow,” the nuanced flavor of candy corn and the intellectual challenge of Family Feud. (Because Wheel of Fortune is too difficult, with all that spelling and shit.)

While you may recognize them from their grammatical errors and illogic, what you might not know is that 98.3 percent of dotards have very tiny penises.


This is why dotards are so frustrated. This is why they can’t rightfully object to your criticism without being crass and sexist. This is why JoJ0418 got upset over a post about the president of the United States acting like a DJ for a shitty classic-rock FM radio station, tossing T-shirts to fans, when he was at the site of a natural disaster with people who lost their homes, water and electricity. It’s not simply because Trump won 85 percent of the dotard vote; it’s partly because dotards have to masturbate their micropenises with the tips of their fingers.

And there you were, criticizing Trump for handing out Great Value napkins. What about the dotards who have semen all in the fingernails of their thumbs and pinkies, Yesha?


I hope you feel good about yourself. I’m reporting this to HR.

JoJ0418, you’re welcome.

To: Michael Harriot
From: Christian H
Subject I’m totally racist...

I’m not colorblind. I grew up in a white household that never spoke about race in depth except to say we’re all equal (the white suburban cliche, amirite!) The very few black people in my hometown in Utah always fascinated me. My history lessons in school were completely ‘whitewashed’. I never encountered real overt racism until I moved to Virginia when I was 17, cause there it was actually integrated with a diverse population. Shit needs to change in this country. Police abuses and the system that fosters it makes me fucking sick. I’m not a ‘white’ ally though, and I’m definitely not ‘woke’. I won’t pander to anyone’s bullshit. I can’t speak for the black race or it’s issues in modern day America, I can’t even speak for the white race. Systemic injustice is a cruel bitch that disproportionately affects minorities, I’ll agree. That’s about all I know for sure. I see hate everywhere, from all sides, and it’s only getting worse. I guess all I’m getting at is that I find your writing to be completely impotent in its objective of waking minds and changing thoughts. You say you don’t care about white people’s feelings or that you use generalizations to characterize them? That’s fine, but don’t think for a second while doing that that you’re making any real difference to bring the change you seek. Tough shit does need to be talked about today, but doing what you blame the other side of doing, even if it is a benign form of racial profiling that may seem to have no tangible real world consequence, only puts off the very people you claim have the power over the system that needs to be changed. The loudest voice, the majority of digital voices, does not represent the true narrative or heart of the average white person. As it doesn’t black people either. It only represents the ones who are the most butt-hurt and angry. This country’s political narrative is being run by knee-jerk reactionary click bait, metaphorically speaking. I don’t know you, I don’t really follow except for the articles of yours I read on the Root. For some reason though I felt compelled to find your contact info to write you this: Based on what I’ve read of your writings, I think you’re a dick. A total douche, but a very intelligent one. I don’t understand why great minds, articulate ones, use their intellect to create divisiveness through what they see as ‘absolute’ truths and dogmatic world views. On the other side of the issue, I think of Matt Walsh, who is also an intelligent douche nozzle. Are there racial tensions in this country? Abso-fucking-lutely! Am I racist? Probably to some degree, I guess we all are. It’s something I try to work on everyday. Though I consider it more cultural-ist than an actually issue with skin tone. That’s where the divide lies, in the complete misunderstanding and lack of empathy, and that is not limited to only one race, but it takes all of them to overcome that if shit ever changes. I don’t deny anyone’s culture or race, we’re all entitled to love ourselves as we are made and I applaud that, but not everything is as black and white as it seems. Tell me, what implementation of change do you foresee happening to ever actually live in a post-racial country? Honestly curious. You probably won’t read this, but if you do thanks for taking the time


Sir Christian,

This is a very difficult email for me to clap back at, because I agree with almost everything you say, including me being a total dick. In fact, I’m probably more of a dick than you are a racist, Christian. And by “probably” I mean “likely.”


But here’s the thing, Christian: You have it all wrong. You seem to be under the impression that I and the rest of the writers at The Root are talking to you. There’s been a big misconception that I’d like to clear up.

The Root is a collection of the best black writers in the country. If there were some kind of writing Olympics, I bet we would kick all of the other organizations’, companies’ and publications’ collective butts. It wouldn’t even be close. We’re like the 1980s Soviet Olympic team on horse steroids and bull semen. We be writing our asses off.


But—and here is the caveat—we are not that good.

If we had the entirety of the English vocabulary at the tips of our typing fingers, all the journalistic talent that ever existed in the Milky Way Galaxy and every iota of wordsmithery skill available, not one of us could write something that would stop racist people from being racist. We aren’t even trying to do that. It is an impossible task. In fact, Christian, this is what might be the frustrating part to you:


We don’t give a fuck.

That’s right. If I can speak for all of us (and I can, because they knighted me in a secret clapback ceremony. There was a sword and everything. Plus, they don’t know I’m writing this*), there is not a single person on this staff who doesn’t think that black people are the strongest, most beautiful, most resilient people on the planet. No one and nothing can erase that from our hearts and souls. Because we are imbued with that belief, it empowers us to speak to our people with the swagger-tastic confidence of not giving a fuck what anyone else thinks about black people.


*Again, please don’t tell Yesha I said any of this.

The Root is a site for black people, by black people, about black shit. We are not in the business of transforming racists into social justice warriors or changing hearts and minds in hopes of reversing white supremacy. Words cannot do that. If they could, I would have slit my throat with the sharpest, shiniest razor I could find years ago. I would consider my life a failure.


We don’t mind if white people read our content. In fact, we like it when you do. But don’t think for a minute that we are selecting words while considering the sentiment of Caucasian acceptance.

I know that you are accustomed to existing in a universe where everything bends toward whiteness, but do not let that factoid delude you into believing that you are the sky. You are eavesdropping on a conversation among black people. We don’t care if you listen. In fact, we are happy that you are listening, but don’t be bamboozled into thinking we are talking to you.


We are not.


A dick.


Yesha Callahan

This would have never passed my eyes! Who edited this? Who approved this? Where’s Genetta?!

Also, I almost pee’d myself from laughing.

Also yes,you do need to explain..b/c dotards live on Kinja too.

I still can’t for the life of me figure out why everyone’s scared of me?! I’m such a nice & docile person.....

Who will fuck shit up at the drop of a dime....

Because I’m a leo..from NJ.