The Root's Clapback Mailbag: The Seinfeld of Mailbags

Illustration for article titled The Root's Clapback Mailbag: The Seinfeld of Mailbags

Yesha’s back, which means I have to sit here and write an extended lede.

Sometimes I feel like Yesha’s just being mean to me. I bet she doesn’t even read these intros. I could probably ramble on about anything and she would just check to see if there were the requisite amount of words to satisfy her evil plan to crush my spirit.


[Editor’s note: Why are you so insufferable? -Yesha]

In fact, that’s what I’m going to do today. I’m just going to rant like an episode of Seinfeld until I feel like this intro is long enough. I know this isn’t a very black thing to say but I always loved that show. How about that Kawhi Leonard trade? You know who it hurts the most? Drake.

Seriously, the only way Drake was to redeem himself was to make a whole song about a nigga wearing braids in the 2018th year of our Lord and Savior Robert Mueller. But now that Kawhi is on Drake’s favorite team, Drizzy can’t even do that.

Also, you know what’s an underrated food? Bologna. I know its reputation has been besmirched over the years, but it’s one of the few things that no one can fuck up. Plus, it has mayonnaise on it, so white people can’t complain about it.

Even though bologna is probably made from ground pig testes and chicken souls, a fried baloney sandwich always hits the spot. Especially if you cut a slit in it so that it looks like a meat Pac Man. Also, which is it, “baloney” or “bologna?” I roll with bologna because it feels more formal. “Baloney feels flaccid and weak to me.

This is how many of the emails, tweets and comments received by the staff of The Root sound when I read them—like a crazy person’s ranting.


Maybe Yesha should edit their correspondences and crush their spirits.

That should be enough to pass the Yesha Test. Here’s some mail.

[Editor’s note: Unlike yourself, I shield myself from the barrage of emails sent. Thank you Google and the lovely spam/block option. -Yesha]


These first 2 letters comes from yesterday’s piece based on the premise that White people built this country.


From: Jeffrey Levy
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Reparations

This question is meant in earnest: If you receive financial reparations for labor, does that not make you a contractor rather than the owner of the house and thereby not entitled to live in the house? I would think that fairness and true equality of citizenship would be the form of compensation to be sought, as hard as that may be. The constitutional issues were amended. It seems you are railing against the inherent nature of capitalist Western society while simultaneously seeking to enjoy its fruits. That’s a whole other struggle.

From: Martin Luther King of the Whites
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Here’s what black people get wrong

Your article on White people building America is the perfect example of what’s wrong with the black community. The fact that you complain about everything is why some people hate you. Even when you protest, You don’t do it peacefully as established by law, you block streets, burn your own neighborhoods and riot.

Should the indians also get reparations? How about the Irish? America was built by people who worked to better their situation instead of complaining about it. How about doing the same?


Dear Jeffrey and Martin:

Let’s talk about reparations. But instead of using supposition and hypotheses, let’s use historical fact.


When the beloved men now known as the Founding Fathers got tired of the oppressive bullshit, instead of working to “better their situation,” they decided to protest. But they didn’t peacefully protest like the whitewashed history of this country would have you believe, they put on disguises, like those damned Antifa terrorists, chanted and held a demonstration.

But you’re right. Even though there were about 200 agitators, they didn’t consider it a riot. Even though they destroyed the property of the businesses, they didn’t call it looting.


They called it the Boston Tea Party.

Unlike the blacks who are always bitching and moaning about their circumstances, refusing to better themselves, the Founding Fathers decided to take their fate in their own hand. So what did they do? Instead of yelling “Serenity now,” they got the white community together and came up with an ingenious plan:

They complained about the past.

“To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world,” they famously wrote in a letter bitching about a “long train of abuses and usurpations” that made them want to “alter their former Systems of Government.”


“In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms,” they said, adding: “Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury.”

They called their complaint letter the “Declaration of Independence.”

Since then, no other group in America has been treated harshly without some form of recompense. The native Americans were given land and reparations. The country apologized to the Japanese Americans interned during World War II and gave them redress. The U.S. even gave aid to Holocaust survivors. The idea of paying people when they have been wronged is literally the foundation on which the system of civil justice in this country lies.


So, Mr. Levy, if you truly believe that “fairness and true equality of citizenship would be the form of compensation to be sought,” the fairest and truest measure of equality would be actual compensation like this country has done for every other wronged population.

After all, it’s how America was built...

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

This entire dialogue just made me giggle.

From: Bhb
To: The Root Staff

Do you have something against white people seems that’s all the roots are about?

From: Yesha Callahan
To: Bhb

The Roots love all people:

(video attached)

From: Bhb
To: The Root Staff

Ok seems like everything is dogging white people and just like anyone else were not all the same

From: Yesha Callahan
To: Bhb meant THE ROOT?

[Editor’s note: Ok, so I only responded to this guy personally because he reminds me of my mother when she talks to her friends. “My daughter writes for The Roots,” she’ll tell people. Their response, “Can she introduce us to Black Thought?”]


This letter is not just a rant, it contains a collection of my favorite recurring themes in emails from readers. Instead of responding, I just wanted to point out some of my favorite parts of this letter.

From: Zel
To: Michael Hharriot
Subject: Lunacy

Mr. Harriot,

For quite some time now, I have been intrigued by your views in such a way it has led me to write you. Spare the flattery, because me being intrigued by your views isn’t a good thing. You being a columnist at “The Root” has probably been the worse thing that has ever happened to the black community as a whole. Since your stance is to continue the rise of the victim complex amongst black children, women, and men - I will speak for blacks who refuse to adopt your ideological worldview, when it comes placing the blame on the white man for problems in the black community. I am appalled by your agenda to divide blacks and whites only to please your egotistical, narcissistic personality in hopes of “opening eyes”. Your benefit to our society has done nothing but create an environment of victimhood and lacking self responsibility. Early mornings or late afternoons I don’t find myself coming across anything positive when it comes to race relations, rather the blaming of another ethnic group. You spew that blacks aren’t capable of doing anything successful or cannot have progress in this world/country as long as whitey is breathing over them. When’s the last time you took the mic and mentioned the black on black crime in the inner city? When’s the last time you took a stand for the black motherless homes? Fathers leaving homes? When’s the last time you addressed the fact that black mothers are in first place for aborting their children? Do you ever discuss any inventions that were created by blacks, which saves millions of lives of white, black, hispanic, etc people? Your stupidity is far from anything that is worth a listen. You struggle with your identity and to feel comfortable you hold others accountable. You aren’t a black figure to look up to. You aren’t anything this generation needs, its toxic. Stop dividing us from others and start standing up for something.


A black man.

Here are my top 5 parts of this letter.

5. The part where I am the worst thing that happened to the black community.

I’m sorry to say Zel is wrong here. We actually took an informal poll at last month’s black community meeting on the worst things to happen to the black community. While I am proud to announce that I landed in the top 20, me talking about racism actually fell lower on the list than Donald Trump, being shot in the face by a police officer, Jim Crow, slavery and actual racism.


I wish I had brought Zel’s letter. I probably could’ve made the top 10.

4. The part where Zel speaks for the black community

Zel writes that he will “speak for blacks who refuse to adopt your ideological worldview, when it comes placing the blame on the white man for problems in the black community.”


According to Zel, he and I have different world views. He believes everyone is equal. Yet he hates when I speak for the “black community,” but he empowers himself to do the same.

It’s contradictory, but I really like that part.

3. The part where I blame all the problems of the black community on the white man.

I hear this often because it is a common tactic used by dimwits. If we talk about police brutality, someone will ask about black on black crime. If someone mentions the prospect of Donald Trump colluding with the Russians, Republicans will bring up Barack Obama’s birth certificate, Hillary Clinton’s emails or Benghazi.


I’m paid to write about racism. I would never, nor have I ever asserted that racism is the only problem that black people face. But when writing specifically about racism, why would I or anyone else mention crime or single-parent families?

Furthermore, no one ever mentions the stories on The Root about black excellence. There is literally an entire section of the website dedicated to it. There are also sections on parenting, history, and even crime (although we choose not to segregate crime by race, because we choose not to—as Zel says—“divide blacks and whites.”)


It’s one of the better parts of the letter, though.

2. The part where I cause division by mentioning race.

I can’t lie, this part fascinates me.

The premise of this letter, and many others like it, is that talking about and separating problems by race is bad for race relations and bringing people together. Whenever anyone mentions this, they invariably begin to explain America’s race issue by naming the things that is wrong with “the black community.” Zel does it at least 13 times in his email.


But I thought it wasn’t all about race?

As master of his domain, Zel would say that he is trying to point out how people should take responsibility for their own actions, although no other group in the history of America does this.


Crime in white communities are due to illegal immigrants and economic issues, even though immigrants are less likely to commit a crime. They will point out the crime in “inner cities,” but if you mention that most mass shooters are white, they will blame it on on video games, movies and mental health. Although every government agency says that white, right-wing ideologues are the biggest terrorist threat, they will point the fingers at Islam.

Yet Zel writes that he can’t find “anything positive when it comes to race relations, rather the blaming of another ethnic group.”


But that’s still not my favorite part.

1. The white part

You wouldn’t believe how often I receive letters from white people like Zel, trying to convince me that they are really black people who have a different worldview. It’s actually a thing with white people on the internet. But I can smell whiteness a mile away.


Here’s a tip, white people: Maybe you haven’t noticed, but the last time you heard a black person on the radio or talked to a black person on the phone, they didn’t end the conversation with “By the way, I’m black.”

If you’re trying to make the point that everyone is alike and race does not matter, you don’t mention your race. It sounds stupid. It sounds like a humanoid alien trying to fit in by handing out business cards that say: “Bob Smith, Earthling.”


It is a tell.

But it’s still my favorite part.

From: Bree
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: You’re making a difference to Me and My Dad

Hi Michael,

This is a bit lengthy, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

I’ve been reading The Root every day for over a year and never has a website (many times your articles) been teaching me so much. Teaching me to STFU and listen. To read more black literature, to listen more fully to the experiences of black people in documentaries, and in life. To insert my privilege wherever and whenever the hell I can if it keeps racism at bay, even a bit. To realize that POC deserve their own spaces. That my being white doesn’t grant me access to every conversation or group.

I post your articles on my FB page because not many other places cover these incredibly important topics and happenings. That speaks volumes to me about our country.

I share your articles with my dad. He’s a teacher, and I think they’ve given him insight too. They must be doing something since he no longer tells me to “stop making *everything* about race” when I get angry over this swampland of injustice POC have to slog through just to survive. Now we talk about some of these articles. About how he can use his white privilege to help his black students. He knows the playing ground isn’t level for them. That it’s never been.

He’s brainstorming a program for his school; Older black/brown students tutoring and mentoring younger black/brown students, with the students making (or having a hand in deciding) almost every facet of how the program will run. It’s one school, but it’s a start. feels funny sharing this. I don’t deserve a pat on the back for acting like a decent a human being. But I wanted you to know that your words are reaching and teaching. I know I’m not done learning. That acknowledging my white privilege, and choosing where to insert it, will be a lifelong exercise.

Thanks to you, the rest of The Root staff, and many of the contributors, for giving me advice and insight. For guiding me on how to use my privilege, and for reminding me to keep using it.

Much respect,


Dear Bree,

You don’t deserve a pat on the back. I find your letter offensive.

I like everything about what you wrote because you are actually making a difference. The only part that bothers me is the way you signed the letter.


There’s no way I can take what you said seriously if you don’t refer to yourself as: “Bree, a white woman.”

No soup for you!

Much respect,

Michael Harriot
The 16th worst thing to ever happen to the black community as a whole

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


Andrew Daisuke

“You being a columnist at “The Root” has probably been the worse thing that has ever happened to the black community as a whole.”

I’m sure this person understands the black community extremely well and is qualified to make such an assertion.

But he can’t even say “worst”.

This is america, please learn the language.