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 Story of Clapback-idon

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What is beef?

Allow me to explain using the words of the immortal poet Amos Definitely (I think that’s Mos Def’s real name):

Beef is not what these famous niggas do on the mic,
beef is what George Bush would do in a fight.
Beef is not what Ja said to 50,
beef is more than Irv not bein’ here with me.
When a soldier ends his life with his own gun,
beef is tryin’ to figure out what to tell his son
Beef is oil prices and geopolitics.
Beef is Iraq, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Some beef is big and some beef is small
but what y’all call beef is not beef at all

I’m back!

Many of you don’t know this, but I am embroiled in a beef with Deputy Managing Editor Yesha Callahan because she conspired to have me suspended last week so that she could break my page-view record. I know I wasn’t even close to her numbers, but I was planning a vigorous comeback. [Editor’s note: 8.2 million is a pretty lofty goal to beat. Godspeed! —Yesha]


She said it was because I was working too hard, meaning I was the first non-police officer to be suspended with pay. I like how she pretended that she cared about me. Ha! I know that’s a lie! [Editor’s note: I only care about three things: page views, the elderly and kids. Not all kids, though ... you can keep those unruly types. Wait ... same goes for the elderly, too. —Yesha]

Even though she found me on the internet, got me this job, gives me advice, pre-emptively attacks anyone who tries to throw shade my way and forces self-care on me, I know she’s up to something. All the time we spend talking to each other on Slack and the fact that she will wake up at the crack of butt cheek and call me is probably part of her devious plan. I haven’t figured out exactly what it is yet, but I’m watching her.


Anyway, at least nothing happened while I was gone. I haven’t checked, but I bet there was no mailbag last week, Roseanne Barr is likely preparing for another season of her hit show, and Drake is probably still basking in the glow of his victory over Pusha T.

Speaking of beef, The Root’s staff received a variety of emails, tweets and messages from people trying to start mini-beefs this past week. In my absence, some of these “beef patties” went unaddressed.


Allow me to reintroduce myself.

I just checked, and apparently, last week Roseanne Barr said something about Valerie Jarrett, and wypipo jumped to Barr’s defense by using a tweet from staff writer Monique Judge that called Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson “a monkey of the porch variety.”


Dear White People:

The term “porch monkey” is, in fact, a racist term. As such, it would be lazy for me to insinuate that Monique can say whatever she wants about Carson because she is black. Monique’s tweet was hilarious and it was insensitive with racial undertones. There is no way around it. However, let’s look at this using pure mathematical logic. Your ultimate point is this. If:

  1. What Roseanne said about Donald Trump was racist, and ...
  2. What Monique, Joy Reid and Bill Maher said was racist, then ...
  3. All racist comments should be treated equally.

In your mission to justify and excuse what Barr did, you had to dig through months of Monique’s tweets to find a statement close to Barr’s.


Doesn’t the fact that Monique’s tweet was seen by thousands of black people and none of them found it offensive make your point irrelevant? Furthermore, Channing Dungey, the president of ABC and Barr’s (former) boss, is a black woman and decided to fire Barr. It wasn’t the public who got Barr fired—it was the perception of a black person who objected to what Barr said about another black person.

Monique’s boss is black and didn’t fire her. Most of Monique’s followers are black, and they didn’t unfollow her. In fact, the people who are faux outraged by Monique’s tweet are mostly white! You are suggesting that Monique should be punished for a tweet that bothered no one until you declared it egregiously racist. A thing cannot be offensive if no one is offended. That is not a double standard; that is simply a standard.


But here is where your logic falls apart.

Your argument means that you think Barr should be fired, too!

In the case of Monique, I understand where you are coming from. She is offensive. She has privately called me offensive names like “nigga” and “country as fuck.” But in this particular case, I must disagree with you.


You are flakes of the snow variety.

From: Carl P.
To: Michael Harriot

You deceptive ape

There is a huge difference between a European people who were deliberately kept poor and the negative consequences that followed for centuries (blaming the victim) and sub-saharan Africans. Low IQ is your demographic’s problem, and that can’t be fixed, which is why you resort to this pitiful emotional squeal.


Dear Carl:

Please refer to any one of our previous mailbags for an automated response.



A young Becky searched Instagram to tell me that she disagreed with my article on Kim Kardashian West:


From: melixduran
To: Michael Harriot

Since white people freed Alice, I will never help a black person again. Helping one would label me a supremacist, therefore I will not do so. Thanks!


Dear melixduran:

I would first like to offer my condolences. I can only imagine how difficult it must be going through life with such a low level of reading comprehension. In fact, I think you might want to find a friend to explain this reply in monosyllabic words.


I would never besmirch your intelligence, but in the article, I repeatedly insisted that Kim Kardashian West’s use of her privilege to help Alice Marie Johnson was a good thing. I did not call her a white supremacist anywhere in that letter. In fact, in order to keep the title under the optimum length, I shortened the headline from “A Thank-You Letter to Kim Kardashian for Proving That the Only Thing Stronger Than White Supremacy Is White Privilege.”

In writing the piece, I must admit that I was prepared to be attacked by stanning Beckys who struggled with accepting privilege and learning their times tables past the 9s.


I want to thank you for complimenting my writing ability. I was not aware that my words had such power. Apparently, before reading my piece, you were all set to go out and fight for social justice and freedom, but once I attacked Kardashian West with such reason and vigor, you obviously said to yourself, “Fuck those Negroes; let them rot in jail.”

Your argument that my disparaging words were the ones that turned the tide and inspired you to stop helping black people is appreciated. Because I have such a large influence on you and your people, I have a few other insults that I’d like to hurl so that you can adopt the opposing positions:

  • Reverse racism is real.
  • Everything on Fox News is true.
  • Donald Trump is a genius and a social justice warrior.
  • All lives matter.
  • Your potato-salad recipe needs more fruit flavor.
  • White women are as beautiful as black women.
  • Unseasoned chicken is delicious.

Again, thanks for the respect.

These commenters objected to contributing editor Angela Helm’s use of the term “light-skinned” in her title about Drake’s shelved response to Pusha T.


From: unothray

The title of the article sounds sort of racist. What does “light-skin” have to do with it? Well..with Drake everything..from day one, I know. And Pusha T smartly and effectively turned the battle into that sort of warfare - an “are you black enough?” sort of trashing. Its always been the elephant in the room with Drake anyways. I dont think this turned into a lyrical battle that Drake could prove his skills. Kendrick would be a better opponent because he’s from his generation and he has a moral compass. Pusha T made a clever diss that got the W but not the moral victory. It was in the vain of “Superugly” and “Hit Em Up” which is fine but there is no to win but go to his level of pettiness. Trump does the same thing to the democrats. What can you do but meet him at that level? But Drake has a lot more to lose - most of all respect - because his fans like him because he’s a good guy. He didnt ask for beef Pusha like all his beefs, his opponent started it and in this case, he literally wrote bars/helped his boss/beatmaker a few weeks earlier. Im glad Drake didnt get dragged down in a crab-in-a-bucket battle and im certain he had a diss lined up (If it Kanye/Pusha-destroying, its probably debateable. But Pusha’s style of ridiculing a sick friend, his mother and father and trying to paint him as a racist? Its low-balling. Its what Benzino did, Jay-z did with “Superugly” and what 2Pac did with “Hit Em up”. Its fine he won but I prefer when the clear winner also wins on a moral front. Sorry, Im a fan of both artists but this just feels sleazy.


And this one:

From: Pangean vs King Fedora in Destroy all Neckbeards:

Here on the root, “light-skinned” is vernacular for “thin-skinned”. It alludes to colorism and the supporting stereotype that darker hued African Americans are mentally and emotionally more resilient.

I consider the Root as brilliant insight in to the lives and thoughts of African Americans, but the light-skinned slang makes me wince.


You guys are right.

The light-skinned trope is a long-standing internet meme, but despite what some would have you believe, the colorism debate didn’t originate with slavery and “house niggers” vs. “field niggers,” as some suggested. While there may have been some dissension between slaves who were the offspring of slave masters and those who weren’t, they were all slaves, and slave masters raped women who worked in the field as often as they raped the ones in the house.


The animus really dates back to the post-slavery period when white people believed that black people with lighter skin were obviously smarter because they had white blood. This led to better job and educational opportunities and even preferential treatment in society. This is not even an American phenomenon. The worldwide preference for lighter skin exists in Caribbean countries like Haiti and the Dominican Republic, in India, and even in European countries like Spain and Italy.

But just as we adapted and transformed the n-word, we did the same with colorism. We made it ours. We make jokes about it. We laugh at it. By doing so, we make it stupid. Jokes characterizing weakness and softness as light-skinned seems stupid because they are supposed to be. That’s the entire point of a joke. It is as stupid as thinking that people with darker skin are dumber or less attractive.


I do, however, agree with Angela’s characterization of Drake’s nonresponse as “light-skinned.” It is nowhere near the most light-skinned thing that happened last week.

Your comments are.

Finally, last week, when Kim Kardashian West met with President Donald Trump, our weekend social media editor, Corey Townsend, tweeted this:


The black website Bossip, known for its hilarious headlines, did something very light-skinnedededededed—insinuated that we were stealing its swag—and tweeted this:


I think this was hilarious. I believe that black media, and black people in general, should stick together in solidarity. I love a good joke, and we took it all in fun. I don’t even think Bossip was throwing shade at The Root. In fact, we love them so much that we once wrote a complimentary story about how funny we find their headlines to be.


However, this is the Clapback Mailbag.

While the tweet was funny, I am saddened by the fact that I didn’t get to roast Bossip back, so here goes:

Dear Bossip:

While we appreciate the joke, we apologize for the delay in our response. You are the undisputed king of headlines. There is no doubt about that. In fact, if the content under the headlines weren’t a Cliffs Notes version of The Root’s content, I might even read it sometimes.


[Editor’s note: Harriot said it. That settles it. —Yesha]

But then again, if I wanted to swipe right to see something interesting, I’d log on to Tinder. Why do I have to figure out a Rubik’s Cube and put together a jigsaw puzzle to see what the girl who used to guest-star on Good Times wore to the NAACP Awards after-party’s after-party?


But I get it. Breaking up a “story” that is really a collection of Instagram posts into 11 separate web pages interspersed with ads for shit I’m never going to buy actually gets more page views. Not a lot of page views, because we know your numbers are so low that they don’t even show up on the charts. Roasting against you is like Jay-Z vs. Soulja Boy.

Wait ... that was uncalled for.

At least Soulja Boy has one hit.

If I were going to clap back, I’d respond to your invoice with something like this:


But I’d never do that.

J. Prince told me not to respond.

Editor’s note:


I guess this was worth the wait on a Friday afternoon when I’d rather be napping! —Yesha