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 Unreasonable Black Man

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Illustration: Oscar Bustamante

I believe most people are reasonable.

In fact, there is an objective legal test called the “reasonable man” theory. Basically, when a judge or jury is trying to determine whether or not someone is guilty of a crime—especially negligence—the judge or jury must ask themselves if a reasonable man would act this way. If the accused person’s conduct is unreasonable, they are guilty.

The “reasonable man” test derives from the description of a nondescript English character called the “man on the Clapham omnibus,”—a reasonably educated but average, hypothetical passenger on a London bus route whose actions are defined as “ordinary.” For instance, the reason why police are often acquitted of killing citizens is that juries determine that a “reasonable” police officer would have fired at the victim even if the officer turned out to be wrong and the victim was unarmed

When I first heard this principle, the first thing I thought was:

“A white person came up with this.”

Because all of our opinions are shaped and colored by our experiences.“Reasonable” is a subjective notion. Only white people get to have their perceptions made into a reality that everyone else must abide by. Think about how much privilege one must enjoy to have their feelings become an actual law that governs the actions of people everywhere.


Except in the Clapback Mailbag.

Here, it is the white people who are unreasonable.

And I am just a Black man on the American omnibus.

Our first two letters are about the incessant bias towards Black Lives Matter:

From: C.M.
To: Danielle Belton

I find the article written by Anne Braigin is very bias and racist towards other groups expressing their beliefs, they did not burn down business like blm did! They did not push over statues and spray paint all over everything like blm did! So what makes them so different? Shame on all you journalist that are bias and spread false truth to get what you want! I truly hope America wakes up and stops reading listening too or believing anything that journalist print!

From: John P.
To: Michael Harriot:

SILENCE from silly “BLM”, maybe because black on black crime does not matter!!! It don’t count. Whatever that’s supposed to mean!!!

Dear CM and John P.

Yesterday, I attended the committee meeting of Black Lives Matter Thugs, Inc. and read your email aloud. We would love for you to come address our group but there’s one problem:

Our membership is so low.

For years, BLMT has been trying to recruit more thugs into our organization, but for some reason we can’t figure out, no one ever comes. I have suggested to our governing board that these thugtivists don’t routinely join organized advocacy groups but they always shout me down and point to letters like yours, insisting that there must be a large contingent of people who are interested in committing violent acts in the name of Black Lives Matter.


Of course, if white people say it, it must be true.

So I decided to find someone who knows. I found some tape of the head of the FBI, the largest law enforcement agency in America. If anyone knew about the Blacktifa movement, they would. Here is the exchange between FBI counterterrorism chief Michael McGarrity and Rep Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass):

Pressley: How many extremist murders has the FBI linked to Black Lives Matter or similar Black activist groups?

McGarrity: We don’t work Black Lives Matter. It’s a movement. It’s an ideology. We don’t work that.

Pressley: So the answer is none. Can you just say that for the record? There has been no killing that the FBI can link to Black Lives Matter or similar Black activist groups, to your knowledge.

McGarrity: To my knowledge—I’d have to go back—but to my knowledge, right now, no.

“Well damn,” I said. “All those white people can’t be wrong.”

Then I read John’s letter and decided to see why Black Lives Matter was so silent about this boy’s murder. I went to the group’s web page and was just about to send the message when I read that BLM’s mission is “to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.”


“Goddammit!” I screamed. “Why would Black Lives Matter be involved in something that didn’t fall under their mission statement?”

It’s like asking why the fire department didn’t have anything to say about a murder. Why is the post office so silent about the opioid problem? And why won’t the March of Dimes say anything about police brutality?”


A reasonable person wouldn’t call you stupid. They might, however, hypothesize that you are posing these irrelevant questions to demonize a movement that you don’t support. Anyone looking at this objectively would assume someone so vehemently opposed to Black Lives Matter must not want to “eradicate white supremacy” and agrees with “violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.”

Therefore, it seems perfectly reasonable for me to assume that you are stupid or that you are a violent, white supremacist who likes when Black people are killed by police officers or vigilantes.


But, because I am not a reasonable person, I don’t think this about you.

I think you’re just white.

This made people mad:

From: Joda Tai
To: Michael Harriot

I’m a niggerologist, you good with that right?


I already assumed it from the number “1488" in your email address anyway

Here is a reasonable explanation from the comment section about the article on Trumpism:

From: Tryingtounderstand
To: Michael Harriot

So, I voted Republican even though it would benefit me more personally to vote Democrat. Here is how I see it, say you have 2 families, 1 D and 1 R, both in debt. The Democrat dad lets his family talk him in to using their credit cards to get what they want now benefitting them more, the Republican dad says no and they use their money wisely getting out of debt and securing a brighter future. I know this is over simplification of the real subject but the basic concept seems to be how politics are in our country. Democrats want tax funded things like college debt relief etc. while Republicans want to strengthen our economy for a more rewarding future.


Dear Tryingtounderstand

This is a great analogy that needs to be workshopped a little bit. Here’s how I see it:

You have two families, one Democrat, one Republican, both in debt. The Democrat dad lets his family talk him into using their credit cards to get what they want now benefitting them more.


But the Democrat family knows that the dad is paying the credit card with their paycheck. So when the Democrat mom gets sick, she thinks dad should pay her medical bill with her credit card. Democrat son wonders why his school is so shitty when dad is using the credit card to fund schools in white neighborhoods. Democrat daughter wonders why dad won’t use the card to repay a loan to a state college that she funded. Why doesn’t he just pay it off and stop the interest from killing her? They’re broke anyway!

Meanwhile, Republican dad is running up a higher debt while making is family think he’s fiscally conservative. His family is paying his bills, too. But he’s taking their money and giving it to a wealthier corporation. Dad says that he’d rather Republican wife stay sick than pay her medical bills. Dad sends Republican son to a charter school and calls it “school choice.” Republican dad tells Republican daughter that Jesus knows what she should do with her vagina but Republican dad believes in “religious freedom” and “individual liberty.”


Then, one day, Republican dad comes home and finds the entire family sitting in the living room in front of a pile of money.

“Where’d this money come from?” asks Republican wife.

“Well, there’s something I should have told you,” Republican dad begins. “We’re actually very rich. I’ve been keeping all the money we make and paying for everything with the credit card.”


“But what about my school?” the son asks.

“Oh, I put it on the Democrat family’s credit card” Republican dad replies.

“But what about my healthcare?” asks Republican mom. “You said we couldn’t afford it.”


“Well actually, I found out that they put unpaid bills on the Democrats’ credit card, too!” dad explains.

“But that isn’t very Christian,” the Republican daughter says. “I thought we believed in family values?”


“And what happens when the other families can’t pay it?” the son asks. “Won’t they pass that debt onto us by increasing our interest rate and making us pay more fees? Won’t the Democrats have to resort to crime to pay their bills if they don’t have education or money? Won’t that make our community less safe? What will we do when we are face-to-face with these problems?”

The dad paused for a second. It was obvious that he is deep in thought.

“Well,” he finally said. “I guess we’ll just blame the niggers.”

The end.