The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: The Unusual Suspects

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: The Unusual Suspects
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/G-O)
Clapback MailbagEach Friday, we select the best (or worst) emails, tweets, DMs and comments from our readers and respond to them in the The Root's Clapback Mailbag.

The biggest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing white people they weren’t racist.


His second biggest was to convince them to send emails, tweets, DMs and comments to The Root. Who are these people? Some say it’s angry wypipo. Others say it’s racist dummies. But to hear them tell it, they’re rational-thinking, concerned Americans who don’t see color and are definitely not racist.

Like Keyser Soze, racism has become a myth, an urban legend. No one believes in it. In fact, talking about racism has become more taboo than actual racism. They even named it. They call it “reverse racism,” or better yet, “the real racism.” It’s like the Real Roxanne, who was actually the second Roxanne. Maybe we should refer to discrimination as “racism Shanté.”

A wise man once said: “I don’t believe in God because I’ve never seen the guy.”

Well, I believe in racism, and the only thing that scares me is white people who don’t think they’ve ever seen it.

Our first correspondences were direct messages about two different articles. Yet, both managed to touch on the same thesis—that I am the real racist and that my ultimate goal is to blame the white man for black people’s troubles.


Matt was upset about my treatment of the girl who defaced a memorial to rapper and entrepreneur, Nipsey Hussle.

From: Matt
To: Michael Harriot

“Brazen act of whiteness?”

1. I’m white and I love Nipsey
2. The girl in the video is Hispanic, not white.
3. You’re a racist piece of shit

Go ahead blaming whitey for all your problems instead of getting real. You don’t have the courage to face the truth


Matty wasn’t finished:

From: Matt
To: Michael Harriot

Just read some more of your articles. You’re a giant fucking faggot and a moron.


But wait, there’s more.

From: Matt
To: Michael Harriot

You’re a bitch

Racists and liars are the worst type of people. You are both.

And then there was Paul, who was quite disturbed by my racism Shanté:

From: Paul W.
Tom: Michael Harriot

Wow bro you have to be the world’s most obvious fake journalist. All of your articles are about how bad the white man (I am Native, not white) is. Yet you don’t, not even one time, tackle black on black crime, the demographics of violent crime in America, or even black people shouting at and attacking Native American people’s at standing rock. Pretty pathetic...It’s cool though you’re the kind of citizen journalist who has a voice that was never earned by anything except racial hatred.


Dear Matt and Paul,

There was something about your letters that made me question myself. Do I blame everything on the white man? Am I too anti-white?


Now, I paid no attention to the part of Paul’s letter about black-on-black crime and the demographics of violent crime in America because there might not be another journalist in the entire country who has written about it more than I have. Still, I decided to look back at the last 100 pieces I have written to see if I was the real racist. Here are the results:

I write about race, so there’s that. No one asks people who write about crime why they always blame criminals.


I have called out a lot of white people for doing fuckshit, as I have done with black people. However, white people are in control of the House, the Senate, the Supreme Court, the presidency, almost every large Fortune 500 company, most media outlets and all the state legislatures, so it is only natural to expect that when fuckshit happens, they would be the ones being called out. Plus, when you consider the fact that there are five times as many white people in America, the numbers show that I don’t blame white people enough.

Oh my God, Matt and Paul, you were right! I am racist ...

Against black people!

I’m so glad you prompted this self-evaluation. If I am about anything, it is racial equality. So, to address this obvious racial disparity in my content, I vow to write more about white crime, racism and white supremacy.


Now, it may be that you only pay attention to the things I write when it supposedly defames people who like guacamole better than salsa and you overlook the fact that I address issues that affect white people like poverty, health care, education and criminal justice. But just in case, from now on, when white people victimize white people like in this story I wrote or this story, I will ignore it. And when black cops or black politicians commit unseemly acts, I’ll refuse to report it.

From here on out, I’m only fucking with white people.

Thank you for showing me the way.

Steve Harvey’s fans were really upset about a recent article. So much so that they, again, pointed out how I was racist for picking on a black man (I know, it doesn’t make sense).

From: Matthew D.
To: Michael Harriot

Just because your poor and racist doesnt mean you have the election of making everyone else broke along with you. You should have woken up earlier and really thought about what your saying before you write it and actually look up to steve harvey and be inspired by a man who grew up poor and worked for EVERYTHING he has and not waste his time on bringing people down but rising them up and looking for a positive in EVERY situation.

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: The Unusual Suspects

Dear Matthew and Stacie,

First of all, I would never take advice from anyone whose name ends in “cie.” I’ll forgive Matt’s ignorance because everyone knows that dumb people have trouble differentiating between you’re and your. It’s quite common among the people who spill white tears in my inbox. In fact, it’s one of the multiple choice questions on the IQ test (Idiot Quotient), which I assume Matt passed with flying colors because he sounds like he’s certified.


Anyway, I just wanted to let you two know that I was wrong to take what Rev. Dr. Mr. Steve Harvey said and examine it with facts, data and statistics. I don’t know what I was thinking. Obviously, I should have taken the path that you prescribed and just made shit up based on my personal assumptions. When Matt completed his investigation and determined that I am an impoverished racist who sleeps all day, I’m sure his intent was to write an uplifting letter because he sure does seem like he looks for a positive in every situation.

And honestly, I’ve never heard of Stacie Allison. Even though she apparently trolls the internet looking for black people to call “thugs,” I can tell from the fact that she loves the NRA, flannel, the Tennessee Volunteers, Donald Trump and Jesus that she is definitely not a racist. There are hearts beside her name, for fuck’s sake.


Steve wasn’t talking about financial stability or income security. He was explaining what it takes to be rich. Hard work is part of the key to success and it is important to promote that. But if you’re black, the rules to wealth don’t apply.

Now the easiest way to get rich is to come from a rich family ... unless you’re black. According to a 2018 study by researchers from Stanford, Harvard and the U.S. Census, white males who grew up in wealthy families have a 39 percent chance of becoming a wealthy adult. For black boys from wealthy families, the chances were 17 percent. In fact, rich black boys are more likely to be poor black adults than they are to become wealthy, upper-middle-class or lower-middle-class grownups.


Maybe you want to start a business that would make you rich. Well, you better have access to capital because minority businesses without $500,000 are denied at three times the rate of white businesses, according to a study by the Minority Business Development Agency. And even if you succeed in getting a loan, the interest rate on loans to minority business owners are 7.8 percent higher than for white-owned business owners.

It is possible, however, to get a well-paying job at a company and rise to the top. Except that in 2018, there were only three black CEOs at Fortune 500 companies according to ... well, Fortune. That number is so low because, in 2016, blacks made up only 4 percent of the new Fortune 500 board members.


Perhaps education is the key, right? Well, white high school dropouts are three times wealthier than black college grads, according to a Brandeis University study. Forbes reports that white high school dropouts are as likely to get a job as a black college student. And the Urban League’s State of Black America 2018 report on the technology sector shows although a higher percentage of black college graduates (2.8 percent) earn degrees in computer science than whites (2.6 percent), blacks make up less than 5 percent of the workforce in social media and technology companies, while whites make up the majority of that sector.

Now none of this means that working hard is futile. But it is dangerous and wrong to convince people that wealthy people got that way by waking up early and working hard. It is simply not true. And to perpetuate that myth not only makes people think that poor people simply don’t work hard enough, but it ignores the reality of discrimination and inequality.


When. You. Talk. About. Wealth. You. Must. Talk. About. Racism.

But if you had known that Stacie, instead of calling me a “thug,” you would have known that it’s just Twitter ...


You could’ve just said “nigger.”

Lastly, we have another white person seeking approval to say “the n-word.”

From: Will
To: The Root

Dear The Root Staff,

Sorry that this isn’t really a tip, but I wasn’t sure who I should address this question to, I really appreciate any response I get. Here it goes:

I’m a privileged white-guy, from the South. I grew up in a heavily segregated, very racist, small town. It has the kind of segregation that I’ve only seen in the South - white people on one side of Main Street, black people on the other, within sight of each other, and a gross disparity between the quality of houses. I’m not really convinced it ever escaped red-lining.

I left and now I find myself among very sheltered white people, who never experienced racist attitudes in the way I did. And my question is this: Sometimes, when I am quoting what others have said to me, I don’t censor the n-word. Is that okay? It is not often - the last time I did this was during the last presidential election - but when people (very white, very sheltered, white people) think racism isn’t totally alive and well in America, I like to tell them about my experience. I usually do so with a story about how when I was five or four, or whenever you lose your baby teeth, my “uncle” (really just my dad’s best buddy from high school), used to ask me, “You been kissing them n- girls?” every time a new tooth went missing. This is really only the most memorable use of word, I’ve heard it a thousand times or more if I’ve heard it once. I then usually recount the last time I heard the word, which is usually from the last Christmas when I went back to visit, and describe how so-and-so said “Oh that n- did x,y,z,” or “I can’t believe they even let a n- run for president!”

I say the whole word on these occasions, speaking to other white people, because I want to emphasise exactly how ugly it is where I grew up. I didn’t have a choice when I was five. I had to hear that word. I had to hear that “kissing n- girls” made my teeth fall out. I hadn’t kissed anyone, I knew it was bullshit at five! My own father never used it, BUT permitted it to be used in my presence without ever speaking against it. That is a true measure of white privilege if I’ve ever heard one. He would offer weak excuses like, “oh we don’t like to use that language, but so-and-so is just old fashioned” etc., but he never spoke against racism when it was on full display in my presence.

Currently I live in a very white place, and therefore I am writing to you, the staff of The Root, to ask this question of whether I am doing good or ill by saying the whole n-word when I quote the racist people I grew up with. I asked my closest black friend about ten years ago (when we were roommates) and she had expressed the opinion, that yeah, I should let the word fly in that situation, to do otherwise was to whitewash that experience and exactly what those people stood for. But that was ten years ago and I would like to know the thoughts of people who write about race issues for a living at the present time.

Many thanks in advance and thank you for covering so many important issues.



This is the last time we will address this topic. Here is the definitive list of times white people can use the n-word:

  • At Klan meetings, Republican Conventions and in closed-door sessions at the White House.
  • If you created a time machine, go back in time but you don’t want to upset the space-time continuum by calling us “African Americans.”
  • If you want to get your shit knocked in.
  • On Easter Sunday if you’re re-enacting the resurrection of Christ at sunrise service and you quote the third chapter and second verse in the lost book of L’Quan, who was working the morning shift at the graveyard, saw the stone from Jesus’ tomb moved and said: “I can’t believe that nigga woke up!”
  • If you’re Dominican, Puerto Rican or can convince your friends that whatever ethnicity you are is allowed to say the n-word.
  • If you’re Charlize Theron because everyone knows she’s African American.
  • If you own slaves.
  • If you’re portraying a racist in a movie or play, or just acting in a Quentin Tarantino film.
  • During commercial breaks at Fox News.
  • If you only date black guys, your wardrobe consists mostly of sweatsuits or jeans and black high-heeled boots and you have this hairstyle.
  • And finally, if you don’t give a fuck about all of the hate that black people have dealt with since August 1619, and drudging up the sordid history of oppression just so you can say that one forbidden word because your entitled white mind thinks that emailing someone who doesn’t know or give a fuck about you can give you a written excuse to literally commit one of the most racist acts a person can do without drawing blood, then, by all means, say “nigga,” nigga.

You obviously want your shit knocked in.

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



I have very mixed feelings about the work of Quentin Tarantino and I absolutely hated the Hateful 8 but the one brilliant part of that movie to me was the (fake) letter from Lincoln Sam Jackson’s character carries everywhere so white people would think twice about killing him. That shit resonated with me.

Michael I almost wish you wrote Will back and gave him permission because you know will would have laminated that shit and kept it his wallet and those kinds of things make for fascinating details in true crime documentaries.