The Root's Clapback Mailbag: The White Fragility Workout Plan

Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/G-O)

I feel sorry for white people.

I can’t imagine having all of that responsibility. First of all, protecting white supremacy is a full-time job, in and of itself. Then, they have to find time to create and spread fictional narratives among themselves. How they managed to explain poverty, educational inequality and black unemployment by inventing the false notion that black people are lazy is unfathomable. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to ignore their historical genocide and still believe that black people are the violent ones, but they somehow pulled it off.

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Of all the obstacles that white people must overcome, their inherent fragility is perhaps the biggest one. White people are very brittle and the Caucasian defense mechanism requires a constant diet of made-up facts to rejuvenate itself.

That’s why we have the Clapback Mailbag.

Each Friday, we collect the emails, tweets and comments from fragile white folks who practice defending white supremacy. It’s like a weekly workout for racism.

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I’m glad we could help.


Let’s start the display of white fragility with this email from someone who was upset with Candace Bond-Theriault’s call for reproductive justice:

To: Michael Harriot
From: Tam

The Ukrainian people have suffered incredibly. Keep that in mind and stop erasing suffering other than your own.

Candace Bond is obviously a kind hearted and caring person, but she must understand that people aren’t as dumb as she thinks. A simple Google search came up with black women having high blood pressure and eclampsia/ pre at 60% of the rate of white women. This condition is extremely dangerous in pregnancy. It can even lead to death, even when treated. Diabetes is also more prevalent in black women, also a danger in pregnancy. Not to mention that the black community has a far higher incidence of domestic violence which could also be contributing to health problems at pregnancy.

It’s a fact that men don’t let up when women are pregnant, actually there is much to suggest this they increase the violence. The truth is always somewhere in the middle.

Tam

Dear Tam,

I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t know what Candace or I said about the suffering of Ukrainians. I don’t understand what any of this has to do with diabetes, high blood pressure or domestic violence. I don’t even know why you’re mad.

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It’s probably because I’m black.

As a black man, I can’t begin to fathom reading what is quite literally a plea for life, equality and reproductive justice and interpreting it as an attack. When Meghan Markle, Bond-Theriault or anyone else speaks on the statistical fact that black women have higher risk pregnancies, they aren’t making shit up. Yes, your Google machine was right, black women have high blood pressure, eclampsia and diabetes much more often than white women, but why is that?

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Could those health disparities possibly be the result of the lack of availability of health care for black women? For some stupid reason, health care in America is still provided, for the most part, by employers. The unemployment rate for black women (7.8 percent) is nearly double the unemployment rate for white women (4.2 percent), but it is the Department of Labor that is perpetuating these bullshit, provable facts, not The Root.

Or maybe the Bureau of Labor Statistics was attacking white women by reporting that black women earn 61 cents for every dollar a white man earns, despite the fact that black women are the most educated demographic in America. I won’t even go into your apparent belief that black people get diabetes, high blood pressure and eclampsia because black women must be made differently. After all, a lot of physicians erroneously believe that black people have thicker skin and can tolerate more pain, which is what leads to some differences in treatment.

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And you were correct: the Bureau of Justice Statistics says that whites report domestic violence at a rate of 6.2 per 1,000 and blacks at 7.8 per 1,000. But none of those statistics can explain the fact that black women are three times more likely to die in childbirth; the black infant mortality rate is twice as high as the white infant mortality rate and black women are twice as likely to have a child with a low birth rate.

Tam, I can’t explain it either.

I also can’t understand is why the discussion of these facts upsets you so much. But you and your Google-informed medical diagnosis could be right. Perhaps there is an invisible monster that makes black women harder-working, smarter and tougher than white women but somehow prone to death when they conceive children. The only other explanation is institutional inequality.

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Or maybe, racism is the invisible monster.


This recently appeared under the suggested edits part of our Facebook page:

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Now some people will think that what I’m about to say is racist.

A white person did this.

My conclusion has nothing to do with someone calling us “racist.” Y’all know me—I would never cast aspersions on my Caucasian brethren—but as an Ivy League-educated Wypipologist (Yes, my homegirl Ivy James once hosted an Uno League), if there’s one thing I know, it’s that white people love pranks.

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Plus, no matter how jokey a black person may get, there are some things we don’t fuck with, and the number 666 is one of them. My childhood home telephone number ended in 1666 and my grandmother would pray every time she made a telephone call. I don’t know if she thought Satan was going to pick up the phone or if dialing those demonic numbers would disable her from getting Jesus on the mainline when she needed to tell him what she wanted but I am not superstitious, so I actually dialed the number.

A white woman answered.


Finally, this is J40Oaks’ fourth mailbag appearance, which might be a record if I cared to look it up. Our favorite email racist did not disappoint.:

From: J40Oaks
To: Jay Connor
Subject: Exactly

TRUMP IS EXACTLY RIGHT... THE FUCKING IMPEACHMENT BULLSHIT IS AN UPPITY SELF SERVING DEMOCRAP PARTY AND MEDIA “POLITICAL LYNCHING”! PERIOD!!! TRUTH HURTS YOU FUCKERS DON’T IT???!!! THE BLACKS AND THE DEMS DON’T OWN THE WORD “LYNCHING”...YOU DAMN FOOL!! FUCKING NADLER USED THE WORDS LYNCH MOB WHEN DESCRIBING CLINTON’S IMPEACHMENT....AND THE FUCKING LYING MEDIA SAID NOT ONE FUCKING WORD! YOU LITTLE BRAINLESS TWITS DON’T KNOW SHIT ABOUT ANYTHING! YOU FUCKERS ARE DELUSIONAL AND YOUR FUCKING BIAS HATE EVERYTHING TRUMP AGENDA IS SHOWING ONCE AGAIN! YOU FUCKERS IN THE MEDIA LOOK LIKE THE FUCKING LIARS, FOOLS AND ASSHOLES YOU ARE. YOU FUCKERS ARE THE MOST HATED GROUP OF ASSHOLES AND YOU FUCKERS HAVE EARNED OUR

DISTAIN IN SPADES!!

LYNCHING, LYNCHING, LYNCHING.....GET USED TO IT, FOOL....THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT IT IS AND YOU KNOW IT, THE MEDIA KNOWS IT AND THE FUCKING DEMS DAMN SURE KNOW IT!

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Dear J40:

When I was in the sixth grade, each Friday we would take a 3-minute, timed math test. The test’s difficulty increased gradually and the total number of problems would increase each week. It was simple two and three-digit addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and if you completed it perfectly, you won a Tootsie Pop.

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I fucking love Tootsie Pops.

There were a lot of weeks when I got all of the answers correct, but I couldn’t get a Tootsie pop because I didn’t “show my work.” This is because, when I was seven or eight, I embarrassed my mom, my ancestors and my entire church family by losing a contest against a white boy at a Vacation Bible School math competition.

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I went home and learned my times tables that day.

But, because I was homeschooled, I didn’t know that people only learned up to the “12" times tables. I still can’t figure out why they stopped at that arbitrary number. I knew my time tables up to the 20s. I also must confess that, to this day, I still don’t know what “carrying the 1" really means.

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I have another confession to make that might get me in trouble with my fellow negroes:

Black people kinda don’t care about Trump.

Don’t get me wrong; we don’t like that racist, stupid motherfucker. But we are nowhere near as outraged about his presidency as white people are about his impeachment. We want him out of office, but we aren’t write-a-letter-in-all-caps mad. Here is why:

Donald Trump is a white man.

He is an unintelligent white man who thinks he’s smart. He is an entitled white man who thinks he earned everything he has. He is an immoral white man who thinks he is above the law. He is a racist white man who assures us that he is not a white supremacist. He is an untruthful white man who lies constantly. He is an arrogant white man who never admits when he’s wrong.

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If black people were outraged into all caps every time we encountered a stupid, lying, cheating, racist, privileged white man who thinks of themselves as the sun in a galaxy of negro planets, America would still be cleaning up bits and pieces of exploded nigger heads and hearts.

Just like I knew that I would never get that Tootsie Pop, black people know that white men always win. Every time. It is not because they are smarter or harder working. I know you half-expected to hear it, but I never say “If Obama did what Trump did...” because I know that Black people are constantly asked to show their work while white men just coast on their mediocrity.

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This is their system. America doesn’t reward white people for their knowledge or intelligence. America rewards them because it was conceived for them. 

And, while black people may fight for things like Donald Trump’s impeachment, police officers’ convictions, the dismantling of white supremacy, or that you will one day figure out the location of your caps lock key, we are used to being disappointed when white people don’t get their comeuppance.

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Tootsie Pops are not for me and truth and justice are not for us.

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About the author

Michael Harriot

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