The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Things That Never Happened

Illustration for article titled The Roots Clapback Mailbag: Things That Never Happened
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante
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.

Did anything interesting happen this week?

This weekly column doesn’t focus on sports, so I ignored the letters about Black people doing something incredible in Wisconsin, Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia. No one cares about the Packers, Falcons, Cardinals and the Steelers winning football games. We don’t cover amateur sports, so I also disregarded all of those emails about the Electoral College. I don’t even know which conference they’re in.

Yep, this week was pretty unremarkable. But The Root pays me to reply to readers’ comments, emails, tweets and DMs so I’ll try to find something.

I can’t promise anything, though.

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Oh yeah, there was that election thing:

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Which, of course, made people mention the article that almost got me fired:

Illustration for article titled The Roots Clapback Mailbag: Things That Never Happened
Screenshot: The Root/G-O Media
Illustration for article titled The Roots Clapback Mailbag: Things That Never Happened
Screenshot: The Root/G-O Media
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I don’t know if this is the same person, or someone different but I also received a DM on the same subject:

Illustration for article titled The Roots Clapback Mailbag: Things That Never Happened
Screenshot: Twitter
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Illustration for article titled The Roots Clapback Mailbag: Things That Never Happened
Screenshot: Twitter

I then sent this person a link to the article and the Clapback Mailbag from that week with my response. They DMed me back:

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Illustration for article titled The Roots Clapback Mailbag: Things That Never Happened
Screenshot: Twitter

Dear Dark One and D1:

While I have definitely written and said some things on The Root that were controversial, I’ve never been “suspended” or “took a break” because of them. In fact, I think I’ve taken one consecutive seven-day period off in the entire four-year span I’ve been at The Root.

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But there’s something else I’d like to address:

Stephen? How is Stephen your favorite writer?

First of all, it’s a well-known fact that Stephen is supposed to be spelled with a V. How is ph pronounced like that? It’s not even a thing! Stephens who spell their names with “pee-aytches” are just showing off. It’s bougie and presumptuous. It’s light-skinned.

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Secondly, how can you get mad at me about Hillary when Steve (That’s right. I called him a “Steve”) bags on everybody all the time? Is it hilarious? Yes. Is it informative? Yes. But Steve will roast anybody. In fact, if you want to drag me, I suggest you get in line behind Stephen. I suspect he is the one who wrote that DM because he’s just plain old mean.

I promised I would never reveal this but—fuck that, this is war—Stephen also hated Hillary. He despises her. He once told me that he bought a kitten, named it Hillary and then fed it to a pitbull just for laughs. Then he strangled the pitbull. But not before naming it Martin Luther King Jr.

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Yep, I said it. Write it down. Stephen Crockett murders kittens and he killed MLK.

And you know what else he hates? Jesus. And the flag. And babies. And when he goes to cookouts, he doesn’t bring anything—even ice. Actually, that’s not true. He secretly brings a family-size pack of raisins to barbecues and fish fries and dumps them in the potato salad and then refuses to fix a plate for the oldest woman there and reneges during the spades game but no one cares because he underbids a lot and will even steal your books if you’re not watching him.

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But he’s your favorite, huh?

It figures.

He’s mine, too.

I love the way he writes but do you know what else “Stephen with a pee-aytch” told me?

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“I just love the comment section,” he said. “Except for that The Dark One 508. They have shitty comments and they make me so mad.”

“I think they makes some valid points,” I told him. “But then again, I’m rarely in the comment section, so I wouldn’t know. How do you know they’re so terrible at commenting on things?”

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Because,” he said. “I’ve read everything The Dark One writes. And if I can’t find anything to hate on them about, I will search for something that never existed so I can shit on them.”

I told you he was a terrible person.


I received quite a few emails about this:

From: Chris
To: Michael Harriot

Your entire schtick is just strange and egomaniacal. It’s really vain and arrogant to feel as if you can speak for an entire census group of people. “We think this,” “We think that.” When anyone on social media – me you or whoever – posts something, we speak for ourselves and only ourselves. Not for our family. Not for the place where we live. Not for. people who have the same skin color.

To think otherwise, someone (you) would have to be really koo koo for Cocoa Puffs and a clinical egomaniac.

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Dear Chris,

You should read it again.

Aside from writing: “Black people do not love Joe Biden or the Democratic Party. We don’t hate them...” the article did not characterize what Black people (or white people) think. It talked about the things Black people do. I understand how this can be confusing to a white person, so perhaps I could explain it with a story about my friend Tron and our military training.

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When I was in high school, every child in South Carolina had to take physical education or sign up for the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC). I didn’t mind PE, but Tron convinced me to sign up for JROTC with him during our freshman year.

I only lasted a semester.

The reason why I hated JROTC was because of Brian, a high school senior who had earned the rank of Lieutenant, putting him in charge of all ROTC. Brian was also a dick. He was unreasonably cruel and wielded his power like a baton. He was so proud of his ROTC rank that he wore his uniform all the time. I once saw him at the mall with it on and me and Tron bagged on him hard, which made Brian hate me and Tron even more.

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When Brian graduated, he became a cop. He started lifting weights and most people thought he was on steroids because he blew up and became big and muscular. Of course, people in our neighborhood started calling Brian “Kindergarten Cop,” because walked around like he was Arnold Schwarzenegger. He actually embraced the name.

And, of course, he was still mean and cruel. Even the officers on the force, which were mostly Black, were scared of him. Everyone was afraid of Brian—especially the dope boys—because he was known for making them “give it up.”

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Fresh-white-sneakered schoolboys gave it up to him. Weathered Timberlanded thugs gave it up to Kindergarten Cop. He instinctively knew who would tell where the nearby hiding spot for the crack was, who was holding it in their pockets and what to do to make them tell. Violence and fumbling pat-down searches weren’t always needed. Sometimes his reputation preceded him, and other times, the cops would run up on a spot (not necessarily a drug spot—anywhere Black people congregated) and handcuff whoever they found while Kindergarten Cop sat watching from inside the car.

When everyone was on the ground, Kindergarten would exit the cruiser, inspect his “lineup” like a drill sergeant and just ask questions. If someone didn’t comply, he would put his foot on the person’s face so that their head wouldn’t move, open the person’s jaws and shoot a shot of pepper spray directly in the victim’s mouth.

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Everyone knew he did this. It was his thing.

Four years after our freshman year, Tron received the same rank as Brian, the first Black kid at our school to earn that rank. He told me Brian would still come to the school and act like he was a JROTC god. Tron graduated, earned a college ROTC scholarship went into the Army. He was even in the 82nd Airborne Division, the motherfuckers who drop out of the sky and kill people. Tron wasn’t muscular or tall. He was short, soft-spoken and shaped like a fire hydrant. But he was a certified bad-ass.

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One day, when I was home from college, Kindergarten Cop’s crew pulled up on my crew. There were about four of us, sitting in the yard at Tron’s dad’s house, drinking beer. Now, because this was a small town, everyone knew there wasn’t any kind of drug activity going on there. But there were five niggas sitting outside, so...you know.

They handcuffed us. They laid us on the dirt. One of the cops opened the door for Kindergarten as if he was the president and the cop was the Secret Service. I was glad to see Kindergarten because he knew all of us. Even though we had beef, he knew we weren’t dope boys. But he just stood there.

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“Fuck you, Brian,” Tron yelled. “Yo punk ass knows all of us.”

It seems like he walked toward me in slow motion. I looked up at him as he put his foot on my jaw. He didn’t press down but, as I type this, I can still feel that gritty dirt against my face.

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“Come on Brian,” I pleaded, trying to humanize our connection and make him remember me.

I don’t know how it happened. Maybe they teach it in Special Forces training. Everyone claims Tron broke a pair of handcuffs with nothing but his strength. But, contrary to the legend that has grown, we were, in fact, bound with zipt ies. In any case, I could only see Tron’s feet coming toward me. Then I felt Kindergarten’s foot leave my face.

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Y’all...Tron whipped Kindergarten’s ass in that yard.

I mean, he whipped him bad. Like he stole something. Tron whipped that white boy like he was channeling the ancestors. And you know what those Black cops did?

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Nothing. They didn’t stop it. They didn’t arrest us. They got in a car and left.

For weeks after that happened, I didn’t talk to my friends but we all assumed the cops would show up at our homes and arrest us. One cop showed up at my house and asked me about it and I just recounted the story. But in my story, there was an extra guy named Tom whom I had never met. And, according to my story, Kindergarten Cop whipped that anonymous guy’s ass.

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I would later find out that everyone there, the Black cops, my friends and even Kindergarten Cop himself all told the same story of this unknown sixth guy who Kindergarten had beaten to a pulp with his bare hands. That’s why the cops showed up again. They were worried about a police brutality lawsuit so they never bothered us again. But they never found the guy.

Kindergarten is still a cop. But, to this day, if you ask any of the young people in my hometown about Kindergarten Cop, they will swear he is the nicest cop in town. After that beating, he stopped being a dick.

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How did we know to tell the same story?

It wasn’t luck. We didn’t collude with each other. It wasn’t a collective mind meld nor was it because we all think alike. It was because we know white people.

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Chris, Tron’s beating didn’t change Kindergarten. He is still the same, cruel, sadistic person he always was. And I am not a maniac. I cannot speak for Black people. We don’t have meetings and decide what to think or do. We are neither “koo koo for Cocoa Puffs” or “clinical egomaniacs.” But every Black person understands white people.

We understand why they hail Confederate traitors as heroes. We know why they say they loved Martin Luther King Jr. even though they hated him when he was alive. It’s why white people hate Obama, why most white women organized a protest march after voting for Trump. It’s why Trump won’t admit he lost fair and square. It’s why Kindergarten Cop tiptoes around hoping no one will ever mention that story. It’s why you would rather diagnose me as mentally ill instead of admitting that whiteness is a fragile, delicate veil that will eventually be destroyed.

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Chris, I even understand why you felt compelled to write me.

You’d rather pretend it didn’t happen than admit that you got your ass kicked.


And finally, two other things happened this week that received similar replies.

I was a guest on the Daily Show.

And wrote this article:

From: Sabrina
To: Michael Harriot

Wah, wah wah. America hates black people.

Instead of whining, and calling everyone a racist, you should be trying to change blacks mindset. If you could get them to care about education making a honest living and tking care of their families instead of whos racist, you wouldn’t have to worry about whether we hate you or not. Pete Buttigeg tried to say this but you called him racist because that’s your only move. If all white people are racist but are all black people whiners?

From: Aaron
To: Michael Harriot

Meh, america doesn’t really gaf about anything but money.

From: James
To: Michael Harriot

I saw you on the Daily Show talking about white people whiteing. Was that supposed to be a joke? Maybe niggas would be further if black people stopped blacking insted of blaming all the white people. Its tiresom and holds you from true equality instead of victimhood

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Dear Brian, Sabrina, and James:

Can any of you point to the sentence where I called Pete Buttigieg or all white people racist in the article or the interview?

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I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.

I will stop writing and talking about racism if you help Black people achieve equality. I know it seems like a lopsided offer, but instead of providing Black Americans with a yearlong mindset change, funding a work ethic-otomy or providing “role models,” as Pete Buttigieg insists, I have an easier way to create equality.

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Give us the shit you have.

Provide us access to the same privilege and opportunity that white America has and I’ll stop bellyaching about white supremacy.

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In fact, you don’t have to give us anything. Just hand back all our tax dollars you stole and funded whites-only schools, universities and public projects from 1860-1955. Make up the gap in pay between Black workers who have the same education and experience as higher-paid white workers. Let us take advantage of the “family and friends” loopholes that get mediocre white kids into Ivy League institutions.

Repay the wealth you stole from slaves, the mortgages you stole from Black veterans and the land you took from Black farmers. Equalize housing values and rewind redlining. Decrease our prison sentences by 20 percent and refund the bail money, the lawyers’ fees and the lost wages mass incarceration is responsible for. Hire us at the jobs you gave to less-qualified white people.

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Undead the sons and daughters you killed. Resurrect the uncles and grandfathers you lynched. Give back the dignity of the women you raped. We also want you to reverse the auto loan payments you gave us at higher interest rates. Now do it for mortgages. Now car insurance. Now life insurance. Now health insurance.

Five seconds after you do all that, I promise I will shut the fuck up.

And, even though Chris may object, I promise you: on this one, I’m speaking for all Black people.

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

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DISCUSSION

raineyb1013
Raineyb1013, Misfit Black Girl Island Denizen

As per usual, sub-par racist ass white people are showing their entire racist asses by sayng racist shir whilst projecting their racism onto the people victimized by their bigotry.

What’s really fucked up is that racism really isn’t really helping white people. You can tell that they know that they’re inferior and are only enjoying any level of success because of their whiteness. They are so pressed knowing that we know they ain’t shit and everyone knows it. How sad it must be knowing that you’re barely mediocre and that if there was truly an even playing field you would be catching l’s because you’re incompetent as fuck.

Take your sub-par racist asses up out of here you dumb fucks and take your toxic orange asshole with feet with you.