The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Undercover Wypipo

Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/GMG)

When I started today’s mailbag, the intro was going to be this really funny bit about how, for far too long, the Clapback Mailbag has neglected all the white people who aren’t racist but who aren’t actively fighting against racism.

I was crafting this hilarious premise, doubled over in laughter (which, in my humble opinion, should really count as sit-ups but my Apple watch be tripping), when I realized that I didn’t have a collective noun for white people. I know a group of fish is a school, a group of cows is a herd, and a group of killers is called a “police department.” But what is a group of white people?

Is it a wisp of WASPS? A caboodle of Caucasians? A multitude of mayonnaise-eaters? A bevy of Beckies? A quantity of Chads? A slew of Sarah-Beths? A whole lotta Hannahs? Old Navy-ans? Pinches of saltines?

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Maybe we won’t solve this grammatical mystery. Perhaps we should just read some mail.


Before we get too deep into today’s mailbag, we need to officially welcome The Root’s entertainment writer Tonja Renée Stidhum to the fold of the clapbaggers. On Thursday, Stidhum wrote about Jordan Peele’s statement that he can’t see himself hiring a white person to star in one of his movies.

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One dude didn’t take this so well, so he created the screen name: “TonjaIsACancerRacist,” and gave her a bad Yelp review in the grays. This clapback is for Tonja, not him.

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Dear Tonja,

First, I would like to congratulate you on your battery percentage. I don’t know about anyone else, but whenever someone sends me screenshots, I always check their battery percentage because it reveals a lot about a person. You are almost at 100 percent. Your mama raised you right.

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Second, I’d like to welcome you into the fold. You are not officially a Root writer until some virtual fuckboy whose breath probably smells like his cousin’s vagina sends a nasty response to an innocuous article you wrote. Now that you have crossed the burning sands, there are a few other things you should know:

  • Do not feel bad when they insult you. According to a 2022 Gallup Poll I’m sure they will conduct, 83 percent of cyber-racists have semen remnants on their keyboard because they spend most of their time alternating between trolling and furiously masturbating to high-resolution photos of My Little Ponies. Attractive people don’t want to be anonymous.
  • They aren’t very smart. The spelling will always be fucked up. Most of their letters will look like they put punctuation marks in a salad shooter and just aimed it at their computer screen.
  • You should judge yourself by their comments. The quality of your writing is inversely proportionate to the number of white people you piss off. If they express their displeasure, you did a good job. If your inbox is filled with white people calling you the n-word, you wrote something that unsettled their racist spirit. If they send you a message asking if they can have a private conversation with you, they are really pissed off. Great job!
  • Your inbox will never be boring. Some people will write to you continuously, even if you never respond. There’s a dude named Stephen, who’s been on a crusade to crucify the people at West Point whom he heard using the n-word 43 years ago. There’s one guy who reads The Root, jots down his thoughts, and just sends me the notes without reference. One woman swears my articles are actually secret, coded responses to the 20-plus daily emails she sends to me.
  • Never clap back ... Leave that to me. I got you.

The next email is about our series: “America’s Blackest City.”

From: nudge112 

To: The Root

Subject: “beautiful black city”

damn that’s a racist thing to say? there’s plenty of white people that live in city, if a white person said “Vermont is a beautiful white state”, that person would be hung in the media, but you can say that? so sick and tired of the double standard, can not believe you actually wrote that....must be so nice to write anything you want without fear of any blowback, must be nice....oh, and why dont you write articles about how black people kill black people EVERY DAY IN CITY, so how is that a beautiful city? yeah I figure you’ll no answer for that, have fun in your beautiful city, walk down cold spring lane at night lol “Maine is beautiful white state” lmao

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But Vermont is a beautiful white—

Wait ... Nigga, what did you just say?

I’ll tell you what, my dear friend nudge, I am willing to let you call Vermont a “white state.” I’m cool with it. Although I don’t appreciate your use of lynching imagery, when you say it, I’d advise you to say it as former Maine governor Paul LePage did. In 2016, he said black drug dealers were coming to his state to impregnate white women, and just the other day he said the electoral college hurts white people. Say it like that.

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Enunciate your racist rhetoric correctly as Tucker Carlson did on his nightly show on America’s highest-rated cable news network when he said white people weren’t “designed” to live near immigrants. Proclaim your desire for a white homeland like Rep. Steve King (R-Wypipostan), who constantly advocates for a white supremacist state. Say it with your chest like the former White House advisor Nazi Sebastian Gorka, who wore his Nazi pin on his lapel to Trump’s inauguration. Write it into law like openly bald, proud white nationalist Stephen Miller did. Read it from a teleprompter like Donald Fucking Trump.

White people can turn their words into actions and their actions into blood. Ask the people at the Pittsburgh synagogue. Ask Heather Heyer’s mother. Ask Jussie Smollett’s ... you know what? Never mind that last one.

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But if I went on national television and called you a cracker-ass-cracker whose lack of reasoning and logic makes him a perfect candidate for eugenics or ethnic cleansing, it would mean nothing because I lack the power to do it.

That is why there is no double standard.

Unless, of course, you’re volunteering.


From: Aaron
To: Michael Harriot

Dear Michael,

I read The Root quite a bit, and am (kinda) active on Black Twitter so I see your posts on there, and I always enjoy your insightful writing in both mediums. I realize most of your responses and clapbacks are to clueless white people (and a few clueless Black folks), but I’m wondering what your response in The Root might be to this issue I’ve been thinking about (assuming you think it’s Root-response worthy).

I’m a light-skin Black guy, who (not intentionally) passes for white. People, white and Black, variously describe me as “ambiguous” or as someone who just looks like a darker-skin white guy.

Thing is...I’ve never identified as white, and though I went through a phase in my life during which I identified as mixed, that ended in my early 20s (I’m 34 now). My mom is Black, and my father—who I didn’t meet at all ‘til I was 19—is white (he’s actually a white Jew who’d never say he’s white, but white Jews refusing to identify as white is a whole other subject...). I was raised by my very visibly-Black mom, as well as my Black grandma, in a family that’s very Black. In fact, from childhood, I’ve always wanted to be darker-skinned so I look more like my family, and I wouldn’t know what to identify as except as Black.

So, I’m Black, light skin and all, and I want folks—white and Black—to know that. And at the same time, I try to remain cognizant that my experience is quite a bit different from that of darker-skin fam. If I’m going to a group or hangout that I think is specifically designed for the benefit of visibly Black folks, who might need that space more than me, I try to be cautious and think twice about whether my presence would alter the dynamic.

Here’s my challenge: It’s one thing when white folks are surprised to learn I’m not white — it’s aggravating sometimes, but I just chalk it up to white-people-being-white dumbassery. But it’s another when—after they find out that I’m Black, and that I identify as such—someone Black responds in that way and doesn’t seem to believe me. When someone asks my Black boyfriend what he’s doing with a white guy—not because they’re playin with me because I’m light-skin, which I’m all here for, but because they actually think I’m white—he responds to them that I’m Black too, and they roll their eyes. When I was at the Black Joy Parade here in Oakland a few weeks ago and was wearing a Black Vibe Tribe shirt, and someone asks me why I’m wearing it, and when I responded that “It’s my tribe too,” they looked totally taken aback. Or when someone asks me “Why’re you wearing a Black Lives Matter bracelet? Is your boyfriend Black?”, I respond “Yeah, he is, and I am too,” and their look is one of incredulity, as if I’m doing a Rachel Dolezal.

Whether I was in the “mixed” phase of my life, or since then, I’ve always had some amount of racial identity issues...as if my claim to Blackness is really precarious or is hanging on by a thread. So the feeling I get with these interactions is one of hurt and anguish. Perhaps I should have thicker skin, but during these times, I think to myself C’mon, you’re supposed to be fam, you should know that Blackness contains MULTITUDES.

I totally want any colorism I display to be called out—and I don’t care at all if my being light-skin is called out in that context or in others when folks are just playin around—but I want people to believe me when I assert my identity, and not think I’m just Dolezaling them. How should I handle these types of things in a way that results in my identity being affirmed, while simultaneously me still recognizing & respecting that darker-skin Black folks have every reason to be critical & suspicious of light-skin ones? Or am I missing something? Do I need to check myself in some way, or think about it differently?

Thank you so much in advance,

Aaron

Dear Aaron,

I know this is going to sound antithetical to every word I’ve ever written but don’t let them know you’re black. Your assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to go deep into the Caucasiansphere as Black America’s “Spook Who Sat by the Door.”

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We need you to become the first undercover wypipo.

Now Aaron, we’ll probably have to change your name to something like Tanner or Liam (don’t worry, we’ll handle all of the documentation) and while it may seem like your skin color is the perfect disguise, you’re going to have to learn how to clap off beat and how to keep a straight face when you eat unseasoned chicken.

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I’m not gonna lie, it’s gonna be hard. You might find yourself in a situation where you are surrounded by your un-melanated kin and you will have to sit still when you hear: “Cash Money Records taking over for the 9-9 and two thousands!” I’m sure you’ll be confused for the first few weeks when people don’t pay any attention when you wear a hoodie and cops don’t even put their hands on their guns when you walk by. You might even encounter this thing called “opportunity,” but don’t worry, you haven’t died and gone to heaven.

Well ... America is kinda like heaven for white people.

Anyway, what we’re going to need you to do is to go to all the secret white people meetings and I want you to gather all the information you can and report back to us. We need names, cheat codes and all their secrets (Except for Colonel Sanders’ recipe. Only white people think that his chicken is perfectly seasoned).

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This is a dangerous mission. In the late ’70s, we sent an undercover wypipo into the white community but I think he was either compromised or they turned him. When he came back to report his findings on how white people get ahead, control the country and get so much privilege, his entire report had two words:

White supremacy.

There’s gotta be more to it than that, right?

Right?

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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.