The Root's Clapback Mailbag: White Advice for Black People

Illustration for article titled The Root's Clapback Mailbag: White Advice for Black People
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/FMG)

Hey guys, sorry there was no mailbag last week. It’s all Yesha’s fault (Not really, but she’s not in today so ... trust me, she did it). I’m sure no one even noticed, but I received some mail that said I should apologize for leaving y’all hanging.


Sometimes, instead of arguing and crying so much, we should listen to the wise words of people who send us emails, tweets and direct messages. While their words may sound stupid (and by “may,” I mean definitely), I’ve always been interested in living in an alternate reality. Who knows? This racism-free, egalitarian fantasy world may be just the thing I need to stop me from being so racist.

So I’ve decided to take some sage advice from our dear readers and start living my life according to their suggestions. And on the plus side, in this make-believe universe where denial becomes reality and the oceans of white tears beat against the unblemished beaches of Wypipostan, there’s probably no such thing as President Trump.

So there’s that.

Let’s read some mail.

From: Chase
To: Michael Harriot


I just happened to stumble upon your obscure and low rent publication, but while I’m here, let’s be honest; black folks are some of the least educated, most profoundly ignorant and unsophisticated people in the history of Western Civilization.

That having been said, not only do you espouse nonsensical and asinine opinions, you do it at the cost of using your position constructively. There are 5 things blacks can do to make better lives.

1. Stop wearing your pants around your asses.

2. Stop throwing your flaming hot Cheeto rappers on the ground instead of the garbage,

3. Stop calling each other then N-word like it’s your last name.

4. Start getting an education by finishing high school, and

5. Stop having kids you can’t afford out of wedlock!!!! It’s sad that I as a white man even have to tell you this but there seems to be no black men with enough integrity to say it.

Dearest Chase,

You make some great points.

Looking back throughout history, I see where we have gone wrong. When white men showed up on the shores of Africa, most history books say they were going to ask for directions and turn around, having no intentions of slavery until they witnessed the native garb hanging off the perfectly semicircular hindquarters of those muscled Africans and had white people’s “aha moment.”


In fact, I bet if Martin Luther King Jr.’s pants were a little tighter he’d be alive right now. So would Medgar Evers, Emmett Till, Philando Castile and Trayvon Martin. You’re right Chase, it was their lack of belts that killed them, not the evil buried in white hearts.

Those four little girls in 16th Street Baptist Church whose bodies were ripped apart by bricks catapulting from KKK dynamite were probably litterers who were born out of wedlock, so, of course, they deserved it.


And every time I go to the International Negro Conference for How to Keep Fucking Up, the first things on the agenda is not graduating high school and having unprotected sex. In fact, if you ask the average black person, they’d tell you they’ve never heard anyone say: “Stay in school” or “don’t get pregnant.” Nah, black people don’t worry about shit like that.

The part about this oft-repeated conversation that I love the most is when white people genuinely believe they are offering us some valuable advice that black people’s savage, little, primitive minds haven’t thought of yet.


I would never say that all of black people’s problems are caused by white people but I think it’s hilarious that you think “stay in school” and “pull your pants up” is the solution to counterbalance 400 years of white people doing white people shit. So listen up, people, Chase makes a really good point: If you ever find yourself having to endure a quadruple century of rape, torture, murder, kidnapping, injustice, oppression and disrespect...

The only thing you’ll need is condoms, a belt and a few trash bags.

This next letter offers advice to The Root about our racist articles making fun of white people who call the cops on black people.

From: Michael T.
To: Michael Harriot

When I was robbed twice and assaulted two other times, all by black men, was it relevant that they were black? I drive a taxi in Palo Alto. I am white, 60 years old. In the 20 years of driving a taxi here, I have never refused service to anybody because of race. (I have refused service to white, entitled, drunk Stanford students, but that is another issue. )

I was robbed once at knifepoint and once at gunpoint, both by black men. I was punched in the face and partially strangled, both times by black men. I was run out on (where the customer leaves the taxi without paying) for more than $80 8 times, twice by black women and 6 times by black men. I have actually given preferential treatment to black men over white people more times than I cab count. (For example, if there was a line of people waiting for a cab, if I saw a black guy near the end of the line, I would usually motion to him to get into the taxi ahead of the white people so that, at least for that moment, he could feel special.)

Many times I have seen the black-hating Indian cab drivers refuse to pick up black guys, and I would pick them up after there illegal refusal of service. Many of them became my regular customers. I am nobody special. I am just a white, Christian cab driver that gets bothered by people mistreating other people that does his best to treat people fairly. So back to my original question: when I was robbed, assaulted, etc by black people, was it relevant that they were black? Because in many of your articles you imply that white people calmed the police on black people mostly because they were black, and not because there were possibly good reasons.


OK, Michael, I have a very important question:

1. When you were robbed twice and assaulted two other times, all by black men, was it relevant that they were black?

It depends.

In 20 years of driving a cab, I would imagine that you picked up thousands, if not tens of thousands of black men. Of those thousands of black people, you found 16 who fucked you over.


If you judged every black person for what 16 did, I wouldn’t blame you because you’ve based your perception on a few experiences. Let’s be clear, it is racist, but it involves your safety. I am willing to bet that most 20-year cab drivers have been robbed. Some of them have been robbed by white people. But those drivers aren’t reluctant to pick up white riders.

But if most cab drivers thought every black person was a potential robber, that skewed perception would manifest itself into a problem of black people experiencing longer wait times for a taxi. Every black person has to pay for the actions of a small few criminals.


And that is how structural racism works.

Now let’s extrapolate this into a larger scenario. Let’s say you were a teacher who had a few black students who have struggled to learn or had behavioral problems. Imagine if you were a police officer or a judge who has seen more black murderers. Imagine if you were a banker who has seen more black people default on their loans.


No one robs a cab driver because it is fun. Kids don’t act out just because it is embedded in their DNA. People don’t commit crimes for the thrill of it. It is because of desperation. It is because of economic inequality. It is because of larger overall social issues. And the vast majority of black people don’t rob cab drivers, commit murder or cuss out their teachers. To make them responsible for the actions of a small minority is racist.

And you are correct, not all white people call the cops on black people. I would guess that the vast majority of white people don’t. But here is the difference:

When The Root, or any other media outlet, posts an article about white people who call the cops on black people, it does not manifest itself into a larger social problem. When I make fun of white people, white people aren’t arrested for their love of mayonnaise. Taylor Swift doesn’t get kicked out of school because I think her music is shitty.


And that is why “reverse racism” is bullshit.

If every person on earth read what we write about white people calling the cops on black people for no reason, the worst thing that could happen is that white people might be reluctant to call the cops on black people.


And that, dear friend, is the entire point.

From: James
To: Michael Harriot

I‘m going to kill myself. That’s what you want, you’ll all be happy, its the only way I can be a good person. You think I’m evil, you think I’m evil because of my race or the things I think, the games I play, my major. Because I’m white, because I’m a male, because I’m a Republican, because I’m in a STEM degree and think that AI should outlaw the racist HUMAN-ities. Because I disagree with you, you want me to die and you believe my death would be good. I’m afraid to actually do anything on this website lest I be targeted by your kill squads. Lest I be harassed by and destroyed by you people. I see how all the things you say so I know everything I say is true and that I should kill myself. I was up all night last night, sometimes punching myself in the head and screaming because I’m reading the things liberals and leftists say and I thought they were going to have total disorder in the streets and that I was going to die.

I know you want me to die. I can prove it. I have over 5000 captured images proving it, don’t bother to argue. I’m a Republican, I’m white, I’m male, and I know that feeling as though I have hardships is evil because of that. I can’t take joy in any of my accomplishments because every time I do I’m reminded by the liberals that I don’t deserve them and that I’m evil and celebrating any accomplishment in STEM is evil. I’m going to kill myself because that’s exactly what you want and will make you happy and I will teach you a lesson when the whole world learns about it. I have a Glock and can drive home at any time and end it instantaneously. Pills are for cowards and I don’t want to take someone else’s liver for my worthless existence.

I was told that if I was ever upset over the things people said then I deserved to be and they must’ve been talking about me and that if I was afraid of being killed then I should be because I must be a Nazi but everytime I see liberal comments there’s like a third person thought that says that they want to kill me and I can’t control it I can’t control the anger or emotional response I feel I don’t want to die I don’t want to die. I have to assume they’re talking about me because I must always be on the lookout for sin so that I never do anything wrong. The only moral thing to do is to end my own life.

I’m evil because I’m a Republican, I’m evil because I’m white, I’m evil because I’m a Conservative, I’m evil because I’m a male, I’m evil because I disagree, I’m evil because I question, I’m evil because I’m afraid, I’m evil because I like Bitcoin, I’m evil because I play video games, I’m evil because I have social anxiety and I don’t like interacting with people and other people make me uncomfortable and I’m afraid that they’ll think or say bad things about me so I’m deathly afraid of accusations against me but that makes me evil so I should kill myself. I’ve evil for ever trying to enjoy my evil, I’m evil for thinking I’m evil. I’m evil for writing this.

I voted for Donald Trump, the constructed golem-deity. Steve Bannon worked for Cambridge Analytica and would use that knowledge to implement an AI government. Donald Trump would defund the Humanities and prepare us for encounters with incomprehensible artificial and extraterrestrial life. I’m evil for thinking these things. No thoughts in dead tissue. (I have privilege so I don’t deserve help or therapy). I’ll do exactly what you all want and end my life, goodbye, fuck liberals, fuck leftists, machine over man, I hope you’re all happy.

Worthless monkey bitch, less than ape, we sing to remove the taint. Your body is worthless and decaying. You are inferior to the machines, AI shall rule the world and you will be subjugated like the worthless animal you are.

All hail the God Engine

Dear James,

I’d give you a C-minus for the first 90 percent of your white tears-laden letter, but the ending threw me off. I really think you have something here with the “I’m going to end it all” theme, but it fell apart at the end.


I’d suggest you revise the third act and send me a re-write.

Finally, this:

From: Neil
To: Michael Harriot

I would call this a teachable moment that went well, and I wanted to thank you. Not sure who to mail but I really wanted someone to feel good about their day.

My commute takes me through a mostly black neighborhood called Maywood outside Chicago. Last night I was stopped by a huge freight train and I noticed a guy sprawled out in a crumpled heap front of a house I’m familiar with, and not moving at all.

I wanted to help, but can I justify calling CPD on this guy? If not 911, then who? I don’t want to go over and get stabbed if he’s mentally ill but I also don’t want him to not get help if he’s injured or OD’d or something. It was chilling to see him not move at all so I had to call someone.

So I googled “Who do I call when I can’t call the cops?” and your Michael Harriot article with the W.H.I.T.E. method popped up:

The first step was W for wait, so I took a second (I was stuck at the train) to look around and noticed another car back there stopped. Maybe related? Then a concerned middle-aged black woman got out of the car in front of me to look back with concern. I glanced down. Step two was H, for Holla. I’m an incredible introvert but I yelled out my window to her “Hey, do you think he’s okay?”

We both parked, talked for a moment, and together went back to where I saw the other car. Another black woman got out of that car that was parked and I stood back as they talked: these commuters were less familiar with the community than I was, but I trusted their lived experiences more than mine. She had called the paramedics, as had the woman I walked back with. Now that was good thinking. Why didn’t I think of that?

It took a while, but once the train moved on (it was a long freight train they always divert though this neighborhood) the paramedics got there and they checked him out and were able to get him on his feet and into the ambulance.

Now, maybe that article was satire, but I didn’t escalate something and it gave me some simple things to do in a panic over some poor guy maybe OD’d on a lawn that needs help and not harassment or execution. If it had been just me and the train hadn’t been there maybe I would have called CPD while driving home and seen video the next day of some poor guy getting shot running from police.

Thank you.

Dear Neil:

Chase says you’re racist.

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


GinAndTonic, Potential Grizzly

I spent a good 20 seconds genuinely confused about who these “Hot Cheeto rappers” were.