Illustration for article titled The Roots Clapback Mailbag: White People Be Knowing
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.

Thanks, Caucasians!

This week’s mailbag was mostly filled with white people offering advice to black people on how to protest, how to respond to white supremacy and how to think in general.

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Although the unbelievable depth of white people’s brazenry knows no bounds, it’s always enlightening to learn about dealing with oppression from people who have never experienced it. It’s like me telling Tiger Woods to use the nine iron instead of a wedge. Even though I don’t have a clue what a nine iron does, I’m sure he’d love unsolicited input from someone whose golf handicap is 2,303 over par.

I also don’t know what that means.

But it sounds good, so...

Thanks, Caucasians!


I don’t know if this tweet and this email are from the same person, but they both objected to the sentiment of this article:

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This black Trump supporter and “patriot” blocked me. Luckily, I had screenshots: 

Illustration for article titled The Roots Clapback Mailbag: White People Be Knowing
Screenshot: Michael Harriot (Twitter)

From: Shay
To: Michael Harriot

Don’t you think it is irresponsible to promote violence and rioting?

Dear regular Shay and Dr.-Shay-Ph.D.-who-I-doubt-is-black-or-even-has-a-doctorate-degree-because-most-people-with-Ph.D.s-know-that-you-don’t-use-“Ph.D.”-and-Dr.-simultaneously-but-OK-I’ll-go-with-it,

First of all, no.

Secondly, I appreciate the praise that you have bestowed upon me. I am indeed honored to read that you believe that it is my advice that will inspire rebellion and not a system that doesn’t even offer the rebels a smidgen of justice after a police officer killed a man in front of a half-dozen witnesses, three other police officers and at least five cameras that captured every conceivable angle.

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Thank you for the accolades.

Now, as far as your contention that “It is because of history that we can now advise with full certainty that rioting and violence does not pay the type of dividends you think,” I need to know if you earned your doctorate in fiction or alternate universe theory because history teaches us no such thing.

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Or maybe you’re excluding white people.

On December 16, 1773, dozens of tax protesters and smugglers who belonged to a secret underground organization called the Sons of Liberty dressed as Native Americans, snuck onto ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into the sea. Their actions paid enormous dividends and cemented them forever in history

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This was a protest. They were looters.

We call it the Boston Tea Party.

In 1855 and 1856 in the Kansas/Nebraska territory, pro-slavery advocates essentially went to war with abolitionists to make Kansas a slave state, opposition to the Missouri Compromise, which explicitly forbade slavery. So white supremacists rioted for over a year. They broke into an armory, stole a cannon, destroyed two pro-slavery newspaper and destroyed any business that served black people.

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So, John Brown and other abolitionists just started killing white “pro-slavers.” On May 24, 1856, Brown, his sons and a few ex-slaves hacked the white supremacists to death with axes and knives. They kept doing it for years until...

Kansas was admitted as a free state in 1861, in part because of violence.

After the Uncivil War, white people started a whole motherfucking terrorist network called the Ku Klux Klan. When the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments passed, black people outvoted whites. In states like Louisiana, Georgia and Mississippi, up to 90 percent of black eligible voters cast votes, so whites terrorized black people across the country. There was and there never will be an equivalent terror group more deadly than the angry white racist. Georgia was so bad that it is the only state ever kicked out of America for being too racist. Louisiana was even worse.

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But it worked.

Legal segregation, poll taxes, poll tests and “race laws” were a direct result of white terror campaigns and stealing votes from black people. Because of the violence (most of the racial massacres were called “riots”), 15 white men essentially went into a room and chose the president in exchange for the South able to treat black people any way it wanted. Or, as the History Channel describes the Compromise of 1877:

From the late 1870s onward, southern legislatures passed a series of laws requiring the separation of whites from “persons of color” on public transportation, in schools, parks, restaurants, theaters and other locations. Known as the “Jim Crow laws” (after a popular minstrel act developed in the antebellum years), these segregationist statutes governed life in the South through the middle of the next century, ending only after the hard-won successes of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

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Rioting and violence works for white people

That’s how we got another 100 years of legalized racial subjugation.

After WWI, black soldiers came back to the U.S. with a new attitude. They called themselves the “new negro” and expressed their feelings like they should have equal rights. So what did white people do?

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They started killing black people (I’m kinda tired of typing that sentence).

The Red Summer of 1919 was typified by what they called “race riots” but they were actually a series of coordinated violent attacks that were just like the reconstruction “riots.” The Chicago race riot is what led to the desegregation of that city. In 1927, the Chicago Real Estate Board made it illegal for whites to sell property to non-whites. Ten years later, the city founded the Chicago Housing Authority and began razing neighborhoods to build low-cost housing for whites. The CHA used federal funds that required all of these new housing developments to have a homogenous racial makeup. This “Neighborhood Composition Rule” banned blacks from buying property in white neighborhoods and wouldn’t allow banks to finance homes in black neighborhoods. The government eventually came up with a shorter name for the policy based on the colors of its segregation maps.

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They called it “redlining.”

These guaranteed loans are what built the middle class. So, redlining was created because of rioting and violence, which gave white people their economic base from the tax money and labor of black people.

See? That violent shit worked.

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Oh, and all that “westward expansion” shit that we call “manifest destiny?” That was because wypipo pillaged Native American lands. It looked just like what’s going on in Minneapolis now

And despite what you have been led to believe, nonviolent protests did not give black people civil rights. Do you think black people woke up the day after Emmett Till’s murder and said: “You know what? I think I’m ready for equality now.”

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Black people had protested for those rights for 100 years and those protests were never peaceful. It was just that white people were the ones inflicting the violence. The same white folks running America in 1935 were in charge in 1955, it was just no longer possible for them to justify their brutality while talking about equality.

So, what changed?

The rarely talked about part of the civil rights movement is the part that the intersection of TV and violence played in gaining equal rights. You must remember that the country was watching Leave it To Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show while racists were bombing churches and lynching black people. A mirror’s reflection is a powerful catalyst and these violent images were broadcast to the world during a time when we were bragging about America’s moral exceptionalism.

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It was not just the marchers in Selma that brought about the Voting Rights Act, it was the billy clubs and broken skulls. The Birmingham Children’s Crusade didn’t move the needle as much as the girls whose bodies were torn apart in the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church. But the American education system would really have us believe that MLK told white people his dream and white people said:

“You know what? I never thought about it like that?

Nah, homey. Protest does not cause change unless it is accompanied by blood. Even Jesus knew that.

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And he didn’t even have his Ph.D.


I still get letters on this article:

From: Farright
To: Michael Harriot

I read your article. Interesting. I will only say that your stereotyping of whites is broad. I understand much of it, will admit that no one really understands what experiences others have. We simply dont. I don’t know how life is to the blind, or to those born with one arm or a deformity. I can be understanding, kind or avoid trying to understand because I feel unequipped even repulsed by their differences.

I am one who will say that I am not responsible and what occur hundreds of years ago. I can’t speculate on what my beliefs would have been had I been of that time. I can tell you that there are people who are colorblind. There are more people than it may seem like. They blend into fabric of the community without fanfare as it should be/

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Dear Farright,

I love the way you began your letter by equating someone being of a different race with blindness or a deformity. While some people may take offense, I will just ride with it.

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In fact, let’s imagine that whiteness was a disease called Callous Racist Asshole Contagious Cell Anemia that was created 400 years ago and infected 62 percent of the population. Let’s even imagine that this virus was easily detected by the naked eye by just looking at someone’s skin color.

Now, imagine that the symptoms of being Callous Racist Asshole Contagious Cell Anemic was that it made your heart cold and your brain believe you were genetically superior. Let’s assume that this sickness made you delusional, ignorant, mean and sometimes made you go on murderous rampages. Even when you weren’t killing, imagine that this disease made you treat people really badly. A few of the infected people, however, didn’t show symptoms.

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Suppose there was a cure that included re-education and self-examination. What if it had no side effects but the infected people refused to take the vaccine because their delusional brains wouldn’t let them accept any information coming from a non-CRACCA.

What would be the best way to stamp out this disease?

Would it be safer for all CRACCAs to assume they had it and take the medicine or should it be left up to the individual CRACCA? And if you saw someone who definitely was a CRACCA, would you trust that he wasn’t like all the other CRACCAs or would you stereotype him for your own protection?

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Let’s say, there was a guy who was giving away the medical cure to any CRACCA who asked.

Here’s my medical opinion:

You need the vaccine.

Acknowledging the history, symptoms and existence of the disease is not a condemnation of the disease. You don’t have to know what someone has been through to acknowledge their humanity. You don’t have to be colorblind to treat people fairly. It is entirely possible to see my blackness and treat me as a human being.

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Only CRACCAs think like that.

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

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