The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Whiteness, Explained

What exactly is 'whiteness' and why does The Root use it so much?

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Illustration: Oscar Bustamante/ The Root, G-O Media

Ain’t no lede, bih.


From last week’s Clapback Mailbag:

From: Juan Nothing
To: Michael Harriot

It’s very easy to defend CRT if your answer to every possible criticism is, “You’re a racist and you don’t know what you’re talking about,” but this tactic is intellectually dishonest.

CRT isn’t just teaching kids about racism. It is an activist agenda that favors storytelling and narrative over evidence and data. Many who subscribe to it as an ideology strive for a fundamental dissolution of our foundational democratic ideals. They want to redistribute wealth and property and rewrite law in the interest of racial equity, again based on stories rather than factual evidence. CRT also diminishes personal achievement and responsibility in favor of teaching that one’s lot in life is determined by their identity alone. This isn’t a dangerous precedent to set for young people striving to succeed in the future?

It’s frankly disgusting the way The Root dismisses any form of dialogue and is instead only interested in click-bait bigotry against white people. Your authors cherry pick ignorant racism, (which could just as easily be turned against them, no shortage of people online of all colors saying heinous shit), and present it as the only form of opposition to their opinions. Opinions they are all too happy to present as objective facts.

There are legitimate criticisms of CRT. Address them directly rather than sarcastically dismissing them. Please. Prove me wrong. We aren’t as fragile as you think. I’d be honored to compromise my ideas based on new information rather than the same tired, “Look what this dumb white person said/did.”

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Dear Juan,

It’s not easy to defend Critical Race Theory. As a matter of fact, I’d challenge you to find any news site, whether it is the New York Times or the Daily Wire, that has explained Critical Race Theory in more detail and more times than we have. But since you think The Root dismisses any form of dialogue, let’s unpack what you just said.

CRT isn’t just teaching kids about racism. It is an activist agenda that favors storytelling and narrative over evidence and data. Many who subscribe to it as an ideology strive for a fundamental dissolution of our foundational democratic ideals. They want to redistribute wealth and property and rewrite law in the interest of racial equity, again based on stories rather than factual evidence. CRT also diminishes personal achievement and responsibility in favor of teaching that one’s lot in life is determined by their identity alone. This isn’t a dangerous precedent to set for young people striving to succeed in the future?

I know this is gonna hurt, but the only way to describe that paragraph is to explain that you don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t know how many times we have to explain this to you, but NO ONE IS TEACHING CRITICAL RACE THEORY TO CHILDREN. But, instead of repeating this over and over again, I’m going to go with your hypothesis and suppose that there are teachers in K-12 schools teaching CRT.

Why hasn’t any media outlet been able to find them?

It seems like a simple question. There are proud white supremacists. There are men who are willing to go on national television and explain why there’s nothing wrong with pedophilia. There are snake charmers and flat-earthers and satan worshippers who are glad to spread their ideology to the world. If so many educators have subscribed to this idea that there is a need for legislation to stop it, then why can’t anyone find a single person willing to explain their position? A logical person would conclude the CRT education movement is a figment of white imagination or the K-12 CRT movement is unlike any other movement that ever existed in the history of the universes.

It is an activist agenda that favors storytelling and narrative over evidence and data.

It literally began in law school, which uses narrative and evidence and data. Court testimony is narrative. Historical facts are a narrative. Legal precedents are simple narratives. However, you are right in that it is an activist agenda because all law is an activist agenda. The Constitution of the United States of America, whether you like it or not, is an activist agenda.

What Critical Race Theory asks is: Does the application of the law fit the Constitution’s intended agenda or does it comply with the racial agenda of whiteness?

Many who subscribe to it as an ideology strive for a fundamental dissolution of our foundational democratic ideals. They want to redistribute wealth and property and rewrite law in the interest of racial equity, again based on stories rather than factual evidence. CRT also diminishes personal achievement and responsibility in favor of teaching that one’s lot in life is determined by their identity alone.

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You just described the history of whiteness in America.

They redistributed the wealth and property of the first peoples. Slavery redistributed the labor and intellectual property of enslaved Africans and gave it to white people. Jim Crow voting laws were the fundamental dissolution of our Democratic ideals. The New Deal redistributed the tax money of Black people and gave it to whites.

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Segregation “diminished personal achievement and responsibility in favor of teaching that one’s lot in life is determined by their identity alone.” The 69.2 percent of Black children who attend underfunded, majority-Black schools have their personal achievements diminished every day.

This isn’t a dangerous precedent to set for young people striving to succeed in the future?

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This is the part that I’m interested in unpacking because it is a common refrain.

Where does the idea come from that acknowledging racism makes people a victim? Why do you think the truth would make someone less likely to work hard?

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If you tell Black children that, historically, statistically and empirically, they face tougher odds, why do you think they will give up instead of accepting that fact and work harder? And why do you think that Black parents are more likely to teach their kids in this self-defeating way? And why does this idea that white people made up out of whole cloth only apply to Black people?

Why would any child try to study hard and get good grades after their parents told them how hard it is the get accepted into Harvard? Maybe we should stop teaching basketball players that the other team will be playing defense. I can’t imagine why a running back would try to score a touchdown after his coach informed him that people were going to try to tackle him.

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Is that why white kids don’t play basketball? According to you, teaching a child about gravity diminishes their desire to jump high.

It’s frankly disgusting the way The Root dismisses any form of dialogue and is instead only interested in click-bait bigotry against white people. Your authors cherry pick ignorant racism, (which could just as easily be turned against them, no shortage of people online of all colors saying heinous shit), and present it as the only form of opposition to their opinions...

There are legitimate criticisms of CRT. Address them directly rather than sarcastically dismissing them.

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In the book Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, there is an entire chapter called “Criticisms of Critical Race Theory.” You should read it.

Yesterday, in our weekly meeting, we discussed analytics and projects we were working on for about 30 minutes. After we finished, as usual, the conversation devolved into a debate over music. But you know what we have never discussed?

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How to pick an easy argument to dismantle. How to write a clickbait headline. How to vilify white people.

This website has literally examined every racial issue in American culture and tacked every argument leveled against Black people. I challenge you to find one issue we have shied away from. But because we don’t see it the same way as your white eyes do, you assume there must be some kind of nefarious conspiratorial consensus to which we are instructed to adhere. So, contrary to your belief, there are actually two reasons anyone would believe this:

1. You’re a racist...

Or

2. You don’t know what you’re talking about.


I think this is a general question:

From: Jerri
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: What is “whiteness”?

Dear Michael

You keep mention the word “whiteness” as if it is a bad thing, even when people agree with you. Im interested to hear your definition of whiteness and why you seem to hate white people

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Good question.

In general, what I regard as whiteness is the philosophies and beliefs on which lies the doctrine of white supremacy. If white supremacy is a castle, then skin color is just the moat that surrounds it. Whiteness, however, is the entire grounds of the estate.

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  • Whiteness is the idea that being colorblind is the opposite of being racist.
  • It’s the inability to accept that white privilege exists but believing that some people are “underprivileged.”
  • It’s believing that murder, rape and theft are things that people do but racism is a thing that you have in your heart.
  • It’s being afraid that the 99.9 percent of Black people who don’t commit violent crimes can somehow stop Black people who do, but the apparently large number of white people who aren’t racist can’t fix racism.
  • It’s trying to convince Black people you’re not the problem instead of confronting the white people who are the problem.
  • It’s believing that you know things about Black people but also believing that you don’t stereotype Black people.
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Basically, take a look at your life, your education, your income, your home, neighborhood, family, friends and everything you own in this world and ask yourself this:

Was there ever a point where you had to conform to the wishes of a Black person to achieve this? How much of this depended on the permission, approval or input of a Black person? Warranted or not, could a random Black person have derailed your progress toward whatever you have become?

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How long would you have to look to find a Black person who could say the same?

That is whiteness.


And finally, this on the article “Whiteness is a Pandemic:

From: Chris H.
To: Genetta Adams

Dear Ms. Adams,

I am not certain to whom I should send this, since it is a general response to various articles I have read from The Root. Having said that, you are the managing editor, so I will address my grievances to you: Why is it that a lot of blacks (but certainly not all) believe that there is no such thing as a black racist, or that blacks are incapable of making racist statements? In my opinion, the definition of racism applies to everyone, regardless of skin color; no one gets a pass, or that particular slope becomes extremely slippery.

I don’t know who started the ridiculous idea that black people are exempt, but you aren’t. Period. Your publication has written hurtful and racist articles, time and time again. If you disagree, all you need to do is imagine what your articles would look like if all the instances of pejorative words and phrases pertaining to whites changed to focus on blacks, instead. Wouldn’t that be a major shit-storm?

To that point, if you think it helps matters between whites and blacks to say things that you know damn well wouldn’t fly if the tables were turned, you are mistaken—each time you make a racist remark like, “whiteness is a pandemic”, what do you think that does? Do you think white people are saying to themselves, “You know, those black folks have a good point. Maybe we should start killing ourselves en masse! After all, we are 100% evil because we were born with white skin...”? I can tell you that we are not. (Well, that is, unless we happen to be one of those suffering from a chronic case of White Guilt.)

On the contrary, when you make statements like that, you are doing precisely what you claim to hate. So, I guess in order to make yourselves feel better, you just rationalize being racist by simply changing the rules so that they no longer apply. Sorry, but that’s hypocritical. That’s a double standard. If you are being truly honest with yourselves, you know this already.Further, why do some blacks think whites should apologize—or worse—pay reparations for what our ancestors did? I haven’t done a goddamn thing to a single black person in my life that warrants an apology, much less payment. If I did, I would do the right thing, and personally make amends, because that’s how I was raised.

I imagine that most of my fellow crackers would agree with the above. Sadly, this is just one more thing that perpetuates the issues between our respective races. And once again, this won’t help relations, either—and it isn’t fair to us white folk, anyway. (Regardless, good luck with that particular crusade.)I don’t want to seem as if I am blaming blacks for the continuing strife between us, because that is not my intent. Both sides need a lot of work, obviously. I just want this debate to be a little less lopsided, and continuing to stir the racial pot by publishing inflammatory articles is only making matters worse.

Thank you for your consideration.
Sincerely, Chris

Dear Chris,

Sorry, Genetta was not available but I think I can answer your question that is essentially: “Why is The Root like this?”

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Imagine you were in a fight with a person and you both had guns. Could you legally shoot that person?

OK, imagine that you were in the same fight but you knew their gun was a toy. Could you legally shoot that person?

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Now imagine you were in the same fight and they had a real gun and you had a toy gun.

Now imagine you both had toy guns.

Now imagine you both had no guns.

Now imagine you had a machine gun that had been in millions of fights and the other person had a cap gun.

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Now imagine you had a gun and you were with 150 million people who also had guns and you all fought one guy with a cap gun.

Now here is a rhetorical question for you, Chris:

Why did you imagine the guy you were fighting was Black?

That’s why The Root is like this.

DISCUSSION

By
Raineyb1013, Misfit Black Girl Island Denizen

Lawd!

Will these people ever fucking stop? Do they not know what the word introspection means?

Ya’ll act the fucking fool yet expect us to fucking like you? How about not being so shitty so we wouldn’t have to talk about how shitty whiteness is?

But you won’t do that because you’re never fucking wrong because you’re white and no one can tell you fa damn thing or you’ll write idiotic letters to The Root complaining about how racist it is while being racist as fuck?

You motherfuckers can’t even manage to acknowlege our humanity (We’re Black people you whining sub-mediocre trash ass, bitch ass piece of shit) You can’t even manage to call us people while claiming you haven’t done anything to warrant an apololgy. How about the fact that you, despite your attempts to claim otherwise, can’t even manage to see Black people as people?

But you won’t because despite your claims to the contrary, you’re not a decent human being you’re an entitled asshole who still hasn’t figured out how much your whiteness has pushed you forward while scolding Black people for pointing out exactly how the fuck your shitty ancestors rigged the game.

And you certainly owe Michael money for wasting his time reading the asinine whining you sent him under the guise of trying to teach him about what racism really is. (Although I’m sure you won’t because why would you value the time of someone you can’t even see as human?)

Save your fucking lectures for your knuckle dragging cohorts you claim to speak for (who I am going to assume are not decent human beings either) since they are likely dumb enough to buy your shit and think it’s applause-worthy.

People like these motherfuckers are why we can’t have nice things in this country.

We don’t go over to Korny Klown Korner and mess with their worthless asses why the fuck do they insist on coming over here to fuck with us?

That’s a rhetorical question, we know whiteness can’t abide Black people having opinions without us hearing theirs (while they ignore ours.)