The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Why?

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Why?
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/G-O)

Editor’s Note: Senior Writer Michael Harriot is on vacation, so this week’s Clapback Mailbag was prepared in advance. If anyone on The Root’s staff has pissed white people off in the last few days, we promise to respond to their concerns in a timely manner.


Why is the Clapback Mailbag so important?

Because wypipo need answers.

When we ranked the most frequent kinds of emails, DMs, tweets and comments received by writers at The Root, the top three categories were:

  1. P.R. people who “just wanted to circle back” to see if you want to talk to their client about the thing you don’t give a fuck about.
  2. People who want to call you “nigger.”
  3. Some dude name Joel Gage who apparently just emails copies of everything he reads on the internet and somehow gets past every spam filter (please stop, Joel).
  4. White people who want to know why.

That last sentence isn’t incomplete. They want to know why you’re so angry. They want to know why you’re so racist. Why you can say the n-word but they can’t. Why you’re so adamant about dividing their beloved America by talking about racism. Why you didn’t say white people are racist except for Rebecca Beckwith of Corning, Neb. Why you don’t talk about black-on-black crime when you’re talking about discrimination. Why you can say the n-word but they can’t (The last sentence isn’t a duplicate. They really want to know.)

A lot of white people believe they deserve answers to their questions and, by default, it is everyone else’s duty to provide answers. That’s why they always want to speak to your supervisor or talk to someone in charge.

And that’s why we are here.

News Editor Monique Judge recently received this request via a Twitter DM

Illustration for article titled The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: Why?

Dear Anthony,

I bring you greetings from The Root staff. We took a vote on whether or not we wanted to see your penis and the answer was an overwhelming “no.”


While Monique could have easily sent this message to you personally, something about this actually piqued my curiosity. I have so many questions, including:

  • Why though? How does one decide to send a dick picture? Were you thinking: “She probably doesn’t like me. But a random picture of my wee willie winkle is sure to change her mind!”
  • What do you get out of this? Besides literal exposure? Suppose Monique approves your request. What happens then? Is she supposed to reciprocate by sending you pictures of other random penises? Is she going to fall in love with you?
  • Has this worked before? Because of your comfort with the portmanteau “dickture,” (and bravo to you, sir,), I can assume this is not your first cock rodeo. Have you ever sent a boner-graph (See? I can do it, too!) to someone and they became enamored with you?
  • Why ask for consent? I mean, I kinda get it. But I think the Venn diagram of women who would be upset with unsolicited wang in their inbox largely overlaps the group of women who would feel disrespected by a pecker portrait. Is this supposed to be a respectful way to send a “splatchat?” (OK, I’ve gone too far.)
  • How did you get so much penis confidence? I don’t necessarily have low shaft-esteem but I have never understood how the dick pic became such a popular opening gambit. Do you consider your penis to be handsome? Irresistible?

This is not to say that your dick is unsightly. While The Root Staff does not discriminate on the basis of color, creed or dickworthiness, we determined that your wiener, specifically, would not likely meet our penile approval standards process.

Not all penises, Anthony ...

Just yours.

It is worth noting that Anthony subsequently sent Monique an apology.

Hey Monique,

I want to deeply apologize for the message I sent to you over Facebook. It was meant to be a joke in response to your article.

The tone of the article made it seem that you had a good sense of humor as you coined the term “dickture” to refer to a man sending an unsolicited sexual image. I promise that I would never send you or anyone else a crude image, and my message wasn’t meant to be taken seriously.

Please take the photo of the message down or edit the photo so that my name and job is blurred out. I understand this joke wasn’t a great one, but sending my personal information to your thousands of followers was an extreme reaction.

You have my word I’ll never joke about another one of your articles. Please just remove the photos of my personal information and you’ll never hear from me again.



Editor’s note: You should thank white Jesus that Michael is off today.

I don’t even know what this is about:

From: Kim S.
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Interracial love

Mr. Harriot,

Although I love your writing, I find that you will make snide remarks about white women and interracial dating. Do you know that this is a form of hate? I have been married to a wonderful black man for 15 years and have experienced the hatred that is fueled by people like you. Speaking against interracial dating is actually a form of hate as people in interracial relationship experience a lot of discrimination.

In fact, I’d say that people who date outside their race, especially parents of black children, have as close-up look at racism and are able to understand it. We visited relatives in Louisiana and we were stared at constantly. No one understands a person’s heart, pain and soul like a mother. Black children came out of my womb.


Dear Kim:

People should be able to love whomever they want and I’m sorry that you have been the victim of so much hate and discrimination. Although I’ve written a lot about white women, I’ve never indicated that I have a problem with interracial dating.


In fact, I am an avid supporter of interracial dating. I’ve watched Jungle Fever at least twice, regularly listen to Childish Gambino and one of my best friends’ friends is married to a white people ...


However, I’ve checked with some of the leading doctors of our time, including Dr. Pepper, Dr. Dre, Dr. Umar Johnson and the entire Dominican Republic. It turns out your scientific theory is incorrect. Having a black baby come out of your vagina or inviting a black penis to enter doesn’t mean that you understand racism or “caught” the blackness. If that were true, we could cure racism by sending a legion of well-endowed niggas from Louisiana to white suburbs to inject the racism antidote into white housewives while their husbands are at work.


If you have black children, I sincerely hope you take the time to learn, understand and teach your children about their culture. But you don’t magically inherit that ability simply by dating a black man. Having a semi-negro-producing uterus doesn’t make you any different from any other white person in the world. It is entirely possible for you to love your children while simultaneously participating in white supremacy. Proximity doesn’t negate all of the privilege you’ve inherited, the cultural biases you’ve subconsciously absorbed or the truth you obviously assumed came along with every batch of black sperm.

No, Kim. Blackness is not an STD.

Apparently, a lot of people were upset over our article about the history of cultural theft:


From: @love_sunsets
To: Michael Harriot

In regards to your article on the 10 greatest thefts.

I acknowledge all these thefts might have happened just the way you say. But: Can you please explain what exactly the purpose of your post is?

Do you want acknowledgement for the copyrights?

Do you want to cause a bigger rift between races?

Do you want to shame all white persons for the transgressions of relatively few?

Do you want black persons to be more antagonised towards white persons?

Black people are woke, white people never will be, they only get antagonised, so what I may ask again is your purpose?


Dear Love,

As a little kid, I read a series of books about an undocumented immigrant child who was adopted by white parents in a rural, all-white town. The boy didn’t even know that he was adopted. His parents hid that fact from him at first, even changing his name. They tried to wait until he was old enough to know.


All his life, the kid felt like an outcast but he couldn’t quite put his finger on why he just felt so different. When he asked his parents why his eyes always burned, they made him wear glasses. They told him to slow down when he ran fast. He learned to suppress his differences so he could blend in. He wanted to be normal. Still, the boy felt out of place. Like the entire earth had rejected him. Like he wasn’t tethered to anything. Like he wasn’t enough.

Eventually, the parents came clean and taught the kid that he was different because he was adopted and not from their country. They told him his real name and even gave him a letter that his biological parents had written to explain why he was put up for adoption. He finally understood why he was different.


It turns out, the boy was the exiled son of a prominent family. Not only did knowing this information make him understand why he always felt different, but it changed his entire perception of what he was capable of.

I know narcissism and privilege makes you think that the entire universe revolves around your fragile psyche but the intent of the post was not to shame white people or to get copyright reparations. It was not about causing a rift between “the races.”


It was about the knowing.  

This is why history is important. Without knowledge of the past one can never truly understand the present or move toward the future. When a person—or a group of people—is stripped of their history, they can never know what they are capable of or who they truly are. Simply knowing about his past inspired the boy to embrace his peculiarities and become more than anyone thought he was ever capable of.


And as much as you are curious about my “purpose” for pointing out these things, I am equally perplexed as to why people like yourself object so vehemently when people shed light on racism, the history of white supremacy and objective, unfiltered truths. Luckily, both of these questions have the same answer:

Because it is the fucking truth.

When people like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) insists that white people have contributed more to civilization than any other “subgroup,” it is because the stories of Onesimus, Charley Case and Nearest Green are relatively unknown. Part of the reason racism still exists is that the undeniable truth of history is purposefully hidden.


And that, my dear Love, is the entire “purpose.”

The previously mentioned immigrant kid grew up to become an award-winning journalist and remained close to his adoptive parents until their deaths. He’d never admit it, but I wonder if he sometimes feels a tinge of anger toward his parents for all those years they hid his history from him; if he acknowledges that a part of his childhood was stolen.


I wonder if there are nights when this boy, Kal-El, son of Jor-El, of the planet Krypton, glides through the peaceful night sky, now knowing why there was always fire in his eyes, and he gets mad. Perhaps when he is perusing his collection of first-place ribbons from the Smallville Elementary Field Day or looking at his consecutive long-jump state championship trophies, the child in our story wishes that they would have at least told him his real name means “son of the stars” or revealed that he descended from a long line of brilliant scientists.

You’re 100 percent correct that knowing history might make black people “more antagonized toward white persons.” Maybe one of Superman’s powers is the ability to forgive and forget, but we are not quite as strong as him. I’d wager that there are nights—maybe on rare occasions—when even Superman, upon pondering his stolen history, has the same infuriatingly maddening thought as I do:

“Those motherfuckers knew I could fly.”

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



“Black children came out of my womb.”

The CACKLE that came out of my mouth at work!