The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Wypipology 101

Illustration for article titled The Root's Clapback Mailbag: Wypipology 101
Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/FMG )

As one of the world’s foremost wypipologists, my credentials are often challenged by people who aren’t familiar with my field of study.


So today, I would like to use my area of expertise to discuss some very important subjects that are often asked about in the emails, tweets and messages received by The Root staff. I hope this serves as a reminder that it is our duty to educate our fellow man, even if they are haters.

If you are already a wypipologist, feel free to use this column as part of your continuing education requirements. If you are an aspiring Caucaiatrist, Uggriculturalist or Privilengineer, ask your instructor if you can use this as extra credit.

Each one, teach one.

The first letter concerns the use of the term “Saltine American” in Anne Branigin’s article about a college banning Nikes because of the Colin Kaepernick endorsement:

From: Wade
To: Anne
Subject: College of the Ozarks article

Dear Ms. Branigin

While reading your article, which I liked, I noticed you using the term saltine American. I guess that is a nicer way of saying cracker. I understand that many crackers use racial slurs on a regular basis. Isn’t it counterproductive to the fight for equality to use racial slurs from either side? I have a feeling that Colin Kaepernick would not want his name associated with a[n] article referring to white people as crackers. I mainly draw that from the fact that his family is a whole box of crackers.

My personal feelings on the new Nike ad campaign: I think it’s great. The video is inspiring to watch. Kaepernick is inspiring alone, but to add the rest of the people in the video makes it great. The idiot Trumptards [who] can’t see it are pathetic.

If you read this, I thank you for your time.

Just another saltine American (cracker) from Alabama.

Wade Farley

P.S. I’m not planning a boycott of The Root. Too hard to find good reporting.

Dear Wade,

I’m not sure how often you read the Clapback Mailbag, but I can assure you that Anne is not a racist. In fact, she is so not racist that she uses the term “Saltine Americans” as a term of endearment. She had no idea it was originally used to describe white people who beat slaves as “whip crackers.”


Anne, who fashions herself as an amateur culinary artist, first started using the phrase as a way to combat the negative stereotype that white people don’t use seasoning after she noticed that Caucasian recipes often call for “a pinch of salt.”

Plus, Anne is a great writer who often employs metaphors as a literary device. Like America, the cracker aisle at most grocery stores is very diverse, but it wouldn’t be fair to call white people “Ritz Americans” because that would imply a level of privilege. Plus, Ritz crackers are brown, so that wouldn’t fit.


Saltines, on the other hand, are the palest of crackers. Plus, they are dry, square and no one brings them to cookouts. Unlike many other varieties of crackers, saltines have no flavor except for whatever they appropriate from the food they accompany. Even though Graham crackers are much more delicious, they never get any recognition. Is there a Golden Saltines cereal? Have you ever made a pie with a saltine crust? Has your kid ever asked you for a Teddy Saltine snack?

No? Then why are Saltines—the driest, least flavorful, most mediocre of the crackers—considered so important?


I think I know, Wade. It’s Saltine privilege.

No one ever recognizes the work that Wheat Thins are out there putting in every day. Technically, a pretzel is a cracker, too. But just because of their shape and the color of their skin, they are discriminated against. I’m tired of this pretzel body-shaming, Wade. It has me tied in knots.


Even though I don’t care for our Cheez-It in chief, some of my favorite foods are crackers. I ate a Triscuit in college and I had lunch with a Wheat Thin just last week. Plus, I always remember to thank the brave crackers out there protecting our freedoms in the cracker armed forces, including Captain Wafer, who left his pet goldfish cracker to serve our country after his daughter, Nilla, was killed in a horrific banana pudding accident by a stale zebra when some animal crackers escaped from the zoo.

So I would like to apologize on Anne’s behalf. I have offered her some food-based alternatives to using cracker-related racial terms, including:

  • Doughboys
  • La Croix-casians
  • Mayonnaisians
  • Kentucky Gentrified People
  • Creampuffs
  • I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Becky
  • The Master Race-inettes
  • Breadnecks

You’re welcome.

I have no idea what these two emails are referring to:

From: a.nonimus
To: Michael Harriot

Fuck you NIGGER!

From: Balto
To: Michael Harriot

To all fucking libs. Get a big Pacifier stick in your socialist ass hide in your safe space AND suck on it for the next 6 years. MELTING fake news SNOW FLAKE motherfucker. Make America GREAT AGAIN.


Dear a.nonimous and Balto,

You make some very compelling points.

Thank you.

And now, for our weekly “Not all white people” message. Last week, I told you about this direct Twitter message:

From: Derek
To: Michael Harriot

Hey Michael, hope everything’s going well.

I’ve read your stuff on the The Root for awhile, and I understand where you come from on a lot of issues, I was just wondering about the divisiveness in all your posts. “Look at this dumb white guy,” “white people being white people,” etc. I get that these are extremely dumb, ignorant people, but is this the best way to fix things? I’m just as disgusted by the things my fellow white people do and have done, and I’m living my life to create positive change in my community the best way I can, but it’s disappointing seeing the fast, reactionary takes you give sometimes. I want to read your work, but sometimes it veers toward extremist positions that make it tough to agree with.

I’m not telling you you’re wrong, I’m not being another butt-hurt white guy. I just want to know your views on going to that length, I guess. I’m a journalist too, and I believe in speaking your mind when necessary, but I guess my real question is: do you think that lumping all white people for criticizing is helping? Is that any better than lumping all black people, or Asians, Indians, etc. together? I think it’s perfectly fine to point out and laugh at individuals for putting themselves out for criticism, but lumping everyone together doesn’t help. At least, in terms of bridging the divide and finding a solution to our race problem in this country, I don’t see how it does. You can reach out to me at my email, [redacted] if you’re interested in talking. I check it far more than Twitter.

Regards, Derek

So I responded:

Can you point to a specific time I lumped all white people together? I’m perfectly willing to change that.


I told you that I would let you know if Derek responded.nHe finally did.… “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid ... Unless you’re white, in which case, both come naturally.”… Perhaps it is because it is easier to galvanize a smaller population than one so widespread and multifaceted as the white majority. Or maybe it is because white people don’t give a fuck. Perhaps they never cared about transgender restrooms, the national anthem, the Confederate flag or Christmas anyway. In America, they have never had to sacrifice their comfort or safety simply because of who they were or what they believed. It is hard to see how they care so much about respecting the flag, freedom or liberty while they watch their country kill, imprison and snatch babies from black and brown people every day.… These people are not patriots. They are not motivated by their love of country or their American values. They are self-serving, disloyal traitors who only value one thing: Whiteness. I’m open for suggestions and alternative theories but what else could be the case? Trump has no leadership ability, business acumen, expertise, character, truth, morals or policy for them to agree with.

I mean, you literally refer to yourself as a “Wypipologist.”

I know you’re trying to be funny, but lumping all white people together to hate on a few truly awful people is hypocritical. It’s really hard to enjoy reading what you write when you’re writing these throwaway slights that aren’t even necessary. There’s plenty of more articles I can use as examples, and I’m sure you know what you’re writing. Whether you feel like changing or not is up to you, but personally it just doesn’t seem constructive to making the world better.


Here’s the thing, Derek:

For a second, let’s imagine that I wasn’t trying to be funny. Let’s imagine that I was, in fact, a wypipologist. Imagine that, in order to survive in America, I had to study the habits, traits and customs of white people.


What do you suppose I’d find?

I’d probably assume, from looking at history, that white people don’t care about black people. I’d discover that, even though a minority of people in America owned slaves, most white people either supported it or never tried to do anything about it. I’d discover that even those who fought to end slavery never wanted racial equality. I’d discover that most white people had an unfavorable opinion of the civil rights movement. (I know I use that link a lot), Black Lives Matter, and almost every movement for equality and freedom in history.


Before making a statement, a true wypipologist would look at the polls showing that most white Americans don’t think there is discrimination in the courts, financial systems, or the workplace, in direct opposition to the readily-available data. They would see research indicating that whites don’t believe police treat races differently, and think police are held accountable for misconduct, despite the mountains of peer-reviewed research and evidence to the contrary.

Now, a wypipologist would also examine the fact that the vast majority of  
black people don’t commit crimes, according to FBI data, but we still have to put up with the “criminal” stereotype. The percentage of black people who graduate high school is almost identical to the percentage of white people who do (87 percent for blacks, 88.8 percent for whites, according to the U.S. Census). Most white people and most black people don’t have a bachelors (32.8 percent of whites do; 22.5 percent of blacks do). And when it comes to advanced degrees, 8.2 percent of blacks have one, while 12.5 percent of whites do, but only black people deal with the “uneducated” stereotype.


If you had a brain tumor and a doctor looked at your test results and concluded that you had six months to live unless you underwent cancer treatment, it wouldn’t be because he hates your brain. His diagnosis would be based on his experience and the available research and data.

And if you told him: “But not all brain tumors kill people,” it would not make his diagnosis any less true.


Using actual numbers, research and data, a certified wypipologist like myself can only conclude that America is sick with the cancer of racism. I can only conclude that white people don’t give a fuck. Historically they haven’t. Currently, they don’t. They never have, and there is no scientific or logical reason to think they ever will recover unless they acknowledge the cancer and seek treatment.

Yet here you are, Derek, mad about the “lumping together” of white people.

A certified mechanic would tell you that cars need gas, Derek, but not all cars. A biologist would say that birds fly, Derek, but not all birds. And white people participate in, perpetuate, allow and ignore racism, Derek.


I wish that was a joke.

Earlier this week, Senior Politics Editor Stephen A. Crockett and I wrote a piece about our exclusive interview with a troop, a flag and the national anthem:


Here are a couple of responses we received:

To: Michael Harriot
From: Gene
Subject: Disrespecting the flag

I know you think this is funny, but you still never answered the question about why people like Lebron James and Colin Kaepernick, who have millions of dollars, keep promoting inequality and division even [though] they have every privilege America can afford.

[Their] kids don’t go to bad schools. They are not part of the problem so why are they telling others to protest?

I’m waiting.

Dear Gene and S Zamm:

Thank you.

Thank you for making me understand why so many white people are upset about this issue. I realize now that it has nothing to do with racism, yet it has everything to do with racism.


Lebron and Kaepernick have put their money and careers on the line to speak out about injustice in America. Many people have said that makes them ungrateful millionaires. This point always confused me until I realized something: This is why injustice, inequality and police brutality exist in the first place.

Apparently, you believe that when something negatively affects people in your community, you shouldn’t give a damn if it doesn’t affect you. This is why so many people don’t care about police brutality, underfunded schools or wage inequality. This is how you can vote for a president who displays racism at every opportunity but believe you aren’t racist.


As long as it’s not your children who are being snatched out of your arms; as long as it’s not your relatives who are being banned because of their religion; as long as it’s not your ethnicity being criminalized as rapists and murderers, you don’t give a fuck!

By your logic, if you were in a roomful of starving people and a steak fell out of the sky, not only would you not share it, but if the other people started demanding food, you’d tell them to stop making so much noise while you were trying to eat.


You are the worst kind of human being.

Let’s say Lebron and Kaepernick actually hated the flag, the troops, the national anthem and America as a whole. How are you materially affected by their hate? Who does it damage?


Moreover, why does your love for America outweigh theirs? Simply because they express it differently? What gives you the authority or the right to tell them to leave? In fact, I have a suggestion:

The constitution gives them the right to protest, as well as freedom of speech. If you don’t like it, you should get the fuck out of our country, you ungrateful, anti-American ingrate.


And finally, here’s a hilarious exchange between me and a Twitter follower:

From: Kristoph
To: Michael Harriot

Michael, I started following you on Twitter. Proly kos something you said made sense to me. I had no idea you were the preeminent Wypipologist; and UN apologetically so. Anyway, I’m KristophPistoph - The Engry Blek Roshan. I’ve got one for you.

What do you call it when Wypipo at the highest level of Society get into fights, like what’s happening in this country today? Wait for it, wait for’s called a Cauc Fight. Get it? Get it?

And I’m all for Cauc Fighting. Bwahaha

From: Michael Harriot
To: Kristop

Can I use that?

From: Kristoph
To: Michael Harriot

Absolutely! My gift to you. I love your work

And since that day, Kristoph has kept me alert on other instances of Cauc fighting in America. Here are a few:

From: Kristoph
To: Michael Harriot

Extreme Cauc Fighting

From: Kristoph
To: Michael Harriot

Cauc fighting for real!


We need to do something about this white on white crime. I’m forwarding his email address to Anne.

I hope she doesn’t call him a Saltine.

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



Call it a guilty pleasure, but I love reading the NotAllWhitePeople emails in The Clapbag. Specifically, I love when they start with, “I enjoy reading you on The Root” or something of the like. If they are actually reading Michael on The Root as they claim (which they are not, they just say that to try to get a bit of cred so they can spew their disingenuous rhetoric attempt at masking racist bullshit), they would know not to NotAllWhitePeople. They would have been reading about it pretty much every week. They would also know they were going to get sliced to pieces in the following Clapbag which to me, is the perfect end of a Friday work day.