Black News and Black Views with a Whole Lotta Attitude
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The Root's Clapback Mailbag: You Might Be a White Supremacist If...

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Illustration: Oscar Bustamante

Some people believe that white supremacists spew the n-word, burn crosses on lawns and spend their spare time practicing their Nazi salute.

I wish.

I wish all white supremacists were all scraggly white men who could be identified by their Nazi armbands or their evil mustaches. If only they wore name tags or had a universally recognized logo. But, if that were the case, white supremacy wouldn’t be so pervasive or effective.


So, today’s Mailbag is dedicated to the people who smile in your face, say all the right things and live their lives dedicated to uplifting the white race. This Mailbag honors the beloved and respected members of your community who write to us using benign and affable language that cloaks the same brand of hatred and racism of a KKK member.

Today, we salute the whitest hero of them all:

Your friendly neighborhood white supremacist.

The best examples of this phenomenon are the VMI grads whose panties are in a bunch because Black VMI students think VMI is racist.


From: James
To: Michael Harriot.

While I must express disagreement with virtually all of the content of your article on VMI, all of us are entitled to our opinions, no matter how far from the truth they may be. VMI has produced citizen soldiers who have selflessly served their country both in the military and as civilians since 1839.

Among the alumni are General George C. Marshall, creator of the Marshall Plan for the post-war European recovery, General George S. Patton and arctic explorer Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd to namee but a few. Seven VMI alumni have been awarded the Medal of Honor. VMI alumni have served with distinction in every war since its founding and currently provides more newly commissioned officers to the US Army than any other college other than West Point. No institution is perfect, and tradition changes slowly, but no one is more critical of VMI that those who have attended the college.

I walked away after my graduation in 1978 quite bitter and very disillusioned. But in the decades that followed I came to appreciate my time at VMI and it’s history, as dark as some of it may appear to those of us in the 21st century. But even the school’s most vocal critics will defend it from attack from those who would seek its demise. It is not the place of those that have not endured the “VMI experience” to criticize that which they have not experienced nor understand. VMI forges bonds of friendship that bridge all differences in race, sex, religion and economic circumstance.

Attend a VMI reunion, read the Alumni Review, speak to cadets and alumni of all backgrounds before you pass judgement. I would encourage you to watch the 1989 PBS presentation entitled “Integration-25 Year Anniversary of the First Black at VMI Cadets” I would also offer one other suggestion..... Before you publish any more of your grievances and assumptions on VMI, for Heaven’s sake, get the college’s name straight. It’s the VIRGINIA MILITARY INSTITUTE, not the Virginia Military Academy as you state in the opening sentence of your article. One would think that the letters V-M-I would have tipped you off, but apparently not.

Best regards, James

VMI ‘78

Name: William
To: Michael Harriot

I read your hateful article on VMI. After doing some research on you and your magazine, I certainly now know why you are so biased on your metaphors concerning The Institute. If anyone is a racist, you sir, are at the head of the line. I had never heard of you or The Root. Knowing that both of you exist in America, I am not blessed.

From: Robert
To: Michael Harriot

Being “ bucketed” as a racist institution must be like being profiled as a black: Just to educate you, but this doesnt fit your binary narrative.. Signed: -Eager to make that ultimate sacrifice for your rights in 1996 so i chose the racist place where Patton went and they had no Air conditioning..

Jonathan Myrick Daniels was an Episcopal seminarian and civil rights activist. In 1965, he was murdered by a shotgun-wielding special county deputy, Tom Coleman, who was a construction worker, in Hayneville, Alabama, while in the act of shielding...

Wikipedia Born: March 20, 1939, Keene, NH Assassinated: August 20, 1965, Hayneville, AL Feast: August 14 Education: Keene High School, Virginia Military Institute, Harvard University, and more “.....Coleman aimed his gun at sixteen year old Ruby Sales; Daniels pushed her to the ground in order to protect her, saving her life. The shotgun blast killed Daniels instantly;”


Dear VMI alums,

Thank you for respectfully submitting your differences with the article. I must, however, inform you that I am not a racist. To prove it, I can share a—



Do you guys think I attacked your beloved institution? Are you under the impression that I was sitting around contemplating on my next plan of attack against God-fearing American white people and said:

“I know! I should attack this school I’ve never thought about a day in my life! Oooh, and they have ‘citizen soldiers!’ Seeing as how America hates the troops, I’m sure people will eat that up!”


After I came up with my racist idea, I got a DM on Twitter from a Black student at VMI I’ve never met, who said he’s like me to write an article about how VMI was a pro-Black utopia that treated all of its students equally. At first I was skeptical, so I talked to eight Black alums, two former professors and five current students.

And after every single one of those people said VMI was racism-free, I decided to send an email to the superintendent of VMI informing him that I was about to make some shit up. In response, the school actually emailed me back and essentially said: “Some of our students have said we were racist, so we wrote three different letters to address it.”


Still, I was not satisfied.

So I talked to my editor, who said: “Well, maybe you should include the perspectives some Black women. I bet they know about the racism at VMI.”


And when I reached out to one of the first Black women to ever graduate from the school, I found out that she had already been interviewed by the Washington Post, who wrote:

One African American graduate who always felt offended by the college’s racist traditions is Del. Jennifer D. Carroll Foy (D-Prince William), a 2003 VMI graduate who is running for governor. (Virginia’s current governor, Democrat Ralph Northam, is also a graduate of VMI.)

Carroll Foy was proud to be a member of the school’s third class that included women, she said. But when her first-year roommate tried to hang a Confederate flag in her dorm room, she immediately stopped her and explained why the image was hurtful. Whenever she had to walk past the Jackson statue as a “Rat,” she chose not to salute and instead turned her gaze in a slightly different direction, toward the adjacent American flag. And when she served as the president of the school’s multicultural club, she led a boycott against the requirement that cadets charge across the New Market battlefield.

“They were asking us to commemorate people on the wrong side of history and to celebrate people who wanted African Americans in bondage, raped and enslaved,” Carroll Foy said. She said that she was constantly told Jackson and other Civil War celebrations at the school were simply part of the campus’s “heritage.”


And then my editor asked: “Well, what about the Black people who like VMI? Did you include their voices?”

Goddamn, I tried. If there is a Black VMI student or alum that have never experienced or witnessed racism at the school, I could not find them. And it’s not because I’m a shitty reporter. Others have tried.


In fact, the Virginia Pilot wrote about the same issue. The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote about VMI’s Black alumni pushing for change. WSLS reported that the school’s first Black students felt the same way years after they graduated. But I’m the anti-white racist who strong-armed every single one of VMI’s Black students into making stuff up about a school I couldn’t care less about.

The most insane thing about white supremacy is not the hate, the inequality or the trauma it inflicts. Perhaps the craziest thing about it is the way it affects white people. You can talk about climate change, the existence of aliens and Elvis all you want. But, I would submit to you that there is nothing else in the entire universe for which more people have seen more evidence of its existence and have still concluded:

“I don’t care about these actual people who shared their real-life experiences that I wouldn’t know about because I’m white. Nah, these niggers are crazy. I know I’m right.”


And if that ain’t white supremacy, then what is?

Then there are the people who insist that talking nice about racism is better than being truthful about racism know... I hate white people.


And Tim Scott:

Name: Rob
Subject: Sow Hope, Not Hate

Message: Mr. Harriot, I have read some of your writings. You are persuasive. Your words are powerful. Words may be weapons to destroy or may be bricks with which to build. It appears that your choice has been to weaponize your words.

I hope you may consider, for a moment at least, looking at what weaponized words are doing to our nation and to our civilization. It is possible to achieve great things without violence and hatred. I hope that you will take four minutes and view this news story. It is about a great man, my friend and brother Reverend Dr. Michael McDonald, Esq. I hope that you might consider writing about him and provide hope for a generation which is becoming lost in rage. I wish you the best of weekends. Rob Mitchell

From: Robert
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: tribalism

Message: ...every once in awhile I stumble across some of your racist bullshit. Growing up in your beloved SC, I slept, ate and played with a many black folk. And yes I’m gonna just say it how I feel it. Cause God knows your just gonna say, see see i knew you were a racist!!!! was oh, around high school that my black brothers started turning there backs on me. Why, tribalism. There black associates all of a sudden said to them oh no you can’t be friends with the cracker anymore. Racism ,yeah it definitely exists.


Dear Robert,

Thank you for reminiscing about your negro-adjacent experiences with good, decent white folks. I, too, slept, ate and played with many a white folk, like my white family, the Seavers. (Not their real names.)


In the town where I grew up, every Black family was adopted by a good, decent white family who they freely gave money to in exchange for odd jobs like babysitting, cleaning their homes, etc. I know it seems like remnants of slavery but, seriously, this was a thing in my hometown. I remember my cousin Patricia, whose white family had a doctor, was so proud that they let her drive their convertible Mustang to church so she could come right over after service and watch their kids while they went to Hawaii. I know they went to Hawaii because most people were proud of their white families where I grew up.

Well, when I was younger, my white family was the Commoners. My mom was essentially their two son’s nanny and their maid when I was young. I slept at their house, ate their food and they even stayed at our house sometimes. Greg, who was the oldest son, was two years older than I was and we called each other “brothers.” He was my big brother.


Eventually, my mother found another white family, the previously mentioned Seavers. Tim Seaver was a nuclear scientist at the local power plant and his wife, Grace, taught at a local Christian School. My mother moonlighted with them for years and raised their children. By the time I graduated high school, she had stopped.

Well, after I graduated from high school, my mother essentially adopted my cousin’s child, Nikey, and, of course, she wanted her to go to a good school. Nikey was the same age as the Seaver’s son, Patrick. And like me, Nikey and Patrick called themselves brother and sister. Because the two kids loved each other so much, Grace got Nikey in so she could be with her dear brother, Patrick. She was the only Black kid at the school but Patrick was also there.


What happened next is infamously disputed in the Harriot family lore.

It is true that my sisters and I taught Nikey a song that we made up called “Black is Beautiful.” It is true that we tortured her by making her sing it every Friday. But when it was time for Nikey to perform in her class talent show, I definitely didn’t advise her to sing “Black is Beautiful.”


When Nikey sang the song, there was an uproar. The school said it was inappropriate for first-graders. While I disagree, I’m also not crazy. I know how white people feel about anything that even comes close to mentioning race. Need I remind you that I grew up in South Carolina. 

A few days after the talent show, There was a meeting where all of the parents asked the school to do something about the incident. My mom was there but Nikey was not and neither was I. But when my mom came home, she was happy because the principal said he would leave the decision up to Grace. She knew what the answer would be. Grace was her family. Patrick and Nikey were brother and sister. Everything was handled.


Grace kicked Nikey out of the school.

To this day, Nikey blames me for getting her kicked out of that school. I don’t argue with her because I know she doesn’t remember correctly because she was so young. Plus, she was distraught about leaving Patrick, so I didn’t exacerbate her sadness by pointing the finger at Patrick’s mother.


But there’s another part of the story that neither Nikey nor my mother knows.

My mother stopped caring for the Commoners when I began going to public school; she got a better job and the Commoners moved away when I was about 12. Years later, when I was in high school, the Commoners moved back to town. My mother found out and told me over the summer of my senior year. By then, I had skipped two grades. I walked into my AP Calculus class and guess who I saw?



My mother thought this was the coolest thing! I would always tell her how he asked about her and she would always ask me how he was doing. The brothers were reunited! Greg’s younger brother, Kevin, was a freshman and he spoke to me every time he saw me. He even signed my yearbook, “From your brother Kevin.”


At my high school graduation, my mother fawned over him like he was her own son. It was halfway embarrassing. And here’s why:

To this day, Greg has never acknowledged that he knew who the fuck I was.

Now, logically, I believe that it had to have come up between Greg and Kevin but I can’t be sure. Maybe too much time had passed between ages 12 and 16. Maybe he didn’t just like me. I can’t even ascribe it to racism. But after reading your letter, I can’t help but think:

Does Greg think I’m a racist, too?

I should ask Nikey’s brother Patrick if he thinks I’m racist.

But he never spoke to Nikey again.

And finally:

From: Blow me
To: Michael Harriot
Subject: Uh no

Message: Oh stfu you whining bitch. The po’ black man, the po’ black. How about your black ass pay for some of the damage done by blm to seattle and Portland!! Prick.


See, that’s how I like my white supremacists!