The Root’s Clapback Mailbag: The Wypipo Participation Trophy

Michael Harriot 04/07/2018. 20 comments
Clapback Mailbag Clapbacks Reader Mail Reader Email Hate Mail Gary Owen Michael Rapaport Martin Luther King Jr MLK

As “one of the real racists,” I admit that I have intentionally omitted one of the most underappreciated groups of people in America:

The good white people.

So today I sifted through The Root’s emails, comments, letters and tweets searching for good white people, hoping to acknowledge their efforts to end racism. They should be applauded for their vigilant pursuit of not hating.

If you never burned a cross on a lawn, here’s your ribbon. If you never called anyone a nigger, your name is being etched into a plaque as you read this. Take a bow, my friend ...

You’re one of the good ones.


The first set of letters come from good white people who responded to the article about the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. by reminding me of a few facts:

From: Steve
To: Michael

I have always been impressed with the strength of your conviction expressed through your writings. I am concerned that you have a view of America and especially “white America” that could be incendiary at a time in which all non- privledged people must stand together and realize that the haves are kicking the shit out of the have nots.

I agree with you that a large percentage of white people are sitting in their living rooms and listening to canned news broadcasts designed to continue to divide us as a people, however there are a great number of people who have stood with the down trodden and beaten members of our society and have paid a dear price for it. I believe that you are educated in the truth enough to know that without some assistance from some people that are considered rich and white then people of all races would be in worse shape.

I take a certain offense to your article about Dr. King but I also applaude it as well. I, as a white man, do have a certain responsibility to change beliefs about racism but I cannot accept that your plight is different than those of many in the history of the world. The English raped my ancestors on their wedding night in an effort to breed them out of existence while the Jewish have been ostracized for almost their entire existence. All people have suffered and it can only be defeated with understanding and empathy. May God Bless you and your family, please keep writing and stirring it up. Silence is the death of all movements. Steve Graham

From: Some_Guy
To: Michael Harriot

I’d just like to say that I’m a white 40 year old from Ohio and that my admiration of Dr. King is genuine. I wasn’t born when some of the first polls you sites where taken. My feelings aren’t bullshit and I’m like many Americans. I don’t appreciate you painting my entire race with a single brush any more than you would like it. We’re all people and the more time you spend separating us into groups by skin colorand then telling us that all people of that color think this or feel that, the longer these types of negative feelings and ignorance will persist. There are plenty of white people who are racist and would also like to separate us by color and tell you what everybody of another color thinks and feels, but this article seems to want to draw distinctions and separate us instead of bringing us together.

I want freedom and equality if’d oppertunity for us all and I found your article offensive and derogatory of my entire race. You may not have started this and everybody who did is looking since passed away and blaming me for everything that anybody who ever shared my skinn color has ever done and then going a step further and only focusing on the bad examples of my race and telling me “white America will have transformed our freedom fighter into the light-skinned lead in a Tyler Perry movie.” You wouldn’t like it if I were writing about what “black America” thinks and feels.

Also, after you did all that, throwing a one sentence disclaimer that “And by “white people,” I do not mean it as a blanket statement.” Doesn’t make the test of your article any less decisive oor racist. You don’t have to tell people you’re not being racist when you’re not being racist. (Judy look at our president, just because he said that he’s not racist repeatedly, that doesn’t erase the rest of his comments.) Please stop lumping me in with everybody who shares my color andif everybody else would also do that maybe we can start the healing process. Maybe just focus on dignity and justice for all Americans. “Black lives matter” makes people like me feel like I’m not included even though I agree that we’ve got an abuse of power issue with police nation wide. There are innocent people from every background that have been victims and you could add their support without making the issue exclusively black. “No freedom without justice” would have been a catchy slogan that would have united people of all backgrounds. Help the poor, help the disenfranchised, go to those in need. Just don’t let your anger make you see things in only black and white.

Dear Steve, Lance and Some_Guy:

OK, I get it.

I am fully aware that there are a large group of Caucasians who don’t hate black people, and I concede that I focus on the racists without acknowledging the nonracists. You’re right, guys. Not all white people.

My omission has nothing to do with hating white people. I must admit, there are a lot of things I admire about you. I am jealous of how you can brave 30-degree weather wearing nothing but cargo shorts and flip-flops. I envy your colonizing prowess. My conversations focus on racist white people for one reason:

This is white people’s fault.

Again, when I write about crime, I talk about police and I speak about guns in black communities, the need for education and how black men need to get their shit together when it comes to how we treat our women and our families. When I write about politics, I talk about Republicans and I talk about black America’s dependence on the Democratic Party. But when I talk about race and racism, I only talk about white people because I have learned a valuable lesson:

There is absolutely nothing black people can do to fix racism.

It is a problem that white America needs to solve. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, 2.2 million black people were arrested in 2016. Even if a different person committed each crime (which is impossible, since some of the arrests were for two crimes), based on U.S. population estimates, that would mean that 95 percent of black people weren’t arrested for a crime that year. Therefore, it would be stupid for me to focus on black-on-black crime. Most white people (75 percent) don’t believe that blacks are treated less fairly when applying for a bank loan or mortgage. A majority of whites (68 percent) don’t believe that their race gives them an advantage. So when Some_Guy says he found my article “offensive and derogatory of my entire race,” the problem is not mine.

Perhaps there are other ways to change the fact that most white Americans (57 percent) feel that our country talks about race too much. Maybe there are firefighters who are paid to ride around and, instead of extinguishing raging fires, acknowledge all the places that are not burning down in flames. I guess there are cops who enforce traffic laws by stopping the people who are not speeding and tell them how great they are driving. Perhaps there are doctors who tell their patients, “Instead of focusing on your terminal illness, I think you should concentrate on the parts of your body that don’t have cancer.”

But I get it. It offends you. Despite the fact that Black Lives Matter is responsible for zero deaths, specifically stating, “We acknowledge, respect, and celebrate differences and commonalities,” and adding, “We work vigorously for freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people,” I get why you say the organization “makes people like me feel like I’m not included.”

And as it relates to this article, black people loved Martin Luther King, while every piece of measurable data that exists shows that white people did not. So when you instruct me: “Please stop lumping me in with everybody who shares my color andif everybody else would also do that maybe we can start the healing process. Maybe just focus on dignity and justice for all Americans.”

Nah, fam.

You need to do that shit.


Oh, there’s one more:

From: Secondworld Storyteller:
To: Michael Harriot

Iskipped to the bottom you racist. You believe in race. You believe in the color of skin and not the context of character, that all men were created equal by God. The Bible is Jewish really. Not “black”. Since Dr. King Jr. Was a preacher, I guess that makes him a lot of things you do not want him to be already, and a believer in God who created everyone including white and black skinned members of the human race. All family. I am a man of keen unrelenting justice for all, especially you and your racism. And I would kill the men who stood in King’s way long before his belief in peaceful revolution and likw ghandi deliberately worked for a peaceful recognition and change. Fool. Justice is deserted. And his goal was clearly a reconcilliation and appreciation and mutual respect and equality, which he got, and that is what people remember when they remember that man. You remember vengeance for your “race”. But slavers are dead. You are no slave. And we are Men in equality today. Any other separation comes from men like you. And I pray one day wiser men than King will just kill you all and settle for nothing but what is right and true, contrary to all parties and a govrrnmental system even the Founders knew should not be so immortal to survive its own death penalty and crimes. Your kind, your wanton racism, is what should die. And believe me, I will remember that.

I am not good with the internet, so hopefully one of our readers will alert the authorities about Secondworld Storyteller.

When he said that he prays “one day wiser men than King will just kill you all,” I wasn’t worried about myself. But when he wrote, “I would kill the men who stood in King’s way,” it scared me.

It’s obvious that this guy is about to start attacking white people.

Look, Secondworld, when King said, “[T]he Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens’ Councilor or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension,” I know he was was talking about the whites who disagree with the black people who talk about race in objectionable ways, but I implore you ...

Please leave Lance, Steve and Some_Guy alone.


There was a furious outcry from people—both black and white—who disagreed with our story on Michael Rapaport, but this one stood out to me the most:

From: Nick
To: Michael Harriot

The story you did on Micheal rapaport was terrible.you actually don’t know shit.he is the worst kind of white man

then you should do a story on obama,how is the worst kind of black man [laughing tears emoji]! Worst president ever,write a story about that [laughing tears emoji, laughing tears emoji]

I found this Twitter DM extremely interesting because I thought Michael Rapaport fans were fictional characters like Yetis and unicorns. Or Yeticorns (the result of a Bigfoot fucking a unicorn).

I decided to browse Nick’s Twitter feed to get a sense of the average Michael Rapaport fan. His timeline was mostly composed of retweets from Tomi Lahren, Tucker Carlson and Donald Trump, but there were a few original tweets from Nick:

Nah.

Too easy.


People caped for Gary Owen, too, after Deputy Managing Editor Yesha Callahan’s article:

Look, guys,

Unlike Yesha, I actually think Gary Owen is funny. Not pay-to-see-him funny, but if I were kidnapped and tied to a dining room chair inside a dark closet for hours on end, if someone put on a Gary Owen DVD, I wouldn’t turn away.

Nor do I believe that Gary Owen hates black people. I think we need a more nuanced discussion. But one thing is clear:

Gary Owen is a white man.

If I were in a restaurant and overheard two white siblings talking about their cousins, I would not insert myself into their conversation because I don’t know their family and it has nothing to do with me. (Yes, white people have cousins. I learned that from Damon Young’s investigative report. )

I have heard many black women playfully call their friends bitches, but I wouldn’t assume that I could call them that; nor would I enlist someone else to do it. Yet Owen inserted himself into staff writer Monique Judge’s debate about black women’s value and pay equity because he felt he had the right to do so.

Even though he knows the n-word is off-limits, Owen enlisted his wife’s help to call Michael Blackson the n-word. I don’t know how Blackson felt about it, but it irked some black people. I won’t even say that his skit wasn’t funny, but there is only one kind of person who would put something like this out there into the public and not expect criticism.

There is only one kind of habitual line stepper who would assume the privilege to cross into those boundaries simply because he occasionally inserts his penis into a black woman’s vagina.

A white man.

I wasn’t offended by what he did because I am rarely shocked by the antics of white people. His little comedy skit enraged me as much as Kim Kardashian’s cornrows or Miley Cyrus’ one-dimensional flat-screen twerking.

It’s what white people do.

I know Owen lives, works and hangs with black people. But the proximity to blackness and white privilege is a terrible combination that often empowers white people to ignore the instructions for staying in their lanes.

I grew up in a house filled with black women, but I don’t know what it is like to be a black woman. I am surrounded by white people every day, but I don’t go around yelling “Roll Tide” or inserting myself into conversations about wearing cowboy boots with sundresses.

When Yesha reminded Owen to look into his rearview mirror at the history of white men using the n-word, she wasn’t attacking him. When Monique pointed out that he has no business in a conversation about how black women are regularly treated, she was not “hating” by honking her horn at Owen.

She was just telling him to stay in his lane.

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