Illustration: Oscar Bustamante (The Root/G-O)
For the next few weeks, we will select our favorite responses from the nearly 400 emails, tweets, DMs and comments we have featured in the weekly Clapback mailbag. We have enlisted a panel of experts to rank our top 10, but if there is one that you remember in particular, please list it in the comments or email it to [email protected]
Our first three emails in the top 10 are specifically related to our characterization of certain groups of people.
10. The Whitest Email of All Time
This email was featured in the mailbag on October 13, 2017.
Subject: Your vile, sick, self deluded article
Regarding your hateful rant about white people. If you think we are so bad you really need to go back to your African homeland where your own tribal leaders and ancestors pimped you for profit to jewish ship owners. Nothing to do with white europeans you despise so much. In Africa your honeland youll find they still never got civilized but there are cannibal warlords in Liberia. As Ben Carson said, a decent black man who excelled in a white mans world.” the best thing that ever happen to the black man was slavery as it gave them the opportunity they would have never had in Africa” you guys benefit from our civilization and our inventions. Cars, planes, trains, phones, electricity, tv, radio, archetecture. Roman and greek civlization is western civilization and Im sorry your ancestors are sad ass voo doo cannibals who never made a civlization.. Deal with it instead of hate and blame. Obama is a MuslIm which is very odd as Islam are the first to enslave your black ass. Go to Islam see what they still do to blacks today. So you should be thanking white men. We let you become millionairs in our society, Presidents, educated. Your complaining is vile and makes you unworthy. As far as crime. Lets face the facts. 40, 000 white women arr raped a year by black mren. White men dont rape black women. Wonder why? 300,000 black on white crimes a year. It is racial targeted hate. We cant help we are a beautiful intelligent race. But your acts of violence are transparent. We dont protest the way you people do as we have jobs. Not on welfare. In Japan during Fukishmi not one act of violence or looting. An honorable people. Katrina and other Us disaster its your breathen doing the looting not whites. It appears to me “Michael” sadly the name of a great warrior archangel you disgrace with your racial hate, jealosy, lies, and most import self delusions. What you are inciting with your so called “poetry” is that of your voo doo ancestors demonic verbal diarrhea . Id like to look you in the eys and expel your bullshit out of you. Your a disgrace to humanity and ungrateful trash. Like your islamic Breathen foul and unholy Obama.You will fall from your throne of hate and deceit and lies soon enough by the wrath of God. May i suggest you go to church and pray rather than hating on white peopke and twisting the reality. You could never make a civlization absent us and now think your going to slander us the hijack and get unearned credit. Well try. When we fight back I assure you we will win as we always do since the history of time.
First of all, when you talk about my vile, racist rant against white people, it would be helpful if you pointed out which one. How am I supposed to know? That would be like going to a place where white people go (like Yankee Candle or wherever y’all buy those Caucasian-fit jeans) and asking, “May I speak to a racist?”
But that’s not why I selected your letter for mailbag honors. I chose this letter because I love you, Nancy. I want to meet you and marry you. I want you by my side for the rest of my life.
And not for any romantic reasons, Nancy. My love for you is really selfish. From here to eternity, whenever I speak about racism, hate and the laughable fragility of wypipo and someone objects, I only wish that I would be able to say, “Have you met my wife, Nancy?’
The way your well-greased whiteness slid effortlessly from a “Go back to Africa” into a diatribe about black rapists, directly into a “You were better off as slaves,” then transitioned into a lazy, welfare-nigga stereotype, may have been the most difficult combination of fucktastic bigotry I have ever witnessed on a page. I allowed David Duke to read your letter, and he was like, “Damn, that bitch is racist!”
And where the fuck did the “Obama is a Muslim” part come in? I gotta admit, Nancy, that shit came out of nowhere. It surprised me because I thought you were going in a whole different direction, but then you pivoted on me and wedged a little Islamophobia in there. And you prefaced it with a Ben Carson reference. And the subtle anti-Semitism of blaming slavery on the Jews was revelatory. It’s rare to find respectability, white supremacy, Jew-hate and Muslim hate right next to one another, without a new paragraph or anything. Well played, Nancy. Well played.
Also, Nancy, I hate to point this out, but they would fire me at The Root if I didn’t. If I didn’t ask the following question, Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton would call me into her office and ask me what the hell was wrong with me. She would probably stage an intervention, so I am compelled to ask:
Where the fuck is Islam?
You said I should “[g]o to Islam and see what they still do to blacks today”? How? I went on Travelocity and couldn’t find a direct flight to Islam. Could you tell me the nearest airport? Do they have hotels, or would I need an Airbnb? There are so many questions I have, but we don’t have enough time.
If I were to clap back at this letter (which I won’t because I’m praying that you and I become pen pals), I would dispel that whole notion about the scourge of black men raping white women by telling you to read this article:
Here’s how bad government math spawned a racist lie about sexual assault
A lying, racist meme claims black men disproportionately rape white women, and white men never rape …
Read more Read
But I would never do that, because I know you don’t read, Nancy. Plus, I’m not clapping back at you, remember? If I were, I’d ask you how you could tell black people that you are not responsible for the sins of your ancestors and then turn around and take credit for all of Western civilization.
It defies logic, but then again, I know you didn’t enslave me, Nancy. I am 100 percent clear that you had nothing to do with slavery, even though you somehow made slavery Barack Obama’s fault. (Again, I can’t stop thinking about the Obama part. Bravo, Nancy.)
You know what else I know, Nancy? I know you didn’t invent shit, either. You couldn’t build a boat, a house or a civilization. You can barely build a shitty email.
I’ll admit that you have personally never done anything to me, but I know you have done something to someone black, Nancy, simply by existing. Simply by believing that you “let” us be millionaires and president.
Before I go, since we are in the mood to take credit, allow me to take credit for something my people have given to mediocre white women whom Darwinian evolution should have stamped out long ago. Allow me to pat myself on the back for the one thing that my people have “let” vile, disgusting, barely literate bitches like you be:
9. The Last of the Hoteps
Although many people think the Clapback Mailbag is about responding to white people, The Root is an equal opportunity organization. This clapback occurred on January 12, 2018, in regards to an article at HuffPost and a letter from a very divine reader.
IsAllah Self Kingdom on Facebook:
This Feminist pro LGBT B3dWench is the Problem. Monique Judge for the record, Black Men have consistently explained the Gay Agenda, and if you like we can have a discussion about it. You and the other coon, Michael Harriot at root.com need to fall back from attacking Confident heterosexual Black Men. Before you call me a Hotep, save it for the person that fit the description. I am a Humanistic Atheist, I don’t give a damn about any form of religion or Spirituality or the dumb Woke shit.
The Gay Agenda is just as real as your hate for confident heterosexual Black Men.
Dear IsAllah Self-Kingdom,
First, I’d like to congratulate you. Since I’ve been a full-time employee at The Root, we have been arguing about the Hotepest name ever, and you win hands down. While I’m sure you are a fine, upstanding citizen, your name has obviously done a nine-year bid in prison, where it converted to Islam. I bet your name wears a kufi, refers to pork as “swine” and fucks heavyset white girls on the low. I bet your real name is something like Parker Willoughby.
Setting aside the Hotepery that is your name, I want to offer my sincerest condolences, because I know your secret:
You have a tiny penis, don’t you, IsAllah?
Don’t be ashamed. It happens. That’s probably why you don’t believe in God, and I don’t blame you. What kind of god would allow his people to be tortured and oppressed for 400 years and then give one of his children a pinkie-toe-sized penis?
Even though I don’t know you, I know men like you. I know men who boast about being “confident black men,” but in real life, they suffer from the perpetual anger of erectile dysfunction because they can’t get a spoonful of blood to flow into their thimble-like phallus. I recognized your inadequacy because your attitude resembles that of a very stupid white supremacist who claims to be “the least racist person” we’ll ever meet. He claims to be very smart and says he went to the best schools. I won’t embarrass him by calling his name, except to say that he is a “very stable genius,” just like you are a “confident, heterosexual black man” who doesn’t believe in God or religion but calls himself “IsAllah.”
Earlier today, Monique Judge was giggling at guys who talk about the “gay agenda.” Trust me, I don’t giggle. The white man makes us believe that giggling is masculine, but I overstand because I use my fourth eye. Not my third eye, because the number 3 is a relic of Christian slavery from the Holy Trinity, the three wise men, and the three blind mice. (Also, my third eye is what I call my penis.)
Apparently, you and others live in constant fear that “homosexuals” have a secret plan that could convince you to eat swine and engage in same-sex shenanigans. Don’t fall prey to the gay agenda. I can tell you are a weak-minded individual worried about the prospect that acknowledging the humanity of people whose love looks different from yours could magically render you semen-thirsty. Resist.
Stay strong, IsAllah.
Later, in an article by Dwayne Wong (Omowale) entitled “Stop Using Hotep as an Insult,” Wong berated The Root for the use of the word “Hotep.” In the article, Wong says:
For those who don’t know, hotep is an ancient Egyptian term that means “to be at peace.” This is why it’s distressing to me when I see people trying to use hotep as an insult—some of the writers at the Root are especially at fault for helping degrade the term hotep. These people either do not know what the term means or they know and are deliberately trying to demean African history and culture. The term has been coming up a lot lately in regards to Umar Johnson. Umar has been in the headlines because he is currently under investigation and faces losing his psychology license. Umar has also been caught up in a feud with Tariq Nasheed, the director of the Hidden Colors series.
Damon Young gave this definition of hotep:
Over the past decade or so, the working definition of “Hotep” has morphed into an all-encompassing term describing a person who’s either a clueless parody of Afrocentricity—think “Preach” from Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood—or someone who’s loudly, conspicuously and obnoxiously pro-black but anti-progress.
As African people we have been subjected to having our history and culture degraded, distorted, and destroyed for centuries now. The people who have bastardized what hotep means are contributing to that problem. Take Michael Harriot, for example. Harriot is a writer at the Root and he is constantly using his platform there to criticize Umar Johnson. Some of these criticisms have merit, but other times they have gone so far that Harriot himself has had to apologize and admit he was wrong. In his latest article on Umar, Harriot ironically mocks Umar as being a “Hotepologist” and miseducator, even though Harriot is operating as a miseducator himself by distorting what the term hotep means. Another article mocks the fight between Umar and Tariq as being “The Real Husbands of Hotep”. Hotep means to be at peace, so how does that term fit in with the discord that we have seen being displayed between Umar and Tariq. When Umar and Seti had their feud in 2016, another writer at the Root described it as a “Hotep Hoedown”.
First of all, I want to say: You are right.
Even before I read your article, I had been conflicted about using the word “Hotep” as a pejorative. I fully recognize the origin and the meaning of the word. As someone who came to The Root partly because of my blog NegusWhoRead [Editor’s note: And because of me. —Yesha], I realize the importance of taking back words that have been used against us. There is only one problem that I have:
What will we call Hoteps?
Neither Damon Young, I nor any other writer at The Root created the term “Hotep” to describe the overly woke people who engage in misinformation and thievery against the black community. We use the word because people know what it means. But I readily admit that I fell into the trap of lazily throwing it at those who honestly seek liberation by connecting themselves with their ancestral heritage. While I do think that the default deification of everything Egyptian is problematic for a number of reasons, I recognize that “Hotep” is a desperate clinging to a history that has been stripped away from our people by a long legacy of white supremacy.
Therefore, I promise that I will no longer use it in a derogatory manner. I do not speak for any other writer here, but I’m going to do better. This pledge does, however, lead back to my original problem: What will we call Hoteps? (OK, that was the last time.) I have come up with a list:
UmaricansPoor Tariq-ansAnkhologistQuack Lies MatterWokeheadsNeo Not-SeesHidden ColoredsBlackslidersIsAllah Self Kingdom
Hopefully one of those will suffice.
8. The Root Cares, If Don’t Nobody Else Care
From the October 6, 2017 mailbag:
To: Michael Harriot
From: Christian H
Subject I’m totally racist…
I’m not colorblind. I grew up in a white household that never spoke about race in depth except to say we’re all equal (the white suburban cliche, amirite!) The very few black people in my hometown in Utah always fascinated me. My history lessons in school were completely ‘whitewashed’. I never encountered real overt racism until I moved to Virginia when I was 17, cause there it was actually integrated with a diverse population. Shit needs to change in this country. Police abuses and the system that fosters it makes me fucking sick. I’m not a ‘white’ ally though, and I’m definitely not ‘woke’. I won’t pander to anyone’s bullshit. I can’t speak for the black race or it’s issues in modern day America, I can’t even speak for the white race. Systemic injustice is a cruel bitch that disproportionately affects minorities, I’ll agree. That’s about all I know for sure. I see hate everywhere, from all sides, and it’s only getting worse. I guess all I’m getting at is that I find your writing to be completely impotent in its objective of waking minds and changing thoughts. You say you don’t care about white people’s feelings or that you use generalizations to characterize them? That’s fine, but don’t think for a second while doing that that you’re making any real difference to bring the change you seek. Tough shit does need to be talked about today, but doing what you blame the other side of doing, even if it is a benign form of racial profiling that may seem to have no tangible real world consequence, only puts off the very people you claim have the power over the system that needs to be changed. The loudest voice, the majority of digital voices, does not represent the true narrative or heart of the average white person. As it doesn’t black people either. It only represents the ones who are the most butt-hurt and angry. This country’s political narrative is being run by knee-jerk reactionary click bait, metaphorically speaking. I don’t know you, I don’t really follow except for the articles of yours I read on the Root. For some reason though I felt compelled to find your contact info to write you this: Based on what I’ve read of your writings, I think you’re a dick. A total douche, but a very intelligent one. I don’t understand why great minds, articulate ones, use their intellect to create divisiveness through what they see as ‘absolute’ truths and dogmatic world views. On the other side of the issue, I think of Matt Walsh, who is also an intelligent douche nozzle. Are there racial tensions in this country? Abso-fucking-lutely! Am I racist? Probably to some degree, I guess we all are. It’s something I try to work on everyday. Though I consider it more cultural-ist than an actually issue with skin tone. That’s where the divide lies, in the complete misunderstanding and lack of empathy, and that is not limited to only one race, but it takes all of them to overcome that if shit ever changes. I don’t deny anyone’s culture or race, we’re all entitled to love ourselves as we are made and I applaud that, but not everything is as black and white as it seems. Tell me, what implementation of change do you foresee happening to ever actually live in a post-racial country? Honestly curious. You probably won’t read this, but if you do thanks for taking the time
This is a very difficult email for me to clap back at, because I agree with almost everything you say, including me being a total dick. In fact, I’m probably more of a dick than you are a racist, Christian. And by “probably” I mean “likely.”
But here’s the thing, Christian: You have it all wrong. You seem to be under the impression that I and the rest of the writers at The Root are talking to you. There’s been a big misconception that I’d like to clear up.
The Root is a collection of the best black writers in the country. If there were some kind of writing Olympics, I bet we would kick all of the other organizations’, companies’ and publications’ collective butts. It wouldn’t even be close. We’re like the 1980s Soviet Olympic team on horse steroids and bull semen. We be writing our asses off.
But—and here is the caveat—we are not that good.
If we had the entirety of the English vocabulary at the tips of our typing fingers, all the journalistic talent that ever existed in the Milky Way Galaxy and every iota of wordsmithery skill available, not one of us could write something that would stop racist people from being racist. We aren’t even trying to do that. It is an impossible task. In fact, Christian, this is what might be the frustrating part to you:
We don’t give a fuck.
That’s right. If I can speak for all of us (and I can, because they knighted me in a secret clapback ceremony. There was a sword and everything. Plus, they don’t know I’m writing this*), there is not a single person on this staff who doesn’t think that black people are the strongest, most beautiful, most resilient people on the planet. No one and nothing can erase that from our hearts and souls. Because we are imbued with that belief, it empowers us to speak to our people with the swagger-tastic confidence of not giving a fuck what anyone else thinks about black people.
*Again, please don’t tell Yesha I said any of this.
The Root is a site for black people, by black people, about black shit. We are not in the business of transforming racists into social justice warriors or changing hearts and minds in hopes of reversing white supremacy. Words cannot do that. If they could, I would have slit my throat with the sharpest, shiniest razor I could find years ago. I would consider my life a failure.
We don’t mind if white people read our content. In fact, we like it when you do. But don’t think for a minute that we are selecting words while considering the sentiment of Caucasian acceptance.
I know that you are accustomed to existing in a universe where everything bends toward whiteness, but do not let that factoid delude you into believing that you are the sky. You are eavesdropping on a conversation among black people. We don’t care if you listen. In fact, we are happy that you are listening, but don’t be bamboozled into thinking we are talking to you.
We are not.