'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, June 10, 2012
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Guests: Anthea Butler, Joe Olivo, Jesse Jackson, Jr., Nicole Ari Parker, Nikki Walton, Joan Morgan,: Mara Keisling, George Nunez, Diallo McClammy, C.J. Morrison, Alan Jenkins, Ailsa Chang, Marq Claxton
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, the politics of $7.25
minimum wage in America long overdue for a makeover.
Plus, the complicated case of CC McDonald, and what happens when a woman
serves time in a men`s prison.
And, if I were to ask you, where is the kitchen, would you know I was
talking about a black woman`s hair?
But, first, the debate over stop and frisk. Effective police tool or civil
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Before we begin, I want to bring you up to date on a couple of stories we
brought to you yesterday.
In Syria, at least 35 people killed in the last 24 hours by the Syrian
army. In the province of Homs, nine people today alone were killed
according to opposition activists.
Meantime, the Syria`s main opposition group, the Syrian National Council
has elected a Kurdish dissident as its new leader at the median Turkey.
And Spain has agreed to take a bailout of $125 billion from its European
neighbors. The deterioration of Spain`s banks was threatening to bankrupt
Now. Let`s move to our top story of the morning.
There is a blatant disregard for civil liberties, and it is happening right
here in New York city. For young men of color in cities around the
country, it seems that something not so funny happens on their way to
school, and work, and walking down the street minding their own business on
a daily basis.
And what happens to them is conducted by the very people who are sworn to
protect and serve the community. I`m referring to the police practice of
stop and frisk.
In 2011, New York city police officer stopped 685,724 people. That`s a 600
percent increase since 2002. Now, that was the first year of Michael
Bloomberg`s tenure as mayor of New York city.
During his ten-year tenure in office, the number of stop is just under 4.4
million. And what was the top reason for NYPD stops in 2011? That would
be furtive movements which accounted for more than 50 percent of the stops.
You know, furtive, fly, shifty, kind of how Trayvon Martin was allegedly
acting on the night he was shot and killed?
Make no mistake there, is a definite racial component to these. Of those
stops by the NYPD in 2011, 52.9 percent were black, 33.7 percent were
Latino, and 9.3 percent were white.
Now, the numbers flip when looking at the city`s overall population. In
the city, only 25.5 percent of black and 28.6 percent are Latinos and 44
percent are white. And, just how successful was the NYPD last year?
Now out of the nearly 700,000 stops, more than 600,000 people were innocent
according to a recent report by the New York civil liberties union.
So, you might be thinking to yourself, well, that`s something I just don`t
have to worry about. I mean, let me just suggest this. You may not be
young, or black, or a man or living in the city, but you should care.
Stop and frisk policies ask us to make a tradeoff between civil liberties
and our public safety. And before we do, shouldn`t we know if the practice
actually makes us safer? Because last year, out of all of the stops the
NYPD made, a whopping six percent, six percent resulted in arrest.
So, when the question becomes why would certain kinds of people be under
surveillance when others are not? Now, this is not the thing that
surveillance would have prevented columbine killers Delin Clibble (ph) and
Eric Harris from killing 13 and injuring 20 in 1999. And we`ll never know
what it might have done to stop Oklahoma city bomber Timothy McVeigh from
taking 186 lives in 1995.
But it does make one wonder, what if everyone was watched and stopped and
frisked equally? Would it make us feel safer or would it make us feel that
our rights have been violated?
Stop and frisk isn`t new. The 1968 Supreme Court case Terry vs. Ohio
assembled in legal basis for officers to stop, question and frisk citizen.
And even before stop and frisky became a popular touch phrase, there was
another one, racial profiling.
Regardless of the term, it all means to same things to those who
experienced it. If your skin is brown, if you are perceived to be a
threat, you don`t belong in a certain area, then, it`s likely you will be
Despite promises by both Democratic and Republican leader to do away with
racial profiling, we see it manifested if other forms.
Governor Jan Brewer has taken her fight over Arizona state bill 1070 all
the way to the Supreme Court. There are forming provision to being
challenge. But the one most closely associated with stop and frisk, is
that police can demand papers and investigate a person`s immigration status
if they suspect a person is undocumented.
Now, I would really love for someone to explain to me how you can tell if
someone is undocumented, because no one looks undocumented, unless have you
preconceived notions of racial, or ethnic, or linguistic characteristics go
with undocumented status.
But I come back to why this should matter, not just to certain communities,
but to everyone. We spoken before in Nerdland about citizens having a
right to lead and live complete and full lives. It is a founding principle
of our country. And when that should not be taken for granted.
So, when a person`s basic rights and humanity are challenged simply because
of how they look, or the color of their skin or how their jeans fit. It
doesn`t just affect them, it affects our very democracy.
Joining me is Ailsa Chang, criminal justice reporter for WNYC radio, Anthea
Butler, professor of religious studies of the University of Pennsylvania,
Alan Jenkins, executive director of the Opportunity Agenda and from South
Carolina, former NYPD detective and director of the Black Law Enforcement
Alliance, Marq Claxton.
Thank you all, for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for having us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ailsa, your reporting on this has been amazing. I tried to
kind a lay out the scope of the problem here, but tell me what else I
missed. What is the scope of the stop and frisk problem?
AILSA CHONG, CRIMINAL JUSTICE REPORTER, WNYC RADIO: Well, eventually, what
we see here is that the city`s crime rate continues to decreased, but stop
and frisk are interesting, it is catapulting since mayor Bloomberg took
office in 2002. About 100,000 stop and frisks in the city. And homicides
have declined, but stop and frisks have increased more than 600 percent.
If you look at the number of shootings that took place when mayor Bloomberg
first took office, about 1,800 shootings that year. Look at us today.
Shootings still ranging in the 1, 800 range. Despite people being stopped
and frisked, we`re not seeing huge drops between 2002 and 2011.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, for you, this is evidence that stop and frisk, although
it say, at an enormous practice, is not one that is necessarily an
CHONG: Well, the police and mayor says, that look, it`s because of stop
and frisk, violent crime rates have gone down in the city. But we`re
looking at violent crime rates going back to the early `90s. I mean,
homicide has dropped more than 80 percent in New York since the early 90s.
But the vast majority of the decline took place before Bloomberg even took
office in 2002. What we`ve seen since Bloomberg took office is at 11
percent decrease in homicide, meanwhile a six-fold increase in stop and
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I can say I was surprised when I looked at the chart,
of sort of the decade of Bloomberg in office and we look at sort of that
straight line up of the number of stop and frisks. How many people are
And part of what surprised me about it, our sense that, you know, just sort
of not living in New York city, all the time, Giuliani, when Mayor Giuliani
was mayor, you heard all the time that this mayor was sort of bad, relative
in terms of policing to black and brown communities.
But, I don`t have this sense in the milieu that people think of Bloomberg
as necessary hostile. But again, that graph shows, you know, a very clear
representation of an increase of this behavior.
CHONG: Well, if you go into community in New York city like Brownsville,
Brooklyn, or east New York or South Bronx, or East Harlem, heavily black
and Latino neighborhoods, they feel like they live in a different world.
It`s almost like a tale of two cities for these people.
Because young mean I spoke to several young men throughout the city. If
you are in the age range between 14 and 24, there is a huge likelihood you
will get stopped. in fact, about 40 percent -- more than 40 percent of
stop and frisks were of black and Latino men between 14 and 24.
They only represent five percent of the entire city population. A
staggering statistic that gets cited often. The number of stops of young
black men between 14 and 24 last year exceeded the entire population of
HARRIS-PERRY: They stopped all of them and their friends from Jersey
Officer, I want to bring you in on this because, you know, I think it is
very easy as we look at these sorts of numbers to immediately go to a
position of either vilifying the mayor or police chief or the kind of
From your assessment, as a retired New York city police officer, is it your
assessment that stop and frisk is actually a good policy, one that is
protective of these community?
MARQ CLAXTON, FORMER NYPD OFFICE: Well, there are several problems with
the policy itself. And the practice as done by the NYPD and I think it`s
been pointed out very brilliantly, that the numbers don`t lie, and as far
as the level of stops, particularly in the black and Latino communities.
That`s important to point out that we have a definite racial component in
regards to the stops.
Yes, the stops are exponentially increased since the days of Giuliani.
Yes, there is excessive stopping and frisking, searching of young blacks
and Latinos throughout the city. But the crux of it is why it is happening
to blacks and Latinos in their neighborhoods? Why are innocent black and
Latino families, mothers, fathers, elders, seniors, being stopped at the
same rate as our young folk now in many neighborhoods.
So, the policy of stop and frisk as you indicated is rooted in the Terry
vs. Ohio decision, a Supreme Court decision and based in large part on the
fourth amendment of the constitution. But it`s how police departments
choose to apply stop and frisk is the real problem. And in New York city,
stop and frisk is applied racially. This is a racial profiling issue and
that`s why the momentum is built surrounding it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Alan if I`m an MHP viewer and living in suburban Ohio
and we`re talking about stop and frisk in New York city neighborhoods, why
should I care? What difference does this make to me?
ALAN JENKINS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE OPPORTUNITY AGENDA: Well, you know,
it`s a great question. We need to step back. We all deserve a law
enforcement system that keeps us safe, up holds the values under due
process. Racial profiling fails on all scores. The massive nature of stop
and frisk does so as well. So, something we need to worry about. It
counter to public safety. It counter to values. It undermines faith in
law enforcement and hurts everybody.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I want to just read real quickly before we go. I want
to let you weigh in on the notion of this cost benefit analysis, Anthea.
Because it feels like we are told public safety for civil liberties. Is
there some reasonable away to make and try to assess public safety versus
ANTHEA BUTLER, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: Yes. I think there
is. But I also think that the one big thing about this and really
troubling to me. They are stopping people in their own community. And so,
this is - this is the issue. It`s like they are policing community. Yes,
public safety. But I don`t think they care about public safety in our
community. OK, let me blunt. That`s first.
Second is, it`s like an old plantation mentality about you have to have
your pass to leave outside the plantation and the neighborhood is the new
plantation. And they are policing that. But they are not policing the
other things that are going on in the neighborhood because they are too
busy stopping and frisking people who are not doing anything. And when
there is real crime, other things don`t happen as fast, or the police don`t
come when they are called.
BUTLER: So, I think this is -- you know, we want public safety on the one
hand, but on the other hand, what we don`t want is a police force that is
going overboard in trying to do what they think is right, but which is
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Relative to people living in fear.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re not anywhere near done with this topic. We`re staying
on this. Ailsa Chong, thank you for coming in and giving us the overview
on this your reporting has been wonderful.
But coming up, as Ailsa just told us, the people who are experiencing this
are young African-American men. You remember our young men, our table of
teenagers from the Trayvon story? They are back and we are going to talk
with them. The same young men we introduced you to a few months ago about
their experiences with stop and frisk.
So, come back and stay right here.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you are still not convinced that stop and frisk is
misused, then let me remind you of those that it affects the most.
In 2011, black and Latino males between ages of 14 to 24, accounted for
41.6 percent of the NYPD stops. That`s almost half of all NYPD stops, and
we can talk about the facts all day long, but instead, let`s hear from
those who experience stop and frisk first hand.
Back to share their stories are the young menu first met here on "MHP" when
we discussed Trayvon Martin.
C.J. Morrison who just graduated from high school and enters college at the
fall. George Nunez is a junior in Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx
and Diallo McClammy who will graduate from high school in less than two
weeks, and is also headed to college later this year. Also, at the table,
Alan Jenkins from the Opportunity Agenda.
Thank you for all being back. Really, nice to see you again.
So, let me just ask easy question, have you ever been stopped and frisked?
C.J., MORRISON, CAPITAL PREP, SCHOOL GRADUATE: Multiple times. Multiple
times I`ve been stopped. I told you the story before about me leaving the
park, and that was my -- the worst one. It was me leaving the parking
7:00, 8:00 at night, street lights come on and me and my friends walking up
the hill and we got to teller hill, and the cop pulled up. And he started
asking us, what are you guys doing, asked us if we had drugs? And one of
my friends actually got frisked.
It was like - I kind of just got out of the situation, kind a like just
walked away. But it`s a big problem, because they just look at and you
assume you are doing something wrong all the time and it`s hard, because
it`s like -- is it because I`m black? It`s really aggravating.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, part of my question is, so, how does it make you
feel in general about the police, about your city? I mean, can remember
growing up in a very sort of soft, nice neighborhood. And we thought of
police officers as officer friendly. The nice guy that if you got lost
from your parents, would you go ask him how to find them.
Is that your experience of the bliss, or do you have any different idea of
who the police are relative to you?
DIALLO MCCLAMMY, HIGH SCHOOL SENIOR, QUEENS, NY: Meme personally, I
started to like them. And I don`t want to grow up like that. And I think,
you know, every day I grow up in fear. Why should I? And not afraid of
other people, but afraid of the police. You know, that they will stop me,
that they will stop my friends, stop discuss harass us, you know, because
that has happened before. So, you know, I do find it ridiculous.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s an interesting transition, the idea that the group
are you afraid of, aren`t sort of other folks that might be committing a
crime against you, but rather fear of the very people meant to serve and
Are there similar to your experiences?
GEORGE NUNEZ, EAGLE ACADEMY FOR YOUNG MEN Yes. Definitely, Melissa, and I
would like to agree with Diallo and C.J. As they mentioned, that, you
know, they start to build this reputation where kids just start to hate
them and they`ll say, oh, cops just want to harass us because of our skin
color, and not because of our -- the way we act or whatnot. And I feel
like just building that reputation can cause trouble and it can aggravate
students and youth to where they won`t necessarily trust in cops.
They`ll feel like how they can trust them if they want to go against them,
and I -- I definitely experienced a lot of stop and frisk times, when I was
actually coming home late from a game, and the cops had actually came over
and harassed me. They started to violate me and personally, I felt
violated because it was almost as if I was branded as a suspect. And,
clearly, you know, as our reputation of school, C.J. graduated, Diallo
about to graduate and I`m attending Georgetown University. Clearly our
starling reputation, we are not criminals, we are not suspects, so why view
us as suspects, when we`re potentially doing well in school?
HARRIS-PERRY: So Alan, I love that what George has just said that language
of violation. And particularly like the violation of your actual body.
Someone putting your hands on you. But just something we`re, you know, we
are taught, like part of how you -- demonstrate respect for yourself, is
not to allow others to put their hands on you.
Well, does this break the fabric between citizens and their government when
the people we interact as government, our police officers and our
experience of them is a violation of our very bodies?
JENKINS: Absolutely. These experiences just remind me of things that
happened to me when I was a teenager almost 30 years ago. It`s astounding
that some of the same practices are going on today and they undermine the
values of our nation, of equal justice, of equal treatment, due process and
that law enforcement is based on evidence. They really violate everything
that we`re supposed to stand for as a country.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, talk to me then. When you are growing up, in
circumstances where you`ve been stopped and frisked, your friend have. Do
you talk about strategies with one another? So, you know, I hear a lot
about this notion of how you meant to talk to the police or get to police
after a certain kinds of question. Do you talk about strategies?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MORRISON: Yes, sir, yes, ma`am. That`s one thing you also have to say to
a cop. Like they ask you a question. You answer it, complete sentences,
because if you slur, they might think you are drinking or something like
that. But talking in complete sentences, look them -- I don`t personally -
- I don`t look them in the eyes, sometimes they get kind of intimidating,
they may raise their voice at you, things like that, you have to be
respectful in everything you say.
HARRIS-PERRY: What you just described, that notion of not making eye
contact so as not to appear to be confrontational of using yes, sir, yes,
ma`am, those are like the rules of Jim Crow. I mean, that was -- those
were the rules of African-Americans supposed to adhere to in the south when
we couldn`t sit on the same seats on the bus. It`s appalling to hear that
in 2012 we`re talking about the same kinds of practices.
NUNEZ: Honestly, with C.J., as he mentioned, I don`t necessary look at
cops in the eye. Totally, completely opposite with me. I was told as a
sign of respect when are you communicating or networking, you look somebody
straight in the eye just to give their respect. So, when a cop is talking
to me, or conversating, I would mention I`m doing well in school, looked
them in the eye, because I know that`s a plus for me, and I won`t
necessarily get stopped or get fined for anything.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you reaffirmed your identity. I`m a good student. We
are on going to stand this. You guys are staying at my table because I
like having you here. And this issue has helped to launch an important
coalition between some groups that I have wanted to see working hand in
hand for a long time.
So, up next, why stop and frisk is even bigger than we think. Don`t go
HARRIS-PERRY: While the practice of stop and frisk is disproportionately a
male gendered black and brown issue, the fight against it will no longer be
one sided. In New York on Tuesday, LGBT, that`s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual
Transgendered groups and civil rights groups, announced a June 17th protest
and their mutual support against the practice of the stop of stop and
And instead of letting others stoke the differences of opinion between
these two historically disenfranchise groups, on this issue they are going
to work collectively.
Back with me, are C.J. Morrison, George Nunez, and Diallo McCalmmy with
So, this is the part where we start trying to talk about solutions to it.
Are any of you young men planning to go to the June 17th rally around
stopping stop and frisk?
NUNEZ: Yes. I`ll be there June 17th, father`s day, and I believe that,
you know, all the youth watching this show and have heard about this rally
and protest should be there. Because I feel like the youth are the voice
of change. And without youth, there won`t be change and there won`t be
progressive things happening in society.
I feel like the youth lately have been so passive to the point where we
don`t have a chance to really talk about what`s going on. And many youth
so afraid to speak up. You know, I can`t speak for my brothers here, like
Diallo and C.J., we`re not afraid to speak up on any topic, any situation,
and it`s time that we all work as an activists to change and make a better
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you a question, Diallo. One of the things
happening in the stop and frisks, the law allows a police officer to frisk
you for a weapon. They can stop you for looking suspicious, but they can
only frisk you if they thinking you have a weapon. But most of what they
actually find are small drug crimes.
We have folks in New York, lawmakers who are considering making certain
amounts of marijuana legal, so that if they did find a small amount of
American, that you wouldn`t be in a circumstance of then being arrested and
being taken off to jail.
What do you think about a policy like that? Does it seem like a reasonable
policy or is that seem like the wrong way to go about fixing this problem?
MCCLAMMY: It can be both. But it can be wrong for us, because, you know,
you carry those certain amounts and, you know, to me the NYPD still finds a
way to set us up, you know. It still finds a way to -- even though, you
know, you are allowed to have that little amount, but you still have that
weapon on you, you know.
MCCLAMMY: So I think -- I think, you know, whichever way the law does go,
we still have to be careful. So, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: C.J., what would be the think that could help turn the
corner in between the relationship between police and African-American and
Latino young men?
MORRISON: That`s a good question. To turn the corner, I guess you just
have to -- for police, I think you just have to trust people in general. I
know that`s a hard thing to do. And you have to let go the stereotypes
that you might have about blacks and Latinos.
If you see a black man and he has a hoodie on, he`s not necessarily a
criminal. Or if you see a Latino, and he`s sagging his pants, that doesn`t
make him a drug dealer or something.
You have to just kind of give everyone the same benefit of the doubt. If
you are going to stop somebody, then stop everybody for the same reason.
Don`t stop somebody because of the way they look, or because who they are
because it`s not fair and then you wonder why, you know, we have these
rallies. We shouldn`t be having a stop and frisk rally. It shouldn`t be
this way in 2012, but it is. And, I just really like in order to stop, it
you have to trust people in general.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Alan, we have these young men willing to go to this
rally, a rally that is going to include now on much broader coalition of
civil rights groups. I kind a like excited about this because I was
excited the NAACP came out for marriage equality and I said, OK, let`s see
if the LGBT groups on civil rights issues, and here they are. So, I`m
happy about this coalition.
What should we, as adults in these communities, be doing to start working
on policies that will impact the lives of young men?
JENKINS: Well, I think this rally on father`s day is a crucial part of it,
and also includes people who speak immigration rights activists speaking
out about show me your papers laws in Arizona and other places.
I think we can support the end racial profiling act, which is federal
legislation, training for law enforcement officers. Community policing
that is actually based on evidence and with officers understanding the
community that they work in, and vice versa.
And as C.J. said, rising above the stereotypes, that takes training because
we all carry around stereotypes with us. And we need to actually to
proactively rid ourselves of those gut reactions.
So, I think all of those are positive solutions.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just quickly, tell me what does the end racial profiling act
actually do? What are the elements of it?
JENKINS: So, it clearly bans racial profiling as a practice. It requires
federal law enforcement officers to be trained. It says that if you, as a
state municipality or locality, are receiving federal funds, then, you need
to take proactive steps end to racial profiling to train your offices. And
collects data, so that we are not, you know, talking about anecdotes. We
are actually talking about real facts. Who is being stopped? How often
successful? And, you know, how often does it appear to be based on race?
HARRIS-PERRY: Alan, thanks for being here. You are going to hang a little
Young men, always, this is lovely to have you, and congratulations on
graduating, on heading off to college. Congratulations on graduating in a
couple of weeks. And you stay doing all the amazing things that you are
doing, George, and we`ll have you back before you graduate next year.
NUNEZ: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, why it`s a complicated job to be a police officer
in this day and age. And we are going to join the conversation with
Reverend Al Sharpton.
And in my next hour, I`m going to talk about my hair. You keep e-mailing
about it. We`ll put it on TV
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve heard from those who are targets of stop and frisk.
But now, I want to bring it back to those who hold the power in these
Back with me is the opportunity agenda`s Alan Jenkins, Anthea Butler of U.
Penn., and joining us is now MSNBC`s Reverend Al Sharpton and again, former
Columbia, South Carolina former NYPD detective, Marq Claxton, who is also
the director of the Black Law Enforcement Alliance.
Thanks for being here, Reverend Sharpton.
So, the young men we just had on, said they will definitely going to be
attending this march. They are clearly prepared to stand up for themselves
on this. What do we hope this march is going to achieve in terms of policy
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST, POLITICS NATION: Well, I think that the
march -- marches are always designed to put focus on a problem.
SHARPTON: If you didn`t drama ties a problem, no one has the need,
urgency, or the push to solve the problem. So the march over 200
organizations, working along with all of us. National action network,
representing the NAACP-SECIU, is the idea is to show that this is a problem
across the board. As you saw this morning`s "The New York Times," again,
gay and lesbian groups coming out with us.
We want to force the agenda to deal with it, front and center. Now, once
we do that, you have people like opportunities that have come forth with
the policy steps we need. But, what a lot of people talk about the civil
rights movement, they don`t understand. Dr. King and others dramatized an
issue that the defense funding and others legislated.
SHARPTON: So, our role is it`s just been too quiet. We need to make
enough dramatic noise that forces them to listen to people like this, on
what has to be done. And ironically, Melissa, people like Marq Claxton. I
know Marq. Marq has worked with national action network many years. Their
problem is in the inside the police commissioner doesn`t have to hear them
until the community rises up and says, oh, no. You`re going to hear them,
because we won`t take this anymore.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. And so, I want to go to you, officer Claxton,
on exactly that. Thank you for a beautiful segue, reverend. Because
that`s exactly, you know, I worry about this notion when we already have
stop and frisk creating such a fissure between community and police
Talk to me about how front-line police officers in their relationship with
community, sort of how they are feeling about doing stop and frisk? Is it
really about rogue police officers? Are there incentives coming from the
top telling them to do it this way? Do you think that there is a way to
use the policy well?
CLAXTON: The important thing to realize -- excuse me, is that instead of
focusing on individual police officers, we have to come to the
understanding that this is systemic, that this is sent down on high in the
case of the NYPD, the police commissioner`s office, mayor`s office, it is
systemic and its part and parcel of what has become law enforcement in many
community, and in large part, it`s a copout.
So, the individual police officer actually is -- is working below grade,
because anyone can just cast a wide net out and drag everybody in and let
god sort it out so to speak. It takes a professional to apply the law, to
apply what`s important and missing in many stops is reasonable suspicion,
to be able to articulate that.
That `s the responsibility of individual police office. But the policy,
the procedure, the abuses, the targeted enforcement, the quota system, that
all comes from the system within that particular agency and in this
particular case, the NYPD.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s so interesting to hear you talk about it that way.
Anthea, I heard you say earlier and heard the young men reiterate that
sense that the police are not here to help us feel safer, they are here as
a kind of invading force, and you hear an officer like officer Claxton
saying, look, you know, we`re also sort of caught up in this system, where
it`s coming from the top.
Are there ways for us to think about being in coalition with police
officers to change these policies?
BUTLER: Yes, absolutely. You know, I`m going to say it here, I will
volunteer myself if they want sensitivity training or get some history
about the African-American community. There are professors like myself
that are happy to do that. I think that`s part of the problem, is that you
have a cultural divide, and sometimes even people who African-American
police who are from within the culture seem to forge, because they enter
another kind of culture in the police department.
But, I also think, it`s also about training. At the very beginning, you
get so much training on the firing range. Why can`t you keep that training
up about cultural issues in the community, about having community
organizing, about being there in meetings, about being part of the
community rather than just callusing the community from on high. Because
when you have a top down sort of situation, it`s one thing. But if you are
there in the community, somebody sees you it, the fire -- you can feel like
how white people communities are like, the police are good.
But right now we don`t feel in our community the police are good. Because
we feel like they are the ones imposing structure and something detrimental
to our children.
CLAXTON: Melissa, may I say something?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, please.
CLAXTON: I was going to say that, although I appreciate those comments and
I understand those comments, this really isn`t an issue of training.
Because it`s almost impossible to train, if you have an officer who is
engaged in law enforcement activities based in race, you can`t un-train
that. What you can do is penalize severely those individuals and
organizations that violate any racial profiling provisions, federal law, et
And what you have to do is make better selections of the police officers
coming in. And then finally, what you have to do is be willing to
acknowledge that there is a racial component, that this is a problem that
works outside of law, that is detrimental to community relations, that were
actually, you know, working backward and pulling ourselves as agencies, as
police agencies, further away from the community and you can`t be effective
in law enforcement strategies when you do that. It is suicidal in effect
for law enforcement, and you de-professionalize it, law enforcement on a
large scale because it is just so simplistic as indicated. It`s a cast
that wide net pull them all in, let God sort it out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. and this point about professionalization, as I`m
listening to this, I`m also thinking about the conversation the president
just had where he said we are cutting state and local budgets, that means
firefighters, police officers, teachers, right? And I`m thinking, yes, who
right now wants to -- what person with high-quality skills, good education,
says I`d like to go be a police officer?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right? If I`m going to have no pension, if there`s no union
for me, if I`m going to be working longer hours. Like we are devoting more
resources to the police but crafted in a particular way actually be so
SHARPTON: I think that`s why and I think is both the professor and Marq is
right. I think that`s why in the last segment, when he was talking about
the racial profiling, that becomes important.
SHARPTON: Because if you set the boundaries where the commissioners have
to deal with these issues, when you can say, we can establish as we are
with this march, that 85 to 90 percent of the people you stopped and are
black and Latino, and 88 percent of them have done no crime.
SHARPTON: Now, that`s where you want to implement racial profiling. But
there are some that coming in the department that do need to be trained,
that are not biased, that are not beginning. And so, training - there is a
But I agree with Marq, some are just full-blown bigots. There is no un-
training them, but there is need for training. So, I think you need a
combination of all of this, but the law must be enforced.
I remember in the early `90s and Johnnie Cochran and I started talking
about racial profiling on the New Jersey turnpike. People thought they
were talking about blacks that that were in hallow. They were not
profiling blacks. They were profiling blacks who had find home and that we
gold coast of New Jersey. And they wanted to know how they had an
expensive car. So, it wasn`t a class issue, it was a race issue. It then
became part of the American-lexicon racial profiling, whereas the same
thing, we are not dealing with stop and frisk.
If you`re young, black, look a certain way. You are getting ready to talk
about hair. If you have a certain hair style, you will be stopped and
frisked in New York. When you look at the data, it`s almost impossible if
you are young, black, and Latino not to be stopped in New York. That is
something. There has to be a way.
HARRIS-PERRY: Undoubtedly. Marq Claxton, Alan Jenkins, Reverend Al
Sharpton, thank you for joining me.
Anthea, you are going to stick around for the next hour.
And coming up, how does a woman survive in a men`s prison, especially if
she`s transgender? You asked, so, we have some answer.
And up next, what prison authorities they us they are going to do to
protect CC McDonald, and what she may really be facing.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to bring everyone up to date now, on the complicated
case of CC McDonald. As you may know, in May, CC plead guilty to second
degree manslaughter in the death of Dean Smith.
Last year, CC sat and killed Smith after Smith was part of a group
initiated in unprovoked attack on CC and her friend in the street of
Minneapolis. CC is transgender, transitioning from male to female. Her
attackers used racial and homophobic slurs. This week, CC was sentenced to
41 months and sent to Minnesota correctional facility in St. Cloud, a men`s
Now, the outrage was immediate. Some, it is likely sending from the belief
that CC acted in self-defense and shouldn`t be in prison at all, but
especially, in men`s prison. So, we did some checking. And It turns out
the Minnesota department of corrections already houses ten transgender
inmates, all male to female and all housed in men`s facilities.
But the department does take extra steps for security of these inmates.
And CC has been under short-term evaluation in St. Cloud to determine where
she will serve the reminder of her sentence. And while there, she was in a
single cell and allowed to shower alone.
Now, officials told us prison security is aware of the heightened
sensitivity regarding her situation and correction officers are in close
proximity. However, this morning, there is more to the story.
Joining me now from Washington is Mara Keisling, executive director of the
National Center for Transgender Equality.
Maura, I understand that CC called from prison with an update this week.
MARA KEISLING, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NATIONAL CENTER FOR TRANSGENDER
EQUALITY: Yes, CC was able last evening to call her support committee. I
didn`t speak with her, but her support committee did. She is now out of
administrative segregation and into the general population, again, in the
male part of the jail.
You know, there is so much about that that should be setting off alarms for
everybody. First of all that transgender people get put in solitary
confinement all of the time, supposedly to protect them. But that`s a
huge, huge cost for protection. And second, that she is in a male prison,
but that`s often what happens to transgender inmates.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, this is -- we were surprised as we, you know,
made the calls and found out there are already 10 transgender inmates in
the Minnesota system. You leaks in our conversations with them, they
seemed as though they were taking into account the difficulty here. Is
enough being done?
KEISLING: Well, I mean, that`s such a loaded question. There is not
enough being done anywhere in the criminal justice system. And more and
more as things drifting off toward for-profit prisons, it`s only going to
get worse and worse.
But, no, not enough is being done to properly classified transgender people
in the prison to make sure that they are safe or that anybody is safe from
You know, in California, there was a study done of people in the state
prisons, and transgender women were 13 times more likely to be sexually
assaulted. Now, in large part, that`s because they are in male cells, but
also just that the -- the sexual assault abatement processes have never
been good, anywhere.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do we know what CC herself wants? Whether or not she would
prefer to be in a single cell? Whether or not she prefer to be in the
men`s prison or women`s facility?
KEISLING: No. We actually do not. We don`t yet. And that`s a really,
really complicated issue. And something that she needs to be able to, you
know, express to the people who are classifying her. And that is something
that`s supposed to now be taken into consideration according to the
Minnesota state policy, and the new prison rape elimination act which
Minnesota is already gone fairly far to at least having a policy to match.
But, you know there are a lot of reasons why transgender woman might decide
to be in a -- an administrative segregation cell, although that`s solitary
confinement, and it`s never a good long-term solution. And there are a lot
of trans-women who think they would prefer to be in a male cell, where male
population where they know that the other transgender women have
traditionally been. Where they may understand the culture a little bit
later. Where they are not worried how they will fit in to a women`s
It`s a really complicated thing and, you know, jails and prisons have to
start better understanding vulnerability and how to gauge that and how to
do better by keeping people safe.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Thank you, Mara. I appreciate you being here,
CC`s vulnerability did not begin with her sentencing. Her vulnerability
began long before that. And I know all of us feel sort of sick that she
was a victim in this as well. And so, we are going to try to keep our eyes
on making sure we can get as much justice as possible.
Thanks for joining me.
KEISLING: Thank you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Back in 1938, FDR made a promise of an income that the
working class could live on. We are still trying to make good on it.
Next, the federal minimum wage has an existential moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Back in the late 1930s when economic conditions in this
country had certain similarities to today. Weak job growth, increasing
wealth inequality, the political leadership in Washington recognized the
need for a solid wage guarantee for the working class. Here is President
Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking to Congress in 1938.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Principle
interest to the near future lies along two lines. First, the immediate
desirability to increasing the wages of the lowest paid in all industries.
And, second, in thinking of terms of spanning the worker of the individual
worker more greatly throughout the year.
In other words, in thinking more in terms of the worker`s total pay for a
period of 365 days, rather in terms of remuneration by the hour or by the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that was the year that the federal minimum wage was
established, providing a guaranteed 25 cents per hour and a maximum 44 hour
workweek for about one fifth of the labor force.
So, since then, the federal minimum wage law has expanded. 1961, the
federal labor standards act was amended to cover more employees by
establishing the toes businesses involving inner state, commerce must
compensate their employees at the stand minimum wage which was $1.15 an
hour in 1961.
But, it wasn`t until 1968 whether the federal minimum wage peaked at almost
$10 an hour in 2012 dollars, making it the highest federal minimum wage
ever. Because in today`s dollar value, the standard federal minimum wage
is $7.25 an hour, which only nets a full-time employee $15,080 which is
just below the federal poverty line for a household of two.
So, as of last year, 3.8 million people were compensated at or below the
federal minimum wage. And that is in part because the federal standard is
not keeping pace with 18 states across the country that have minimum wage
laws that established have a higher base than the federal $7.25. And zero
is the number of states in the country where it is possible to afford a
two-bedroom apartment on a 40-hour workweek at a federal minimum wage
according to the national low income housing coalition.
But if my next guest, the Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., has anything to
say about it minimum wage is going to go up to $10 right away. That coming
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: This Monday marked the 100-year anniversary of
the first minimum wage law enacted in the United States. In 1912,
Massachusetts, the place where Mitt Romney used to be governor, but not in
1912 -- OK, it was the first state in the nation to standardize wages for
women and children. But it was not until 1938 that all workers for the
protection of the federal minimum wage.
And this week, a group of liberal Democrats in the House put forward
legislation to immediately raise the federal minimum wage from its current
$7.25 an hour to $10 an hour.
Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. and others argued that increasing the
minimum wage would go along way to stimulating the struggling economy by
increasing the purchasing power by the millions of wage earners. And as of
yet, no leading Democrats have come out to support them. And Republicans
have long argued that any mandated wage increase would crush small business
Here to discuss the possible first increase in the minimum wage in
three years is small business owner Joe Olivo who employs 47 people at his
printing shop in Marlton, New Jersey, printing shop that was originally
owned by his parents we learned during the break.
And Anthea Butler, from the University of Pennsylvania.
And in Chicago, the man leading, Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson
Congressman, I want to start with you.
Talk to me about why now? Why at this moment would be need to, as
you call it, catch up to 1968?
REP. JESSE JACKSON, JR. (D), ILLINOIS: Well, it should be clear that
conservative economists and liberal economists have suggested that the
number one problem with the American economy is aggregate demand. The
American people are not spending, they are not buying with the moneys that
they do have, enough items that keep our economy and begin to turn the
wheels of our economy in a positive direction.
And the only group since 2007 that has not experienced some form of
pay increase have been those Americans that are locked in the minimum wage,
and why are they locked in the minimum wage? Because the Congress of the
United States has set the standard at $7.25.
And so if Congress, in fact, catches up to the 1968 purchasing power
of wages in this country, in fact, the American people who earn $7.25 an
hour, should be earning, Melissa, $11 an hour.
JACKSON: But $10 is a reasonable place to begin. President Obama,
when he was candidate Obama in 2008 said that if he`s president by 2011, he
wants to see the minimum wage raised to $9.50. The question is not, with
all due respect to William Shakespeare, to Bain or not to Bain, the
question is to eat or not to eat.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it`s really useful. And this idea that you point
out here, is not just out of economists, that ordinary people need spending
money in order to stimulate the economy, but it was actually the great
entrepreneur Ford who said I want my workers to be able to buy their cars.
So, Joe, you`re a small businessman. You own a small business in New
Jersey, one that was started by your parents more than 30 years ago you
were telling me. What difference would it make if tomorrow, the federal
minimum wage went from $7.25 to $10 an hour?
JOE OLIVO, SMALL BUSINESS OWNER: As a small business owner, I`m in
touch with my employees, I get to know their difficulties in life. And my
concern, the minimum wage, by setting an artificial minimum wage, it pushes
up the entire wage scale. If I have somebody working with my company for
three years and has more seniority and someone all of a sudden making close
to what they have, it will have the effect of pushing up the entire wage
scale and believe me, I would love to pay all of my employees more. I`d
love to pay them what a congressman makes, all of them.
But market forces just don`t allow me to do that. I would be out of
business in a week.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you a question, Joe. So, I`m not sure
about the structure of how you pay benefits, but, for example, you didn`t
have the cost of health care -- if for example, I`m not asking to you
support government-run health care, but if there was health care that your
employers were able to get and not carrying that burden, for example, would
you be able to associate with a higher wage?
OLIVO: Everything has to be looked at in the context of what my
competition is doing. So, it`s very hard to say that with the taxes out
there and the increasing regulation, I would be able to pay them anymore.
It`s really all subject to the market, and that`s my concern it comes back
to the minimum wage increase, it`s subverting the market and creates a
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting. Anthea, we hear the two economics
arguments, both from the congressman and from Joe, our small business
But it also felt to me like Franklin Roosevelt in the piece we saw
earlier was making an ethical market, one about sort of Americans setting a
floor that at least allows someone who works full time to be able to afford
an apartment, which these new data show us they can`t.
ANTHEA BUTLER, UNIVERSITY OF PENNYSLVANIA: They need a living wage
and I can appreciate what are you going through in terms of being a small
businessman, you have people who don`t make enough to put food on the
table. If you are saying to them, if you are going to make a minimum wage,
you have to make a second job. You are not out in the workforce eight
hours a day, you may be out there 12, or 14, or 16 hours a day it decreases
the quality of your life, your family`s quality of life. How can you have
And then if you say that you also don`t have government subsidies,
where do people get this money from?
I think it`s a real issue of justice. If in three years we haven`t
brought that up from $7.25, I think it`s high time we do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congressman Jackson, yes, you obviously have both
small business owners and people making minimum wage your constituents.
How do you responsibility to these challenges?
JACKSON: Well, let`s be first be clear. The $7.25 is below the
federal poverty line. And so, you have millions of Americans are working
below the federal poverty line. This is not welfare. These are people who
are working hard everyday, and at the end of a hard day`s, people can`t
keep up with the consumer price index.
So, our legislation ties an immediate increase to $10 and also future
increases to the consumer price index so that these worker who work every
day will not find themselves in their same condition, and it`s not an
accident in our legislation that we recognize that raising it to $10 are
going to force not only small business owners, but also large business
owners, like Wal-Mart and McDonald`s Corporation, to actually pay people
who earn more than the minimum wage a higher level, $11, $12, or $13.
The fact of the matter is. the economy needs it right now and we can
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Joe, do you feel like you can afford it?
OLIVO: No. What the congressman isn`t listening to is that the fact
that increasing the minimum wage would cause me to look for a more
efficient use of technology or equipment and wind up possibly replacing the
same type of workers he`s trying to help. So, that`s my concern, it
actually will do harm to my employees.
JACKSON: The fact that -- it`s hard to imagine in this economy and
struggling as many Americans are struggling that we`ll actually make an
argument that people who work 40 hours a week should permanently be in
poverty, even though they are doing the best they can.
Mr. Alvarez, in one of the articles written about our efforts, said
for 20 years, he has been working, and he has never earned more than $8.90
an hour. Now, what kind of a just society would allow a man who worked 20
years of his life, and he can`t get paid more than $8 an hour?
Remember now, this is not about artificially raising the wage.
Congress sets the standard and small businesses and large businesses,
particularly workers that have no negotiating power with a small business
owner, or no negotiating power with a large business owner, only Congress
can provide the American people with the aggregate demand and purchasing
power that they need.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And, Congressman, I mean, as we pointed out
earlier, there are obviously 18 states that are actually leading at this
moment. You`re talking about Congress setting the standard.
But at the moment, as you see, many of those western states, a few
kind of the northeast and upper Midwest, including Illinois, where you
represent, are actually doing better than the federal minimum wage, in part
out of a recognition that these -- these employees literally cannot get an
apartment, right? There was a time in America where one earner working a
federal minimum wage could support a family, put your kids in public
schools. It feels like it`s connected to the American dream.
And idea that it`s just a below poverty wage, feels not only unjust,
but not associated with our understanding of what the American Dream should
JACKSON: That`s why our argument is that the incremental approaches
that have been offered by Democrats, even Mitt Romney as governor of
Massachusetts has historically supported an increase of the minimum wage,
and even Rick Santorum has drafted minimum wage increase legislation.
President Obama said in 2008 that he wanted to see it by $9.50.
The fact of the matter is, the reason we have stalled on ayes raising
the wages of American people is Congress, Democrat and Republican, they are
too busy raising money to get re-elected to stop and give the rest of the
American people the wages that they deserve. Congress makes $84 an hour.
It`s time for working Americans to earn $10 an hour.
Melissa the bill is called HR-5901, and I hope those who can hear my
voice will call their representatives and get them to become immediate
cosponsor. Let`s shift the debate from Bain or not to Bain, to it`s time
to eat or not to eat.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Joe, particularly if this legislation moves
forward, what would also be the one thing that you would ask in terms of
support or assistance from your federal government as a small business
OLIVO: I would just say that think I can do a better job without
their help. As a small business owner, my deepest and darkest days were
three years ago, when I had to layoff nine employees, due to the
deteriorating economic conditions and there is nothing worse than calling
in an employee, you know their family, you know the affects it`s going to
place on their family, of not being able to afford it continue to employ
them, partly due to increased government mandates and taxes and things like
these mandates that we`re getting from Washington.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll give you the last word, Congressman.
JACKSON: Melissa, there have been 17 tax breaks for small businesses
since President Obama has taken office. Historically, the minimum wage has
been tied to tax breaks for small businesses. They have gotten 17 of them.
Since 2007, workers have not gotten an increase in their wages and it`s
time for their wages now to catch up with the tax breaks that we`ve already
given small businesses to survive in this economy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., I appreciate as always
your voice and voice for working folks.
Joe, I appreciate you so much. There are always two sides to this
issue and I appreciate you being here to talk on this question.
Anthea, stay with me. We`re going to do good stuff as we come back.
Up next, we`re going to talk about hair. Black hair to be specific.
I promise you, this is a political question. Y`all been asking. We`re
going to answer. Up next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ever since we first opened the doors of Nerdland, one
topic made regular and frequent appearances in the subject line of viewer
e-mails: my hair.
So, today, I`d like to take this opportunity to answer questions
about black women and hair. Why tackle such a hairy topic on a political
show? Well, there are a few follicles more politicized than a woman that
grow out of a black woman`s head. And we`re going to talk a little bit
about politics later.
But, first, a quick teachable moment. Let`s begin. A perm -- used
interchangeably with a relaxer is a process by which tightly coiled strands
are relaxed to create straight styles.
And please don`t ask me about that Chris Rock movie. A perm does not
pry your brain open like a coke can.
Now, those straight styles can be achieved with a hot comb -- a
heated metal comb that black women use to straighten hair without
chemicals. A hot comb figures prominently in the childhood memories of
many a black woman. It`s why when a black woman talks about the kitchen,
she is not just referring to the room in the house where the comb was
heated and where the straightening sessions occurred.
She`s also talking about the nape of the neck, commonly the hair most
resistant, the heat-induced transformation -- the weave. It`s the addition
of hair that you bought to the hair that you grew. Black women get weaves
for all kinds of reasons. To add length, to add fullness, to experiment
with different looks without altering their real hair. The list goes on.
Remember this about weaves. They are generally two categories.
Synthetic hair, which is, well, synthetic, and human hair which came from
an actual person.
If our hair is much longer today than it was yesterday, it is safe to
assume we probably got some added in. And, yes it is our hair. We paid
But not all women with long hair are wearing weaves, and no, it`s not
polite to ask.
Braids. Now, that`s what I have now. You can braid your hair with
or without extensions. When we get our hair braided with extensions, it
can take up to eight hours.
So, for everyone who asked, that`s how long it takes me to get my
hair done. No, we don`t shampoo our hair every day, yes, where he still
Nappy is a term that we use to reclaim pride in something that was
once used as a weapon against us. We`re happy with our nappy, just like
that other "n" word, you probably shouldn`t use it.
And if your black friend spends the night, she may wrap her hair in a
silk scarf, is because she wants to preserve the smooth style that she
spent many hours to achieve in your rough cotton pillow case is going to
frees it up, which is why she may decline to join you in a cannonball at
your pool party. Water is the enemy to a black woman with a straight hair
If you have a black boyfriend with a short fade and you want to run
your fingers through his hair, rub forward, never back. Never back,
natural hair, means that a hair has not been treated with any chemical
And afro, that small or voluminous halo of texture that floats among
textured scalps does not mean she is about to set off the revolution.
There is nothing dreadful of dreadlocks. They`re also not a sign that
someone smells, sells or smokes marijuana. And by the way, they are locks,
And a black woman who chemically strengthens her hair is not trying
to be white. When in doubt, of course, the best course of action is trying
to understand a black woman by what`s in her head, not what`s on it.
Still have questions, stick around because we`re going to pick
through all the politics of a black woman`s hair, coming up.
HARRIS-PERRY: In last week`s "Washington Post," Columbia University
professor Frederick Harris making his case that despite who is currently
living in the White House, we`re still waiting on the first black
Now, Harris argues President Obama, hasn`t, in his estimation, paid
special attention to the black agenda and he deserves to have his placard
revoked. Just try telling that to this little boy. That`s 5-year-old Jake
on Philadelphia three years ago in what has since become an iconic photo.
By now you know the story. He wanted to know if his president`s hair
felt like his own. Now, I`m not saying that the president`s edged up
Caesar is more important than his policies. But if you were the black boy
that could never see himself in the leader of his country, if you were the
black girl who`s ever been asked if that`s your real hair, the only black
girl at the pool explain why your hair shrunk up that, if you are that
person, the physical body of the president and first lady matters -- the
hair of the president and first lady matters.
I found that out recently for myself when I received a letter about
one of the youngest members of Nerdland, a viewer emailed me about her 9-
year-old daughter, who she said closely watches MHP, and she wrote, the
main reason for her watching you is your braids. She`s excited to see
someone who really does look like her on TV. Her dream is to be a model
and an actress and watching you on the weekends keeps that dream alive for
her. She knows that she can be pretty, smart, and wear her braids."
So, I`m trying not to cry when I read that. It reminds me again why
Joining me today, I`m excited about this Nicole Ari Parker, who is
the lead actress on "Streetcar Named Desire" currently running on Broadway,
which I have seen twice and have tickets for a third time. Also, she was
the founder of Save Your Do.
Anthea Butler, one of our favorite Nerdland hairdos, who is professor
of religious studies and graduate chair of religion at University of
Joan Morgan returning to Nerdland, cultural critic and author of
"When Chicken Heads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks It Down."
And Nikki Walton, founder of curlynikki.com and author of "Better
Than Good Hair."
Thank you, all, for being here. And for being willing to have this
For me, black women`s hair, the politics of it, seem obvious. But I
realize that it may not be obvious to everyone, particularly maybe to our
viewers who haven`t encountered these questions before.
Help me make the case for why black hair matters.
BUTLER: It matters because U.S. a historical way how we look at each
other. From the time of slavery forward, hair has been a very big deal.
Whether you wore your hair in a certain kind of style, somebody took that
hair away from you, or you go into the 20th century of what we have.
Madam C.J. Walker, who comes up with a process to straighten your
hair, everybody gets happy about that. And then we have black women,
saying don`t tell you not to straighten your hair, to black power when you
want to wear an afro and your mother tells you can`t wear an afro. Hi,
So, when we see natural hair, it is very different, we`re making a
kind of statement even if we`re not making a statement. It`s a political
statement to those on the outside and those on the interior it says we want
to accept ourselves the way we are.
BUTLER: For who we are.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels like no hair stale doesn`t signify
something to somebody, right? If you wear a relaxer that somehow signaling
something, I just want to show that the picture of "The New York Times"
cover, we remember this, right, from 2008 campaign, and -- excuse me, not
"The New York Times," the "The New Yorker." There is President Barack Obama
rendered in an outfit he wore in real life, right? As problematic this
image is, that comes from an actual thing.
But then there is Michelle Obama, wearing a hair style which, just by
representing her in that way, it tells you -- that is the burning
Constitution. That is the -- because an afro is inherently radical
NIKKI WALTON, CURLYNIKKI.COM: Can I add on to what Anthea is saying?
The debate comes up often whether hair is political or not on
curlynikki.com. And it`s yes and no, and the fact that everything everyone
does can be seen as political, that it impacts how you see the world and
how others see and you how you spend your money, where you spend your
money, and the social stigmas that are tied to wearing your hair natural
comes from the power dynamics in our society.
What`s ironic, though, is that although we didn`t put this straight
hair standard, we didn`t create the straight hair standard, it`s in our
control to change that. And we`re doing that by setting an example in the
media with you here. You know, in these positions of power and leadership.
However, on the other side of things, it`s not political in that --
it`s not a counter culture.
WALTON: We`re cultural leaders. This is made up of women who are
educated and affluent and tech savvy. We`re not looking to rebel, it`s
more about practicality. We`re looking for flexibility.
And there`s immediate results for that in your quality of life. So
if goes from me trying to conform to a straight hair standard in your whole
life revolving around your hair, you know, if you want to start a new
workout routine, go to the beach -- the first thing you think about, what
am I doing to do with my hair?
So, it`s awesome to be able to have some flexibility and versatility
and hopefully natural hair movement will help women achieve that.
HARRIS-PERYRY: Nicole, am I reading too much into this one?
Obviously, you are in the land of presentation of images, right?
NICOLE ARI PARKER, ACTRESS: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And by the way "Streetcar," extraordinary. Anyone who
comes anywhere New York should come see you in that play.
But, it feels like -- you know, is this just working out our owe
emotions or something meaningful about as African-American women, are
trying to think through our self-presentations?
PARKER: I think there are so many angles to analyze it, and that
movie, "Good Hair," I think Tracy Thoms (ph), a fellow actress, she said it
best, very simply -- it`s amazing that it`s considered revolutionary to
wear my hair the way it grows out of my head.
And I never forgot that, this is just the way it grows out of my
head. This is the beginning. This is my is-ness. Just how it is.
And so, for me, I can also consider that, but I also -- my hair
issues change once I became a mother.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And when I have this little girl watching me
undo weave braids, fry my hair, or glue on an instatrack, or don`t push
mommy in the pool. You know, I was -- I had a wakeup call, and -- but at
the same time, I do appreciate versatility.
I`ll blow my hair out, flat iron it, people know me for my funky
little styles or whatever. But as an actress, I have the luxury of
versatility and trying new things, so I`m kind of free and unpolitical in a
But very personally, it`s a self-esteem issue for me, because I`m an
example to my daughter.
HARRIS-PERRY: That point of what happens in the mother/daughter
piece, because --
PARKER: Dynamic is incredible.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s the definitive experience of little black girl
hood. The thing we --
PARKER: I have to watch my language, like -- you know, we say, come
in, girl, your hair is a mess. Sit down, let me get rid of this head. We
say it loud, we say it in front of their friends. Girl, I can`t believe,
you are not walking out -- all this language.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or the hours you spend sitting. And if it hurts,
you`re tender headed and you`re overly emotional.
PARKER: My daughter`s hair takes forever to do, yes, but when I do
it, I am so positive, I tell her how beautiful it is and how lucky she is,
and, oh, my gosh, you can do so many things.
And she`s in a school where, you know, she`s one of two in her class.
And so -- but she loves herself, but I had to work on that.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it goes back in part to your point that this isn`t
just about -- this isn`t fundamentally a class issue. In fact, extends to
a class issue, it may be in part about folks that find themselves in
integrated settings in many ways trying to manage these identities.
Joan, I feel like so much of your work about black women`s identities
and politics, and so much of that, of our identity, our self understanding
is right here, in the top of our heads.
JOAN MORGAN, CULTURAL CRITIC: Absolutely. I think that the very
question is black hair political gives us too limited analytical framework,
because there are multiple conversations going on. Right now, I think that
the mainstream media`s obsession with transitioning movement.
Transition is an interesting word, right, because when I think of
transition, I think of people dying or I think of vampires. We`re talking
about moving from one state into another.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s be clear for folks who don`t know, the
transitioning movement is this movement from using chemicals in your hair
to not using them.
PARKER: Your hair is so versatile. You don`t need chemicals.
MORGAN: I think black women`s bodies are always in conversation with
the larger society. Black women`s bodies are always in conversation with
black men. So I think the choices that we make -- it`s really the first
layer is what do these so-called, quote-unquote, "radical choices" mean.
Mine is not that radical.
I`m really lazy about hair. Three hours before your producer called,
I just stepped out of the barber`s chair. If you start with hey, Nubbian
queen, you already missed the boat. It`s nothing about that.
It`s not just about how we feel about our hair, it`s about how we
think black men feel about our hair. Are we going to be desirable hires,
HARRIS-PERRY: And we see it also in -- I mean, it`s part of what we
started with Michelle and the girls. I mean, this notion of it being
written on black women`s bodies, having an African-American woman first
lady, having her daughters, when Malia wore her hair, the older the Obama
daughters wore her hair braided and the angst that created for people we`re
thinking she`s a little girl, you braid you hair. It`s summer, you braid
your hair. You might want to swim or, deal with the humidity.
BUTLER: And the comments were crazy about that. Oh, look at it, her
in the braids, everything else, it`s not appropriate for the president`s
daughter. And I was like, who are you to say anything about this child`s
This is not your hair. Her hair on her head and they can do whatever
they like to do with her hair. But I think for people on the outside, they
make judgment calls about what you are saying with your hair, when it just
may be about convenience, maybe about what you want to do. But we get
constantly judged as African American women about what our hair looks like.
Somebody determined who we are and what we`re doing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that judgment goes to that core point, those
definitive moment in childhood.
We`re going to keep talking about this, but we`re going to talk about
the economic side of it. There`s a whole industry generating hundreds of
millions of dollars. The economy of black hair when we return.
HARRIS: There is big business in black hair. The mass market black
hair product industry is worth an estimated $185 million. More than one-
third of that market belongs to the two largest black hair care makers,
L`Oreal and Alberto Culver Company.
And chemical relaxants, have straightened hair has long been the cash
of that industry. But in 2007, relaxer sales have begun to decline as more
women has chosen to embrace their natural hair over the chemically
The demand from all of those natural women for products to take care
of their hair has given life to a cottage industry of natural hair care
products, that made up mostly entrepreneurs of African-American women.
Some of whom whipped up products of their own to help meet demand. And
they are joining the ranks of black women whose beauty salons have long
been the bedrock of small businesses in black community, and they are
following in the footsteps of Madame C.J. Walker, the mother of the black
hair care industry, who`s in the Guinness Book of World Records as the
first American woman who become a self-made millionaire.
Still around the table, Nicole Ari Parker and Anthea Butler, Joan
Morgan and Nikki Walton.
OK. So there is money to be made here. And there is money to be
made in both ways that are troubling and terrific.
PARKER: You know, what`s so interesting about that, with all of
politics and all the -- the emotionally health issues, us loving ourselves,
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We want to look good.
PARKER: Nobody is talking about that. We even judge each other --
we were just talking about (INAUDIBLE) being upset on Twitter. But it`s
because there is still this thing about getting your hair done. Whether
it`s afro, whether it`s twists, or braids, or relaxers, everyone wants
their hair done, so she -- you know, embraces just get up and go, and she`s
And so people on the Internet, they just how come she doesn`t go to a
natural salon, da da da da da. It`s just crazy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And Salange Knowles, the sister of Beyonce
Knowles, who we have an obsession with on MHP.
I love this point, we want it done, whatever the grooming it.
PARKER: We want it done.
HARRIS-PERRY: When I talk about the industry, it`s not just the
products industry, it`s also like the informational industry. Curling,
Nikki, is about creating a community where people are having this
PARKER: And working it out.
WALTON: Exactly. I am proud to be able to provide a positive
platform for women who come in a safe place and encourage each other,
share, and get this information, and it goes beyond the aesthetic and goes
back to what you were saying about self acceptance, accepting hair for what
it looks like, whether you want to get up and go, or twist and braid out,
it`s no judgment.
It shouldn`t be. Every now and then, I get interjected, you know,
throughout. But for the most part, myself and the curlynikki.com
community, this is not about being anti relaxer or anti straight hair at
all. This is about empowering textured women to achieve healthier hair and
HARRIS-PERRY: I love the idea of textured women. Everybody is
PARKER: Anthony Dickey salon here in New York, hair rules, I went
there for the first time since I`m here doing Broadway and I knew I was
transitioning out of a relaxer and really, because there was so much new
growth, and the relaxed part wouldn`t curl up so we did the big chop.
But I remember sitting in the salon in the waiting room, and he has
white customers and natural customers and relaxed customers, and every
single person had a head full of hair, that was the first time that I have
ever sat in a black salon and everybody`s hair was beautiful. Because we
are usually frying it and singing it and chemically --
WALTON: Beating it into submission.
PARKER: Beating it into submission and here this was roomful of
MORGAN: We`re talking about economies, and I kind of -- since it`s
us, I want to get to the nitty-gritty of this. I think it`s really -- and
it feels great to embrace all of the positives of what we`re seeing in
terms of black natural hair. When we talk about the economics of hair,
we`re talking about -- there are people who are now robbing stores that
sell extension hair and selling it on the black market, and I think the
idea of actually robbing a place to sell hair that came off someone else`s
head, to put on your own head and that there is enough of a market and an
obsession with that, is worth talking about.
I mean, if you go down in Harlem at any given windy day, there are
tumble weeds of synthetic or natural hair rolling down the street. You
know, or on the subway, like the pencil that goes underneath, because the
weave is not a good weave -- that speaks to me of another kind of addiction
and a place where we haven`t yet moved. Another kind of pain that we`re
not comfortable addressing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And there is a lot of profit to be made from that.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, on the one hand, small business owners,
overwhelming for African-American women, salon owners of one kind or
another, but L`Oreal making millions, from African-American women`s hair,
and beauty supply stores, often immigrant workers who owning that. There`s
a multiethnic sort of -- an international system that is in part supplying
So, we`ll talk more about black hair. But this time we`ll go into a
little bit not only our history, not only the economics, but also the
aesthetics, right? What it looks like and we`ll have a great moment in
HARRIS-PERRY: Now it`s time for the part of the show I`d like to
call great moments in black hair. Those handful of moments from black hair
became an iconic issue that (INAUDIBLE) into American history and culture.
And they dared anyone to deny that black hair is not beautiful.
Who could forget the audacious afro of Angela Davis? Who in 1972 was
found not guilty of murder charges after J. Edgar Hoover added her to the
FBI`s most wanted list.
No hair accessory is more readily recognized than the gardenias of
Billie Holiday, who many consider her the greatest jazz vocalist who ever
Speaking of American music legend, no lesser great moments in black
hair wouldn`t be complete without Diana Ross, who`s magnificent name is
almost the same as she is.
An honorable mention on our list goes to someone who has dedicated
his life to working for social justice while always managing to stay just
fabulous. And that`s my fellow MSNBC host and friend of the show, the
Reverend Al Sharpton.
My guests are still here, Nicole Ari Parker and Thea Butler. I
wanted to add one last great hair moment, and it`s one that is much more
personal. The images we`re coming across, we`re talking about racial
divide, how difficult it can be to walk with our white friends, family,
colleagues about this, and we found these terrific photos of professor
Greene of Emory University, who had adopted daughter from Africa and he has
taken the responsibility of being her main hair care person and all these
gorgeous pictures of him braiding her hair. And she`s sitting between his
legs in exact that will moment that so many of us had with our mothers over
So, we were doing a cheer that went something like go, white daddy,
go -- a beautiful job of doing this young girl`s hair.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Amazing.
BUTLER: And the picture calls to mind so much, because we think
about how white people talked about hair and see him do her hair, it`s this
moment in which we can move past, and I think it also says something to his
daughter too. My father accepts me.
And I think for a lot of women, this issue of acceptance of how our
fathers accept us, how our husbands and our boyfriends accept us, has a lot
to do from my hair. So, I know the kind of looks I got from men when my
hair was straight vis-a-vis my hair is like this. So, there`s certain kind
of guys who don`t talk to me anymore and that`s find, because I don`t need
PARKER: Yes, I`m happily married. But when I cut my hair, I could
stop traffic. Men speak to me all the time now. It`s the craziest thing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re exuding confidence.
PARKER: Maybe I`m exuding confidence, but I think I look like
myself. The whole -- I don`t look like I`m trying to be somebody else
maybe and that`s a certain kind of beauty.
HARRIS-PERRY: Speaking of staying together, you do have a product.
I don`t want to go away from this.
PARKER: Part of the hair issue, the surgeon general came out and
talked about hair and health, and I really wanted to be part of the
solution, and I realized that I couldn`t convince all my relaxed sisters to
go natural which say whole new freedom in and of itself, but I could
encourage them to find ways to take care of themselves and keep their hair.
So, I created a sweat band for us that really worked. I had to think about
it and test it and test it on myself and friends and blind study groups,
and came up with Save Your Do.
And it really -- really gave women a way to take that walk, get on
the treadmill, and not be so afraid of the gym.
HARRIS-PERRY: People think we are crazy, right? The surgeon general
said we`re not working out, we were literally dying, because of our hair.
PARKER: Literally dying. You should not be having a stroke at 27
PARKER: And there`s just no way. Walking is free. It`s not about
gym memberships or cute outfits, it`s about just taking care of yourself
and having the freedom to do that.
HARRIS-PERRY: If you have to save your do to go for a walk, you
PARKER: And it came out, new colors, so we can be extra cute.
PARKER: I love it.
HARRIS-PERRY: In just a moment, what diversity actually looks like.
But first, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
ALEX WITT, MSNBC ANCHOR: We could hear everyone from the Supreme
Court tomorrow about the health care law, a new article examines who might
provide the pivotal vote, that`s being justice Anthony Kennedy. We`re
going to talk to one of his former clerks.
It is a very disturbing videotape -- a father beating his stepson
with a belt. We`re going to hear from the child`s grandfather.
It`s painful. Don`t like that, right? A new film which takes a look
at America`s love affair with our pets, specifically dogs. And it`s called
one nation under dog, but it`s also a sad side to this story.
But then in office politics, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa
talks about the Latino vote. We`re going to show us the unique and the
gorgeous ceilings in his office. Did I tell you, Melissa, how much fun I
have to go home to L.A. to do that interview?
HARRIS-PERRY: I bet you did. There was such reaction to that video
of the extraordinary reaction to the stepfather and all the moms here at
the table sort of freaking out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Alex.
WITT: All right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And up next, what I learned from my own conference
HARRIS-PERRY: For today`s footnote, I want to talk a bit about
process. In this case, the process of bringing the MHP show to you every
week. We`re a very young show, probably too young for you to ever have
wondered how we decide what stories to discuss, who to bring to the table
or what props to employ. But this weekend, I felt like one aspect of our
process, the part that is influenced by the diversity of our staff -- and
MHP is a very diverse staff.
Our diversity makes for some, shall we say, lively editorial
meetings. Take our decision to focus on the politics of black hair. While
there are those of us for whom this is a deeply personal issue, one that
has shaped our sense of self, our engagement with our communities and our
sense of belonging at school, work and in the world. We got pretty
animated around the conference table as we told our stories and expressed
But at one point in the conversation, I looked over at our beloved,
very bald, senior producer, and his face was a mask of surprise and wonder.
These were not issues he had ever previously encountered. And later, he
revealed that his own hair care regime involves an annual pack of razors
purchased from a big box store.
I cannot tell you how long we laughed after asking him, do you know
what a laze front is? It`s a wig, by the way.
Several moments occur all the time. Should we use sports analogies?
Some of us love football, others not so much. Is it politically fair to
enter into a discussion of the Mormon faith as we did yesterday?
Some find religious conversations politically enlightening, but
others want less God talk. Is the latest Pew poll newsworthy or just too
nerdy? And is the outrage on our Twitter feed well placed? Should we pin
our political leaders down on something questionable they just said or give
them the benefit of the doubt?
By the time the show airs on weekend mornings, we have rarely settled
all disputes or come to firm agreements. What we have done is trust one
another enough to air our differences with the commitment to the belief
that encountering divergent strengthens, rather than weakens, our political
In the research methods courses that I teach, I trust the students
that personal experience is a terrific way to form hypotheses and a lousy
way to adjudicate whether our hypotheses are true. So at MHP, we generate
ideas with our gut but we build arguments with research, evidence and
anticipation of arguments.
This does not make us special, we`re not looking for applause. But
as I sat down to write the footnote for this week, I realized we build a
kind of mini-laboratories of some of the bigger issues we`ve tried to raise
I`m not completely entirely sure how to build an exceptional
successful television show, but I am hoping that it`s the same formula for
building an exceptional country and openness to those we might first assume
are our opponents, a willingness to engage with unfamiliar topics and a
commitment to exploring divergent points of view. Oh, yes, and cookies.
In Nerdland, we try to make sure that there are plenty of cookies for
That`s our show for the week. We will see you again next week at
10:00 a.m. Saturday and Sunday morning.
And up next, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
Thank you all for being here.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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