January 13, 2013
Guests: Jackie Rowe-Adams, Tio Hardiman, Beau Biden, Nicholas Johnson, Dan Gross, Judy Gold, Julianne Malveaux, Michael Skolnik, Marvet Britto, Nancy Lesko, Tracey Meares, Kaitlin Seaver
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question as Tina Fey
and Amy Poehler take the stage tonight, are we in a golden era for women in
Plus, when it comes to education is no boys allowed, the next best thing
And the mother who lost her son to gun violence, twice.
But first, want to know what Joe Biden plans to do about the guns? Me,
too. So, I`m going to ask his son.
Good morning. I`m MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY.
On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden is expected to deliver to President
Obama the recommendations of the task force who convene to attempt to move
the bar on America`s gun problems.
Biden`s report to the president comes after a week meetings in search of
some common ground among all the sides of the gun control debate and while
the usual suspects, firearm retailers, including a reluctant Walmart, gun
violence survivors who shared their firsthand experiences, gun control
proponents pushing for expanded regulations and gun control opponents
pushing for expanded rights. The de facto leader of that opposition, the
National Rifle Association promptly issued a statement after their sit-down
with the vice president condemning gun safety reform as an attack on the
Their solution, to dig in even deeper on the all guns all the time ideology
and put armed guards in every American school. The NRA promises to
Marshall its formidable, political and financial resources to fight any new
reforms every step of the way. And they will do so with the support of
allies in Congress, most notably Republicans on the House Judiciary
Committee who continue to oppose limits on assault weapons.
Well, no surprises there. Because by now, we are all intimately familiar
with the political players and parameters of a debate that feels as old and
enduring as the Second Amendment itself or at least we think we are because
history tells us a different story.
It tells us that all of our uniquely American relationships to guns, who is
allowed to have them, who feels threatened by them and how our laws seek to
find a balance between the two extremes have never been fixed.
In fact, that history reflects a series of ever evolving, conflicting
contradictory points that have been characterized not by policy, but panic.
Panic over perceptions of who is with us and who is against us, the good
guys and the bad guys. This time, it is a panic inspired by the fear a
madman will walk into a public space and use a gun to kill
I want to take you back a bit nearly five decades. There was a prominent
organization that stoutly defended a strict interpretation of the Second
Amendment and the right of individual Americans to use guns to protect
themselves when the state could or would not. The name of that
organization was the Black Panther Party. The Blank Panthers may have been
look farthest thing from what the founders imagined when they wrote well
regulated militia in the Second Amendment.
But a well regulated militia depending themselves against the tyranny of
the state by taking up arms was exactly their mission. The party was
started by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale in Oakland, California in 1966. And
the panthers took up arms in response to random and indiscriminate violence
perpetrated against black people in Oakland, California by the Oakland
police. In an America, they were still catching up to the promise of the
(INAUDIBLE) civil rights legislation.
Members of the organization received training from experienced instructors
and how to maintain and shoot guns. And they carried those guns openly in
public in defiance of the police but in full compliance with California`s
gun law at the time. Go as far as to police the police to patrol them as
the police patrolled Oakland residents.
The government`s response to these black men with guns was broad and
decisive. A Republican state assemblyman proposed a law for that, a state
law that would make it illegal to carry a loaded weapon in any city in
California. The law created specific legion to disarm the black panthers
would affect all gun owners in the state of California. And in a dramatic
showdown, the Black Panther responded with their version of NRA lobbying on
Capitol Hill. They showed up armed with loaded rifle and shotguns on the
state capital building in Sacramento and enter the building to read aloud
their opposition to the bill.
Although, they were prevented from entering the assembly chamber, their
message was received loud and clear. The law for that path was signed into
law by someone who now seems an improbable advocate for gun control.
This guy. No, your eyes are not fooling you. That is Republican Party
demagogue Ronald Reagan, a stridden supporter of what was at the time one
of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Ultimately, the panic over black
people with guns magnified by riots and cities like Detroit in the shooting
deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy revoked a policy
response from the federal government. That response culminated in this
moment when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Gun Control Act of 1968.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we have come here to chat in the room today to sign
the most comprehensive gun control law ever signed in this nation`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: As we await Tuesday for Vice President Biden`s
recommendations, the president`s response and the inevitable outcry from
advocates on either or both sides, we are well served to keep in mind that
even in our quite recent history, there`s no clear liberal or conservative
consensus on gun policy. And that our freedoms, cherished as they are must
be balanced by civic responsibilities.
At the table today, Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to prevent
gun violence. Tracey Meares, law professor at Yale University. Michael
Skolink, editor and chief of GlobalGrind.com. And Fordham law professor,
Nicholas Johnson, co-author of the book, "Firearms Law and the Second
Thanks to all of you for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Nicholas, I want to start with you in part because I tell
this story, a story that I think has been lost even though it`s recent
history. Because I worry that even as we enter into the new conversation
about guns and the possibility of getting common sense gun legislation that
we will miss this has not always been a partisan issue and hasn`t been
clearly ideologically divided that who is in who is out, who is the bad
guy, who is the good guy, are sometimes de-marketed in very different ways.
So, what do we learn from this history?
NICHOLAS JOHNSON, LAW PROFESSOR, FORDHAM UNIVERSITY: Well, the history is
long standing. And it goes back far beyond the Black Panthers. So, during
the fugitive slave law resistance, Frederick Douglas advised a revolved for
fugitive slaves to resist slay catchers.
We see this history moving all the way up through the 1960s. And your
point about the black panthers is interesting. Because that is a stage in
which something that in my scholarship I have identified this strategic
economy where the leadership and the grassroots made a distinction between
political violence which they avoided and thought was senseless and armed
self defense which they thought was a crucial resource for black folks.
And up until the point of the radical resistance by the black panthers,
that the economy was really quite vividly upheld, the panthers sort of
solid that process - the book that I`m currently working on talks about
that phenomenon in more detail. But what we find, at least, up until the
early 1970s is a quite clear endorsement by Martin Luther King and almost
everyone else in the movement of arms for self-defense.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as you put on, this is a path that goes way back, right?
We might be able to say, look, look, we would be a better and safer country
if there`s no Second Amendment, if there were no constitutionally
protective right to bear arms, then it is actually might be able to say,
you know what, that`s not part of our tradition, but that`s not where we
So, we are in a place where wherever gun control legislation, we are going
to implement and institute, it is going to happen within this context.
Having to talk about common sense civically responsible gun control
legislation, at the same time, that we talk about the fundamentals to the
liberty of the Second Amendment.
DAN GROSS, PRESIDENT, BRADY CAMPAIGN TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE: I mean, here
is the crazy thing, Melissa. This is not a partisan political debate in
the discourse of America right now. You know, 92 percent of Americans
support things like background checks to keep guns out of the hands of
criminals, convicted felons, domestic abusers, the dangerously mentally
ill, that debate has nothing to do with the Second Amendment right of law
abiding citizens to own guns. Seventy four percent of NRA members support
criminal background checks.
The only place where this is a heated partisan debate is in the halls of
Congress and sometimes, in the media when they pit two extreme sides
against each other. That is not the conversation the American public wants
to have. The American public doesn`t want to have a conversation about
putting more guns in schools. You know, the gun law - the gun law they
puts out there with the hope of dragging this into that on civil
conversation. That is contrary to any solution that that would keep guns
off our streets and out of the hands of dangerous people.
HARRIS-PERRY: The teachers with guns, right, this image of teachers
actually standing there being trained with guns scares me -- like this is
exactly the wrong direction for this conversation.
TRACEY MEARES, LAW PROFESSOR, YALE UNIVERSITY: It scares teachers to
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Yes, I mean, I think it feels like it is based on
who the good guys and bad guys are. So, you know, here we are responding
to Newtown, basically. And so, we are saying we have to arm teachers
because in this case, teachers would have done something different. But we
can`t assume teachers are always the good guys, right? We even don`t want
to give them pensions but we want to arm them.
GROSS: But the reality is nobody else is responding that way except for
the gun lobbyists. A few people really on the extreme of this issue that
is not the conversation the American public wants to have. That is not the
conversation that they want us to have on this show. They want to talk
about the things that we can do to prevent gun violence and the context of
the respect for the Second Amendment. And those things can co-exist.
MICHAEL SKOLINK, EDITOR IN-CHIEF, GLOBALGRIND.COM: I have been sort of
reacting to the extremes, right? So we see reaction we should be
proactive. I think if we look at two things, we have short term fixes,
which is the gun, we have long term solutions which is the potential
shooting and the potential victim. And we have to do both.
We can`t just have gun legislation on Tuesday for the vice president`s
recommendation and just look at how do we, you know, do high capacity
clips, how do we do assault weapons bans, how do we do background checks
and gun show loopholes? But also, how do we look at young people who might
be potentially shooters. On Friday night, six teenagers, six, were shot in
Chicago, two of which died. That`s Friday night. That was two days ago.
We also have to look at how do we stop that? And not, you know, from the
beginning, not just how do we get rid of guns.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that this feels to me like the challenge, right? That
the kind of gun control in this issue in the world we are talking about
this response to the kinds of gun violence that is actually not - I mean,
in other words, it is the teenagers being shot in the streets of Chicago.
MEARES: Two points on that. One, I like your point, Michael, about making
it broader. One way of making it broader is actually to recognize this
issue for what it is, which is a public health issue.
SKOLINK: That`s right.
MEARES: And so, when we start thinking about this as a public health
issue, we pay attention to the fact there have been over four million
firearm injuries in the last 40 years. And those include not only the good
guys and bad guys, but also suicide, accidents and the like and the fact
that because of some of the NRA activism, we haven`t been actually been
able to do the research necessary to figure out the parameters and the
scope and the details of the problem. So, I think that`s one.
It`s kind of like, the abortion debate, to bring something else high
profile in, that there`s a problem between characterizing it between pro-
choice on one hand and pro-life on the other rather than a concept of
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, in the broader sense. We have a lot more to say for
this. We are going to spend the whole hour on this issue because it is
complicated. So, stay there because the vice president is set to deliver
his suggestions on gun policy to the president on Tuesday.
And up next, I`m going to ask his son, Delaware attorney general, Beau
Biden, for a preview.
HARRIS-PERRY: When Vice President Joe Biden presents the president with
his gun policy recommendations, all options will be on the table. But not
all options will make it to the final legislation. Proposals popular among
gun control advocates, banning assault weapons, limiting high capacity
magazines face strong resistance from opponents. The vice president seems
to manage his expectations with the admonition as the president is fond of
saying letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to make it clear
that we are not going to get caught up in the notion unless we can do
everything we are going to do nothing. It`s critically important we act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: My next guest can give us a closer look at what the action
may look like. As the attorney general of Delaware, he`s directly involve
with the state level implementation of any new policies and as the son of
the vice president who is directly involved to the man who has helped de-
Joining me from Delaware is state attorney Beau Biden. Nice to have you
BEAU BIDEN (D), DELAWARE ATTORNEY GENERAL: Happy to be on, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you this. First, in your role as attorney
general, I know that you and the governor will be actually presenting state
level plans at the beginning of next week even as the vice president is
going to help us see what the federal level plans are beginning on Tuesday.
But what does the gun problem look like from your vantage point?
BIDEN: Well, the gun problem from my vantage point here in the city of
Wilmington is very pronounced. We have many things you are talking about
in the previous segment where young people are arming themselves with a
cell phone and in many cases a weapon and committing violence at record
levels in the city of Wilmington. It is something we are focused on it
very much in the city of Wilmington, state of Delaware.
And obviously, we are very concerned about school safety. So, tomorrow,
the governor, Governor Jack Markell and I will be putting forth a whole
package of laws that will hopefully protect kids in schools and on the
streets in the city of Wilmington.
One of the pieces I can preview, at least I can preview what I`m going to
do, I`m not sure I can preview what the vice president is going to do. But
I can preview what the governor and I are going to resubmit a law he tried
to put forward 18 months ago that would require universal background
You know, I loved your lead in with the history of the 1968 gun control act
and the work the Brady`s who are now citizens of the GM and Brady. You
know, the universal background check in the background check and into
itself in national instant criminal background check system, otherwise
known as the nix. It was fought tooth and nail in 1994, 1995 by the NRA.
And it`s over the course of the last 15 years stopped two million, two
million people who are prohibited on to the 1968 gun control act from
getting weapons. Half of whom, nearly half of whom are convicted felons
who have gone to try to purchase weapons.
What we have heard in 1994, Melissa, the leader - the folks from Brady
knows this, is that no one be dumb enough to go as a prohibitor person to
try to purchase legally a weapon. Well, the facts have born something else
out. And only the million of convicted felons have gone to try to purchase
weapon. And the Brady law helps stop it and make us a safer place to live
here in the state of Delaware and nationally.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you know, and to the point about the background check
also happens to allows us and be able to trace so that just how many more
gun sales occur sort of month-to-month. And I have to say that one of the
more shocking statistics we have seen since the holiday tragedy at Newtown
is as "The New York Times" reports, this enormous increase in the number of
people seeking guns. So, "the New York Times" reported December was a
record for criminal background checks performed before many gun purchases,
a strong indication of a big increase in sales. We are looking at 2.2
million background checks performed in the month of December. It was an
increase over that period in 2011.
What does that tell you, attorney general, about how people are reacting
both to Newtown and the attempts to make some common sense legislation
BIDEN: It makes it difficult. Because what we have seen in my office as a
chief law enforcement officer of my state, I`m in charge of making sure we
get background checks for people applying for concealed carrying permit
which is somewhat different than just buying a weapon.
We have seen a huge uptick in that. Well in front of what happened tragedy
in Connecticut. And what I see from is I see there is a lot of
misinformation out there. You know, gun sales went through the roof well
before the tragedy in Connecticut just upon the election of President
Barack Obama in November of last year. So, there`s a lot of
misinformation. The same thing happened when the president and vice
president were elected in 2008 and 2009. Gun sales went through the roof.
And so, there`s a lot of misinformation outs there about what the
administration wants to do, what others want to do and we need everybody to
take a deep breath here and come up with a reasonable, sensible approach
about how to honor the Second Amendment but also keep our schools and the
streets of our cities safe.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you one last question. Let me ask you very
specifically about your father who is now leading this charge. What
insights do you have about him either as a man or legislature to help us
understand how he is approaching the task of bringing forward a gun
BIDEN: Well, I can tell you, he`s going to do what he and the president
have done on every piece of legislation they have approached the last four
years. Number one, bring all the stake holders together and hear them out
from the NRA to sportsmen to victims to survivors.
My father was on the phone last night with folks, the survivors in
Connecticut and the parents of the children who were, you know, were killed
in that awful tragedy. So he`s going to listen to everyone. And then,
come up with a common sense approach about how to make sure that something
like what happened in Connecticut doesn`t happen again, but also bring some
sense of safety to city streets around our communities. That`s what he`ll
He has a, you know, he gets a lot of credit for having relationships with
Congress over the last four years. But really, what his talent is, is
having encyclopedia knowledge of what the facts are and what each of the
stake holders` position is and then finding some common ground.
And that`s what he did as you saw at the turn of the year with the
negotiations on the fiscal cliff. I think it`s what the president asked
him to do as it relates to bringing some legislation in front of Congress
to make us a safer country from gun violence. It`s what he`s in the midst
of doing as we speak.
HARRIS-PERRY: And thank you to attorney general Beau Biden. I greatly
appreciate your insights on this.
BIDEN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, jumping in front of loaded guns, on purpose.
HARRIS-PERRY: While Washington does the slow work of crafting gun policy
around gun violence, people on the ground in America`s cities are
confronted with the real world consequences every day.
But activists in cities that are not particularly hard hit are not waiting
for Washington - that are particularly hard hit are not waiting for
Washington to take action. They are taking their own.
My next guess is one of those people. Joining me from Chicago is Tio
Hardiman, director of Ceasefire Illinois, an organization that stops the
violence before it even starts. Nice to see you.
Yes, glad to be here with you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Tio, I watch a bit of the documentary on your
organization. It is pretty intense work. Just tell our viewers a bit
about what your organization does.
TIO HARDIMAN, DIRECTOR, CEASEFIRE ILLINOIS: Well, ceasefire is a public
health model that is aimed towards changing behaviors associated with
violence. And we hire credible messengers like violence interrupters and
out reached people who work in the field of behavioral change. Because
violence is a learned behavior and it pass down from generation to
generation. And we do our best to educate young men and women and they can
unlearn violent behavior.
And it is a public health modern time I got to get (INAUDIBLE).
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I mean, let`s be really clear. When you say trying to
teach young people, this is not like, you know, your friendly Saturday
afternoons with 4-year-olds to talk about guns are bad. You guys are
standing on -- standing between people who are sometimes at this moment
potentially about to be in the middle of a gunfight?
HARDIMAN: Yes. That`s why hire credible message that understand the
mindsets on the young men and women throughout America. For example, we
mediate t745 conflicts in the year 2012 in Chicago. And one conflict in
particular, a guy and shot a grandmother`s window, I turned to her grandson
to come out the house, then, he burned up the grandmother`s car and he told
our staff, he wasn`t going to listen to anybody. We had to go on the
streets to find somebody that he would listen to. And as an end result,
the grandmother`s grandsons are still alive today. So, that`s just one
quick story of some of the conflict that we prevent on the front end.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Tracey - No, absolutely. I want to bring Tracey Meares
into this. I know you know the two of you all know one another from some
of the work for many years in Chicago.
MEARES: So, yes. One thing that is important about what Ceasefire does is
addresses the violence of young men, African-American men in particular
between ages of 15 and 24. We know that gun violence is the number one
source of -- reason for death among that age group.
We also know looking at Chicago in particular that the way people are
connected in those communities is important. So, for example, if you look
at the high crime community where Tio and his colleagues are working,
homicide rate, we know, is high. East and west Garfield Park is known for
a high homicide rate.
When you look at how people are connected to those who have been killed, to
take everybody who has been killed in the last five years. Look at who
they have been arrested with and look at who they are arrested with. My
colleague Andrew (INAUDIBLE) and I call it Two Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
You look at that network of people and the homicide rate among that group
is an astonishing 300 per 100,000. Take that group out of the community
and the homicide rate of everybody else is less than three per 100,000.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, being able to be part of those networks to understand
what is going on there makes an enormous difference to a gun violence
problem as its phase that is finally different than like the moment of
whether you have access to the weapon.
SKOLINK: Melissa, these programs are so crucial to this conversation.
Ceasefire Chicago, I love my life in southeast Jamaica Queens, Erika Ford,
Mitchell in Ground hill, Brooklyn. These folks, Tio, these folks are
heroes. These folks are going in the middle of a battle and trying to stop
violence every single day.
If any politician or any funder is watching this program on Tuesday
afternoon when the vice president makes his recommendation, make sure we
fund these programs. Make sure we put adequate funding into these programs
or else forget Chicago, forget Queens, forget Grounds Ville, forget Camden.
We need to fund these programs. These guys are making nothing, begging for
money, but they work. We see them work.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we have them begging for money, but what we know is the
NRA has loads of money, right? We know that enormous consequences of that
money and the lobbying of that money in terms of how it impacts the work
these folks are trying to do on the ground.
GROSS: Yes. I mean, you know clearly, on the side of good guys here,
there`s not enough money to go around. And that money needs to go toward
programs like Ceasefire. You talked about I love my life. There`s another
program called speak up that encourages young people to come forward and
report threats of weapons that can actually prevent a lot of violence.
The really heartening thing is that these conversations actually are part
of the comprehensive look of this issue that the president and vice
president through this task force are consciously taking. It`s important
to keep these conversations together and not unlink them because both are
There are things we can do to keep guns off the streets. Brownsville,
Jamaica of Chicago and there are also things we can do to create change
from a public health and safety perspective. And I think president and
vice president have been cautious from the beginning to make that pivot
from this being just a conversation around Newtown which is a vitally
important conversation to being one about deaths that occur much more
frequently in the kind of neighbors we are talking about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tio, I`m going to let you in a moment. But I do want to
grab Nicholas here.
JOHNSON: Well, there is another piece to this just want to pay attention
to. And that is, that, Tio, we keep talking about the NRA on one side and
everyone else on the other. But when you mentioned the grandmother in
Chicago, it also brought to mind Otis McDonald who was the lead plaintiff
in McDonald versus Chicago.
So, there are also in communities like this, what I call sort of the
community of innocence. That is people who are elderly, the grandmother
you mentioned here and the interest in self-defense, I think, that those
people have is a significant one. And I think it actually does a
disservice to the debate to suggest it`s only the NRA that has this
interest in self-defense within the window of eminence where the state
really cannot respond where this is a truly a private crisis.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think this is incredibly important to you. And that is
exactly what I wanted to ask you about because it feels to me like part of
what goes on is a sense of sort of if communities are disarmed, which in
one way seems like makes perfect sense, let`s take the beef and turn it
into fistfights instead of gunfights right, and everybody lives on the
other side of it.
But on the other hand, given that there are so many weapons, I know there
are a lot of good guys. The grandmas in the neighborhood who say look, I
want my guns. Guns are part of protection not only against sort of the bad
guys in the community, but also importantly, I mean, in a city like
Chicago, has a history where the police themselves, the state doesn`t
necessarily make you feel safe. I mean, there`s been inadequate policing
in those communities or the wrong kind of policing in those communities.
HARDIMAN: Well, you know, my thing is you have to keep working on changing
behavior. Because you cannot change the circumstances all the time, you
know, throughout the United States.
I had a chance to sit down with Prime Minister David Cameron over in London
about a year ago. And to a country like England, you have 16,000 knife
crowns in one year. So, whether be, you know, it`s all about the thick. A
lot of people have been raised in this violent culture. They think it`s
OK. Homicides and violence should be treated as the greatest epidemic
because we have to look at the cause violence spreads like an infectious
disease. If I`m mad at you, not all friends, I`m mad at you.
Look at what happened in Wanda back in 1994, 900,000 people killed because
somebody injected this type of virus in the minds of people to hate another
ethnic group. Look what happened in Nazi Germany. Look at what happened
in Trans Atlantic slay tray.
So I mean, the list goes on and on. Violence has been around since the
beginning of time. And we need to treat it as a public health issue and as
an epidemic so we can began to change the minds across America and across
the world so we can all become healthier people.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to let you in. We got another actors going to
bring in as well.
But I do want to say thank you to Tio Hardiman. And not only thanks you
for being here on the show today, but to thank you for your work. Chicago
is a city that I love deeply. And that the model that you are all creating
there with Ceasefire is one that can continue to be used in other cities.
And I think the call we just heard from Michael here on the show that yours
is the kind of organization and other models to really begin to think about
rooting out the violence problem from the beginning. There are
grandmothers, there are children and there are communities are at stake.
So, thank you for that work.
Also, thank you to Nicholas Johnson here at the table for reminding us that
this history is complicated and that keeping our eye on that complicated
history matters in this conversation.
Up next, we are going to follow the money because who is really profiting
from our gun culture?
HARRIS-PERRY: On Thursday, after meeting with the White House gun violence
task force, the NRA slammed Vice President Biden calling the meeting part
of an agenda to attack the Second Amendment. While the NRA may have walked
away angrily from the task force, their dominance on this issue guarantees
their voice will continue to be heard as the debate over gun control
develops, which brings me to 100,000. That is the number of new members to
join NRA since the massacre in Newtown.
Though many of those new card carriers may not agree with the organizations
legislative priorities, a poll conducted last year by a Republican pollster
found that 87 percent of NRA members believe that support for the Second
Amendment includes keeping the guns out of the hands of criminals,
something the NRA have spent its lobbying dollars working on.
And that may be because the organization isn`t simply an affinity group,
but rather the public face of the firearm industry, an industry that stands
to lose much more than membership dues if guns become a bit harder to
distribute and the gun lobby isn`t shooting with blanks when it comes to
financial fire power.
In 2011 alone, firearms manufacturing was at $32 billion industry. With
gun ownership at a 20 year high, commercial gun and ammunition sales raked
in $4 billion last year. And gun makers are trying to keep it that way.
Since 2005, corporate donors to the NRA, the vast majority of who are gun
manufacturers, not owners, have contributed up to $53 million to the
organization. And during the 2012 election, the NRA had $3 million in gun
lobbyist cash to play with because politics matter to the gun maker. In
fact, sometimes, just one politician can make millions for the firearm
Since the election of President Obama, despite a bear market, the firearms
industry has seen stock prices jump by the hundreds. For one gun maker in
particular, Smith and Wesson, stock has gone 400 percent since 2009.
On Black Friday, there were a record 154,873 background checks made by FBI
for potential gun owners. December was a record breaking month with the
FBI completing 2.2 million background checks for those wanting firearms.
That`s a staggering 58.6 percent increase over the year before. And this
is not a new phenomenon.
Often, after deadly mass shooting gun sales spiked higher in the wake of
the Aurora, Colorado movie shooting massacre, background check rose 41
percent. The same was true after columbine and the shooting in Tucson,
Arizona that left Congresswoman Gabby Giffords wounded. And the response
to the tragedy in Newtown has kept pace, especially for ammunition to fill
high capacity magazines like the one used by Adam Lanza.
The online ammunition vendor, (INAUDIBLE) the self-proclaimed world`s
largest supplier of firearm accessories had to apologize before Christmas
for being out of stock for many items including high capacity round
holders. Because as the company reported, they sold 3.5 years worth of
magazines in just 72 hours.
Coming up, what those bullets can do to a family?
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a difference between the political and philosophical
discussions about the place of guns in society and the, oh, too real
effects of gun violence in our communities.
The guest joining me at the table now is Jackie Rowe-Adams who lost both
her sons to gun violence before their 30th birthdays. In 1982, Jackie`s
17-year-old son, Anthony, was shot dead in New York by two men who didn`t
like the way he was looking at them. Then, almost two decades later, her
second son, 28-year-old, Tyron, was shot and killed by a 13-year-old
involved in a robbery in a street outside his apartment in Baltimore.
In response to her pain, Jackie co-founded Mothers Save, S-A-V-E, a
counseling center for parents who have lost their kids to violence. In
addition to making sure that families who share her experience receive
grief counseling and financial help, she`s at the forefront to stop gun
Jackie, thank you for being here with us.
JACKIE ROWE-ADAMS, LOST TWO SONS TO GUN VIOLENCE: Let me say thank you.
Thank you, it`s an honor. Thank you for having the vision to bring on a
mother who has endured the pain that is all centered around this gun
violence. Because we have been out here a long time trying to get someone
to pay attention to help us stop this violence, to help us understand why
are they killing each other. Why are we having this organization call
Mother Saves, stop another violent?
We started off with five mothers, Melissa. We walked in the 79 chief ride
office and said help, help. There`s too many guns on the streets. Who is
giving our kids these guns? That is the question. We know where they are
coming from. We know. But who is putting the guns in our kids` hands?
And that is the question that was called when we stood on a step of city
Now, we have 50 plus mothers and fathers. We are glad to say they have a
home and someplace to come.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me go exactly to this point. And because I think so
many folks would say when we look at the Newtown shooting, we say as
horrible as those loses are and they just are horrible, full stop, that the
loss of those children might at least begin to stem violence, if we can
make real legislative accomplishments.
But then, I say, you lost your boys, your first son in 1982. And then
decades later, so, all that time passed and the rules were not changed in a
way that made your second son any safer.
How do we make sure there aren`t 50 more? Like I`m happy you are an
organization group but I`m sad with your organization group because I would
like to know there were no more mothers who lost their sons and daughters.
ROWE-ADAMS: I`m sad it grew, and happy it grew. And I just want to say
I`m glad we have a home that councilwoman on this I think it gave us for
But you know what, how do we stop it? First of all, it`s a lot of
attention paid to the gun violence now because of the Newtown shooting.
Whatever it takes. We have been out there a long time saying help, help.
How we stop it?
I am proud that the president and vice president have this task force and
it`s really looking at this. The world is looking at how to stop this
violence. So, we have to come to the table, the communities -- let me talk
about the communities. What the communities can do. We have to support
the president. We have to support the vice president. We have to talk to
our Congress. We have to talk to our legislatures and say enough is
enough. Now we lost our babies. We been losing our kids forever. But now
we have lost our babies. Enough is enough. Step up! Take charge! Take
charge of our children. Stop letting them make money off our children`s
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. And that feels like -- that feels like that
is what it is. There are people who are simply making money off the death
of our children.
MEARES: Gun manufacturers. One of the things that, I think we can do
simply, when you said where are the guns coming from. It`s actually
difficult for the bureau of alcohol and tobacco and firearms to figure out
where the guns are coming from.
For example, the ATF doesn`t have funding or personnel to do --.
MEARES: Inventory checks to figure out where the stolen guns are coming
from, for example. The ATF doesn`t have the power to computerize gun
sales. So, if you want to figure out where the guns are coming from, what
they have to actually go through paper because that is a piece of
legislation that has prevented the ATF --
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m don`t want to miss -- let`s say it again. The ATF has
not had a director for six years?
SKOLINK: For six years. They cannot get director confirmed through
Congress in six years, perhaps four years during the Obama administration.
They have not had an ATF director. There is not one. There`s also not a
juvenile justice director, either.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m almost feel like I can`t go forward like how are we even
beginning to have a conversation about the rest of this if we don`t have
those positions filled?
GROSS: Yes. I mean, the gun lobby went out of their way to prevent the
collection of data by the CDC and others. And it`s a very important
conversation to have about what we can do to get more data and get more
research to learn exactly how gun law work.
But there are certain laws that we know would work tomorrow to keep guns
off the streets, out of the hands of dangerous people, things like criminal
background checks. You know, right now, 40 percent of all gun sales in our
country don`t have a background check which means -- that`s not just --
sometimes it`s trivialized calling it the gun show loophole. It`s over the
Internet. You can go on the Internet right now, convicted felon, domestic
abuser, terrorist, no question ask.
HARRIS-PERRY: And if is 40 percent, is not a loophole. It`s standard
We are going to take a quick break. More solutions as soon as we come
HARRIS-PERRY: Gang violence accounts for about 800 murders annually. A
large percent of which are connected with drug trafficking. When we
consider how to turn the tide of gun violence in this country, maybe ending
the war on drugs is the best gun measure we can enact. I mean, is this
possible that part of it is just its driven by a thing that should be a
public health problem that we have turned into a crime problem?
SKOLINK: Absolutely. We need to end the war on drugs immediately.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have lost.
SKOLINK: And we lost. And President Clinton said two weeks ago, it`s a
failure. So, the guy who fought them more on drugs - I think the president
is taking steps to do so. The mandatory minimum sentencing has to be, on
the federal, gotten rid of. I think that we look at the press at the
school, the present pipeline. How we take our kids and just basically
manufacture them to become prisoners with the loot at it in a concrete way.
But we -- there`s a piece of legislation by Congressman Bobby Scott out of
Virginia called the youth promise act by it looks at - and have bipartisan
support. It looks at holistic approach is to gang intervention prevention
to violence intervention to programs like the Harlem`s programs here. It
looks at programs more holistic approach and says can we take a community
and rebuild a community because we destroy with the (INAUDIBLE)?
GROSS: I just want to point out, though, it`s very important to have
conversations like this. This is a complex issue with complex solutions.
And we should have those conversations. We should have policy wise and we
should have them culturally.
But we shouldn`t have them at the expense of talking about what we can do
right now to keep guns off the streets and out of the hands of dangerous
people. It also relates to the mental health issue. You know, there`s a
lot of gravity around the mental health conversation. Unfortunately, that
gravity is to pull it apart from the gun issue to talk about access, the
mental health services another very important conversation.
But let`s talk about what we can do. You know, there`s certain mental
illnesses where people are predisposed to harming themselves or harming
others through background check. You can keep guns out of those hands
through education. Let`s have that public health approach. You can
educate parents. You can educate clinician that maybe Mrs. Lanza, it`s not
a great idea if your son is predisposed towards harming somebody to have an
arsenal in your house.
So, we can have those conversations from a public health perspective and
from a policy perspective. But we should always make sure, especially
right now they are grounded in access to guns.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And these are multiple conversations happening at
the same time, not separately.
ROWE-ADAMS: Yes, absolutely. I said it. But we need to look more as you
did before. Let`s talk about bullying. A lot of mental illness and
angriness come from bullying. These kids are bullied. And sometimes when
you are bullied, and not just heard the story that the child with so much
bullied in school, to he when got a gun and he shot the kid. And that
plays a big part.
So, what do we say to the educators? What do we say to the parents? What
do we say to the children? Speak up. If you are scared, tell someone.
Tell your family member. Tell your counselor. Tell -- it is a "speak up"
number as Dan mentioned earlier. So, we have to really start paying
attention and education. Do more education, put funding in educating these
kids on bullying. We have a peer-to-peer program.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate - it is, you know, what I appreciate about
reminding us of that, Dan, and reminding that. It said, that the layers
lay on top of each other, there`s the question of mental illness. But
then, there is the question of our social illnesses. But none of that can
be divorced from the policies that we can enact today that can in fact
reduce the access to guns on everything from the Internet to a gun show all
This is incredibly complex. We spent an hour in it, still not enough. But
I appreciate you all for being here. A couple of folks are sticking
Jackie Rowe-Adams, thank you for being here. Thank you for bringing your
passion and experience to us.
Dan, thank you for being here.
And also, just thank you for being in the fight. This is a tough one.
ROWE-ADAMS: But we understand the fight. We going to stay with the
mothers. Just yesterday, I just want to say, a kid got right shot across
from Harlem of the save. So, enough is enough. Legislatures listen to
what the president proposed. I hope they make their best argument.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks, Mrs. Rowe-Adams.
We are changing gears dramatically next. We are actually going to try to
lighten it up. We are going have a funny moment about Amy Poehler and Tina
Fey as they take center stage. We are going to talk women in Hollywood.
There`s more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Tonight is truly a hooray for Hollywood moments as NBC funny ladies, Tina
Fey and Amy Poehler, are set to co-host the 70th Annual Golden Globe
To be fair, there have been other female co-hosts like Raquel Welch in
1985, Joan Collins in 1983. But Poehler and Fey are the first duo to co-
host the telecast ever.
And this isn`t the first time they`ve made history together as they were
the first all female anchor team for "Saturday Night Live`s" weekend
update. But I have to say, in 2013, it feels slightly odd that established
and genuinely funny women like Poehler and Fey are still creating firsts --
all this in a week when the buzz has been building breaking for their
Golden Globes moment but for funny man Jimmy Kimmel`s move to the 11:35
p.m. late night sweet spot on ABC.
Right, because we don`t have enough funny men in late night or in
government for that matter in President Obama.
OK. Jimmy Kimmel`s move puts him directly up against Jay Leno and David
Letterman in the primetime late night spot. And there are still Jimmy
Fallon, Conan O`Brien, Craig Ferguson, Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart.
Without them, we do, we do.
But I can`t forget, yes, there are two, but only two funny ladies holding
down the late night hosting duties, Chelsea Handler and Kathy Griffin.
Come on, man. Or men on this instance, ladies are as funny as I`m sure
Tina and Amy will amply prove it tonight. But maybe the problem is they
have to keep proving it all the time.
At the table, Julianne Malveaux, president emeritus of Bennett College for
Women; Michael Skolnik, who is editor-in-chief of globalgrind.com, and our
guy at the table; Marvet Britto, who is founder of the Britto Agency; and
funny lady extraordinaire, Judy Gold, writer, comedian and can be seen this
Saturday January 19th at the Landmark on Main Street in Fort Washington.
So lovely to have you all here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Judy, I have to start with you as a comedian and a lady.
JUDY GOLD, COMEDIAN: I wouldn`t say I`m a lady.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right. Not on seven second delay here. Try to
But look, why are women still fighting for space in the land of funny?
GOLD: To me, it`s mindboggling to me. But if you think about it, women
are fighting for space in every profession except nursing or teaching. But
we haven`t had a woman president. I mean, that is beyond ridiculous.
But when you think of women in comedy and you think of the articles that
have written about women in comedy, women aren`t funny. You know, people
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that`s true.
GOLD: It has nothing to do with your gender. And humor is such a
suggestive thing. It`s like, you know, you like pizza that`s spicy or you
don`t like pizza that`s spicy. You like sarcasm or you don`t like sarcasm.
It`s called a sense. And it is a sense of humor. And your sensibility
might not match someone else. It has nothing to do with whether you are
HARRIS-PERRY: But is it possible that what we have developed as our sense
of the thing that makes something funny is something that we simply as a
matter of kind of cultural development have come to think of as the kind of
things men do or say rather than the kinds of things that women say or do.
JULIANNE MALVEAUX, BENNETT COLLEGE: Well, you know, our culture is so
genderized, in any case, you`ve got disparity. If you look at Congress,
only 20 percent of it is woman. But if you go to developing countries you
got a ministry of women, you may have a law that says half or a third of
the people elected to office have to be women.
So, when you have a genderized culture, women aren`t that funny. In fact,
some of the women who I think are hilarious, if they do household jokes,
the guys don`t get them. If they do sex jokes, the guys are scandalized.
If they do -- or they say, gee, these women, I mean, don`t do any below the
belt, how can I put this?
GOLD: It really is about what women are supposed to act like. When I look
at my mother, she says, Judy, why do you have to talk, you`re so loud?
They were taught to be feminine. You have to be passive. You have to be
HARRIS-PERRY: Be pretty, exactly.
GOLD: Be quiet. And if you are not like that, you are not feminine. And
that is absolutely the problem where women are afraid to speak up, afraid
to be opinionated to speak their mind.
MALVEAUX: The other piece of it for me and probably you as well looking at
race, gender and culture, the ways African-American women are even more
sidelined. The jokes we can tell have to do with weight.
MALVEAUX: But we -- you know, we can get in that mix.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mammy is so funny. She`ll show up -- like over and over
again, when you see the black woman joke, it is like this mammy joke.
MALVEAUX: The tragic Mulatto, the tragic of Mulatto.
MALVEAUX: But you know, I am concerned about -- you have all these black
men, some of them have had late night. Some of them are this side of
obscene. I have a nephew who is a comedian and I`m like, I have to go to
SKOLNIK: On a Tuesday.
So, it is amazing how we have allowed, and I say that women have allowed,
because we watch these men. You know, if they didn`t have ratings, of
course, I don`t think any of those guys are that funny.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to show because we have a little bit of data, like, I
know sometimes people say you are just making it up. It`s actually not
that bad. I want to show data.
Because in fact, there`s a great new study showing the gender imbalances
that are alive and well in media. We`ve got one table just kind showing
the indicators that women are seen and not heard. That when we look at
across all these different forms of media, there`s a lot of numbers.
But I just kind of want to show you that -- look at the top left. Just the
percentage of female characters in family films, OK? These are in family
films. The percent of characters is up under 30 percent that you will see
in the family film are women.
And then when you start asking about the likelihood of speaking rolls,
there`s even in children`s stories, right, we`re not even at 50 percent in
terms of percentages in female characters in prime time programming, in
children`s stories and in family films. So, let me ask you between, you
are in the industry, how do we start breaking through those barriers?
MARVET BRITTO, FOUNDER, THE BRITTO AGENCY: I think the best way to
breakthrough the barriers is celebrate and honor the achievements of those
who do breakthrough. When a woman breaks and shatters the glass ceiling,
we need to celebrate that. As you pointed out this week, if Jimmy Kimmel
was the lead story, but yet the duo of hosting the globes was really
secondary to that, and that`s a problem, because young people can only
aspire to be what they see. And we celebrate certain industries and
certain individuals but then we really let certain stories fly below the
radar which isn`t smart.
So, for a young woman, she believes she can only be historically what she
has always been. So, for us, it`s important to put certain figures and
certain individuals in places where we celebrate their accomplishments and
achievements so that other people can use that illuminating path as a
blueprint for their own individual success.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m wondering if one of the things we should be celebrating
here is that it`s a duo of women. That is two women.
There`s something about not having to play the girl in a team or --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Or a sidekick.
HARRIS-PERRY: But we are both playing the girl, because then the girl can
be a multiplicity of different roles.
SKOLNIK: If you could jump in, as a token male on the panel here, men may
not be happy with me as I`m a proud feminist. My grandmother was a
feminist and my mother was a feminist. What I find a lot in median
Hollywood now is we are seeing some advances in front of the screen. We`re
seeing Kerry Washington amazingly in scandal. We`re seeing girls. We`re
seeing Tina in "30 Rock." But I think behind the camera, the studio
executive, you can`t name one of five female Hollywood directors on one
hand. You have Kathryn Hardwick or Kathryn Bigelow, excuse me.
SKOLNIK: Kathryn Hardwick. And Nora Ephron just passed. And then that`s
HARRIS-PERRY: If you can name them on one hand and one is passed away.
BRITTO: But the beauty of that is that you have Debra Martin Chase who has
been very successful. Her name is not top of mind.
SKOLNIK: That`s right.
MALVEAUX: Who in Hollywood has the right to green light a film? Many
women can green light a film.
GOLD: It`s also --
HARRIS-PERRY: We are going to come back with that topic.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is not just a glass ceiling. It`s a celluloid feeling.
And we`re going to talk about exactly the green lighting, the questions of
directors and all the roles that aren`t in front of the camera as soon as
we get back.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s true that women have made great strides in Hollywood.
Thursday`s nomination for best director might signal the road ahead that`s
still quite long.
While "Zero Dark Thirty" is nominated for best picture in a crowded field
of nine, the movie`s director, Kathryn Bigelow, the first and only women to
win the best director Oscar for "The Hurt Locker" was not nominated in her
category. Clearly, her movie, "Zero Dark Thirty", was good enough for a
nomination, but she wasn`t.
SKOLNIK: I thought the film was fantastic. She is one of my favorite
directors. "The Hurt Locker" was an incredible thing. "Zero Dark Thirty"
is an incredible film.
I think what`s important to talk about is with the decision makers. When
you have a Kathryn Bigelow at the helm of the film and you have a Jessica
Chastain playing a positive, powerful female character, that changes
culture. It changes men. It is how we see women on screen.
So, if you look at "Will and Grace", you know, how that sort of laid the
groundwork for a cultural shift in this country in gay America, you have
women making decisions, making powerful decisions on who represents them on
screen, I believe it can change culture.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Julianne, you ask the question, you know, we ought to be
asking, who`s got the power to green light films? We often hear that --
and it`s not quite right, but we will hear that they are responding to
audience pressure. That it has to do with what makes the big dollars.
There`s an organization, WITASWAN, Women in the Audience Supporting Women
Artists Now, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: The idea that we go and we sit and we watch women`s films.
But is there something other than organizing to appreciate women that is
like actively asking the industry to do something different?
MALVEAUX: Well, I think that one of the things that women can do in
addition to organizing is actually funding some of the films.
MALVEAUX: You have alternative women`s organizations. I know we are going
to talk later about our sorority. The Delta Sigma Theta funded a film
called "Countdown at Kusini," that starred Ruby Dee that had -- this was in
the `70s, of course. It was a long time ago.
But the sorority put the money up, because we don`t see enough black women
in positive roles, we don`t see enough African-Americans in positive roles.
So, we`ll pay for it ourselves. It was a long shot and very challenging.
MALVEAUX: But I think more women, you have more women with wealth,
actually where women control wealth than men. Look at the sisters who had
the dollar said, OK, I`m going to put $5 million behind this indie film
starring women and let`s see what happens.
Because I think the other thing is that we support these men. Very
interestingly, survey years ago, in the early `80s, that this magazine did
that talked about sexism. And most women, many of the women talked about
in the margins, what about my sons.
You are looking at affirmative action. What about my sons? What about
you? You have to put yourself unfortunately first, because strong women
raise strong sons.
GOLD: But I also believe it`s the media that plays into this. You know, a
woman`s film is a chick flick.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Yes, "Hurt Locker" and "Zero Dark Thirty".
GOLD: Right, exactly. But if you saying how many female characters?
There`s more than, you know, 50 percent female, that`s a woman`s movie.
But every other movie isn`t a guy`s movie, it`s just a movie.
And it`s the same with stand-up comedy. You know, you have three women on
a show. It`s ladies night out. Three guys on a show, it`s a regular show.
It`s the way that we are publicized and marketed and oh, she`s on the edge
because she said this. You know, he`s not on the edge.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it`s not a small point. Like even when we do this
table, right? This table does not come together weekend after weekend
without a full thought about who is sitting here. There`s no doubt you can
have a Sunday morning show with an all male panel --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- and it would take no remark at all. If the show is
entirely women from beginning to end, it`s ladies night.
GOLD: Oh, our ladies panel.
GOLD: It`s the way -- we do that. We do that.
BRITTO: Hollywood in many ways is fueled by financing. One would argue
they could always say this is what works. So, if they do bridesmaids and
it does $300 million and they do a film that really focuses on the family
or the female friendship and relationship and it underperforms, and therein
lies the problem.
So, the media really is a mirror and reflection of what actually works in
GOLD: Why is it that one movie doesn`t do well so they don`t make more
movies like that?
BRITTO: Again, Hollywood is -- they are not leaders, but followers. It`s
like reality television. When the first show happened, everyone was afraid
Now, largely, our society has supported. If you are a sitcom, it`s like an
anomaly. The fact is consumers are in control of what works in Hollywood
and Hollywood is really going to shape their programming and green lighting
of films based on what they think works.
BRITTO: Which was why a revolutionary filmmaker likely Daniels, where can
cast who he would like to cast because funding is coming from independent
BRITTO: We want this person, we want that person. You have more freedom.
You can take more risk.
HARRIS-PERRY: I do want to be just a tiny bit careful, though, about the
idea that audiences have a total menu to choose and if they fundamentally
choose sort of sexist and problematic. One thing is about the presence of
women and the other is about what kind of portrayal of women we get whether
women are standing there or not. I think we always want to separate an
essentialist body, the bodies, of course, is what we`re seeing because we
can have women producing equally sort of problematic silencing.
I hate cultural policing, like in the sense that art has relative autonomy
and ought to be able to be funny and obscene and grotesque, all the things
that it is. But when it`s the same image grotesque image, for example, of
black women as mammy all the time and produced by black men as well as by
black woman, as well as -- like, that it`s no longer interesting.
MALVEAUX: The whole thing about the stereotypes and the things about the
film is we haven`t broken the cultural barrier of patriarchy. When you
break the cultural barrier of patriarchy, when you have 50 percent of the
Congress being men, or 60 percent of the Senate being men, when 50 percent
of college presidents are women -- you know, when you see women equal, then
you begin to see that reflected in the movies.
But you know, I disagree with you about what they think is going to work.
I think it`s what they think about life. It`s also --
HARRIS-PERRY: I also wonder which comes first. I`m going to let you in
next, first. Because I want to talk a little bit about girls. Because we
are talking women, I want to talk about girls and I want to ask exactly
about if you are a girl coming up in this industry, what does it look like?
And one way to talk about it is a 12-year-old`s hair, which became a
national controversy, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s one thing to talk about the short shelf life of veteran
Hollywood actresses who were tossed aside for younger version when they
reach a certain age. It`s another to scrutinize a 12-year-old. Willow
Smith, a rising pop start and daughter of Hollywood`s super couple Will
Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, through criticism after cutting her hair
In November, her mom took to Facebook to address letting her daughter
Willow make her choices about her appearance. Jada Pinkett Smith wrote,
"This is a world with women and girls are constantly reminded they don`t
belong to themselves, that their bodies are not their own, nor their power
of self-determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the
power to always know that her body, spirit and mind are her domain."
Judy, I want to ask you about this.
GOLD: Where was she when I was growing up?
HARRIS-PERRY: I know, right? Like good job, momma.
HARRIS-PERRY: Like when you look at a moment like that, it`s like
attacking the hair choices of a 12-year-old, it made me just sort of feel
GOLD: It`s such a violation. You know, here you have a kid who is 12,
which is probably the worst age for a girl anyway, who`s finding herself.
Her hormones are developing and you are criticizing her because she cut her
hair. She made a decision that she feels pretty or attractive or likes
herself this way.
And then the media has to comment, what does this mean? This is not
feminine. This is not -- it`s really -- it`s just so destructive. You
know, if a guy cuts his hair, oh, wow, he`s really butch and manly. Yes,
What does this mean? What does her song mean? Her song means she`s
No, her song means that she is really a very intelligent, insightful girl
who`s very talented.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this point about like taking risk. Julianne, Quvenzhane
Wallis, who is the youngest best actress nominee ever, right, a little
African-American girl who played in "Beast of the Southern Wild," which I
may have a lot of emotions about which we won`t talk about here. But she
was an incredible actor in this film and, of course, does it with her own
natural hair at every point.
And so, it felt like exactly this point that when you take a risk, when you
don`t assume what the audience wants to see, great and amazing things might
just come out of it.
MALVEAUX: Absolutely. I was thinking of Gabby, the young woman who --
SKOLNIK: Gabby Douglas.
MALVEAUX: And the thing that hurt me most about that, Melissa, was that
while a lot of people criticize her, African-American women were some of
the most virulent. Well, you know, she didn`t press her hairs.
Well, if you are running on the bars, if you did press it, it`s going to go
But you know, these images -- Jada is exactly right. What young woman has
to be able to do is own themselves.
You have girls in the fourth and fifth grade who tell people they are fat.
They are growing. It doesn`t matter.
You have folks who tell you they are ugly. And sometimes they are ugly
because their skin is dark.
All these stereotypes that seep through again and we haven`t dealt with.
And so, we have to tell our girls, because otherwise, they won`t be women
who own themselves.
BRITTO: And that`s very dangerous because what we are doing is supporting
the mindset that we are allowing these young people to not be fearless and
unafraid to be different in a sea of the same. In Hollywood, when you look
at her parents, when you look at Will Smith, you know, who many consider
modest success as a rapper but monumental success as an actor, and someone
who used his own identity and done it his way, the same with Jada Pinkett
Smith. They have been fearless. These are the parents of these children.
BRITTO: So, I celebrate the fact that you should go to Hollywood or any
industry as we all have done and bring your own unique individuality,
because that is what will be celebrated. When you take a risk and you
enter the risk business, those are the people who tend to fly and soar.
And I think that when you hear criticism, it`s often other people
projecting their own insecurity.
And what bothered me about the Gabby Douglas whole debacle was that we
should have been more focused on the fact that she is and focus on her
talent rather than focus on her look, which at times she will evolve and
change. But it`s really about the talent. And I think we send the wrong
HARRIS-PERRY: But if --
BRITTO: Injuring (ph) on the minors.
HARRIS-PERRY: Can I also suggest that let`s say you take a risk and you
have a sense of self-ownership and fail in Hollywood, that might still be
the better trade off.
GOLD: Women can fail once. And men can fail over and over and over.
HARRIS-PERRY: That is not a small point.
MALVEAUX: The other thing with Willow Smith is hair growth is a human
SKOLNIK: That`s for me sometimes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right. Age-related, too.
MALVEAUX: So all of this brouhaha, if she doesn`t like it, she can grow it
back, if she doesn`t like it straight, she can twist it.
HARRIS-PERRY: What I will say, when you are a black woman, you know the
hair growth may affect it, but it is also a commodity that is available in
a lot of forms and functions. It is one of the great joys of being who we
are, that we can make choices very quickly.
So, this is always a useful conversation. At least we will join in and
watch Golden Globes and have a good time laughing at two funny ladies who
deserve to be there.
Thank you to Marvet Britto, Judy Gold and also to Michael Skolnik for being
our guy on the panel. You are so you. You are fearless.
SKOLNIK: With no hair.
HARRIS-PERRY: Julianne Malveaux is going to stay with us, because up next,
we are going to talk a little bit about the other side of this. How do we
get girls to own themselves? We are going to talk about educating our
girls. Do they learn better with our boys? It`s an open question, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: The 113th Congress boasts a record number of women serving
our nation, 20 in the Senate, and 81 in the House. That`s more than any
other time in our history.
And here`s an interesting fact, 60 percent of the women now in Congress,
including 70 percent of women Senators, were once girl scouts.
So, could the answer to fostering more women leaders in our country be
young girls spending more time exclusively with other young girls? It`s a
question debated round and round in the education community with no easy
There`s an intuitive argument that young boys are unruly and disruptive,
creating more difficult learning environment for girls, or that girls have
fewer chances to speak in class as aggressive boys seek all the attention.
But the empirical evidence is not completely convincing. Single sex
advocates like the National Association for Single Sex Public Education
hosts studies like this one online. It says that researchers at Stanton
(ph) University in Florida conducted a three-year study in a nearby public
school where fourth grade students were placed in either a single sex or a
coed classroom. The results, when it came to Florida comprehensive tests,
37 percent of boys scored efficient compared to 86 percent of boys in
single sex classrooms who score proficient. And for girls, 59 percent
scored efficient while 75 percent in single sex classrooms score
But those numbers from the 2005 are not conclusive. In fact, they are
heavily debated. The U.S. Department of Education says on the question of
single sex education, there`s simply, quote, "a dearth of quality studies."
And while the preponderance of studies in areas such as academic
accomplishment yield result lending to support of single sex schooling, a
limited number of studies throughout the review provide evidence favoring
So, for now, the debate continues.
Still with me: Julian Malveaux, who is president emeritus of Bennett
College for Women.
And joining us now is Nancy Lesko, professor of education at Teacher`s
College of Columbia University. Her expertise is in adolescence and gender
Kaitlin Seaver is the principal of Girls Prep Lower East Middle School in
And also, Tracey Meares, professor of law at Yale Law School.
So, go for it. What should we be thinking about these numbers?
MALVEAUX: Well, Melissa, one of the studies that you didn`t cite was from
the Women`s College Coalition, which is the coalition of women`s colleges.
And what they found is that women who go to women`s colleges, rather, are
more likely to step up in terms of leadership positions, as you said, have
more opportunities essentially to not only lead but talk.
At a women`s college, all leadership positions are women. And so, whether
it`s chair of the student body, the head of the NAACP, these are women who
are being trained to be leaders.
And one of the things I find, as one of the experience I have that was
troubling to me, one of the -- after some random violence, drive-by
shootings, one of the women decided all the colleges in Greensboro should
get together to do a stop the violence march. It was her idea, she brought
the other to the table.
But as soon as these guys got to the table, they started dominating the
conversation. It was their world. It was so bad. I could hear the voices
all the way down in my office.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you`re like, who let the kids from AMT in here, right?
MALVEAUX: Exactly. I walked down. I`m like, sister, this is your
meeting. Run your meeting. Do not let these guys run your meeting.
So, oftentimes, women immediately defer when a man comes in the room. Now,
we have to do more education. But I do think that these results for a
women`s college coalition talk about the major benefits.
HARRIS-PERRY: So give me the pushback a little bit on this. And I know
you have been on multiple sides of this perspective.
NANCY LESKO, EDUCATION PROF., TEACHERS COLLEGE: Right. I think one of the
push backs for me and I think there are a number of them. But one is that,
as this whole segment indicates, there are gender issues in schooling.
And I totally agree with that and think we need to explore those. And I
think that part of what the single sex -- the way the single sex school
debate kind of functions is it says, OK, here`s the answer. And then we
never go on to say, well, what, in fact, is going on, and can we -- I think
the single sex debate also kind of presumes that you can separate what goes
on in school from what goes on outside of school.
And so, I think exactly what Julianne was saying, the idea of like being
able to, you know, articulate ideas well, forcefully, challenge ideas et
cetera. All those things are very important. But they can be learned at
the dinner table as well as they can in a classroom.
MEARES: What I love about the point you are making right now, you know,
there has to be one answer as if there`s one question. And it depends on
what the question is.
And so, if we are talking achievement on tests, academic achievement,
that`s one question. And how we think about single sex education might
depend on what age we are talking about.
I have a 6-year-old. My 6-year-old boy is very different than the way my
6-year-old girls acted. Maybe a boy will do better in a single sex
classroom at a certain age.
Now, Julianne, you are talking college and leadership potential, which is a
different question. So, it seems to me that we ought to be asking, you
know, the answer for what question.
KAITLIN SEAVER, PRINCIPAL, GIRLS PREP EAST MIDDLE SCHOOL, NY: I say two of
the keywords you mentioned so far is single sex education provide choice
and voice. Is a single sex education required for every single girl to
thrive in this world? No. But should they not be afforded the opportunity
to that sort of community?
And on the subject of voice, it`s critical or girls learn there are ways to
defy stereotypes, and traditional expectations that our girls are not -- it
doesn`t matter so much how they look, how they do their hair, but how they
express themselves, how they do their homework and how they become
contributing advocates and activists in our society.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask a little -- I want to ask a little bit about
that. So, my daughter, we chose single sex ed for her. That`s where she
is now. She wasn`t until third grade. She is now in middle school.
But the fact is, it`s not as though it`s all girls holding hands and
clapping and singing in girl joy, because once -- I mean, not that there`s
-- sometimes it is odd. But sometimes you take gender away as the primary
dividing line and a bunch of other things come to the floor, right? And
so, there can still be bullying and there can still be ways of saying this
is the person who is on the out and this is the person who`s on the in.
SEAVER: You can`t remove every distraction that an adolescent girl is
going to face in her life. But we can remove one major distraction. We
can provide a fertile ground for girls to see themselves differently where
the strongest mathematician in the school is a girl, where the strongest
athlete is a girl, where the strongest scientist is a girl, the strongest
athlete is a girl.
And where there is no space for gender and equality in our school --
HARRIS-PERRY: We are going to stay exactly on this topic and I want to
bring in, particularly the point you made about colleges, because are
women`s colleges are in a different place than they once were. It did in
fact work for Hillary Clinton and it worked for Martha Stewart. So, should
more young women be doing it?
More on women college -- yes, we`ve got Marian on her when we come back,
HARRIS-PERRY: We have been talking about the case for single sex education
for girls from kindergarten through 12th grade. But what about beyond?
The Women`s College Coalition current lists 47 member colleges and
universities across the U.S. But they are facing an unusual and troubling
trend, declining enrollment.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment at
degree granting women`s colleges in 2010 stood at 85,769. That`s down from
an estimated 113,000 in 1998.
And that`s despite the examples set from the school`s most impressive alum.
Consider just these few: graduates from Wellesley College include former
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, current Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, and NASA astronaut Pamela Melroy.
Barnard College both alumni like writer and author Anna Quindlen and
entertainment maven and entrepreneur Martha Stewart.
And from Spellman College, Marian Wright Edelman, famed lifelong advocate
for the disadvantaged.
So, can the case be made for all women in a college environment?
And we turn first to you, Professor Malveaux, since you, in fact, have been
the president of such a school.
MALVEAUX: You know, one of the things people think is a single sex school
is some bastion of women. We have male professors. You know, of course,
the tilt was female, so, you know, they are sitting in the convent or
anything like that. We have other schools that are close by at Bennett,
A&T is across the street. They have seven colleges in Greensboro, North
So, none of these children or young people are being cloistered (ph) and
that`s an important point to make because a lot of people think they`re
going to be cloistered. Now, however, I think there are lots of benefits.
There are some disadvantages.
But here`s -- Melissa, there are 4,000 plus colleges in the United States,
4,000. So, you`ve got Morehouse College, which is for African-American
men, we`ve got Spellman and Bennett, African-American women, you have 47 or
45 women`s colleges. You have Brandeis, which was founded essentially for
So why not have some variety? I didn`t go to a single sex school. A lot
of women who are achievers didn`t. But some want to make that choice
because they want to learn, they want to be focused. They want to have the
opportunity often to learn without the distraction of young men in the room
and they are being prepared to go into a world with all these tools that
make them un-intimidated by men.
They`ve learned how to argue. They`ve learned how to lead.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask that. If the data are, at best mixed, about
K through 12 and test score results, which I think any of us can feel sort
of all kind of ways about what a test score result even tells us. Are the
data also mixed about the sort of leadership capacity potential around
LESKO: I`m much more familiar with the research around K through 12
schools. So, I`m going to speak to those then see if we can extrapolate.
But I think one of the questions that I want to kind of interject here is
to what degree we can assume that all single sex schools or programs are
identical and have similar emphasis.
So, for example, there was a study in the early 200s of 12 different single
sex schools in California. And they varied widely in terms of the
curriculum, in terms of leadership, in terms so California made funds
available. So, some of the programs were about getting extra funds. They
had no leadership that wanted to push actually kind of feminist knowledge
or feminist awarenesses or criticisms or so forth.
HARRIS-PERRY: The variables that make it, that may be producing this
leadership may have -- they may co-vary along with a single sex ed, but
they may not be causal.
LESKO: It may be a selective factor.
HARRIS-PERRY: Who opts-in to them.
LESKO: Who opts-in and who opts out, who drops out and who is left.
SEAVER: You know, on the issue of opting in, I as a seventh grader did not
opt in to a single sex environment.
HARRIS-PERRY: My parents are like there you go.
SEAVER: I went kicking and screaming. I didn`t realize the actual
benefits of having gone to a single sex school until I reenter the co-
educational environment of college. And it was there that I realized I had
a certain confidence, I was the one with my hand up. I was the scholar who
was going to my teacher to advocate for myself, ensuing a sense of
And the way that it happened was in my 7th through 12th education, teachers
were looking out, there were teachers looking to pull out from the
otherwise introverted, self-conscious 12-year-old leadership skills,
allowing me to become a student council president. And those are the sorts
of opportunities and the sort of focus on individual identity that we can
afford our girls at girls prep schools like us.
MEARES: But what Nancy is saying is that doesn`t necessarily follow from
single sex education. I think about this from the standpoint I have a 13-
year-old. We are considering where to send her to high school and one of
the options is a single sex Catholic high school. And, you know, what`s
interesting to me as I sit and listen to all of you speak is what I`m
looking for is good schooling.
MEARES: Good schooling is really the issue. You are talking teachers that
draw you out. It`s not obvious to me that one needs to be in a single sex
environment for that to take place.
SEAVER: Varies for each individual.
MALVEAUX: Where are women going to be celebrated? I mean, women, my tag
line is we are at a place where young women are educated, and celebrated
and developed into 21st century leaders and global thinkers, educated and
So, when you walk through a hallway, you see pictures of women. When you
look at leadership, you`re seeing pictures of women.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you this -- does it therefore let the coed
schools off the hook? So, the one thing I wonder about that is that if we
do that, then, in fact, do general public schools not need to celebrate
women`s history month in March and do they not make sure that in fact, 50
percent of women are -- you know, 50 percent of their leaders are women.
You need a single sex ed is it lets coed schools off the hook.
MALVEAUX: It doesn`t let them off the hook. Because you have 105
historically black colleges doesn`t mean that everyone else should have an
African-American studies, or a Black History Month.
MALVEAUX: And so, you really want to make sure that diversity is basically
pushed and celebrated. You want -- when will we see like you, 50 percent
of law professors at Yale, female, I don`t know the numbers but I`m certain
it`s not 50 percent.
MEARES: I was the first African-American tenured professor at Yale Law
School, so believe me.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wonder if the other place -- you made the point about the
dinner table, right? What I`m wondering because we made the point about
girl scouts. So, let`s say we go to coed schools or we got to single sex
Is there something, though, about leadership that happens in organizations
in activities, in the other kinds of co-curricular activity?
SEAVER: Definitely. Within girls prep middle schools, in our elementary
schools, we have some underlying core values that can only happen in a
uniquely single sex environment, including one sisterhood where our girls
are learning, despite what you are seeing of women tearing each other down,
they are building each other up. They actually refer to themselves as
sisters. And we have each room are named after a strong female leader,
like Beverly Daniel Tatum, who they`re hoping to visit in the spring.
HARRIS-PERRY: The opposite of the "Real Housewives."
SEAVER: Right. I mean, to be honest with you, there are challenges even
within single sex education of finding how do you meet the needs of each
I can speak from personal experience. The way my brother and I learned was
different. But also the way my sister and I learned were different. And
so, it was our stories (ph), and we have much more capacity in a smaller
setting, with an all girls, with the core values we try to view within the
girls to actually reach these goals.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are in our last 30 seconds of the conversation.
Professor, I know that there`s something you wanted to do in the last 30
MALVEAUX: Absolutely. On behalf of the sorors of Delta Sigma Theta
Sorority Incorporated, I have brought you something.
MALVEAUX: It is our centennial celebration, 100 years of phenomenal women
who marched, not only marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, bull guarded their
way in, because white women said, we don`t want you marching, but we
marched anyway. And so, we are celebrating. And you are --
HARRIS-PERRY: I greatly appreciate it. In fact, what I`m going to do as
soon as we come back from the break is I`m going to talk about Delta Sigma
Theta sorority. For those of you who may not know, it is our 100-year
anniversary. It`s our birthday today.
And I actually think there`s something in the conversation we`ve just had
about women`s leadership that I want to share about my sorors when we come
HARRIS-PERRY: One hundred years ago today, on January 13th, 1913, 22 young
women at Howard University established Delta Sigma Theta sorority. The
Deltas were founded at a time when women did not have the right to vote,
when African-Americans were second-class citizens, and when black women
were concentrated in the exploitive drudgery of domestic work.
As college students, these young women understood that their education
meant they had relative privilege, and founding Delta Sigma Theta was a
response to that opportunity, a chance to nurture social bonds between one
another and to serve their broader community.
Now, for those of you unfamiliar with the traditions of African-American
Greek letter organizations, I know it might seem odd to talk about a
sorority centennial on a political show. But Delta Sigma Theta is not
exclusively or even primarily an organization for college women.
Delta, like other historically black sororities and fraternities of the
National Pan-Hellenic Council has a history rooted in economic, social,
political engagement. Delta is the organization that first introduced me
to the accomplishments of many black women in American politics.
Patricia Roberts Harris, the first African-American woman to be appointed
to a presidential cabinet.
Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to the U.S.
House and the first to run for president.
Barbara Jordan, the first black woman elected to the U.S. House from the
Carol Moseley Braun, the only African-American woman U.S. Senator.
All women who chose to affiliate with Delta.
Delta is the organization where I had my first opportunities to practice
leadership. As an undergraduate chapter president, I learned basic skills
like Robert`s rules of order, honed more intangible abilities like forming
consensus among extremely diverse points of view, and I had my share of
good times at step shows.
Women take many paths to leadership. Delta was the first one I followed.
Now, it is not a perfect organization. Like many of our counterparts,
Deltas have been complicit in the excesses of college hazing and have
sometimes squandered rather than mobilized our political and economic
But perfection is not the standard. Commitment is. I make no claim that
this organization is better than any other. But I believe the commitments
of the more than 200,000 college and graduate members, of making ourselves
and our community and our nation better is a story worth noting.
Today is Delta Sigma Theta`s 100th birthday. Happy birthday, sorors.
That`s our show for today. Thank you to Julianne Malveaux, to Nancy, to
Kaitlin, to Tracey, and thanks to you at home for watching.
I`ll see you again next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. I will be in
Washington, D.C. to cover the second inauguration of President Barack
Coming up, "WEEKEND WITH ALEX WITT."
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