'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for February 2nd, 2013
Read the transcript to the Friday show
February 2, 2013
Guests: Aisha Moodie-Mills, Michael Wildes, Cristina Jimenez, Raul Grijalva, John Rowley, Clint Bolick, Cesar Vargas, Chris Myers Asch, Martha Bergmark, Jelani Cobb, Jackie Mader, Jeanne Theoharis, Rajiv Malhotra, Patrick Millsaps, Karen Carter Peterson
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question -- did you
know Mississippi schools are re-segregated? Plus, it is #FBJ time. My
governor is really working my last nerve, and why a coat of pink paint is
the ultimate sign of defiance, but first, this is the moment when the big
change is possible.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Did everyone get the memo? Check
your inbox. It was from the Hispanic Leadership Network and the subject
line was "Suggested Dos and Don`ts of Immigration Reform." You know this
one that the HLN sent to the GOP to give them a little bit of help when
talking about immigrants. As they say to provide tonally sensitive
messaging points to those members of the grand old party who just haven`t
evolved discursively on immigration. Some of the dos and don`ts include,
don`t use phrases like illegals or aliens, never say anchor-baby. Instead,
why not use undocumented immigrant when referring to those who are here
without, well, documentation. And when addressing border security, don`t
ever say "Send them all back" or "electric fence." How about saying, the
enforcement of our borders. The HLN, a group devoted to bringing more
Latino voters into the GOP, advise its Republicans to highlight that
President Obama broke his promise on immigration reform in his first term,
but they do caution not to focus on amnesty, and to avoid at all costs
President Reagan`s immigration reform as an example that applies today, so
it got me wondering when I heard Senator John McCain getting straight to
the point this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you convince the Republicans about the path to
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AR): Well, look, I will give you a little straight
talk. Look at the last election. Look at the last election. We are
losing dramatically the Hispanic vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So did Senator McCain get the same memo? I think he just
may have gotten the other memo, the one that told all of the congressional
Republicans to get with the comprehensive immigration reform program.
Because all the tongue-twisting aside language does matter and then in many
ways this is exactly the type of shift in immigration debate that many of
us have been long calling for, one which channels our passions into
respectful speech for the very real people who this political debate is
about. Seems the Republicans got one more memo since the 2012 election.
Because there has not been simply a change in speech happening. Remember
when this was considered respectable speech on immigration coming from
Republican Senate leaders just two years ago?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R-SOUTH CAROLINA): One of the issues that is often
talked about, but never really seriously discussed is the practice of
allowing people to come here illegally and have a child and the child
automatically given American citizenship. I think we need to look at that
in the future as to whether or not we want to change it, because I think
it`s an incentive to change to break the law in the future and I don`t want
the third wave of illegal immigrants coming 20 years from now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: From illegals and anchor babies to Senator Lindsey Graham
now being a member of the so-called "gang of eight," in which the Senate,
which has put forth its own comprehensive immigration reform proposal. So,
heck, Graham says, this is the time to get it done. The press release this
week quotes him enthusiastically saying "I do believe 2013 presents us the
best chance to pass immigration reform." These days, everybody has a
comprehensive immigration proposal to offer. I wonder if those bipartisan
folks in the Senate and the House got the other memo, the one with these
numbers, 27 and 2.
As the "Washington Post" Wonkblog reminds us, 27 is the share of the Latino
vote Mitt Romney picked up in 2012, and two is the percent increase in the
non-white electorate, projected for 2016. So, if you see Latinos as a one-
issue voting bloc, and if you want to take back the White House, then
Republicans have come to see that the time is now. And like the many leaps
forward from our past, no fight begin just in the years perceiving victory.
The struggle for civil rights did not begin in the 1950s, African-Americans
had been demanding representation since the 1880s. Women did not just
start fighting for vote in the 1920s. That began with the founding of this
country. The change in the political conduct that creates the moment for
that great leap forward, immigrants to this country have been since its
founding fighting for safe and legal status, and the recent pressure from
dreamers and the economic dip that depressed undocumented immigration, has
trodden the political landscape this time. As President Obama said in
Nevada on Tuesday when unveiling his immigration reform proposal, "The time
has come." With me today, Aisha Moodie-Mills, advisor for LGBT policy and
racial justice at American Progress, immigration attorney and former
federal prosecutor Michael Wildes, Cristina Jimenez, the managing director
of the United We Dream network, and media consultant John Rowley, who is a
Democratic strategist, and in Tucson, Arizona, Democratic Congressman Raul
Grijalva. Very nice to have you, Congressman.
REP. RAUL GRIJALVA (D), ARIZONA: Thank you, very much. I appreciate the
HARRIS-PERRY: I would like to start with you, Congressman, because I`m
wondering, how did we suddenly end up here with what feels like consensus,
on an issue that just a few (inaudible) ago was a wedge?
GRIJALVA: I think the momentum to reach this historic moment where the
possibility and the opportunity to do immigration reform at a level and
with the content that will be lasting and be good for this nation has taken
that momentum has been building in communities and churches. I think the
dreamers crystallized that for all of the nation politically and much
credit to this dialogue we are having now goes to those students and those
young people. But - and then the election. Frankly, the beating the
Republicans took in this last election in the Latino community and in the
Asian community as well is the barometer of the future. And they know it.
And so whether it is by heart felt instinct that my Republican colleagues
are coming to the issue of comprehensive immigration reform or expediency,
political expediency, I really don`t care.
GRIJALVA: This is the chance to do something that is right. And it`s been
a long time coming, much sacrifice, much frustration, much heartache in our
GRIJALVA: ... and immigration is not the only issue for Latinos ...
GRIJALVA: But it became the moral compass in this last election.
HARRIS-PERRY: And congressman, you make such a good point that I want to
turn to you, Michael, on, and it is a point that the president has made
about not allowing the perfect to be the enemy of the good and that in the
end sort of perfect motivations may not matter, and yet, right, and yet, I
worry, Michael, as an immigration lawyer and a second-generation one in
fact, you know what this looks like in the nuts and bolts of people`s
lives, when you look at the actual policy proposals, what do you think of
what the president is proposing and what, for example, Marco Rubio is
MICHAEL WILDES, IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY: First, thank you for having me.
Such a pleasure to be here. You spoke so eloquently. This is a long time
in the often -- with 5000 ICE agents, about 270 immigration judges, not
enough airplanes, handcuffs and beds to detain and remove over 11 million
people. We cannot afford not to do this, and it might be political
expediency that bring us to the table right now, and the Republicans can
try to take credit for this, the Democrats can say, this is in our DNA, but
the bottom line is Lady Liberty has seen the rite of passage for African
Americans, for women, God-willing, for gays. The question is, what are we
going to do for the millions of people that are hear now? Are we going to
let the dialogue deteriorate, were we going to say, no, we have to do
border patrol first and then we`re going to deal with the 11 million
second, no, we can`t do that. First of all, we have more drones, more
towers, more fences. By the way, news flash, who is going to actually
build that fence ...
WILDES: ... if it is not going to be ...
WILDES: ... and the Republicans may not want to call it ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Undocumented immigrants.
WILDES: They may not want to call them aliens, undocumented ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right.
WILDES: ... they`d better call them workers.
WILDES: But let`s face it. From the hospitality cadre (ph) to the urban,
to the suburban cadres of our nation, we need help, we need all hands on
deck, the entrepreneurial -- the greatest risk takers in our nation`s
history has always been immigrants.
CRISTINA JIMENEZ, UNITED WE DREAM: Have always been immigrants.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I want to ask a little bit about - it is interesting
because there`s - there`s sort of two ways, in which you hear this frame.
I mean on the one hand we heard the congressman saying, thank you to the
dreamers , thank you to the young people who managed to shift this
discourse in dialogue, and - but what happens when the dreamers become the
face of immigration reform, is that it no longer feels like it`s the low
wager worker, that is the face of immigration, what in fact, sometimes the
most vulnerable people, so how do we keep the complexity of immigration in
the forefront as we make these policies?
JIMENEZ: Absolutely. Thanks for having me on your show. This is not only
about dreamers ...
JIMENEZ: And I think that what - it`s helpful to keep in mind is that
dreamers what we did successfully by coming out and sharing our stories and
saying we are undocumented and unafraid, because that`s what we learned in
school. That is what we learned about the values of America, freedom of
speech, freedom of following our dreams, but dreamers are part of families,
and our parents were courageous enough to leave everything behind, seeking
a better life, to come to this country, and that is what we are fighting
for. And I think when it comes to sharing our stories, part of the work
that we are doing, as organizers, right, as the foot soldiers, as you
referred to organizers is sharing the stories of our families, of our
parents, because it is those stories that need to be reflective of the
policy debate that we are having about immigration reform, and it is not
only about the students.
JIMENEZ: It is about families, it`s about people.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it is now interestingly about Republicans. Congressman
and John I want both of you to listen to this carefully. This is a piece
by Mr. Rush Limbaugh, talking about Marco Rubio and this idea that Limbaugh
and Rubio on board for immigration reform. I think this is fascinating.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUSH LIMBAUGH: What you are doing is admirable, and noteworthy. You are
recognizing reality, you are trumpeting it, you are shouting it.
Is that guy good or what, folks? Marco Rubio.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So congressman, you know, here we have got Limbaugh who is
cheering on Marco Rubio for immigration reform. Am I in the twilight zone?
GRIJALVA: No, but I think you`ve probably seen the loss and probably more
- more - most offensive form of expediency you are going to see for a long
time. But I really believe that key to that in Mr. Rubio`s proposals, what
I - I tell people that, you know, the senators just came up with the
skeleton, the flesh that needs to be put together, and family unification
has to be central to this. The issue of this road map for citizenship,
what it is going to look like, because if the proposal is to create a road
map, limit the number of resources in order to unify families, it is a
self-defeating proposition. And, you know, the issue of security, I
thought the president was right, those cannot be tethered together.
GRIJALVA: They have to be separate. And before we talk about layering
more money, and more detentions, and more and more, let`s look at the
efficiency and the use of $18 billion a year on enforcement in the southern
GRIJALVA: Let`s look at that before there`s a knee-jerk reaction to say,
let`s put security front and center again, that is all we have had for the
last ten years ...
GRIJALVA: ... and not do the human - humane side of this equation.
HARRIS-PERRY: John, I want to bring you in on exactly this thing, because
it feels like there are sort of two discourses, on the one hand, you`ve got
FLN saying, don`t use language like "illegals" and "anchor babies". On the
other hand, you have the president and others, still using border security
as a fundamental part of this discourse.
JOHN ROWLEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Look, we should not have irrational
exuberance on this issue ...
ROWLEY: ... when the health care debate began, the Republicans were saying
a lot of good things and unifying things, this is going to be a tough
battle. And when you think about what is happening in America whether it
is at the state level or at the federal level, when it comes to whether the
Republicans are going to work with anybody, look at what the Tea Party
values, and that is what we are going to have and you essentially think
about what the angriest, the whitest, the oldest men in America, where they
are, and they are not good on immigration. I mean I have done some, and
been in on some research recently, where we were talking about Medicaid and
government programs and when you talk about how people view these things, a
lot of what was coming out, especially from white voters and men was that
they are identifying immigrants as part of the problem. So I think I love
the talk right now, I think we are going to have some serious crossfire
once we get into details.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. Take it - take it with a little grain of suspicion.
Thank you to Congressman Grijalva in Tucson, Arizona, I appreciate you
weighing in, everybody else stay at the table. Because when we come back,
I want to talk about the fact that the devil is always in the details.
Aisha, I want to come to you, and also, we`ve got the conservative case for
HARRIS-PERRY: Even as it seems that many Republican politicians are
Johnny-Come-Latelies to the issue of immigration reform, there are
conservative voices who have been advocates on this issue for some time.
Most notably, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush has long been pushing his
party to more warmly embrace the Latino electorate. Next month, Governor
Bush and his co-author, Clint Bolick, who is the vice president for
litigation at the Goldwater institute will release their new book
"Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution." Last week the two
penned an op-ed in the "Wall Street Journal," saying, "in some conservative
circles the word comprehensive in the context of immigration reform is an
epithet -a code word for amnesty. People who oppose such reform declare
that securing the United States border must come before moving towards
broader reform. Such an approach is shortsighted and self-defeating."
Joining me now from Phoenix, Arizona, is constitutional lawyer Clint
Bolick, nice to have you.
CLINT BOLICK, VP OF LITIGATION, COLDWATER INST.: It`s great to be with
you, great show so far.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. So, Clint an op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal",
with Jeb Bush saying that it`s not law enforcement, but the law itself that
is broken, that the nation has changed dramatically since the Immigration
and Nationality Act of 1952, and that legislation was not held up well. In
short we need to start from scratch. So, how realistic is it to make
policy from the ground-up?
BOLICK: Well, it is super important to do that, because America`s
realities in 2013 are so different than when the law was passed over 60
years ago. First of all, we need immigrants more than ever, but we have a
system that does, that has extensive family preferences that include
parents and siblings that crowd out work-based immigrants both on the high
skill side and on the lower skill side. That is the sort of thing that we
really need to grapple with as we move forward, but we do think that the
best way of preventing illegal immigration is to have a workable legal
immigration system, and we haven`t had that for a very long time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Part of it is about raising those caps and other
sorts of things, and yet, Aisha, it still feels to me like the devil is in
the details here, we have been hearing comprehensive immigration reform, we
see the bipartisanship, but on the other hand, we still have a premium on
border security, discursively from both sides, and we also have the fact
that this path to citizenship is contingent on fines, English language
classes, getting to the back of the line ...
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, ADVISOR, LGBT POLICY & RACIAL JUSTICE: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: It still feels to me like there is a preference for a
certain kind of immigration going on.
MOODIE-MILLS: Right. It brings up a lot of class issues. I mean, well,
first of all, anybody who would suggest that we are not enforcing the
border is just willfully ignorant, right? So, 81 percent of the border at
this point is secure, the parts that aren`t, are ultimately inhabitable. I
mean it would take so much resource to be able to like create a fence
across 100 percent of the border that it`s just not sensical or
economically viable to entertain that. And so, to suggest, that we should
hold up anybody`s pass to citizenship until we have this 100 percent
number, in and of itself to me is a smoke screen. It`s just a way to keep
pushing the ball down the court. And yes, like you said, there`s kind of
the class issues there ...
MOODIE-MILLS: If we`re saying, well, you can get on the path to
citizenship if you first pay all of the back taxes that you owe, if you
then pay a fine, and we are talking about folks who are coming here, they
are already working and making meager, you know, earnings, how on earth -
how long is it going to take them to pay all this back before they can
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, Michael, I`ve heard you making a bit of an
economic argument earlier about sort of the cost of detaining, the cost of
deporting, kind of just the cost of all of this, but I keep thinking about
the cost of getting on that path to citizenship for ordinary immigrants who
are here undocumented.
WILDES: All day long, we have the good fortune over 50 years to be
listening to people coming into our offices. The filing fees are
prohibitive that everybody who are now being introduced to this new gift.
These people are putting food on their table, they have the same
challenges. President Reagan in the 1980s changed the immigration law when
he gave that nasty word amnesty out, he also then shifted the
responsibility of policing immigration from the government to employers,
these employers now in a hard economy and generation later are now being
punished by the Obama administration, by the Justice Department, by
Homeland Security for not doing I-9s and policing the immigration of their
staff. The economics here are very harsh. What we should be doing is
removing the biblical straw, giving employers the staff and the resources
that they need. Giving people a path legally in an earned legal sense and
a financial fee that they can afford, and yes, paying taxes and making sure
that we ferret out all of those criminals. I`m a former federal
prosecutor, we do not want to create an opportunity for people to boot
strap themselves at the safe grounds when they are criminals ...
WILDES: But at the same time, we have to understand, the convention
against torture would prevent us from returning people to other places.
And we have to be thoughtful, we can`t detain people who are professors,
who are scholars, with hardened criminals here, because our detention
facilities are abominations.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me -there are a couple of things that Michael
brought up here, Clint, that I want to come to you on. Because it feels to
me like I heard you say two things, but they are a bit surprise - well,
several things are a bit surprising from Republican perspective. One is
this idea that we need more workers, because we`ve been hearing so much
about the idea that we are in an economic crisis where we have a surplus of
workers. In fact, that seems to be part of why immigration is down
overall, but secondly, as I listen to Michael talk about the resources that
we are going to need to make any of these kind of ground-up policies work,
that also sounds to me potentially like big government. Can we get
Republicans on board given those two realities?
BOLICK: Well, first of all, we need to look opposition to the bipartisan
plan is not just coming from Republicans, labor unions on the left are
really sounding the alarm that we are going to be allowing too many
immigrants in, so this is an issue that has many dimensions to it, but
right now, we are not producing through births enough new Americans to keep
our population as it is right now, and we are about to have a massive
number of people begin retiring, and we need productive workers to fill
those spots and to sustain our economy and our social welfare system. So,
this is something that is really missing from the debate, we do need
productive workers and the only place to get them right now is through
So, I think that Republicans will understand that. Beyond that, really, we
are not calling for a bigger government solution at all, and quite the
contrary. We think that market forces ought to dictate immigration, and
right now for both farm worker jobs, tourism jobs as well as high-tech
jobs, there are not enough Americans filling those jobs. We saw what
happened when Alabama sent a bunch of illegal immigrants back, their crops
died on the vines, likewise, jobs, high-tech jobs are being exported to
foreign countries, because we don`t have enough high skilled workers to
fill those jobs. We need to fix both of those problems and we need to
seize the moment to do it now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Clint, thank you. We have to take a break now, but we are
going to come back, and talk a little bit about more of these issues,
because that is really - that particular perspective, I think is a
fascinating one that in certain ways this is the - this is the solution to
the problem of the social safety net and everything else is to get workers
here. And I want to think about the human side in addition to the labor
side. But thank you, thank you, Clint, for being part of our conversation.
I do want to talk about the issue of humanity when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: When we talk
about that in the abstract, it is easy sometimes for the discussion to take
on a feeling of us versus them. And when that happens, a lot of folks
forget that most of us used to be them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: On Tuesday President Obama reminded us that all immigration
is about all of us. So when we say comprehensive immigration reform, we
can`t just not break up families and assume that we know what a family is,
immigration reform is to be truly comprehensive, it must include all
families including LGBT, too, families, so I want to talk about this issue
of sort of a broader definition of family, but I want to get into it first,
by talking just a little bit about what we just heard in terms of thinking
about immigration fundamentally as an economic and a sort of policy around
the social safety net. It is both great and horrible, it makes me feel a
little icky when we take this human part out of it. Yes.
JIMENEZ: I mean I think that look, I mean let`s be real. I mean
immigration, it`s about the economy and it`s about the values of the
country and it`s about integration and it`s about education and it`s about
the labor force, but it is also about families. I mean we are talking
about real people here that are coming from all across the globe seeking
the American dream. And we are talking about enforcement, and somehow the
president, and even, you know, the Republicans and the Democrats are
talking about these false narratives that our borders are not safe enough,
they are not secure enough. The Immigration Policy Institute just came out
with a report looking at the enforcement system that we have in place, and
we are talking about immigration - immigration enforcement is the program
that receives the most funding if you compare it to the rest of the
programs of our federal enforcement, and they have received since 1986 over
$180 billion. And with that - with that money, what we are doing is
JIMENEZ: Just recently our organization United We Dream, you know,
Dreamers we have been working on exposing the pain that our families are
experiencing due to this enforcement, we are working on cases every week in
Arizona, in Texas, in California, where parents and moms are being raided
in their homes and detained and put into deportation proceedings.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as we begin to think about that idea of family, that
yes, it`s about the economics, they will get a bipartisan coalition
together, but that family really is a broad definition. We had Senator
John McCain this week in responding to the angst of many of us concerned
with the LGBTQ families saying that it is just a red herring, and that in
fact "It is just a red herring," scoffed McCain, add that, and you may as
well add taxpayer-funded abortion. Right, so he is saying, which is much
more important, LGBTQ or border security, ha, I`ll tell you what my
priorities are, right? So it`s kind of like, puff-puff, and these are
real, these are real families and real issues ...
HARRIS-PERRY: .. that impact folks.
MOODIE-MILLS: Yes, they are tearing apart families. I mean when you have
bi-national couples. If I were - I mean - if my wife happened to be
originally from Brazil and we got married, and we legally married in the
state of New York, I would not be able to bring her in with a path to
citizenship to the United States ...
MOODIE-MILLS: ... because our marriage is not recognized by the federal
government, and that is really the under core of this is that the defensive
Marriage Act essentially prevents our marriages from being recognized as
equal to everyone else`s, which is why in this immigration debate, there`s,
you know, the instincts who want to throw LGBT couples under the bus ...
MOODIE-MILLS: ... because they feel like there is a covet there that says,
well, federally we don`t have to care about you anyway.
MOODIE-MILLS: Which is - which to me is really, you know, getting to the
humanity problem. Like this should really be about dignity and respect and
treating all people fairly and equally in America and bringing people into
our society, and so, when we say, well, you people over here don`t matter,
if you are gay, you don`t matter, then that just gets back to the point
that this, you know, really, at the end of the day, it should be about
families reuniting and making sure that we stay together.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. Michael.
WILDES: Absolutely. I mean the senator himself became a political
chameleon in the last generation ...
WILDES: ... on immigration (inaudible) with the late Senator Kennedy for
immigration reform, and then when he was running for president, himself,
what immigration reform? And now all of a sudden we are going to discount
one part of our family? The humanity of this issue is extraordinary. I
can tell you as a lawyer, we sit all day with people trying to come to our
shores, there are families that are torn asunder, there are people that
have not built their businesses on your soil, because of the disrespect the
same-sex partner receives. They cannot adjust their status or become
permanent residents, if they are here, the government recognizes our
military now in same-sex partnerships, and allows a band aid to give them a
J-1 visa to come over to the United States, or they`ll give a long-term
business person a visa to be here, and then the partner in life will get a
visitor`s visa. That person then cannot work himself, we`re shooting
ourselves in the foot. And the humanity of this thing is so heartfelt when
you see families, this DACA that came out, the Deferred Action for Children
WILDES: .. it was jurisprudence that actually came out of a case my father
handled, represented John Lennon in the `70s when the Nixon administration
was trying to use him as a wedge against the Vietnam issue. We have
children here, nobody was affected negatively by this ...
WILDES: ... nobody would be affected by the unification of the family, the
greatest policy that immigration has. And ultimately if we take our
concern for our homeland, which is important, if we realize that there are
more overstays of visas than there are people trespassing on our nation`s
borders and we deal with the humanity of this thing, there is not anybody
unless they are Native Americans ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Who can stay here.
WILDES: Who doesn`t hail from an immigrant and does not appreciate the
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, some of us did not exactly immigrate, but we did get
ROWLEY: One thank that is lost in a lot of the immigration debate is this,
when you really talk to employers out there, and you - maybe even sometimes
get a few drinks in them, they will talk to you not about wanting
immigrants and wanting a lot of these workers from a low-wage standpoint,
they want the immigrant work ethic. I mean the reason that immigrants
built so much of this country is that aspiring American dream-oriented work
ethic, and they can`t find that from other people in our economy, and so I
think from a message standpoint, and also just from, if immigration is not
part of your life ...
ROWLEY: ... wherever you are in America, you have to understand that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I also love John Rowley, that you are a southern strategist,
because the strategy begins with having a few drinks.
HARRIS-PERRY: After the break, scouts honor. Are the boy scouts ready to
live up to their creed? My letter is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Being married to an Eagle scout is a wonderful thing. My
husband can make fire in minutes and build a shelter for two with a rock,
some dried leaves and an armful of sticks. He will even recite the boy
scout oath for people without being prompted.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On my honor ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I will do my best.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: On my honor I will do my best.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to do my duty to God and my country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to do my duty to God and my country.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And to obey the scout law.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: And to obey the scout law.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... to help other people at all times.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: ... to help other people at all times.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... To keep myself physically strong.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: ... mentally awake.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And morally straight.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: And morally straight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That right there is scouting at its best. It grooms young
men to be good citizens, the leaders. So you can imagine my excitement
this past Monday when the Boy Scouts of America announced that they may do
away with those sexual orientation restriction, sort of. Which is why my
letter this week is to Chief scout executive Wayne Brock.
"Dear Wayne, it is me, Melissa. When I read the first part of Monday`s
statement, I jumped for joy. Currently, the BSA is discussing potentially
removing the national membership restriction regarding sexual orientation.
This would mean, there would no longer be any national policy regarding
sexual orientation. I was like, yes! Getting rid of the discriminatory
barrier would finally allow those of us who love the boy scouts to fully
support its work, it would ensure equality for future members, and leaders,
interested in the great things the boy scouts have to offer. And then I
read on. "The policy change under discussion would allow the religious,
civic or educational organizations that oversee and deliver scouting to
determine how to address this issue. The boy scouts would not under any
circumstances dictate a position to units, members or parents. Under this
proposed policy, the BSA would not require any chartered organization to
act in ways inconsistent with that organization`s mission, principles or
Come on, Wayne. That is one weak endorsement for policy change. Instead
of taking a firm stand with an umbrella policy, you want to leave the
decision to the discretion of your 290 local governing councils and the
116,000 religious and civic groups that sponsor scouting? Clearly, the
year-long campaign to change the policy that garnered 1.2 million online
signatures was enough to make you say you might do something, but not fully
commit to it. Wayne, the Boy Scouts of America Web site affirms this,
"Scouting is truly a melting pot. Scouts come from all walks of life, all
types of family units, faiths, racial and ethnic groups. The BSA respects
the rights of people and groups who hold values that differ from those
encompassed in the scout oath and law and aims to allow youth to live and
learn as children and enjoy scouting without immersing them in the politics
of the day."
Yes, Wayne, that is the spirit I`m asking you to affirm. All boys deserve
the right to pursue the goals of becoming trustworthy, loyal, helpful,
friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and
reverent. For that to happen, the boy scouts must affirmatively welcome
gay men and boys. Time for you to follow the example of pioneers like Dr.
Michael Kahn who in 1991 led the first troop to openly resist your anti-gay
policies or maybe follow the lead of those other scouts, the girl scouts
who have always been all inclusive leaving the issue of sexual orientation
to the girls and their families. That, Wayne, is leadership. So instead
of punting the ball at next week`s meeting when the final policy decision
will be made, Wayne, you may want to take a firmer stand. Live up to your
oath! Generations of boys and their future life partners are counting on
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve talked to you about comprehensive immigration reform
policy, we cannot forget the most important part, the people. There are an
estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. 58 percent of the
undocumented are from Mexico, 23 percent from various other parts of Latin
America, 11 percent are from Asia, and 4 percent from Europe and Canada.
The Obama administration`s DACA policy or Deferred Action for Childhood
Arrivals initiative would help the youngest of that 11 million achieve
legal status, and estimated 936,000 - 930 immigrants or 69 percent of those
between the ages of 15 and 30 meet the requirement for deferred action.
426,330 immigrants, or 31 percent of those between the ages of 5 and 14
will be eligible in the future. We are and have always been an immigrant
society whether fleeing persecution or looking for a better way of life,
the U.S. has always had an abundant promise for the immigrant, but it is
the promise that the dreamers are now demanding be made real in this
Back at the table, Aisha Moodie-Mills, advisor for LGBT policy and racial
justice at the Center for American Progress, immigration attorney Michael
Wildes, Cristina Jimenez, the managing director of United We Dream network,
and joining us is Cesar Vargas, the political director of the Dream Action
Coalition. So nice to have you here at the table with us. You are still
in fact undocumented ...
CESAR VARGAS, POLITICAL DIR., DREAMACTION COALITION: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: ... and working your way through the system, talk to me
VARGAS: Well, I actually just recently applied for my deferred action and
still waiting, but yes, I`m still undocumented, and, I guess, pretty much
waiting in so many other aspects. I graduated law school, I passed the New
York State bar exam, and one of the most difficult and tormenting exams,
but I managed to pass it, so because of that I`m also waiting to be -
hopefully, a licensed lawyer and to really practice my profession and
represent my community, but because of my status, New York hasn`t - cannot
- doesn`t know how to deal with the issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is such an important point. We talk sometimes, and
we heard in some of the earlier blocs about this idea of immigrant labor
primarily as low wage labor often, and construction or in fast food, but a
lot of that is not because that`s necessarily where people would end up,
but because undocumented status, itself, means that when you have for
example nonetheless finished law school and passed the bar exam that you
can`t be admitted to certain aspects of the professional and white collar
world, because undocumented status makes it tough to be there.
JIMENEZ: Exactly. I mean I think that is that`s - you know, when I was
going to college, I paid for my tuition by selling Avon products and
HARRIS-PERRY: A shout-out for Avon there?
JIMENEZ: Avon paid for my college. And having no papers is marginalizing.
You know, I worked with young people all across the country, and when you
are undocumented and you are going to high school and you have your
teachers telling you, work hard, you will accomplish your dreams, you`re
going to go into college, but you realize you are undocumented, you cannot
go. You work so hard, that is what happened to me, right? Yeah, I was in
the top ten of my class and I wanted to go to college and become the first
person in my family to get a higher education, and my college adviser said
to me, if you don`t have a Social Security Number, you can`t go. And that
was the driving force behind me saying, this is not right. This is not
reflective of the values that we believe in this nation. And what happens
when you don`t have papers, is that you can`t have access to scholarships,
you can`t have access, you know, for my experience, you can`t have access
to fellowships, you can`t work. You know, we have a lawyer here, we have
nurses that cannot practice their professions.
WALDES: The thesis, if I may ...
WILDES: ... is to encourage people into the professions, to have them
participate and help us in our military. Our first DOCA case was a young
lady who is in Harvard Law School right now, the pride and joy of her
entire family ...
HARRIS-PERRY: Of course.
WILDES: Can you imagine again going to Harvard, the best law school, no
doubt, in the world ...
WILDES: Well, other than the ones we attended ...
WILDES: I actually teach in the law school, I teach at Cardoza Law School,
profess of business and migration law. There are now law students seeking
of career in immigration law ...
WILDES: There are children that are smarter, stronger ...
WILDES: ... and better than others, and we want to get them here. We want
science, technology, engineering and math students here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, a part of it is that, you know, we talked about
the immigrant work ethic, but the other piece of it is the immigrant
education ethic, right? So, one of the things we know is that sense of -
(inaudible) education is, you know, you come to get the better life and you
want your kids to have that educational opportunity. We are going to take
a quick break and come right back as I do want to talk more about the
dreamers and how you all are shifting the entire discourse of what
immigration is in this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, I wish you could have been here on the break, there was
a whole like organizing and asking for resumes and deciding. I mean, it
was really quite lovely, but in part, because you guys are all sort of as
my father would say in the struggle still. I know both of you are in D.C.
all the time, what is the environment that we are looking at right now for
JIMENEZ: Well, I think in D.C. what we are seeing is, first of all, I
think that we are encouraged by the interest of both parties. You know, we
are not naive, this is all a political calculus for both parties and for
president, and but I think that what we are very discouraged about is,
again, this false narrative that, you know, borders are not secure, and our
families continue to be deported, but I think that for dreamers, this is a
critical point to continue to lead in this fight. I mean we did not get
here, because President Obama has a good heart, and Democrats and
Republicans have a good heart. This is over a decade of organizing,
mobilizing and registering a massive number of Latino voters ...
JIMENEZ: .. that came out to the polls. Like this is what got us here,
and we know that if we want to see a bill that is good for our community,
we`ve got to keep fighting, we`ve got to keep organizing, and for dreamers,
there`s really - we want a real and direct path for citizenship, not only
for dreamers, because this is about families.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And there is a kind of strategy here, I mean we are
going to talk about Rosa Parks later in this show, and it feels to me like,
you know, Parks was a sort of respectable citizen and so you used her as a
kind of wedge to blow open some of the civil rights organizing questions,
but I wonder like when we focus almost exclusively on STEM, and not - you
know, science, technology, engineering, not law degrees, when we look at
the dreamers, but not the families that have mixed status from which they
are from. What is the limitation of that kind of organizing for us?
VARGAS: I think what Cristina has mentioned a few times before is, the
dreamers are not just dreamers that just come here by themselves, it`s
about families, we are part of families, and that`s something worth
definitely delivering that message to Congress and especially to the
president. So, the president in the second term, his concern is about
legacy. So, what kind of legacy is he leaving? A legacy of broken
families or a legacy of real reform? And that`s something we are actually
demanding to really bring something, because this country really is about,
not just about one people, it`s about a community, and that is something we
really want to demonstrate to the president and to Republicans.
MOODIE-MILLS: And that is exactly what the dreamers represent, is kind of
just broad, you know, we talk about the big blue tent in this broad
coalition, and who makes that up in a partisan way, but if you look at the
dreamers, and you look at immigration work that`s happening, it`s actually
a very diverse coalition of people. There are hundreds of thousands of
undocumented LGBT people in this country. The dreamers are a lot of young
queer kids ...
WILDES: Yes, absolutely.
MOODIE-MILLS: -- who happen to also be undocumented that are in this work.
They care about economic justice, they care about a variety of issues. So
I think that an organizing model, what`s really encouraging and inspiring
about the dreamers that you are seeing this diverse coalition of young
people, and I think that that`s where we are going in terms of the future
and how we are going to do ...
JIMENEZ: (inaudible) about sharing our stories and coming out, it was
something strategic, because this is how we change a narrative of our
WILDES: You also ...
JIMENEZ: This is when it became a human issue.
WILDES: You also gave the president, who now has extraordinary street
credentials, who got reelected ...
WILDERS: Who`s actually deported more people in his presidency than any
president beforehand. And with a community, with a community like yours,
and with the pulling the lens back on the entire landscape and
understanding of course, that this is not just the Latino vote, this is an
issue for everybody. There are students coming to culinary schools, they
are going into the fashion schools, they are going into the hospitality
cadres (ph). We have agricultural people picking blueberries in Georgia.
It affects meals that are going on tables, and if we can get this right,
and if this president steps up and if Congress will now not be involved in
this deafening silence and actually do something, wow.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love this idea that it is this broad coalition. Thank you
to all of you, to Aisha, to Michael, to Cristina and to Cesar. Coming up
next, why school segregation is making a comeback. I can`t believe that is
our story, but it is. And the Rosa Parks that you don`t know. Her
extraordinary life is revealed. There is more Nerdland at the top of the
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
It has been more than half a century since the Supreme Court decided the
Brown versus Board of Education decision that separate is inherently
unequal and legally ended the public school segregation in this country.
Part of the decision explained, quote, "That separating black children from
others solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as
to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in
a way unlikely ever to be undone, and the impact of segregation is greater
when it has the sanction of law, a since of inferiority and affects the
motivation of a child to learn."
Fifty years after the court recognized the negative effects of segregation,
American kids are still suffering. A recent Stanford University study
shows that schools released from the court ordered desegregation plans have
returned to areas of racial isolation. In the areas of the South, we are
experiencing an era of resegregation. And one reason is because many
schools were never truly integrated. When the court first ordered public
schools integration, many communities established segregation academies
rather than comply.
Today, those schools still keep white and black student separate in many
parts of Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Virginia. The online independent
news site "Hechinger Report" found that more than 35 such academies survive
in Mississippi alone. In a state where 37 percent of the population is
African-American, each of these academies have student bodies where
African-Americans are fewer than 2 percent of the students.
It`s a reminder that school choice was initially an engine of racial
segregation as the white families were willing to pay extra to keep their
kids separate, and were the investment in public school would dwindle as
only the region`s black children were left behind.
One of my next guests is still working to address the needs of the children
in the Deep South. Chris Myers Asch started the Sunflower County Freedom
Project which takes its name from the freedom schools of the summer of
1964`s voter registration campaign. The project is now devoted to
afterschool and summer programs for academic enrichment for the students of
the Mississippi delta.
Chris Myers Asch joins me from Washington, D.C.
At the table are: historian Jelani Cobb of the University of Connecticut;
founder and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice, Martha Bergmark; and
one of the South`s top political strategists, John Rowley; and staff writer
for "The Hechinger Report", Jackie Mader.
So nice to have you all here.
I actually want to start with you, though, on this question about what
Sunflower is, what it does, and how it`s responding to this problem of a
continued segregation, and resegregation of students in the South.
CHRIS MYERS ASCH, CO-FOUNDER, SUNFLOWER CO. FREEDOM PROJECT: Sure. Well,
we started the Sunflower County Freedom Project more than a decade ago to
address the educational inequalities in the public school system, and
basically we used the history of the 1960s freedom struggle to inspire
young people to excel academically and become leaders in their communities
today. As you suggested, there are many school districts across the South
that were never really integrated and Sunflower County is certainly one of
And as your viewers saw many of the different academies that are located in
Sunflower County, they popped up after the Civil Rights Act really. I
mean, you know, a lot of people think Brown desegregated the schools or
started integration of the schools. And, certainly, in the rural South,
that`s simply not true. Even in 1964, before the Civil Rights Act, there
were essentially no black students going to integrated schools.
And after the Civil Rights Act started to bring federal government force to
the integration movement, that`s when you started to see academies popping
up in Sunflower County and all across the rural South, and then when the
Supreme Court weighed in at the end of that decade, basically in 1969,
saying, you have to integrate now, the academies just blossomed.
ASCH: And so almost overnight in Sunflower County, the school system went
from black to white, and the white students all left. And what happened,
you know, these schools started out as kind of in ramshackled church
basements, but then they have built buildings and expanded and now their
community institutions, being around 30 or 40 years.
And so, you have multiple generations going -- this is where my parents
went, this is where I`m going go. And so, they are deeply rooted in the
community so that new white families that might come in, they might not
even know the racist past of these institutions, and they just think, well,
that`s where I have to send my kids.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. That`s kind of how it works.
And, Martha, I want to ask you, because it feels like that there is a
central justice question, right? On the one hand, we have just families
making a choice, school choice, they are paying a private school tuition,
they`re opting out, but it does create this deep injustice in the public
MARTHA BERGMARK, FOUNDER & CEO, MS CENTER FOR JUSTICE: There is really
today are sort of two Mississippis on this question. And one is the
counties and the school districts that Chris just described where white
flight from district happened where there were substantial percentages of
African-American populations. In districts and counties in Mississippi
with lower populations, there is sort of a tipping point.
So in those districts, we do see desegregation happening and happening, and
those districts are educating virtually all of the children in those areas.
So, we have in Mississippi today about 10 percent of children overall go
outside the public system.
So, the public school system still is the vehicle to bridge the education
gap and touch all of those other terrible indicators that leave Mississippi
at the bottom.
HARRIS-PERRY: Part of it is that Mississippi is, of course, a poor state,
HARRIS-PERRY: And all the people are willing to pay a premium basically to
segregate. Their capacity to pay that premium is still limited.
Jelani, it is still -- you know, I`m always want to be careful when we talk
about the school integration, because we also know, of course, that
African-American communities have been of multiple minds on this question -
JELANI COBB, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- because so much of desegregation when it did happen,
happened on the back of the community schools that were closed on the
backend of so-called integrating.
COBB: That`s exactly right. That is exactly right.
And so, the thing that we have to bear in mind here is a move and counter
move history, that goes way before Brown Versus Board of Education. And
the best person on this was Derrick Bell, the legal scholar and activist.
As a young attorney, Derrick Bell, with the Legal Defense Fund, Derrick
Bell was handling the cases that wound up desegregating schools in
Mississippi, and he said when I interviewed him, you know, kind of late in
his life, he said that as a young person, he was shocked to find that these
community schools in Mississippi did not want to segregate. What they
wanted is equalization.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right. They wanted resources.
COBB: Yes, they wanted resources.
And when he said the NAACP can`t fight -- we cannot fight an equalization
case, they went back to the governor and said, well, unless you equalize
the schools, then we will sue to be segregate, but segregating these
schools was the last option. What people wanted to have actual resourced
functioning schools in their own community even if the schools were
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, and it`s interesting, Jackie, I started this by
talking about the Brown case, and particularly about that part of the Brown
case that was the Kenneth Clark doll studies and the Supreme Court saying
we`ve got to integrate, because if we don`t integrate, then we end up with
African-American children having a negative sense of themselves and black
children picking white dolls.
We actually saw these studies replicated in a little film of "Girls Like
Me" and we saw a replication of that.
I want to look at that for a moment, and then come back to you in this
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Kenneth Clark conducted a doll test with black
children. He asked them to choose between the black doll and the white
doll. In most instances, the majority of the children preferred the white
I decided to reconduct this test as Dr. Clark did to see how we have
progressed since then.
Can you show me the doll that you like best and that you would like to play
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: This one.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: This one.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: I like that one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This one?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So -- is that solved by integration?
JACKIE MADER, THE HECHINGER REPORT: You know, it`s -- I think that it
would be very beneficial that we see in the reporting down there that it is
beneficial when the children, especially in low income communities have
access to resources, and have more diversity in the experiences and the
people they are exposed to. A lot of times we go to schools in the delta
and the kids have never been outside of the delta and they have very
So, I think integration is important, but I think we see more importantly
what the schools really need first is the resources and the funding and
quality teachers in there.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I want to come back to you on this
question, and also come back to you, Chris, because I want to ask if as we
start measuring school quality if integration means to be part of how we
think about measuring equality.
Don`t go away, because we are taking a break, but wasn`t to talk about how
charter schools are continuing this issue of resegregation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a big apprehension of daughters, white
daughters going into a predominantly black school schools.
You had, really, a segregated society. And all of the sudden, today, it`s
going to be integrated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Ridding our public schools of racial segregation was one of
the original civil rights battles and yet today, in most places, our
schools are as segregated as they were in the 1960s. Many school reform
activists have been pushing charter schools as a fix to inequality in
public education, but research finds that the charter schools are likely to
be racially imbalanced.
A recent study of North Carolina schools found that 30 percent of
traditional public school students attend racially segregated schools,
while more than 60 percent of charter school students attend racially
So when we come back to you on this question, should we as we -- for
example, thinking about charters and the value of charters and the value of
the quality of education, should integration be one of the measures of how
good a school is?
MADER: You know, I think the big argument in Mississippi with charters
right now is that they would become segregation academy essentially, and
there`s a big fight down there to see which districts get charter schools.
Should it be the high performing districts or the low performing districts
or all districts?
I think that, you know, integration is important, but the things that
Mississippi are choosing to focus on are the things that will improve the
academic achievement of students, so we are seeing a push for suddenly pre-
K. We are seeing, you know, charter schools are being introduced because
the legislators down there think it will improve educational opportunities
So, so while integration is very important and, you know, it`s crucial in
public schools, I think that right now, we`re going to see that they are
focusing more on exactly what can they target to immediately improve,
what`s the quickest point of entry to improve education.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, John, it worries me though. It only makes me nervous
when I see strange bedfellows in politics. And, so, you right now, you`ve
got all these conservative, Republican state legislators and governors in
places like Louisiana, who are encouraging charter systems, and vouchers
and I am thinking, these guys haven`t been on the side of educating the
kids for decades and now I`m supposed to believe that you are?
JOHN ROWLEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, part of the Republican agenda,
and, frankly, the ALEC agenda for a long time, it`s really been to abandon
public schools and shift as much public money as possible to charter
schools, to private school vouchers, and you are seeing the big battles in
places where you had red governors, red legislatures.
And I don`t know, we have so much brain power at this table talking about
it. And maybe the best contribution I can make is there are two great
documentaries that have recently come to my attention and one is about
Oxley, Arkansas, which is a small town that voluntarily segregated for
financial and moral reasons, and because of Brown versus Board of
And on ESPN, "30 for 30", there`s a story about Mississippi state`s
football them that have their best year ever, the same year they
desegregated, and the tension that happened there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. My mom like -- my mom who went to Brigham Young
University likes to say that the Mormon Church changed its mind about black
folks and having sold when the football team started to lose. And so, all
of a sudden, you integrated for these other kinds of reasons.
ROWLEY: She speaks the truth.
HARRIS-PERRY: Chris, I wanted to -- I want to come back to you, because,
you know, obviously part of what you all do is that you try to address
children where they are, you know, despite the kind of injustices.
So, how do you on the one hand try to think about this broader system, and
yet meet young people at the moment where they are without having to wait
for a new system?
ROWLEY: Right. And that`s the tension. That`s the tension that you live
in an imperfect reality, and so you have to make do with that reality.
That`s part of where the Sunflower Freedom Project came from, was taking
where the kids are right now and realizing that they deserve so much
better, so much more in terms of the educational opportunities, and
thinking about, thinking creatively about the different things that we
could do as educators to really give them those opportunities and that`s
how the Freedom Project developed and how it changed over the years.
But it`s interesting, because, you know, we have never had a white student.
There are white families that we try very hard to recruit, especially early
on, but, but in a place like Mississippi, it`s -- there are very few shades
of gray, right? So once a program or a school or a neighborhood is
considered black or white, it tends to stay that way.
But one thing I -- you know, you were talking about charter schools which I
think is interesting -- you know, I actually don`t think that integration
has been at the top of the educational agenda for quite some time and
probably since the 1970s. And so this is the process of resegregation that
has been happening for quite some time, because we on both sides of the
issues, I think some activists grew frustrated and resigned to the white
resistance and sort of figured, well, as Dr. Cobb talked about, you know,
maybe we need to just focus on the equalization, accept segregation as the
reality and just focus on that. I know that --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Try to do that and work within it. In fact, you
said something they want to bring Martha in for a second, which is you said
if a neighborhood and/or a school is labeled as such, and, of course,
neighborhoods are a big part of the story, people like neigh schools, they
want their kids to go close by with kids they live near. But the
residential segregation in this country, not just the South, but maybe most
brutally in the South, keeps school integration from being possible.
BERGMARK: That`s right. An immediate, today, example of that is Nichols
School in east Biloxi, Mississippi, where we are providing legislation
support, but the community has been up in arms about the closing of a
school -- that it was a high performing school, prize winning school, a
school that was completely rebuilt after hurricane Katrina and shiny new
facility. So, we will still see --
HARRIS-PERRY: And it was closed?
BERGMARK: And it was closed on the, kind of pro-texturally for the reason
of the declining populations after Katrina meant that they need to
consolidate schools. So, where did they consolidate but to the white
But tremendous loss for that community that we`re trying to correct.
BERGMARK: And at the Mississippi Center for Justice, we trying to operate
on three levels and just as Chris in the delta is working to make sure that
individual children have help, we are providing those individual services.
Children need to stay in school and they need to have education that`s
appropriate for them, so that individual legal aid to families and children
And then at the district level, as I said, these strategies that are
undertaken by local districts that are completely unaccountable to
communities of color. And then finally at the state policy level as Jackie
mentioned -- you know, the strong effort to correct the imbalance and part
of the two Mississippis is that the poorest district has 1/480th of the
local resources as our richest district to fund local schools.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And this is the struggle to keep all of those things
in mind at the same time, the kid a kids and the families and then
neighborhoods and communities, and then the state policy levels.
Thank you to Martha and to Jackie here at the table. Also, thank you to
Chris Myers Asch in Washington, D.C.
Jelani and John are coming back for more.
But up next, I`m going to do a little one-on-one, because I want to
introduce you to Rosa Parks. I know you think you know her, but you don`t.
Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Monday would have been the 100th birthday of Rosa Parks.
Now, I`m not trying to embarrass anyone, but be honest when you hear the
name Rosa Parks, what do you think of? You think of the woman who sat in
the front of the bus, right? The story of to seamstress who in 1955
refused to give up her seat to a white man on a crowded Montgomery bus.
It`s a staple of civil rights lore and children`s books.
But now, can you tell me one other thing about Rosa Parks?
All right. Yes, see, for everyone who is ready to go at me on Twitter,
don`t be offended, but all I am saying is that all you know about Rosa
Parks is that one moment, you are missing the big vast thing that is in
fact Rosa Parks, because yes, she refused to give up her seat, but what
else do we know about her?
How many of us know that she was thrown off the bus a decade earlier by the
same driver, that she had been working with the NAACP for more than a
decade trying to document brutality against African-Americans. Or one of
my favorite factoids, her personal hero: Malcolm X.
There is so much more to the life of Rosa Parks that goes beyond the bus,
and in an incredible story told in a new book, "The Rebellious Life of Mrs.
Rosa Parks" by Jeanne Theoharis, a professor of political science at
Brooklyn College. She joins me now.
I have been waiting for this book for a couple of years. I am so excited
that it is finally out. Tell my viewers out in Nerdland what are some of
the things they don`t know about Rosa Parks that they need to know.
JEANNE THEOHARIS, AUTHOR, "THE REBELLIOUS LIFE OF MRS. ROSA PARK": I think
the first thing they need to know is this is not one day or one act, it`s
about a lifetime of courageous acts that she does over and over and over
before the boycott and then she goes 40 years before the boycott, in
Detroit, making similarly courageous stands until the end of her life so
that this idea of one day is a myth.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what I -- what I don`t want people to miss is what you
said there, in Detroit.
So, in fact, very shortly, she leaves the South, and ends up spending most
of her adult time in Detroit.
THEOHARIS: Right. More than half of her political life is spent in
Detroit in what she called "The Promised Land that wasn`t." She very much
finds racism in Detroit when they moved there. They moved there eight
months after the boycott ends, they have lost their jobs, they are still
getting death threats. So, in many ways, they are exiled and forced to
leave Montgomery for Detroit where her brother lives, and she does not find
-- as she puts it -- too much difference between race relations in
Montgomery and Detroit.
So, just as she had done in Montgomery, she sets about to challenge the
sort of racial inequality in schools, jobs, and housing and police
brutality in Detroit.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s interesting to me, Jeanne, as I was reading
your introduction. You`re writing about the fact that we would think that
this ought to be the third or the fourth or the tenth volume on Parks. But
then, in fact, she has been reduced to kind of a children story, this tired
seamstress who just didn`t get up. But she had a long trajectory before
that moment on the bus and not just after it.
THEOHARIS: Absolutely. Absolutely.
So, she joins the NAACP in 1943 when she realizes that women can be part of
the local branch. And so, she has right, more than a decade, and I think
sometimes when we say the NAACP today, that seems a bit mild. But in 1943
and particularly as she and E.D. Nixon start to work to transform the
Montgomery branch into a more activist branch, this is dangerous work as
they try to document white brutality, they tried to protest legal lynching,
they pushed for school desegregation, there are not that many people
courageous enough to do it.
And so, again, this whole history before we get to December 1st, 1955.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I also appreciated that she had relationships with
people like Stokely Carmichael. That she always thought of Malcolm X and
his sense of self-defense as a central strategy for her, and that Mrs.
Parks remained armed even throughout the Montgomery bus boycott, because of
the kind of violence she faced. So we think of her and king as the non-
violent leaders, but she was a woman concerned with self-defense.
THEOHARIS: Right. A lifelong leader in self-defense. She gets this from
her grandfather who sits out after World War I when the Klan sort of rages
through Alabama with a shotgun. Her husband is working on the Scottsboro
case, the nine Scottsboro boys who are rapidly convicted in 1951 of rape
charges, they keep a gun in the house in many ways, because this kind of
organizing is so dangerous, right?
And so, yes, she is a lifelong believer in self-defense, though she is also
amazed by the power of organized nonviolence as it emerges in the
Montgomery bus boycott.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I -- I`m just -- I`m so pleased that the book is
finally out. You know, I have been seeing you speak on this in academic
circles for a long time and here it is, African-American History Month,
here it is just two days before what would have been her 100th birthday --
thank you for bringing Rosa Parks back to all us in this country.
THEOHARIS: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Thanks.
And up next, what is going on with my governor? Why Louisiana`s Bobby
Jindal has me saying it again, #FBJ.
HARRIS-PERRY: Followers of the Nerdland twitter hashtag are by now
familiar with another hashtag that have felt the need to break out every
now and then -- #fbj. The last two letters are referring to the name for
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and the first letter being the thing I
wish I could sometimes when it comes from my home state -- forget.
OK, if only it were so easy, of just wishing him away, because lately,
whether you live in Louisiana or just watching the Super Bowl coverage and
therefore must keep looking at the television about Louisiana, there is
Bobby Jindal who has made himself in the possibility of his presidential
run in 2016 impossible to forget. In a recent "Washington Post" editorial,
Governor Jindal appealed to President Obama for a meeting to advice him on
how to fix Medicaid, pleading for, quote, "flexibility" for the states to
make their own decision about the program.
Well, thanks to recently announced cuts in Louisiana`s Medicaid programs,
we know exactly what Bobby Jindal`s idea of flexibility looks like. As of
this week, if you are a poor person living in Louisiana with HIV, you will
lose your case management visits. If you are a low income first time
mother, you can say good-bye to at home care visits by a nurse to help you
care for your newborn. And if you are a child in need of behavioral health
services, prepare to lose them.
If you are a nursing home resident who relies on physical or speech
therapy, you can now cut off from that service, too.
Thanks, Bobby Jindal.
All of this in a state that already has some of the highest poverty and the
lowest rates of insurance in the nation. Until he can get his own house in
order, my advice to Bobby Jindal and aspirations to the White House, FBJ,
forget it, Bobby Jindal.
At the table: University of Connecticut`s Jelani Cobb, Democratic
strategist John Rowley, former chief of staff to Newt Gingrich`s 2012
presidential campaign, Patrick Millsaps, and Rajiv Malhotra, who is the
writer and public speaker on current affairs and a leader -- an active
leader in Indian-American affairs.
I want to start with you, Rajiv, because you wrote quite a fiery piece in
"The Huffington Post" about my governor, in which you said that "Indian-
Americans have been dismayed to see that he has done nothing for our
community while soliciting us for campaign funds. He has morphed at an
early age into exactly the kind of candidate that people of his Southern
conservative state would elect."
RAJIV MALHOTRA, AUTHOR, "BEING DIFFERENT": Well, you know, the Indian
Americans are overwhelmingly supporting President Obama, and in fact, 84
percent of the Indian American vote went for President Obama. And so, that
tells you the ideology and the values and the thinking of the American-
Indian is completely opposite of Jindal.
So, Jindal representing the extreme right wing has done two shifts. The
first shift he did was when he entered politics, and converted himself to
an extreme version of Christianity, and wrote to President Bush that this
conversion is going to drive his and guide his political career and got
some endorsements, so became as white as he could except for the skin
His manners --
HARRIS-PERRY: And you used passing to describe him?
MALHOTRA: That is correct, because I think the American experience of
being one of immigrants and new people coming to the country is an
experience of groups forming identity as Americans and different kinds of
identities. So, the Indian American group is a new one and it`s still in
the early stages of defining who we are.
And so, most of us are quite dismayed at the sellout and the hypocrisy of
Jindal, because he is -- on the one hand, he has distanced himself from the
Indian American community except when it comes, making -- getting funds
from them, and on the other hand, very recently, the Republican Party has
an identity crisis, and realizes the need to be less white. So, suddenly,
he flips around and says, "I`m the guy."
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And so, Patrick Millsaps, I want to come to you on
this because this is -- this is one of the lessons of 2012 for the
Republican Party is, OK, we actually have a pretty deep bench of
Republicans of color, Nikki Haley is on it, Susana Martinez is on it, and
my go Governor Bobby Jindal is on it. So, when you hear of the
authenticity claim that is problematic, what does that mean for Republicans
who are hoping that the bench of Republican color will move them into the
PATRICK MILLSAPS, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, NEWT 2012: Well, first, let`s do
a positive and having an elected official in Louisiana that`s not under
federal investigation is a huge thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are big on that.
MILLSAPS: And in Bobby Jindal`s favor, he is not being investigated right
HARRIS-WELL: Right now. But sometimes, it takes a couple of years.
MILLSAPS: Well, you never know.
And secondly, the Republican Party actually does have more minorities in
governorship than the Democratic Party does.
MILLSAPS: The -- my concern about what Bobby Jindal is doing, what we`re
doing is attaching his budget concerns and these are budget concerns. I
mean, when you list the things that he is talking about, there is tough --
I mean, when you`re talking about people with HIV not getting treated,
that` s a hard thing. But that`s a financial issue.
And to attach that as to that makes him more white or less white, I don`t
know if that`s a fair assessment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, sure, that`s fair. Yes.
COBB: Let me jump in. OK. Here is one thing, right, Louisiana has the
second highest black population in the country, as you know. Like if we
were talking about a state in which these people who are poor, these people
who are going to disproportionately bear the brunt of these cuts were not
African-Americans, this would be entirely different conversation.
MILLSAPS: Twenty-five percent.
COBBS: Right. Thirty-six is Mississippi, and then Louisiana is like 33
ROWLEY: Well, we`ve done a lot of work over the years in Louisiana and so
I`ve watched Bobby Jindal since almost back before he converted from being
a Hindu. I mean, I fancy myself sadly for good or for ill, a
Jindalologist, because as I`ve watched him.
And as he tries to become a national figure, we are in an era of
authenticity of politics, and he`s going to have big problems. This is
someone who only changed his religion, he changed his name. He used to be
-- he was in the bush administration on health, he`s changed some of those
policy positions, he`s even changed campaign tactics.
The reason he didn`t get elected governor and Kathleen Blanco did is
because he was the only governor at the time who wouldn`t attack someone,
and now, he`s evolved.
So, I`m not claiming every one of these things, he also -- his third child,
somehow, he was mysteriously there and delivered the third child. And so,
I don`t know that any or all of these things inauthentic -- or lack
authenticity, but when you add them all up together and you watch him
perform, and he is like the Republican Al Gore of in terms of being --
HARRIS-PERRY: Or John Kerry or something.
I want to bring in, real quickly, State Senator Karen Carter Peterson of
Louisiana. She`s the chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party. And I
want to bring her in.
Karen, on this question, Patrick said, OK, look, you know -- and I think
this is fair, because we do have difficulties around this I think with
black representatives as well, but like you don`t want to attach some sort
of racial or ethnic authenticity on the one hand with policy positions on
the other. But the fact is that he`s making choices that are over and over
again just borne by poor people and those people are overwhelmingly people
of color in our state.
ST. SEN. KAREN CARTER PETERSON (D), LOUISIANA: Yes. I mean, look,
Melissa, let`s just do a fact check, and over the last five years, Governor
Jindal has cut Medicaid every year. Louisiana has one of the lowest
eligibility levels in the country, 12 percent of the poverty level for
those people over age 19 not disabled and not pregnant with respect to
eligibility for Medicaid. That`s ridiculous.
His political ideology and ambition has been paramount in any decision that
he`s made. It`s been to the detriment of our citizens.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, look, part of this for me -- again, it`s not to say,
oh, is he authentic or not? But rather, there is a political point to the
authenticity, right? That the issue is that four Republicans, you know,
when you`re going to put Bobby Jindal forward, it`s with the sense of a
more compassionate conservativism and yet, we see no passion in, for
example, how he is crafting health care.
MALHOTRA: He is a Rick Perry in a different skin, and this skin he`s
uncomfortable with. He`s uncomfortable being an Indian-American. He has
rejected that or distanced himself, he`s rejected his religion, distanced
himself from his ethnicity and the groups except when it comes to fund-
raising. And now that the Republican Party needs somebody who will
represent diversity or hoist as a diverse person, he stands up and wants to
be the --
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, interesting you say Rick Perry because Rick Perry in
certain ways got Rick Perried because he was compassionate in two spaces,
right? He had a position on Gardasil, that was a very common sense
reasonable position over which he was attacked, and he had an initially
commonsense position on immigration, right? And the issue of the DREAMers
basically in the public schools in Texas, both of which got him torpedoed.
MILLSAPS: Well, can we -- we have two topics, and two things that I would
like to divide up, and number one is talking about poverty, and then
talking about neighborhoods of color as if those are synonymous. I think
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, you hang out in Louisiana and you know that the
MILLSAPS: I understand that, but to assume -- statistically, it`s the
case, but to assume that people of color is going to be in this other, I
can`t stomach that. So let`s talk about how you deal with poverty because
I live in one of the poorest congressional districts in America.
And the other thing that we have to separate out is Bobby Jindal, the
potential presidential contender, and Bobby Jindal the governor.
Let`s talk about Bobby Jindal, governor, you keep saying that these are not
compassionate moves. Well, Louisiana also has a balanced budget
requirement, and so, if you cut from one to put somewhere else, and so what
other programs --
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, how about raising revenues? So I hear you and one
possibility and I will come back to Karen on this, one possibility is
raising revenue and we know is that Louisiana has one of the most
regressive tax plans and the governor is encouraging a more regressive one,
because it lays on top of the sales tax.
And so, we know sales tax means poor people go to buy the consumer goods,
go to buy groceries, they end up playing a higher proportion of the budget,
while at the same time we are cutting the taxes for the wealthy.
Karen, you are there in the state legislature, how much -- state
legislature -- how much of this is about the economics of this and how much
of it is about the ideological choices to position Jindal the governor, for
Jindal the presidency?
PETERSON: There`s no question that this is -- it`s to position him for
Melissa, look, let me give you a specific example. Just a couple of years
ago, the governor was unwilling to raise the tobacco tax in Louisiana. All
of the money while Republican governors all across the country, whether it
was Charlie Crist or Haley Barbour in Mississippi, they were all willing to
raise the tobacco tax because of tough times. Well, our governor said, no.
Not only would he not do it, he said he would -- he vetoed it, and then the
legislature had to pass a constitutional amendment just to renew 4 pennies
on the tobacco tax on it. We`re one of the lowest in the country, 36
So, now, as he rolls out a new plan to eliminate income taxes, eliminate
corporate taxes, but change like you said to sales taxes, he`s also putting
on the table right now, oh, well, guess what, I`m interested in increasing
the tobacco tax. That right there is evidence of the ideology and the
flip-flopping -- go ahead.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, absolutely. Interesting.
We`re going to take a quick break and we`ll come back. We`re going to talk
-- continue to talk about Louisiana, but also broaden it out, because part
of what`s going on here is the fact that the South is a one-party town.
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2011 when Governor Bobby Jindal was re-elected to a
second term as Louisiana governor, his victory was almost guaranteed after
he ran nearly unopposed by any measure Democratic opponent.
And while President Barack Obama`s victories in Virginia and Florida
signals some cracks in the GOP`s solid South political dominance, Jindal`s
easy win, more than 70 percent, still is more the rule than the exception
in the Southern politics.
Thanks to the South`s single-party superiority, Jindal and other GOP
lawmakers are free to pass policies that are burdensome to their state`s
most marginalized people. As they might say on "Real Housewives in
Atlanta," who going to check me, boo, right?
There`s a sense of -- if you don`t have two parties, then you made this
point about poor, white, often rural, for example, Louisianans, 70 percent
of them or more give their votes to the governor and then he makes policy
which is oftentimes not in their economic self-interest.
MILLSAPS: Well, not only that, and this is -- Georgia is probably 10 years
from being a purple state, and here is why. We have huge -- we have a
large African-American population, and this African-American population is
getting richer. They are -- you talk about the black communities. Well,
some of the black communities are some of the nicest suburbs in Atlanta.
But because the Republican Party is completely writing off any real
outreach, I`m not talking about lip service, I`m talking about going door-
to-door like Obama did, real politicking. If we don`t reach out to all
Georgians or all Southerners, I mean, the guarantee Southern base for the
Republican Party is no longer as guaranteed as it was amongst white men or
whatever, it`s slipping.
Obama got 45 percent in Georgia.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And, John, this is your business to create a two-
party platform in the South.
ROWLEY: Ad we are hopeful it is more like two to four years in Georgia,
but we can debate the math as sometimes Democrats and the Republicans do.
The South will come back demographically and politically. I think one of
the challenges is the Republicans control so much, they are overreaching
left and right. I survived 1994 when the Democrats really got wiped out
around the country, and by -- you know, two or three cycles later, we had
Democratic governors of South Carolina, of Georgia, of Alabama and
Mississippi and Tennessee.
And so, the pendulum will swing back and hopefully through great ideas and
great candidates that are Democrats. But also a big part of the equation
is going to overreach, because the Republicans think that they`ve now
gotten these legislative bodies and governorships for decades.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Karen, let me ask you on that, because obviously as head
of the Louisiana Democratic Party, how do you start making a claim to some
of these, for example, Jindal supporters that, in fact, their economic
interests lie with the Democratic Party?
PETERSON: Well, you know, Governor Jindal is, in fact, helping us. I
mean, there are Republicans in the legislature and all across the state
that have been silenced and some have been silenced and others like John
Kennedy, who`s the treasurer, even David Vitter who`s in the U.S. Senate
that challenged Jindal`s flawed policies. So, it`s really helpful.
There is a window of opportunity not just here in Louisiana, but all across
the South. I totally disagree that it`s going to take 10 years for Georgia
to become purple -- let me just throw that in there. I just took on a new
role as the new vice president of the organization of Democratic Party
chairs and I`m looking forward to being in Georgia and North Carolina and
going right after folks.
And it`s good that there`s upward mobility occurring in the African-
American community. But they are not going to be listening to the
rhetoric. They`re going to in fact look at the Republicans` records and
figure out that`s not the best place for them for opportunity, for economic
security and otherwise.
So I think it`s a farce. We`re doing great things here in Louisiana, the
Democratic Party, rebuilding -- Mary Landrieu is our priority in 2014.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, of course.
PETERSON: And in Virginia, we`re going to get a Democratic governor there.
All across the South, it`s coming back.
HARRIS-PERRY: I always love your optimism. We both manage to be wearing
Karen Carter Peterson who is in the place that I am so sad I`m not at this
moment, the home of the current Super Bowl, New Orleans.
And up next, we`re not going to talk so much as purple but pink and why
pink is the new color of courage -- thanks to my foot soldier of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Our foot soldier this week is a bit unorthodox. Instead of
honoring a person, we are honoring a building.
For months, we`ve been bringing you the story of one lonely building in
Mississippi. The Jackson Women`s Health Organization is the state`s only
remaining abortion clinic. And it`s under attack. This little building
has been targeted by Mississippi`s Republican governor and the state`s
They`re using a strategy called TRAP, targeted regulation of abortion
providers. These laws that single out clinics and doctors who provide
abortions and burden them with requirements more restrictive than those
imposed on other medical procedures.
For months this little gray building has been trapped. It is trapped
between new laws that require its doctors to secure hospital-admitting
privileges and the seven local hospitals that refuse to grant the doctors
Because the clinic is trapped, so are the women of Mississippi.
Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the nation. It has the highest
teen birth rate.
And yet the women of Mississippi have the same constitutional right as all
American women. One of those is to seek an abortion.
But lawmakers have figured out the easiest way to deny women the ability to
exercise that right is to attack this building. So, here it stand,
Jackson`s Women`s Health, the sole provider for the state`s most vulnerable
women, those who are poor, those who are teens, those who lack resources to
raise a child, those who already have children and have no other way to
support another, those who have been victimized by domestic violence or
rape, those who do not have a private OB/GYN who can quietly give them an
abortion and submit it to insurance as D&C.
These are the women for whom the Jackson`s Women`s Health Center has been a
And this week, this little foot soldiering little building did something
pretty terrific. It turned pink -- bright pink. Defiance in your face, I
am not afraid and I`m going to stay pink. Even as it is trapped on the
biased regulations of anti-choice legislatures, the Jackson Women`s Health
Organization boldly declared its intention to continue to serve the women
Fighting back against the gray clouds of TRAP with a bright coat of pink
paint, for that the Jackson Women`s Health Organization is our foot soldier
of the week.
And that`s our show for today.
Thank you to Jelani, John, Patrick and Rajiv.
And thank you to you at home for watching. Are you ready for some football
tomorrow? It is Super Bowl Sunday and we`re going to take a look at all
the perils and passion around one of my favorite sports.
Coming up, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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