'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, April 6th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
April 6, 2013
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
Guests: Jonathan Rosa, Raul Reyes, Heather McGhee, Ari Berman, Ana
Avendano, Jacob Horwitz, Jemele Hill, Susan Walvius, Donna de Varona, Elena
Delle Donne, Bill Russell, Janet Mock, Andrea Plaid
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question. What does
Celtics legend Bill Russell think of baseball pioneer Jackie Robinson?
Plus, this week in voter suppression, the Tar Heel edition.
And March madness turns into April insanity.
But first, a huge victory on the immigration issue comes in the form of a
10th grade English lesson.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
The Associated Press made news this week with a major linguistic change to
its style book, considered the industry standard for journalists. On
Tuesday, the decision was made to banish the use of illegal when writing
about, quote "people living in a country illegally."
Senior vice president and executive editor Kathleen Carroll had this to say
about the change.
The style book no longer sanctions the term illegal immigrant or the use of
illegal to describe a person. Instead it tells users that illegal should
describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country
Now, I know that sounds like parsing a lot, but truly this move is no small
thing, especially when it inspires this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me it blows me away. That`s how you describe
somebody who comes here illegally. I don`t understand why people are
trying to carve up those words?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The reason, Brian, the Associated Press in their
stylebook says don`t use illegal alien, illegal immigrant, illegal
anything, is this is just the AP`s little way of doing some cheerleading,
trying to push immigration reform in Congress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The AP is pushing immigration reform in Congress. Listen.
I know conspiracy theories are fun, but they are usually false. What the
AP`s move reflects is a changing tide in the way journalists are thinking
Now, we have a long standing similar policy here at NBC News and MSNBC
which is to use the term undocumented immigrants or workers versus illegal
immigrants or workers. And the policy here in Nerdland is and always have
had stand that no person is illegal. It`s not a term that can be conferred
on the body.
For those allies of the movement, seeking sensible immigration reform
policy. The Associate Press` move this week may lack the lesser of
congressional compromise or presidential bill sighting. But make no
mistake, this shift is essential. Language matters.
When we frame ideas using certain words, those words convey meaning,
intent, and context. OK, for example, "the New York Times" recently led
the obituary of a famed rocket scientist, Yvonne Brill, with this.
Saying quote "she made a mean beef stroganoff, followed her husband from
job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children."
Now, all of that may be true. And a mean beef stroganoff is a mean beef
stroganoff, but Yvonne Broil was a rocket scientist. That those words
which after much criticism "the New York Times" change conveyed that her
career accomplishments was secondary to the personal ones. It`s a mistake
they could have avoided by consulting the AP style guide in the first
The importance of language is nothing new. Just ask the groups` language
has impacted in particular ways throughout history. As my colleague
(INAUDIBLE) pointed out in a recent piece for colouredlines.com, language
has vastly changed since the civil rights movement when words like colored
were comment sights.
The women`s movement helped change journalism standards to use the words
miss, and gone is the narrow term homosexual as a descriptor for the
diverse LGBTQ community. And in this new iteration, abolishing the term
"illegal" when referring to immigrant, is key. When we apply the term
illegal to a human being, what we`re saying their body can be just against
the law just by being in a particular place.
For example, in the 1960s when four young men sat down at a (INAUDIBLE)
lunch counter in Greensburg, North Carolina. They were denied service
simply because they were not supposed to be in that place. They were
But let`s take it one step further. Today, the word immigrant in political
discourse comes with the embedded presumption that it refers exclusively to
Latinos. And that is due to how the political agenda and language of
immigration debate has been framed. But the immigrant community includes
in status limbo right now includes individuals from Asia, and Africa, and
Europe, and the Caribbean.
This congresswoman you bet Clark of New York recently know that there are
more than 3 million black immigrants in the U.S. An estimated 400,000 from
Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America are considered undocumented.
So, even as we applaud the AP`s very necessary and long overdue decision to
drop the word illegal, now is the time to keep pushing for even more change
in how we do, discussed and legislate immigration.
Let`s expand our understanding even as we expand our vocabulary.
At the table, Raul Reyes, attorney and NBC Latino contributor, Joy Reid,
managing editor for the grio.com and an MSNBC contributor and Jonathan
Rosa, an assistant professor of linguistics and social culture anthropology
at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
So Jonathan, let me start with you at the linguist. Why does language
JONATHAN ROSA, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF LINGUISTIC AND SOCIAL CULTURE
ANTHROPOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS: Well, I think we have to talk
about the situation on a couple of different levels.
So, first of all, it`s important to remember the AP was claiming that this
was accurate and neutral terminology. So, that is just ban true in the
first place on a legal basis, right? So, nowhere what the immigration case
law, no immigration lawyers, judges, et cetera use the term illegal
immigrants precisely because immigrant is defined in the U.S. immigration
and nationality act as a person who has been lawfully admitted for a
So in the notion, illegal immigrant is an oxymoron.
HARRIS-PERRY: And in fact, can`t exist.
ROSA: It cannot exist, right. So, it`s really important on a legal basis,
people are making a legal claim when using these terminologies. So, it is
important to understand it the first place. It`s not actually a legal
term. So that`s one thing.
But, it is also important to remember the stigmatizing role that this
language plays, right? So, illegality is not just mapped onto someone`s
immigration status. It is not map on anyone the entire person, right? So,
we don`t refer to people who have cancer as cancerous people, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, exactly.
ROSA: And so, and we have to remember that language does matter, right?
Because if you look at people using bumper stickers that say illegal
hunting permit, that`s not just a metaphor, right? I mean, if you know how
terrifying the immigration in customs enforces raids are, I mean, literally
people are being hunted in a sense, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And I think, you know, I know that this is the
moment do I in part with when we get -- on the left, we got called
political correctness police, Right? Because we are saying language
matters and it makes a difference. But I keep thinking, you know, that
ability to frame something is all about language. Is this person unborn
child or a fertilized egg, right? You know, is this person Negro and
therefore a place that is no place because there is no Negro land or is
this an African-American who has a space in time and history and culture.
So, when I look at this, I think, I know we`re going to get yelled at for
being politically correct here. But it does seem like it matter.
JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: No. It does matter. (INAUDIBLE),
the term illegal immigrant has been conventionally shortened to the more
majority of the illegals. And because that slur has been thrown at people,
illegals have become a definite slur, in the same that we don`t use Negro
because after a while there was a taint to it or we don`t use homosexual
because it was no longer use and sort of mutual kind of scientific term.
It sort of acquired a stigmatic kind of attitude when people would use it.
And I think, the term illegals in elite is as much a slur as the "n" word
that we call people of color. So, I think it`s a good idea to walk away
from anything that contains it. And I don`t think that`s promoting
immigration reform. I think it is promoting calling people human beings as
opposed to attaching a slur to every group.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, even as if may not be about promoting immigration
reform, it does, however, feel like maybe we`re on a pathway towards it,
right. That as the language shifts, it`s in part because we`re recognizing
that immigration reform is about human beings and about families and about
workers, not about these illegals, these bodies we want to throw back over
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: If anything, I would say it shows that we are on a
path towards, you know, recognizing the humanity of all people. And you
know, I think one very important point that is often lost in the discussion
about whether or not it is politically correct. As you mention, and
illegal basis, you know, only an immigration judge is authorized to
determine whether or not a person is in this country illegally, not a
journalist, not a politician, not even a police officer or someone from my
(INAUDIBLE). Unless, you are that person, no one has the right to make
And think about it. For example, journalists, even if when they are
writing about a serial killer or axe murder, we always say suspected and
alleged because they deserve that protection under the law and so do the
And by the way, I also like to remind people that when we use words like
illegal, it`s applied very selectively. Because there are many people, not
to single anyone out, Kiefer Sutherland, Martha Stewart, they all have
criminal convictions. Do we call them illegal? No.
REID: And in addition to that, you know, if somebody steals your wallet,
and then, they go out and they buy some the stuff. The stuff they bought
was purchased illegally, right, so even the stuff is illegal. Well, if a
person comes into this country and we often associate illegal immigration
with the farm production industry, right? So, does that mean the products
of the labor illegal? Are the employers illegal employers, that the food
you are buying from the grocery stores illegal tomatoes?
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. And so, that`s part of it, right, is this
idea of shifting this very idea about where is the legal standard who is
breaking the law here.
ROSA: That`s just right. It`s very particular groups whose behaviors,
practices, are being policed here. And it is stereotypes about language,
about religion, about race, that ultimately police certain people under
surveillance and leave other people unmarked entirely, right.
And I think the discussion of political correct, this is really
interesting. The issues are only a matter of political correctness when
they don`t apply to you and your family.
ROSA: That is so true. Assuming someone`s family is involved, then, all
of the sudden, we need the make a change. The other piece of this is that
the AP was really maintaining that this was accurate in mutual language to
use when conservative and political forces were advocating the use of this
terminology of illegalities. So, really, illegality operates as a flag of
conservative political ideology, similar to the way that undocumented
potentially operates as a flag of progressive political ideology, so
neither of those is neutral in a sense. So, for the AP to claim that they
are unbiased in using the term illegal was baffling to this point and
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay right there. We are going to stay on this issue and
also, an expansion of the concept of immigrant all together.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are back talking about how the language around
immigration can be problematic.
Joining out table is Ana Avendano who is the director of immigration and
community action for the AFL-CIO.
So, I want to expand on our idea of what even counts as an immigrant all
Joy, you and I were sitting on a panel yesterday in which you raised your
hand and said, hey, you may not realize this but I am a child of
REID: Yes. I am a first generation American, both my parents came here to
go graduate school and they met. My father came from the Congo. My mother
came from British Guiana. I would have never been born if they had not
both immigrated to the country to go to the school. And my father
ultimately did not stay in the country. But, my mother eventually became a
citizen. But, so for us, immigration is my entire family. My mother`s
entire family, the only first generation Americans are my generation of
kids, all my uncles, most of my cousins were born in Guiana, the ones we
grew up with.
So, we always thought of immigration is what you do when you want to go to
school in the U.S. and these most people in my mother`s generation would
try to get out British Guiana and go to Great Britain which is what she did
initially. And then a lot of them ended up here. Most of my family is in
Guiana. They are here. And there are a lot of instances as well of people
who come as students and they don`t leave. So, there`s a Caribbean
component to immigration and an Africa components that are significant, but
they never get talked about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so, there`s a way in which if we frame
immigration always as the Latino issue, right, which is how we sort of
part, right? So the sense the 2012 election it`s been OK. Now, we see
that Latinos are a larger portion of the voting bloc. So, now, we have to
get serious about immigration reform. But, I`m thinking, well one, it
allows a whole bunch of immigrants, particularly you are immigrants, to fly
under the radar and even being consider immigrants. But it also keeps us
from building, I think, some natural coalitions that could exist, for
example, between black immigrants and Latino immigrants.
REYES: And also, among, you know, the fastest growing group of immigrants
right now, is are Asian. Out west, in California, you do see much more
activism and visibility among the Asian Pacific islanders there who are
immigrants. But, in the national conversation, it is always -- Latino is
pretty synonymous with immigrant. And I mean, it`s a very mixed bag
because on one hand it has obvious benefits for the Latino community in
terms of our, you know, electoral power and representation, but there could
be so much more. Especially in this movement if we, as you said, everyone
together as a coalition. Because, we, immigrants are at all straight our
society what most stereo types of what an immigrant looks like is wrong.
And even about among Latino, even when talking about Latinos, there was a
poll last year that was, I think it said one out of three Americans believe
most Hispanics are illegal immigrants which is the number that is wildly
off. And that is the perception among the general public.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And that perception ends up mattering in our public
policy, right? It is like, first of all, that all immigrants are Latino.
And then all Latinos are, as AP will now no longer say, illegal immigrants.
ANA AVENDANO, DIRECTOR, IMMIGRATION AND COMMUNITY ACTION FOR THE AFL-CIO:
Well, and it also - I mean, the Latino community has felt this crisis
acutely and in a terrible, terrible way because our public policies are
enforcement policies, for example, are targeting Latinos. So that equating
Latino with immigrant is very intentional.
The ICE, Immigration and Custom enforcement, for example, this week settled
a lawsuit brought by 22 Latino families and who had been the victims of
warrantless raids. You know, armed agents surrounding and targeting Latino
neighborhoods, pre-dawn raids, breaking into people`s homes, putting people
in living rooms interrogating them, looking for undocumented immigrants.
So there has been this particularly the acute negative experience felt in
the Latino community.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it allows for things like the sb1070 and the papers
these laws and the entire capacity to profile is based on the way that we
use language to define what an immigrant is and what an immigrant body
ROSA: Yes. And there are couples of different stereo types that are
operating here. One, is the notion that immigration or illegal immigrant
is a euphemism for Latinos, right, which totally erases the history of
immigration in the United States, right?
And remember that any group that was being targeted at any moment in U.S.
history has been framed as illegal and really derogatory terms from the
moment Benjamin Franklin was calling the Germans stupid swaddling people
to, you know, Irish, Italians, Jews, et cetera, (INAUDIBLE). So, that part
of the history has been forgotten.
But there`s another component which is that the way we talk about Latinos
presume that all of Latino`s migration status is the same. But we have to
remember, Puerto Ricans are born citizens of the United States not by their
own decision, right? In 1917 citizenship was imposed upon all Puerto
Ricans. So, that`s one way of citizenship happens.
HARRIS-PERRY: But just second class citizenship.
ROSA: Second class, right? But then, the number of Cubans, right, where
Cubans aren`t -- have never been saying as illegal, right, because they
have been provided with the straight forward pathway to citizenship, but
also societal inclusion, right? So, that they have access to right and
resources in a profound way. And we see that reflected in the political
representation, in their educational attainment, labor, you know.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s why Marco Rubio ends up as a kind of odd poster boy for
the GOP and I don`t mean that in a derogatory way, let me clear, or poster
man, right, for the GOP immigration conversations because the Cuban pathway
is such a very different alleyway.
REID: And it`s kind of ironic, right, because if look at the -- I think,
it`s been about seven or eight U.S. senators in our history have been
Latino. And I think five of them have been Cuban-American.
ROSA: It`s so disproportional. Cubans, that`s incredible.
ROSA: Remember, Mexican members constitute about two-thirds of the Latino
population (INAUDIBLE) nine percent. Cubans threeish percent, right, s
that is incredible.
REID: And they too are illegal until they reach shore. So, they have sort
of a weird sort of queasy illegal immigrant status because until they reach
the land, they, too, would be classified as illegal immigrant. And once,
they touch shore, they have that special right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. But assumes as you start talking about Dominicans
or, then all the sudden we have a very different conversation (ph). Let
alone Haitian then all the ways in which Haitian bodies were predictably
and initially determined to be so deeply problematic.
More on this, but particularly, I want to dig into one other part of the
immigration debate. What happens when I say the word worker, when we come
HARRIS-PERRY: Comprehensive immigration reform is not just about a pathway
to citizenship. It must also include realistic protections and measures
for the number of guest workers needed to fuel the U.S. economy.
According to reports, the new bipartisan immigration bill will include a
new W-visa for temporary year round low skilled foreign born workers. But
the program will be capped at 200,000 visas per year and be subject to
fluctuation based on unemployment, job openings and employer demand and not
everyone is happy with the formula.
Five different contracting associations signed a statement this week that
said a guest worker program that fails to provide a sufficient number of
visas to meet market demand as the construction sector recovers will
inevitably make it harder to fill critical labor openings and make it
impossible to secure the border. Translation, we need more of these
Another critique of the agreement, concerns about how guest workers are
treated once they arrive in the U.S. Fifteen student guest workers in
Central Pennsylvania on J1 (ph) cultural student visas walked off their job
at McDonald`s on March 6th. They said they were subjected to abuses like
unpaid wages and retaliation.
And while McDonald`s corporation has ended its relationship with that
specific franchise, all 15 students plan to hold an international day of
action on June 6th in their home countries.
Joining me from New Orleans is Jacob Horwitz, the lead organizer for the
natural guest worker alliance of the group helping to organize the strike.
Hi, Jacob. Nice to have you.
JACOB HORWITZ, NATIONAL GUEST WORKER ALLIANCE: Hey, Melissa. Thanks so
much for having me on the show.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I got to tell you. You know, we at Nerdland were like,
say what, as we were reading about this middle town Pennsylvania
McDonald`s. Tell me how those abuses are related to this status.
HORWITZ: Yes, thanks so much. I mean, I think what happened in McDonald`s
in Pennsylvania really shows the risk of an expanded guest worker program
without strong worker protections.
You know, those students were recruited from Latin America and Asia. They
paid three to $4,000 each to come to the United States on what they thought
would be a cultural exchange visa. Instead, they found themselves captive
workers, working sub-minimum wage jobs, living in a labor camp and facing
threats of deportation if they complained.
Now, those works went all the way against all odds. They joined the
national guest worker alliance and they went on strike. They brought their
complaints and over 100,000 signatures to the doorstep of CEO Donald
Thompson`s house. And now, like you said, they are planning a global day
of action on June 6th to hold McDonald`s responsible.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Jacob, I want to pull in Ana here because this is part
of, you know, for me, this point that you are making, that it supposed
about guest workers having enough access, right, to fill certain kinds of
positions, but also how then how they are treated. And this feels like
maybe the place where labor and immigration which is always had fairly
tense relationship, right, may be able to come to some level of agreement.
AVENDANO: So I think that the situation that is the McDonald`s workers is
really, really interesting and important and instructive because it really
shows that we don`t have immigration policy in this country, as everybody
believes. We have a patchwork of policies that make no sense.
So Jacob just said is really important. These students came here on a
cultural exchange. This is a program that --
HARRIS-PERRY: Nothing more cultural than a McDonald`s job.
AVENDANO: Nothing more comfortable than working at a lousy job. I mean,
there`s some truth to that. But, this is a program that turn by the state
department. It has nothing to do with the department of labor. It doesn`t
have labor standards in it. It`s just a cold war relic. And it`s part of
the problem of this immigration program system we have.
We have a long history in this country that guest worker programs. And
those programs are defined by workers come into the country in temporary
status. Not to do temporary jobs, but in temporary status. When people
are not temporary, people have complete, full lives. And they also come in
and venture to one employers. So the worker complains, they have a choice
of either going back home or becoming undocumented. And then those two
conditions that render these guest worker programs terrible.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And this is the thing, right, that people in fact do
come and make lives. We were just looking at the number of people in the
country in a status we call illegal or undocumented. About 50 percent of
them are people who have overstayed their visas, right? So, they initially
cross the borders in a status, you know, of legal or undocumented. But
they overstay in part because they common make lives here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, will the new immigration reform, particularly the new W-
visas. Is that help to address that?
HORWITZ: Well, thanks, Melissa.
I think that, for us, the real bottom line on any guest worker program is
there being strong, strong labor protections. And those labor protections
really have to include protections from abusive employers who retaliate
against workers when they blow the whistle on abuse. It has to include
like on a set the freedom to change employers to not be bound to one
employer. And it has to include strong protections for the U.S. workers
that are going to work alongside these temporary workers of these foreign
workers who maybe brought in.
Now, the W-visa has some of those protections but it would do nothing to
protect the grandest protections to the other guest workers who are in our
country. There is over a million guest workers who come to the U.S. every
year and all guest workers need to be given this protection. Now, that
includes J1, if there is such W-visa in the future. It includes h2b ad we
saw last year. There were a group of workers who were brought in in
condition to force labor on the Walmart supply chain here in Louisiana.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you know, Jacob. As you are -- even as you`re
describing them and giving us kind the alphabet soup, it`s certainly
underling on a point that, in fact, we have a patchwork system here.
So, I want to come back. We got to take a break. We want to come back and
talk a little bit more about how this patchwork impacts families and the
other issues of how -- what difference it makes when we start breaking up
which kinds of workers we see like we want here in this country, when we
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Jonathan, I want to ask you about something that
Florida governor Jeb Bush wrote on his new book on immigration reform where
he writes, unlike every other country in America, family members of
existing immigrants account for a large majority of new lawful entries into
our country, crowding out most others including immigrants who would
contribute greatly to economic growth.
And it feels like there`s a distinction between low skilled immigrants
versus high skills ones, family members versus the economy. And there`s a
way in which we are pinning all these different interests against each
ROSA: Yes, completely. It`s a hierarchy of desirability which falls in
line with a long standing approach to immigration in the United States,
right? So, we see it in any instance of immigration reform. Remember,
after post civil war after the Chinese how contributing to the construction
of the transcontinental railroad. We get the first comprehensive
immigration restricted law, right, the Chinese exclusion act of 1882.
So, you know, we see a long history of ranking people, whether families
were they should be ranked alongside certain kinds of labors, defining
certain forms of labor as skilled or unskilled. But ultimately, this is
about immigration classes and citizenship classes. And this is why
citizenship and it is really kind of deceiving concept, right, because even
if you have citizenship, you can`t leave it there. So it`s not just a
pathway to citizenship because we know that so many people are full
citizens legally in some sense, right, but are not included in the society.
And that is why we need a broader conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Ana, this is the politics of it, right? This exactly
this hierarchy of desirability, yes, right? This is what you are battling
out in the political realm.
AVENDANO: Absolutely. And there has been a portion of past to try to make
the entire immigration system points based. So, we would be rating human
being on what we value at what some contributions they make to the economy.
So, someone with more education will receive more points. Someone with
more family members would receive less points. I mean, that is what
immigration systems around the world have actually become way to rate human
REID: I mean, it is ironic because we, in this country, we want to go
around the world rating them for their highest invest in brighter students,
bring them to our universities and keep the really smart ones.
At the same time, look, capitol always seeks low price labor. We have a
history in this country of an accelerated growth of the United States
economy based on, hello, slavery followed by an accelerated growth of our
economy based on endangered servitude. I mean, there is a time when the
white alternative to slavery was endangered servitude where you came to the
country tied to one employer, and that employer essentially owned you.
This can be sound like a more moderate sort of fancy version of endangered
servitude where we want the labor. We just don`t want to be responsible
for your kid`s education.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And that is, Jacob, right? So, what we are trying
to do is to separate people from their labor, right? We are trying to just
extract their labor value without, in fact, having to deal with the full
HORWITZ: That`s right. And that`s exactly what our members say when we
ask them, you know, what is this condition that they are in? And people
will say again and again, this feels like endangered servitude. We`re
bound to one employer. We can`t change jobs. And if we do we face all the
harsh realities of enforcement that undocumented workers are facing in this
country. So, you are really forced to choose between having no job or
being in a situation of force labor where you are working without being
paid overtime, without being paid minimum wage or becoming undocumented
than facing arrest, deportation and even jail.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And this fear, right Raul, is part of what then
shapes the way that whole communities, right, respond to things like work
issues and to criminal justice systems that even to domestic violence,
right? All of this is embedded in the human experience.
REYES: Right. It gets embedded in the culture.
And I want to add as something as we are talking about the family visa
system. Too many people following immigration reform, you know, maybe
casually. The idea of allowing in more people who are highly skilled or
say have Ph.D.s, that sounds like OK, that sounds like a good idea.
HARRIS-PERRY: Model minority.
REYES: Right. But the number one problem with that is if we switch to
that type of system, just think about it. All around the world in Asia, in
Africa, certainly the Middle East, huge parts of the Caribbean, women do
not have the same economic opportunities as men.
So, first of all, a tremendously discriminates against women. We would
really be having a much more male based system if we switch over to
emphasizing skills. And secondly, that has never been what we`re about.
You know, immigrants in this country thrive on the network of cousins and
extended family and grandparents.
And Marco Rubio is the perfect example of that. If we want a skill-based
system, he would not be here. His father was a bartender. His mother
worked as a hotel maid. And they brought over his grandparents and uncles
and the whole family came up. And that`s why he may be a presidential
contender. But, that proves the family system sets us apart, but also it
works. That`s what this country is about.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s - right, that`s the immigrant dream, right?
Then, you can come with nothing and provide something more for your
children, not the other way around.
Thank you to Jacob Horwitz in New Orleans. And also, thank you to
everybody here like Raul, Jonathan and Ana. Joy is staying with us for
Coming up later in the show, we are doing the scandal watch party. But we
are also before we get to the red wine and popcorn, we are doing this week
in voter suppression, the Tar Heel edition.
But before all that my letter is next. And it`s going to Tennessee.
HARRIS-PERRY: Lawmakers in Tennessee are pushing a bill that would take
money away from the state`s poorest families if their children fail to make
the grade in school. The bill target recipients of temporary assistance
for needy families or tenants. If student perform poorly and if their
parents or caretakers failed meet one of several requirements, the tenants`
payments for that family would be reduced up to 30 percent.
One of the lawmakers behind the bill told us his aim is to help children
use education to break the cycle of poverty. Sounds nice in theory, but
that`s not what the law does in practice. And in my letter this week I
would like to let the sponsors of this bill know what it is really about.
So, dear Tennessee state senator, Stacey Campfield and state representative
Vance Dennis. It`s me, Melissa.
Now, you said that your bill is really not about placing the family burden
on the shoulders of children, but instead it is an incentive to hold
parents accountable. You added amendments to the bill that would exempt
parents to either attend the parent teacher conferences or add an eight-
hour parenting class or arrange tutoring or enroll their child in summer
Now, certainly no one disagrees that every child deserves to have a parent
who is an involved participant in his or her education. But your bill is
only concerned with struggling kids whose parents are poor. In fact,
Senator Campfield, you went so far to tell us that parents who allow their
kids to fail in school are guilty of child abuse. So, those are strong
But I have to wonder if your passion for parental involvement is as
profound as your choice of words, then, why wouldn`t you pursue legislation
that would penalize all parents of children with a poor academic record?
Here, I will help. How about $1500 tax penalty who middle and upper income
people who short their parental responsibilities. Little Billy brings home
a C and daddy, the doctor, has to pay more on his tax bill.
But see, no. Because the fact is that your bill is just about the latest
in a well worn policy practice of subjecting the choices of poor parents
and in particular poor single mothers, to scrutiny and shame. As you well
know, TANF eligibility already children to attend school and parental
participation school conferences, and at the same time, those parents
receiving cash assistance also must work or participate in work-related
activities, and all of this while stretching the $2,000 in maximum assets
required to qualify for TANF.
So, prodding poor parents to get even more involved is really just a
callous disregard for the fact that parental involvement while ideal is
simply a luxury that not all families can afford. Poor parents are more
likely than their wealthier counterparts to work multiple jobs, to lack
paid leave, to be unable to afford child care and transportation. And far
from breaking the cycle of poverty, your legislation would only sink
families further below the line.
A single mother with two children receives $185 a month in TANF cash
payments. That is roughly $46 a week, less than $7 a day. And your 30
percent reduction would cut that payment to just under $130 a month.
So, your legislation also ignores the very real educational impediment
presumes coming from these improvers household like food and housing and
security or financial and healthcare instability.
The truth is that poor people don`t hold a monopoly on bad parenting. Nor
is a poor child who struggles in school, an indicator that he or she has
parent who simply doesn`t care. Poor improvers children, even the most
exceptional parents may not be enough to push them through the significant
structural barriers imposed by a life in poverty.
Bad parenting is not a barrier to success for rich people and neither
should be an impediment for the children of the poor.
Gentlemen, it`s your job as elected officials to encourage achievement with
policy that supports, not policy that shames.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here we go again. I keep hoping we can retire this brand.
But once again, this weekend has warranted this weekend`s voter
This week in voter suppression, the Tar Heel edition, because Republican
lawmakers in North Carolina in the house and Senate are pushing several
bills to radically change the way people vote in the state.
In North Carolina this past week, lawmakers are proposing at least seven
different ways to restrict the right to vote. Surprise, surprise, these
changes would disenfranchise residents by slashing early voting days,
getting rid of same day registration, creating new restrictions on student
voting, and of course, the trusty standby of voter ID bill is moving
quickly from the state House of Representatives.
Perhaps, these measures have something to do with the state`s evolving
strategic importance on the electoral map.
Joining me is contributing writer, Ari Berman and Heather McGhee, vice
president of Policy and outreach for DEMOS.
So, Ari, OK, North Carolina, yes. So, just walk me through a couple of
them, yesterday, the voter ID. Talk to me about the felony piece.
ARI BERMAN, CONTRIBUTING WRITER: Sure. Well, they did seven different
voting restrictions, as you mentioned. That`s the most, I have seen,
introduced by any state in one point in times. So, it is really takes the
cake for voter suppression.
In North Carolina, felons when they get out of jail get their voting rights
back. Now, what they are saying is they have to wait five years, they have
to apply to the board of election receiving unanimous approval and they
have two people who can vouch for their good character. Well, it was
saving that was required of people back in the Jim Crowe area. So, we are
going to back to character tests, poll taxes, grandfather clauses, all the
things that we thought we moved beyond are coming back to North Carolina
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And speaking of Jim Crow, the other one, that mental
incompetence one that they introduced?
BERMAN: They are saying that anyone who has judged to be mentally
incompetent cannot cast a ballot even if it has nothing to do with voting.
So it`s a very slippery slope. I mean, who is judged to be incompetent?
Why? And we know that mentally ill people have a constitutional right to
vote. So, what they are saying to people is even if they have
constitutional rights, mentally ill people are college students, for
example, that they have a constitutional rights to vote, what North
Carolina is saying is they are going to add new penalties in violation
potentially of the constitution to prevent them from casting a ballot.
HARRIS-PERRY: And one more and then we come to Heather. One more, talk to
me about the one with the students, basically your parents will lose a tax
break if you vote.
BERMAN: This is amazing. So, parents who have a $2,500 tax credit for
child dependency will lose the tax credit if their kids register to vote
where they go to school. So, it makes sense, right? If you go to school
and you are in Chapel Hill, you are going to be registered to vote and
voted Chap Hill. And they are saying, no. You are going to penalized
financially for doing that. And what we are saying to students is
basically, we don`t want you to participate in the political process.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because new students tend to vote blue, right?
I mean, it feels to me, Heather, like this I mean, seven in one week. It
is just -- not only do they win, right. They didn`t -- no chapel hill in
the NCAA brackets. But they win the voter suppression championship. But
this in advance of the so-called decision around section five feels like
they are trying to shuffle in as quickly as they can.
HEATHER MCGHEE, VICE PRESIDENT OF POLICY AND OUTREACH, DEMOS: Well,
there`s a larger context on what`s going on in North Carolina that I think
we need to be aware of which is that this is basically a state where one
billionaire has essentially fought the state. There is actually a New
Yorker article a couple of years ago called states for sale. And Art Pope,
there are a lot of Web sites about this are exposed.
Art Pope is basically someone who inherited his daddy`s dollar stores,
spent strategically what for him was not a lot of money buying the state`s
elections, and this is the first election cycle where we have had an Art
Pope party. And they have been - you know, there is the tea party
billionaire. Someone who has attacked sort of every part of the state`s
sort of social fiber, from the integrated schools in Lake County which
were, you know, a sort of model for the nation in create creating middle
class, integrated mix and income schools in Wayne (ph) county.
He was part of stacking the school district to get that recalled. He is
trying to push the idea that there should be a quadrupling of the state tax
on groceries so they can afford to lower corporate and income tax on the
wealthy. I mean, it`s just, this incredible redistribution, an incredible
sort of attack on what makes a state great in North Carolina, which for,
you know, southern state had been really pretty progressive in investing in
its people and education and having good democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Ari, I think that`s part of what distresses me. I mean,
part of it is I went to college grad school in North Carolina, so I just
kind of l love it, right. I want to keep my eyes on it. But, with Beth
Produne (ph) gone, right? She was a governor who, as a democratic
governor, who despite the takeover of Art Pope back folk, in to say, let`s
say had been (INAUDIBLE). She was vetoing and vetoing and vetoing. And
now that she is gone, it looks Pope n the others can just run rough shot
over this electorate.
BERMAN: Well, and the Republicans haven`t had this much control for 100
years. So, they really, are trying to make up for lost time. Art Pope is
now deputy budget director for the new governor. That`s like if Mitt
Romney appointed Charles or David Koch to run the office of (INAUDIBLE) and
budget. I mean it is really insane mentioning this gut inside the
government now is has funded all these campaigns.
And what is happening is, you are seeing that so much unpopular stuff this
thing passed, the legislators themselves are uncomfortable. I think with
what they are passing which is why they are putting forward all these new
voting restriction. Because they don`t believe they can win in 2014 or
2016 doing all these things so let`s prevent the constituencies that will
be hurt by the laws, minorities, young people, the elderly, from being able
to cast a ballot and then we can protect our values.
We have already gerrymandering them out, that`s what they points out. But,
I was the first thing. Let`s gerrymander the maps. The second thing is
let`s pass all these new voting restrictions, prevent the people that are
affected by all these bad policies from being able to cast the ballots.
HARRIS-PERRY: So given that North Carolina is at least, for the moment,
still covered under section five, what kinds of protections are available?
MCGHEE: Well, there are a lot of protections. There are protections that
are on section five. There are also protections under that state owned
constitution is a really quite robust. I mean, there is a clause that says
all elections shall be free. And the requirement that people have to pay
for an I.D. --
HARRIS-PERRY: Poll tax.
MCGHEE: Exactly. It`s a poll tax, right. And so, the fact that they have
to pay for an I.D. the Republicans are saying, well, they have to swear
under penalty of perjury that they have financial hardship. But, it`s
vague. It doesn`t say what financial hardship is. And so, if is vague and
I say, you know, I`m broke. I was paycheck to paycheck.
And so, it is vague, and I say, you know, And I`m broke. I live paycheck
to paycheck. I make a minimum wage. And so you know, it is basically a
day`s wages for me to spend the money to get a new I.D., there`s no
standard for that. And so, it is really really probab It`s really probably
not going to be constitutional, we hope, under the state`s own laws.
HARRIS-PERRY: But don`t folk who is have signed this open themselves up to
the potential of perjury, right. They think that pertaining feeling again
like, at this point, you are seeing again like the times you saw in Ohio in
year 2012, like basically voting may get you locked up, right.
MCGHEE: The central contention has been that the south has changed. I
mean, were these sort of special constitutional protection are no longer
needed. You look at North Carolina. You look at Virginia, that just
passed a strict voter I.D. law. Look at Arkansas, it just passed the
strict voter law. How can you conclude that the south is changing so
rapidly that sometimes know underneath it, when the very tight of voting
restriction that flourish during the Jim Crow era are being resurrected in
HARRIS-PERRY: I think it is not so much the south has changed but the
north and Midwest and West of all has caught on. And they have now,
everybody is going to do all south now.
Thank you to Ari Berman and to Heather who is going to come back next.
And of course you know, we will keep our eyes on this week in voter
But, coming up next, the final four frenzy and why this time around she`s
Plus, one sports legend on the legacy of another. Bill Russell is going to
talk with me live about Jackie Robinson.
And the show that has America`s scandalized, more Nerd Land at the top of
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Six years ago almost to the date, now former NBC host Don Imus referred to
mostly African-American Rutgers university basketball team as "nappy-headed
Now, the team`s long time coach, C. Vivian Stringer, had just led them to a
runner up finish in the NCAA tournament the day before and now this. So,
she let Imus have it, defending her girls in a 15-minute speech describing
her love for them.
Fast forward to this week and to this video, video of the Rutgers men coach
firing basketball at his players and cursing them with homophobic slurs.
This abuse which earned Rice a minor suspension and $50,000 fine last
December got him fired this Wednesday after the tape was made public. And
the school`s athletic director and assistant coach followed him out the
door. And some faculty want the university`s president gone, too.
All that came after the tragedy so many of us witnessed last Sunday in
men`s college basketball. It was the gut-wrenching injury, a leg break
suffered by Louisville guard Kevin Ware in their regional game against
Duke. The inspiring win that his saddened teammates got in his honor was
then sullied by corporate profiteering when reports emerged special edition
t-shirts reading, "Rise to the Occasion," which Adidas had made for the
team to honor Ware were going on sale to the public, profits going to
The shirts have since been discontinued due to a logo issue, according to
Louisville, which would have gotten a portion of the sales for scholarship.
Kevin Ware, meanwhile, would have received zero of the sales.
Meanwhile, the amazing athletes on Louisville`s women team also made a
Final Four with a tremendous, crazy, wild upset over the tournament
favorite Baylor. Their game happened on the same day. How many of y`all
The Louisville men`s game airing on CBS network racked up a 9.4 overnight
rating. The Louisville women`s game which ran on cable`s ESPN 2, that game
earned a 0.9 rating. But (INAUDIBLE) what scratching our head and trying
to figure out how to make the women`s game more like the men`s, let me
propose this instead: let`s take a closer look at women`s basketball as a
model for the NCAA.
Joining me here are: ESPN columnist Jemele Hill; former University of South
Carolina women`s basketball coach, Susan Walvius; and Olympic gold medal
swimmer Donna de Varona. Also live from my hometown in New Orleans, home
of the women`s Final Four, we have University of Delaware star forward-
guard Elena Delle Donne, honored this week as one of the five players on
John Wooden`s All American Team.
Thanks so much for being here.
So, is there anything to this idea of let`s make the men`s game look like
the women`s game?
SUSAN WALVIUS, FORMER NCAA WOMEN`S BASKETBALL COACH: Absolutely. I think
the women`s game is a pure game, the ball movement -- it`s just an
absolutely fantastic game, great rebounding, physical play and it`s a team
game. And it`s one that`s very exciting and really more traditional in how
the game is played.
HARRIS-PERRY: And not only what`s happening on the court, right? Which is
one important part of it.
There`s also the piece of when we look at them as student athletes, women
in the NCAA, the tournament teams, are graduating a much higher percentage
of their students, right? They`re actually finishing. And the women
athletes also have less of a racial gap between black and white women who
are finishing and other students of color.
Is there also something about how the game is framed that makes it a model?
JEMELE HILL, ESPN.COM COLUMNIST: Well, they`re not there in college with
the entire mindset on becoming a professional, because, obviously, they
have the WNBA, you can play overseas. But, clearly, the monetary gain is
not the same as it would be for men. When you look at young boys that play
sports, the number one goal they have is I want to be a NFL player. I want
to be an NBA player.
And I think women understand that my professional time, my time as an
athlete, period, is very limited. So, I need to make the most of this
And getting back to what you said about the game itself and how the women
are great model, I`ve said this before, it`s harder to even start it --
men`s college basketball at this point stinks. OK? It really does. It
And you look at the women`s game, I knew, I felt like the women`s
tournament would be better. And I get the upsets are a big part of the
game and I understand that. But when you look at the just the quality of
play, the fact that you have much bigger stars right now in the women`s
game, with Elena Delle Donne, with Brittney Griner, with Skylar Diggins.
Skylar Diggins has 300,000 Twitter followers, OK?
HILL: She has Lil Wayne wearing her jersey.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right, right.
HILL: I`m just saying this is where the star power is right now. And I
think people need to recognize just the growth of the game overall and what
these young women have to offer.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Elena, now you are part of that star power in the
women`s game right now. You also have a personal story where you made a
lot of unconventional choices as a star athlete.
ELENA DELLE DONNE, UNIV. OF DELAWARE BASKETBALL PLAYER: Yes. I started
off going to Connecticut and chose to stay home with my family and move
back home to Delaware. And then I played volleyball for a year, just kind
of took a break from basketball. And then, ended up coming back to the
sport, falling in love with it, and, you know, we were able to get Delaware
on the national ranking.
I just think women`s basketball needs a lot more attention, hopefully, you
know, with some different stories, we`re able to get that attention now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Elena, I want to talk to you about the language you
just use, which is about the love for the game, because for me that`s
always been what I`ve loved about college basketball, both the men and
women`s games is the sense that young people are playing a way that is
different than professionals. That it is motivated by the love for the
But as Jemele has pointed out, it feels, it`s starting to feel a little
different for the men`s game. Is the women`s game where the real love for
the game now exists?
DELLE DONNE: The women`s game definitely has the passion behind it and the
players just absolutely love the game. We love our teammates. And the
difference with college basketball for women is that we do stay around our
entire collegiate career. The men generally, they stay for a year and then
they head to the pros because they have the incentive of leaving for the
So I do think you see a bit more passionate play behind it. And then more
than anything., you see team camaraderie because we have been together for
so long. We`ve been playing for four years. So, it is a different feel
when you watch the women versus the men.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is the tough part, right? One the one hand, I want
to be able to say, more of us need to be watching it. They ought to have
more professional opportunities on the back end.
On the other hand, the very fact that schools are not profiting as much
from the games and given that they don`t have as much professional
opportunities on the back end is part of leaves us with the purity of the
DONNA DE VARONA, FORMER OLYMPIC SWIMMER: I think actually the American
public loves pure sport. It`s a question of marketing and being center
ESPN is doing a job in promoting the sport on all its platforms and they`re
promoting more games. But if you look at outside the game, you look at
"Sports Illustrated," there is a Final Four for women. You don`t read
about it. You do read about the best player in the game. They say
Brittney Griner, and there is a rumor, this is a press about her maybe
being drafted by the NBA, which is great publicity but not necessarily
great for the game.
What we have to get back to is what is the role of the university for the
student athlete? And we have seen the abuses go on and on when coaches are
protected because of the money on the other end, and the schools need the
money. And, again, it never goes back to the athlete.
But it is also true that these women that are athletes do better outside
the game, because they`ve learned those great skills in sport. They don`t
see it as an end in itself. They see it as a steppingstone into business,
into all kinds of professions. We`re finding that they`re great leaders.
It`s 40 years since Title IX was passed and it`s working because the values
for student athletes, at least women, still hold true more for women in our
universities than our men, because they are there to get into the pros.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I`m thinking coach, part of it is when you look at
men`s coaches, often they are the highest paid person. Sometimes on the
state budgets, right? So, you know, if it`s a state university, with a
really great men`s program.
And, you know, part of the reason we took the two Rutgers examples next to
each other, it`s a little bit unfair. I`m sure there are mean abusive
women coaches as well, and really, lovely, friendly, happy men ones.
Yes, but the fact that you can see the difference between that kind of
standing up for your players and that sense of camaraderie, it feels to me
like part of that is because there`s less profit.
WALVIUS: Well, I think, at the university level, that should not be the
focus. Education is the focus. And, I think, you know, college sports
have been extremely beneficial. If you look at four of five women that are
in Fortune 500 companies and senior executive positions competed in college
athletics. That`s amazing.
And so, to your point, you know, they transfer skills extremely well, but
the responsibility of the university is to provide equal opportunity in
education. So, that`s not happening necessarily.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, when we come back we`re going to see more on this. I
want to talk to you more about Elena`s story. My niece who herself went
onto play college basketball for a time. I will never forget the first
time she saw a men`s game and she said to us was -- boys play basketball,
too? And I thought, yes, this is exactly what I want.
More when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: As we mentioned earlier, my guest, Delaware native Elena
Delle Donne was a star of a recruiting class coming out of high school in
`08 and was offered a scholarship at the University of Connecticut, a
perennial basketball powerhouse for women. But she couldn`t stay away from
home and returned after two days on campus.
A big reason why is her closeness with her sister Lizzie who as autism and
cerebral palsy and has been blind and deaf since birth. A year after Elena
left UConn, she began her collegiate career nearby to the University of
Delaware, where she embarked upon a historic four seasons, becoming the
fifth leading scorer in NCAA history with 3,039 points. She averaged 26
points and 8 1/2 rebounds per game in her senior year.
And Elena is joining us from New Orleans, home of this year`s women Final
So, Elena, talk to me about that decision because it does feel to me like
it was your choice of saying I am a student. I am an athlete. But I`m
also a person.
DELLE DONNE: Exactly. I think I chose to go to Connecticut because it`s
basically a path that a lot of players have taken before me. And, you
know, your top recruit, you`re supposed to get to top schools and I realize
that there`s more to me than just Elena the basketball player and there`s
Elena the person. And my family means so much to me.
At that point in my life I wanted to be near my family while also exploring
going to college, working on my academics and also playing basketball. But
I really just wanted to be around my family and do it my own way. That was
really important to me.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me, Coach, like that`s part of the story of
student athletes that we missed. They`re kids. They`re 18, 19, 20 years
WALVIUS: They are. They are. And it`s a great job because of that,
because you have such an opportunity to make a difference in their lives
and the future, in their future and a great profession for that and really
terrific young people. And it`s just a beautiful game to watch because of
HARRIS-PERRY: But then it does go to the position you`ve been asking us to
think about, which is the responsibility of universities, right? So, on
the one hand, you have Elena who has the substance of character and
presence of mind to make a decision that is good for her. But isn`t that
part of what universities ought to be doing for all of our students,
particularly our student athletes, is helping them to make those kind of
DE VARONA: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I know when you talk about Elena
making the decision, you can talk about Missy Franklin after the Olympics.
She could have made a fortune. But she was recruited at Cal and they give
her options. She can`t take the money, but she wanted to be part of the
experience because you can`t -- there`s no value to put on education, and
the networking around you with teammates that are going to support you.
Now, you look back -- you know, I`m in the old pioneer here. But I
remember the time in 1976 when basketball was first put in the Olympics.
And ABC was covering it. You know, ABC led the way. They thought this is
really nice to cover the game against the Soviet Union, U.S. (INAUDIBLE)
was on that team.
So they would cut away to the game and then they cut away to another event
and then they go back.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s basketball. You can`t cut away.
DE VARONA: This is Olympic medal.
DE VARONA: They just didn`t take anybody seriously. But the good thing is
the American public said, they called. The phones are ringing, but it
still took a long time until 1996 when NBC decided, hey, we want to put the
full tournament. And that helped fueled or jump started the WNBA.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me, though, like -- as we think about, right?
We think, OK, the thing that constitutes the success for the women`s game
is the more it comes up with the game. The more that we end with
television audiences, the more that we end up with the WNBA, that pays
But you wrote this week saying, you know what, the whole idea of the NBA or
men`s sports as the standard is itself problematic.
HILL: No, I don`t like it because it turns into a conversation about what
women don`t have, what women aren`t doing. And even if we talk about the
growth of women sports and the growth of, let`s just say women`s
basketball. It has experienced a tremendous amount of growth, when I first
became a professional reporter in the late `90s, I couldn`t even imagine
all the games being on television and ESPN has made a complete and serious
investment in the tournament, broadcasting all the games and what they have
And we wind up comparing men`s sports in their full maturity, to women`s
sports, that are just still kind of a little bit past infancy, if you will.
Women`s sports in a lot ways are in the toddler phase, OK? When I look at
a winning mode -- look at what are our women soccer players have done with
the game here. And the men are jealous.
They really swept this country in 1999. I remember I was chairman with the
great team and the press said, oh, you`re going to go to the big stadiums.
Nobody is going to be there. But we filled stadium in the Rose Bowl and we
swept the country. And they`ve been the model sport for women.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is an interesting point because Elena, I want to ask
you, what women do have as an opportunity in basketball on the back end of
NCAA is typically European play or overseas play. And I`m thinking about
the decision you made not -- to not just go to Connecticut, right? To stay
And I`m thinking, on the one hand, it`s great to have the opportunity for
overseas play. But what about wanting to stay in the country and near your
family and near your support networks?
DELLE DONNE: We do still have the WNBA. So obviously, we can still play
here and play in that season over the summer. But basically you do go
overseas to play the rest of the season.
So I`m not sure yet what I`m going to do. I`m going to play my WNBA season
and go from there and you see, you know, what`s out there and what offers I
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you hear other young women with whom you play agonizing
about that choice in terms of going overseas?
DELLE DONNE: Most people just accept it and do it, you know? But I don`t
know if I`m going to just accept that, and I haven`t decided yet what I`m
going to do. But I`m definitely going to play here for the WNBA, and then
from there, I`m going to see.
HARRIS-PERRY; What will happen if the president filled out a women`s Final
Four bracket and not just the men`s game NCAA March Madness bracket?
DELLE DONNE: He does.
HILL: He did. He did. He did. He did.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, good.
HILL: He picked Baylor, though.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good, good. We are getting there.
And let me just say thank you to Elena in New Orleans. I`m trying to get
down there Sunday right after the show, as quickly as possible. I`m so
excited that we are hosting the women`s Final Four this year.
Also to Susan and Donna here at the table.
Jemele is going to stick around.
We have got a "Scandal" watch party coming up.
But first, when we come back, basketball legend Bill Russell is going to
talk about baseball legend Jackie Robinson. Nerdland does sports.
HARRIS-PERRY: "42", the story of an American legend opens on April 12th.
It`s a new film telling to story of how Jackie Robinson not only broke
major league baseball`s color barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947,
but went onto Hall of Fame career once he got there.
Breaking the color barrier meant he was subjected to death threats, taunts
and jeers, even while playing.
Here`s a scene from "42" depicting a moment during his first season, when
the Dodgers captain Harold Pee Wee Reese demonstrated to those hecklers and
to his family that Jackie was indeed part of the team, whether they like it
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Jackie.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are you thanking me for?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`ve got family up there from Louisville. I need them
to know -- I need them to know who I am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, number one, you playing ball or socializing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Playing ball.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Playing ball. Maybe tomorrow we`ll all wear 42. That
way they won`t tell us apart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And that tomorrow is in fact today in Major League Baseball
because they will all wear 42 Jackie`s honor again on April 15th, the
anniversary of his debut.
ESPN columnist Jemele Hill is still with me at the table and live with us
from Atlanta is a legend in his own right, the legendary Bill Russell,
winner of five MVP trophies and 11 championship rings with the Boston
Celtics, and the first African-American head coach in the NBA.
It`s lovely to have you with us, Mr. Russell.
BILL RUSSELL, NBA LEGEND: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now sometimes all we know about Mr. Robinson is that he was
the first. What else do we need to know about him?
RUSSELL: I`m sorry. I couldn`t hear you.
HARRIS-PERRY: What else do we need to know about Jackie Robinson?
RUSSELL: Well, first of all, he`s highly intelligent. And he was one of
the few guys in the Major Leagues, there was a college man. And in the
armed services, he was a captain in the U.S. Army.
I was about 13, I think, when he broke into the Major Leagues, and he was a
real hero to all of us because we recognized that he a man that played
baseball. I had a good fortune of meeting him early in my professional
careers. That was one of the few times I could hardly speak. I was so
overcome with the honor of spending half a day with him, because when I was
a kid, he was the hero, because he conducts himself as a man and as a
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Russell --
HARRIS-PERRY: So you just said that he was a hero to you. But I
understand that Mrs. Robinson said that you were actually Jackie`s
RUSSELL: Well, after Jackie died Rachel and called and said I would like
for you to be a pallbearer. I was really surprised and said, of course.
I`d be honored to do that.
I asked her why. She said, you were his favorite athlete. And I was
overwhelmed like that.
But Jackie was the first. And when I started my professional career, I was
not going to revisit from "A" to "B" what he took us. I was going to go
from "B" to "C." That`s why I was determined to conduct myself as a man
and to go further in basketball than he did in baseball.
One of my high school teammates was the first black manager in baseball,
Frankie Robinson. And we were both determined to take what Jackie laid out
for us, to proceed with it. One of the greatest honors I ever had, was to
be at his funeral, because I had so much respect and regard for him.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, in fact, I want to bring in my other guest here, Mr.
Jemele, it feels to me like the language that Mr. Russell is using about
Jackie Robinson. That he was a gentleman. That he was stoic. That he was
That was critically important to him being the first. It`s part of why he
was the first.
HILL: Yes, because people -- any historian or baseball people around the
time, they will tell you that by no means was he the best player that they
could find, or the best baseball player, however you want to measure that.
But he did have the qualities that allowed him the resiliency to withstand
what I think they knew what happened as a result of him, that this is going
to be a lot of pressure, a lot of criticism, a lot of scrutiny. So you
have to have somebody with a mental resolve day in and day out, much like
Mr. Russell had playing with the Celtics to understand the pressure of
integration and the pressure of racism. And Jackie Robinson clearly
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s also interesting, Jemele, Mrs. Obama, first
lady Obama, recently screened "42" at the White House and came away quite
moved and feeling like Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson`s widow, was a
model even for her.
Does that tell us something about what the president may be encountering as
HILL: Yes, I think so. It`s just go through a great tradition. I mean,
of course, we`ve hard the cliche many times. Behind every great man is a
great woman. I`ve had the pleasure to interview Rachel Robinson as well.
And as a reporter in the business, you`re usually not star struck by
athletes. That was one, as well when I met the only (INAUDIBLE). And that
was the moment where you felt like you`re really in the room with history.
But to see a torch pass I guess from her and maybe Coretta Scott King. And
then if you want to go to bed, you should pass (ph). And now we have the
first lady of the United States? So, it`s just incredible thread right
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Russell, let me ask you this. What should young people
take away from Jackie Robinson`s story today about this struggle?
RUSSELL: Well, I think what a lot of people take away from the struggle is
not so much the struggle as ambition, ambition to change the status quo,
and Jackie was very much into that. I know one of the things that Rachel
did was she established the Jackie Robinson Foundation, and they have
provided thousands, at this point, of scholarships for kids to get into
college because it`s very important.
One of the phrases I like to use is that it is far more important to
understand than to be understood. And so with an education, you take up
and understand what the situation is. So you don`t have to combat it.
Jackie was -- like I said the role model for kids of my age, that was 100
years ago, to know that the door is open, how to walk through it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Russell --
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to tell you how over the moon I have been since you
agreed to join us and talk about Jackie -- as Rachel calls him Jack
Robinson here. Thank you so much for joining us from Atlanta.
RUSSELL: My pleasure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
And also thank you to Jemele Hill here with me.
And stay with us, because the "Scandal" watch party is coming. Kerry
Washington if you`re out there, get on your Twitter. We`re going to talk
about you (INAUDIBLE).
HARRIS-PERRY: Picture the scene. A governor telling his staff he`s going
on an Appalachian hiking trip. Cut to the airplane. We see the governor
getting out of his car.
But in the backseat, we see all of his hiking gear conspicuously left
behind. Flash to the governor giving the ticket agent his destination.
Surprise, it`s not the Appalachian Trail. It`s Argentina.
Now, the scene speeds up. Flash to the governor in a romantic rendezvous
with a mysterious woman. Flash, the governor getting busted by a reporter.
Flash, the governor at a press conference admitting to lying about his
whereabouts and to being unfaithful to his wife.
Whoa! Sounds like a setup right out of the ABC hit show ""Scandal"", that
is if it weren`t the real life beginning to a story that is still
unfolding. There was disgraced former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford
on Tuesday. His mistress turned fiance by his side accepting the
nomination for a seat in Congress.
Next month, he will vie for the South Carolina House seat that he used to
hold in the general election against Democrat Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. But
the primary victory that set him up for a comeback was made possible by the
"Scandal" that nearly tainted his political career. During the primaries
he cast himself as a central character of a morality play, whose story of
redemption is easily digested by South Carolina`s evangelical Christian GOP
But voters should not be focused on Mark Sanford`s betrayal of his marriage
vows. Rather they should focus on his betrayal of the public trust. While
Sanford was off chasing love in Argentina, he abandoned his post as South
Carolina`s chief executive for four days. He was slapped of the largest
ethics fine in South Carolina history for letting taxpayers foot the bill
for his tryst.
Given all of that, a victory for Sanford in next month`s election would
make the truth almost as strange as "Scandal" fiction.
Up next, why there`s nothing is strange about "Scandal" success. We are
all about Olivia Pope. How would she fix it? When we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Everybody break out your red wine and white hats. It`s time
for the Nerdland "Scandal" watch party. For one hour on Thursday nights,
the world stops. For me and the legion of "Scandal" fans as we immerse
ourselves in the world of professional problem solver Olivia Pope.
She`s an imperfect woman with perfect style, and she also happens to be the
first African-American female lead character on a network drama to
captivate the American viewing audiences since Theresa Graves premiered in
"Get Christie Love" 1974.
With me at my watch party to talk all things Olivia Pope are a few of my
fellow fanatics, Joy Reid, Heather McGhee. And joining them is Andrea
Plaid, associate editor at racialicious.com, and Janet Mock, founder of
Girls Like Us, and former editor at People.com.
All right. I`m really, I`m just right on.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So listen. We had Kerry Washington on just moments
before "Scandal" launched in part because I suspected this was going to be
a big deal moment. So, why do you love it? What do you love about
ANDREA PLAID, RACIALICIOUS.COM: "Scandal" is a mess of a show, which is
why I love it. It`s Kerry Washington being an imperfect black woman and in
a culture where we are demanding to be perfect at all times.
Where we have to be on point, and even when we are on point, we`re
criticized for it. A good example would be the first lady. Whenever she`s
doing anything, she`s too this, she`s too that. She`s not enough of this.
Her politics are not right. They`re this.
And for one hour we`re allowed to walk into a world that is powerful and
wonderful and amazing and yet, has some very problematic things going on in
HARRIS-HERRY: She can clean up a crime scene in a white dress, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s completely bloody. She cleans the whole crime scene.
Not a drop of blood. But then she`s a complete mess in a lot of other
ways. She`s certainly not like the respectability model of black woman.
JANET MOCK, TRANS ACTIVIST & WRITER: Exactly, I think it`s called
"Scandal". Did we really expect a moral representation on television?
When I think of story telling, right, when we talked about telling stories,
we have to allow our characters to have their own dreams, desires and
flaws. And what I love about her is that she is a businessman who has a
great, great wardrobe, the bounty --
MOCK: She is fully in grasp of the lip quiver.
HARRIS-PERRY: What is that? How can she do that?
MOCK: Exactly. And she`s the center of every room that she`s in. And she
is -- she is not supposed to be perfection or like this heroine. She`s
supposed to be imperfect.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Joy, I want to play you just a couple of my favorite
"Scandal" moments and get you both to respond.
So, one is a moment that gosh, it just feels like it happened so often,
particularly to black women in power. They walk in to fix, she and her
associate who works for her, who is a young woman, and then this happens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Top of the hour.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi. You must be Olivia Pope.
KERRY WASHINGTON, AS OLIVIA POPE: I`m Olivia Pope.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Just that moment, right? You must be Olivia Pope. No, no,
no. Over here.
JOY REID, THE GRIO: I can totally relate to that, when I did my interview
with to get into college, the woman who came to interview me sat in a
restaurant next to me, literally next to me for almost 30 minutes. I said,
I`m just going to sit here until that lady figures out that I`m the person
she`s here to interview for this Ivy League college.
We all understand that, this idea that you condition be the person that
I`ve heard about. This legendary picture of this great businesswoman, it`s
got to be your white colleague. So, we`ve all experienced that. So, it`s
got the little moments. It`s a great part of reality TV. You have the
black women always throwing shoes at each other, always throwing at each
other, fighting -- cat fighting. The long suffering mom and wife and all
the burdens on her back and she`s super strong and she never breaks down.
She`s got all kinds of problems. The romantic problem is ridiculous. How
do you even like this man? The president of the United States is a fool.
HARRIS-PERRY: He is horrible!
REID: Right. You almost want to scream. It`s sort of what you do with
your girlfriends in a bad relationship. What is wrong with you? You got
everything going for you. Why do you like that guy?
It`s got all that kind of visceral girlfriend. But then you can also
relate to the things you deal with in real life.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is moment for me, of course, we`re talking about a
black woman. But race is sometimes incidental. But there is a great
moment she is, of course, having an affair with the president. That`s not
really a spoiler alert at this point. And they have a fight at one point
where she says this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WASHINGTON: Sometimes I feel (ph) this person -- I have no words.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are together. That`s all that matters.
WASHINGTON: Really? Because I`m feeling a little Sally Hemings Thomas
Jefferson about all of this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m feeling a little Sally Hemings Thomas Jefferson about
all of this, right? That was an exquisite moment in prime time television.
MCGHEE: It`s so fantastic. And, first, let me just say, Demos doesn`t
actually have a policy.
MGHEE: So, I`m going to take my think tank hat off.
MCGHEE: But it`s true. When we -- it was so great that Shonda Rhimes put
that moment in there "A", that we just said it. Well, of course that`s the
You have this white president who has all the power in the world. There
are always power dynamics going on in any relationship, specifically when
it`s this historical sort of valances.
And he`s married, right? So she`s a mistress. She`s the sort of Jezebel,
right? This is the stereotype that he is playing with. And then what
comes back in that same episode is this sort of the amazing scene in the
garden, where she says, I feel owned by you. I feel controlled by you,
right? So, you know, really going there.
And suddenly he said, you know, tears on his voice, you own me. You
control me. I`m basically a slave to you and our love.
And it was one of those moments where you`re like, it`s nice that there are
black women write in TV.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. There are moment it can only happen because it was
Shonda`s show, right? And it`s just a small moment. It`s not like some
big narrative about race.
This is another one of my favorite moments because it`s a hair moment. And
therefore one that only black women can write for each other. Yes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WASHINGTON: It`s our second date.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We live together. I`ve built you a bookcase. I`ve
watched you pressed your hair. This is not our second date. It`s our
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I have watched you press your hair. In that moment, it
conveys all the intimacy in the world. Oh, he watched her press her hair.
Oh, they`re tight.
PLAID: Or they should have been tight. And you`re talking someone who
shaves her hair.
But at the same time, that`s how I express intimacy with my partners. My
partners shaved my hair.
PLAID: So, they can say to me when I become an Olivia Pope, Andrea, I
shaved your hair at one point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right. We`re tight, girl.
PLAID: And it`s like, no, we`re not anymore. That`s what she was saying
in that scene. Yes, you have seen this but I`m still not in love with you.
Just because you`ve seen that intimate moment with me, and what we call
that, quote-unquote, black girl moment, that doesn`t therefore I`m still
beholden to you as your lover. I love you. Thank you so much for the good
times and great relationship, but I don`t want you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Speaking of intimacy, my favorite couple on the show is
Cyrus and James.
We talked about Cyrus and James. Cyrus is the gay Republican chief of
PLAID: The Dick Cheney.
HARRIS-PERRY: He is the Dick Cheney. And yet the fact that they are the
same-sex couple is not ever really the point, right? It`s the humanity of
MCGHEE: Well, we`re talking about a really bizarre world, right, where we
have two people who have done everything for the Republican president, is a
black woman and a gay man, right? That`s clearly only in Hollywood, right?
And we have a Republican who, I mean, I don`t know if you guys remember
this, but this is sort of like a pet issue for us. Demos is trying to get
into the conversation, something about a public jobs program for the like
millions of long term unemployed and youth, and this is where the worlds
collide for me. In his big State of the Union, this Republican president
put out a public jobs program for you. So, I was like, that is only in
REID: The choice of it, you know, that Shonda Rhimes made in this thing
are all kind of very interesting along the lines. It`s a Republican
president and I`m told that Kerry Washington and had some way and the idea
that it`s a white president, that it wouldn`t be analogous in any way to
Barack Obama, and these sort of choices they made to make it Republican has
sort of played the issues in a non-traditional way.
HARRIS-PERRY: She said it in "Ebony" magazine. She said she wouldn`t have
wanted to play the role had the president been black. Both because she
would not have wanted to have this idea that somehow she and President
Obama were in a scandalous relationship, right?
MOCK: Right. I feel the same thing. She wouldn`t have done the show if
it weren`t for Shonda Rhimes. And Shonda Rhimes is pretty much everything.
Like I watched her since "Princess Diaries 2" that she wrote and I have it
And the fact that she created two hit shows, right, "Private Practice" and
"Grey`s Anatomy" and she has used all the clout that she has had to have a
black woman at the center of her universe. In a sense, it`s not just
Olivia Pope. It`s also Shonda Rhimes writing by herself. It`s so powerful
HARRIS-PERRY: I am so appreciative I don`t know. I could lose my job
after this, because, you know, "Scandal" is not on an NBC network. But I
just needed a moment with some red wine and my girlfriends, because I just
So thanks to my lady panel, Joy, and Heather, and Andrea and Janet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, when we come back we`re talking about our foot
soldiers. Cheers, everybody.
HARRIS-PERRY: Our foot soldier this week, Dr. Malcolm Woodland, is a
clinical psychologist who hails from the Washington, D.C., area known as
Ward 8, a community plagued by health concerns and abysmally low school
graduation rates and one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
For the past 15 years, Dr. Malcolm has been researching ways to positively
impact his neighborhood, and he decided to empower young men through the
art of medicine. In part because he knows that these statistics are
horrifying. Less than 3 percent of practicing doctors in the United States
are black men. And less than half of a percent of students entering the
nation`s medical school in 2012 were black men.
And according to the Justice Department, for every black male physician,
there are about 50 African-American men incarcerated at the federal, state,
or local level. To change these trends and his community, Malcolm founded
Young Doctors D.C., assembling a team of doctors and teachers to work with
him for five months with these nine -- with five ninth grade students
chosen after a rigorous application process. Starting in early July, these
five young men will live on Howard University`s campus and take classes
taught by doctoral students in the Department of Psychology.
They`ll also get a chance to shadow university doctors as they make their
rounds. One the school year begins again, the young men will continue
their training on weekends. And this program lasts for all four years of
high school with the young men returning to Howard University each and
every summer. In addition, Young Doctors D.C. provides the participating
students with a stipend as many of them would otherwise be working to help
bring in income for their families.
Malcolm sees the participants of Young Doctors D.C. as ambassadors who will
continue to come back into the community and to hold health fairs and
provide medical possibilities for the people with whom they live. Under
the supervision of his team, the boys will provide free blood pressure
readings as well as information on avoiding diabetes and a host of
As a resident of Ward 8, Malcolm is familiar with concerns in the
neighborhood buts he`s also familiar with its strengths, particularly the
familial bonds established there. He sees each block as a makeshift
family, and he`s counting on the young men he teaches to come back home and
help care for those families.
For caring about a community`s health and by empowering its youth, Dr.
Malcolm Woodland is our foot soldier of the week. And to find out more
about him and about Young Doctors D.C., check out our page at MHPShow.com.
And that is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching.
I`m going to see you again tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We`re
going to be getting into the latest on the Atlanta cheating scandal and put
the very idea of testing to the test.
Right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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