July 21, 2013
Guests: Blair Kelley, Tim Wise, Chloe Angyal, David Webb, Willie Parker,
Amy Hagstrom Miller, Billy Porter, Zillah Einsenstein; C.J. Morrison;
George Nunez; Aja Holstein; Melanie Andrade
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, what can
Kate Middleton`s baby teach us about Texas governor, Rick Perry.
And what is it really like to grow up as Trayvon Martin.
Plus Billy Porter, the Tony Award winning star of the hit musical "Kinky
Boots" comes to Nerdland.
But first, 100 rallies nationwide has us talking about the very point of
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
In scores of cities across the country yesterday people frustrated by the
verdict in the George Zimmerman trial gathered outside federal court houses
for peaceful justice for Trayvon vigils organized by the Reverend Al
Sharpton`s National Action Network.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REVEREND AL SHARPTON, MSNBC ANCHOR, POLITICS NATION: We just watched from
Atlanta to Miami to Chicago, over 100 cities. We are standing up today for
justice for Trayvon Martin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Participants spoke out against the violence that claimed
Trayvon Martin`s Martin`s life and had claimed so many others. Trayvon`s
father was in Miami.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON`S MARTIN`S FATHER: This could be any o of our
children. Our mission now is to make sure that this doesn`t happen to your
child. We are going to continue to stand together, we are going to
continue to unite. We`re going to let them know that our lives matter just
as much as your lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The gathering of so many people with crowds numbering in the
hundreds and several cities seemed cathartic especially after all the
losses, the progressive movement has racked up lately.
Take for example, Texas, Wendy Davis delivered an 11-hour filibuster
speaking out against radical unconstitutional restrictions on reproductive
rights and bringing the story to national attention. But over the course
of the special session, protesters packed the Texas capital day after day
to tell their stories, to demand to be heard, to halt the terrifying
legislation, but lawmakers passed the bill anyway. Rick Perry signed into
law the many women`s health clinics that have survived in the last round of
attacks may now close their doors.
Since December the parents of murdered elementary school children in
Newtown, Connecticut, have demanded an d to gun violence pleading with
members o Congress to expand background checks, ban assault weapons,
restrict the size of magazines, I mean, really to do anything. But
Congress, hounded b the NRA, failed to pass even the weakest gun control
Every Monday for three months, protesters have stormed the North Carolina
assembly to protest radical right wing agenda of state lawmakers. They
march, they pray, they present their demands. An estimated 4,000 gathered
in the most recent moral Monday protest. And to date, more than 800
protests have been arrested.
But week after week, the state`s lawmakers vote to restrict voting rights
to punish the poor, to gut funding for public schools and to strip away
reproductive rights. We have had few concrete, tangible victories of late.
And then, we see the justice for Trayvon rallies, demanding the repeal of
Stand Your Ground laws. And in doing so, they are going up against the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN CRUMP, MARTIN FAMILY ATTORNEY: Now, are we going to let any
citizen with a nine millimeter gun profile our children?
CRUMP: Are we going to let my neighborhood watch with a 9 millimeter gun
follow our children?
CRUMP: Are we going to let any neighborhood watch for nine millimeter gun
profile and confront our children?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And of course, as we all know, so far no one has won against
So although, I feel inspired by the words of the president from Friday, and
Trayvon Martin`s parents and others at these rallies, I can`t help but feel
the progressive movement is experiencing a moment of failure.
Protests have failed so far to stop legislation in Texas and North
Carolina, to save the voting rights act, to institute gun control measures
90 percent of the country supports. So, in what feels like a moment of
failure, we have to take stock.
We must remember that failure does not make a cause less righteous. The
civil rights movement failed four decades before it won passage on the
civil rights act. And the movement began at the turn of the 20th century
after the Supreme Court enshrined the idea of separate but equal and states
passed Jim Crow laws in droves.
Women first came together to demand the vote and equal treatment under the
law at the 1848 convention in Seneca Falls. They didn`t win the right to
vote nationwide until 1920. In both cases, it was some 70 years of
struggle, of fits and starts and failures and modest wins and more failures
before any great victory. Every social movement that you think of as a
winning social movement failed for decades first.
So don`t give up, double down. Know that these failures are part of the
long arc of the moral universe. Look at the future, strain your eyes.
Remember, too, this is important, victory is not inevitable.
We get back on our feet every time. We dust the dirt off our clothes if we
wipe the blood from our mouths, if we fight and fight and fight. Then we
have a chance.
Joining me now, Zillah Einsenstein, distinguished scholar of anti-racist
feminist political theory at Ithaca College, Tim Wise, an educator and
author of "Dear White America," Blair Kelley, associate professor of
history at North Carolina State University and author of "right to ride,
streetcar boycotts and African-American citizenship in the era of Plessy v.
Ferguson," David Webb, conservative talk show host with Sirius XM radio on
the Patriot Network.
Thank you for being here.
So Blair, let me start with you. Because the only reason I even know
anything about this theory of failure and social movements and the idea it
takes longer to get there than we think is because of your work, because of
your research and scholarship. So, what can we learn about history from --
what can we learn from that history from this moment that feels like an
awful lot of failure?
BLAIR KELLEY, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, NORTH CAROLINA STATE
UNIVERSITY: So, what excite me about this moment, it is not the defeats
that we are facing. It`s not the loss around Trayvon Martin`s court case,
it`s not the erosion of women`s rights around the country, not the plethora
of stand your ground laws, but it`s because it mirrors an earlier struggle,
right? So, when segregation begins, it begins state by state, right? Each
state is creeping and testing and seeing what`s going to happen when they
do pass these new laws and other states model after those that are tested
in court and found to be successful. And so, the same kind of thing is
happening with ALEC now. Alec is old, right? So ALEC as an organization
is new but the idea of Alec is old.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, of going step by step. It wasn`t people, may or may
not know, that Jim Crow isn`t like a federal policy that comes down, right,
it`s state by state pushing.
KELLEY: Local government, state governments all slowly creeping in on
African-American lives and constricting it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So often what I hear, Tim, to the extent people are having
any kind of sense of optimism here is I keep hearing progressive languages.
Well, Democrats will ultimately just win because Republicans are going to
lose as a result of demographics. And so, we just need a demographics are
destiny, this is an old white male party, don`t worry, Republicans will
soon die. And I think actually, no, demographics are not destiny in that
way. How do we actually build a coalition that includes all of these
groups despite the failure?
TIM WISE, AUTHOR, DEAR WHITE AMERICA: Well, first of all, it is absolutely
true, demography is not destiny. In South African apartheid held on for a
long time and white folks were only six percent of the populations there.
So, even the folks who are on the way out the door, so to speak, they can
do a lot of damage on the way out. So, I think, the way that we build
coalition is what we`re seeing now. We have got people who are fighting in
Texas, and maybe losing to fetal police there. And We have got folks who
are fighting about the injustice in whether it stop and frisk here New York
or Stand Your Ground all around the country and maybe at this point losing.
But what they are doing, building community, making connections, reminding
each other they haven`t lost their mind. That they are not seeing things.
That there really is something happened. I think we can underestimate the
value of that across lines of race and gender and ethnicity, and even
ideology sometimes to come together around a common cause.
HARRIS-PERRY: David, one of the reasons I wanted you around the table is
lots of reasons, but one of them I because as much as I do not agree with
the tea party movement philosophically, ideologically and politically, what
I do like about the tea party movement was the sense that even if you lose
an election, it doesn`t mean you lose the right to speak out and to speak
your goal within the context of a democracy, right? So, whether or not I
agree with the goals of the movement, I thought there was something
important about the idea of not being discouraged even when you lose.
Is there something -- is the right better at kind of moving forward even
after what feels like big losses on the right to keep pushing forward. If
so, is there something to be learned about that?
DAVID WEBB, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOST: One -- and look, I`m a first
amendment guy. I believe everyone, if you do it peacefully win the bounds
of law should be able to protest, whatever your issues is in the country.
Whether you`re better or not is determined by history. They say presidents
are really judged 50 years after their presidency. The success of
movements are judged years in the future. But the progressive movement in
America is up against a very obvious reality. We are a center right
nation. The numbers don`t blind the outcome of the fact is we`re a center
right nation on many issues. That is a fact about America. So, protests
and terminologies and fights aside, we are dealing with people in America,
who in a representative republic are pushing up from the grassroots level.
There are tea party and to be fair at occupy Wall Street, they manage to
change the narrative. The tea party brought fiscal issues to the
forefront. Occupy Wall Street was effective and change the narrative,
while I disagree with them. And now, we have this new set of rallies,
which, by the way, I`m for the rallies individuals and all of that.
What I always question is what do you do after? Because rallies are
important. They are galvanizing moments. What the tea party did after,
for example is we went local, we educated, we started working at the
HARRIS-PERRY: That point -- I mean, for me that point is one of the key
distinctions between tea party and Occupy was this idea what the tea party
did next was run all of these candidates, right? And it`s not something
that Occupy did for a variety of reasons philosophically, right? That they
often didn`t believe in engaging --
WEBB: It`s not just candidates. More important than the candidates is it
went to the community, it went to the community centers, it went neighbor
to neighbor. And what you start doing is you get concentric circles of
people who talk to each other at work, at the gym, wherever they talk about
America has been successful because as a marketplace of ideas, we debate
each other. It`s the people that use instances and take it beyond what it
is and use it for their own agendas that damage it.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, I want to come back and push back on this a little
bit, these on two things, on both the idea that we are essentially center
right and also that that is sort of the thing that is mostly grassroots.
And I think there all kinds of ways we have to talk about money and
And Zillah, I want to bring you in to help me push back on some of that as
soon as we get back. So, stay right there.
Because up next, I do want to talk about Trayvon Martin`s mother. Because
she has a mission to protect and honor her child -- to honor her child and
to protect your child when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN`S MOTHER: Trayvon was a child. And I think
sometimes it gets lost in the shuffle because as I said in the courtroom,
it made me think they were talking about another man. It wasn`t. It was a
child, who thought as a child, who acted as a child, who behaved as a
child. And don`t take my word for it. He had a drink and candy. So not
only do I bow to you to do what I can for Trayvon Martin, I promise you I`m
going to work hard for your children as well because it`s important.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Trayvon Martin`s mom, Sybrina Fulton, at one the
rallies in her son`s honor yesterday. And she once again showed such grace
and poise reminding us that Trayvon was a child and that what happened to
him could happen to anyone`s child.
Part of the issue is it couldn`t happen to -- it was unlikely to happen to
everyone`s child. There are some groups this is more likely to happen to.
And as I was watching her I was thinking of the importance of mothers in
our history in protest, but also that part of the disconnect felt like this
jury, which contained a lot of mothers, somehow didn`t respond to Trayvon
Martin as a child.
ZILLAH EINSENSTEIN, DISTINGUISHED SCHOLAR, ITHACA COLLEGE: Right. And
what was so upsetting to me as a white female, and having the jury be
mainly white female was recognizing they did not think of themselves as
Trayvon`s mothers. And that the level of what they first -- this is not
about them personally. But in a political world that we occupy, as white
and female, you have to be really conscious of your whiteness. And the
only way to do that is try to imagine what it might like to be not white.
So, that was not done nor did the framing of the entire trial allow that.
Although to be honest, they all had a responsibility to do that no matter
what the law says.
HARRIS-PERRY: What you said that I think is important here is, you know, I
have tried from the beginning to say it would be a bad idea to take these
six people and demonize them, right? And the part of what we are trying to
do in these moments in the weeks since the verdict is to talk about the
meaning that it has. So there`s this moment, there is this verdict but
there is also as a broader meaning that it has.
And it was part of history, Blair, it feels like to me that about the sense
of, all right, here we are, we have Texas going on, we have, you know, the
question of immigration, we have got Trayvon Martin, but suddenly the
coalition feels like it starts to fall apart if white women on the jury
don`t see me, how do I see them when we go do this work together.
KELLEY: And I think it`s about education. And I`m blessed to be an
educator, right, and get to sit in classrooms with people who aren`t
necessarily where I am all the time, right? And we are not always with
each other on all these issues, right? There may be African-Americans who
don`t see themselves in the abortion fight, for example.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or the immigration fight.
KELLEY: Or the immigration fight. But the thing that I have learned and I
think that North Carolina is a really wonderful example of this, is that
the coalition is necessary. The coalition in teaching one another and
having the patience to listen to one another and think about walking in
someone else`s shoes.
The Reverend Barber and his rallying around the amendment that North
Carolina passed to make it illegal to marry constitutionally in the state
constitution. When he stood up and said against the will of many within
his own community that this wasn`t right, that restricting rights in the
constitution was wrong. He is a teacher for us, right, to sort of step out
of our own bounds and think about the law and the just land we want to make
for all of us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And I think part of that for me, Tim, is recognizing
that movement is part of it, coalition is part of it but resources are the
part. You know, we are 50 years after the march on Washington. And people
remember that great march. But, they don`t often think about what it takes
financially to pull together not just a march, not just a protest but a
Is there something from the right we should learn about how the resources
get deployed to make protests effective?
WISE: Well, I don`t know if it`s a question of learning from the right per
see but we want to push back on the idea that movements ought to be
contingent on your wealth and your power and your access. I mean, right
now, and this something that ought to concern anyone who cares about
democracy, small Democrats that is to say. And that is that we have a
country where we are being told we want more money in the elections but
fewer voters. We are being told that we want to have restrictions to make
it harder to vote but easier to finance an election. To me that is a
complete inversion of what we ought to be pushing for. So, I would hope
people of goodwill on the left, on the right, somewhere in between that
would all be able to recognize that`s a fundamentally disempowering thing
for people. It ought not be contingent on what`s in our wallet to be able
to go into a protest or whether it is a sit-in or whether is a teach in at
a college. Those things ought not be contingent on resources.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, stay with me. Because when we come back, I`m going to
talk about something that is actually a free way of protesting, and that`s
twitter. I want to talk about the one-woman protest that actually worked
and how she took to twitter to help squash the Zimmerman jurors book deal.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the jurors in the George Zimmerman known as Juror B-
37 spoke to CNN`s Anderson Cooper earlier this week. She sparked outrage
on social media on her comments on the role of race in the trial and how
she seemed to instinctively trust George Zimmerman over Trayvon Martin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUROR B-37, GEORGE ZIMMERMAN TRIAL: I think George Zimmerman is a man
whose heart was in the right place but just got displaced by the vandalism
in the neighborhoods and wanting to catch these people so badly that he
went above and beyond what he really should have done. But I think his
heart was in the right place, it just went terribly wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Juror B-37 had already signed with a literary agent for a
book after her experience on the jury. But after the outcry on twitter,
particularly outcry generated by one twitter user who posted the agent`s
phone number and e-mail address and encourages to followers to voice their
rejection, the agent rescinded her offer.
The incident spoke to the power of social media, and the power of one
person, one really motivated person. That person twitter organizer Genie
Lauren joins the table.
Genie, so you had a win this week, right? We said, we had all these
losses, do we see any wins. You had a win. What prompted you to organize
on twitter this way?
GENIE LAUREN, TWITTER ORGANIZER: Well, I saw people live tweeting the CNN
interview. And when I learned about her having -- we actually learned
about her having the book deal the Sunday right after the verdict came
down. And it was like why so soon? You know, this seems like maybe a
little opportunistic. And then, with the CNN interview, it just made me so
upset. I was like what can we do? And someone tweet me and said we can
stop this book. And I was yes, you know, we can`t change the verdict, we
can`t bring Trayvon back but we can definitely stop this book.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you something. So you know, my first
impulse, because I`m troubled by the verdict, because I like twitter, my
first impulse is to say yes, right? My second impulse particularly as
someone who is on television, says things polarizing is, do I want social
media to be able to take people down, right? Do I want in 140 characters
folks to say I want Melissa Harris-Perry off the air because I don`t agree
Talk to me about how we balance the sort of first amendment free speech
right that you have and she has and the ability and need to protest and
make our voices heard?
LAUREN: That`s a tough question.
HARRIS-PERRY: Solve it right now, 35 seconds.
LAUREN: Well, wow. That`s a really tough question. I think it goes hand
in hand with what -- when people protest, this is just another way for
people to protest. So, obviously, as you were saying earlier a lot of
protests fail, fail in the immediate sense but in the long run they do
prevail. But for what now on twitter, you know, people are just voicing
their concerns the same way they would take to the streets. And it`s just
a different form of protest.
HARRIS-PERRY: David, let me get you in on this one.
WEBB: Twitter is the wild, Wild West of cyberspace and it has its good and
its bad. You can say whatever you want in 140 characters even anonymously.
HARRIS-PERRY: And then you could say whatever you want in 140 characters.
WEBB: So, I attach responsibility to the person who does it and the person
who puts it out. I`m for using twitter I`m for using social media. It
was one of the big reasons the tea party movement took off. Even you are
in New York, tens of thousands of people on the street responsibly. If you
put out, for instance on what you did, the company number, not the personal
number of the person. That`s a responsible use of twitter to say voice
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. You didn`t ask vigilantes to go to her house.
WEBB: There was a report of a woman in Florida getting over 100 ca and
death threats because her number was one number off from Zimmerman. That
was something put out there about the cell phone. So, we have to use it
responsibly. What goes on after that is what the end user does with it and
that is what we do.
Whether, you know, you and I get vile hatred for all areas on this for
different reasons, that`s irresponsible use of it and frankly, it doesn`t
affect us because it shouldn`t. But responsible use of it, I think, is you
know, your example the revolution is it didn`t bring down the regime,
obviously the regime is still there, but it did bring the world to notice
what the green revolution is about. So, that`s a total shift.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Genie, let me ask you, if -- so, this was one case we
had a very clear goal, you organize people and you met that goal. Going
forward, do you see twitter as a valuable way to build sort of longer term
social movements? Not just twitter but social media in general.
LAUREN: I think especially because it gives people access to stuff they
might have felt like they didn`t have access to before. I mean, you know,
they are protesting in New York, they are protesting in Miami. If you live
somewhere where maybe there`s no protest, what do you do? You can take to
twitter. And you can take to twitter on your phone. You don`t even have
to have a laptop.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the things I can definitely say twitter has done, it
brought you to my attention. And so, if it does nothing else, it sometimes
makes connection across people who would never otherwise connect.
So, thank you for your work.
Right after the commercial, I promise bringing the rest of the panel back.
Because when we come back, I want to talk about the struggle that continues
in the place that you all know I have been yelling about for months. North
Carolina is raising up.
We are going back there when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: In North Carolina, as around the country, vigils and
gatherings were held yesterday calling for justice for Trayvon. But the
biggest protests happening in that state this summer are happening each and
every Monday outside the North Carolina general assembly. They highlight
the Republican-led legislatures hard turn to the right.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These attacks on women, on people of color, on
immigrants, on public workers are tricks that have been tried before and
they have been stopped before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s not just a crime shame is a crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are driving us down the road backwards with old
south politics. These are the George Wallace type of nullification in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The focus this week was on reproductive rights which is
North Carolina like Texas, Ohio, Mississippi, Wisconsin is trying to
further restrict. The moral Monday movement goes into its 12th week
So, Zillah, we were just talking about twitter and social media. What we
see in North Carolina are bodies, bodies that are being arrested. It feels
like something very different. And it`s a long-term and it is coalition
EINSENSTEIN: Absolutely. If we really start with the site of politics,
it`s always the body whether it`s the color of it, the sex of it, the
gender of it, it`s why so much politics always comes back there. So, this
is a particular site when you are dealing with the, you know, the genitals,
the actual vaginas of female bodies, you know. And to try to have a
control mechanism there that then moves to all other forms of control that
are raced and gendered and classed.
So the struggle here, what I don`t like about it being defined as
reproductive rights and abortion is that if they are so embedded in every
other single right, the right to work, the right to food, the right to
health. And so, of course, we need these sites because we can`t be
everywhere, right? It is a coalition --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And that`s part of what makes moral Monday effective
they recognize reproductive rights and unemployment question and the issue
of voting rights are all connected.
Blair, talk to me about, you know, we are talking about protests. But this
is not just protests. This is apparently a movement. What`s the
difference between protests and movements as we see here.
KELLEY: OK. So, if you`re in my class, we have to learn about organizing
versus mobilizing. So mobilizing is just showing up on any given day,
holding a sign, participating, very important. But organizing those people
so that they are part of an engaged long-term struggle is what is key.
So, we can learn from North Carolinian Ella Baker, right, who I teach about
all the time, who created a long-term push for civil rights by knowing
people, by connecting people, by maintaining relationships over time. And
that is what the civil rights movement was built on. That`s what it was
WISE: And really important, I`m glad you mentioned Ella Baker because
there`s no greater name for us to remember in the history of social
movements. There`s a woman who had been doing the work in a lot of
different ways for many years. And not only did she say that we need to
mobilize a new contingent which is now SNCC (ph) got started in Charleston
(ph) University in 1960. But she trusted young people. I mean, that was
the most important thing she said. These young folks, I`ve been doing it
with the old heads, and they have good ideas but these young folks, I
believe in them.
What we are seeing in North Carolina are a lot of young folks connecting
with older activists in the struggle. And that`s the kind of thing which
even if they don`t win this week, this month, that is going to build a
HARRIS-PERRY: And it is so important that you said that you brought up
against SNCC (ph), you brought up about important committee begins in North
Carolina, the Greensboro students began that student aspect of the movement
in North Carolina. It is part of what makes the notion of a struggle
emerging out of North Carolina. It goes back this idea where we have seen,
this year, we have seen before. Dave, I`m, going to let you in.
WEBB: Look. I agree, this is how movements develop. It`s what I said
before, what you do after the rally, after the galvanizing moment. But, I
want to go back to something Tim said earlier, the difference of top down,
The fact is that there are examples of that on all sides of political
aisle. Talk about, there is often the attacks against tea party, and I
haven`t gotten my check from the Koch brothers yet and neither has anyone
else that I know of. But organizing for America is a top down movement
that is being soul as grass down movement. So, we have to look at what
these things for what they are on both sides, it is by in from the people
and that is often based on the education that takes it.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is worth talking about the context in North Carolina,
though. I mean, it really is because our Pope didn`t write checks to
folks, except that he wrote checks for campaigns. Those campaigns then
took over that school board. That school board and strategy takes over
state legislature. And then our Pope ends up with a position in
government. And so, no one thinks they handed out checks to the
protesters, but it does look like our Pope bought the state of North
Carolina and that doesn`t seem valid to me.
WEBB: Well, in the end, and these are states issues which means the
citizens vote on them. We are in a representative republic, which means
people have free will when they go to the poll. Nobody holds a gun to your
head on any issue, left or right, nor should they when you go to polls.
HARRIS-PERRY: But let me just say this. I hear you and I know that`s the
beautiful narrative of voting in America. But in North Carolina right now
they have put forward legislation that`s doing to mean college students
cannot use their IDs to vote, that out of state driver`s license are
(INAUDIBLE), recently registered. North Carolina is going to allow county
or municipal or public ID as acceptable. They are going -- they put
forward things that are going to make it -- that if you vote then your
parent will lose their ability to claim you as a dependent. So, we can`t
just say people get unfettered right to vote.
WEBB: Here is the issue here that we really do look at, it`s who is
voting. I haven`t seen a state, and no one here it say that, that says
black have to show ID to vote, that Hispanics have to show ID.
WEBB: Let me finish my point. In many states if you can`t get an ID,
driver`s license, a breather document, you proved who you are to vote. So,
the idea of voter verification means that no matter who you are, you are
able to vote and be identified.
HARRIS-PERRY: The thing is, OK, I think we certainly -- it is certainly
plenty of this preponderance of the evidence that there`s a disparate
impact on some communities when we use voter id.
Now that said, unfortunately, they are screaming at me to go to break.
I do need to say good-bye to Zillah Einsenstein.
You guys are going stick around so we have got more conversation. But I do
-- we are going to back to exactly what you just said, Tim, young people at
the core of this.
I have a whole table of young people. So, I`m going replace you guys for a
little while because I do want to talk about the Trayvon Martin generation
and how they responded to president Obama`s address on race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, when Trayvon
Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son. Another
way of saying that is Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It wasn`t just a surprise that President Obama showed up
suddenly in the White House briefing room to give remarks on Trayvon
Martin, the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. No, arguably a bigger
shock was what he said right there, reminding us he, arguably the powerful
man in the world with a privileged education had nevertheless endured the
profiling and stereotyping so many black men know as well.
It is what we discussed her about a month after Trayvon Martin was killed
with an all teenager panel that included CJ Morrison and George Nunez
talking about what it`s like growing up in a country where your skin can be
Joining me again here today is C.J. Morrison, a rising sophomore now at
Central Connecticut state university. Alongside him is Michael Gellman, an
incoming freshman at Harvard University. Also, we have Aja Holstein of the
Black Youth Project 100, who will be a senior at Texas A&M in the fall, and
again with us also is George Nunez who will begin his studies (INAUDIBLE)
later this year. And joining us from Tallahassee, Florida, Melanie
Andrade, who is also the Florida A&M chapter president of the Dream
Defenders who are still sitting in at the Florida capital protesting in the
wake of the George Zimmerman verdict.
Thank you all for being here.
I actually want to start with you, Aja. You were at the Black Youth
Project 100, a group of young leaders when the verdict came down. What was
AJA HOLSTEIN, BLACK YOUTH PROJECT 100: Well, we were ending our night on
Saturday, we were getting ready to go have fun. Some of us going to
Chicago. And then we hear that the verdict was going to happen in 15
minutes. So, that completely changed the energy in the room. We all came
together in a big conference room and held hands in this huge circle. And
then the verdict happened, it was probably the most heartbreaking moment, I
think, of any of our lives. People collapsed, people were screaming.
Everyone was asking why, why, why.
There was no understanding. There was nothing anyone could have said to us
to help us understand what happened. And then everyone needed to be
comforted. But it was like how do you comfort when you need to be comfort.
And we came back together. A lot of people were kind of sharing, trying to
process and talking through.
I was ready to give up. I was done. I said, I need to go. Someone needs
to send me home. But nobody would let me go. They said absolutely not.
You came here to fight. So, this is the moment. This is our moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: And even to stay in it.
So, I so appreciate you saying that, the sense of how powerful it was in
AND C.J., I remember when we were first together right after we heard about
Trayvon Martin`s shooting and you all came and joined the table. And you
said -- you told some stories at that time of being profiled and
experiencing similar kinds of things. So, we wanted you back and I though
he will come back and tell us a good story of how now that he has gone off
to college, he never experiences this anymore.
C.J., what happened to you just a few months after you got to school?
C.J. MORRISON, SOPHOMORE, CENTRAL CONNECTICUT STATE UNIVERSITY: I can tell
you that I definitely didn`t think about what it happened as bad as it did
when I got to school. It was about a month or two in. And you know,
college students you go to parties and things like that. And we were
leaving a party, me and some of my teammates. And I guess there must be an
ordeal somewhere around the area with police and some other kids. We were
walking to our car, no less than two minutes away from our car. And I kid
you not, like four cop cars, canine units all came at us, guns out,
pointing at us asking us to put our hands up. So, we immediately put our
hands up. We were like, what happened? Like, what`s going on? And then
they said we could have been involved in a shooting down the street or
something like that. We were like, no, we literally just left this party
with students at central, which was like 10 minutes away from where we
were. And we are trying to go back to school because we have got practice
in the afternoon the next day.
So, they just like screaming at us, and patting us down. And I asked the
woman, because she come up to me with a gun, like pointed right at me,
right at my chin, just right there. I`m just like, ma`am, I don`t have
anything on me. I`m just trying to get back to school. And she was like
we have just got to do this as a precaution and things like that. And like
they basically gave us no reason why they came at us, like everyone leaving
that was around leaving. And there was a group of young men, black men
just walking to their car, just like everyone else was.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when you hear the president say Trayvon Martin could
have been me. It`s also true that Trayvon Martin -- I mean, that you could
have been Trayvon Martin in that moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Melanie, let me come to you. You all are doing organizing
work. We just heard Aja say she felt like she wanted to give up. They
said, no, you are disallowed from giving up. Talk to me about what it is
you all are trying to do there in Florida.
MELANIE ANDRADE, PRESIDENT, DREAM DEFENDERS: Well, we are basically trying
to get Governor Rick Scott to convene a special legislation of the
legislature. Not only to repeal Stand Your Ground and, you know, not only
for justice for Trayvon, but the reality of it is we go, like C.J. was
saying, we go through racial profiling every single day. So, we want to
look at during the special session the environment that created Trayvon
So, what Stand Your Ground, you know, the repealing of Stand Your Ground,
the racial profiling of black and brown people and also the school to
prison pipeline, you know, that is the direct funneling of black and brown
students out of school and poor students out of school and into prisons.
HARRIS-PERRY: Everybody stay with me, I`ve got some direct questions for
you guys as soon as we get back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I don`t want us to lose sight that things are getting better. Each
successive generation seems to be making progress in changing attitudes
when it comes to race. It doesn`t mean we`re in a post racial society. It
doesn`t mean racism is eliminated. But you know, when I talk to Malia and
Sasha and I listen to their friends and I see them interact, they are
better than we are. They are better than we were on these issues. That`s
true in every community that I`ve visited across the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that is the president`s great optimism is about this
But do you share that optimism? Are you doing better than we are?
MICHAEL GELLMAN, FRESHMAN, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: You know, I don`t
necessarily think so. I think what`s so troubling about the Trayvon Martin
shooting and the whole case is that, you know, this did and could have
happen 20 years before that and 20 years before that and it really is
And when I look -- I think what I really enjoyed about the speech, the talk
Obama gave, we really need -- it`s a call to action to examine ourselves on
an individual level, on community level, in our churches and in our
families. And I think that`s where the real progress is going to come
from. And I do think, you know, that young people are striving and to take
this issue to heart and to really examine themselves. But, I don`t know
how quick the change will come.
HARRIS-PERRY: George, you are turning 18 years old today. Happy birthday.
GEORGE NUNEZ, 18-YEARS-OLD: Thank you. I appreciate it.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was looking at the pictures you sent, having graduated,
salutatorian of your class. So, you are an 18-year-old, launching off into
an adulthood having had enormous accomplishments. Do you feel optimistic
about your future and that of the country? Are you feeling good about
NUNEZ: Well yes, I definitely am. And the reason why is because I`m
heading into a new chapter in my life. And I know that turning 18 has to
be better than last year. So, that being said, being stronger mentally,
physically and just improving on my craft.
And regarding the Trayvon Martin situation, I felt like it was completely
unfair for Zimmerman to get away with what he has done. And I was doing
some research and they would actually thinking about giving him his gun
back. So, just him, doing that to Trayvon and still receiving the
privilege that he got and getting off so easily and not being charged with
second degree murder or manslaughter is completely unfair.
If this was reversed and if Trayvon did the shooting, there would not have
been a trial so long, he would have automatically been incarcerated. And I
fell that we can do a better job protesting. And we need more youths to
step up. We need those people who are willing to become lawyers and like.
And I can`t necessarily speak for everybody else, but I know personally,
will go to law school, and I will speak for people who fight the Trayvon
Martin, the Sean Bell (ph) and Emmett Till.
HARRIS-PERRY: Aja, speaking for these young men is part of what Black
Youth Project is about, is the way in which you all working to give voice.
We have heard a lot of people say, they don`t care about black on black
crime. They are only care on this moment. But, of course, you all have
been organizing around all these other kinds of violence. What are some of
the most important things we could be doing?
HOLSTEIN: I think one of the most important things we could be doing, is
understanding there are already action -- there is already action being
done. And we don`t ever want to step on another toe and reinvent the
wheel. We definitely want to work with other people and stay in solidarity
with these other groups.
I met a lot of activists working on black on black crime, who are working
on the education system, the president industrial system (ph), the dream
defenders. We stand in solidarity with dream defenders and what they are
doing in Florida. Such our most important goal is to be able to work with
people, not necessarily speak for the youth who can`t speak for themselves
but power the youth and give them their voice.
HARRIS-PERRY: C.J., are you feeling optimistic about the future?
MORRISON: Yes, yes, I am. I`m going to say I am only because I feel like
people are more understanding. After being in college, I grew up in a
predominantly black area and I wasn`t around Caucasians as much. But most
of my friends that I consider really friends are Caucasian. And I do have
my new friends and our experienced new things. But, I do realize that they
grew up different than I have. They see different things of our people
than, you know what, we see ourselves as like some of the stereotypes, they
really see them as like me in stereotypes. And we have certain
conversations with each other, we joke around. Like yes, you`ll probably
be late to this party and some like that or you`re going to show up late to
practice. And we joke around in that way, but we understand we`re getting
to know one another, we are getting to know that, you know, these aren`t
the way every black person is or every white person is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I will tell you what, this table -- and Melanie, I`m
so sorry I didn`t get back to you. But I promise we are going to keep our
eye on Dream Defenders.
And let me just say, this table makes me optimistic, not because I think
it`s all going to be OK, but because I know in small ways and large ones
you`re working to make things better.
And just -- I promise I`m just going to follow your lead, Melanie, C.J.,
Michael, Aja and George, thank you all for being here.
Coming up next, what Jay-Z and Beyonce decided to do on their Saturday
afternoon this week and why it matters.
There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: With his surprise speech about Trayvon Martin and only
identity as a black man in America President Obama waded into the debate
that divided the country long before a Florida jury defended found George
Zimmerman not guilty. The president joined a discussion already in
progress adding to voices who had already been knee-deep in thorny
questions racial questions raised by the case, because our elected
officials have never been the ones to begin the conversation about race.
As President Obama said in his speech, they are not going to be the ones to
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do recognize as president
I`ve got convening power. To gather together business leaders, local
elected officials, clergy, celebrities, athletes and figure out how are we
doing a better job helping young African-American men feel that they are a
full part of this society and that they have got pathways and avenues to
succeed. Now, I think that would be a pretty good outcome from what was
obviously a tragic situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you see that? It`s not going to be our elected leaders.
It`s going to be those other folks there that President Obama had an idea
about. And no sooner had he dropped the mike than the very folks, the
kinds of people president hope Obama talked about picking it up did exactly
Yesterday as New York City joined the 100 cities rallying together
demanding justice for Trayvon Martin, our own resident member of the
clergy, Reverend Al Sharpton was joined by a couple of President Obama`s
most famous celebrity supporters, Jay-Z and Beyonce. They too a break from
their respective tour schedules to join Reverend Sharpton, Trayvon Martin`s
mother and hundreds at the rallies.
The Carters foray into public activism has been a long time coming, for one
celebrity activist Harry Belafonte had these words for the couple last
August. I think one of the great abuses of this modern time is we should
have had such high profile artists, powerful celebrities but they have
turned their back on social responsibility. That goes for Jay-Z and
Beyonce, for example. Give me Bruce Springsteen and now we`re talking. I
really think he`s black.
When Belafonte snatched both Mr. and Mrs. Carter`s wigs, he did so with a
force of history and experience. Belafonte has been on the forefront of
movements for more than six decades. He was there 50 years ago with the
march on Washington alongside Sidney Poitier, Charlton Heston, Marlon
Brando, Lena Horne, Paul Newman, all who used stardom to shine a bright
spotlight on the cause for equality. This year, as we commemorate the 50
year anniversary of that march, a moment of remember has suddenly
transformed into a moment to call for equality once again.
As we push for justice, the bright light of celebrity must add fire, not
just heat. Joining me now, Chloe Angyal, editor of Feministing.com; Tim
Wise, author of "Dear White America"; Blair Kelley, associate professor of
history at North Carolina State University and author of "Right to Ride",
and David Webb, host of the web show on Sirius XM Patriot.
Blair, celebrity and politics -- how valuable are celebrity voices in a
racial social justice movement.
BLAIR KELLEY, NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY: Somewhat. I think it`s
important to get people`s attention that normally would not be paying
attention. So, folks who don`t follow politics, who don`t know who you are
and don`t watch MSNBC --
KELLEY: Aren`t paying attention to this ongoing political debate will wake
up and say, oh, Beyonce and Jay-Z were doing something? Let me see what
they were talking about and see what this movement is about. It`s that
mobilizing moment. They are not the stuff of organizing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. They are the stuff of -- I`ve been thinking a little
about this of there was a moment when folks weighed in, particularly around
Trayvon Martin, who works a little bit surprising. Dave, one of our
favorites here, has been calling for LeBron James to now say something
mostly because he helped organize Miami Heat in protest initially around
the Trayvon Martin shooting.
Is that fair for us to make a call to say, hey, you did this with the
hoodies, now we want to hear from you now?
CHLOE ANGYAL, FEMINISTING.COM: What I hear Harry Belafonte saying, these
people have privilege. They have a platform, people who listen to them and
who value them in one way. That might translated into them being listened
to in other ways.
The most obvious case of that is white people who have privilege, white
people who need to step up. When President Obama says other people need to
step up and end racism, he didn`t say it because of the climate we live in,
he can`t say it, but I`m going to say it, white people.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not that we need to hear from LeBron James. It`s that
we need to hear from Bruce Springsteen.
TIM WISE, AUTHOR: Whatever people of privilege, skin privilege, sex
privilege, money privilege, celebrity privilege. There is an obligation I
think to use that privilege as responsibly as possible. Most of us have
some of it in some way, shape or form. So, for those white trying to be
allies in the struggle against racism, we try to use that in a responsible
way, men fighting sexism fighting the same thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s unusual. I`ve tried to be an ally around LGBT
issues, right? So, having a TV show is a privilege. I`m not myself gay,
but it gives me a space and opportunity to give others a voice.
DAVID WEBB, CONSERVATIVE RADIO SHOW HOST: I hear from Tim a lot --
privilege, white privilege, it`s almost as if white people are relegated to
not being able to see issues by this narrative or that black people, by the
way -- racism is about power and control. Blacks, Hispanics, every society
in the world has had some form of either slavery or racism, whether
(INAUDIBLE), modern times, you name it. It exists today in Saudi Arabia
and other areas around the world.
What we`re talking about is not whether you`re white or black or celebrity.
Celebrity weigh in, they are insulated in a degree because Marlon Wayans
can say outrageous thing but insulated. Responsible celebrities can do the
right thing by bringing their voice to it.
But we keep bringing this into a privilege issue when it`s really about the
nation and the culture. Whites are not evil, blacks are not evil, but it`s
being presented by a lot of people in these quarters that for some reason
there`s a privilege assigned to a skin color.
HARRIS-PERRY: But there is.
WEBB: The actions of people, content of color is what we should judge.
Let me finish this point. Martin Luther King spoke to the conscience of a
WEBB: He didn`t speak to black people. He didn`t speak to white people.
WHITE: He specifically called out white people.
WEBB: No, he did not.
HARRIS-PERRY: He absolutely did. The letter from the Birmingham jail is a
letter to moderate white clergy. He says white moderate clergy who tell us
we must wait, here is why we can`t.
Look, I think, it is not an indication -- in fact, I think even the
language of privilege is an indication of not saying that white people are
evil. When you talk about privilege, I have had an normative privilege. I
happen to be able to walk around the world, to marry and divorce, bear
children, any of those things, without anyone giving me a second glance.
I retain that privilege as a heterosexual, whether I`m ally or whether I`m
against LGBT people. Privilege doesn`t require --
WISE: All in this room we`re able-bodied. Able-bodied privilege, we don`t
think about that. It doesn`t this evil. It doesn`t make us discriminatory
WEBB: Privilege is normal. This is a problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s the problem. If you call it normal --
WEBB: What`s wrong with walking into this room? It`s normal. If you`re
disabled, you don`t do that. It`s not a privilege.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here is what I would say, walking in the room. I think it`s
a great question, I love the question around able-bodiedness. If you look
behind you, my cameras probably can`t see it. To get on this stage you
have to walk down three stairs. There is no way to get here without
walking down three stairs.
That means when I think about booking this show, I have never once booked
someone who is in a wheelchair to sit at this stage. The reason I cannot
is because my building is built in a way that makes it impossible for a
person dealing with disability to show up at my table, and that is
privilege. The fact that able-bodied --
WEBB: No, it`s not -- means you make an accommodation that says you have a
ramp. The ADA, which grew largely out of this, was that we have to make it
accessible for people who have a disability.
HARRIS-PERRY: Amen. You know what -- amen. Absolutely, which is exactly
why we then must recognize male privilege and say we must make
accommodation in a world that has privilege.
WEBB: You`re not super because you`re normal and you`re not less because
of a disability.
KELLEY: You keep saying the world normal, who is normal.
WEBB: It`s normal to walk. Most people walk around normally.
KELLEY: There`s a lot of people normal under your designation. Am I
normal as a black woman?
WISE: The opposite of that is abnormal, that sounds incredibly offensive.
WEBB: Don`t put words in my mouth. I`m not saying that.
WISE: You said normal five times --
WISE: Opposite of normal.
HARRIS-PERRY: David, if we put that on race. If we take it and put I on
race, one could say potentially if you took the context out or the way that
normal reads and said normative, normal curve, most people, majority of
people do not need wheelchair assistance, then that is a true with little T
But if you do it on race, whiteness is normal, that is normative. Granted
HARRIS-PERRY: First, it is empirically false that whiteness is normative.
The thing is it doesn`t come without just empirics. When you say that one
condition of life, maleness, able-bodiness, straightness, is normal, it
does imply that everyone is abnormal.
WEBB: No, it does not, Melissa.
WISE: The opposite of normal is abnormal, not because I say so, the
dictionary says so. Your problem is with basic English grammar, not with
me or anyone else at the table.
WEBB: Well, you can use the ad hominem attacks all you want, but the fact
is we have to deal with things where we are. It is not somehow bad not to
be normal, it`s not abnormal not to be normal.
The difference -- we are different as people, men, women, young, short,
tall, fat, whatever it is. And the problem we have is the polarizing
nature of what happens when you start talking about privilege being
something that --
ANGYAL: -- because she is the moderator here. I would like to get back to
the idea it is partly white people`s responsibility to end racism.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, be careful, because I know when Zerlina
Maxwell said it was in part men`s responsibility to end sexual assault she
was abused pretty heavily for that. But I agree, that all of us in
positions of privilege, and I`m going to accept that, who have one of these
so-called normative identities, do have responsibilities around that. What
all this has to do with Beyonce I`m not sure anymore. But there you go.
Tim Wise, thanks for being here.
Coming up, the irony of a guy named Cuccinelli being opposed to oral sex.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now it`s time for a weekly rundown of those moments that
during the week had us slapping our face. Wow, seriously?
Now, if you like many Americans, what you heard when President Obama spoke
on Friday was a candid and courageous meditation on race in America. But
if you`re part of a small group of people who spent a better part of each
day, dreaming up new ways to troll the president, you were likely to devour
the speech as a delicious morsel of bait.
None more so than professional troll and FOX News host Sean Hannity,
proving the president`s point about how the race claims of Americans often
fall on deaf ears, Hannity came up with his own reinterpretation of what
President Obama really was saying. The president very clearly and
carefully laid out his analysis for why he identified with Trayvon Martin.
But on his radio show Friday, Sean Hannity had this to say.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: Now the president says Trayvon could have been me
35 years ago. This is a particularly helpful comment. Is that the
president admitting that because he was part of the gang and smoked pot and
did a little blow?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Way to both completely miss the president`s point and prove
it at the same damn time. That wasn`t the only moment this week when
people on the right got it all wrong. During Thursday night`s Major League
Baseball all-star game, a few fans took to Twitter to rail against the
injustice of choosing a Mexican instead of an American to open the game
with a rendition of "God Bless America."
Only there were a few details that these geniuses failed to notice. The
singer, superstar Marc Anthony was born and raised in New York, as American
as the pastime those folks on twitter were so ignorantly defending. For
what it`s worth, Anthony`s ancestry isn`t even Mexican. It`s Puerto Rican,
which by the way is a U.S. territory. As Anthony later said himself, no
But speaking of singers who might be feeling unwelcome, `90s R&B girl
groove SWB, take notice. You might want to think about skipping the state
of Virginia on your old school revival tour this year, your 1993 hit song,
"Downtown" about the joys of conelengas (ph) would not be welcomed in the
old dominion if Virginia attorney general and Republican nominee for
governor, Ken Cuccinelli has his way. He wants to make it illegal to go
downtown, among other places, by banning oral and anal sex between
consenting adults. That`s right, if it wasp to old Koch, the only legal
way to sexy town in Virginia would be through vaginal intercourse.
Wednesday, he launched a Web site to continue his ongoing crusade against
sodomy, a mission Cuccinelli thinly veiled to protect children from sexual
abuse. Cuccinelli is looking to reinstate Virginia`s crimes against nature
law, which was declared unconstitutional by the Fourth Circuit Court of
Appeals earlier this year. It`s a law the attorney general framing as an
anti-child predator measure except laws against rape, child molestation,
statutory rape are already on the books, which lays bare the real claim of
Cuccinelli`s agenda, to make a lie of the state`s slogan that Virginia is
Wow, with politics like these, voters in VA`s gubernatorial election may
just respond with a message of their own, that the state of Virginia is not
for Ken Cuccinelli. Wow, seriously?
Up next, what the royal baby tell us about Texas politics.
HARRIS-PERRY: We now turn to some big international news that I know y`all
are deciding to get my take on. That`s right.
Kate Middleton baby watch, the royal baby is due any second and the world
is waiting with bated breath. Journalists from around the world are camped
outside the London hospital where Kate is expected to deliver the future
queen or king of the British press has been talking about a royal baby
since before it was announced, before it was conceived, even before Will
and Kate were married.
When a pregnancy is wanted by the mother and father, their family,
community, even their country, it is easy to think of the bump as a baby.
But not every pregnancy is a fairy tale. There are other stories,
ultrasound reveals severe birth defects, a child is raped and becomes
pregnant, another baby would jeopardize a mother`s ability to feed her
living children, a woman decides she does not want a child at all.
These are different pregnancies. They are reminders an unwanted pregnancy
can be biologically the same as a wanted one but the experience can be
entirely different. Eggs are fertilized, embryos implant cells divide and
multiply, fetuses grow, but when does life begin. I submit the answer
depends an awful lot on the feeling of the parents, a powerful feeling but
The problem is that many of our policymakers want sweeping laws on those
feelings. Take Texas. Thursday, Texas Governor Rick Perry signed a bill
that bans abortion after 20 weeks and imposes restrictions on abortion
providers that could shut down all by five of Texas`s abortion clinics.
Supporters of the bill say it`s about protecting women`s health and
They wanted to lower the number of abortions, which is, I think, an
admirable goal. According to World Health Organization, abortion rates are
the or higher in countries that criminalize abortions. Prohibiting
abortions does not stop it. Instead, women in those countries seek out
unsafe abortions and they are more likely to suffer medical complications
and to die. So much for pro-life.
Joining me once again Chloe Angyal, editor of Feministing.com. Now at the
table, Dr. Willie Parker of Family Planning Associates of Chicago. Still
with us Blair Kelley associate professor of history at North Carolina
University, and conservative radio show host Dave Webb.
I want to start with you, doctor. It does feel to me like this question of
initiation of life and also the question around fetal pain has a lot to do
with emerging technologies in which people are often anticipating making a
baby, and so they are in on -- they know exactly when conception happened,
it happened in the lab, they`re testing ultrasounds and heartbeats much
earlier than normal.
I want to listen to Texas Governor Rick Perry saying something and want to
ask your medical scientific opinion about it. Let`s listen to Governor
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: New research, advanced technology give
prematurely born children a renewed chance at life. I think that should
give pause to all of us as we argue the definition of viability, consider
the human impact of abortion. At five months, many studies indicate these
children feel the pain of their own deaths.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DR. WILLIE PARKER, PHYSICIAAN FOR REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH: Abraham -- not
Abraham Lincoln. Someone once said we`re all entitled to their own opinion
but nobody is entitled to their own facts. The scientific facts around
viability are that before 25 completed weeks, it`s very unlikely any
pregnancy can survive outside the womb. More specifically, with regard to
Governor Perry`s claim about fetal pain, the best scientific evidence we
have shows the very structures that are necessary to perceive or feel pain
aren`t developed until 29 completed weeks, almost 30 weeks.
So, for example, to have a bill that outlaws abortion at 20 weeks is long
before a fetus is ever viable and even earlier before a fetus can feel
pain. Those are just the scientific facts.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think it`s useful to put scientific facts on the table.
At the same time, I want to acknowledge there`s a faith claim about the
beginning of life. And when I say faith claim, I don`t mean just
I mean, Blair, you and I are best friends, and we were both there for each
other`s pregnancies. We both related to our wanted pregnancies as children
before the first breath, right? Talked to my daughter, you talked to my
daughter in utero.
But those are claims about faith that feel like they shouldn`t be
KELLEY: Absolutely. We were talking about privilege before, right? To
think about the ways in which you and I had insurance, and we had spouses,
and we had homes, and we had our health to a certain extent, and it was
still difficult. It was still a challenge.
But these were our choices. So I think that remembering choice and not
trying to legislate. I mean, the one good thing about sort of the
libertarian stance is supposed to be that you`re for people making choices
about freedom and really being able to determine their own destinies. So I
would love for folks who push libertarianism on one side to think about the
liberty of women, to think about the liberty of the poor, to think about
people who might make different choices than they would.
HARRIS-PERRY: David, 60 percent -- more than 60 percent of women who
choose to end their pregnancies with a termination, with abortion, do so
and they already have a child. It`s not that women don`t know. It`s not
that they are not willing to raise children. It`s often because they are
in very complicated circumstances.
Why don`t we trust women to make those choices? What is -- what is the
inability to just let the law be silent on this?
WEBB: It`s more complex than a simple answer. Look, we start from the
point of agreement. If you reduce unwanted pregnancies, you obviously, in
the free market, reduce the number for abortions.
We also have a position where pro-life and pro-choice have agreed. That
you want to reduce abortions, one, it`s something the country believes in.
That`s a lot of people. When it comes to education, we need to use that.
The faith and policy, that`s going to be an argument that`s been going on
forever. I`m with the doctor. So, the facts on the table matter.
Essentially Texas, I`m not a fan of fetal pain, I think that`s more of a
policy statement in making an argument for your side. But we have to look
at the reality of what happens. This is late term abortion bill, which by
the way, most Americans are against, late term abortions. And there`s an
exception in this bill for the doctor to make an exception if there`s a
threat to the life of the mother.
So, 20 weeks, you`re more than 50 percent through a pregnancy, I just want
to be clear about this, you`ve been through education sonograms, you`ve had
your blood tests, your genetic tests, you`ve had the opportunity for
anatomy scan. So, there`s virtually no way you don`t know where you are as
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, which is why most women who have abortions -- I just
want to be really clearly, these are mostly abortions occurring because of
significant difficulty -- in other words, the 20-week abortion is usually a
woman who wants a child, but at 20 weeks once you have this information is
when you make the decision.
WEBB: Hang on, Section 171045, exceptions, physician`s reasonable medical
judgment. So, that is in the text --
HARRIS-PERRY: Then you have to have a position, which takes us back to the
WEBB: Well, you are usually seeing a physician at that point.
ANGYAL: It`s not just a, quote, "late term abortion bill". It closes a
whole bunch of clinics.
WEBB: What clauses in the bill? I have the bill.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s exactly -- we`re going to take a break and we`ve got
somebody who we`re going to go right into the heart of Texas. I want to
answer exactly that question, how this bill closes clinics -- as soon as we
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re talking about Texas`s strict new abortion bill.
Joining me now from Austin, Texas, is someone whose work is targeted by
this radical agenda.
Amy Hagstrom Miller is the founder of Whole Women`s Health, which operates
women around the country including five in Texas.
Thank you for joining us, Amy.
AMY HAGSTROM MILLER, WHOLE WOMEN`S HEALTH: Thank you for having me,
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Amy, the question on the table is, how is it that this
new legislation would end up closing clinics?
MILLER: You know, I think your conversation earlier about the 20-week ban
is one portion of this omnibus abortion law. And them most restrictive
parts of it have to do with two things. One, the ambulatory surgical
center regulations that require clinics to have the same sort of physical
plant that operations, that big surgeries would have to have outside of the
hospital setting in the AFC.
The second most onerous piece is requiring that each physician who provides
abortion in the state of Texas needs to have admitting privileges at a
hospital within 30 miles of the clinic.
Those two things are very well-crafted by our opposition to sort of being a
perfect storm for those of us that provide abortions in the state of Texas.
And what we`re looking at is between those two things going from about 42
clinics down to maybe five. It could actually be fewer with the
combination of the privileges and ambulatory surgical center regulation.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, doctor, are those the kinds of policies that promote
PARKER: Requiring a doctor to have admitting privileges when less than 1
percent of abortions require hospital care at all, if an abortion does
requires hospital care it`s an emergency situation. In the emergency, the
patient would be taken to the emergency facility and doesn`t matter if the
doctor has privileges or not. So, that requirement has nothing to do with.
And medical experts have shown the width of the hall, the number of
bathrooms, or the size of the elevator also don`t do anything to provide
safely. Abortion is extremely safe, one of the most common and safest
procedures available to women and is health care.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So, abortions are extremely safe, is a sentence that
may not remain true, Chloe.
ANGYAL: Right. Is there any phrase more terrifying than the one flea
market abortions than the risk of women going to Mexico or going to other
states buying medication they have heard, people have told them will end
their pregnancies? I mean, this is medical care and people who are
pregnant, not just women, people who get pregnant deserve to have safe,
medical care just like other every citizen of this country.
And I know we get into this position where we have facts and religion
passing in the night. There are two ships in the night and we talk past
each other because we have different moral frames we`re working with.
But -- again, I`m not a religious person but I cannot conceive of a God who
tells people to look at the person who is pregnant, who is scared, who is
desperate, who is asking for help, I cannot imagine a God who tells us to
look at that person and say, I could help you but I won`t.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me also be clear, when I say faith claim I don`t mean
rooted in some particular book or some particular religion but the
experience of pregnancy, the sense of oh, now I have -- now, I`m
experiencing something, a fetus or embryo but a baby. Amy, I want to talk
to you for a second here. What is the process for you, when you think
about this goal that we hear Texas state legislature saying, which is to
reduce abortion, I want to take them at their word there, right, rather
than saying they just want to control women. You as someone who provides
health care to women, what could be the things we could do to reduce
abortion if that was, in fact, the goal?
MILLER: Right. I think you`re very wise to ask that question. If that
was the goal, this would not -- this doesn`t actually solve that problem.
This bill does nothing to prevent unplanned pregnancy. It does nothing to
deal with the fact that the same amount of women in Texas are going to need
an abortion after these restrictions are passed.
The best ways to prevent abortion care is, one, comprehensive sexuality
education, and to give women access to family planning and fund that family
planning. Our family planning budget was eviscerated at the same time
these restrictions were passed that restrict women`s access to abortion.
And you mentioned flea market abortion, that article was written partly
from studies that were done in my McAllen clinic. I have a clinic on the
Texas/Mexico border. And just since the last law passed in the state of
Texas in the last legislation was passed, we`ve seen women taking matters
in their own hand already prior to this bill being passed. We`ve seen
women using Cytotec, crossing the border, finding medication at flee
markets. We`ve seen women even resorting to things that you saw, pre-Roe,
asking their partners to beat them in the stomach, asking for medications
in the community, to try to induce abortion, because even the two-visit
requirement is too much for some women.
You know, women are means are going to travel to big cities, go out of
state. The vast majority of Texans don`t have health care coverage. I
think we`re 50th out of 50. No Medicaid coverage for poor women in our
state and vast majority of women don`t have access to safe care with these
restrictions but the same amount of women are still going to need abortion.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ay, thank you for joining us from Texas. We`re going to
have to leave it there.
MILLER: You`re welcome.
HARRIS-PERRY: I do want to say this will be undoubtedly a continuing
conversation here. We`re trying to make the little steps toward making
this a conversation we can have across difficult divides. Amy Hagstrom
Miller, who was actually in Minneapolis today, but does do her work in
Texas, in case you`re wondering about that background. Chloe Angyal, Dr.
Willie Parker, Blair Kelley, and David Webb -- thank you so much.
Also, I just have to show these. My producer Lorena made for me tampon
earrings, because, of course, you`ll remember that the Texas state
legislature said you can`t bring tampons in when women were standing up for
reproductive rights, you weren`t allowed to initially bring tampons. So,
just in case that ever happens again, ladies, you can just bring them on
And just so you know, we`re going to turn the page a bit and do something
totally exciting. Strap on your best thigh highs, the star of the Tony
Award-winning musical "Kinky Boots" is here.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Broadway musical "Kinky Boots" taking the theater world
by storm, bringing home six Tony Awards last month including one last
month, best musical. Based on the 2005 motion picture with the same name,
the book for the musical was written by the actor and writer Harvey
Fierstein with original music by the theater for pop icon Cyndi Lauper.
Tells the story of a young man, Charlie Price, who unexpectedly inherits
his father`s failing shoe factory. To save the factory, Charlie, finds
inspiration in the unlikeliest of sources, a big city drag queen named
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HARRIS-PERRY: I am thrilled to welcome to Nerdland this year`s Tony Award
winner, Billy Porter, who played the fabulous Lola in "Kinky Boots." Thank
you for being here.
BILLY PORTER, "KINKY BOOTS": Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, look, you end up being here in a moment when we were
talking about the ability to have conversations with each across
difference. In "Kinky Boots," the friendship is across every conceivable
difference, race, class, gender, self-expression.
What can we learn from "Kinky Boots" in this moment?
PORTER: Well, the show itself is about love and it`s about acceptance.
And the character of Lola versus Charlie are sort of polarized in the
extremes. What I love about it is we get to have the conversation in
context with, you know, a drag queen versus a man, a black man versus a
white man. You know, the narrative of -- sort of the white savior
narrative that has been flipped.
PORTER: In this show. That tells the story about a black man, not only a
black man but a black drag queen coming in to save the white people in a
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, and fabulous shoes.
PORTER: And fabulous shoes is just -- it`s so amazing as an artist to be
able to have that platform, to be able to be of service in that way.
HARRIS-PERRY: The performance that broke my heart is the "I am not my
HARRIS-PERRY: Parents put a set of particularly gendered expectations on
their children, if they don`t meet them somehow end up being a fill you`re
-- you know, I feel like a failure around that. Is there something about
performance, culture, particularly about Broadway that might give us entry
into human experiences that we have trouble having like when we`re having a
PORTER: I think that`s what the arts does in general, storytelling does in
general. It can frame these ideas and put them in context of storytelling
in a way where it`s not about shaming, it`s not about wagging fingers, it`s
just simply about presenting the fax and presenting a story. We all
understand how to receive a story, how to receive a play or a movie. It
lessens sometimes, I think the responsibility of having to respond in any
kind of way.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, this is interesting. Part of sitting in
Broadway is you, the viewer, watching the stage. I`m also watching all the
folks around me. I`m thinking, OK, this complicated for people. Here is a
straight man, who is also a drag queen, who is black, who is in a
friendship with a white, straight, sort of normative guy.
And I keep wondering are they getting it? When they laugh, are they
laughing at Lola, or with Lola? Do you ever think about that with that
PORTER: Well, first of all, there still is a conversation we`re having
about whether Lola is straight or gay.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, all right.
PORTER: My conversation is that Lola is gay, because as a black gay man
and as a person who has lived his life, I`ve lived my life out and proud,
it is irresponsible of me, I think, to come and show up and have this
opportunity on this large scale and then to say that the character is
straight. So let me just make that clear.
HARRIS-PERRY: I thought you were doing this inversion like you were
playing straight in the way so many straight folks have played gay --
PORTER: Absolutely. What I love is that`s not actually the issue. The
content of the show and the storytelling is not about sexuality, but it`s
about the simple fact that, you know, acceptance is first. You know, you
change the world when you change your mind.
We don`t have to agree. We don`t have to agree on things, but we can`t put
legislation in place that discriminates just because we disagree.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, of course, the other thing that the play is about is
the fabulousness of shoes. I wanted for the lot question -- I want to
pause on that, because it really is about the fabulousness of shoes which
is part -- I have a shoe fetish. I love shoes.
PORTER: As do I.
HARRIS-PERRY: You all, in connection with Kenneth Cole, is that right?
PORTER: I just heard about that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Around the human rights campaign, in fact, some of the
shoes, these are not Kenneth Cole, some of them, fabulous red pumps will be
giving money to Human Rights Campaign, so that fabulousness of your shoes
can be connected to fabulousness of your politics.
PORTER: Absolutely. I love we`re being able to have that kind of synergy,
to sort of, you know, make sure that the message continues to get out to
the people about just simply acceptance.
Billy Porter, thank you so much for hanging out in Nerdland.
PORTER: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: And playing Lola. And I mean, congratulations on winning --
being at the top of your game in this moment.
PORTER: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is a great thing.
Up next, we ask for your reaction of Trayvon Martin. What are the
conversations you`re having in your household? I`m going to talk a little
about that when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nerdland, you`ve already met my 11-year-old daughter Parker
of just over a week ago, she sat with her father and watch the verdict in
the Zimmerman trial.
In her distress, she reached out via text message to me. "Hey, mom,
watching you now. I can`t believe this America has no justice. It makes
me sick, so sick."
Parker was not alone in her sadness. Joy-Ann Reid`s 16 year old son Jamar
(ph) wrote a piece for our Web site where he talked about his feelings. He
wrote, "When I heard the words not guilty, my heart sank. I was sad not
only for the fact he was found not guilty but for a possible domino effect
that I fear might happen. If a man can follow a kid that he was told not
to follow, kill him and be not guilty in the eyes of the law, just how
worthless is a black man or a kid`s life in this country or this world?"
The reactions touched off conversations between parents and kids. Because
we knew many families were having these conversations, MHP invited you to
share about how you were talking in the aftermath of the verdict. The
response has been moving and heart wrenching.
Terri in Maryland wrote, "I feel humiliated about the memories of all the
instructions and warnings I have given my children as they left my side.
Trayvon followed all the advice I have given my children. My words seem
completely inept now."
Mara in Oregon wrote, for -- to us, that her son is white and gay. And she
wrote, "While we are proud as heck of him, I also worry like crazy, his
orientation puts him at risk much like the color of Trayvon`s skin puts him
Dawn in Texas shared, "My husband and I had the talk with our 14-year-old
son this weekend. We tried reassuring him not everyone has ill intentions.
However in the society we live in today, you simply must be on guard."
On Friday, President Obama hinted that these conversations happening in
American households across the country may also be happening in the White
House. He offered that the children have as much to teach as the parents.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And this is a sign Michelle
and I talk a lot about. There are a lot of kids out there who need help,
who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement. And, is there more that
we can do to give them a sense that their country cares about them and
values them and is willing to invest in them?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Our children will inherit the nation we leave them. Let us
try before we go to make it a more perfect union. You can read the story
of my conversation with Parker last week and contribution of viewers to our
conversation on the Web site, MHPShow.com.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you next Saturday at 10:00 Eastern.
Right now, it`s time for a review of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Hi, Alex.
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