ALL IN with CHRIS HAYES
July 19, 2013
Guests: Joy Reid, James Peterson, Melissa Harris-Perry, Khary Lazarre-
EZRA KLEIN, GUEST HOST: Good evening, from New York. I`m Ezra Klein,
in for Chris Hayes.
The White House pressroom is, it is most staged, predictable room in
Washington. It is where spontaneity and surprise and things you didn`t
already know, it is where they go to die.
But today, today something remarkable happened there. President Obama
made an unannounced appearance without warning and without a script -- no
script at all -- to speak about race in America following the George
This was a genuinely important moment in Obama`s presidency. And we
will spend this hour tonight discussing his remarks with an incredible
panel, really incredible. But, first, you should hear, you should hear
what the president actually said.
So, here are his remarks in their entirety.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The reason I actually
wanted to come out today is not to take questions, but to speak to an issue
that obviously has gotten a lot of attention over the course of the last
week, the issue of the Trayvon Martin ruling.
I gave an -- a preliminary statement right after the ruling on Sunday,
but watching the debate over the course of the last week I thought it might
be useful for me to expand on my thoughts a little bit.
First of all, you know, I -- I want to make sure that, once again, I
send my thoughts and prayers, as well as Michelle`s, to the family of
Trayvon Martin, and to remark on the incredible grace and dignity with
which they`ve dealt with the entire situation. I can only imagine what
they`re going through, and it`s -- it`s remarkable how they`ve handled it.
The second thing I want to say is to reiterate what I said on Sunday,
which is there are going to be a lot of arguments about the legal -- legal
issues in the case. I will let all the legal analysts and talking heads
address those issues.
The judge conducted the trial in a professional manner. The
prosecution and the defense made their arguments. The juries were properly
instructed that in a -- in a case such as this, reasonable doubt was
relevant, and they rendered a verdict. And once the jury`s spoken, that`s
how our system works.
But I did want to just talk a little bit about context and how people
have responded to it and how people are feeling. 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.
And when you think about why, in the African- American community at
least, there`s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it`s
important to recognize that the African-American community is looking at
this issue through a set of experiences and a history that -- that doesn`t
There are very few African-American men in this country who haven`t
had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a
department store. That includes me.
And there are very few African-American men who haven`t had the
experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the
doors of cars. That happens to me, at least before I was a senator. There
are very few African-Americans who haven`t had the experience of getting on
an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her
breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.
And, you know, I don`t want to exaggerate this, but those sets of
experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what
happened one night in Florida. And it`s inescapable for people to bring
those experiences to bear.
The African-American community is also knowledgeable that there is a
history of racial disparities in the application of our criminal laws,
everything from the death penalty to enforcement of our drug laws. And
that ends up having an impact in terms of how people interpret the case.
Now, this isn`t to say that the African-American community is naive
about the fact that African-American young men are disproportionately
involved in the criminal justice system, that they are disproportionately
both victims and perpetrators of violence. It`s not to make excuses for
that fact, although black folks do interpret the reasons for that in a
We understand that some of the violence that takes place in poor black
neighborhoods around the country is born out of a very violent past in this
country, and that the poverty and dysfunction that we see in those
communities can be traced to a very difficult history. And so the fact
that sometimes that`s unacknowledged adds to the frustration.
And the fact that a lot of African-American boys are painted with a
broad brush and the excuse is given, well, there are these statistics out
there that show that African-American boys are more violent -- using that
as an excuse to then see sons treated differently causes pain.
I think the African-American community is also not naive in
understanding that statistically somebody like Trayvon Martin was probably
statistically more likely to be shot by a peer than he was by somebody
So -- so folks understand the challenges that exist for African-
American boys, but they get frustrated, I think, if they feel that there`s
no context for it or -- and that context is being denied. And -- and that
all contributes, I think, to a sense that if a white male teen was involved
in the same kind of scenario, that, from top to bottom, both the outcome
and the aftermath might have been different.
Now, the question for me at least, and I think, for a lot of folks is,
where do we take this? How do we learn some lessons from this and move in
a positive direction?
You know, I think it`s understandable that there have been
demonstrations and vigils and protests, and some of that stuff is just
going to have to work its way through as long as it remains nonviolent. If
I see any violence, then I will remind folks that that dishonors what
happened to Trayvon Martin and his family.
But beyond protests or vigils, the question is, are there some
concrete things that we might be able to do?
I know that Eric Holder is reviewing what happened down there, but I
think it`s important for people to have some clear expectations here.
Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government -- the
criminal code. And law enforcement has traditionally done it at the state
and local levels, not at the federal levels.
That doesn`t mean, though, that as a nation, we can`t do some things
that I think would be productive. So let me just give a couple of
specifics that I`m still bouncing around with my staff so we`re not rolling
out some five-point plan, but some areas where I think all of us could
Number one, precisely because law enforcement is often determined at
the state and local level, I think it`d be productive for the Justice
Department -- governors, mayors to work with law enforcement about training
at the state and local levels in order to reduce the kind of mistrust in
the system that sometimes currently exists.
You know, when I was in Illinois I passed racial profiling
legislation. And it actually did just two simple things. One, it
collected data on traffic stops and the race of the person who was stopped.
But the other thing was it resourced us training police departments across
the state on how to think about potential racial bias and ways to further
professionalize what they were doing.
And initially, the police departments across the state were resistant,
but actually they came to recognize that if it was done in a fair,
straightforward way, that it would allow them to do their jobs better and
communities would have more confidence in them and in turn be more helpful
in applying the law. And obviously law enforcement`s got a very tough job.
So that`s one area where I think there are a lot of resources and best
practices that could be brought bear if state and local governments are
receptive. And I think a lot of them would be. And -- and let`s figure
out other ways for us to push out that kind of training.
Along the same lines, I think it would be useful for us to examine
some state and local laws to see if it -- if they are designed in such a
way that they may encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations
and tragedies that we saw in the Florida case, rather than diffuse
I know that there`s been commentary about the fact that the stand your
ground laws in Florida were not used as a defense in the case.
On the other hand, if we`re sending a message as a society in our
communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use
those firearms even if there`s a way for them to exit from a situation, is
that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and
order that we`d like to see?
And for those who resist that idea that we should think about
something like these stand your ground laws, I just ask people to consider
if Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his ground on
that sidewalk? And do we actually think that he would have been justified
in shooting Mr. Zimmerman, who had followed him in a car, because he felt
And if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous, it seems to
me that we might want to examine those kinds of laws.
Number three -- and this is a long-term project: We need to spend some
time in thinking about how do we bolster and reinforce our African-American
boys. And this is something that 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 the sense
that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to
invest in them?
You know, I`m not naive about the prospects of some brand-new federal
I`m not sure that that`s what we`re talking about here. But I do
recognize that as president, I`ve got some convening power.
And there are a lot of good programs that are being done across the
country on this front. And for us to be able to gather together business
leaders and local elected officials and clergy and celebrities and athletes
and figure out how are we doing a better job helping young African-American
men feel that they`re a full part of this society and that -- and that
they`ve got pathways and avenues to succeed -- you know, I think that would
be a pretty good outcome from what was obviously a tragic situation. And
we`re going to spend some time working on that and thinking about that.
And then, finally, I think it`s going to be important for all of us to
do some soul-searching. You know, there have been talk about should we
convene a conversation on race. I haven`t seen that be particularly
productive when politicians try to organize conversations. They end up
being stilted and politicized, and folks are locked into the positions they
On the other hand, in families and churches and workplaces, there`s a
possibility that people are a little bit more honest, and at least you ask
yourself your own questions about, am I wringing as much bias out of myself
as I can? Am I judging people as much as I can not based on the color of
their skin but the content of their character? That would, I think, be an
appropriate exercise in the wake of this tragedy.
And let me just leave you with a final thought that as difficult and
challenging as this whole episode has been for a lot of people, 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
that 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`re better than we are. They`re
better than we were on these issues. And that`s true in every community
that I`ve visited all across the country.
And so, you know, we have to be vigilant and we have to work on these
issues. And those of us in authority should be doing everything we can to
encourage the better angels of our nature as opposed to using these
episodes to heighten divisions. But we should also have confidence that
kids these days, I think, have more sense than we did back then, and
certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along
this long, difficult journey, we`re becoming a more perfect union -- not a
perfect union but a more perfect union.
Thank you, guys.
Now, you can talk to Jay.
REPORTER: Mr. President, have you talked to the Martin family --
KLEIN: We`re going to have full analysis of President Obama`s remarks
with Melissa Harris-Perry, Joy Reid, and James Peterson, up next. Stick
KLEIN: We have an amazing panel lined up tonight to talk about the
president`s remarks. Their reaction and their analysis is up next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: 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. And when you think about why in the African-American
community, at least, there`s a lot of pain around what happened here, I
think it`s important to recognize that the African-American community is
looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that
doesn`t go away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: Almost a week after the not guilty verdict came down in the
George Zimmerman case, the president today delivered the most powerful and
compelling remarks, comparing himself to Trayvon Martin during a deeply
personal impromptu speech on race in America.
Joining me now is a great MSNBC host, Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC
contributor James Peterson, and Joy-Ann Reid.
Thank you all so much for being here tonight.
James, I wanted to begin with you. What did you think? When this
came -- I mean, it was a normal day. We were creating this other show then
this speech happened. What did you think?
JAMES PETERSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I mean, it`s been a very, very
emotional week, right? We had the verdict at the top of the week. I saw a
prescreening of "Fruitvale Station" in the middle of the week. And then,
this. So, I was -- I was emotionally charged by the president`s words, and
I was very sensitive to where he was emotional when he was talking about
his own personal experiences.
Normally when I see middle class, upper middle class black folk talk
about their racial experiences, like not being able to catch a cab or being
followed in the store, I often think about like the more brutal forms of
racial discrimination like stop and frisk, or the disparities in the prison
But I think for the president to shed some light here, for me, just it
made me very, very emotional at this particular moment. It added on to all
the efforts of people across this country have been organizing, added on to
all the scholars and thinkers and people writing about this verdict and
trying to wrestle with it.
So, it was a powerful moment.
KLEIN: And, Melissa, one o the things I thought was incredibly
striking about the speech was much of it was not presidential authority. A
lot of that speech -- I mean, he`s in the briefing room but there`s no
teleprompter, there`s no script. And he`s talking not about his powers as
president. In fact, he kind of shies away from it. He`s talking about his
sort of personal experience and the authority of his own heritage.
It was a very different kind of speech -- honestly, I`ve ever seen him
give on anything else before.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: You know, it will undoubtedly be
part of what he`ll be critiqued about. So, he`ll be critiqued from the
right for having talked about this at all. He`ll be critiqued from the
left for not talking about presidential power and authority.
PETERSON: That`s already happening.
KLEIN: We will be talking about that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. That is where it will happen. But part of what
the president did today in that sort of groping authentic conversation
where you saw him saying, I don`t have all the answers here, I`m not quite
sure -- heck, have you noticed racism in America, big problem, you know,
multiple generations, I don`t have all the answers.
But what I did have this sense of is the conversation that has been
happening in tens of thousands of African-American households around the
country. And in fact, my mom reminded me to be clear about this, it`s not
black parents. It`s parents of black children. Not all of whom,
themselves, are black, right?
So, the parents of black children all around this country have been
having these conversations and suddenly you felt, oh my gosh, that`s
conversation was happening in the White House. They were groping about how
to talk to Sasha and Malia about it. They were talking to each other about
how do we as parents elders in the community, in addition to being
president and first lady think about where we stand in this moment?
And, I agree, James. Normally I don`t really care much if you can`t
hail a cab. I mean, whatever.
HARRIS-PERRY: But today, he drew the link. He said the same
discriminatory things that make it hard for m to be in a certain situation
of retail or catching a cab are the same things that make it harder for me
to buy a home and get a decent, you know, education -- and are the same
things that could on any given evening lead to the death of my child and
that was pretty stunning.
KLEIN: And I thought that was actually in a lot of ways the key of
it. There`s been a lot before, a discussion about the kinds of speeches
the president gave in 2008 during the Philadelphia race speech, when he was
trying to bridge these different worlds and speak from his sort of very
unique experience. There`s been a lot of talk about speeches like the one
at Morehouse which is more about him speaking to the African-American
This was a different kind of speech in that he was speak from the
African-American community to the broader country trying to convey that
experience in a way that people who maybe don`t access is easily can here.
JOY-ANN REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Right. Unlike the race speech in
2008, he wasn`t trying to balance the two accords and say, well, the white
perspective, there`s this, and from the black perspective there`s that. He
was saying -- no, all the country needs to realize if Barack Obama, the man
sitting right there in that blue tie were to take off the periwinkle blue
tie and put on a hoodie and walk through Sanford, Florida, he`d be
perceived precisely the way Trayvon Martin was.
That if you, Ezra, and James, changed into hoodies, yourselves, and
walk down the street, the way each of you would be perceived by society
would be completely different. And that he`s asking people to examine why
and examine that and recognize that for African-Americans, every little
slight, it`s like a thousand little cuts, not being able to get a cab, yes,
that`s not the end of the world.
It`s a perception even minorities -- we`re not talking about all white
cab drivers but whether you`re dealing with another minority or somebody
who is white always being perceived as lesser, even if you`re the president
of the United States, even if you have the power and grand year and power
of the office, at the end of the day to a lot of people, you`re just
another black man and someone less than them. That`s something people
don`t understand because they don`t experience it and don`t have to
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, after 9/11 you did not have to explain why
people would be feeling post-traumatic stress even if they didn`t live in
Manhattan. People understood that sense of vulnerability, you could be
attacked just for who we are, which is how we talk about it.
PETERSON: Everyone got it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, we had that shared sense. So, he was trying to
convey that same sense of in this moment, it feels like that.
KLEIN: Yes. And we`re going to talk about exactly that in a second.
Coming up, we`ll take a look at the last major speech given by
President Obama in race in America. How that speech from five years ago in
Philadelphia, how that differed from his remarks today, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I just ask people to
consider. If Trayvon Martin was of age and armed, could he have stood his
ground on that sidewalk?
And, do we actually think that he would have been justified in
shooting Mr.Zimmerman who had followed him in a car because he felt
threatened? And, if the answer to that question is at least ambiguous,
then it seems to me that we might wan to examine those kinds of laws.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
EZRA KLEIN, MSNBC CO-HOST OF "ALL IN": That was President Obama today
suggesting that stand-your-ground laws should, in fact, be examined in the
aftermath of the George Zimmerman trial. Despite those words, today`s
remarks by the president left little role for new policy.
While the president spoke with a lot of authority when relating his
own experience, he was much more tentative when he spoke as the president
imbued with the power of that office about what actions might be taken.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. OBAMA: We are not rolling out some five-point plan, but some
areas where I think all of us could potentially focus. I think there are a
lot of resources and best practices that could be brought to bear if state
and local governments are receptive.
I`m not naive about the prospects of some grand new federal program.
I`m not sure that, that`s what we are talking about here. I haven`t seen
that be particularly productive, when politicians try to organize
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: In the table with me are Melissa Harris Ferry, James Peterson
and Joy Reid. And, Joy, I thought this was a really striking thematic in
this speech because he, like, ticked through everything he could possibly
So, he talked about law enforcement, he said, "Well, that is really
state and local." He talked about larger programs to help like black
youth. He said, "Well, I`m not sure. I`m not naive about that." That
might not be --
He even said a conversation, a conversation coming from politicians.
That also might be counterproductive. There was, I thought, in the speech,
a really notable gap between the sort of the personal pain that was in the
more individual portions of it and then what President Obama was saying as
president. He thought he could productively do.
JOY REID, MANAGING EDITOR OF THE THEGRIO.COM: Right. And, I don`t
know if I can answer -- can I first volunteer to answer to the president`s
question of what would have happened if a black teenager, 18, 19 years old
had shot dead a non-African-American basically white neighborhood watchman.
You would have people on the right saying a black thug murdered and gunned
down in cold blood by another American.
JAMES PETERSON, DIRECTOR OF AFRICANA STUDIES, LEHIGH UNIVERSITY: Yes.
And, he would have been arrested immediately --
REID: And, he would have been arrested immediately, thrown into the
jail and the right would have not seen it.
KLEIN: And, the numbers by the way backed that up.
KLEIN: I mean we have data on stand your ground laws --
KLEIN: -- And, also it turns out that defense doesn`t work as well if
the person who stands their bound was an African American --
REID: Yes. Rush Limbaugh`s next 30 shows would have been about black
thugs roaming the street killing people. So, just putting it aside, unlike
in 1963 when John F. Kennedy gave his great race speech in June, 50 years
ago, last month. There is no big federal remedy. There is no voting
rights act or civil rights act style of remedy for this.
Because what this is, is sort of main thing to humanity to men given
power by gun laws at the state level, which says that if I`m afraid of you
that gun laws in my state allow me to kill you dead, and then you -- it is
only the prosecutor to prove that I was not afraid of you.
REID: That`s the problem. And, I think what the remedy is this time
is something similar to 50 years ago, which is action among citizens that
people need to organize themselves. They need to remember that 2014 is an
election year, maybe not presidential, but an important one. And, that
these state laws can only be taken down by state politician, who are voted
for by us.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST OF "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY" SHOW: And,
yet as you invoke the 50 years ago, we were talking about this earlier --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- June 11th, 1963, President Kennedy takes to airwaves
the Birmingham Children`s crusade has occurred.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, children marching to see their own lair are --
PETERSON: That is right.
HARRIS-PERRY: -- water, hoses -- fire hoses and dogs. And, he said
we cannot say 10 percent of population, African-Americans, that you cannot
have that right. But, your children can`t have the chance to develop
whatever talents they have, that the only way they are going to get their
rights is to go into the streets and demonstrate.
I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that.
But here is the deal. Fifty years later, second term of an African-
American president, after we have shown out at the polls in record numbers,
when our child is shot dead, unarmed with anything more than skittles,
these laws allow his killer to be a free and armed man.
PETERSON: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I think we are called in this moment, and if not
just I think presidential cowardice, 50 years later are we failing? Have
we failed to do what President Kennedy said 50 years ago?
PETERSON: And, in some ways we have. I mean the dream defenders are
going to see the governor of Florida. I think it is an important
correlation with what exactly you are talking about here, Melissa.
PETERSON: And, listen the importance of the president saying what he
said about that juxtaposition is that this is something we`re saying in the
African-American community from the beginning of this process. So, he is
in solidarity with the African-American community at that particular
But, I think joy is also right, that it is not ultimately about the
president. It is ultimately about what we have to do coming out of this,
which is looking at the movement of state`s rights.
I mean when you look across the political issues, when you look at the
war against women, when you look at the underfunding of government. You
have to really look at states rights. And, that is really the forefront --
that the battle has got to be fought at this point going forward.
So, I think the president not giving these federal overarching
policies is important because the movements that are going on, the
organizations that Reverend Al has organized over the course of this
weekend, those things are important to me because you just stay focused on
that energy as well.
KLEIN: But I do want to contrast this a little bit with the
Philadelphia speech in 2008, which we have a clip from right here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. OBAMA: For as long as I live, I will never forget that in no
other country on earth is my story even possible. It is a story that has
not made me the most conventional of candidates. But, it is a story that
has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than
the sum of its parts. That out of many, we are truly one.
The legacy of discrimination and current incidents of discrimination,
while less overt than in the past, that these things are real and must be
addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds by investing in our schools
and our communities, by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring
fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with
ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: Melissa, I want to talk to you about the difference in the
ambition of that speech and this one today right when we come back.
KLEIN: So, Melissa, what I think and see in that speech from 2008,
the famed Philadelphia race speech is part of the premise of that speech is
that, if we have the right political leadership and the country at this
point is ready to move forward, have more adult conversations about race
and to actually heal some of these wounds.
And, then today President Obama comes out in this much more toned
down, no sort of high-flying \rhetoric, no fancy teleprompter, and says,
actually, if politicians lead this discussion, it`s going to go awry. And,
the difference between the served theory of the discussion on race in 2008
and in 2013, I think is really telling about the experience he has had as
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That was President Obama before someone asked for
his birth certificate. That was, right, that was --
PETERSON: Before he told him, you lie.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right, before he said, you lied. That was
president Obama before every move that he made became where he ended up
carrying the burden of race. But, what I will say is President Obama or
Senator Obama in 2008 and President Obama 2013 do share a kind of optimism
about the American project, which is actually infused within the history of
African-American philosophy and writing and political action.
You know, I have been quoting and reading and thinking a lot about
Dubois. And, these people who said it was impossible to pull together the
blackness and the Americanness, that it was a struggle that would render
that dark body apart. And, you see the president always hopeful, always
optimistic, and yet that kind of sadness that I think has overcome so many
of us who are optimistic about the American project and self-government in
a multiracial society, nonetheless felt this week.
KLEIN: President Obama today, he said there are a lot of young
African-American men out there, who need help and when we get back here, I
want to talk to someone, who actually provides that help for living to
find out what president Obama`s remarks meant to them, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. OBAMA: We need to spend some time in thinking about how do we
bolster and reinforce our African-American boys? And, this is something
that 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 it is
the 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)
KLEIN: That was president Obama earlier today asking what we as a
country, what we as a country can do to further invest in our young
African-American men. Joining me now is Khary Lazarre-White, co-founder
and executive director of the Brotherhood/Sister Sol, a not for profit
group working with young people in poor communities.
Still with me is MSNBC host, Melissa Harris-Perry and MSNBC
contributors James Peterson and Joy Reid. And, Khary I want to go to you
because you actually live this every day. That speech, when you heard it,
what did it mean to you? What was in there for you and the work you do?
KHARY LAZARRE-WHITE, CO-FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE
BROTHER/SISTER SOL: I think that the speech resonated with me in two ways.
First, it is really essential that we look at the importance of supporting
our boys, of supporting young men to redefine masculinity in manhood, to
walk away from conflict, to learn what success looks like, to provide
opportunities and access, to really put our hands on them, to love and
support and guide them; so, they can become strong men.
And, all too often, we don`t do that work. We don`t do the necessary
work of building strong men. And, it is a lot harder to build strong men,
you know, than to lock somebody up. And, so when we look at the city of
New York, and we look at spending $15,000 to educate a child and $210,000
to incarcerate a child, it shows where the priorities are.
So, in one hand, and I think it`s a very important point, that it was
something that we wanted to hear. But the second part is that we also have
to look at the policies connected to that. It is not just about building
strong boys, but it is about what the educational system looks like. Are
there job opportunities? And, very specifically, what is going on with the
prison system as well? And, so, when we look at those two issues, it`s the
policy. It is about building strong boys, but it is also about providing
access and opportunity.
KLEIN: And, I don`t think people realize this actually all that well.
When you look at unemployment among black males right now, you are looking
as you can see on the chart here, at a precisely doubled unemployment rate
to white males. It is 7.4 percent for white males and 15 percent for black
males. That is -- If it was 15.4 percent unemployment nationwide, we
wouldn`t talk about a recovery. We wouldn`t talk about a recession. We
would talk about a genuine disastrous tragic depression. And, that is
actually the reality, though, among black African-American males.
LAZARRE-WHITE: And, it is even worse when you look at the young black
male population. If you look at the 18-year-old to 25-year-old population,
for instance, in a city like New York, only 45 percent are either working
full time or are in college.
The rest are kind of transient employment or unemployed. This is a
major, major issue. And, the reason there isn`t enough investment our
argument would be is because that population has not been deemed important
enough and that`s the central issue of the Trayvon Martin decision. It is
that our lives are not seen as important enough, whether it`s employment,
whether it`s education or whether within the criminal justice system.
KLEIN: And, there is this emphasis, Joy, in American Politics on
talking about policy in this very colorblind way. We don`t like to have
any talk about a policy that would affect one group or another --
KLEIN: -- particularly in economics. There is no racial stimulus so
to speak, right? But, there is, when you do that, you do miss much, much
elevated problems in certain communities.
REID: No, absolutely. And, you miss it because it`s more systemic
than just unemployment. Before a young man is unemployed, you have a whole
system that is failing them. Our educational system, where you have
literally dropout factories, is the technical term for them, because they
are graduating less than 50 percent of their black male students than you
There are schools where 29 percent of the black men, the black boys
that are in that school are actually making it to graduation. So, when you
are having systemic problems of health care and also mental health. And,
we do not talk about that enough too.
If you are living in a community where you are seeing people die,
where you are seeing people shot, where you know people who have been shot,
where you have family members, where you have just systemic violence around
you. What about your mental health and your inability then to learn, to be
productive, to grow and then just the sense of lack of value?
You know, my son and I talked about this after the Trayvon Martin
shooting. This sort of sense, that, "Wow, what is my value? Does anyone
value me?" I think that also plays into this sort of sense of black men as
an internal visitor rather than a citizen.
HARRIS-PERRY: The one thing, I want to put in, though is that to say
is Trayvon Martin was apparently as a human. The person who respected
people -- he was apparently a natural friend to Rachel Jeantel.
HARRIS-PERRY: He apparently, you know, was great big cousin. He had
gone out to get the candy for the younger kid --
PETERSON: That is right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, despite divorce, had a close and mentoring and
loving relationship with his father.
HARRIS-PERRY: All the things we would need.
PETERSON: It is true.
HARRIS-PERRY: And he was shot and killed. And, I think part of the
despair we heard in the president is he has been very much the president
who has said, we have to do better.
HARRIS-PERRY: But, even when everything was -- he was behind the gate
in the community.
KLEIN: And, that`s the part of the idea that the president could
have been Trayvon 35 years ago. Melissa, we have to say good-bye to you
now. I know you have to run. You are going to be on T.V. later tonight.
You are going to co-host a special tonight with Alex Wagner in.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, in the next hour.
KLEIN: We are looking forward to this.
PETERSON: That would be awesome.
KLEIN: On Saturday and on Sunday mornings at 10:00 p.m., you also
host a television show on this network. You can see a lot of Melissa
Harris-Perry this week and you should. But, more with our panel right
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. OBAMA: There are very few African-American men in this country,
who have not had the experience of being followed when they were shopping
in a department store that includes me. There are, frankly, very few
African-American who have not had the experience of walking across the
street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to
me, at least before I was a senator. Those sets of experiences inform how
the African-American community interprets what happened one night in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KLEIN: James, I thought this was one of the most powerful moments in
the speech because I do think -- what he was responding to there, it seemed
to me, was a sort of implicit tendency for people to say, there are these
good African-American males like the president, like people who grow up to
be the president --
PETERSON: That is right.
KLEIN: -- and these bad ones and we pictures of them in hoodies and
telling you no.
KLEIN: And, he say no.
PETERSON: He collapsed that distinction.
KLEIN: He collapsed that distinction in his own person.
PETERSON: That is right. And, it is really, really important.
Again, it merest conversations that we have been having, and that people
have been having in the barbershops, in the public sphere, the black public
sphere especially, but for the president who endorsed that, I think is
really, really important.
At the end of the day, President Barack Obama has almost an impossible
mission I feel when it comes to these kinds of situations. The problems
for Black America are high sort of capacity problems that require complex
solutions. They could require sustained effort.
So, the president can sort of get involved and sometimes he can get
lost in the weeds of that. He gets critiqued on the left and right when we
are talking about that a lot. He gets critiqued on left and the right.
But, what we want from this president is exactly what we saw is honest talk
about painful situations.
The thing that was most important now is when he said today was he
acknowledged the pain of the black community. And, I know some people
think that, that`s symbolic or that`s substantive. For my son, who is
asking me like, "What is going on this whole Zimmerman thing? What is the
value of my life?" For him to see the president of the United States sort
of engage at that level was very, very powerful. It was the endorsement of
the black pain and that`s just important.
KLEIN: And, Khary, I think this is one of the really kind of amazing
-- the horrifying too, but amazing things at this time, which is Trayvon
Martin was not the violent one that night.
He was not the one running around that community with the gun. He was
not the one following people and he was not the one in the end who shot
another man dead. And, I do think that there has been this kind of again,
this implicit assumption that he might have been doing something volatile
lent there. I think it is a reasonable assumption. And, I do think that
this case properly understood should show how unbelievably toxic those
LAZARRE-WHITE: Absolutely. And, it goes right to the core of the
work my organization does with Brotherhood/Sister Sol in terms of
redefining manhood. Because when George Zimmerman gets out of that car in
addition to whatever racial animus he is feeling, he is also feeling
bravado and machismo.
And, he is getting out with aggressive, violent intentions. And, so,
in America, we don`t have a black male problem with violence. We have an
American male problem with violence. We have a celebration of violence in
this country that runs throughout different ethnicities.
And, last year the FBI reports that there were 13,000 homicides in
this country. Disproportionately black at 50 percent. With 45 percent for
white males, which means we`re dealing with a national scourge of violence.
That is not replicated in any other nation that we see around the world.
And, so what is it that America is doing to confront its obsession with
violence that is deeply connected to manhood, to patriarchy and to sexism
REID: And, by the way, we should note that, you know, for a lot of
people on the right in order to understand this from their point of view,
have been determined to remake Trayvon Martin into the bogeyman that they -
PETERSON: That is right.
REID: -- You know, that they believe he ought to be in order for this
narrative to work for them. You know the idea of releasing cell phone
pictures. You know teenagers and sort of the silly things they say in a
text message, photos on a cell phone, and insisting that he is a thug, that
he deserved to die.
PETERSON: That is right.
REID: That he was exactly the bogeyman black male that they want to
believe that so many young black men are even though he was not. His
brother is a college student.
PETERSON: That is right.
REID: A congressional interesting parents. These are middle class
people. But, the idea they couldn`t even accept him as a victim. He is
still even in death even after the trial has to be a thug and the bad guy?
It says a lot about this country.
KLEIN: And, I think that goes to what was powerful about that point
in the speech where he kind of says this is not -- you want to assume, you
want to feel better, you want to be humanized by saying these people are
violent and it`s okay even in a generalized way.
And, you can`t because it could be any number of people you know.
Khary Lazzare-White from the Brotherhood/Sister Sol organization, Joy Reid,
James Peterson, thank you all so much for being here tonight. It was
really helpful to talk to you.
PETERSON: Thank you.
KLEIN: Chris will be back on Monday. Up next is on MSNBC special on
President Obama and Trayvon Martin. Good night.
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