updated 7/28/2013 12:18:18 PM ET 2013-07-28T16:18:18

The right's view of racial issues in America ignores facts about who really commits crimes and get away with them.

The United States has a long history when it comes to politicians exploiting economic and racial anxiety for electoral gain. Iowa Rep. Steve King’s recent racist comments about immigrants drew criticism, even from his own party, but inflammatory rhetoric on race and immigration is hardly a new facet of the Republican party. On Sunday’s Up with Steve Kornacki, the panel discussed how nativism threatens any attempts to broaden the GOP base and, more broadly, how attitudes of party and media figures ignore modern realities.

“You can scare people at the bottom and make them afraid of other people at the bottom,” said Jane Hall of American University, referring to President Obama’s Saturday interview with the New York Times. Hall joined MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry, The Daily Beast’s Jamelle Bouie, Josh Barro and Up host Steve Kornacki Sunday to discuss how the Right deals with race.

“We only ever talk about the pathologies of the privileged,” Harris-Perry said. It’s easy to know what Bill O’Reilly is thinking of when he talks about black-on-black crime, but, as Harris-Perry pointed out, no one thinks twice about treating the underage drinking habits of Ivy League students like a youthful indiscretion rather than a crime.

Watch the whole discussion about politics, race, identity, and privilege and watch Up with Steve Kornacki ever Saturday and Sunday at 8 AM ET.

Video: Why what we're choosing to criminalize is a huge part of society's race question

  1. Closed captioning of: Why what we're choosing to criminalize is a huge part of society's race question

    >>> amount of the republican rhetoric over the last 4 1/2 years. we were talking about immigration and the steve king comments last hour. i want to broaden this out and look at the wake of the george zimmerman verdict. we played the kip from hannity in the setup. there was another one. in is bill o 'reilly, sort of taking on trying to diagnosis why there might be crime in the black community. this is him talking about it this week.

    >> with the african-american out of we had lock birth rate at 73%, many young blacks are unsupervised and prone to imitate bad behavior, like what lil wayne puts out. pop a lot of pain pills about to put rims on my skateboard wheels beat that [ bleep ] like emmett till yeah two cell phones ringing at the same time that's your ho calling from two different phones tell that leave me the [ bleep ] alone [ bleep ] [ bleep ]

    >> jane, i want to ask you about this. jane, our lil wayne expert on the panel. but are you our bill o 'reilly expert on the panel.

    >> i have been.

    >> you've been on his show with bernie goldberg and bill and you and, maybe not a fair fight there, but i just wonder, he's been doing this a lot, you know, in the wake of the zimmerman thing. it's not just him and hannity , it's fox news in general. you're familiar with what goes on behind the scenes here. what do you make of what fox is doing right now?

    >> well, i'll tell you. i think that they have decided their audience can be made more fearful. it is exactly what president obama was talking about in his interview with the "new york times." you can scare people at the bottom and make them afraid of other people at the bottom and make them feel somehow as if that's the focus rather than the rich people are getting richer in this country. so, i don't know if it's a memo has gone out, but there's a lot of very inflammatory language. o'reilly is very interesting because he said on an interview with gerlado he cared about young, poor people being born into poverty. i thought, go interview them. quit lecturing them about how racism is over. there's a complicated view there where trayvon martin came from an intact, loving family. there's nothing wrong with whom who don't, but to turn this into lecturing the black community, i feel funny even talking about it.

    >> i want to ask you about that. this is the worst barometer for public opinion, e-mails and internet comments --

    >> don't read the comments.

    >> i noticed, we did a show the morning after the verdict. the verdict came out at a 10:00 the night before. we did a show to. i got more e-mail in response to that, some said nice show, mostly my parents, but people i never met before who were -- seemed to be on the more, anti- obama , and i heard the same comment over and over . one e-mail after another. why won't black people care about black -on- black crime as much as they care about trayvon martin and george zimmerman ? i have heard that almost a talking point for the last few weeks.

    >> yeah. it's a bit of -- i guess i want to say a few things. one, lil wayne 's audience, first, i'm from new orleans. you play lil wayne , i'm just going to dance. but lil wayne 's audience is a young audience, profoundly interracial. what braebs down about black culture having deleterious affect on black behavior is black culture is youth culture . the availability of hip-hop music, of all of these things that get linkedin this way is simply available to kids graduating valedictorian and kids who will never graduate. as we would say in social science , a constant can't prove a variable. youth culture is a constant in this. part of why that then happens, why we make this link, is because we are not practiced in talking about the pathologies of the privileged. we only ever talk about the pathologies of the poor. so, when we say black -on- black crime, people know -- they immediately have a whole set of things to hang that on. they can connect that to a discourse that's been going on since the 1960s . particularly this comment about out of wed lock birth. democrats did that first with daniel moynahan. that's so old, it's not even interesting anymore. it gives people something kog n cognitively to hang it on. my students at princeton , most are white, commit crimes pretty much every thursday, friday, saturday night. they drink illegally underage. some engage in other illegal activities. almost all of them listen to lil wayne and other things. nearly all of them will go on to graduate from ivy league universities, to have great jobs, to make good families. but we're not practiced at looking at those who have privilege, looking at their pathologies and asking, how is it despite those pathologies they end up with such good lives. the answer is because they have all of these resources, second chances, opportunities. and the assumption we would never want to criminalize their bad behavior. no one thinks the underage drinking crime of a princeton student ought to be criminalized. we think we ought to encourage them not to, maybe get a little therapy, maybe work to -- but no one thinks we should put them in jail, including me.

    >> i never liked princeton kids.

    >> they get a second chance. if you've got some advantages.

    >> yeah.

    >> and a hoodie, talk about a thing -- you know --

    >> they're all wearing hoodies.

    >> i mean, hoodies are worn by many kinds of young people .

    >> we have a -- the polling on this got some attention. i want to show, first of all, the polling on the zimmerman verdict, an abc/ washington post poll. white as prove of the verdict 51% to 31%. blacks approve, 86% disapprove. what we thought was interesting is if you match this up, sort of how politicized this becomes, if you match this up with the breakdown of the 2012 election, doesn't look that much different. whites with with a 20-point difference for romney. same thing,. i'm trying to figure out if this is because the verdict and because of obama 's reaction to it has been filtered through the political media and everybody has gotten the message they're supposed to get or every group in this country has already sorted itself out and we live in different worlds and this is the result of it.

    >> i think both things are true. i think also the things that drove obama 's extremely high margin among african- americans also drives how african- americans reacted to the george zimmerman verdict. zimmerman wasn't on trial, trayvon martin was. trayvon martin 's life was being judged. if you were -- if you felt atrade of trayvon martin , then, like, george zimmerman should get off. if you didn't, then zimmerman should be guilty. likewise with obama , there's a real sense among african- americans , even though who would identify themselves with conservative views that obama 's policies have never been the issue with republicans. it's who obama is that's been the issue. that's driven sort of a sense of group -- essentially like black people are going to give obama a big hug and protect him, is what has driven his high support among the community. with the zimmerman verdict you're seeing -- and with the fact that both things are similar, the levels of feelings of support are similar, you're seeing that kind of -- the streams are being crossed, if i can borrow a line from ghost busters .

    >> i find the line o'reilly has taken on this, it's such a change of subject. black -on- black crime is a very real problem. and it's a real policy problem that local officials are dealing with all the time. i mean, the idea that nobody cares about crimes that are committed against black people is just incorrect. and there's been a huge improvement in the crime situation over the last 20 years in the united states . it doesn't mean that there isn't a discussion to be had about trayvon martin , about whether the verdict was just. we can walk and chew gum at the same time. setting said even whether bill o 'reilly is right or wrong about the point he's making, and i don't think he's right about lil wayne , it still doesn't go to the issue, whether there's a conversation to be had about whether a young black man walking home alone is less -- has less legal protection than --

    >> again, part of the problem is we just -- all crime -- the vast majority of all crimes are intraracial. most crime that impacts white people is committed by white people .

    >> whites live with whites and --

    >> white women are most likely to be raped by white men. black men are more likely to be sexually assaulted by black men. the only group this is not true is native americans . we just never -- we do not discuss white-on-white crime. that notion of fear, the notion that mr. zimmerman should have been afraid of trayvon martin is empirically false from the perspective that -- the president at one point said trayvon martin was most likely to have been killed by a peer. the reality is, so, too, is george zimmerman most likely to have been physically attacked or crime committed against him by a peer. but that's not what happened. this man, who is not black , did kill this child, who is black . and he will not be going to jail for it. those are impempirical realities.

    >> the response from someone like bill o 'reilly -- you can't deny the fact that african-american men are disproportionate share of people convicted of crimes. i think the observation is that prevalence of criminality among -- or the pref lens among black of criminality doesn't --

    >> it's about policing.

    >> right.

    >> we also need to link this to guns, i think, and the arming of merge l america. you build up fear, get people afraid of each other, and they think they have to have a law that says, stand your ground . if george zimmerman had been unarmed or gotten back in the car, it wouldn't have happened.

    >> just the reaction to this, the steve king comment, i have to say, i'll admit to anyway evety, at the start of the obama presidency, i didn't think racism was over but i'm surprised how overt the racism from the right. not just overt, just the consequences i wouldn't have expected five years ago talking the way somebody hannity or limbaugh has talked. that's bothered me. i hope some of that changes fast but maybe that's naive, too. i want to thank melissa harris-perry and josh borro. [ woman ]


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