July 27, 2013
Guests: Richard Kim, Dale Ho, Rebecca Sinderbrand, Alton Pollard, Ari
Berman, Robert George, Richard Kim, Robert George, Paul Raushenbush,
Katherine Henderson, Iyanla Vanzant, Debbie Sterling
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question: why won`t
Anthony Weiner just go away?
Plus, a pope of the people refocuses the Vatican`s agenda.
And spiritual life coach, Iyanla Vanzant, joins us here in Nerdland.
But first, what the George Zimmerman verdict can teach us about voting
rights in Texas.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. After weeks of speculation, we`ve
finally got a chance to put a name and a face to the only person of color
among the six women who acquitted George Zimmerman. Yesterday, juror B-29
became the first of the six to show herself on camera when she sat down
with ABC`s Robin Roberts in an interview for "Good Morning America." The
juror, who used only her first name, Maddie, is Puerto Rican, married, 36-
year-old, mother of eight who works as a nursing assistant. And she wasn`t
just the only person of color in the jury room. Maddie says she was also
the lone voice of dissent.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDIE: I was the juror that was going to give them the hung juror. Oh, I
was. I fought to the end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Maddie`s fight during the deliberations wasn`t just with the
other five jurors, it was also with herself. Between her feelings about
George Zimmerman`s culpability and the facts presented about him in court.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDIE: For myself, he`s guilty. We couldn`t prove that, intentionally,
he killed him. And that`s the way the law was read to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: You see, the prosecution failed to convince Maddie, and her
fellow jurors, of George Zimmerman`s intent. OK, think about that for a
second. The requirement to prove intent, to provide irrefutable evidence
of an intangible thing, to convince a jury that they can know the
unknowable, the private contents of a person`s heart and mind. It`s what
friend of Nerdland Jay Smooth (ph) calls the rhetorical Bermuda triangle,
in his video essay on how to talk about racism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because that conversation takes us away from the facts
of what they did, and the speculation about their motives and intentions,
and those are things you can only guess at, and you can`t ever prove, and
that makes it way too easy for them to derail your whole argument.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But this, climbing the steep mountain to make the case for
intent, is exactly what the state was tasked with doing in the Zimmerman
trial. In a criminal case, we burden the state with the need to prove
intent -- for good reason. After all, a guilty verdict gives the
government permission to use its power to revoke an individual`s liberty,
as punishment. So that uphill climb to convince a jury of a person`s
intentions beyond a reasonable doubt is a justifiably steep standard.
But, what about when the government is tasked not with taking away an
individual`s rights, but with protecting them? Come with me now. It seems
that we`d want to make it as easy as possible to defend something that is
precious. And yet, left with what remains of the ability to protect the
voting rights of Americans, the government faces that same uphill battle.
The need to prove intent. And it`s the challenge ahead for the Justice
Department and Attorney General Eric Holder, following the announcement he
made before the National Urban League`s annual conference this week.
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today, I am announcing that the Justice
Department will ask a federal court in Texas to subject the state of Texas
to a preclearance regime, similar to the one required by Section Five of
the Voting Rights Act. This request to bail in the state of Texas and to
require it to obtain preapproval from either the department or a federal
court before implementing future voting changes is available under the
Voting Rights Act, when intentional voting discrimination is found.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, that provision that he`s talking about, that will allow
the state of Texas to be bailed into the preclearance requirement is
section three of the Voting Rights Act. Same great voter protection
ability as section five, but much harder to enforce. Remember, section
five automatically requires states with a history of racial discrimination
to get permission from the federal government before they can make any
changes in their voting laws. But by striking down section four, which
determined which states were subject to that requirement, the Supreme Court
essentially banished section five to legal limbo for the time being. So
the Justice Department is using the next best thing, section three.
Section three also has a preclearance requirement. But instead of being
applied to states already predetermined by a formula, section three allows
states to be bailed in or brought in under the umbrella of the VRA, that is
the Voting Rights Act, protection. Here`s the catch, section three
requires the federal government to wade into that rhetorical Bermuda
triangle and prove discriminatory intent. That a jurisdiction passed a law
with the explicit intention to discriminate based on race. Telling a state
that their voting laws are kind of racist is tricky, because, well, let me
return to Jay Smooth one more time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It feels like the hardest way to hit them is just run
up on them and say, I think your [MUTED] is racist. When you handle it
that way, you`re actually letting them off easy, because you`re setting up
a conversation that`s way too simple for him to derail and dug out of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So here`s what that sounds like in the fight over voting
rights. Voter advocate -- hey, your voter I.D. law is going to
disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of people of color. That`s racist.
Vote suppressors, that`s not racist, that`s a defense against voter fraud.
See how that works? So while section three can be an effective tool in the
fight for voter protection, it is an imperfect solution. Fortunately,
there is also a potential easy fix. Let`s swap out intent for another six-
letter "i" word. Impact. Making this small change to section three would
make a big difference in the government`s ability to enforce the VRA.
Instead of the requirement to prove the unprovable, shifting the standard
of proof to disparate impact would give the Justice Department something
observable, measurable, and quantifiable on which to build the case.
Unfortunately, making that change also requires something almost as
difficult these days as proving intent. Getting the U.S. Congress to act.
Joining me now is Alton Pollard, dean of Howard University School of
Divinity, and professor of religion and culture at Howard University.
Richard Kim, executive editor of thenation.com. Rebecca Sinderbrand, who
is deputy White House editor at Politico, and Dale Ho, director of ACLU`s
voting rights project. And joining us from Austin, Texas, Ari Berman,
contributing writer of "The Nation" magazine and author of "Herding
Donkeys: the Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American
Dale, I want to start with you. If the Supreme Court has told us under
section four, history is no longer the basis, if it is awfully hard to
prove intent, then can we imagine disparate impact as a way to get to voter
DALE HO, ACLU`S VOTING RIGHTS PROJECT DIRECTOR: I think we absolutely can.
Because focusing on intent, as you pointed out, really focuses on the wrong
question. If I`m the victim of discrimination, it doesn`t really matter to
me why I`ve been discriminated against, only that I`ve been discriminated
against. So North Carolina, their voter suppression law, it`s going to
disproportionately affect African-Americans. If I`m one of those African-
American voters, it doesn`t matter to me if the legislature did that
because they don`t like black people or because they think that black
people are going to vote for a particular party. Either way, I`ve lost the
most precious right that I have in our democracy.
So focusing on intent, I think, focuses more on the culpability of the
offender and it evinces more of a concern for the offender`s state of mind
than what actually happened to the victim.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, it actually requires us, Ari, it feels like to me it
requires us to have the kind of rhetorical smoking gun, that basically we
have to turn all state legislatures into Paula Deen in order for us to be
able to say, we need to protect voting rights. Talk to me about what you
think is the possibility of either getting Congress to move towards impact
or else being able to convince the Supreme Court that a disparate impact
standard is a new way to rewrite that section four.
ARI BERMAN, THE NATION MAGAZINE: Well, hi, Melissa, good morning. So most
lawmakers are smart enough to say, we`re not going to discriminate against
someone before they do so. Texas lawmakers weren`t one of them. Because
there is a long series of e-mails in this redistricting case, basically
showing how Texas lawmakers would carve up specific districts to subvert
the growing Hispanic minority voting power in that state. So the federal
courts were able to show, in this case, that the Texas redistricting plans
were enacted with discriminatory purpose.
But, remember, they also blocked Texas`s voter I.D. law, without having to
show that. If they had to show, for example, that Texas` voter I.D. law
was enacted with discriminatory purpose, they might not have been able to
block it. That was the genius of section five.
But I just want to go back quickly. There is an important historical
example, which is in 1980, there was a very important case called Mobile
versus Bolden (ph) in 1980. Where the Supreme Court said that you had to
show discriminatory intent to prove a violation of section two of the
Voting Rights Act, another very important provision that applies
nationwide. John Roberts, when he was a young lawyer in the Reagan Justice
Department, fought very hard to preserve the fact that section two had to
Congress in 1982 overruled the Supreme Court, overruled Roberts and said,
section two just needs to be impact-based. You only have to prove
discriminatory impact, not intent. That preserved section two as one of
the pillars of the Voting Rights Act, which survives today. Congress can
do the same thing right now with section three. It`s not a very difficult
change. They could do it tomorrow, if they wanted, and there`s an
historical precedent for them to do so.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ari, I`m so glad you brought that up. And Dale, I want to
come back to you on this, because right now, in front of the Supreme Court,
with the potential of being heard, is the Mt. Holly case. And the Mt. Holy
case is actually a fair housing case, it is not a voting case, but it does
hinge on this question of disparate impact and whether or not disparate
racial impact is a fair basis. And if this makes it to the court of John
Roberts, who in the 1980s, as a young Justice Department attorney, was
vigorously against an impact standard and wanted, instead, an intent
standard, are we looking at the possibility of even -- that Mt. Holly could
actually take down the voting rights possibility of disparate impact as a
HO: Well, I certainly hope that isn`t what happens. If we had a court
that was respectful of our civil rights precedents, I wouldn`t be concerned
about this at all. But Shelby County I think dashes those hopes to a
certain extent. I think if the Mt. Holly case goes up, we should be
optimistic about its results, because the Fair Housing Act has been
interpreted to have a disparate impact standard for decades. It would be a
really radical change to interpret--
HARRIS-PERRY: I laugh because I think, yeah, but radical change in the
protection of civil rights is sort of what they`re up to here.
HO: That`s unfortunately, I think, our worst fears, as civil rights
advocates, right? You know, there`s a possibility that case might settle.
You know, the parties requested additional time for briefing this summer,
to pursue those sort of settlement conversations. But I think the Mt.
Holly case really underscores why disparate impact is so important. In
this case, you had an African-American community. Their neighborhood was
demolished. The new development, most of the members of that community
can`t afford to move into. And again, it doesn`t really matter to them why
you did it. They don`t have homes anymore.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right. It doesn`t matter if you were holding in your
heart this negative feeling, and again, as we said in the case of juror B-
29, that can be really tough. Even in what feels to so many people like a
clear-cut instance, unless you can prove that this is what is in the mind
of the shooter, right, then, in fact, you may have votes walking free. So
you may be at this point shooting down our voting rights. Stick with us.
We are staying on exactly this topic and I am bringing everyone else back
in as soon as we`re back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: This is the department`s first action to protect voting rights
following the Shelby County decision. But it will not be our last. Even
as Congress considers updates to the Voting Rights Act in light of the
court`s ruling, we plan, in the meantime, to fully utilize the law`s
remaining sections to ensure that the voting rights of all American
citizens are protected.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Attorney General Eric Holder, addressing the
National Urban League`s annual conference on Thursday. Richard?
RICHARD KIM, THE NATION: My understanding about that intent bar, right, is
that it`s easier to prove that in the redistricting cases. Right? And
correct me if I`m wrong, Dale and Ari, it`s because on that level, the sort
of quantum level of, you know, decision making there is race. They`re
using it as a proxy for partisanship, right? When you get to the ballot box
issues, right, which have completely disproportionate racial impact, the
intent there is not really race, per se, it`s just partisanship. And it
actually affects young people, new voters, as well as African-Americans and
Latinos, right? So you know, the question, you know, there is the racial
impact that we should consider, but I also think there`s just a democracy
issue with the ballot box issue, right? And that should concern all
HARRIS-PERRY: So I guess, there`s two pieces on that. One, also, the
other thing that happens in the redistricting, right? We know the sort of
trail of e-mails that Ari was just talking about, there`s going to be an e-
mail trail. I was thinking, maybe this is the first time progressives will
be down with the NSA, like, reading your e-mails, right, if we have to be
able to prove intent in order to get these voting rights cases.
But let me ask you about that, Ari, because it does seem to be part of what
happens is, you have to have these conversations across parties when you`re
doing the redistricting. It is a lot of back and forth and balancing.
But, you know, for example, seeing what we`ve seen in North Carolina,
recently, when there`s a party in charge, it doesn`t feel like you get that
same trail of conversation when you`re talking about these kind of voter
BERMAN: No. And that`s the thing, that`s what makes it so important to
have to be able to show impact, not just intent. Because, otherwise, it`s
going to be very hard to prove these intent things. And I want to talk
about Texas, where I am right now, because some people were saying, why is
Holder suing Texas. Like this was some theoretical exercise. We had
federal courts finding that two huge laws in Texas, the redistricting
changes and the voter I.D. laws, were discriminatory last year. So there`s
already a record of discrimination shown. And look at the voter I.D. case.
I think people forget here. You have 600,000 to 800,000 registered voters
according to the state of Texas, who don`t have that I.D. You have a
handgun permit being able to use to vote, but not a student I.D. You have
Hispanic voters, 46 to 120 percent more likely to not have that I.D. You
have a so-called free I.D., which you need an underlying document to get,
which costs $22, as the cheapest option.
HARRIS-PERRY: Which is a poll tax.
BERMAN: Which is why Eric Holder called it a poll tax and why the federal
courts that said, any law that makes you choose between your paycheck and
your franchise, disenfranchises you.
And the last thing I`ll say is, Texas only has DMV offices in 81 of 254
counties in the state. So if you don`t have that I.D., which 600,000 to
800,000 registered voters don`t have, and if you don`t have a car, and by
the way Hispanics in Texas are more likely to not have a car and to live in
counties without DMV offices, how are you supposed to get that I.D.? You`re
going to drive 250 miles to get it? So for all those reasons, it was
blocked under section five, and that`s why the Justice Department and
groups going forward are going to try to challenge this law in federal
court under other provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Rebecca, I want to ask you about the politics of what
happens and what Ari`s saying there. So he can lay out for us very clearly
how these policies have disparate impact. But in order for this attorney
general, under this president, to sort of move forward with this, they are
going to have to talk about intent. And that leaves an African-American
president and an African-American attorney general having to say, the state
lawmakers in Texas are basically racist in their policy making. How bad is
that, politically, or how difficult is that for them politically?
REBECCA SINDERBRAND, POLITICO.COM: Well, I mean, like, speaking about
Texas, very specifically, obviously for politicians in Texas, it`s a great
dynamic. There is no downside to them, to be -- seem to be standing up to
President Obama and Eric Holder`s Justice Department.
I want to circle back quickly to what you were talking about, with the
changes in Congress. The fact is, we have two competing impulses here,
right? We had somewhat the same dynamic we had on immigration, where
Congress wants to be seen as moving forward on voting rights legislation,
the same way they want to be seen as moving forward on immigration, but
they don`t actually want to move forward on it. They just want to be seen
as moving forward on it. And so you have, from the very beginning of this,
the president`s second term, you`ve had the process set up where they say,
look, we know Congress isn`t going to act. We have to figure out
workarounds. And what you`re seeing here is the ultimate workaround. The
same you saw on climate change, you`re seeing the workaround begin.
HARRIS-PERRY: And like when they did DOCA (ph), because they couldn`t get
I want to ask you, Alton, because it seems to me part of what we`re seeing,
what we`re going to see with civil rights groups and others, there`s going
to have to be a level of activism now around this, that wasn`t necessary
when you had the section five preclearance. That sort of opted people in.
Now you`re going to have to have folks on the ground bringing the cases,
identifying it. You have trained -- part of what you do is train largely
African-American clergy, and that has been a group key to turning out
DR. ALTON POLLARD, HOWARD UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF DIVINITY: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do they see the political work as part of their spiritual --
do you hear them talking about this as part of what they will be doing?
POLLARD: I think it`s safe to say that they`re indistinguishable for our
students. We recognize public policy, political action, social justice,
the life of faith all go hand in hand. There is no school of ministry
preparation for us without that understanding. So our students are taking
courses, they`re doing public policy. They`re doing prophetic ministry.
We are engaged in research around issues of gentrification, health care,
education, economic development, a whole host of issues, so that they
understand that it is not enough to simply be in a church, it is not enough
to be with four walls and a steeple. That, in fact, the ministry of the
21st century is about what it has always been, being with and for and by
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I so appreciate that. As soon as we come back,
we`re going to talk about the person who I think is just absolutely the
embodiment of exactly that. And that`s Reverend Barber down in North
Carolina, who is a man of the cloth, but is clearly a man of the people on
this question of pushing back against the absolute madness in North
HARRIS-PERRY: Over the last year that we`ve been bringing you this week in
voter suppression, we`ve covered some pretty egregious attempts to deny
Americans the right to vote. But this week, we are witnessing the passage
of a bill that by far eclipses all of the restrictive voting laws that have
come before it. The bill passed in North Carolina on Thursday night and is
what my guest, Ari Berman, calls the country`s worst voter suppression law.
The bill started off badly enough, a strict voter I.D. measure that could
leave 318,000 North Carolinians without the right to -- or without the
capacity to vote.
But then, it ballooned into a, yes, my friends, 57-page voter suppression
super bill as Republicans tacked on dozens of amendments to gut voting
rights in the state, including the end of same-day voter registration,
cutting back early voting, banning paid voter registration drives,
repealing a mandate for high school registration drives, eliminating
straight party ticket voting, a repeal of out of precinct voting, and those
are just a few. Ari, I want to go to you on this. Because the most
horrifying ones to me are the ones that actually give the ability of folks
-- of ordinary citizens to challenge other citizens` right to vote. It`s
very sort of 1932. Can you talk to me about that one version?
BERMAN: Sure. So remember that vigilante poll watcher group, True the
Vote, in the last election cycle? It`s basically like they wrote this
entire bill. There were so many bad elements that were tacked on to the
headline elements. The things we know about the bill is voter I.D.,
cutbacks in early voting, elimination of same-day registration, those were
kind of the headlines, but then there are all these other provisions, like
the fact that you can challenge an eligible voter anywhere, just because of
some suspicion. Which really is going to lead, I think, to racial
profiling at the polls, on top of everything else. Then there`s all these
other provisions, for example getting rid of public financing of judicial
elections, getting rid of pre-registration of 16- and 17-year-olds,
flooding the system with more unregulated money. Candidates don`t have to
say who pays for their ads anymore. There`s more outside money. So this
is really the more money, less voting bill, which is the exact opposite of
what our democracy needs right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is North Carolina next? We saw the attorney general say,
we`re going to Texas. Is he heading to the Tarheel state next?
HO: I`m not sure where the Department of Justice is going next, but
someone`s going to the Tarheel state next, as you say. But what really has
me concerned - I mean, it`s a horrible bill all around - but 2.5 million
North Carolina voters in 2012 used the early voting period. That is more
than half of the voters there, right? And now they want to do exactly what
Florida did before the 2012 election, which is lop off one week of early
voting. Well, we saw what happened in Florida when that happened. You had
people casting their ballots after the president had already given his
acceptance speech. Right? 800,000 of those voters were African-American,
by the way. Huge, huge disproportionate impact on African-American voters.
HARRIS-PERRY: And in North Carolina, that could be the difference in the
KIM: It`s absolutely (inaudible). But you know what irks me so much about
all of this, though, is that the kernel, the rationale behind this is such
a bad faith argument. The idea that there is an epidemic of voter
impersonation. In North Carolina in the last ten years, there were zero
cases of voter impersonation. In Texas, where the attorney general went on
a fishing expedition to find voter impersonation, amongst the hundreds of
millions of votes cast in the last decade, there were two convictions on
actual voter impersonation. So there is no way you look at the record and
say that this legislation is what should come out of these incredibly rare
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Richard, if there was a rash of voter impersonation, so
let`s say there is, why would ending early voting fix that? In fact, if
anything, I would expect that ending early voting would cause more of it,
because people are just showing up on that day.
HARRIS-PERRY: Like, even the things that they proposed to so-call fix this
nonexistent problem wouldn`t be fixes.
KIM: Exactly. And also on the bad faith level, there are not these other
bills going forward, to like, let`s make sure everyone has an I.D. and it
is really accessible, like, you know, it is just such a bad faith argument.
And that`s just really upsetting to see on just an integrity level.
HARRIS-PERRY: So as bad as the bad faith and sort of as distressing as the
super bill is, the one great thing is that moral Mondays, led by Reverend
Barber, the NAACP, a coalition of groups around women`s rights, LGBT
rights, incarceration, all of that, I think that this moral Monday movement
is the most exciting thing happening in the country in terms of people
pushing back. Is there something we learn from that? Because undoubtedly,
this stuff is going to spread. This doesn`t happen in one state. This is
going to be in 30 states. How do we make sure there`s a moral Monday in 30
states as well?
POLLARD: What we learned already is that moral Monday is having an impact.
We have seen DREAM defenders movement taking place in Florida. We see that
clergy and churches are beginning to join forces with those college
students there. We`re beginning to recognize that the Marriage Equality
Act and movement that is taking place around the country that has more and
more churches and clergy, African-American, people of color, who understand
that how one group is affected, disproportionately and negatively, impacts
us all in a bad way.
HARRIS-PERRY: And on the politics of it, in this purple, purple state,
where you have on the one hand people pushing back, you clearly have a
movement, and yet, my anxiety is, is there a Democratic Party in operation
in the state of North Carolina that could take advantage? Right, so you
have this grassroots movement, but then if the parties themselves are so
dysfunctional at the state level, how do we then just do the very basic
sort of party building?
SINDERBRAND: This is a bit of a gamble by the supporters of these new
restrictions, right. So we saw what happened last time, when these sorts
of rule changes were pushed and these sorts of -- it was a big source of
motivation to Democratic voters. So it ended up having unintentional
consequences. You actually saw the African-American turnout rise, which it
had a bit of a boomerang effect.
This time around, it`s a little different. We`re looking ahead to the
midterms elections. Everyone knows midterm electorate is generally older,
it is whiter, more conservative. So the gamble is that sort of motivating
factor, it will be a bit muted at the polls the next time around. And then
of course, if those laws are in place and left in place, they`re there for
the 2016 cycle, and that`s what the real goal is.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we know that there`s no President Obama on that -- so we
know we`ll get a decline in the midterms, no President Obama running for
re-election at the top. We`ve got to find where that motivational source
is. And that`s part of what`s interesting about Reverend Barber`s
movement, is this idea that it`s about our democracy. Ari Berman, as
always, thank you so much for all of your reporting. You know we`re going
to keep your eyes on you and what you`re up to and the work that you are
doing down there in Texas and in North Carolina. Dale Ho, thank you so
much for joining us and for the work that ACLU and others are going to have
to do now that there`s no section four.
Coming up a little bit later, retired life coach Iyanla Vanzant comes to
Nerdland. But up next, my letter of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Nerdland, there were a whole bunch of folks who deserved
a letter this week. One of the top contenders was Republican Congressman
Steve King of Iowa, who claimed that many undocumented youth are drug mules
with cantaloupe-sized calves. He seriously really said that. But before I
could get to him, King got a verbal smackdown from speaker of the House,
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN A. BOEHNER, R-OHIO, HOUSE SPEAKER: I want to be clear. There`s
no place in this debate for hateful or ignorant comments from elected
officials. Earlier this week, Representative Steve King made comments that
were, I think, deeply offensive and wrong. What he said does not reflect
the values of the American people or the Republican Party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Go, Boehner! But don`t worry, Steve. I`m going to keep an
eye on you, because I have a feeling you`re bound to stick your foot in
your mouth again.
This week`s letter goes to another politician who seems to be equally tone-
deaf on an important issue. Dear Florida Governor Rick Scott, it`s me,
Melissa! Maybe you thought the whole brouhaha over the stand your ground
laws would go away now that George Zimmerman was acquitted. Not even
close. How`s the noise outside your office, Governor? Are you not hearing
the growing presence of people who have been protesting for more than a
week, imploring you to address the stand your ground laws by reconvening
state lawmakers? Did you not hear Trayvon Martin`s mother, Sybrina Fulton
yesterday, tell a crowd at the National Urban League`s annual conference
that she feels this very law is the reason why her son`s killer was not
held accountable for his death?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SYBRINA FULTON, MOTHER OF TRAYVON MARTIN: A law that prevented the person
who shot and killed my son to be held accountable and to pay for this awful
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: If you didn`t hear that, surely, Governor, you must have
heard the words of Maddie, also known as juror B-29 this week, during her
interview with Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America." You know her, she`s
one of the six citizens, one of your constituents who was tasked to
determine the guilt or innocence of George Zimmerman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MADDIE: For myself, he`s guilty. Because the evidence shows he`s guilty.
ROBIN ROBERTS, ABC: He`s guilty of?
MADDIE: Killing Trayvon Martin. But we couldn`t prove that intentionally,
he killed him. And that`s the way that the law was read to me. I know I
went the right way, because by the law, and the way it was followed is the
way I went. But if I would have used my heart, I probably would have went
a hung jury.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to make sure you heard that, Governor. That was your
heartbroken citizen, telling you that, yes, she performed her civic duty
and followed the law, but that in her heart, the evidence showed that
George Zimmerman was guilty of killing Trayvon Martin. But that is what
happens when you have a law on the books that sets up a climate where a
gun-toting citizen can justify shooting an unarmed person as self-defense.
Since your state became the first to adopt stand your ground in 2005, the
number of what`s termed as justifiable homicides tripled from 12 to 35 per
year, between 2005 and 2010. That`s an increase of 283 percent. Are you
hearing us yet, Governor?!
What are those people outside your office, what they`re trying to get you
to hear is that it`s going to take a lot more than last year`s quickly
assembled task force to show them that you take their concerns around this
law seriously. They want real action that shows you understand this law is
unacceptable and should not be used to justify the death of an unarmed
The problem does not begin with the tragedy that happened to Trayvon
Martin. The problem does not even begin with the actions of George
Zimmerman. Governor, the problem begins and remains with the stand your
ground law. Sincerely, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. Today marks 60 years since the 1953 armistice
ended hostilities in the Korean War. And while North Korea held a massive
military parade last night to celebrate what that state calls their
victory, here in Washington, D.C., President Obama and Secretary of Defense
Chuck Hagel laid a wreath at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. Let`s
listen to President Obama`s remarks live now.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Let me just say, you look
outstanding, and I would ask that all United States, Republic of Korea, and
other veterans who fought, I would ask those who can stand, to please stand
so we can properly honor you here today.
OBAMA: July 27th, 1953, 60 years ago today, in the village of Ponmujon
(ph), in a barren room, the generals picked up their pens and signed their
names to the agreement spread before them. That night, as the armistice
took hold, the guns of war thundered no more. Along the jagged front, men
emerged from their muddy trenches, a Marine raised his bugle and played
"Taps," and a soldier spoke for millions when he said, "thank God it is
In the days that followed, both sides pulled back, leaving a demilitarized
zone between them. Soldiers emptied their sandbags and tore down their
bunkers. Our POWs emerged from the camps. Our ships bordered ships and
steamed back across the ocean.
In describing the moment he passed under the Golden Gate Bridge, one of
those soldiers wrote, "we suddenly knew we had survived the war and we were
Yet ask these veterans here today, and many will tell you, compared to
other wars, theirs was a different kind of homecoming. Unlike the Second
World War, Korea did not galvanize our country. These veterans did not
return to parades. Unlike Vietnam, Korea did not tear at our country.
These veterans did not return to protests. Among many Americans, tired of
war, there was, it seemed, a desire to forget, to move on.
As one of these veterans recalls, we just came home and took off our
uniforms and went to work. That was about it.
You, our veterans of Korea, deserve better. And down the decades, our
nation has worked to right that wrong, including here, with this eternal
memorial, where the measure of your sacrifice is enshrined for all time.
Because here in America, no war should ever be forgotten, and no veteran
should ever be overlooked.
And after the armistice, a reporter wrote, "when men talk in some distant
time, with faint remembrance of the Korean War, the shining deeds will
live." The shining deeds will live. On this 60th anniversary, perhaps the
highest tribute we can offer our veterans of Korea is to do what should
have been done the day you come home. In our hurried lives, let us pause.
Let us listen. Let these veterans carry us back to the days of their youth
and let us be awed by their shining deeds.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me bring back in Rebecca Sinderbrand, deputy White House
editor at Politico. Rebecca, here`s the president standing here in this
moment, remembering the hostilities in Korea, right at a time when the
question of hostilities around Korea and North Korea in particular, remain
an agenda item. Anything that we should be thinking about in terms of the
relationship between our nations now?
SINDERBRAND: Well, it`s interesting, of course, to mark the contrast
between the situation we saw just a couple of months ago and what we`re
seeing now. You know, earlier this year, we saw a very aggressive push, a
very kind of interesting tone from North Korea. It was really unsettling
to a lot of observers outside. Even the Chinese were a little taken aback,
and it seemed as though the situation might be spiraling out of control.
Now, even with North Korea`s kind of big display yesterday, we are hearing
signals coming out of the talks with the Chinese about the possibility that
they`re interested in returning to six-party talks. So, you know, there
are signs of hope. It`s still a very delicate situation, but definitely a
much different place than it was just a few short months ago.
HARRIS-PERRY: Richard, I want to ask you one question, listening to this
president talk about the way that we think about our veterans and the kind
of forgotten war, but this is also a president who has taken obviously a
lot of critique, particularly from his left flank, about his relationship
with the issue of war. Is it -- how are we to think about the sort of the
new world of war in which we find ourselves, the way that we conduct war
now, versus this kind of heroic narrative of our soldiers coming home?
KIM: I mean, it`s just amazing that 36,000 Americans died in Korea.
There`s no way that we would tolerate that level of casualties now, at
least amongst our troops.
You know, as a Korean American, I just have to say also that, you know, the
war was devastating for Korea, and millions of Koreans died. My family, my
extended family ended up on opposite sides of the partition. And all the
sort of geopolitics around the Korea question, from China, from Russia,
first in the Cold War now, it`s never been clear to me that any of the
major players are actually sincere about the interest of Koreans on both
sides of the divide. So I hope we`re entering a new era, but we`ll see.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. Thanks so much. We are going to take a break, and
when we come back, we`re going to go from the sublime, the question of our
great issues and how we sacrifice for our country, and geopolitics, to the
ridiculous, yes, the New York City mayor`s race and that guy who`s running.
When we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cable news, it has been not shark week, but Weiner week. I
mean, Anthony Weiner and the anxiety about him has been everywhere. Let me
read you this really smart piece, though, by one of my guests. In it,
Richard Kim writes, "as a congressman, Anthony Weiner was a spectacularly
ineffective buffoon. A recent "New York Times" review of his tenure in the
House paints a devastating portrait. Weiner was megalomaniacal,
narcissistic, bad at navigating the political ropes, alienating to
potential allies, alarmingly disinterested in making actual change, and
really, really mean to his staff. One former aide likened him to Miranda
Priestly in "The Devil Wears Prada."
I`m back with my panel, Rebecca Sinderbrand of Politico, Richard Kim of
"The Nation," and joining the table now, Robert George, associate editorial
page editor with "The New York Post," and Reverend Paul Raushenbush, senior
religion editor at "Huffington Post."
So, Richard, let me just ask you, are we talking about all the wrong
reasons why Weiner should not be mayor of New York?
KIM: Just on a totally non-ideological level, not-partisan level, Weiner
really sucked as a congressman.
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you just say, "Weiner really sucked"?
KIM: He was there in the House for 12 and a half years. In that entire
time, he passed and wrote one bill. So whether you`re a Republican or a
Democrat, you just want a dude in there that`s going to be a little more
effective than that. He was clearly only interested the whole time in sort
of grandstanding in front of the public. And so now, he can just sort of
do that as a laughingstock, and maybe we can just get rid of him as someone
who intends to hold public office.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is anyone even slightly surprised that someone running for
the mayor of New York is narcissistic and megalomaniacal? Like it feels
almost as though the way we`ve set the system up, those are the only people
that could even run for office.
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: That`s kind of it. If you think about who
have been some of the great mayors of New York, Ed Koch, Rudy Giuliani, I
mean, regardless how you feel about them ideologically, they have all been
huge, larger than life characters. So in that sense, Anthony Weiner would
kind of fit in. But for goodness sake, none of those folks have quite --
would have come into the office with quite --
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so (inaudible). But then Rudy Giuliani sort of, not
exactly. But he didn`t come in with it.
GEORGE: Well, look, I think there is a little bit of a difference between
having an affair, having a mistress. There`s a long history of that. The
real concern, I think, with Anthony Weiner is, this looks like serious, you
know, addictive behavior, of a sight we haven`t really seen in politics
HARRIS-PERRY: Or, I mean, there`s that other city just down the Amtrak,
you know, D.C., they`ve maybe seen it before. OK, coming up in the next
hour, we`re going to stay on this topic for just a moment. We`ve got a
little bit more Weiner left in us. We`re also going to make a pretty hard
turn to the people`s pope and the rise of the religious left.
Also, the one and only Iyanla Vanzant is going to join us live in the
studio. There`s more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s the so-called political sex scandal that just keeps on
going. On Tuesday, former New York Congressman and current New York City
mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner admitted to sending illicit texts and
pictures of himself after leaving Congress, and under the alias Carlos
And then on Thursday, Carlos -- I`m sorry, I mean, Anthony, admitted to
between six and 10 illicit online relationships with women while he was in
Congress and three after resigning. And as so often is the case in
politics, it is the wife who we see as tarnished as the candidate, even as
she stands there as his most staunch supporter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HUMA ABEDIN, WIFE OF ANTHONY WEINER: Anthony`s made some horrible
mistakes, both before he resigned from Congress and after. But I do very
strongly believe that that is between us and our marriage.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So the only person catches more grief than Anthony Weiner is
his wife. Why is she so scrutinized in this moment?
I`m back with Rebecca Sinderbrand from "Politico," Richard Kim of "The
Nation," and joining us again at the table, Robert George, associate
editorial page editor with the "New York Post," and Reverend Paul
Raushenbush, senior religion editor at "The Huffington Post."
So, you know, you made this point about like a kind of addictive behavior.
But, honestly, like, I`m not sure that I like sex -- like sort of pearl-
clutching sex scandals. Oh, I can`t believe he did this sort of thing.
You know, illegal behavior, behavior that is harmful, nonconsensual, yes.
But is this just salacious? Like, are we just having fun with the fact
that this guy`s name is Weiner and he seems to be convulsively sending
selfies of himself?
SINDERBRAND: I`ve got to be honest. I mean, obviously, you know, some of
these headline writers feel like it`s Christmas in July all over again,
SINDERBRAND: But the fact of the matter is, I think for most voters, it`s
not even necessarily the stories themselves, but what it says about his
judgment. This is a guy who, after all, was on a comeback tour,
essentially daring magazines, newspapers take a look at his private life,
telling them that all this behavior was behind him and he was moving
forward. At the same time, he was not only resuming, but increasing it in
And so, the question becomes, what kind of judgment does that display?
He`s his top political adviser. And --
KIM: But that`s a script, right, that was written for him. Like, he had
to do the like lying about it, the denial, and then the teary apology.
Then the, you know, rehab redemption thing. That`s what Bob Filner --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s what you do.
KIM: Now, just to run the counterfactual, what he had just been like, this
is between me and my wife. This might be something I do. I might do it
again, and it`s really none of your business. And it doesn`t actually
impact how I govern.
You know, I just think that that sort of sexual candor has never been tried
by an American politician, really, in public life.
GEORGE: I think there`s a reason for that. I just don`t think it flies.
I mean, you`re absolutely right.
One of the little bits that came out in the stories this week, he contacted
the woman -- one of the women he was texting, basically, two or three weeks
before he announced that -- he basically, he reactivated his Facebook
account and he contacted her saying, oh, you know, I`m coming out. Did you
see the profile of me in "The New York Times"?
I mean, that suggests a sort of level of recklessness and poor judgment,
that I don`t think you want running a city of 8 million people.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you talk about recklessness and poor judgment, it does
feel to me like the other person who is catching the sort of side wind here
is, in fact, his wife, who -- the discourse also now becomes, what about
her? What is her judgment? Why is Huma staying?
And I don`t know -- that also feels a little bit off, you know, sort of
outside of what we should be allowed to do.
REV. PAUL RAUSHENBUSH, THE HUFFINGTON POST: Did you see what Rush Limbaugh
said yesterday? He said, the reason she does it is because she`s a Muslim
and Muslim women are doormats. And this goes back to a year ago, also,
that they said that the Muslim Brotherhood, she`s also connected with the
Muslim Brotherhood, that`s the reason the Obama campaign is connected with
the Muslim Brotherhood.
So, she has become a target because she`s Muslim. And for me, them
standing up there, a Jew and a Muslim, what they don`t have that Mark
Sanford has is this, I`m a fallible person, I`m imperfect, but God has
saved me by grace, I have been redeemed.
HARRIS-PERRY: A redemptive narrative.
RAUSHENBUSH: That is in the general public of this Christian sort of, I`m
OK, you`re OK, we all sin. Even Eliot Spitzer said, I have sinned, he used
religious language. That is not available to this couple.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, that`s really interesting. This idea that the
redemptive narrative is essentially sort of associated with the Judeo-
Christian way of imagining what the redemptive narrative is. I mean,
there`s a way in which -- again, a Muslim and a Jew in New York City, you
know, in interfaith marriage, if he were a really competent lawmaker, you
know, we might find them -- we might find it awesome instead of sort of
icky and awful.
KIM: If you were competent as she clearly was on some level, you know,
running Hillary Clinton`s staff.
You know, the other thing here is that there`s a lot of projection going
on, on Huma Abedin, like you know, we all want to imagine that we would
never do that, right, he would never be hoodwinked this way, that we would
never tolerate this. But in the reality, you know, when you in your
personal life love someone, you know, and it`s complicated, we make
different decisions. So there`s a lot of fantasizing going on in this
GEORGE: I think it`s true, but you can`t divorce these things from the
political element in here. When he -- when he resigned two years ago, the
sole saving grace that some people gave, and we mention it in our editorial
when he left, he, unlike Spitzer, he didn`t bring Huma out he was
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, because she`s pregnant.
GEORGE: He stood there and said, I did these things and I`m going away.
And that sort of gave him a little bit of a saving grace. Now, this makes
it completely even worse, because when he reenters the race, when he
decides he`s running for mayor, he has this rollout, he`s got his wife with
him. She`s out there, she`s campaigning for him, she`s raising money for
So they have become kind of a political couple. And while it`s fine for
her, as his wife, to stick with him in a tough time, people now see her as
his political aide. And that`s fair criticism.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask -- I`ve got one last political question for you.
Is it possible that Bill Thompson ends up winning the New York mayor`s race
because of this? This is just my thought. I was in Chicago when President
Obama, then-State Senator Obama, was facing Jack Ryan, and a sort of
bizarro sex scandal shows up, because Jack Ryan took his wife Gerry Ryan to
a sex club, she didn`t lake it, she divorced him. This somehow was a
scandal. He had to drop out, next thing you know, State Senator Obama is
facing Alan Keyes, who I would give myself a good shot against, right?
So then he`s running unopposed, he becomes the golden senator and
ultimately becomes president. In this case, could you see Weiner sort of
falling to the wayside, Thompson and Quinn, and then you end up with Bill
Thompson. Weird things have happened.
SINDERBRAND: This is the irony of, you know, you brush aside all this
noise, all this fun, to have lead stories, and the reality is that Anthony
Weiner was, in many ways, despite the polls, kind of an underdog candidate,
even before this latest round of stories. The polls had him losing in a
runoff to someone like Bill Thompson. But beyond that, he lacked the
institutional support, he lacked the turnout operation.
All the nuts and bolts things that someone needs to win the mayor`s race in
New York City, he didn`t have. He had the sugar high that comes with name
recognition, which clearly, he`s got name recognition. He`s earned that
the hard way. But beyond that, what it takes to win the mayor`s office --
HARRIS-PERRY: And he does have a totally awesome New Yorker cover. And so
at least he can take that with him wherever he goes.
My thanks to Rebecca, Richard, and Robert. Paul, you`re going to stick
around. A little bit later, spiritual life coach, Iyanla Vanzant, will be
here later in the hour.
But when we come back, we`re going to look at the man becoming known as the
HARRIS-PERRY: One day after authorities ordered the detention of recently
ousted President Mohamed Morsi, violence erupted across Egypt. At least 38
people are dead and dozens more wounded after clashes between Pro-Morsi
protesters and the country`s security forces.
NBC News correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin joins us from Cairo with the latest
AYMAN MOHYELDIN, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Melissa, right now, police
investigators are going through the scene and trying to determine exactly
what happened. As we understand it, the general prosecutor here is going
to be launching an investigation.
But over the course of the last several hours, two very different accounts
have emerged, and two very different death tolls. According to the
supporters of the ousted president and the Muslim brotherhood, close to 120
people were killed, as a peaceful protest was marching from the main
sitting area to another part of Cairo. They were then met by police who
were using live ammunition as well as plains clothed supporters of the
police who opened fire on them, leading to those casualties.
But the police a short while ago held a press conference and gave a very
different narrative. They said when they tried to prevent this march from
trying to disrupt a major road in Cairo, and when they tried to do that,
they came under attack with armed guns by supporters of the Muslim
Brotherhood. They also released footage to try to substantiate their
narrative of what happened.
But in that specific part of Cairo today, it was a very bloody scene and a
very gruesome scene. And it was only in Cairo. It also happened similarly
in other parts of the country, including Alexandra. It is an intense day.
Officials are still trying to reel their head around it and to try to get a
sense of what exactly happened over the course of the last several nights,
and more importantly, how to try to de-escalate the situation -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Both tense and tragic. We will certainly keep our eyes on
what is happening there in Cairo.
NBC`s Ayman Mohyeldin live from Cairo, thanks so much.
We are going to turn now from Egypt to Brazil, where we simply have to
start with this question: does the pope wear a funny hat? Not this one!
Right now, Pope Francis, four months into the job, is in Brazil`s Rio de
Janeiro where he`ll hold an evening vigil on Copacabana Beach. It`s part
of the new pontiff`s week-long trip to Brazil, where he is celebrating
World Youth Day.
Since he was named leader of the Catholic Church in March, Pope Francis has
shrugged off the normal trappings of office. Instead of capes and handmade
red shoes, Francis wears white vestments and black shoes.
Instead of the elaborate hats of his predecessor, he wears an unadorned
skull cap. He is the first pope ever to call himself Francis -- the name
of the 12 century Saint Francis of Assisi, famous for his devotion to
serving the poor.
The new pope has so far kept that mission as his central focus. He has
scolded Western culture for its devotion to material wealth, and in off the
cuff comments on Thursday, to Argentine`s pilgrims in Brazil for World
Youth Day, he said, "I want the church to go out into the streets. I want
us to defend ourselves against all worldliness. I think at this time, the
global civilization has gone beyond its limits. It has gone beyond its
limits because it has created such a cult of money."
He has washed the feet of children in prison, including the feet of girls
and Muslims. And on his ongoing trip to Brazil, he made a point to visit
one of Rio`s slum neighborhoods and has refused to protect himself, going
without bulletproof glass between himself and Catholic believers. Frances
clearly wants to be, as "Time" international edition called him this week,
the "People`s Pope."
Joining me now, Reverend Dr. Katherine Rhodes Henderson, president of
Auburn Theological Seminary; Father James Martin, Jesuit priest,
contributing editor at "America" magazine, author of "The Jesuit Guide to
Almost Everything"; Dr. Alton Pollard, dean of Howard University School of
Divinity, and Reverend Paul Raushenbush is the senior religion editor for
the "Huffington Post."
Father Jim, how much do I love this pope?
FATHER JAMES MARTIN, JESUIT PRIEST: How much do I love this pope?
HARRIS-PERRY: Is this, in fact, something different? Are we seeing this
pope turning the great ship that is the Catholic Church toward a new focus?
MARTIN: Well, yes and no. I mean, he`s focused on the same things, but
he`s doing it in very different ways. As you pointed out, this emphasis on
sort of austerity and humility and this radical focus on the poor and being
very blunt about his message is a different style. And I think people are
really responding to it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Gavin, I have to say, on the one hand, how much do I
love this pope, right? And particularly the foot washing was one of my
favorite moments. On the other hand, this is a pope that has, nonetheless,
called the conference in which most American nuns are apart of, have used
the language of radical feminism to describe them. We certainly do not
agree on issues of birth control and reproductive rights.
But is it possible to start building multi-faith movements where we don`t
have to agree on everything, but where we can have excitement and
enthusiasm about the spaces where we do agree?
REVEREND DR. KATHERINE HENDERSON, AUBURN SEMINARY: Well, let me just add
my enthusiasm to yours, because I think this pope actually is setting the
tone for many of the things that people across religious lines, Christians,
Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and others really believe, and that is to take care of
the most vulnerable among us. And he is using his power for good. And I
think showing in the public square that religion can be a force for good,
when we see the office that`s happening so often as well.
So I think that, yes, movements are possible and he`s a part of that. I
also think that if he is true to his style of what he`s shown in terms of
crossing boundaries, he may just find himself in close proximity to some of
these Catholic nuns in the U.S., like Sister Simone Campbell. And my
fantasy is he`s going to be on the bus with Sister Simone.
HARRIS-PERRY: That would be something.
Now, Paul, I want to ask you in part about this, because I was, you know,
it`s been kind of a crazy week, and I would occasionally sort of look up at
the television and I`d see big crowds. And I would have to kind of peer
and say, is that the royal baby, is that the pope, or is that Egypt? You
know, there were just sort of things happening.
And he was clearly, always the biggest crowd, like bigger of what`s going
on in Egypt, in just terms the number of people, bigger than the royal
baby, which is pretty dang big to beat. And I think there`s got to be
something about Catholicism that remains critically personal, even to those
of us who are not Catholic, right? That the world nature of it means, what
this pope says matters to us.
RAUSHENBUSH: Well, first of all, there were 1.5 million people on
Copacabana Beach last night, which is amazing. Also yesterday it came out
that he has knocked Obama off as the most influential world leader on
Twitter. He dwarfs Obama on retweets.
So, in the last, whatever, five months, he has raised his profile so much
on every social media platform, and I want to remember something. Before
the conclave, the whole narrative was, Catholic Church in crisis, Catholic
Church imploding. There was no good news.
HARRIS-PERRY: And then, it`s been like a miracle. I have to say.
I mean, a wrote a piece afterwards, the Holy Spirit and Pope Francis. And
I really feel like this was an amazing thing happening. And see this
enthusiasm, I mean, look what`s going on in the favelas. They feel like
someone is speaking for them.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, let me -- so let`s go to exactly that. The notion
that there was a crisis in the church wasn`t just sort of this sense that
it was. It was deeply tied to a grave injustice occurring in the Catholic
Church around the sexual assault questions and whether or not the church,
as a hierarchy, had been involved in covering it up.
Can we simultaneously have enthusiasm for this pope and want to make sure
that there is justice done, that may extend way back before him?
POLLARD: Yes. One of the things that really excites me about this pope is
that before he came along, justice, poverty, equal rights had pretty much
dissipated from the Catholic tradition, where the papacy was concerned.
This week, he`s speaking against the backdrop of a picture with Archbishop
POLLARD: And he has decided, the news has come out, that he`s going to
continue the process and move Archbishop Romero along the sainthood
process. No greater guarantor of the rights of those who have stomped
upon, and repressed by political regimes, military juntas and the like. As
long as we continue to see this kind of an emphasis from this pope, and we
continue to make sure that he stays on that platform, I think this is an
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. More when we come back, because I want to talk
about how this pope and also just the notion of a Jesuit in this position,
gives us some conversation about the rise of a religious left and whether
or not any of my nonbeliever viewers even care if there`s a rise in the
HARRIS-PERRY: For the past 30 years, religion in American politics has
been dominated by the religious right, mostly white, socially conservative,
evangelical Christians. There are some signs that a religious progressive
movement is gaining steam.
A July survey by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings
Institution found that millennials are more likely to be religious
progressives than Gen-X`ers, bombers and the elderly. And that each
successive generation is increasingly less conservative than the one
And progressive religious leaders are working hard to build coalitions
across faiths, races, and generations, like what we`ve seen at the Moral
Monday protests in North Carolina. They are trying to show that their
progressive politics, especially their efforts to protect the social safety
net, are deeply rooted in their moral and religious beliefs.
And, Alton, you said this earlier, that for your students at Howard,
there`s no disconnect between the social and the question of the morality
of our public life and the morality of our private life.
POLLARD: That`s right. I think for all of us around this table, it has to
be a given that there can be no disconnect between sacred and secular,
which also leads to all the other disconnects, divisions in society that
have to be overcome with the same recognition that the sacred is manifest
in every aspect of our lives. There is no sense of being a person of
faith, if you are not also a person who is faithful.
Very term progressive dignifies and connotes action. So those of us
engaged in the life faith understand we have to be acting on behalf of
those who have been bereft a voice.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Father Martin, I feel like that is a core principle and
this pope is part of that, right? He walks it. He doesn`t just see it,
but we speak it in his actions.
MARTIN: Yes, he`s trying. I mean, the Jesuits, I think, and the Catholic
Church more broadly transcend these categories of left and right,
liberal/conservative, because you could have someone who is, you know,
against abortion and for social justice for the poor.
MARTIN: But what he`s doing, he`s trying to bring us back to the central
message of the gospel, right? Which is love, forgiveness, and mercy, he
uses that constantly, and care for the poor, which has become kind of a
hallmark of his papacy. And as you said, from the very first decision he
made, which is to choose the name Francis, after Francis of Assisi.
So it`s a different style. It`s the same message, and the people are very
happy to hear it. And the faces of those favelas I think really tells us
how people are receiving it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Bob, this point is it feels to me, a key one, that
we`re seeing, actually, this notion of, OK, if I am Catholic and fully in
my Catholicism, standing fully in my faith, then being pro-life is part of
that. But so, too, is being pro-assistance for the poor. We talk about
the U.S. conference of bishops and public policy, it`s really been around
the ACA and the birth control, and sort of the big anxiety that generated.
Less conversation about the fact that they sent a letter to Congress
saying, please do not cut food stamps, right? Sending a letter saying, I
write to urge you to resist for moral and human reasons the unacceptable
cuts to hunger and nutrition programs. These cuts are unjustified and
How do we make sure that that part of the voice, of religion, emerges on to
the public stage more clearly?
RAUSHENBUSH: I have to say, first of all, that this is not a new movement.
If we look back a hundred years, it was the religious leaders who decided,
OK, I have people dying in my congregation. And I have to -- and they`re
dying because they`re poor. What does the gospel say about that? And
that`s how we got the social gospel movement and that`s who we got a lot of
the enactments like food stamps, like Social Security. A lot of that came
out of the church`s push, saying, we need a society that represents our
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, your last name is Raushenbush for a reason, right? And
it is, in fact, the work of Christianity and the social crisis that was
part of, kind of tweaking the American consciousness around inequality
RAUSHENBUSH: That`s right. And if you look at the Catholic bishops today
and if you look at a broad section -- I mean, evangelicals, white
evangelicals are getting behind immigration issues and they are saying, no,
we cannot -- this is not the way we treat the poor. It`s not the way we
treat the stranger.
They`re seeing this issue and they are saying, OK, what does the bible
really say about this? And they`re going back to it and saying, OK, no,
no, no, this is not what we stand for. We are going to be more just in
what we preach.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Katherine, if I`m watching and I`m part of Nerdland and
I am a nonbeliever. In fact, I even -- not only if I`m a nonbeliever, but
I say, you know what, when I look across world history and religion on
balance, does a lot of bad things, a lot of harm, a lot of war. What is
the conversation you have about the notion of a progressive or a new
religious coalition that includes, also, the respect for nonbelievers
HENDERSON: So, when I talk about building the multi-faith movement for
justice, which is the language that I prefer, I`m talking about a coalition
that -- and I am part of, hopefully, part of helping this to grow, and I`m
witnessing it, across the country, where Christians, including evangelicals
and progressives, often, and Jews and Muslims and Sikhs and secular
humanists to your point are all coming together around particular issues.
And so, there have to be bridges that are built in lots of different ways
that would include bringing people who don`t affiliate.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And sometimes that also means we`ll disagree with one
another, within it, right? That you and I could have different positions
on reproductive rights, but the same position around care for the poor, and
that may be at least a place for us to build.
Thank you to Reverend Dr. Katherine Rhodes Henderson, to Father James
Martin, to Dr. Alton Pollard, and to Reverend Paul Raushenbush -- thanks so
Up next, spiritual life coach, Iyanla Vanzant, is here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Since Trayvon Martin was shot and killed last year, a lot of
focus has been placed on what we, as a society, can and should do to help
save black men and boys in our communities. This week, Congress got
involved, inviting Martin`s father, Tracy, to speak at the first-ever
gathering of the first congressional caucus on black men and boys.
We highlighted the concerns facing black boys on this show recently, when I
spoke to author and spiritual life coach, Iyanla Vanzant in the New Orleans
at the Essence Festival, a couple of days before the George Zimmerman
verdict was announced.
We spoke about fatherless sons and the subject of her show, "Iyanla: Fix My
Life," on the Oprah Winfrey network.
But what about our black girls and those who mother them? What about the
struggles and public safety questions faced by young black women? The
latest edition of "Iyanla: Fix My Life" will premiere tonight at 9:00 p.m.
on OWN and focus on black mothers and daughters.
Here with me to discuss it and much, much more is the one and only Iyanla
Vanzant, who beginning in September will be a columnist for "O Magazine."
Thanks so much for joining us.
IYANLA VANZANT, SPIRITUAL LIFE COACH: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So we do a lot of work as mamas on our daughters.
So what is the thing as you`re working in this particular episode, what is
it you`re trying to do to heal between this mother and daughter?
VANZANT: Language, actually. The gist of tonight`s episode is about a
mother`s language, that was used in her daughter`s life, and how it created
a breakdown in their relationship. But for me, I think the episode is
really not about daughters or sons, it`s about our children. And I often
think that as parents, and particularly in today`s world, that we really
forget how important we are as parents in our children`s lives. And that
everything that we do leaves an imprint on our children`s soul.
And this story is about what happened when a parent didn`t recognize that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to show a scene from it that really, in the context
of what we`ve been watching with Sybrina Fulton, who is, in certain ways,
become the mother, to whom we are all looking. And yet, this moment was
such a powerful one. I would like to watch it for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VANZANT: What has she done, that is so horrible that you would allow her
to die a slow death?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This lady right here really don`t know what it`s like
to be loved. Have no clue. Nobody loves me. And I`m OK with that.
VANZANT: No, you`re not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it will be OK.
VANZANT: No, you`re not.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sadness is weak.
VANZANT: I feel likes nobody loves me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel so uncomfortable with this emotion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Sadness is weak.
VANZANT: And that is what she said. So many mothers, particularly, women
of color, that is a badge that we wear. If I show my weakness, if I`m
vulnerable, I am going to be hurt, people are going to take advantage of
But in the meantime, we shut off a piece of our heart that our children
need, and we shut off that compassion and tenderness and the gentleness and
the nurturing and we become disciplinarians and providers, but we`re not
the soft place for our children to fall. It affects our boys, it affects
our girls, but more importantly, it affects us. Because now that this
mother is older and her children are older, she doesn`t understand what
happened, why they don`t have a good relationship.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as I`m watching that, and as I hear you talking about
failing ourselves by thinking that sadness is itself weakness, I`m
thinking, it also fails us in the realm of public policy.
VANZANT: Oh, absolutely.
HARRIS-PERRY: If we cannot be tender to our own children, how can we be
tender to someone else`s poor child who needs public school, who needs
public assistance, if we become disciplinarians in our law-making?
VANZANT: Well, you know, we`re talking about the problems with black boys,
the problems with black girls, the problem with brown children. What about
the native children on the reservation?
Here`s the issue. As adults, as lawmakers, as policy makers, really where
and our compassionate self as people, do we hold our children? They don`t
VANZANT: They don`t pay taxes.
VANZANT: They don`t contribute to the voice of public policy. And
children, today, are what? Are they commodities? Are they tax deductions?
Are they burdens? Are they just things that we have hanging around.
Because we can`t keep looking at what`s wrong with the children.
They are the fruit. We have to say, what`s going on with the tree.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I want to listen to Sybrina Fulton. I feel like she`s
calling us to do exactly the thing that you have just said. I want to
listen to Trayvon Martin`s mother, Sybrina Fulton, at the National Urban
League this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FULTON: What is my message to you? My message to you is: please use my
story, please use my tragedy. Please use my broken heart to say to
yourself. We cannot let this happen to anybody else`s child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: She`s extraordinary, how she holds the sadness and the grief
and the strength at the same time. And then tells us, take it. Go use it.
VANZANT: But we didn`t do it with Amadou Diallo. We didn`t do with
Michael Stewart. We didn`t do it with Sean Bell. We didn`t do it with the
And my concern is, is not my prayer -- my prayer is for something higher.
But my concern that we`ll get all whipped up, six months from now, we`ll be
on to something else, because our children really don`t matter. And
particularly, the lives of black and brown boys really don`t matter.
If you recall, years ago, maybe 10 years ago, the upheaval was the pregnant
girl, the pregnant teenager. And everybody was saying, well, what about
the boys? What about the boys?
It was like we didn`t even have teenage boys until we started killing them
and until they started killing each other. Now, it`s, what about the boys,
what about the boys?
Well, what about our children?
VANZANT: What is wrong with the tree that the fruit should be so rotten?
And that the fruit should be so discarded. This is what we have to do.
Lawmakers, policymakers -- I mean, our educational system in this country
is a disgrace. And we have to say it.
And we have to stop acting like it doesn`t matter. You know, the hate
crimes against our children.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Stay with me, because I want to stay on exactly this
topic. And I want to bring it a little bit back to this question of sort
of the girls reproducing as the big problem, because we`re starting to hear
that narrative again.
Quick break. We`ll be back after this.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m back and having the opportunity to talk with Iyanla
I wanted to take a moment, because you said there was this sort of, kind of
moral panic about our girls. We`re seeing it reemerge. Bill O`Reilly said
something this week that I would like us to take a listen to.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS: Right now, about 73 percent of all black babies
are born out of wedlock. That drives poverty and the lack of involved
fathers leads to young boys growing up resentful and unsupervised. When
was the last time you saw a public service ad telling young black girls to
avoid becoming pregnant?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VANZANT: Let me just fix myself.
HARRIS-PERRY: Fix your face!
VANZANT: Because Daniel Moynihan called me a menace to society. I was 16
years old and pregnant. And when he made that famous speech, I was called
a menace to society.
So, today, as an attorney, holding a masters degree, hosting the number one
talk show on cable network, I just want to say to Mr. O`Reilly, I`m going
to pray for you.
HARRIS-PERRY: But for real, though! Right?
VANZANT: But what about white girls? We act like white girls don`t have
vaginas and white boys don`t have penises. They get pregnant too, but it`s
not -- this is the same way that black and brown boys are demoralized,
diminished, and demeaned in society. This teenage pregnancy thing is
happening all over the place. Trust me, I get the letters, I know.
HARRIS-PERRY: And can we talk about the fact that avoiding becoming
pregnant -- there are public policies that can help that, like
comprehensive sex ed, like, the availability of birth control.
VANZANT: How about books in school? How about teachers that teach a
history -- now I`m being spiritual, let me stop.
HARRIS-PERRY: Breathe! All right.
VANZANT: How about an educational system that serves the needs of our
children? How about after-school centers? How about libraries? How about
that, Mr. O`Reilly?
HARRIS-PERRY: So you talk about your circumstances of having been a mother
on public assistance, teenage -- you`re also, in this moment, as we are
reflecting on the Zimmerman verdict, you`re also a mother who lost a child.
HARRIS-PERRY: She was an adult.
HARRIS-PERRY: But at any age, no mother should bury her child.
VANZANT: It`s unspeakable. And there`s no -- the pain lessens, but it
never goes away. And it`s a piece of my soul. It`s a piece of my soul, so
I stand with Trayvon`s mother as a -- you know, they talk about a
motherless child, they rarely talk about a childless mother.
And even though I have two other children, that place that that child held
in my heart, it`s unspeakable. There are just no -- there`s just no words
to describe what it is. And there`s a lesson here. And I hope we are
getting the lesson.
Look at the way that these two divorced parents were together throughout
this process. The way they parented this child, the fact that Trayvon was
not a fatherless son. Are we missing that? And that his father is now, as
he probably did then, stood up for his son. That the mother moved on with
her life and is in good relationship with the child`s father.
So, there`s a lot of lessons here. This family didn`t go through this just
for headline news. There`s lessons here. Things that we have to look at
and pay attention to and learn from and not forget, not forget, not only
Trayvon, but the whole message of the diminishing of black and brown boys
in this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, the fact that those unmarried parents could parent
their child, even after his death.
VANZANT: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: And through such horrendous circumstances. I mean, all of
us have just got to grow up and parent our living children, whether we`re
married or not, right? They are such a model for us.
One last thing I want you to respond to. We heard this week from juror 29,
and I want to ask you -- I want to listen to her for a moment and ask you
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ZIMMERMAN JUROR: George Zimmerman got away with murder. But you can`t get
away from God. And at the end of the day, he`s going to have a lot of
questions and answers he has to deal with.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: As I was watching her, and knowing that we were going to
talk, I kept thinking, I wish she`d had a session you before. Mostly
because, I see you consistently teach women how to std up inside of
themselves, even when there`s pressure, even when there`s -- because it
sounds like this is a woman who could have gotten us a very different
outcome, but just didn`t have the resources, the tools to stand in that
moment with the five other jurors.
VANZANT: Yes. And it`s sad to think that she said there wasn`t enough
evidence. We`ve got a living adult and a dead child. And there wasn`t
enough evidence for justice to happen. So, that`s one level of it. That`s
enough to boggle your brain.
But then as a minority woman in the room with five other women who probably
had more exposure to law, you know, maybe not -- maybe not that, I don`t
know, but I can`t even imagine what that must have been like for her. And
the fact that she says that Zimmerman is going to have to answer to God, so
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I don`t want --
VANZANT: Do what you know is right, even when nobody`s looking.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t want to book your show for you, because y`all are
doing fine, but I`m just saying, that is an episode. You and Juror 29, I
HARRIS-PERRY: Iyanla Vanzant, thank you so much for being here.
We are going to come back in just a few moments. And when we do, it is our
foot soldier of the week. You`re going to love her. She is a woman giving
tools to girls to build the world.
HARRIS-PERRY: Take a look another this chart. This is breakdown of jobs
in America, who hold them. Men hold 52 percent and women hold 48 percent.
That`s not even right.
Then take a look at this chart. This shows just how many men and how many
women hold jobs in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math
or STEM less than quarter of those jobs are held by women. In engineering
alone, those numbers are even worse. Only about one of every seven
engineers is a woman.
But this week`s foot soldier is trying to change that, starting in the play
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEBBIE STERLING, GOLDIBLOX: I`m starting a toy company called Goldiblox,
to get little girls to love engineering as much as I do. Goldiblox is a
book and a construction toy combined. It stars Goldie, the girl inventor,
and her motley crew of friends who go on adventures and solve problems by
building simple machines. As girls read along, they get to build with
Goldibuild using their tool kit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is Goldiblox founder and CEO, Debbie
Debbie, I just love this. I love it, love it, love it. Tell me, how did
you come up with this idea?
STERLING: So, I studied engineering at Stanford. Not lot of women in the
program. And I was talking with a girlfriend and we were trying to figure
out why, why are there so few women in engineering? She said she grew up
playing with LEGOs, Lincoln Logs. That`s what got her excited about
We thought what a shame those are boys toys.
STERLING: That`s when it hit me I had to come up with something that would
appeal to girls. I knew taking a boy`s toy and turning it pink wouldn`t be
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, seriously, this is how they sell to, or for
those who aren`t parents, if you go into a toy store, basically one aisle
has got things you do and one aisle has everything painted pink, you don`t
do anything with them, right? You just sort of -- you hold the baby or you
push the Barbie or something. These are meant to not just be a pink
Lincoln Log but a different way that girls respond differently to
engineering and building. How so?
STERLING: So, I did a ton of research and to gender references and
cognitive development with children, and I found something interesting
about little girls. They love reading and stories and characters. They
love narrative based play. So, instead of just building something for the
sake of building, what I found was that if I started creating stories about
Goldiblox, a girl inventor, that they would identify with her, relate with
her and want to do what she does. If she builds, then they`ll build too.
What better if she builds things that solve problems and help her friends
then they really get engaged.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love the idea that they`re saying, yes, I can build it but
why. Why are we building this thing, right?
For me that clearly seems to be, you know, sort of part of the different
processing. Tell me who is people reacted to this?
STERLING: The response has just been overwhelming. I mean, first of all,
it`s a conversation starter. We sort of shined a light on that pink aisle
and people starting to question why is it all the science and math and
building toys have been marketed to boys for so long? And my daughter is
more than a princess.
HARRIS-PERRY: She can be a princess and build something.
STERLING: And build something, too. So, there`s just an enormous gap for
sort of educational STEM products for girls. This is the first step and
really filling that gap and filling girls more option.
HARRIS-PERRY: What difference does it make if there`s more girls building
with these kinds of sets who become women who are engineers. How does it
change engineering to have more women engineers?
STERLING: I think it`s critical to have the women`s perspective in
engineering. Engineering is one of the fastest growing careers in our
country. It`s critical to our economy. And engineers built everything --
from this table that we`re setting our phones, Web sites, mobile apps,
bridges. I mean, literally everything in our world is built by engineers.
Yet, half our population is female, half is male. So, the world that we
live in should be built by both perspectives.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask one last question, if you are a parent and your
daughter is like just not good at math. I find this kind of thing hard.
How do you sort of encourage without pushing too hard?
STERLING: I think it`s important to reinforce to our kids, that ability in
math and science isn`t something you`re born with, it`s something you
develop. It`s somewhere that you learn and you have to keep trying. If
you don`t get it right now, the point is you just pick it up and try it a
different way. It`s kind of tinkering trial and error. And that`s what
I`m trying to reinforce with this toy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, our favorite kids show in Nerdland is Doc McStuffin.
I feel like Doc McStuffin would very much appreciate this kind of the
Thank you so much for being with us, Debbie Sterling. Thank you for
sharing your story. And you are our foot soldier this week. It`s lovely
to have chance to talk with you.
That`s going to do it for us today. Thanks to you at home for watching.
I`m going to see you tomorrow morning, 10:00 a.m. Eastern, as we dive deep
into one of the most important decisions that President Obama can make and
how that`s going to impact, all of our lives. Who is going to replace Ben
But it`s time for preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT". Hi, Alex.
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