October 20, 2013
Guest: James Perry; David Rohde; Eric Klinenberg; Kathy Zito; Andrew
Moesel; Damon Phillips; Mark Crumpacker; Salamishah Tillet, Byron Hurt,
Laura Murphy, Khalil Muhammad
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: On October 22nd, 12 a tropical
depression formed over the Caribbean and strengthened into tropical storm
Sandy. The storm first made landfall in Jamaica. And by the time
superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey and New York on October 29th, its effects
were devastating for the region, making it the second costliest hurricane
in the nation`s history.
But what was worse than the actual devastation caused by Sandy was the
fallout that had nothing to do with the storm and everything to do with
politics. If you think the recent 16-day shutdown is the first sign that
Republicans are willing to break all the political rules in order to
destroy government, not even close because the willingness by members of
Congress to choose not to vote for Sandy relief was unprecedented.
Remember, superstorm Sandy made landfall in the U.S. just before the
presidential election between President Barack Obama and former
Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. But the election did not stop
President Obama from responding. He put campaign battleground travel on
hold to tour the storm-battered coast of New Jersey on October 31st. And
his immediate reaction was to address the needs of the hurricane victims
most in need. And it earned him the admiration of the Republican governor
of New Jersey, Chris Christie. And it started an unlikely Bromance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: Great. I was on the phone at
midnight again last night with the president, personally. He has expedited
the designation of New Jersey as a major disaster area. He expedited that
last night. I was on the phone with FEMA at 2:00 a.m. this morning to
answer the questions they needed answered, to get that designation. And
the president has been outstanding in this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The president has been outstanding in this. So it was a
bipartisan love-fest between President Obama and Governor Christie. But
there was a presidential election looming. An election that turned in
large part on the belief that the GOP candidate was an elitist who didn`t
understand regular people, an election that Romney would go on to lose.
And yet, Republican House members decided to take a stand against storm
While the Democrat-led Senate approved a $60.4 billion hurricane recovery
package, House speaker John Boehner initially blocked any House action on
Sandy aid legislation because of the price tag. Because at the same time
that the victims of Sandy needed the government`s help, Congress was trying
to avoid a shutdown -- no, no, wait a minute, a default. Wait, back then
it was a fiscal cliff. Sorry, just too much to keep straight. And that`s
how you know and that`s when you begin to know that the House Republicans
are honey badgers. They don`t give a you know what.
Speaker Boehner and his honey badger posse seemed to forget that the
northeast is not comprised simply of liberals, they`ve got Republicans
there. And when Boehner chose not to proceed with House action on Sandy,
the tri-state contingent brought the smack down.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Unprecedented, disgusting, unworthy of the leadership
of this House. They should reconsider or hang their heads in shame, Mr.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That we would walk away without doing our part to help
the people suffering in New York in New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania,
and other parts of the country is outrageous! It is simply outrageous.
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Mr. Speaker, tonight`s action not to hold
this vote on the implemental is absolutely indefensible. Everybody played
by the rules, except tonight when the rug is pulled out from under us,
absolutely infusible, absolutely indefensible. We have a moral obligation
to hold this vote!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Speaker, we cannot turn our backs on our citizens
who need us!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And just as quickly as Chris Christie had started that
Bromance with President Obama, he was willing to call out the speaker of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIE: There`s only one group to blame for the continued suffering of
these innocent victims, the House majority and their speaker, John Boehner.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, John Boehner. How did you like it when the GOP`s
golden child of the moment called you out for your shenanigans? Apparently
not much since you and road dog Eric Cantor released this statement the
Getting critical aid to the victims of hurricane Sandy should be the first
priority in the new Congress, and that was reaffirmed today with members of
the New York and New Jersey delegations.
In all, it took the House 78 days after superstorm Sandy battered the
northeast to pass their $51 billion Sandy relief bill. House Republicans
will tell you because there was just too much pork in the Senate bill, just
like they`ll tell you the government shutdown had to happen because of
Obama care. You see, Sandy is the prime example of how Republicans manage
Some politicians like Chris Christie know when to be grateful for federal
intervention and when to call out their own party when it is acting a fool.
But others, well, they just refuse to help, while they huff and puff and
stomp their feet on the ground to get what they want.
So holding aid or health care hostage is nothing new. What could be new
are the repercussions that Republicans could face in 2014 and 2016 for
acting like they do not care about people and denying the very causes of
the crisis that affect them.
With me at the table this morning are Kathy Zito, a Staten Island resident
who is still rebuilding after hurricane Sandy. David Rohde, a foreign
affairs columnist for Reuters who wrote last year about the inequality
hurricane Sandy exposed. Eric Klinenberg, a professor for sociology at New
York University and author of "heat wave, a social autopsy of disaster in
Chicago" and James Perry, executive director of the greater New Orleans
Fair housing action center, who advised members to their response of Sandy,
and in the interest of the full disclosure, he`s also my husband.
All right, David actually, I want to start with you because it did feel
like part of the government response to Sandy this time was difficult,
because FEMA performed better than it had in some sort of recent massive
disasters, yet we saw Congress behaving badly. So a year out now, can we
say, do we have a clear assessment of how our government responded to this
DAVID ROHDE, COLUMNIST, REUTERS: I think the city, you know, and you can
say more about this than me, there was some good response to this. And
even in the clips I showed, I want to give those northeast Republicans
credit. And even this week, the sanity caucus stood up to the suicide
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that what we`re calling them? The sanity caucus? I like
ROHDE: Mitch McConnell, of all people, and Peter King, who, you know,
wouldn`t be phrase often on this network standing up saying, you need
government in some situations and you can`t deny, you know, aid for
hurricanes and you can`t also play with defaults.
So there was a real difference in the response of the government, but we
still have a real problem with this divide in the country and it`s not
getting any better. And, you know, the resistance in the tea party is
still from some of the poorest parts of the country.
ROHDE: These are votes in areas Democrats should do better in, to be
frank. Least, health insurance, you know, the worst futures, and why is
HARRIS-PERRY: Eric, it feels to me, you know, your work in part on
disaster is less about the disaster and more about what it exposes, the
social autopsy it tells us about who is vulnerable. What did we learn from
Sandy, both about who was vulnerable in that moment, but also sort of our
broader political vulnerability?
ERIC KLINENBERG, SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: Yes. Well,
it`s interesting. If you think about the debate we had over Katrina, a lot
of it was about inequality and race and the underlying vulnerability we`ve
actually said less about those dimensions of vulnerability with Sandy, even
though low-income New Yorkers, for instance, were more likely to be
displaced and to suffer long-term consequences than were wealthy
homeowners. Now, the underlying vulnerability is about climate change, how
we`re going to relate to this dramatic environment in which we see storm
surges and extreme weather. We face big questions now. Not about how to
build it back, but how to build forward in anticipation of more things like
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And we will talk as we go forward about the fact
that even that notion that we are vulnerable to climate change is
apparently up for debate in our current Congress.
ROHDE: Or the sanity caucus.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I`m about to use that just all the time.
So James, part of what you did after Sandy, you were here talking to
communities about your experiences of leadership post-Katrina. What advice
did you have for northeastern communities about how to hold people
JAMES PERRY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE GREATER NEW ORLEANS FAIR HOUSING
ACTION CENTER: Well, actually, more important than talking to the
communities, I spoke to the Christie administration itself, and I said,
learn from our mistakes in Louisiana. For instance, we had bad contractors
who did a terrible job. Don`t hire them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here`s the list.
PERRY: But they hired them anyway. For instance, HGI is managing a major
rebuilding contract for the state of New Jersey and they`re doing a
terrible job. And you know, told you so.
PERRY: So I think that the real difficulty here is that we haven`t learned
from past disasters and past failures.
HARRIS-PERRY: This idea of learning from them, it always feels to me,
Kathy, is in part because the voices of the people most impacted are often
most silent. So we end up hearing from policy makers and not from people
who are impacted on the ground. It`s a year later, where are you in your
KATHY ZITO, STATEN ISLAND RESIDENT: I`m one of the lucky ones. I am back
in my home. I`m back in since the beginning of July. I`m back in without
furniture, without having insurance money. My contractor and friends have
been the ones that have paid for everything to pay the subcontractor, so
you can continue to move forward. Not everyone is that lucky.
It`s a disaster. How do you pay for flood insurance, your entire time
being there? Thirty-one years being there, paid it, had no problems, you
had a flood, where`s my money? You know, they give you a little bit in the
beginning and the supplemental is now eight months, three adjustors later.
No one answers your questions. Me and Clive are on, you know, a first-
name basis, he tells me, ma`am, one more time I`m going to fly through the
phone, I`m done with it all.
You know, we have an increase in flood insurance, so my family who have
little bungalows all along the beach, instead of paying $11,000 a year are
paying $31,000 a year. So, we lost everything, our homes were destroyed,
our businesses were destroyed. The area on my House from Highland
Boulevard to my home is four blocks. Not city blocks, little blocks, and
we have 13 homes no one`s living in. That`s just that far. That`s not
going towards the water yet.
HARRIS-PERRY: James, how familiar are stories like this to you eight years
after Katrina in New Orleans?
PERRY: Well, as you know, if you drive through the lower ninth ward today,
it is a vacant field, essentially, because nothing is happening. There
have been so many stories about how many money has been allocated to the
relief, but still eight years out, the lower ninth ward is not recovering,
not even close. And we talk about this each time we see each other, but
it`s a long haul. And unfortunately, it`s going to be a long time --
ZITO: It`s not what I want to do. I don`t want a long haul. I`ve paid my
taxes, I`m sick of government, our mayor is a moron. That`s the nicest
word I have for him, and I`m holding my hand so I don`t have anything else.
You know, he rebuilt our beaches, that was an important factor when we`re
living in total despair and disgusting conditions.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as we go out, I want to come back on this, because this
is in part a fundamental question about what government is for. When you
say that, when you say, I`m sick of government and, you know, it`s because
of the lack of protection. But I want to remind people that part of how we
ended up with this sanity versus suicide caucus is because the club for
growth and other conservative organizations actually urged senators to vote
no on hurricane Sandy, on the relief bill for hurricane Sandy, hr-1, which
is scheduled for consideration in the upper chamber that week. And the
vote on the final passage and perhaps procedural votes would be included in
the club`s 2012 congressional scorecard.
So conservatives were being scored on whether or not they voted against you
getting the kind of need -- help that you need. So we`ll think more about
that when we come back. Because when we come back, the hits keep on
coming. And the victims of the storm are still suffering, maybe for very
avoidable reasons still a year later.
HARRIS-PERRY: As we approach the one-year anniversary of hurricane Sandy,
we`re hearing about lingering issues that still persist from the storm,
like Sandy lung, which may be causing respiratory issues for New Jersey
shore residents and first responders or homeless Sandy victims getting
evicted from New York hotel rooms because of the judge ruled that the
program was too costly to continue or whose families having to decide
between skyrocketing flood insurance premiums and rebuilding.
And as a reminder that disaster is not just a short-term crisis, disaster
creates long-term problems that takes responsible, collective action to
truly address them.
And Eric, I want to come to you on this. As we think about disasters,
whether it is the heat wave in Chicago many years ago or Katrina or
superstorm Sandy, they always teach us something about infrastructure,
about both our human infrastructure, our political infrastructure, and our
literal infrastructure. What lessons have we been failing to learn about
KLINENBERG: Well, there`s a few right now, and they`re urgent, so, glad
year talking about it.
First of all, the power grid and the energy infrastructure is really out of
date. I live in lower Manhattan. I had a blackout. There was no water
getting up to the floor where I live, it was a bad situation. And I was
like a lot of people in lower Manhattan who couldn`t really believe that
the powers that be out there would let us be dark for one day, two days, a
full week. But clearly we are behind the times and need to do something to
get smarter, more resilient grids, and that`s going to take a serious
We also learned something about the communications infrastructure, which
failed miserably. So when I was sitting at home, trying to reach out to my
94-year-old stepfather who was also in the dark and to friends and family
to find out what was happening in our city, I couldn`t do that. There was
no service. And the cell service routinely fails. It turns out that a
growing number of Americans rely on this for communication.
HARRIS-PERRY: They don`t have land lines, right.
KLINENBERG: But, you know, the phone industry, the mobile phone industry
has pushed very hard to make sure they`re regulated as an entertainment
industry, not as a lifeline industry that provides public services. So
they routinely fail. Look, we are now in a situation where people in
cities throughout this country expect that the power will go out and the
communications grid will go out, and even the transit system will go out
during all kinds of ordinary summer weather. We are living like people in
developing nations that don`t have nearly the kind of wealth and security
that we have. And if there`s ever been a moment where we need to recognize
the challenge before us, this is it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, David, as I listen to Eric talk about that kind of
infrastructure, I think, if ever there were a bipartisan sort of thing that
one could get around, it would be this. Like, electricity, not a partisan
issue, right? You know, cell phone towers, not a racial question, right?
These should be the few places where right now there would be enough
political will to do the kind of government spending we need. And yet,
that doesn`t seem to be true.
ROHDE: No, it`s not happening. And it`s a great point you mentioned. I
saw this earlier today. The output economically of the New York metro
areas is around $17 trillion. That`s roughly the equivalent of all of
Canada. It`s more than all of Australia. The money is here, why aren`t we
One positive thing is that Bill de Blasio in his mayoral run has made
inequality his core issue. That has really caught fire with people in the
city. They`re excited with how you address it. The problem is, the things
he`s proposing to do are not going to make it through the state legislature
ROHDE: And so, you`ve got gridlock in Albany and Washington, stopping a
positive political development in the city.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this point about cities and the state legislature, I
mean, that, as Louisiana resident, right, living in New Orleans, that idea
that you could have reasonable leadership in the city that recognizes the
need for infrastructure development that simply can`t get through a Bobby
Jindal, for example.
PERRY: Yes. It`s one of the amazing things about the Christie/Obama
bromance is that two parties from different parties actually agree to work
together. Because as you know, in Louisiana, we had two people from
different parties who hated each other and the governor and the president`s
position. But still, I think that the issue is not really with whether or
not these two parties can get along, the problem is that there is a
conservative push that says, we are going to do whatever it takes to lower
the amount of money that government has and that the government spends.
And so we are ready to go through any disaster, a disaster for our party, a
disaster for ourselves as individuals, and disasters for our communities in
order to lower government funding and spending.
KLINENBERG: Again, not to sour the bromance here, because I love the love,
but let`s recall that Chris Christie red to take the federal dollars that
were going to build another tunnel, to improve the transit system, so that
we had better capacity to move from New York to New Jersey. And that he
has also been reluctant to invest state dollars in the other kinds of
infrastructure improvements that that state needs.
And this principled refusal to do that for the sake of internal politics in
the Republican party is costing the people of New Jersey, but let`s face
it, also the people in New York. We were part of a political eco-system
here, and there`s no municipality or state that can do this alone.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay right with us because I want to come back to you on
some of these questions about sort of the long-term impact, but I also want
to talk about denial, denial, denial, denial. Because if you don`t like an
issue, let`s say, for example, climate change or the debt ceiling, let`s
just pretend it`s not real. That is the strategy of Senator Tom Coburn,
HARRIS-PERRY: What`s even more jaw-dropping than the way Republicans hold
up legislation is how far they`re willing to go to deny facts. We saw it
most recently with the debt ceiling deniers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There is no such thing as a debt ceiling in this
country. I would dispel the rumor that is going around that you hear on
every newscast, that if we don`t raise debt ceiling, that we will default
on our debt. We won`t.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: If you don`t raise the debt ceiling, what
that means is you would have a balanced budget. It doesn`t mean you
wouldn`t pay your bills.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s zero chance that the U.S. government is going
to default on its debt. It is unfortunate that people have conflated this
idea of not raising the debt ceiling immediately on October 17th with
somehow defaulting on our debt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. And some of the very people that you just saw denying
the debt ceiling also deny climate change. In particular, Republican
Senator Tom Coburn said the following in August about his views on climate
I am a global warming denier. I don`t deny that.
While Coburn has been consistent with his denialism and how to pay for
disaster relief, his fellow Oklahomans may take exception, since they`re
still picking up from the pieces the devastating tornado that struck the
state in May.
When you see lawmakers saying, oh, no, this is just not real, it`s just not
a problem, how do you respond to someone still rebuilding?
ZITO: I want them to come and just live in my House for a week. I just
want them to be there one week and watch how many phone calls you make a
day. Watch how everything you`ve worked for your whole life and paid taxes
for is just, oh, well. And I want them to wake up. They have to get off
their band-aids and see what we`re going through. Don`t sit back in your
office and look at a newspaper or listen to news and say, oh, OK, this is
great. You know, these people are rebuilt. Our mayor thinks we`re
rebuilt. That moron thinks no big deal. We`re good, we`re New Yorkers, we
are great. Come and live with me.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love you said two things both earlier and now. One is
what we pay taxes for, right? So we have contributed into this pot. But
also earlier, you were talking about, what we have paid on our insurance
premium all these years for.
ZITO: Oh, tons.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And the idea all these years you`re contributing
into the pot, you`re part of the system, and when you`re in need of help,
it`s not there for you.
ZITO: It isn`t. I have $217,000 worth of damage to my home. I received
$90,000 and that was just, I think, luck. It was sheer luck that I
received that much. And now it is a joke. I`m waiting eight months for
that money. We have nothing in our homes. We borrowed from everyone that
we can borrow from. We charged everywhere we can charge. I couldn`t get
another charge card if I had to.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as expensive as it is on each individual level, it is
actually also this kind of denial is extremely expensive to us as a nation.
We were looking at the cost of extreme weather just in 2012, $30 billion
from the U.S. drought, $65 billion from superstorm Sandy, $11 billion of
combined severe weather that aren`t always named storms, a billion in
western wildfires, and $2.3 billion from hurricane Isaac. It costs us to
act like this isn`t happening.
KLINENBERG: You know, we save about $4 down the road for every dollar that
we spend on preparing, and there`s a very concrete lesson again from Sandy.
You know, in New York City, we talked about climate change, planned for it
to some extent, the MTA pulled the subway cars out of the system to higher
ground, ripped the electrical lines out, so when the water came in, they
didn`t get saturated with saltwater.
In New Jersey, where the governor denies climate change, they took the
transit cars and put them in a flood zone. So they had $120 million of
damage to those cars, a much longer time to restore systems, literally
because of planning that comes from denial. There`s a deep cost and it`s
got to end.
HARRIS-PERRY: James, I kept thinking that there`s a way, you know, that
what we saw in the shutdown, for example, was people finally realizing,
this is what government does, right? When you couldn`t go to the park and
you realize, that`s government, right? And similarly, sometimes it`s being
victimized by disaster that we realize, sort of, what government is there
for. What it`s supposed to do. I wonder, as so many more people become
vulnerable because of climate change, if we`ll finally get some political
will around it.
PERRY: It`s one of the most difficult questions that Democrats have had to
wrestle with is how much do they let government completely fall apart to
make the point how important government is. You know, this process is
something we tried before. We tried. This is how government starts.
Individuals try to make it on their own, and they can`t. They need help.
And so, they start working with their fellow man. And they say, let`s try.
Let`s continue to work together. Let`s create community. Then, let`s
formalize that and behold, government, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: Man, you went back to Hobbs! I appreciate that!
PERRY: And so, we`ve done that. And so, we know this works. Let`s
continue down this path. And that`s the thing that the conservatives deny.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because without it, right, I mean, what obviously
the lesson is, is without Leviathan (ph), without some kind of collective
action, life for man is nasty brutish, nasty and short, right, that we, in
fact, do need one another. And not just in the private charity ways that
we saw in the shutdown, right?
So, part of what happens in the context of the shutdown or even what I
heard you saying is, look, my friends and family and people in the
community, they come out, they help, but then you don`t end up with the
kind of justice that can be created only by government intervention.
ROHDE: And I`m going to keep, you know, grasping at the sanity caucus
here. This has been a positive week, I think, was maybe post-Sandy, Chris
Christie sees that he was wrong on some of these things. The U.S. chamber
of commerce turned on the tea party. There`s the big question coming
forward is, will the U.S. chamber of commerce, never a friend of Democrats,
actually fund moderate Republicans to counter tea party people that are
being funded by, you know, the heritage and these other groups, record-low
approval ratings for the Republican Party.
So it`s an amazing thing that`s happened this week. Maybe there will be a
change. And I would, you know, I cautious against, you know, lambasting
all Republicans. There is a very extreme caucus. But again, a lot of
people, Mitch McConnell, stands up and so drives the state, you know,
through Tec Cruz`s hopes sort of rallying the Senate, you know. Mitch
McConnell makes the last-minute deal, is an adult, and that`s a big thing
and he deserves credit.
HARRIS-PERRY: You give me so many good things today. I love the sanity
caucus, but I also love Mitch Mccokel (ph), perhaps he`ll be stumping for
Ken Cuccinelli later in the day.
Thank you to Kathy Zito, to David Rohde, to Eric Klinenberg, and of course
to James Perry.
And up next, Chipotle politics, how a restaurant chain is up ending an
entire industry. And the story of how one nerd got lost in the search for
HARRIS-PERRY: Chipotle has a special place in our hearts here in Nerdland.
And it`s not just about the food. Let me explain. Here`s a map. Now, the
blue dot, that`s us, 30 Rockefeller center. The red dot, that`s Chipotle.
It is less than a tenth of a mile. It is one turn. And yet one of our
producers, last call her, I don`t know, Linda, is renowned for repeatedly
failing to locate the Mexican-themed restaurant. But she`s a fighter. And
when she decided to try again one bright summer day, another one of our
Nerdland producers, let`s call him Eric, tagged along and decided to live
tweet the event. For the record, the story you`re about to see is
completely real. The video is not.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: 1:34 p.m., Eric tweets, left turn, good start. Two minutes
later, Eric tweets that Linda is confused by blinking red hand on traffic
light. Ultimately, Linda crossed the street, but then according to the
next tweet we saw at 1:38, she said now this is where it gets tricky. Mind
you, she was now about 20 feet from the restaurant and walked right by it.
And then at 1:43, we really lost it when we saw this tweet, asking street
vendor for help.
Now, this goes on and on and on for quite a while. Linda eventually
Google`s the location, but just to give you a sense of how much fun the
Nerdland staff likes to have at each other`s expense, there was this tweet
from Eric, would offer to help, but busy tweeting. Then at last, at 1:50
p.m., success! Linda now aware of how many times she passed it. One final
tweet that let us know that Eric was getting exactly what he deserved.
getting punched, was all it said.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Look. Here at Nerdland, we find that story endlessly
entertaining. And it leads to a lot of talk about Chipotle. But later or
lately rather, we are not the only ones talking about the restaurant.
Lately, everyone is talking Chipotle, because Chipotle is doing something
that is making some people very, very upset. That`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Can a corporation be socially responsible and profitable?
Chipotle, the gourmet burrito chain, with more than 1,500 locations, is
trying. Chipotle advocates for sustainable agriculture, including meat
raised without the use of antibiotics and organic, locally sourced, non-
genetically modified vegetables. The chain hammered its message home with
a recent animated ad portraying conventional factory farming in a pretty
ugly light. The video has been viewed more than seven million times to
Now, Chipotle lay does use the kind of ingredients that it promotes,
although that comes with an asterisk whenever possible. It pays more for
these ingredients than it would pay for conventionally raised beef or non-
But that hasn`t seemed to upset the shareholders. Chipotle has one of the
highest stock prices on the U.S. exchanges and more than $500 a share as of
Friday afternoon. That`s up more than 100 percent in the past year.
Joining me now is Chipotle`s chief marketing officer, Mark Crumpacker.
Also, Damon Phillips, a professor of business strategy at Columbia
University, Andrew Moesel who is the spokesman for the New York state
restaurant association and thegrio.com managing editor Joy Reid.
It is so nice to have you all here.
So Mark, thanks for being here. Talk to me about the notion of a business
strategy that is about ethically produced foodstuffs.
MARK CRUMPACKER, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER, CHIPOTLE: Sure. Well, you know,
it`s a very long-standing part of Chipotle`s DNA, really, that started
about 16 years ago, when Steve Ells, the founder, he started the company 20
years ago. But after three or four years, he started becoming more curious
about where the ingredients were coming from. So he actually went on a
trip to a hog farm to see where it was coming from and he didn`t like much
what he saw.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, hog farms would not make you feel like you would like
to have some pork.
CRUMPACKER: No, not at all. So at that point, he actually decided to do
something different and bought some naturally raised pork from a farm
called from Paul Willis` farm, called Niemann Ranch, and from that point
on, he began to question where every ingredient was coming from. And it
led him down this path, this journey we`ve been on ever since to find more
and more responsibly raised ingredients. And it`s gone through all of the
meats and into the vegetables and now we`re into the world of GMOs and all
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And so, obviously, the scarecrow video, and Damon,
this is part of why I wanted you here. Because the video is not an ad. It
doesn`t play on your local television or in the super bowl or something,
but it`s gone viral, right? Everybody was sending this to me, in part,
we`ve done a lot of chicken segments here on MHP, and people are saying,
have you seen the scarecrow ad? How effective is that kind of marketing?
This idea that we are ethically and socially responsible and we are
producing this notion of who we are by sending it out this way.
DAMON PHILLIPS, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Well, it could be a great
thing for a company like Chipotle. So, they have a whole firm structure
and strategy in their culture revolves around being authentic and true to
their ingredients, true to their customers. So, that`s a big part of what
So, part of it is that the food does taste good. I don`t know how the
people like the taste of food. But there is more than that. When I`m
going to Chipotle, I`m buying into the image into the identity of it. And
this video serves that purpose. It also sort of pushes them -- makes them
a little bit edgy, and sort of gives David and Goliath kind of picture at
the end of it as well. And that is, I think, going to be a point of
tension as they start to grow. But for the moment, I think it does a
fantastic job of selling this really complete picture and consistent
picture of what Chipotle is.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it seems to me, even as it frames itself as the David,
and what, of course, it frames as the Goliath, particularly the bad GMO
producing, bad behavior, right, of your food, is the rest of the fast food
And so, even as we see these climbing stocks, you know, you`ve been here at
the table before, where we`ve talked about the wages for fast food workers
and that sort of thing. At the moment, like McDonald`s is taking a hit and
Burger King. You know, I`ve got a kid, who`s right at the age at when I
was at that age, I was like let`s go have some chicken nuggets, and she`s
like, pink slime? Oh, no. That became part of sort of the narrative of
how people are now thinking about fast food.
ANDREW MOESEL, SPOKESMAN, NEW YORK STATE RESTAURANT ASSOCIATION: Well, I
think we are seeing the way the market is supposed to work now. People, as
great as Chipotle is, and use the market as they wouldn`t be doing it if
there wasn`t demand in the market place for more locally sourced products,
for healthier products. And I think that is what we are seeing now, both
at the fast food level and the local level where your local restaurateur is
finding better ways to get their food and serve it to the public.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Joy, the tension that we`ve been having in Nerdland
around this segment was, OK, we have a fun time with Chipotle, especially
our Linda story about it. But we don`t want to be doing a commercial for
Chipotle, in part because in part they are this big publicly traded fast
food place that does say that they get a portion of their food locally and
organically grown. Is that enough?
JOY REID, MANAGING EDITOR, THE GRIO/MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: It`s interesting.
I`m not sure, because we`re in this age of like diminished brand loyalty,
right, where all of these brands, whether it`s restaurants or store brands
are fighting against a public that no longer has the brand loyalty sort of
conditioning. People don`t grow up loyal to one specific brand and only
buy it. So these companies are sort of creating cultural identification as
And when you`re talking about that, it was reminding me a lot of whole
foods which did the same sort of cultural identification, which then ran up
against the actual politics of the guy who ran whole foods and then it
created this cognitive dissidence so it very fragile. The minute the guy
who ran whole foods revealed himself to be very staunchly opposed to the
affordable care act and very conservative, people who culturally identified
with it were like, I don`t know if I identify with it anymore.
So, it is interesting because when you build your brand based on like let`s
have this cultural identification, I think it`s really very fragile because
people aren`t brand loyal anyway. So anything you do that can tamper with
it, and I think GMOs is one of those areas where people might be like,
well, it`s very easy to lose it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Mark, as much as I understand, this great. This is
exactly how the market supposed to work. People have information and then
they buy. And the fact is that the food industry has not been very happy
with scarecrow and with Chipotle and it has said that the video goes
overboard and that it`s, in fact, not true of how your pink slime is
CRUMPACKER: Well, for one, it is an animated video. There were a lot of
crows and scarecrows. So it`s not meant to be literally interpretive. But
of course, like most of the things that we do in this regard which are --
it`s the part of our marketing to try to get people to think a little bit
more about where their food comes. When we do these types of thing, it
does upset some aspect of industrial agriculture.
And it is not as if we are really saying, there`s good farmers and bad
farmers. We`re just simply saying that thinking there`s good ways,
perhaps, and bad ways o of producing food. Some of it are more sustainable
than others. And we as Chipotle have a pretty strong opinion about what
the more sustainable ways are.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I want to read this from the chicken council, in part
because I think this is often the pushback that you will hear. So, the
chicken council says, in general, this romanticized view of agriculture,
which is, in part, the Chipotle view, this romanticized view of agriculture
is not going to be able to feed the world. That we don`t think it`s
beneficial to demonize one product system over the other. We all need to
And you know, I appreciate all working together. We just had that
conversation about Democrats and Republicans and the sanity caucus and all
that. But, in fact, within a competitive marketplace, you don`t all work
together, right? You distinguish and differentiate yourself as different.
PHILLIPS: Absolutely. I mean, one of the things here which is interesting
from a business strategy perspective is Chipotle is targeting a certain
group with a strategy that`s going to be very difficult for competitors to
compete with. That`s what you d want to do. It`s a good strategy.
So you say, here is what we are. Here`s what we do, and the type of food.
Here`s how we source it. Well, yes, in a grand, beautiful world, yes,
everyone is going to have their food sourced, but that`s not practical.
The practical type of solution is actually closer to what the market`s kind
of argument might provide. Is that, well, you know, before we talked about
how great Chipotle is doing, but so is sort of Doritos, it`s doing great,
But sort of what we want is we want a taco bell that serves Cantina bell,
which is their fresher offering, and probably going to serve a Doritos
locos taco, which is what`s going to make the money and that`s great.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. Well, except that and this is my concern around that,
is that we end up two tiers of food, right? And we already have a two-
tiered food system, but then even more, we end up with poor people being
able to afford only one kind of food that isn`t locally sourced and organic
and GMO-free and wealthy people get to buy from the other menu. And that,
in fact, creates a whole set of inherent disparities.
REID: No, it does. And also, the places that are doing these sort of
fresher alternatives and sort of providing upscale fast food probably have
better pay as well. So you do have a two-tiered almost employment system
too. You have the more upscale offerings and the more upscale foods. And
you are right, are there Chipotles located in neighborhoods where people
have a food desert right now, where they`re not getting fresh food. You`re
seeing is McDonald`s sort of respond and trying to push their salad
offerings and everyone`s responding to this fresher food sort of movement,
but it`s a good point that I doubt you`re going to have the same level.
You know, my kids love Chipotle too, but they`re buying it, you know, in
Manhattan. They`re not buying it in east New York.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
Hold on for us. We are going to stay on Chipotle when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. We`re back and we`re talking about the
possibility of doing profitable, but socially conscience business. And you
wanted to pick up a point Joy was making at the end.
MOESEL: Well, right. And so, you know, at the end of the day, the
restaurant business is just a business. And people, you know, McDonald`s
is not serving a $3 or $4 delicious hamburger because they try to make an
ethical statement, because there`s a market for that. There`s a market
where that`s maybe all they can afford to eat.
Now, this is an area where the restaurant has been working closely with our
government partners to try a new better, all levels in the food industry to
try to bring more locally sourced products and healthy products and try to
get maybe subsidies or partnerships that were going to make that
affordable, so they can offer these things.
I was yesterday at a conference sponsored by Governor Cuomo trying to match
local New York purveyors with restaurants here in New York City, both at
every level to make sure they`re getting high-quality products because
people aren`t going to buy it. IT is not tasty at affordable prices and
create those partnerships. And I think that`s somewhere we can have the
cooperation you`re talking about.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I want to challenge the idea that tasty equals high
quality, right? In part because part of what we find tasty is endogenous,
right? It is related to the kinds of things that (INAUDIBLE) and the, you
know, fat things that we eat. And the part of what Chipotle is suggesting
here is in fact that that profit margin which is constantly been sort of
the narrative from the restaurant industry about why either it`s labor
practices or food practices can`t be better is a false one. That in fact,
you can make these kinds of choices and still have a profitable business.
CRUMPACKER: That`s right. If you look at Chipotle, really, the secret to
it in a lot of ways is the fact that we don`t do a ton of advertising. We
don`t create a ton of new products all the time. We spend about 33 percent
of our sales on the ingredients where the average for the restaurant
industry might be in the low 20s, mid-20s. And that`s a big difference.
That allows us to buy higher quality ingredients, substantially higher
quality, and that`s facilitated mainly because we don`t add all these new
products to the menu all the time. Regular fast food marketing works by
introducing a new product, wrapping advertising around that, and doing that
several times a year. And it has a couple of really, really negative
consequences. One is, it`s really expensive because that advertising is
hugely expensive. But also, you have to create those products in such a
way as it doesn`t take any skill to prepare them in the restaurant.
You couldn`t retrain -- you know, we have, you know, 40,000 employees. You
couldn`t retrain them every three months to cook something new. Our menu
never changes, and so the people actually cook in the restaurants and we
save all that advertising money and all those process.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask you a little bit about the people cooking in
your restaurants, because even as there was sort of maybe about four years
ago, there was some critique around Chipotle not signing on around some
fair labor practices. And part of the push came from the fact that there
was this sort of narrative about Chipotle as, you know, organically and
locally sourced food and was sort of like, you`re nice to your chicken, but
not nice to your workers. And in fact, Chipotle did end up signing on to
that agreement. And it made me wonder, maybe standing out there saying, we
are the whole foods or we are the Chipotle or we are Costco and we have a
better model, in fact creates even more fresh air to be better in other
CRUMPACKER: Of course, yes. I mean, once we put ourselves out there with
the kind of marketing that we use, we`re up for, you know, tons of
criticism. And so, our effort is to be as transparent as absolutely
possible and where everything comes from. So that if anybody were to
discover anything about Chipotle, there would be nothing there to really
discover, because we`ve been forthcoming.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. You tell on yourselves.
CRUMPACKER: Yes. And we`re far less than perfect. I mean, you know, we
have a long way to go with all of our ingredients in terms of making them
better. I mean, just on our quest now to source only non-GMO ingredients
is going to take us a while. I mean, it is -- they are everywhere. And
so, we`re not saying that we`re perfect. It`s just that we`re on this
journey and we would love to have more people on this journey with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that going to be a new model for how business is done,
whether it`s restaurants or others in this country?
PHILLIPS: I think you do see a trend towards greater transparency. And
that is, I think that`s good. We have to make sure to balance that with
educating consumers, right? So this just transparency is going to be a
list of words describes to us, we`re not going to be known -- we`re going
to be sort of flowing with the debate on the scientific evidence really say
that GMO is good or bad?
It is really have to be a lot on educating the consumers as well. I don`t
think, though, that this is going to spread as much as other people do. I
personally think it would be great. That`s my own set of personal values.
Just sort of looking at it, our best chance is for taco bell --
HARRIS-PERRY: To have --
PHILLIPS: To offer both. That`s our best shot.
HARRIS-PERRY: I feel like my theme for the hour is sanity caucus, right,
both in our political realm and also potentially in the business realm.
Thank you to Mark and Damon. And Andrew and Joy is going to stick around a
little bit longer.
When we come back, the conversation is going to turn to some sensitive
topics. Given the developing story out of Maryville, Missouri this week,
we`re going to discuss rape culture.
Plus, why one of the most harrowing movies of the year, "12 years of
slaves," is also perhaps the most important movie you`ll ever see.
More Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
In the past year, the words Steubenville, Ohio, became synonymous with the
rape of a young girl by two of the town`s high football players, committed
while they and their friends took pictures and texted about the assault.
Back in March, both of the boys were convicted and sentenced to time in a
juvenile detention facility. But response from within the town helped to
bring to light an issue too often ignored, rape culture. The Steubenville
case was notable for the horror of the incident, but also what drew even
more attention was the vocal support of many in the town and in the
national media, not for the survivor, but for the perpetrators.
Now, another small-town rape case, this one in Maryville, Missouri.
Population, 12,000, became national news this week. Fourteen-year-old
Daisy Coleman and her 13-year-old friend, alleged in January of 2012, they
were raped by two student athletes, that they had been drinking with that
night, with one of the rapes videotaped by a third boy.
As "The Kansas City Star" detailed last Saturday in a lengthy report,
Daisy`s mother, Melinda, discovered her the morning after the incident,
sprawled the front porch and barely conscious in below-freezing
temperatures, wearing only a T-shirt and sweatpants.
But it`s what happened later in the days and months after the incident that
is inviting comparisons to what happened in Steubenville. Though Daisy and
her mom initially received support from their community, "The K.C. Star"
report says that a sizable contingent stood by the accused athletes who
admitted to authorities have sex with the girls. The phrases, "gets what
coming" and "asking for it" are just some of the gossip that was either
spoken, or tweeted, or Facebook in the days following the boy`s arrests.
And then two weeks after the incident, Melinda was fired from her job
seemingly for reasons related to the case. And in March of 2012, the
charges against the boys were all dropped feeling the case filed. After
that, Daisy has struggled with depression, has attempted suicide more than
once. She and they are family left Maryville and six months ago were
informed that their empty house up for sale had burned to the ground. The
causes of the fire remain unknown.
After all that, there`s some good news, the online fever about this and
"The K.C. Star" report provoked and that online activist Anonymous
#justicefordaisy led to the Missouri lieutenant governor calling for the
state`s attorney general to revisit the case.
And then came news Wednesday that a special prosecutor will be appointed to
determine whether any new charges will be filed, which Daisy herself in her
Friday op-ed published by the online women`s magazine called X.O. Jane
called a victory, not just for me, but for every girl.
At the table with me, Irin Carmon, national reporter for MSNBC.com,
Salamishah Tillet, professor at University of Pennsylvania and co-founder
of the nonprofit organization, A Long Walk Home; Byron Hurt, filmmaker and
co-founder of Mentors In Violence Prevention, and Joy Reid, managing editor
I felt like as I was telling that story, the tab kept getting quieter and
quieter because of how painful this moment is.
Irin, without adjudicating the case itself and the facts of it, what does
this Maryville case and sort of what`s happened tell us about the thing
that is rape culture?
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC.COM: Well, for a long time, feminists have been saying
that rape is about power, and I think there are a lot of ways in this
particular case that we can see in which social and political power really
came to bear, whether it`s from the sort of social dynamics of these two
girls who were younger, who were new to town, wanting to, you know, impress
and drink, these guys that had a lot of social power in town, to then have
the prosecutors reacted, to how then the town reacted in shaming the girls,
as opposed to focusing on what the behavior was from the men.
So I think any shot at justice was already going to be sort of
predetermined by these social dynamics and power, and by the fact that so
much of the blame focused on the girls for what they had done to lead the
situation to happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: I read your piece on MSNBC.com, and part of what I found so
useful about it is this -- the work that you`ve been doing. And,
Salamishah, I you know that you`ve been doing a round, separating out that
the notion about rape is about force. We know it`s rape if there`s force,
if there`s violence, if there`s a weapon, if there are threats -- rather
than saying it`s rape if there`s not explicit consent, right? And that
divide between force and consent and how do we shift that conversation.
I want to ask you, Salamishah, to a language about consent.
SALAMISHAH TILLET, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: I was telling -- recent
talking to a bunch of college students about sexual violence. And one of
the students in the audience -- there were 600 people in the audience --
one of them asked me what rape was. So, I was kind of startled, because I
thought we had a working definition of what sexual violence means in our
culture. So, you`re right, I think that the stereotype and the truth that
oftentimes forces part of sexual violence is something that we need to
But there are all these other conditions that are legally understood to be
rape, that I think a lot of people are just unfamiliar wit or choose not to
be familiar, right? So that`s one thing. And in this case, under
toxication, unable to give consent, is not seen as rape. It`s actually
seen as something that leads to "she deserves it," "she was asking for it."
So, that`s one problem.
The other problem is I think that unless we understand that yes means yes
and everything else means no, those aren`t grey areas, those are actually
moments in which someone is verbalizing their desire not to have a sexual
interaction or sexual intercourse, until we actually understand that and
formalize that and teach kids consistently, we`re going to still have this
rape culture that not only leads to further victimization, but actually
leads to a kind of domestic terror. I think this case is very much an act
of domestic terror.
CARMON: In which predators find refuge in what are so-called grey areas,
where predators prey on the vulnerable under this cloud that we have, which
is like, if she`s drinking and she asked for it, if she went to his house,
she asked for it. That then leads to people who find an opportunity.
These are serial predators in many cases.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, there are no blurred lines.
CARMON: Not for the perpetrator.
HARRIS-PERRY: And oftentimes not in law in the sense of consent. You were
just in Missouri, not far from here, talking to boys. And it also feels
like an awful lot of what we do is talking to girls. What did you learn
from them around this question of their understanding about what rape and
rape culture is?
BYRON HURT, FILMMAKER: I`ve been working on this issue for a very long
time. I`ve worked with tens of thousands of boys, talking about rape and
sexual assault and things that we can do as men, as boys, to be a part of
the solution and not be a part of the problem, to be proactive bystanders.
I think one problem is that a lot of boys and men just don`t hear other men
who are speaking out against rape and sexual assault in very powerful ways,
in ways that they can identify with. In ways that they can say, OK, this
is something I should be involved in, right? This is something I can take
a stand on.
I`m talking about men who are not rapists, men who were not predators, men
who don`t batter or, you know, abuse women. I`m talking about guys who
care about women, who love women, who have sisters, who have daughters, who
have mare allied with women.
So, part of my role as a man who speaks on these issues, and someone who
gave the keynote in Missouri last week, is to really encourage and inspire
boys to not mute their voices, to not remain silent in the face of violence
against women, whether it`s sexual violence or physical violence.
That`s part of what I do. And it`s challenging. It`s very difficult to
voluntarily get boys and men engaged in this issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: This connects to me, what you were just saying about the
notion of terrorism, and that part of what`s going on -- part of what
terrorism does, right, we`re going to talk later about "12 Years of
Slavery" and I kept thinking about the plantation violence, and the idea --
not only does it silence the victims, which we`ll continue to talk about,
but it also silences bystanders, right? Because then you will get pulled
into it. You could be called these things, you might be victimized. And
that`s the terrible --
HURT: Absolutely. You know what -- I`m sorry, Reid.
JOY REID, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I was going to say, when you asked about the
online dynamic, in this day and age, you add to that the dynamics of
bullying online, so the tendency is for other kids the same age as the
victim and a little older to really terrorize and re-victimize the victim
again. This girl was told she should go ahead and kill herself by other
And there was literally the wave of online support that came from anonymous
was separate, but from her own peers, she was vilified and she was made --
even though at 14, forgetting all the other things about whether or not you
can give consent if intoxicated, at 14, you can`t give consent at all, and
it`s always rape if the child is under the age of 16 in these states. The
idea that boys still don`t know that is pretty scary. And the group
dynamics when they get together encourages them and attacks the girl is
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, it is true that in the case of Missouri,
because of the age of the alleged perpetrator here, it would not count as
statutory rape, but certainly the question that a 14-year-old could not
give consent -- and this goes back to the idea that consent is the full --
so stay with me. We`ll stay on this.
But also, I want to talk a little bit about Elizabeth Smart, because she
weighed in on this in such an extraordinary way about the rape culture
question, blaming the victim, and the demoralization of the conservative
purity politics, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: During her nine-month captivity in 2002, Utah teenager
Elizabeth Smart suffered repeated sexual assaults, because of the nightmare
she was living, Smart said she, quote, "felt so dirty and so filthy."
Smart recalled once having a teacher who likened sex to chewing gum, so she
thought of herself after the ordeal as a chewed up piece of gum, the kind
nobody ever wants again. It`s why she, earlier this year, criticized
abstinence-only education. Now, this brave survivor has spoken up again,
this time targeting rape culture. In a new profile in "The New Yorker,"
Smart is quoted as sang, "I can`t tell you how many women I`ve met who
said, when I was your age, I was raped, but it was kind of my fault because
of X, Y, or Z, and I just want to pull my hair out."
So, Salamishah, I want to play you a guest who was on a FOX News Channel.
This is not someone who works for FOX News, this is Joseph DiBenedetto,
performing what I think Elizabeth Smart is talking about here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSEPH DIBENEDETTO: There`s no denying that from the surface, it appears
to be some sort of cover-up, but when you look at the finer details, there
are telltale signs of this girl actually lying. She is leaving her home at
1:00 a.m. in the morning and nobody forced her to drink.
And what happens? She gets caught by her mom, she`s embarrassed, and the
easy way out here is, mom, someone took advantage of me. But what did she
expect to happen at 1:00 a.m. in the morning after sneaking out? I`m not
assuming that these facts are accurate and this did happen, I`m not saying
that she deserved to be raped. But knowing the facts as we do here,
including what the prosecutor has said forth, this case is going nowhere
and it`s going nowhere quick.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, let me just say that the FOX News host absolutely
smacked that down immediately thereafter. I want to clarify, that was not
a pro-rape culture moment on FOX News.
But that articulation is one that is exactly what Elizabeth Smart is saying
about this purity culture.
TILLET: Yes, I wrote a piece in response to the kind of Serena Williams
controversy about Steubenville. And one of the things I was talking about
is part of rape culture means we have a Pavlovian response to when we hear
rape occurs, right?
And what that piece says to me, not only do we have this kind of knee-jerk
response to blame the victim, but we have very sophisticated profile of
what a victim looks like, and why she needs to be blamed, so there`s no
thinking, no thought process about the perpetrator in this case, what was
he doing at 1:00 a.m. in the morning? Why was he in a place where there
So, to me, how deeply embedded our response to rape is and how immediately
we`re going to blame victims is all a way of not just maintaining a rape
culture, but also, it`s the seduction of patriarchy that is also part of
rape culture, violence against women and girls, and our willingness or
unwillingness to push back against it is terrifying.
Elizabeth Smart, I do think, though, is so brave. And also Daisy Coleman.
I want to talk a bit about this moment is so unique in this mother and
daughter not only sharing their names, but publicly coming forward in the
media spotlight and telling their story, not in the moment of recovery,
fully, but in the moment of seeking justice. It`s actually very unusual
and I applaud them for doing it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Let`s take a quick look at a little bit of what
Daisy wrote in her piece in XO, because she very much sort of speak for
Saying, "Since this happened, I`ve been in hospitals too many times to
count. I found it impossible to love at times. I`ve gained and lost
friends. I no longer dance or compete in pageants. I`m different now and
I can`t ever go back to the person I once was.
That one night took it all away from me. I`m nothing more than just a
human, but I also refuse to be a victim of cruelty any longer. This is why
I`m saying my name. This is why I`m not shutting up."
So, on the one hand, we have her voicing, but it`s interesting, as you were
talking about this, no one looking at the perpetrators. Byron, we were
talking in the break that the boys you work with, the young men you work
with have a different narrative sometimes around this moment.
HURT: That`s true. One thing I want to say about that sound bite, it
assumes that once the clock strikes the 12:00 a.m., that all men are
rapists, right? And that we, you know, the expectation is that if there`s
alcohol involved and a woman comes over at 12:00 or later, that she`s going
to get raped or that we`re going to rape them, that there`s nothing about
our socialization that prevents us from doing this, right? Or anything
about our, you know, structural --
TILLET: Sense of humanity.
HURT: Sense of humanity, right. So that`s false. That`s not true. You
know, this is something that we as men and boys learn very early that
women`s bodies are de-valued, right? And that we control female bodies,
OK? I think that`s really clear.
And rape, sexual assault, these are tools, weapons of patriarchy, right?
And I think what we also see is how the community, right, protects boys and
men and assails a girl and her mother, right, for confronting patriarchy,
for confronting a rape culture, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: I want you to pause on that. I want to come back to exactly
that. I want to talk about the places where that protection is happening,
which is surprisingly on college campuses. And why colleges aren`t doing
nearly enough to prevent and prosecute.
HARRIS-PERRY: Many know title nine as the civil rights legislation that
ensures girls and women have equal access to athletic opportunities on
college campuses. But the 40-year-old law does more than that. It also
protects students against sexual misconduct, sexual violence, and
retaliation for speaking out. Yet, claims continue to mount that school
administrators are failing in their Title IX obligations at some of the
nation`s most elite universities.
In New Haven, Connecticut, last weekend, dozens protested Yale University`s
handling of sexual assault and misconduct complaints, asserting that
previous faculty offenders have been given generous six-figure severance
packages while victims have been financially incentivized to remain silent
through nondisclosure agreements, and arguing that Yale suffers with a
unique culture of silence.
Yale came under scrutiny for its rape policy after the university`s own
report revealed late this summer that it uses terms like nonconsensual sex
in place of rape, and several offenders received nothing more than a
reprimand after sufficient evidence was found to support allegations of
sexual assault, harassment, or other misconduct.
In a statement to MHP show, Yale asserts, "Yale has zero tolerance for
sexual misconduct and its policies and practices for addressing sexual
misconduct are model for higher education. At the conclusion of its
investigation of a complaint against Yale, the federal government concluded
that Yale was not in violation of Title IX."
Nowhere the alchemy of rape and alcohol more prevalent than on college
HURT: That`s right.
Well, that`s where I`ve spent time and I`ve worked with men in
fraternities, football teams, basketball teams, hockey teams. And so, a
sticking point that always comes up is with alcohol and consent.
And when we talk about alcohol and consent and whether or not the woman has
the ability to give permission to have sex when she`s drunk infuriates a
lot of guys, because they feel like an undue burden is placed on the men to
be responsible for the women`s actions and behavior if she has been
drinking and they have also been drinking.
So, there`s a lot of anger, there`s a lot of confusion, there`s a lot of
hostility and resentment toward girls and women, because of this whole
alcohol and consent issue.
REID: It`s interesting, because when you`re on college campuses, not that
I went yesterday, but when you`re this college, a lot of the education
around keeping yourself safe from sexual assault is all directed at the
behavior of the girls. So, it`s ironic that boys feel like the onus is on
them. As a woman, you feel like the onus is all on you, you`re told, don`t
dress provocatively, don`t drink, don`t leave your house after midnight.
So, all of the onus seems to be on you and your behavior, and at the same
time, with college and young girls, this hyper-sexualization of teenagers,
this thing that both things have to happen. That to be desirable to boys,
you have to mimic the most sexualized images you`re seeing in the media,
but you also have to put up a shield around yourselves to make sure nobody
does anything to you, because if so, it`s your fault.
HARRIS-PERRY: This feels to me, the institutional aspect of that, and the
notion there is rage or anger from -- I mean, you started, Irin, by saying
that rape is in so many ways about power. And when there`s an anger and
angst, I think men add that to the alchemy of everything else. And then
college campuses that have an incentive, right, have the incentive to cover
it up, or to downplay it or call it as Yale did in their statement to us,
sexual misconduct rather than rape, and you get what feels to me like an
exceptionally unsafe environment.
CARMON: Absolutely. I mean, I would also say that college, it`s many
times too late. We really focus on campus, because, you know, they have
the full immersion experience and the kids are often on their own when
they`re living on campus. A lot of the cases we`re talking about are kids
who have been in high school or younger, and these are points at which the
same sort of educational process would be more important, because kids are
already experimenting with drugs and alcohol and sex.
But, yes, I think there`s a strong institutional urge to protect and to
say, our boys don`t do this. I don`t want to ruin his life, is something
that happens a lot. But to the extent to which, I mean, I talked to the
head of RAINN, the Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network this week, and he
told me the question that they get the most is, is date rape illegal?
So we have a long way to go when people are asking, is date rape illegal,
for whatever reason they think that that`s not real rape.
TILLET: And I just want to jump in, as someone who was sexually assaulted
in college, but also as someone like Byron who goes around in college
campuses and really works with students to end this issue on their
campuses, I feel like this is the beginning, it`s kind of a tipping point
of exposing what we saw with the Catholic Church, what we`re seeing in the
military, the ways in which sexual violence is kind of institutionalized on
And it`s remarkable, because they`re building on activism that`s been
happening since the `70s, and I would say we were part of the early -- of
the `90s and early 2000 activism. Now, this Title IX, using Title IX to
actually hold schools accountable is a brilliant move and a great strategy.
It`s interesting that Yale is still organizing and still having to hold
people accountable, because a few years ago, they were the vanguard for
using Title IX. So, it seems to me that even with the excitement about
Title IX, I`m excited about it, there`s still a lag between students suing
their schools and universities being held accountable.
So, I would like to just see this momentum really expose university culture
as a place where students are really vulnerable to sexual violence.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to ask you a question. And maybe this is the
wrong direction to go altogether, but what if -- because I`ve heard this
said about university administrators. What if the drinking age moved back
to 18 instead of to 21?
And what that would mean is that it would then be legal for most college
students to drink, and that legality would move it into public space and
out of the private spaces where college drinking happens, where the most
sort of appalling possibilities occur, because it is private, because it
is, you know, shielded.
Do you think that there`s anything in that, or is this really not at all
about alcohol policy, but fully about rape policy?
REID: I think it`s not about alcohol policy, only because in a lot of
these cases, it`s not the alcohol, it`s what they`re adding to it. It`s
someone putting their drink somewhere and someone else putting something
else in it. There`s only one reason to bring this clear liquid substances
that we keep hearing about, getting added to the alcohol that girls are
HARRIS-PERRY: But I`m thinking, if can do legally drink in the bar in my
town, right, then I`m not in a party situation where I`ve got my red
plastic cup, where the --
CARMON: I mean, if you look at other countries, they don`t have the
extreme pendulum swing, the drinking culture that we do, where they
absolutely prohibit younger people from drinking, and people come to campus
and they`re like, I`m free, I`m crazy -- they often don`t understand their
So, I think anything that would take out the pressure of prohibition. And,
frankly, I started to think this week about Maryville, part of the social
stigma the girl experienced afterwards has to do with people`s attitudes
around teenagers and sex, drinking, but also sex. I mean, just -- they
didn`t believe that she was raped. They believe she was a girl who felt
guilty about having sex.
HARRIS-PERRY: I almost didn`t want to go -- but I guess there`s a part of
me that feels like, on the one hand, I want to talk about the rape culture,
but I also want to talk about all of the things that are feeding -- less
the drunk girls, than the idea of young men as well, and the notion of sort
of where these vulnerabilities are. There`s so much more, I know, but
thank you to Irin and to Byron.
Coming up, it`s been called unflinching, appalling, agonizing, even a
master piece. It`s a film, "12 Years a Slave," and Nerdland is going to go
to the movies next.
HARRIS-PERRY: In 1852, many Americans the outside of the south got their
first detailed look into the horrors of slavery with the publication of the
novel, "Uncle Tom`s Cabin."
Harriet Beecher Stowe`s fictionalized story of life under slavery sold
300,000 copies in the United States in the first year of publication and
rallied thousands of Americans to the cause of abolition. "Uncle Tom`s
Cabin" was at the time the most popular piece of published anti-slavery
But it was, by no means, the first or the only story of slavery in America,
because the enslaved people had their own stories to tell. And the power
of their published accounts relied not on imagination or interpretation,
but on the firsthand, lived experience of people who have survived slavery.
More than 200 book-length slave narratives were published in the United
States and England between 1760 and 1947.
One of those books released in 1853 told the story of Solomon Northup, a
man who was born free, and after being tricked, drugged, and abducted by
two con artists was sold and enslaved for more than a decade. In the
beginning of the book, Solomon writes, "I can speak of slavery only so far
as it came under my own observation, only so far as I have known and
experienced it in my own person. My object is to give a candid and
truthful statement of facts, to repeat the story of my life without
exaggeration, leaving it for others to determine, whereas even the pages of
fiction present a picture of more cruel wrong, or a sever bondage."
"12 Years a Slave," the movie based on that book, debuted on Friday and has
been widely hailed as critics as a must-see. It is the first Hollywood
movie about slavery to be directed by a black filmmaker, the award-winning
Steve McQueen, and it is the first Hollywood portrayal of slavery based on
the first-person account of an enslaved person.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Days ago, I was with my family, in my home. Now, you
tell me all is lost? To forget who I am, that`s the way to survive? Well,
I don`t want to survive. I want to live.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The film introduces viewers to Northup`s life as a free man,
married with two children in upstate New York, where he is widely respected
in his community as a talented violinist.
But as it follows him through his years in bondage, the film contrasts
Northup`s exceptional origins against the ordinary violence and relentless
brutality that characterizes the everyday experience of enslaved people.
No one in this story, from slaves to slaveholders is spared from the
corrupting influence of the institution.
And neither is the audience offered any escape from the film, whose long,
lingering shots on the daily dehumanization and violence of slavery make it
impossible to turn away. You have never seen slavery quite like this.
"12 Years a Slave" is a film that will stay with you long after the credits
have rolled. And we`re going to talk more about it, next.
HARRIS-PERRY: You may not be among the millions of people who tuned into
ABC for eight consecutive nights in 1977 to watch the groundbreaking
"Roots" mini series. But whether you know it or not, your understanding
of what slavery looks and feels like has no doubt been based on the show
that shocked and fascinated the nation when it aired.
Ask anyone who`s seen it and they`ll most readily recall its most quotable
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behold anything greater than yourself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And, of course, one of "Roots" most memorable moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to hear you say your name. Your name is Toby.
What`s your name?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Guntar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Nearly four decades and multiple on-screen depictions of
slavery later, "Roots" continues to be the definitive, dramatic account of
slavery in America -- until now.
The new film "12 Years a Slave" sets a new bar for filmic depictions of
slavery, with a portrayal that is so memorable because it is simply
impossible to forget.
Joining me now is Laura Murphy, who`s professor at Loyola University in New
Orleans and author of "Metaphor: The Slave Trade in West African
Literature"; Salamishah Tillet, professor at the University of Pennsylvania
and author of sites of slavery; Khalil Mohammad of the Schomburg Center for
Research and Black Culture; and managing editor of thegrio.com, Joy Reid.
I want to start with you, Khalil, because if you had to just sort of say,
what are the aspects of slavery that Americans in know, that we`re actually
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, SCHOMBURG CENTER FOR RESEARCH AND BLACK CULTURE:
Four words, Lincoln freed the slaves.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that`s part of it.
MUHAMMAD: Well, but it`s not ironic in this moment. It really is the base
timeline from which we start, which is that slavery is an aberration.
Slavery happened. There are no villains. It`s this amorphous space that
just landed in America.
Even the voice of 19th century social experts and commentators at the time
blamed slavery on generations before. They had cursed the nation with the
stain of this institution and the presence of Africans in America. So, we
really are not too much further today from that moment, and the power of
this narrative of progress leads us with this sense that slavery happened,
but it ended.
MUHAMMAD: Racism in the segregation period happened, but it ended. And
it`s the "but it ended," just like they freed the slaves, that sets the
framework for our standing. And "12 Years of Slaves" gives us no framework
HARRIS-PERRY: Khalil, I have to say, the movie is extremely painful, but
probably the most stunning part for me is it was shot in New Orleans and
there are moments in the film that are blocks from my house, there are
extras in the film who I know from town, and so you don`t have that sense
that it ended, in part because it`s happening -- like, it`s literally
happening blocks from my house. And it made me -- I walked out and in
fact, my husband who had seen it said, you know, there was a point at which
he had been arrested for parking tickets and was put in a cell for three
days and sort of forgotten along with three other men and he had felt that
same sense of, at any point, who you are, your free papers, could just be
I can`t even really talk about this movie. But, Salamishah, I wonder about
that notion that sights of slavery is still what we are living in right
now, that we`re still informed by the experience of slavery.
TILLER: One of the things I`m interested in my book, we have this
historical amnesia about slavery, right? Like the aberration, as opposed
to fundamental to American democracy, those who`ve been the custodians of
democracy in my mind are African-Americans who have kept this story of
slavery alive, not only by linking it to race relations or race equality,
but understanding that this early trauma has set the stage for devastating
long-term effects that lead to the present, but have never been resolved in
So for me, sights of slavery really means the kind of ongoing way in which
this early trauma, the founding trauma of America, gets re-articulated and
reinvigorated with each generation and also with teach -- different social
movements kind of address it, but it`s never fully changed, because we`ve
actually never changed the hierarchy of race in America.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you say the extent to which the descendants of slaves
are actually the caretakers of American democracy, the film made me so
angry, and I kept thinking, haven`t been angry enough lately, and this sort
of put me back in touch with that level of anger, but I also I kept
thinking, and then these people ran for office. We were talking about Cory
Booker and (INAUDIBLE) and the people and who run for -- and I thought, how
do you live through the violence that this was, and then your response in
the moments after emancipation is to, in fact, engage the American
Democratic project by -- I mean, like, how did we not burn the whole damn
REID: It`s the hardest movie I`ve ever watched, first of all. I barely
made it through Amistad, so this was torture. I was sitting through it
thinking I have to get up and sleeve. I went to see it by myself, because
I didn`t want to talk about it afterwards. So, I said I`m going to go
myself, I was going to watch it and process it on my own, and I was so
angry on the way home, like please don`t leave anybody come and talk to me,
I was so angry, the same as you, but there`s that phrase, the banality of
But we in terms the way we discus and deal with slavery, we get only the
banality but not the evil. This film made you confront the evil the entire
time. You started thinking to yourself, was there a single decent person
in the South during this period? And it was more than just the South.
After putting these human beings through this degrading evil for hundreds
of years, there then followed 100 years of terrorism against the same
How African-Americans in the film, one of the hardest things for me was
when the group of African-Americans were singing a hymn, and I`m thinking
to myself, how do you even believe in God, let alone worship and praise God
in the midst of this horror? And to understand that this is the history
we`re not getting taught. There is this blase notion of slavery, you know,
it was work. No, it was evil!
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to play just one -- it`s hard to play clips from the
film, because there aren`t many you can show on television, but one that
really goes to this core notion of like the smallest thing, being a space
where there could be evil and violence. And I want to see one of the women
who was enslaved just wanting soap.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got this from Mistress Shoal. She won`t even grant
me no soap to clean with. I stink so much, I make myself gag, 500 pounds
of cotton day in, day out! More than any man here. And for that I will be
clean! That`s all I ask!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And, of course, the violence that is visited on her body in
the moments after that is probably the hardest scene to watch in the film.
Laura, I think part of why I felt so angry is because this is an actual
slave narrative, and I kept thinking to myself, how is this the first time
that a film has been made from this story of a person who actually lived
it. How did it take us this long to do this?
LAURA MURPHY, PROFESSOR, LOYOLA UNIVERSITY: Yes, it`s a real -- it`s a
real mystery. And I think the thing that this film captures the best is
this sense of radical alienation that Solomon Northup and all the other
people he is surrounded by are haunted by, they`re separate, they`re not
making connections with one another. They`re eating alone.
And I think this is something that the slave narrative can capture, that
sort of bare bones banality and the life of the repeated, day-to-day, every
day, in and out, doing the same thing, the same kind of horrific work. And
so the slave narrative often doesn`t go into the kind of emotive detail
that we expect the brutality, the bloodshed, the horror. There`s a
distance in most slave narratives.
Solomon Northup`s is much more descriptive than a lot, in a sort of --
HARRIS-PERRY: Kind of intellectual.
MURPHY: Part because he was free first, and he was outraged and horrified
by what he sees. He hasn`t seen it since he was a child. So the slave
narrative in a lot of ways isn`t so conducive to cinematography, because
it`s not as explicit as we --
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to come back on that question of be free first, and
the way in which that creates a particular kind of space within this film
and how it asks us to remember that everybody was free first -- when we
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I survive! I will not fall into despair. I will offer
up my talents to Master Ford. I`ll keep myself hearty until freedom is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This idea that he was at one point a free man, but then what
we -- I feel like where we go in the film is the recognition that everyone
is born free, even those born into slavery. So it`s such a distinction
initially, but then it becomes not.
MUHAMMAD: One of the things that answers the earlier question you posed
about why didn`t they burn this whole thing down is that African-Americans
were first-hand witnesses to the democratic project. They were there from
the beginning. They were there from the earliest European settlement and
genocide against the indigenous.
So, they were always witnesses to this moment. So even in the context of
slavery in the colonial period and in the antebellum period, black people
were organizing to make real the possibility for democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: In that moment, Solomon inundates a way to use the waterways
to bring the logs. You have this sense of, why would you use your
creativity, your talent to enrich this system. But yet, you see there`s a
humanity in it, because he, as a man and as an intellect, takes pride in
being able to have these ideas and thoughts, despite the circumscribed
situation in which he finds himself.
TILLET: I think part of that moment was -- and I think of Frederick
Douglass` narrative when he talked about a man becoming a slave. Like
Solomon Northup hasn`t yet a slave at that point. He`s not fully
indoctrinated into the system of slavery. So, he thinks he`s this
intermediary figure who`s exceptional to the other slaves, as opposed to
part of their every day life, right?
So, that`s how I read that scene. It takes years of coercion and violence
and deprivation for him to get to finally that role, that moment. That`s
the moment I`m like, he`s part of this community. They provide sustenance
to him --
REID: And one of the things that`s fascinating about what you just said,
Salamishah, is the time is so compressed, that you`re not aware 12 years
has gone by. That`s the thing that`s so frightening. It`s all so mundane
and all so much engrained. He`s sort of beaten down little by little by
little that the time seems to sort of fly by.
But you think about this elongated period where this man is deprived of the
basic sense of who he is to the point where he goes ahead and becomes who
they want him to be. I want to ask you very specifically. Some of your
new work is on people living in this moment who are born into what we
understand as freedom and then experience slavery and are now writing what
you call contemporary slave narratives. It just felt like it was worth
pointing that out in this moment.
MURPHY: Yes, I think that this particular version of the slave narrative
of Solomon Northup is particularly enlightening for understanding modern
slavery today, because people are tricked the way he is or convinced,
coerced into a life that is, in fact, slavery, people who are forced to
work, people who are held under threat of violence without the ability to
escape for the benefit of other people`s financial stability, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: So we call it trafficking. But what it is, is slavery.
MURPHY: It`s slavery. I think a lot of people doubt -- because we see
people coming across the border to look for work and we say, oh, those
folks are illegal immigrants. They chose to come here to work. So, who`s
surprised they were exploited in this way?
Or they chose to become sex workers. So who`s surprised they would be
exploited by pimps, right?
But Solomon Northup chose to go to D.C. to work. He had a legitimate cause
to go there. Then he was tricked and drugged and taken into slavery. This
is what`s happening today for a lot of people. They choose a form of
legitimate work and find themselves enslaved.
MUHAMMAD: And guess what? There`s also an economic dimension here that we
don`t have enough time to talk about. But keep in mind, Solomon Northup is
in D.C. in the midst of slavery, thinking about his own economic future.
So what the movie captures is not just the complexity of being a black
person in the midst of the greatest slavery system ever known that doesn`t
mean that Solomon Northup is in D.C. trying to free people. He`s trying to
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And his wife is gone for those weeks. She`s
working. But also, I think the other economic part was this -- you know,
roots is like the rich, fancy white folks over here, but these slave
holders are right down in it. They`re economically marginal. They`re
dealing with the cotton going bad.
They`re dealing with mortgaging their slaves. Suddenly, you get a sense of
what -- like, just how much these people are property when you can take out
a mortgage on these people.
REID: And it was interesting, too, dealing with the slave owners. That
there was this range of some people that had something of a conscience
about what they`re doing. They still did it anyway. The guy who portrays
the ambivalence toward the system still separates the mother and the child.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes.
REID: He doesn`t have enough ambivalence to not do it. So there was this
But there was also a sense of entitlement to these people. I can never say
it enough, the 11 states withdrew from this country and waged war on the
United States to get that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I thought it over and over again. We went and we went and
we went and fought and sent our children as Americans to die to maintain
Go and see this film. It`s the best film you`ll only ever want to see one
Thank you to Laura Murphy and Salamishah Tillet, to Khalil Muhammad and to
I know we ran right up against the clock. That is our show for today.
Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to see you next Saturday at
10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Coming up right now, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
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