'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, December 8th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
December 8, 2013
Guest: Mychal Denzel Smith, Marcyliena Morgan, Tanner Colby, Walter
Kimbrough, Shannon Gibney, Jean Grae, Amber Rose Johnson, Robert Gibbs,
Susan Del Percio, Tara Dowdell
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question: Rosa Parks
Plus, the GOP`s Guide to Picking Up Women.
And, the connection between hip-hop, sexuality and gender.
But first: The president has a new playbook - all offense, all the time.
Good Morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
I want to talk today about a controversial word. It`s a word that has been
with us for years. And like it or not, it`s indelibly printed in the pages
of American history, a word that was originally intended at a derogatory
term, meant to shame and divide and demean. The word was conceived up by a
group of wealthy white men who need a way to put themselves above and apart
from a black man, to render him inferior and unequal and diminish his
President Obama has been labeled with this word by his opponents, and at
first he rose above it, hoping that if he could just make a cause for what
he`d achieved, his opponents would fail in making their label stick. But
no matter how many successes that he had as president, he realized there
were still many people for whom he`d never be anything more than that one
disparaging word. A belief he knew was held not just by his political
opponents, but also by a significant portion of the American electorate.
And so he decided, if you can`t beat them, you`ve got to join them. And he
embraced the word and made it his owned, sending his opposition a message
they weren`t expecting. If that`s what you want me to be, I`ll be that.
You all know the word that I`m talking about, Obamacare.
That`s right. I said it and I`m not ashamed and neither is President
Obama. Because he knows that of all his victories, over two terms in
office, his legacy is ultimately going to be remembered for this one single
word. I mean, what do you call the president who rescues the U.S. auto
industry? Obamacare. What do you call the president who finally
eliminates Osama bin Laden? Obamacare. What do you call the president who
ends don`t ask, don`t tell? Say it with me. Obamacare! Heard the one
about the president who pulled us out of the greatest recession since the
great depression? Yes, Obamacare. And what about the one, you know, about
the president who reduced drug sentencing disparities? Obamacare. Stop if
you have heard this one. A group of underpaid woman and the president who
passed a pay equity law walk into a bar -- OK, you see where I`m going with
this. Short of bringing about world peace before he leaves office, the
affordable care act will loom large in the president`s legacy, as the
singular accomplishment of his two terms. And now following the re-launch
of a new and improved and fully operational healthcare.gov Web site, the
president is not only owning it, but doubling down and putting a bright
spotlight on the Obama in Obamacare.
This week, the White House announced that it is going to be all ACA, every
day, from now until December 23rd, enrollment deadline for coverage on
January 1st. Starting with the president himself, who has been pulling his
best, you know, hustling almost every day this week, to make the hard sale
on the affordable care act. This was his pitch on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m going to need some help
in spreading the word. I need you to spread the word about the law, about
its benefits, about its protections, about how folks can sign up. Tell
your friends, tell your family. Do not let the initial problems with the
Web site discourage you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And this was President Obama on Wednesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I`m going to need you all to spread the word about how the
affordable care act really works, what its benefits are, what its
protections are, and most importantly, how people can sign up. I know
people call this law Obamacare, and that`s OK because I do care and I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And this was president Obama on Thursday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: My advice to everybody is, the Web site`s not working, go to
healthcare.gov, take a look for yourself, in your state, what`s available
to you. There is no reason why you should not have health insurance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: See, I wasn`t exaggerating. Every day he`s hustling. And
over the next three weeks, if you go a day without hearing from President
Obama on Obamacare, you can be sure it`s because he`s passed the mic to
Democratic members of Congress, the Democratic National Committee,
Democratic congressional campaign committees, or advocacy organizations to
help him deliver his message. And if you miss the message on television,
the White House has promised that you`ll find it on facebook, twitter, and
even in your inbox.
After an early fumble with the rollout, this is President Obama on offense
driving hard to penetrate the GOP defensive line and he is playing to win.
Joining me now is Ari Melber, co-host of MSNBC`s "the Cycle" and
correspondent for the nation. Suzy Khimm, national reporter for MSNBC.
Tara Dowell, who is the democratic strategist, and Susan del Percio,
Republican strategist and contributor for MSNBC.
Thank you all for being here.
So Suzy, you`re a first-time nerd at our table today. Talk to me, is this
what offense looks like? Because we certainly know what defense about the
Obamacare act looks like. Is this sort of the president going out and
saying, oh, yes, it is Obamacare? I mean, I`m Obama and I care.
SUZY KHIMM, MSNBC NATIONAL REPORTER: So, I mean, I think, definitely, the
fact that he`s committed the next three weeks to every single day,
hammering this message home is definitely a decision that the
administration made that they have enough confidence with the Web site,
with what Obamacare can offer, that they can just send that message, every
single day, without necessarily apologizing for everything that`s happened.
I think this is definitely a shift by them to try to change the momentum,
to try to change popular perceptions about the law.
That said, their Web site still does have some problems, particularly not
just in terms of -- it`s much easier to sign on to the site. I think wait
times have gone down they`ve made it a lot easier. But in terms of the
back end, the information that insurers are actually getting about the
people who are trying to sign up, still 10 percent of that information is
incorrect. And that could lead to a bad scenario, in which people think
they have Obamacare may not actually be signed up on January 1st. So there
are still some difficulties on the technical side that the administration
is trying to fix.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Ari, I saw you madly making a note as Suzy was talking.
And so, I mean, I guess part of what is wondering is do you think that, for
example -- and I saw you sort of reacting specifically, Suzy, when you went
to the question of the Web site. So part of what I`m wondering here is how
long will this Web site fumble going to haunt the policy, which you know,
the much broader sort of set of questions here?
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST, THE CYCLE: I think the trend line is, the thing is
working a lot better, and as long as that is continuing to be the case, it
will not take a long-term bite out of the policy. I think some Republicans
realize that. What I was thinking about on what you said is there was a
big difference here in the messaging between the politics and the policy.
The politics is, I won. And some of that swagger that you`re talking
about. And we`ve heard that message repeatedly. And public opinion on the
overall ingredients of this law has not actually moved that much, right?
The policy piece is different, because you can`t be as boastful. And that
is, I care, that is, we want this thing to work. That is, at times, this
thing is difficult, right, and massive healthcare reform is difficult.
That`s why it hasn`t happened in a generation. And so I think they`ve had
to thread that needle, and obviously, having a problem with the site access
was a huge issue.
There is another piece to this though that goes beyond all that which is
over half a million more Americans are covered in some way. Many through
Medicaid who are lower income Americans, right? And that was something
that for a variety of Washington reasons was never sold that hard because
they pitch at the middle class. The middle class is the political strike
zone. I don`t think Democrats should be apologetic at all about the fact
that so far, more people who need it the most have been covered.
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST/CONTRIBUTOR FOR MSNBC: Except for
the fact that 5 million people got kicked off of their healthcare plan.
They`re at a net loss of 4.5 million.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, but Susan, what we know is they made some adjustments
around the question of sort of the willingness to extend, you know, some of
those plans, which although people initially were saying, I`m losing my
health care. I think also folks didn`t quite understand sort of these were
policies that were so subpar, that in a lot of ways, they didn`t do full
But that said, I guess one of the things I`m wondering, based on what Ari
was saying, is you know, that if the Democrats are having trouble threading
the needle, it also feels to me like Republicans have been doubling down on
the offense against Obamacare for a long time. Come 2014, come 2016, are
Americans are going to be saying, OK, we have been this going on four,
five, six years at this point.
DEL PERCIO: There`s a big difference between 2014 and 2016. First of all,
2014, there`s still a lot of kinks. And any government policy is someone
who worked in government, I will tell you, is very difficult to implement.
But let`s not forget, in 2011 and all the way through 2012, the president
took a victory lap with it. He`s the one who in late 2011 said, so yes,
call it Obamacare. I`m going to own it. The campaign, they sent out e-
mails, Obamacare. So they wanted to own it.
Then they had to implement it. And that`s where they got in trouble
because they did this victory dance, if you will, and then all of a sudden,
the Web site happens. Now, to think you could be that successful, just
simply because the first part, which children under 26 went on,
contraception, there were a lot of positives, which actually Republicans
agreed with many of those things in the negotiations or during the
But to take that victory dance and then to have to implement it, then you
have to step back, and that`s when they realized they have a problem.
That`s when the whole, if you have your policy, your keep your policy, if
you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. People are learning they
can`t. And the biggest problem they have is with young people. And right
now the fact that people are taking their information in California and
giving it to insurance is a big turnoff for young people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tara, I`ll let you in on this.
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think that first of all, from
a messaging standpoint, I want to go back to that point. It is great that
the president is out there and that he`s pushing the message and he`s on
offense. But the entire Democratic Party needs to be doing the exact same
thing. Because right now, what`s happening is, the entire Republican Party
is unified around this issue. They`re fighting on every other issue area,
but on this issue, they are unified against it.
So every single Democrat has to be on message. And the mistake that the
Democrats made that allowed some of this misinformation to get out there,
that has now penetrated into the American public, is that they did these
big town hall meetings for the midterm elections in 2010. And so you allow
people to organize and get these groups out there, that were there to just
obstruct. What you need to do is do small group meetings. Start with your
base, start with women`s organizations and use your best weapon, Michelle
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, I love that. Stick with me, because we are going to
have Robert Gibbs as we come back. And do I want to ask about who would be
the effective surrogates here. And I love the idea of first lady Obama out
there sort of selling this law, but I also wonder if there are some real
challenges in making that happen.
Everyone, stick with us. We are bringing Robert Gibbs into the discussion
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Right now what this law is doing is helping folks and we`re just
getting started with the exchanges, just getting started with the
marketplaces. So we`re not going to walk away from it. If I`ve got to
fight another three years to make sure this law works, then that`s what
I`ll do. That`s what we`ll do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama this week, resetting the narrative,
launching his push on the Affordable Care Act version 2.0, maybe 3.0. I`m
Joining me now from Washington is someone who worked in the White House
during the administration`s original Obamacare pitch, former White House
press secretary and MSNBC contributor, Robert Gibbs.
It is nice to have you this morning.
ROBERT GIBBS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Good morning, how are
HARRIS-PERRY: Pretty good.
Robert, I want to play for you a moment from March of o 2010, March 22nd,
2010, a press conference where you`re speaking. I want to play this for a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIBBS: Look, health care is going to become law tomorrow. I think that --
I can`t speak to all of the amendments or of the shenanigans that will be
tried on Capitol Hill over the course of the next many days. But we`re
confident that this process is coming to an end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, we`re confident this process is coming to an end.
That`s March of 2010. We are still having this fight. Are you surprised
about how much resistance and shenanigans there have been?
GIBBS: No, I`m not. I mean, what I was referencing there was the
legislative shenanigans. Remember, this thing -- this thing took, you
know, ten, eleven months, and had multiple near-death experiences, and was
in, to use a health care analogy, critical condition for many of those
months. So, look, I think the White House always viewed, there was a
legislative process, and then there would be an implementation process, and
I think as you heard the president say, this is a year`s long
implementation process. This is just, you know, this isn`t -- you turn a
light switch on, and all of a sudden, something becomes law and we just
move on from there. It`s a process that`s going to take some time.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Robert, I want you to sort of take us backstage, for
those of us who are not Washington insiders, and what is the conversation
or the set of conversations that happened when the administration says, OK,
we are now going to embrace the language of Obamacare, we`re now going to
go on offense, we`re going to spend three weeks putting the president out
there. What are the set of conversations that lead to that kind of
GIBBS: Well, I think, first and foremost, obviously, you`ve got a pretty
important window of time in the next, you know, 2 1/2 weeks to get people
signed up to insure that they have coverage that begins on the first of
January. You couldn`t do this marketing blitz until the Web site worked,
because certainly, the administration knew that every time they mentioned
the Web site, people would go there. And if the capacity wasn`t there to
handle those people, then people would get turned off even more.
So, now that the front end of the Web site is working much, much better the
point now is the administration needs to target their messaging and go
exactly where people live that need to sign up for health care.
And particularly, you saw the president spend a lot of time last week, and
I assume he`ll spend a lot of time in the next 2 1/2 weeks and ultimately
in the first three months of next year targeting what are called young
invincibles. Those are the people that are 18 to 34, they`re younger, they
dot think they`re going to get sick. They have access to affordable health
care and we`ve got to reach those people in order to ensure that the
numbers that sign up by the end of March include both those that are sick
and have pre-existing conditions and are able to get health insurance for
the first time, as well as younger people that are healthier into that
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Tara, I want to give you an opportunity to engagement
with Robert here -- Bob, about your idea about who the other voices should
be in addition to the president.
DOWDELL: Well, I think, first of all, anyone up for re-election in 2014
should absolutely be out there and all politics is local. So they need to
go into their districts and they have the better chance at micro targeting,
because it`s their districts and they need to do it anyway, and they need
to meet with small groups, women`s organizations. Remember, the polling
show that women likes were more likely to like health care reform than were
men. They were happy to have some government intervention and that`s
generally across the board.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, on that point, and then I`m going to give you a
chance to respond. But on that point, Renee Ellmers, who is the Republican
from North Carolina who was called out on this show before for being trans-
phobic, because of her statement that men have never had babies, which just
look it up, in fact, they have. But I want to play a little piece that I
think is going directly to this strategic idea, Tara. Let`s listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. RENEE ELLMERS (R), NORTH CAROLINA: They are making you pay more,
usually much more. And in many cases, taking away the doctors you`ve been
seeing for years. If you want to talk about a war on women, look no
further than this health care law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So Bob, how important is it going to be to push back against
this new war on women language, that it`s Obamacare that`s the war on
GIBBS: Well look, I think just because a Republican says it doesn`t
actually means that it moves people in the real world. I mean, you`ve got
to -- there have to be credible messages and credible messengers and I`m
not entirely sure that that`s one of them.
Look, I do think, when you mention women, look, I think particularly, to
reach, say, the young invincibles, I think the most important messengers in
this case are moms, you know? I think these are messengers that can talk
to their children and convince them of the necessity to get affordable
health care coverage, even if they never think they`re going to get sick.
I said earlier, we`ve got to speak to where people live, and that`s what
the administration clearly has to do. And what I mean by that is where
people get their information, where people get their news, where people get
their entertainment. A lot of this stuff is not going to happen in broad
daylight, so to speak, like the president walking into a room and doing an
event. It will happen, as was said, in small groups, it will happen on
I`m 42. I`m not going to be watching the media that the young invincible
28-year-old is seeing. So I`m not even going to see some of that
HARRIS-PERRY: Robert, I think it`s possible that you might be
overestimating the ability of moms to get their adult children -- but I`m
down. I get it.
Thank you so much for joining us this morning on "MHP" show.
When we come back, I`ll bring Suzy, and Ari and Susan back into this
conversation. They have got a lot to say. And we are going to talk a
little bit about championing Obamacare in the south. A governor from the
south who may be the best ally that President Obama has in the country
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama is getting a major assist in selling the
Affordable Care Act from a most unlikely source. Kentucky governor, Steve
Beshear, who is a little-known Democrat who rarely sides with the party
base, he has emerged as one of the loudest and most effective champions of
He is the only southern governor who has setup a state insurance exchange
and agreed to expand Medicaid. According to the governor, 69,000 Kentucky
residents have enrolled in health care programs and he expects that number
to grow over the next few weeks, and he`s telling both Republicans and
Democrats to get on board.
In a September op-ed in "The New York Times," Beshear told the naysayers,
quote, "get over it and get out of the way so I can help my people." And
this week, he offered this advice to members of the democratic caucus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. STEVE BESHEAR (D), KENTUCKY: Be patient. Take a deep breath.
Because I`ll guarantee you that by next November, this issue is going to
look a lot different than it looks up here on the hill right now. So, yes,
this may be an issue next November, but I predict it`s going to be an issue
in favor of those who want to provide health care for every single
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: What do you make of the government`s argument there?
KHIMM: So, I think it`s interesting. I mean, the most successful part of
Kentucky`s expansion seems to be the Medicaid end of things. And this is
where you`ve seen states succeed the most in terms of enrolling the most
people. And I think in terms of messaging, I mean, you know, if
Republicans are saying that, well, if you like your plan, you can keep it,
and that was a lie the president put forward, if they`re saying we need to
end Obamacare, they`re going to be taking away health insurance from people
who have had it for a while. And that itself can be a powerful
But interestingly enough, it`s not just democratic government who are
embracing this. It`s a handful of Republican governors as well. And I
think that that is a really revealing sort of point. I mean, Governor
Kasich of Ohio said that the reason we`re doing the Medicaid expansion is
because it`s a human issue, it`s a moral issue that these people need to be
covered. And I feel like those voices are going to begin to get more
attention as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Susan, Suzy is not wrong on this point, that I mean, one
of the things that Republicans are right about when they have angst about
the government, that once it is implemented, it is hard to go take it away,
And so, this point that once people have the Obamacare, talking about
repealing it or taking it back becomes a very different issue than having
never implemented it. Does that mean it`s sort of the end of that repeal
discussion going forward?
DEL PERCIO: Well, the repeal portion, yes. The fact is that the
Republicans have never had the repeal portion to offer. They kept saying,
replace. They had the repeal, but they never had the replace. So right
now, as you go forward, it is the law, it is being implemented, you are
going to have to look, instead of replace, of what you want to fix or
drastically change. So that argument does come off the table.
But here`s the problem with what the governor said. Given that this is a
new system, you can`t run for re-election bet that everything is going to
go perfect. As a matter of fact, it is more likely, and not because it`s a
Democrat, but because it`s government, that they`re going to see more
things go wrong, as we go forward.
So if a Republican is running -- a Democrat is running for re-election in
2014, for them to double down the affordable care act right now, it`s a
very dangerous thing, where it`s not hard for a Republican to do it.
MELBER: But I think it goes much deeper than that, this which role are you
trying to play? And what you have with the president and most of the
Democrats, to this date, they didn`t lose that many votes from the original
30-some that oppose the ACA, when it was first passed, it was a small
caucus of demes and there are still those caucuses that is critical when
you have these sorts of ceremonial house votes. But at the larger
perspective, you have a president and most of the Democratic Party that is
the chef. They are cooking, OK? And the Republican Party are all
restaurant critics, OK? And they`re coming along and they`re saying, I
want a little bit more here with the herbs and the spice and this appetizer
was too salty. And that`s fine. And there`s the certain number of people
that will read restaurant reviews, but there`s a lot more people that want
to go to restaurants, even when the food is not perfect and every dish that
comes out isn`t exactly what you.
DEL PERCIO: But as a political strategy --
MELBER: And I don`t -- and I don`t mean to take something very serious,
but it is that way. And that is different than someone come along and
saying, I`m a better chef.
DEL PERCIO: That`s a pure political strategy.
MELBER: But it`s a fundamental difference in political strategy.
DOWDELL: But this is exactly why Democrats should double down on it
because there`s so much misinformation out there. Yes, some people may
lose the coverage that they have. But that`s bad coverage. They`re not
losing some great policy. Many people have actually gone bankrupt with
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Most of the health-related bankruptcies are not the
uninsured is actually people who do have insurance. But it`s --
DOWDELL: And they need these stories to be out there. They need this to
be -- they need people who have been through that experience, who have had
that experience, who are now OK. They need them alongside with them,
meeting with people. That`s how you do strategy because you`re going to
keep saying what you`re going to keep saying. So we have to say what it
DEL PERCIO: There is no issue, 11 months out, that unless you are 100
percent certain, which, for example, Republicans are 100 percent certain
that their base, just Republicans, are going to still dislike Obamacare.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the base is all you need for the midterms.
DEL PERCIO: Right, for the midterms. There is no strategy that you would
put in place as a consultant that you would bet everything on, on your
whole election, 11 months out. But if you double down on Obamacare, you
certainly are in.
KHIMM: Just to go back, a little bit, to the restaurant analogy --
KHIMM: The problem, I guess, both for Democrats and Republicans, is that
we`re actually not going to be served the full meal for years. I mean,
there are so many different parts of Obamacare, some of which the
administration has deliberately delayed saying it`s not ready, we don`t
have enough time. And the fact is, we won`t actually entirely know whether
Obamacare is successful or a total failure for a good while yet. And that
doesn`t really fall conveniently into this midterm election --
DEL PERCIO: But if you saw what that governor said, and if you see what a
governor Christie says, and I think what President Obama should do, is own
it. I did it, you know what? We need time to put it forward. Let`s go.
HARRIS-PERRY: So that`s what president is, right? So the president,
despite the fact that his approval ratings right now, he`s at a 50 percent
disapproval rating, right? And yet he recognizes this is it. All the
other things I mentioned in the show, I mean, ultimately, he`s not the
president who did those things. He`s the president who did this thing.
And he is owning, right? He is embracing it, even the language of
Obamacare on which for a long time, I resisted, right? I was like only
saying ACA on air, until the president said, we`re all in, this is the
thing we`re doing.
MELBER: Right. And one of the things about the Obamacare language and
show that clip, and I understand, o think rhetorically, he`s got to embrace
it. But it did two things, one, it made it political by linking it to a
president, and that`s going to have divided opinions in the country.
The other thing it did, it made it sound like this set of regulations is a
healthcare product. How`s my Obamacare, right? And to Susan`s point, it
is not a product. It`s a set of regulations in the same way that if you
pass a regulation that says you need to have a seat belt in cars, there
will be costs in the short-term. The cars that all exist have to be
refitted. Does t manufacturer pay for it, does the individual? Who gets
fined for that? That could be complicated. But over the long run, you
say, that`s a safety regulation, and we save money.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s actually less the menu, and even less the actual
entree, and more of the food safety regulations at the back.
MELBER: Analogy --
HARRIS-PERRY: Boom, there we go.
Up next, the GOP acknowledges its woman trouble and offers special training
sessions on how to talk to the Navy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Women decide elections. In 2012, 71.4 million women voted,
only 61.6 million men did. And 64 percent of eligible women voted while
only 60 percent of eligible men did. That`s a four-point gap. And among
African-American voters, the turnout gap is even starker.
In 2012, black women voted at a rate nine points higher than African-
American men. And that is a trend that`s been true for years. Turnout
among women has been higher than turnout among men in every election since
1980, when 59.4 percent of women and 59.1 percent of men voted. The number
of female voters has also overwhelmed the male voters in every presidential
election since 1964, when 39.2 million women versus 37.5 million men voted.
And of course, as we know, technically, there is a gender gap in how women
vote compared to men. Women as a whole who voted for president Obama
overcome Governor Romney by an 11-point gap, although, as you`ve learned
here, that was largely driven by women of color. Black women voted for
president Obama, 96-3.
Now, most white women, 56 percent, voted for Romney. But among all white
voters, the president did better among white men than among white men.
Forty-two percent of it white women voted for president Obama while only 35
percent of white men did.
Women are decisive in our elections and we`ve seen more women running for
office in recent years and winning. The 2012 elections resulted in a
highest number of women in Congress ever. Twenty women now serve in the
U.S. Senate and 78 in the house.
What`s more, it seems that American voters don`t harbor a particular bias
against the ladies. In open seat races, women win at the same rate as male
candidates. But all challengers, men and women, face an uphill battle in
unseating incumbents and there are just men in office who automatically
have that incumbency advantage.
Now women are coming for them. And how a man runs against a woman,
especially how a Republican man runs against a woman, well, let`s just s
that tends to make for some good TV, which is why the Republican party is
now offering a crash course in how to deal with women troubles.
More on that next.
HARRIS-PERRY: When Republican men run for office against women, heck, they
even talk out women, it can go kind of badly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TODD AKIN (R), FORMER MISSOURI CONGRESSMAN: If it`s legitimate rape, the
female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Even when life begins in that horrible situation of
rape, that it is something that god intended to happen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The incidence of rape and resulting in pregnancy are
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why should you vote for me? Because I do not wear high
heels. She has questioned my manhood. I think it`s fair to respond.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re part of the problem. The media is part of the
problem as well.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s so easy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, come on, Carol!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s so easy, that`s so easy!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Carol, you`re beautiful but you have to be honest as
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, I think we should leave it here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Wow! And yet next year, at least ten Republican House
incumbents, all men are likely to face women challengers, which might have
something to do with this.
"Politico" reported this week that the national Republican congressional
committee is trying to head off any Todd Akin legitimate rape-style
comments in next year`s midterm elections by tutoring members on how not to
run against women.
Susan, I mean, all of us were just squirming like, oh, right! They said
that! And so you and I were talking in the break, of course you would
tutor a candidate about how to run in any election, but part of it is like,
the Akin comment was a gaffe. I mean, that`s what they believed.
DEL PERCIO: So, that is why for Republicans to avoid that is not to put up
Todd Akin candidates, I mean, first and foremost. And it does mean, that
does go to a bigger question for the Republican party is, are they going to
have to start playing a much active role in primaries? Meaning the
leadership? Because as a rule, leadership likes to stay out of it, and
yes, there is independent expenditure groups that get involved, but will
leaderships have to start raising money or keep other Republicans out?
Which was a problem for the Democrats years ago, and that`s kind of a few
phenomenon right now.
But the problem what we heard about in that politico story, is in fact,
that they actually had a seminar entitled this. I mean, that`s the
problem. Because it`s absolutely true. You do tutor any candidate, how to
run against a woman, how to run against someone older, how to run against
an incumbent versus someone who`s never run for office. So I expect to see
all of that. But, again, these gaffes are by who they`re putting up as
candidates. So that`s more important.
KHIMM: I mean, this is the thing, though. It`s not just these kinds of
fringe candidates who hold these extreme fuses and for saying these kinds
of distasteful things that fall on ears.
House Republicans pushed a bill that would basically severely limit the
rape exception that was in the hype amendment, that basically would say,
that would only count as rape if you reported it to the police, if there
was this documentation. That was something that was in the mainstream of
the Republican establishment. It`s not as if they are just kind of fringe
people sort of spouting out these views. This is where the party stands on
these issues now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s listen to John Boehner, just for a moment because I
think this is a really good point and I am getting you to respond on that,
Ari. Let`s take a listen to John Boehner, being very optimistic about how
well things are going for the Republicans on this question.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I`m trying to get them to
be a little more sensitive, you know? You look around the Congress there
are a lot more females in the Democrat caucus than there are in the
Republican caucus. And you know, some of our members just aren`t as
sensitive as they ought to be.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Do you think you`re making progress on that
BOEHNER: I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: They`re just so sensitive. (INAUDIBLE).
MELBER: He is on to something which is I`ve got a sensitivity program for
you. Spend time with women, right? And there is 98 women in Congress, 75
percent of them are in the Democratic caucus. So the photos, we`ve seen,
tell that story.
And so, even before you get to the policy, which is very important and
related, but there will be some women Republicans who have certain views
and see a religious -- have a religious view of when life begins and
policies associated with it. But at a larger scale, they need more women
in the caucus and more women in the staff, and that goes to a point we`ve
discussed many time, Melissa, which is the difference between tokenism and
actually law of opportunity affirmative action.
They like women as candidates when they can try to use it to deal with
their vulnerability, but they haven`t been serious about affirmative action
for the rest of the country or their caucus.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well look, so your point here isn`t just, don`t spend time
with women, but women who are not your mother, your daughter, or your wife,
right? In another words, women who are your peers and colleagues, right,
when you have -- .
And so, you know, part of what is interesting as you say this, you use the
affirmative action language. If we go back to that Mitt Romney moment
during the campaign, where he said he had binders full of women, right?
And the discourse immediately becomes how ridiculous it is to put women in
binders. And yet, what we miss then is what he`s actually saying is, I
think it is reasonable to use a gender-based affirmative action policy to
diversify the staff, right? But it was just so awkward, the binders full
MELBER: I defended him that week and said it was sad that Mitt Romney`s
awkwardness overshadowed the fact that a Republican in Massachusetts, at
least at that time, was doing proactive recruitment of diversity in his
cabinet. That was a good thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, that is a good thing. Just don`t say you actually
put women in binders.
DOWDELL: Yes. And that is so great messaging around that. I think for
the Republicans, the problem is that a lot of people in the party are older
men. They grew up at a time when women primarily were in the kitchen. It
was a different dynamic. That was part of their psyche. So it`s going to
be very hard for them to appeal to women when their core belief system is
that they shouldn`t even -- this is not everyone -- but for some of them,
they shouldn`t even be running against these women.
HARRIS-PERRY: I guess so. So, what`s happening with my face, I know
you`re looking like --. But it sort of, I mean, so certainly, that`s true,
but always only for one class of women, right? So there is women are
always working in other people`s kitchens when they`re poor and working
class and Latino and African-American and immigrant women. And yet, I was
about to sort of push back against that, and yet the men who are there are
not necessarily, for the most part, from those communities.
But stay with us, because it`s not exclusively a Republican issue. And in
fact, I actually think that our current vice president, Joe Biden, might be
able to teach Republicans a few lessons about running against women.
HARRIS-PERRY: Republicans aren`t the only ones that have to tread
carefully when running against women. Let`s compare vice president Joe
Biden`s performance in his debates in 2008 and in 2012. Here he is in
attack dog mode against Congressman Paul Ryan last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE BUDGET COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: We have these
sanctions in place. It`s in spite of their opposition --
JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, God.
RYAN: They`ve given 20 waivers to this sanction. Under a Romney
administration, we will have credibility on this issue.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Vice president Biden?
BIDEN: It`s incredible. When Governor Romney`s asked about it, he`s said,
we`ve got to keep these sanctions. And he`s said, you`re talking about
doing more. Are you going to go to war? Is that what you want to do?
This is a bunch of stuff. With all due respect, that`s a bunch of
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Stuff, malarkey, laughing and mocking. But here he is four
years earlier, shall we say, holding himself back as Sarah Palin goes on
the attack. Pay attention to Joe Biden`s face.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH PALIN (R), FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Barack Obama and Senator O`Biden,
you`ve said no to everything in trying to find a solution to the domestic
energy that we`re in. Now Barack Obama and Senator Biden also voted for
the largest tax increases in U.S. history. Barack had 94 opportunities --
on the tax thing, because I want to correct you on that again. And I want
to let you know what I did as a mayor and as a governor. And I may not
answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I`m
going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: You can see him, he`s like, no. So, I guess the important
thing, this does go to the idea that clearly, and this is from a CNN.com
story, from back in 2008, clearly Biden had been prepped specifically about
running against a woman candidate. And, in fact, in this story, no
candidate for president or vice president in the history of the country has
had more advice on what to say than Senator Biden had on his debate with
DOWDELL: Absolutely. And he comported himself extremely well, because
Biden is not one to bite his tongue in any way, shape, or form. But I do
think that for the Republican Party, again, this is going to be, especially
with the tea party, and the tea party holds far more conservative views
about women, about minorities, about the places of women and minorities.
And so, as long as they continue to have the level of influence that they
have, the candidates` views are going to reflect that.
And Suzy, you know, you made such a good point in the break that, you know,
we tend to think of this is like, don`t say legitimate rape. Don`t say
that your body can just shut that whole thing down. But in fact, when we
talk about women voters, it`s not just about those kinds of issues, it`s
about economic issues.
KHIMM: No, absolutely. I mean, for example, in terms of the low-wage jobs
that we`re adding to the economy and the service sector and other things,
those are majority of those jobs go to women. A majority of jobs in the
government, the public sector jobs that Republicans are determine to cut
down go to women. That there are pocketbooks issues that are more at the
court of women, because women are not just their reproductive tracks. They
are people who are often making a ton of economic decisions at the head of
If I say the one opportunity for Republicans along those lines, is the fact
that a lot of people view Obamacare and health care as an economic issue
that this is something that is vulnerability for Democrats. Democrats
can`t just get in places and say along we got the women`s vote. In fact,
Obama`s approval rating among women, particularly among the white women,
particularly among working class white women has dropped dramatically
because of health care. And that`s because, it does go to this point, that
women care about their family`s economic health, their community`s economic
health, and then this is something that goes to the heart of what they care
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And it`s a reminder, also, that Democrats, your point
about like not taking them for granted. I mean, there are still four
states in this country, Iowa, Delaware, Mississippi, and Vermont that have
never sent a woman to the U.S. Congress, right? And although Mississippi
might, you know, we might go, Mississippi, but I mean, also, not a Delaware
nor Vermont nor Iowa. The Democrats don`t have this all figured out.
MELBER: No, I don`t think they have it all figured out. I think what you
saw with Palin, of course, was an extra sensitivity because it went against
type. Because Democrats, as we mentioned have more women in the caucus and
have probably done more just on elevation, separate from policy. And yet,
here was the Republican Party that had beaten them to the punch on this
issue. Obviously, as an echo to the Hillary/Obama contest. And yet the
reaction was sophisticated by women voters, to your point. Not that,
because there`s a woman on their ticket, there was going to be some huge
exodus. That didn`t happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: That said, let it be a different woman this time. I mean,
so Sarah Palin is one sort of --
MELBER: Let it -- please, be.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, please be a different woman. But it feels to me that
there`s a deep bench of Republican women governors who really could make
serious candidates, either the presidential or vice presidential level in
DEL PERCIO: Absolutely. I mean, we see that with Susan Martinez, for
example. I mean, you can`t write her off as a potential vice president
nominee. I don`t think she will run for president, but she is certainly
going to be there, same with Kelly Ayotte. I mean, that`s certainly
So there`s something about those four state also that you talked about, and
it is actually, I think you see in all 50 states, is going to Terrace
point, men have been doing this a lot longer. There is that hierarchy.
There is that waiting your turn. So what happens is, ironically, in the
Republican Party, because they`re so apt to get republic, show women, you
know, we like women. They`ll let women leapfrog a little bit more than the
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, yes.
Women and also candidates of color. I mean, there is a strategic value to
choosing the Republican Party for a certain demographic groups, in part
because the line is shorter, right, which is a whole another segment and
one that would be fun to have.
Ari Melber, who has the win today for the longest running metaphor on this
MELBER: Why am I being held out of the hip pop?
HARRIS-PERRY: I know. You are, but if you want to arm wrestle gene grade
and sit in the hip hop hour, I welcome that.
MELBER: Yet again I feel marginalized.
That is right, Nerdland where white men are marginalized. Suzy Khimm, Tara
Dowdell and Susan Del Percio, thanks so much.
Coming up next, the breaking race news that happened last week just before
this program began.
Plus, from Nikki Minaj to Sasha Fears (ph), Ari Melber doesn`t get to talk
about it. But we`re going to talk about hip hop, sex, and gender.
There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Last week, after the show wrapped, I had to have a little conversation with
my executive producer, because while I was on the air having a good time
and eating pie and talking about crust, there was breaking news that no one
told me about.
When there`s breaking news, we are supposed to get an MSNBC breaking news
alert. Like this one that you can see here, because at 9:58 a.m., a week
ago today, two minutes before we went to air, the Republican party
declared, racism was over! And only five years after president Obama`s
election had ended it the first time.
I mean, a tweet at 9:58 a.m., at the GOP -- excuse me, from @GOP, the
Republican National Committee read, today we remember Rosa Parks` bold
stand and her role in ending racism.
Ending racism? I mean, that seemed like something we should have
heard about, 58 years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on that
Montgomery, Alabama, bus, now, the RNC had a much better-worded statement
on their site. And they did send a follow-up tweet hours later that
indicated what had happened. They meant to say, "Her role in fighting to
But it was too late, because Feminista Jones, the writer, had created
the #racismendedwhen, giving credit to others like Mr. Drummond on
"Different Strokes" and the Jeffersons, and Bill Clinton and even some of
their best friends.
But this is just more laughing to keep from crying. All of this was
the latest example of how a country, our country, is still unable to
properly discuss race, in a society increasingly forgettable about
structural racism and the way that it pervades our nation.
We noticed the flashpoints of horror, the shooting of Trayvon Martin
and Jordan Davis and Romesha McBride. We produced plenty of outrage about
the stories is the one this week when a 13-year-old girl was placed in
protective custody after police didn`t believe that the two black men when
he was traveling with were her guardians. They were.
Or the story of three black teens arrested in Rochester, New York,
the day before Thanksgiving for disorderly conduct, as they stood and
waited for a bus.
No, there isn`t any more to that story, they were just standing,
waiting for a bus when they were arrested. Charges were finally dropped
this week, but, listen, far too often, in our public discourse about
racism, we get stuck on the individual manifestations of explicit racial
bias. And while hurling the N-word may be easy to identify as racist, it
might also be the least impactful act of all racism, with which we should
be concerned. Instead of working ourselves into a Twitter on every biased
utterance, it`s time to develop a public vocabulary to discuss structural
racism in the ways that it continues to cause and maintain American
Joining me now are: Mychal Denzel Smith, a blogger for thenation.com
and a nobler fellow at the Nation Institute; Marcyliena Morgan, who is
professor of African American studies at Harvard University and executive
director of the Hip Hop Archive; Tanner Colby, author of "Some of My Best
Friends are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America," and Walter
Kimbrough, who president of Dillard University, in my hometown of New
Nice to have you all here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Mychal, you wrote a piece this week, in which you
responded to the kind of Rosa Parks tweet that caused this big Twitter
frenzy, but specifically asked the question, why do we keep sort of framing
this as, things are better now than they once were?
MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH, BLOGGER, THENATION.COM: Yes, doesn`t matter
whether it`s better. Because we can pat ourselves on the back for being
better than chattel slavery or being --
HARRIS-PERRY: And we are. We should mark, this is not that.
SMITH: It`s not that. But what material impact does that have on
people right now if you are facing the prison industrial complex? If you
are facing dilapidated schools on the basis of racism, on the basis of the
governing philosophy of this country since its inception is white
supremacy. That is the foundation of our institutions.
If we are not willing to unpack that and then say to ourselves, how
do we build institutions where that isn`t the governing philosophy, how do
we say, then it doesn`t matter right now if it`s better than slavery or
it`s better that segregation, because the material impact on people`s lives
is they don`t have access to the same resources that white people have.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, I wonder, as you make that point, I`m
wondering, Marcy, if part of the problem is the word, "racism". Like if
there`s something about that word that has become so attached to these
individual utterances or these individual expressions that when we say it,
it actually obscures more than it illuminates about the structural
inequalities that we`re talking about.
MARCYLIENA MORGAN, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I do think that there`s been
a real problem in terms of, that term has been redefined by those who did
not want it discussed, in general conversation, in American history, in the
schools. And this notion of racism means blame. And once that got tied
into blame as opposed to really dealing with the institutional aspect of
racism, we ended up in a bind. And I think a lot of us slept on the moment
when that happened.
As the right began to talk about, you know, don`t say the "R-word."
At one point it was called that. And then you have to figure out, how do
we actually talk about this? And somehow it diminished the reality that it
is a horrible thing, that there is a historical reason that we talk about
racism, that things happened that we should not just say, OK, it`s over, it
didn`t -- I didn`t do it, therefore it`s not important.
So, once we don`t talk about racism, we end up actually losing what
it means and what we all went through.
HARRIS-PERRY: And being in a place where we`re reproducing it,
without even knowing what it is. But you said something that I thought
that was really key here, Tanner, and that is the idea that as though
saying racism automatically requires an actual bad guy. So if I say, we
are dealing with a question of structural racism that all the white folks
in the room are like, whoa! I don`t hate black people. You`re like,
that`s not what I said.
I said we`re dealing with structural racism. So, is the problem that
racism assumes that there is an individual bad actor who we have to blame?
TANNER COLBY, AUTHOR: Well, I don`t know that it`s so much an
individual bad actor, but one thing I find is the differently between
structural racism, what were called personal racism is that all structural
racism is personal racism. If you look at it from 30,000 feet, like
housing discrimination, there`s a structural racism in play.
But if go back in history, and you look at, you know, the real estate
developers who came up with this, it wasn`t like an institutional thing,
like here`s how we`re going to disenfranchise blacks or the property
rights. It was a handful of real estate developers in the room who said,
you know what, people are scared of black folks. So, if we come up in a
way to sell them, we`ll make a lot of money. And that sort of metastasizes
over the years and those guys are friends with FDR and the people in the
White House creating housing people and it becomes institutionalized
And so, when you look at it from 30,000 feet, we call it structural
racism. But what keeps it in place and what keeps it going is the
individual decisions of 350 million people who failed to do the right thing
a few dozen times a day.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, this is -- I want to underline this, because I
think your point about housing is so critical here, right? So we`re
looking at a recent study on the question of housing discrimination, and so
this is recent. Like, this is not -- this is not 1940, this is not 1950.
And this recent study, in fact, shows that there is substantial
discrimination against minority renters, right, where, in fact, African-
American and Hispanic renters are shown substantially fewer apartments and
houses and opportunities.
And so, yes, it`s both structural, as you point out, but also, it is,
even today, being re-substantiated by the choices made by real estate
agents and landlords.
COLBY: Yes. I mean, all evil is the result of a human failing on
some level, whether we abstract it or on a personal level. And it`s not
even, you know, a bad actor.
You know, my wife and I have a great apartment in a white
neighborhood with public schools. How did we get it? We knew somebody who
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, yes, right.
COLBY: So we just got the apartment.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that, Walter, becomes the language of privilege,
right? And that is, of course, invisible, because part of what happens
around privilege is, it`s not as though what Tanner is saying is, I have a
gabillion dollars and I have those gabillion dollars because I`m white and
I`ve had it handed to me, but rather, there are all these networks
associated with whiteness that go all the way back.
WALTER KIMBROUGH, PRESIDENT, DILLARD UNIVERSITY: I think people are
still afraid, they don`t want to call it racism or call it privilege. That
means, I have to own that there are some things that I have that I may not
have worked for. They were given to me because I was a member of the
So, that becomes a challenge. It`s just something that people don`t
want to address, but we have to. I mean, it`s ironic, we`re having this
conversation. I`m a preacher`s kid during the most segregated hour of --
KIMBROUGH: This is why we`re having this conversation. We don`t
want to deal with racism, but you go into churches right now -- of course,
I attend a church in New Orleans, so we have a white pastor, but about half
of the congregation is African-American.
So, I get to see --
HARRIS-PERRY: One of my favorite churches, by the way. If you want
to shout them out --
KIMBROUGH: Oh, yes, First Grace United Methodist Church, Pastor
So, I see people working on that, but most people don`t have to. And
if I`m in the dominant group, I can live my life without dealing with other
people and that becomes a challenge. So that`s privilege -- people afraid
of that, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Stick with us, because we`re going to talk very
specifically about who doesn`t want to talk about it, as soon as we get
back. We`re going to talk with a woman who was reprimanded for teaching
about racism in the classroom. That professor joins us next. We know
First Grace didn`t see us, because we`re a church right now. But we love
HARRIS-PERRY: Shannon Gibney teaches an introduction to mass
communications course at a community college in Minnesota. At a recent
class when she was discussing structural racism, a white male student in
the class spoke up. According to Gibney, loudly, he said, "Why do we have
to talk about this in every class? Why do we have to talk about this?" He
was later joined by another white male student in filing a racial
discrimination complaint against Gibney with the university, and the
school`s administration thought they had a legitimate beef.
Gibney received a formal reprimand from the VP of academic affairs,
which read in part, "Shannon, I find it troubling that the manner in which
you led a discussion on the very important topic of structural racism
alienated two students who may have been most in need of learning about
Joining us now from Minnesota is Shannon Gibney, professor of English
at a Minnesota Community and Technical College
Thanks very much for being with us.
SHANNON GIBNEY, MINNESOTA COMMUNITY AND TECHNICAL COLLEGE: Thanks
for having me, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So start just so that folks understand.
When you are teaching a lesson on structural racism, what does that look
like? What is the content of such a lecture?
GIBNEY: Well, you know, we just need to talk about, you know, a lot
of what you and your panel has been talking about, right? That this is --
there are historical reasons why, very good historical reasons why, and
lots of them.
Unfortunately, why folks of color do not have the same access to
material educational resources, et cetera, et cetera. Right? That it`s
not sort of this evil, bad guy, individual villain situation going on.
And, unfortunately, I think because, as you said, also, we have not
actually had a lot of practice at having these kinds of discussions about,
sort of, how systems work, to oppress large groups of people, while at the
same time, they work to privilege other large groups of people that, you
know, the first response that many of us have is one of defense,
defensiveness. So, you know, sometimes that`s what happens in the
classroom, unfortunately. Because I --
HARRIS-PERRY: I was going to say, Professor Gibney -- absolutely,
right? Sometimes, particularly when we`re try to foster conversations that
young people are not used to having, on any of a variety of topics, but
race can be one of the key ones, defensiveness is one part of it, which is
part of why it always falls on us to do the work of trying to make these
classrooms, you know, sites of Democratic deliberations that are useful.
So when you have had success, when you have had students open up and
be willing to do that kind of conversation, what has been the key
difference? What has been the key different sort of what makes a student
more willing to have that type of conversation?
GIBNEY: I think a lot of it has to do with the composition of the
classroom as well. I teach, as you said, Minneapolis Community and
Technical College. It`s an urban, two-year community college, downtown
Minneapolis. Our students are phenomenal, they`re fantastic. Majority
working class folks, a lot of students of color from all different
backgrounds, 33 percent students of African dissent. That`s African,
We`ve got refugee students. We`ve got students who also have had,
are dealing with every social problem imaginable.
So, we`ve got students who, you know, are coming to school hungry,
homeless, you know, all kinds -- we`ve got ex-offenders. But when you have
that kind of mix in the classroom, it can really create, I think, what
happens is that the classroom really becomes this place where reality,
right? This sort of like human material reality is manifested, right?
And so it`s not sort of like this abstract discussion like, racism
or, you know, sexism or classism or homophobia or whatever. It`s like, no,
this is my life. This is my experience.
HARRIS-PERRY: It has these material consequences for people`s lives.
Hold for me one second -- because I want to ask you, President
Kimbrough, you have been president at multiple universities now, so you
deal with students who come and complain. What do you see as the
problematic nature of how this particular complaint, as well as you now
know it, was dealt with?
KIMBROUGH: Well, the issue for me, and I looked at, Shannon
mentioned it`s a very diverse institution. About 60 percent of students
are students of color. When you look on the Web site and see the
leadership, the leadership is overwhelmingly white and white male.
And so part of it, for me, is that I think there might be a
sensitivity to the student body that is engaged there. So, it was easy to
say, let me just embrace the complaints of these two white male students as
authoritative, because they`re part of the dominant group, that`s part of
And then to reprimand the instructor based on that, when they need to
have a broader conversation about, as she indicated, how do we get all
these diverse people together, to really make a meaningful, rich
experience, because in reality, we know, they`re going back to their
neighborhoods, they`re living with people who look like them, they work
with people, and so this is the only space that they have to engage in
So, it`s an opportunity to have meaningful dialogue, so I don`t think
the first thing that I would do is say, let`s reprimand. Let`s look at the
climate on our campus. Let`s ask ourselves a hard question.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that, right? That`s the question around
structural racism. Let`s ask ourselves the hard questions. Professor
Shannon Gibney, thank you so much. We`ll keep an eye on what`s happening
with you. But thank you for trying to use your classroom as a space to try
to have these type of conversations.
GIBNEY: Thank you so much, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, we`re going to need to take a quick break. But
while we`re gone, we`re going to ask another hard question. Who do you
think is the unlikely culprit who`s currently hurting black colleges.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we`ve been talking this hour about structural
racism. But let me be really clear about this. Structural racism does not
require malicious intent. Even racially neutral policies can have racially
Case in point: President Barack Obama, who delivered the commencement
address at Morehouse College this summer, President Obama who signed an
executive order increasing funding for historically black colleges and
universities. That president`s administration has advanced a policy that
is disproportionately hurting historically black colleges and their
students. A decrease in federal grant funding and a tightening of
eligibility requirements for the parent plus loan program, which judges
applicants by their credit histories, has hit thousands of families and
caused a significant dip at HBCU enrollment.
That`s not because the loan program changes are racist. They`re not.
It`s not like President Obama is plotting to destroy black colleges, but
African-American families were among those hardest hit by the recent
recession, especially in the housing market, and without home values to
borrow against, black families rely heavily on plus loans to enroll their
children in school.
So, even though there is no intention to harm HBCUs, loan programs
have disproportionately affected black colleges. So far, HBCUs have lost
over $300 million. The situation is so bad that the secretary of education
apologized to college leaders.
But that hasn`t stopped the ongoing possibility of a lawsuit from the
historically black colleges and universities against President Obama.
So, Walter, this is tough, you`re the president of an HBCU. Nobody
thinks President Obama wants to kill black colleges, but this is a policy
that ultimately has a structurally racist impact.
KIMBROUGH: Right, it`s been really tough. It`s been tough for me
personally, because the night President Obama was first elected, my wife
was in the hospital, my daughter and I were at the house. She was in the
hospital, because we had a son born that day and his middle name is Barack.
So we feel this, you know, closeness to the president, but my concern
is sometimes people around him, who are helping to make these decisions,
sometimes forget about the conversations that we`re having and if you look
at, you know, the wealth gap with African-Americans having one-tenth the
wealth of whites and earning 75 percent, those are the kinds of things that
when you deal with the student population like mine, 75 percent of Pell
grant eligible. The average in higher education is about 35 percent. So
when you change those kinds of programs and you say, well, we don`t want
them to have these big loans, they don`t have any money to begin with.
So, if I don`t -- you know, if I don`t have any money, and you`re
telling me I have to have money to get money, if I have money, I won`t need
KIMBROUGH: That`s what the policy is basically telling us.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, Tanner, this feels like exactly the thing you
were just talking about -- the 30,000 feet problem. And I think, Walter,
you`re point is such a good one. That when you`re making policy, sometimes
what you need is proximity and intimacy, an awareness of how these policies
are likely to have these different impacts on marginalized communities,
which requires a little bit of knowledge about those communities.
COLBY: Right. I mean, the question is, who in the Obama
administration has that knowledge. I mean, they should. In theory, you
think they would.
But, you know, the larger issue of what HBCUs are facing is an even
bigger threat to HBCUs long program, is the diversity initiatives of high
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me more about that.
COLBY: Well, the HBCUs are facing this serious crisis, and the loan
program is part of it. But the larger problem is that we have, as a
society, in the wake of Jim Crow, in the wake of ending Jim Crow, we set
off on two different tracks. One is we kept HBCUs in place, and the other
is put all of these affirmative action and diversity initiatives on
predominantly white schools. And those two things have countervailing
effects on --
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes. Although, don`t worry, those are almost all
over now, right? So this is an interesting question that continues to come
up, right, Mychal? And it`s in part, I think part of what then becomes
confusing in the conversation around race and structures.
Because what you need to be able to say is, look, we both need
aggressive and appropriate affirmative action programs that allow for
students to make the choice of opting into predominantly white
institutions, and we want to have a space that is structurally sound and
financially secure, that is about these historically black colleges and
universities, which often actually have higher percentages of white
students in them than often the white schools have of students of color.
SMITH: Yes, I think what the original -- what we were talking about,
you know, these policies coming from the Obama administration that hurt
HBCUs points to the fact that we don`t need a personal hatred of black
people, of people of color, in order to reinforce structural racism. And I
often think that the problem is that structural racism is what informs that
person or animus, right?
I think when we get to -- like, Tanner was talking earlier about
housing discrimination and, you know, people take advantage of the fear
that white people have of black people. That fear is not born in a vacuum,
right? So we have this idea of black people as criminal, but that`s not
just like a belief, that people just had. It comes out of a set of
policies after reconstruction, that essentially re-enslaved black people
through the black codes, you know, putting them through the prison --
building the prison industrial complex that made it almost illegal to be
black in public spaces.
Like, and so locking them up creates the idea that, oh, black people
are criminal, because they are being locked up. But they`re being locked
up for arbitrary reasons.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, if you don`t live near each other and go to school
near each other and the only images we see reinforce that sense of
criminality, those structurally racist anxieties actually generate.
One quick piece before we go. Tanner, you just had a baby, a son
named Dashel Parker (ph), and we have a little gift from Nerdland.
COLBY: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Of course, we give books to babies around here,
because we are nerds.
COLBY: Excellent. Thank you very much.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, please pass that along for us.
Mike Denzel Smith and Tanner Colby, thank you both so much for being
Our other folks are going to stick around, because up next Jean Grae
is in Nerdland. I can see her, she`s right over there. Jean Grae is
Nerdland, and I`m telling you, it`s going to be dope, it`s going to be
awesome, it`s going to be all of that.
Even if you are not a hip hop follower, you need to stay for this,
because if you don`t know, you`re going to know.
HARRIS-PERRY: Roxanne Shante, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa,
Lil` Kim, the Brat, Foxy Brown, Eve, Missy Eliot, Nicki Minaj.
Among these artists are foundational MCs, those who have gone
platinum, who have built multi-platform careers and those who have
redefined hip hop as we know it. But rather than talk about the
distinctive timber of light voice or the utterly unique lyrical quality of
Eve`s story telling, or the way Missy redefined what a hip hop video could
do or the massively complicated gender-bending multiple personas that Nicki
Minaj harnesses in her music, rather than assess them on their talent or
sonic appeal, these artists are typically relegated to the category, female
rappers, or more recently, femCs.
Now let me be clear, I think it matters when the MCs spitting on
stage or on a track is a woman, but not because women emcees are more
positive or feminist, it`s not like sisters are wrapping about puppies and
rainbows, I want women on the mic, because I want to hear women flow about
everything -- sex and violence and money and politics and just plain old
I want us, because sometimes women are just the baddest artists in
the game, or as Nicki might say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICKI MINAJ, MUSICIAN: I`m going to rap anyway, because I`m just
great at it. Like I`m just so great lyricist MC.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It is time to stop acting like femCS flow like girls
and recognize that hip hop needs women on the mic.
At the table, I`m pleased to welcome the incomparable MC, producer,
writer, director, and social media darling, Jean Grae. Nice to have you
JEAN GRAE, MUSICIAN: That was such a good intro. We could just go
home now. I don`t have anything to say. That was amazing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me about that. On the one hand, I want to
say, well, we don`t want to just put women on the mic in a category. On
the other hand, I want to say, it matters to have women`s voices in this
GRAE: Absolutely. I think what happens is, you know, where it gets
difficult is, you know, I get angry when someone puts my gender in front of
my actual job. And I think it`s blatantly obvious I`m a woman and I`ve
never approached of it as being a handicap to anything that I have to do.
If anything, it`s a bonus, you know?
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, right, we know from tribe, right? So some
time ago, we know from tribe that it is industry rule number 4,080 --
GRAE: Company people are shady.
HARRIS-PERRY: Are shady.
Are they particularly shady for women?
GRAE: I don`t think I ever went through a lot, dealing with large
record companies. I was raised in a very indy record household. My
parents are both jazz musicians and my mom started her own record company
in the `80s, which was, you know, a crazy thing to be doing and a crazy
thing for a woman in jazz to be doing.
And when I started releasing records, it was immediately just the
feeling that you had to do it independently. So I never really went to
labels in search of a deal or saying, I`m trying to pitch myself or sell
myself. I think I probably had one meeting and the one meeting that I had,
I was like, yes, I can`t do this. I can`t be part of this.
And, you know, I need to be able to have a limitless imagination and
creative force. And so for me, going the major label route was never
really on option.
I think, definitely, when -- just in terms of selling a product, for
males and for females, you know, going to a major label, they`re saying,
this is what we want you to look like. And we want to mold an artist. And
we want to sell a product. And you kind of can`t be too angry at that, you
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you about, so, two things you said
there that I want to follow up on. One is when you brought up jazz, I
thought, oh, yes, right. We often level a critique against hip hop, and
particularly it`s misogyny or it`s seclusion of women in ways that we then
don`t look back on other musical or artist in cultural forms.
And jazz, too, is this kind of deeply misogynist, male-oriented
space. So you coming from a parent who is navigating that, I`m wondering
if there`s something about like that desire to be independent that emerges?
GRAE: I think so. And especially, my mom and my family coming from
south Africa, so, you know, she was performing in all these places, so
you`re not only dealing with the race issues, then you`re dealing with the
gender issues. And then performing in America and Europe, when she was in
her 20s and 30s, and then you`re dealing with being foreign. So, she never
really put the idea forth to me that it was anything that was stopping her
from doing that. It was just me watching her do it and thinking, I don`t
have any limits or I don`t have any problem navigating this world. I just
have to go through and do it.
So it wasn`t even a thought of really being independent, it was just
kind of, this is what you do, this is how it gets done.
HARRIS-PERRY: As you just reminded me, you were born in South
HARRIS-PERRY: So we were talking about, asking the wrong questions
of MCs, what are the wrong questions that the media have been asking about
Mandela and about Mandela`s legacy over the course of the past week?
GRAE: I think it`s been a very -- you know, how did he -- I know
asking me, pretty much, how did he influence you. And I`m like, that`s --
we can go so much further than that. And I think a good conversation to
have, especially, in the wake of his passing is, there`s such a rich
history to South Africa. And it`s definitely not just black and white.
And I think a lot of Americans, and especially black Americans,
coming from mixed cultures could really, really understand and delve into
and relate more if we actually -- you know, we have the Internet. And we
could go through it and research and say, OK, what do I really w to know
about this country? It`s not just apartheid, it`s not just Mandela.
There`s -- you know, there`s two things and we don`t go any further than
that. I think it could open up a bigger conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s an interesting point, what South Africa becomes,
as a symbol then for the entire American electorate is, it is apartheid,
and it is somehow liberated by Mandela.
GRAE: And then that`s it. And now we`re done. Yay!
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us. We`re going to add a few more voices
to the table. I want to keep pushing and I have two other questions I
still need to you. I need to know why you channeled Jean Grae. And my
husband wants to know, why did you kill Professor X? That just seemed
wrong. He was trying to help us.
Up next, hip hop in the classroom.
HARRIS-PERRY: Little humble brag here. I am founding director of
the Angela Cooper Project in New Orleans. And this week we hosted a
conference on gender, sexuality, and hip hop. If you were following our
#femmehiphop, then you know the concert gathered a variety of disciplines
from universities across the country and even the world.
The thoughtful, complex scholarship of these researchers was a
visceral reminder that hip hop, which began 40 years ago at a house party
in the Bronx, now finds itself in college classrooms, even in the Ivy
League, yes, even at Harvard. Established in 2002, the hip hop archive and
research institute at Harvard University has a mission to facilitate
learning and leadership through hip hop, even (INAUDIBLE) visited.
Back with me, rapper, producer, writer, director, and social media
darling, Jean Grae. Also, Marcyliena Morgan, executive director of the Hip
Hop Archive at Harvard, Amber Rose Johnson, a junior at Tufts University,
who is also a spoken word artist and was at the conference, and also Walter
Kimbrough, who is president of Dillard University, and is also sometimes
known as the hip hop university president.
So, I want to start with you, Marcy, why a hip hop archive at
Harvard. Why is that something to have a place like that?
MORGAN: Well, first of all, Harvard and hip hop have a lot of in
HARRIS-PERRY: You have got to tell me what Harvard and hip chop have
MORGAN: I mean, so much in common. I think it`s a perfect union in
many respects. And, of course, not everyone agrees, but it`s just a matter
One thing is that Harvard is really very clear on what it is as an
institution, how important it is, what it means to the world. What it`s
saying, what it`s obligation is. And that`s the way that hip hop rolls in
It`s like an MC is not just trying to compete. The MC is trying to
rule, try to service, it`s trying to represent, it`s trying to deal with
any number of skills in terms of lyricism, in terms of really being able to
be at the highest level of craft. And that`s I think is a perfect marriage
in terms of Harvard and hip hop.
And as I say to people all the time, if you don`t think it should be
at Harvard, where do you think it should be, you know? What are you
HARRIS-PERRY: But I love that idea, at the core of hip hop is that
bravado, this, I`m the best, and that is certainly, that`s certainly part
of Harvard`s DNA.
But also part of what I`m interested in here, and, Walter, I want to
sort of push on this a little bit, is the idea that hip hop is not just a
topic. Like, you don`t go take a class on hip hop and then you learn the
elements and this is what graffiti is, right? But it`s actually a tool.
It`s a way of approaching, doing any set of projects. And that`s something
I`ve seen you do at Philander Smith and now at Dillard.
How do you use hip hop as a tool for academic engagement?
KIMBROUGH: Well, I think a lot of complex issues can be discussed
through the lens of hip hop, particularly with the conference that you just
had and in talking about women in hip hop.
HARRIS-PERRY: Which Dillard helped to support.
KIMBROUGH: You were excited and one of our students we saw in the
promo package was participating and she said that created a great space for
women to have this conversation about hip hop. But there are a lot of
complex ideas that can be discussed. And you look at Jean`s videos and
talk about some of the issues there that deal with societal issues. We
want to talk about, you know, abuse and relationships and all those other
kinds of things.
So, it becomes a way for us to have those conversations in the end,
for higher education. We want people who can think critically, communicate
well, and if that`s a vehicle to do that, sometimes it`s OK to abandon the
books and look at what`s happening in hip hop as another way to engage
So I think it`s a great tool, a great opportunity for young people
and faculty and staff to have meaningful conversations about issues that
are important today.
HARRIS-PERRY: Amber, you underlined some of the exact things you`re
hearing from President Kimbrough, when you and I were in conversation,
because I asked you, why spoken word? Why are you using this as a medium
as a student.
AMBER ROSE JOHNSON, JUNIOR AT TUFTS UNIVERSITY: Absolutely. And
it`s interesting you were talk about the bravado and the kind of pushing
back and how hip hop was created in a time where people of color were not
lifted up, so they had to kind of push back against something. And that`s
exactly what spoken word is doing, spoken word being an element of hip hop.
And Eleanor Phillips (ph), who is a poet, who I study under, who has
kind of guided me throughout my studies, she says that poetry and spoken
word pushes the boundaries of language and pushes the boundaries of any
kind of barriers that we`re experiencing as people of color. So, my
approach as a student and as, you know, a young scholar and a poet is to
find ways to push back against the boundaries of language and pushes the
boundaries of any kind of barriers that we`re experiencing as people of
So, my approach as a student, and as, you know, a young closer and as
a poet, it`s to find ways to push back against the boundaries, and get
closer to a truth that can be meaningful and that can really hold the
weight of our stories as people of color.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that language, the weight of our stories,
because, Jean, that always feels like part of what`s happening in our music
is the weight of some very specific stories, your stories, but they end up
being universal in this important way. And I always see you performing on
these multiple levels. Like you`re doing a lot of interesting metaphoric
work, you`re doing comedic work -- you know, you`re representing things
both with your physical space as well as with your vocals.
But I wonder, does it feel weird to be a subject of study? Like, you
know, to have a hip hop artist and to have academics sitting in the ivory
tower, thinking about how you`re using metaphor.
GRAE: I think it`s actually a great thing. I think for some
artists, that`s the best form of flattery, that finally, you know, someone
will get it if you take enough time to really put those words together and
thinking, you know, this is not what a lot of people think of as rap is,
you`re rhyming some words over a beat, and it`s so much more than that.
And I do try my best to challenge myself and make things that are relatable
and use it as a form of talk therapy and a form of therapy for others.
So when people actually get it, it makes me -- it pushes me to write
more and be able to push, you know, more boundaries and break more walls
HARRIS-PERRY: Marcy, what have you seen when you`ve had those
moments at the archive, where researchers and artists end up at the table
together. You know, any of those moments, sometimes the artists` names, we
may not know as well, but they show up and are engaging as real-life
repositories of this information, with the young people who are studying.
MORGAN: I think what happens is what we all dream will happen when
we`re, you know, in these institutions and dealing with the relationship
between education and real life. We`re really talking to artists about, we
understand what you`ve been doing at some level, but we want to know more.
We respect the work.
And we also recognize how much knowledge you actually have to have,
and how much practice you`ve done and the work that has gone into what
you`re doing. And what we`re trying to do is to make sure that that work
is treated the way any other work. I mean, I think hip hop belongs with
all the other disciplines.
I want to see lyrics from Jean Grae, Nas, a number of artists, along
with works in the social sciences, talking about urban areas and cities.
It`s so important that we have those particular narratives, rhymes,
struggles represented, because we`re really saying to young people, look,
your world. We get it we have been missing this. We haven`t been talking
about these things. You`ve kept this going.
MORGAN: We now have generations who are talking about really hard
issues, because hip hop won`t let it go.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And it validates the textual lives of young
people themselves as value to study. Thank you all for being here.
Last week, we put together a black feminism syllabus. I hope y`all
will help me put together a hip hop syllabus that we can share for our
audience so that folks are just beginning to think about hip hop as an
epistemology or hip hop as a subject, we`ll put that together for you,
Jean Grae, Marcy Morgan, Walter Kimbrough, thank you so much.
But Amber Rose Johnson is not leaving yet. Because when we come
back, he`s doing the footnote.
HARRIS-PERRY: The first person to present at this week`s gender
sexuality and hip-hop conference in New Orleans was Amber Rose Johnson.
Amber Rose is a junior at Tufts University. She`s a sixth grade teacher
and a community organizer, and a national poetry champion.
And as soon as I heard Amber Rose engage in a lyrical critique of the
American news media and our incomplete biased, and often inhumane treatment
of marginal communities, I knew Amber Rose had to come to Nerdland.
So it`s my pleasure to pass the mic to Miss Amber Rose Johnson.
JOHNSON: Did you see the news? Did you see the bodies? Our bodies.
They were displayed all over the news. My body, our bodies were bloodied
all over the news.
Did you see the bodies? They were marked and mocked and dressed up
and knocked down. They were raped and stolen and beaten and beaten and
blackened and blue.
This isn`t new. The black and blue, the marked flesh, the cut-out
tongue. The news reminds me that bodies like mine are beaten.
The news reminds me that bodies like mine are marked and the bodies
are everywhere, hunted. Some of them made it to your timeline. Some of
them made it to your news hour, but the news doesn`t capture everything.
Did you see the bodies? They`re everywhere. They`re dancing in
sweat-filled basements. They`re making love in houses and apartments and
black seats and brown on black and browned bodies.
They`re changing shapes to fit the need. They`re working hard.
They`re making music. They are fighting to survive.
They didn`t make it to your news hour, but they made it to t bus
stop. They made it to church on Sunday. They made it to work and they
made it through the day. And someone should have put that on the news.
Do you see the bodies? They`re laughing like endangered hyenas.
They`re creating moments to escape the hunt. They`re keeping each other
safe. The bodies are dead and dying and managing to live. They are
resisting and resisting and resisting, and that resistance is too
terrifying for the news to watch.
HARRIS-PERRY: Somebody should have put that on the news, and I`m
glad that we did. We put that on the news. Amber Rose Johnson, thank you
That`s our show for today. Thank you to you at home for watching.
We`ll see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We`ve got lots of good
stuff planned for Nerdland.
Right now, it`s preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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