'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, December 14th, 2013
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
December 14, 2013
Guest: Farah Griffin, Jessica Valenti, Nancy Giles, David Cay Johnston,
Jennifer Newsom, Kimari Carter, Jordyn Lexton, Roy Waterman; Jonathan
Metzl, Gregory Thomas, Nancy Giles, John Nichols, Roben Farzad, David Kay
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question -- should we
be celebrating or mourning the budget deal in Washington?
Plus, the Michigan law requiring what some people are calling rape
And Queen B looks back at it.
But, first, we knew we would be talking about a school shooting today. We
just didn`t know it would be breaking news.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Listen, we knew we were going to be talking about a school shooting this
morning. We just thought that we would be talking about a memorial for
events that occurred one year ago today in Newtown, Connecticut, when 20
children and six adults were shot and killed by a gunman at Sandy Hook
Elementary, in the worst elementary school shooting in our nation`s
history. But instead of remembrance, we are reporting on yet another fatal
shooting incident at an American school.
The shooting suspect now identified as 18-year-old Karl Pierson opened fire
at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado, a suburb of Denver at
about 12:30 p.m. Mountain Time Friday. The suspect wounded a 15-year-old
female student who underwent surgery last night. The shooter, Pierson, was
later found dead inside the school from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot
wound. Students throughout the school described hearing three shots.
Every one of the Littleton public schools including Arapahoe was put on
lockdown. The gunman, a fellow student, allegedly was targeting a teacher
who was able to escape.
All of this happened at a high school just about ten miles from Columbine
High School where in 1999 a gun massacre claimed the lives of 12 students,
one teacher, and the two gunmen. Arapahoe was also only 15 miles from the
movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where last year 12 people were killed
and 70 injured in a shooting incident during a midnight screening. Joining
me now live from Colorado is Ron Mott. Ron, what is the latest from there
RON MOTT, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Hey, there, Melissa. Good morning to you.
Still an obvious police presence here at Arapahoe High School. You can see
the crime scene tape behind me. Police have been here all night processing
this crime scene and what they consider three other crime scenes, one being
the student Karl Pierson`s car, which we think may still be in the parking
lot with - along with a lot of the other cars of students and teachers who
had to find other ways home yesterday. They were also seen outside his
home and also outside his father`s home, which we believe is in the Denver
area. So, police say they are working four potential crime scenes.
Now, while a lot of details are still unknown, the police are expected to
brief the media again late this afternoon. But a couple of students have
told NBC News that this is what they believe happened. Earlier in the week
there were some sort of confrontation between this student and the teacher
and as a result the student faced some sort of disciplinary action, perhaps
was suspended, and so yesterday during the lunchtime hour he showed up with
a shotgun, made no effort to conceal it according to police and obviously
he got the attention of the folks in the hallways right away, including a
janitor who saw him, heard that he was looking for this particular teacher,
tripped the fire alarm. The school went down into lockdown and this
janitor apparently ran to that teacher. The teacher left the building
hoping to draw that student out of the school and the sheriff yesterday
said that was very key. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF GRAYSON ROBINSON, ARAPAHOE COUNTY: We know that the student that
was armed with a shotgun, as he entered the west side of Arapahoe High
School, immediately asked for the location of this specific teacher and
asked for that teacher by name. As soon as the teacher realized that, as
indicated in my initial comment, he departed the school. That was a very
wise tactical decision. He took himself away from the school with an
effort to try to encourage the shooter to go with him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOTT: Now, Melissa, as you mentioned the student, Karl Pierson, was found
dead. Police believe he turned his weapon on himself. The student who was
shot, very severely injured is a 15-year-old girl here at the school. She
underwent surgery yesterday, at last report she was in critical condition.
Obviously, a lot of thoughts and prayers with her and with her family.
Classes will be canceled on Monday. Officials say over the next day or two
they`re going to decide whether they need to continue to close classes
throughout the early part of next week. But for now, as you can imagine,
that this community is still in shock about what happened here yesterday
HARRIS-PERRY: Undoubtedly. Undoubtedly. Thank you so much, Ron Mott, who
is reporting for us from Colorado.
The Newtown shooting one year ago today and yesterday`s shooting in
Colorado leave us asking one question -- how can we be sure that our kids
feel safe and are safe when they go to school? On NBC`s "Meet the Press,"
shortly after the tragedy in Newtown, we heard one proposal from the
National Rifle Association`s Wayne LaPierre.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WAYNE LAPIERRE, NRA: If it`s crazy to call for putting police and arm
security in our schools to protect our children, then call me crazy. I`ll
tell you what the American people, I think the American people think it`s
crazy not to do it. It`s the one thing that would keep people safe.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so I don`t want you to miss this because LaPierre
asserted that, of course, we want police in our schools, it would be crazy
not to want police, police make all of us feel safer. Right? Well,
actually decades of public opinion research show that not all Americans
find police to be a comforting presence. And having armed officers in
school may be a very different experience for elementary children in a
small town in Connecticut than it is for high school students, say, on the
south side of Chicago. What happens if the officer at the school ends up
policing students rather than protecting them? After all, the people who
might save our kids could instead of a police officer be someone like that
janitor at that Colorado high school yesterday who says he saw the shooter
enter the school and he may have saved lives by alerting the staff
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I was turning the corner when I saw a kid running
into the building on the north side of the building. He was kind of
running side to side, kind of military kind of style. And when I saw that,
I double looked to see if there was a gun. It was a shotgun. So, right
away I got on the radio to alert everyone and the staff to -- and when he
went in, and that`s when I just heard the shots.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now are John Nichols of "The Nation" magazine,
also CBS "Sunday Morning" contributor Nancy Giles. Also, with me is
Gregory Thomas, the former director of security at New York City schools,
and Jonathan Metzl, professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University.
Gregory, I want to start with you, because, you know, we had absolutely
planned to talk about Newtown and to talk about school safety, and then
this happens. And this shooting is very different than what we saw a year
ago in Newtown. Are there any common lessons we ought to take about school
safety and ways to make schools safer?
GREGORY THOMAS, FMR. DIRECTOR OF SECURITY NYC SCHOOLS: Well, I`ll be the
bearer of good news. Despite the fact that we are here again on a date of
remembrance for the Sandy Hook shooting and after yesterday`s shooting,
schools still remain the best place for children to be during the daytime
hours. Now, in spite of all that, let me say, this shooting, again, will
as they do some more research and they`ll find that this shooter was
troubled in some other way, too, now. It wasn`t impulsive. You can see -
he clearly had a plan of action. Now, the question is going to be did he
tell anybody about this plan of action. I`m going to probably guess that
he did tell some other students or they had some indicators along the way
there were going to be some concerns from this student at some point.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you then about this question of police
because we do know that there has been an increase in the number of schools
that have sort of a police presence. And the question in part for me is
whether or not that police presence makes students safer or actually puts
them at more risk of being policed.
THOMAS: Well, let`s go to research side. There`s no empirical data that
shows that police in schools make schools safer and there is no data in
schools that in general, uniformed people make schools safer. What makes
school safer is the school environment being created by the principal. The
school climate, if you will.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the educators themselves.
THOMAS: Yes, that`s probably up to them. Now, on that sense of whether or
not this will get worse over time, I think that since Sandy Hook there`s
going to be a better push, or more push, rather, to put more police in
schools. My concern is that as you`ve mentioned earlier that more police
in schools means more guns in schools. And again, there`s no data that
shows that more guns in schools makes schools safer.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jonathan, I kept thinking, as we were watching the images,
which were so compelling yesterday, and at one point they have all of the
young people lined up on the school field and were walking them through and
patting them down at the end of it. So, at this point apparently the
police knew that the circumstance was safe and so they`re having all of the
young people down. And I thought watching them come out with their hands
up and then being watching them being patted down, I just kept wondering
what - like what`s happening here? These are young people who are in a
moment of trauma and yet also having to be treated like suspects at the
JONATHAN METZL, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY: It was a remarkable set of
images. It almost looked like a prison yard riot photo or something like
that with the students running out with their hands up. And at that moment
I thought, you know, there`s this big debate about mental illness and mass
shootings and we often focus on the mental illness of this shooter. But I
kept thinking look at the culture that we`re creating here, in which
there`s so much anxiety, so much traumatic repetition, all these issues, in
which students, they - I mean you could tell students knew the drill. And
that`s not - and on one hand that`s a good thing because people acted
safely and it probably saved some lives, everybody shut the door, but it`s
also that this culture of anxiety that`s being caused by just the presence
of guns that were producing a kind of mass paranoia and anxiety by just the
repetition of this gun culture.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, Not just that, but in fact, Nancy, what Jonathan
just said was picked up by the local paper, whose headline this morning was
just really gets you in the gut, because the headline is just "Again."
It`s just "Again." And that simply - you just saw that culture of
repetition. No one wants to politicize the death of, but that language,
NANCY GILES, CBS SUNDAY MORNING CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah. It`s like it can`t - I
mean to a sane person, how can you politicize this? This is violence and
just thinking again I saw the kids lined up and the hands up and it`s
become normal. It`s like the new normal. I went to New York City public
schools, I went to Jamaica High School, which was a huge inner city public
school. And after I graduated I remembered hearing that they set up metal
detectors. And I remember my friends and I were like, metal detectors?
That already that felt like a violation. But to see these kids that are
basically scared and being stopped and frisked was really, really
depressing and horrible.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is there a way to talk about this, John, that captures our
distress that acknowledges that there`s something we have to do in response
to this? But that doesn`t immediately get us into our camps of left and
right, Democrat and Republican, you know, pro and anti-gun?
JOHN NICHOLS, THE NATION: Well, I think the first thing to say is it`s
actually wrong to say we shouldn`t politicize this.
NICHOLS: It`s fine to bring a political feeling, a political sensibility
to it. Bring what we know, bring what we value to this. Don`t do so in a
way that is hard edged. But there`s nothing wrong with saying, look, we
just saw Congress fly out of Washington and they started, this year,
started on the note of we`re going to deal with some of these issues.
We`re going to wrestle with them. And they just flew out of Washington and
one of the many, many things they didn`t deal with ...
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
NICHOLS: ... was this. And so, I would just say I feel all the emotions
we`ve heard around this table. I have a ten-year-old daughter who knows
too much about these kinds of drills. But by the same token we in media
and we around politics should not kind of like shut that discussion down.
We ought to invite it and invite it in a responsible way.
HARRIS-PERRY: I like that point. We`re going to come back to what your
ten-year-old and my 11-year-old know around these questions because when we
come back, we`ll talk about schools on lockdown and what it teaches
students about safety and about fear.
But first, earlier this morning, in remembrance of the victims a year ago
today in Newtown, Connecticut. President Obama and first lady Obama stood
before 26 candles in the White House Map Room observing a moment of
HARRIS-PERRY: The Friday shooting at Arapahoe High School in Colorado
affected more than just the school where the shots were fired. In fact,
the entire Littleton public school system went on lockdown. A scenario
we`ve become a lot more familiar with, especially in the last year.
"Slate" writer Dahlia Lithwick tallied more than 25 school lockdowns in a
week`s span earlier this month, and Lithwick stressed that doing nothing in
the face of school shootings is not an option. But she questioned what
these lockdowns are teaching children. "We ask our kids to pile themselves
silently into their classroom closets," she writes. "We tell them this is
what freedom looks like, maybe. Or maybe the real message of our
burgeoning lockdown nation is that we are, all of us, huddled there in the
closet now, trying to be invisible and silent and hoping that whatever is
out there will just go away."
So it`s both a metaphor for our politics, but also I think, Jonathan, going
to your point of a certain kind of trauma that the young people feel. That
said, I have to say, I`m reading Lithwick and I think, yes, I don`t want to
teach these kids to be on lockdown. On the other hand, living in the
seventh ward of New Orleans, having lived on the south side of Chicago,
lots of young people live their whole lives in lockdown because they`re in
communities that are marked by such violence.
METZL: Absolutely. You know, I think it`s certainly -- we wouldn`t want
to be in the position of saying we`re not going to adapt to the reality of
our moment. I`m sure people in the 1950s, when they were teaching their
kids to duck and cover from the bomb, there`s a motive of feeling a sense
of empowerment for something that feels totally out of our control. In
that sense, I think it`s pretty understandable.
But at the same time, I can`t help but think of all the interactions that
are being changed by the availability of guns. Schools, you know,
elementary schools is one area, but, you know, in Tennessee where I live,
you can have a loaded gun in a bar, for example. How is that changing, you
know, people`s interactions in bars? I mean, on college campuses, there`s
a move to increase, you know, access to guns for students and how is that
changing -- I just think what happened here is every educator`s worst
nightmare in a certain kind of way, that a regular interaction about a
conflict about a debate team or something leads to some kind of fatality.
HARRIS-PERRY: You said something so important, I want to go back to what
you said earlier, Gregory, about school leadership being the thing that
makes schools safer. Because I was reminded of Antoinette Tuff, who helped
to talk down that shooter in Georgia. Right? We`re reminded again of the
janitor who played that key role on this day. And I`m thinking maybe the
best safety policy is high quality pay, you know, teachers unions, you
know, the things that make educators be secure and safe and want to protect
THOMAS: The studies show that when the school has a proper climate, I
would say a proper tone in the building, everybody is involved in the
process from the food service workers in the cafeteria to the custodians.
Everybody understand what schools are built for. They`re not built for
defending against shooters. They`re built for teaching and learning. So
in the case of lockdowns, unfortunately we got here because of the Beltway
shootings in 2002. When those shootings happened on the Beltway, and one
of the snipers shot a student going into Benjamin Tasker Middle School in
Bowie, Maryland, then we started learning about lockdowns. So now you fast
forward to a point where it wasn`t a threat from the outside, now it`s a
threat from the inside, it is a student in the body. And that`s where we
have to have staff in the building having their ears on all the time. And
having good intelligence, as I say, to find out what`s happening in the
HARRIS-PERRY: And I can just hear the voices that may be watching and
saying, well, that`s all nice, but in the Newtown case -- that may be true
in this case, or in the case of Harper High School in Chicago or something
like that, but in the Newtown case, what we should have had is someone
standing there at the front desk with a gun who could have taken that guy
out before he took out these 26 individuals.
GILES: Or not taken that guy out and, you know, missed a shot and shot one
of the kids. That`s why that whole idea is so, I think, messed up. Going
back to a point that Gregory`s made about staff, about really great staff,
I did a speech once at Nutrier High School outside of Chicago. They have a
wonderful program, I think, at least once a year where the teachers and the
staff, including janitors, cafeteria workers and other like professional
(ph) security, they have this kind of like meeting of the minds so that
everybody is on the same page, which I think is so important. And it
reminded me again of Newt Gingrich saying janitorial job, you could train
kids to do that work, and the denigration of those kind of jobs is so
unfair, considering that these people are sometimes the line of, you know -
HARRIS-PERRY: They literally might save our children`s lives.
HARRIS-PERRY: It made me realize when I go back to school at the end of
the week before we go off on our holiday break, there`s a lot of people I
just need to say thank you to at my daughter`s school, because you just
Before we go, I want to take our break, I want to take a moment to
highlight the reporting of Michelle Rishnik (ph) at msnbc.com. Michelle has
been reporting all year on the lives of far too many young people that have
been lost to gun violence across our nation. It is a truly powerful series
online now at msnbc.com.
Up next, I want to talk about one of the most shocking images that we saw
yesterday in Colorado. I`ve got a question for John Nichols, as if another
school shooting wasn`t shocking enough, when we looked up on the television
and I saw this part of the response, I was simply stunned.
HARRIS-PERRY: For me, one of the most stunning images from yesterday`s
coverage of the school shooting in Colorado was this armored vehicle
driving onto school grounds. It got me wondering how many small towns in
America have humvees, tanks and other military grade weapons at their
disposal to deal with local crises.
So, John, I just -- what? I mean, at that point, the danger was over, and I
just -- I was so shocked to see this small Colorado town had this.
NICHOLS: You shouldn`t be. In the aftermath of 9/11, as we developed the
Department of Homeland Security, one of the ways that local police
departments could actually get a little bit of money from the federal
government was to put in applications for all sorts of equipment. I`m not
saying that one came out of that, but what I am saying is that across this
country, we have poured immense amounts of resources into incredibly high-
level responses to these crises, and this is a crisis. Whenever there`s
violence in a school of this type. And it does concern me, because I think
that this is a part of the rethink.
One of the things we do in a moment like this is say, where`s the
legislation, where is the big fix we can do? What I would suggest is that
there`s also a point at which we ought to talk about our allocation of
resources within the existing set of rules and what we ought to do.
And I will juxtapose it, I hope I`m not leaping too far there, you have got
that tank or you got that armored vehicle, I -- at the same time I see
schools across this country taking hits on their janitorial staff, on their
-- on their -- but on the whole of the program. And what I would suggest
to you is this. I think the best protection for a school is a community
where people know each other well, where the same people who have been
there over generations sometimes, where a parent can say, yeah, I had that
teacher or, yeah, I knew Mr. Such and such, because that sense of
connection I think brings kids in, even kids who might otherwise not feel
And so I would hope that as we pour resources into these schools and into
communities, I absolutely hope we do what`s necessary to keep them safe,
but I also hope that we think about how do we reinforce a sense of
community, and part of that is keeping long-term staff well trained and
frankly well compensated.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Greg, I want to ask you in part on that. One of the
moments that broke my heart was this student talking about texting her
parents in the moment as it was happening. I just want to listen for a
moment to what she had to say there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I texted my parents. Fortunately, I had my phone.
But I sent a text I never wanted to have to send to my parents, and that
was saying that, you know, we had (inaudible) gunshots but that was OK for
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I sent the text I never wanted to have to send to my
parents. Meaning she thought about -- it wasn`t like I sent an unthinkable
text, but one that she thought about. I kept thinking, does that armored
vehicle, does this military grade equipment, like how does that fit with
also living for her in a circumstance where she`s thinking about the
possibility that she may have to send this kind of text?
THOMAS: To Lisa`s point, it`s the new normal now. It is unfortunate we
are where we are, but it`s a matter of we have to be careful how we go down
this slippery slope. And to my point, I was really an outspoken critic
against putting armed police officers in every school. First of all, I`ve
had this three-pronged test, what problem are you trying to solve by
putting a police officer at the front door? When we got that question
answered, can you afford to put a police officer in every school? Not just
your school, my school, but every school. Make every school safe. 125,000
schools in the country, how many cops, can you do that? If you can`t do it,
then don`t start it because you can`t sustain it. So the question really
is are we going to get to the point where we can do things that are doable
and sustainable, rather than just knee-jerk reactions toward every event
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m going to give you the last word on this.
METZL: We`re still processing what happened here, but this is among other
things an access to guns issue. And so in a way, the question of armed
police in the schools is kind of like guarding against the shoe bomber or
something that`s already happened. This is also an access to guns issue.
We have tremendous research that shows that if we limit access, we`ll stop
the problem before it even happens at this point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So there may be questions of mental health and all
these other sorts of things, but in the end there`s a fundamental access
HARRIS-PERRY: Gregory Thomas and Jonathan Metzl, thank you both for being
here this morning.
Before we go to break, I want to once again point our audience to a special
project online at msnbc.com. It focuses on the lives of the people lost
far before their time. Please take a look through this extraordinary piece
of reporting at msnbc.com/tooyoungtodie.
Up next, we`ll shift gears and talk about the big news out of Washington
this week and why the devil really is in the details.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, Congress reached a bipartisan budget deal. I
want to say that again. They reached a bipartisan deal. The House passed
in a vote, 332 to 94, and then went home for the year. The Senate is
expected to hold a vote on the deal next week. There`s been plenty of
self-congratulations on Capitol Hill, but let`s take a closer look. The
devil is, after all, in the details.
The deal funds the government for two years, and it cuts the deficit by $23
billion, and restores $63 billion in sequester cuts. It is paid for not
with any new taxes, but by increasing security fees on air fares, cutting
pensions for military retirees, and keeping in place a 2 percent cut in
Medicare payments to doctors. But it`s a compromise. Right? I mean,
Democrats managed to keep the Republicans from slashing and burning
Medicare or Medicaid or Social Security, and Republicans managed to get a
few more billion in deficit reduction, and no new taxes. The federal
government won`t be shut down.
But is that really something to celebrate? I mean, I might be inclined to
celebrate if the deal completely ended the sequester. But we`re not fully
restoring long-term funding to medical research and federal housing
benefits and Head Start. The deal does not extend long-term unemployment
benefits. 1.3 million people will lose their benefits on December 28TH,
and the budget does not save SNAP from the billions of dollars of cuts it
will likely see in the next farm bill, which will probably pass in January.
The budget does nothing to create jobs or strengthen the social safety net
or stimulate the economy or anything that Congress might actually need to
do. Just keeps the status quo. In Nerdland, can`t really say I`m
surprised. This is a bit of a theme we`ve seen over and over and over
again, the Democrats and the Republicans debate an issue, and there`s a
compromise, and we`re told both sides win and both sides lose some, yet the
Democrats seem to count it as a victory not when they actually gain
anything but when they manage just not to lose everything. The Republicans
have eroded the process so much that getting anything done is a win for the
Democrats, even the thing that benefits the Republican interests almost
Joining our table now, David Kay Johnston, contributing editor at
"Newsweek" and author of "The Fine Print," and Roben Farzad, who is a
writer for Businessweek.com.
David, talk me down. Should I be more -- I`m having this kind of -- this
is terrible. Is there anything good we should be feeling good about in
terms of this deal?
DAVID KAY JOHNSTON, AUTHOR, "FINE PRINT": Only that there`s not a
HARRIS-PERRY: Which is good.
JOHNSTON: Which is a good thing, an important thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: But why is that the new normal?
JOHNSTON: It`s a terrible result of this gerrymandering, where the
Democrats got 1.4 million votes in the House more than the Republicans, but
they are not in control. And hopefully this will come to an end after the
next election. We`ll get some sensible government. After all, even John
Boehner is calling people ridiculous.
HARRIS-PERRY: So it seems to you like in 2014 we might see a shift in
JOHNSTON: Well, maybe we`ll get the Democrats running it possibly. But
most importantly, this is a deal in which we`re taking from poor children,
we`re going to cut 57,000 children out of Head Start. We`re going to cut
by a billion and a half dollars medical research that saves lives. And
we`re going to add $20 billion to the Pentagon, which as we all know is
just absolutely starved for money and can hardly put boots on soldiers`
HARRIS-PERRY: Actually, the Pentagon was an interesting one here, right,
because on the one hand we are going to add back some of the money that was
cut from the sequester. But then we have military veterans and federal
workers who are saying, well, wait a minute, what you`re doing is cutting
our one percentage point cost of living increase that came in the pensions,
and we actually have a bipartisan agreement here to do that. We`re saying,
well, you guys retire at 40 and go work other jobs, so we`re going to cut
back on those pensions. Is that a reasonable way to think about those
ROBEN FARZAD, BUSINESSWEEK.COM: A reasonable way of looking at this is
we`re going to be spared the fiscal cliff metaphor. It could have been
budgetary beat (ph), monetary outcropping. So I was stoked for round three
of this, but it`s not going to happen.
But actually you know, people are realizing it`s not black or white, it`s
not one party versus the other. Even within a party, you have disagreement
where the Tea Party side of it is absolutely no surrender, no give, no
take, just stick to this, no tax increases. Within the Republican Party,
they realize it`s going to subsume the entire party when congressional
approval ratings are at an all-time low. You almost have to split hairs,
even when you`re looking at something as monolithic as defense spending.
Within defense spending, are veterans going to be orphaned if they don`t
get their cost of living adjustment? It`s still a weak economy. So I
think it`s showing you can`t just black and white things the way you used
to. You`ll get called on it.
HARRIS-PERRY: To this point, let`s listen to Paul Ryan talking about what
common ground looks like and feels like for him. Then I will ask you a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN, R-WISCONSIN: To really do what we think needs to be done
we will have to win some elections. And in the meantime, let`s try and
make this divided government work.
I think our constituents are expecting a little more from us. They`re
expecting us to not keep shutting the government down. They`re expecting
us to pay the bills. They`re expecting us to be accountable. They`re
expecting us to watch how their dollars are being spent. And they`re
expecting us to find common ground, and that`s what this does.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s interesting, because the language had been, our
constituents are not expecting us to find common ground, they are expecting
us to hold the line. This is a pretty big sort of political shift from
NICHOLS: Actually, it`s what you say when you win. When you win, you say,
yeah, we found some common ground. I`m standing right on it.
NICHOLS: Paul Ryan drove this process.
HARRIS-PERRY: Along with Patty Murray.
NICHOLS: Well, Patty Murray was present. As many other members were.
Remember, this is a broad committee. But I think it`s fair to say that
Paul Ryan was the person who came in with a very strong plan, came in with
things he wanted. And what I would say about he drove this process is Paul
Ryan is a proponent of austerity. He believes in austerity. This is an
austerity budget. This budget says to federal employees, to military
personnel, you`ve got to carry the burden of some deficit reduction,
because we will not cut taxes for billionaires, we will not close
loopholes. And so I think rather than going into the nitty-gritty, to the
details of this thing, step back and look at what the stamp of approval was
put on. It was put on a budget that says, you know, Mr. Paul Ryan, we used
to give you almost no support when you came forward with budgets. You were
pushed to the side. You couldn`t get co-sponsors. Now you`re at that
microphone. You`re the center of this thing. And what you like, which is
a Wall Street-driven austerity agenda that redistributes wealth upward,
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s precisely what I want to come back on. You`re right.
The idea that Paul Ryan is now Mr. Common Ground Guy, when we look at
congressional approval ratings we just see them just declining
precipitously, and as part of that decline of congressional approval
ratings is putting folks at the center who were always on the margins --
NICHOLS: This is the common ground.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is the common ground now, Paul Ryan. When we come
back, Nancy, I want to pick up on exactly this question and about who`s
carrying the burden and talk a little bit about the long-term unemployed.
Also up next, the next hurdle for the budget deal. Why it may be a close
call in the Senate.
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite the lopsided support in the House for the budget
deal, they voted 332 to 94 on Thursday to pass it, the Senate vote is
expected to be extremely close. But ultimately to escape a filibuster.
The reluctant senators signing on to move it forward because, to quote
Senator John McCain, "I`m not okay with it but I think it`s better than
shutting down the government." So, Nancy, this is our new normal. Right?
He`s not wrong.
GILES: This Congress has been awful. Let`s lay it out there. They`ve
done nothing except this time not shut down the government. The last piece
of tape you showed of Paul Ryan, it really looked like he`s beginning to
change his posture and his language, and is rehearsing for presidential
I think what`s getting me more than anything is more and more I see
politicians as complete ideologues. I understand the break between the Tea
Party and the less conservative Republicans. I don`t feel like they`re
speaking to any of their constituents. I think most people want jobs, most
people understand that by cutting out of long-term unemployment, they`re
hurting themselves. I don`t think these guys are really representing their
HARRIS-PERRY: And part of what we know about that is if people get
distressed and hate government and then opt out, it shrinks the electorate,
and shrinking the electorate is always good for the Republican Party. So
actually just sending people out in disgust.
But David, I want to talk specifically here about the stimulative or lack
of stimulative effect of this budget. Specifically around what`s going to
happen with long-term unemployment and what`s happening with these
unemployment checks in three days after Christmas. We`ve got CBO
projections telling us that long-term unemployment benefits would create
200,000 jobs in 2014 and would grow the economy by 0.2 percent. We also
know that among the long-term unemployed, 4.1 million people have been
unemployed longer than six months, with an average length of unemployment
at nine months. And we know the percent of unemployed out of work for more
than six months is at an all-time high. And part of this deal is to end
unemployment benefits. How bad is that not just for those folks but for
JOHNSTON: It`s misery for those people and their children, and when you
combine it especially with food stamp cuts and daycare, and just economic
idiocy. But the larger problem to it is, is that having this large number
of unemployed people is driving down everybody`s wages. The median wage -
half make more, half make less -- it`s now at the lowest level since 1998,
a little over $500 a week. The share of workers who make below average
wages is growing. At the same time, the $5 million and up jobs of which
there are about 80,000 (ph), 90,000 (ph), are exploding, and the pay is
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s that inequality.
JOHNSTON: That`s exactly right. So what`s happening is here is these
policies -- remember, we were promised in 1980, just cut taxes and provide
business with incentives, and we`ll be in terrific shape. Well, by golly,
we should be absolutely flooded with jobs, and we`re not. It doesn`t work.
And here in New York state, the state this year will give $1.7 billion in
state tax credits, and a new report by two very credible economists shows
not a single job will be created. In fact, $10 billion over the last nine
years, 200,000 fewer jobs in New York, according to the state`s own
website. These programs are damaging the economy, and most important,
we`re not investing in the long-term future. We`re cutting research that
will make us wealthy in the future.
FARZAD: To this point, actually, and I believe I can only say it on this
show, damn, it feels good to be a banker.
FARZAD: It is really great, because the bailout happened five years ago,
the Federal Reserve, which has been stimulative as opposed to contracting
the economy fiscally, which Congress has been doing, has been at zero
interest rate policy, $3.5 trillion of quantitative easing. The banks have
never been this disproportionately powerful. You talk about too big to
fail. So they`re very quietly enjoying another flush year where they`re
still telling their workers don`t go out there and eat at the biggest
stakehouses on your Goldman Sachs credit card and whatnot, but it`s been a
And they are not going to - and corporations who are able to borrow at
record low rates, they`re not yet going out and hiring people.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is not a small point. My producer sends me one of
her little factoids kind of in the middle of the night and I wake up to it
and it says we`ve got fewer banks at this moment than we had at any time
since the Great Depression. I was, like, come on. She said, no,
seriously, right. This is where we are.
But then on this long-term unemployment question, in the context of that,
what do we -- do we even have any ideas about what the strategies are to
fix that? Because the last time we had a few number of banks, we had a big
recession and we had a massive unemployment, we had to fight a war with
Japan and Germany, right, to get out of it?
HARRIS-PERRY: So I love FDR and I love the New Deal, but isn`t it really
that it was the war, not the --
FARZAD: The stars had to align in a unique way to get us out of the
NICHOLS: Let`s bring us out of that right to now. And say how do we --
the president is starting to talk about inequality a whole bunch more.
Seems to be getting at this. I have got a suggestion for him. Abandon the
NICHOLS: Abandon these free-trade deals or at least not get rid of free
trade, but start to rethink how we do this, because the fact of the matter
is, de-industrialization is harming this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to take a break, and when we come back, John is
going to explain what those words meant, and Roben is going to explain what
the Volcker rule is. And while we go out, I`m going to take
inappropriately timed selfie.
HARRIS-PERRY: Remember 2010? That was the year when Congress got things
done, like the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform act that was intended to reign
in the financial sector and prevent another speculative bubble fueled
economic disaster. One of the most prominent and controversial provisions
of Dodd-Frank, known as the Volcker rule, was finally finalized this week.
So let me explain to you what the Volcker rule is. Roben?
FARZAD: Very good. I tried to stop at Barnes & Noble`s and pick up the
cliff notes. It`s a 936-page document which in theory is supposed to
prevent Wall Street from bringing down the entire system again by betting
on taxpayer-backed deposits. In practice, it`s going to be kicked down the
road. It`s impossible to discern what is reckless risk taking versus
legitimately protecting your clients and protecting yourselves, and
implementation is not going to happen until at least 2015, so it`s not
going to be on the Obama administration`s watch. And by then, look, they
say, you know, with what happened with respect to 2010 and 2008, the horse
is already a mile away and you`re trying -- this horse is dead and it has
been converted to glue.
FARZAD: We`re fighting this whole thing, we`re trying to prevent the
excesses that occurred in the middle part of the last decade from happening
again, meanwhile a whole different jig is going to happen in international
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is what the point is. It`s almost back to the point
that Jonathan Metzl was making earlier about guns, and you hear folks say
we`re fighting, we`re always fighting the last war, we`re always protecting
against the last terrorist threat. In this case, are we just protecting
against the last economic threat? In other words, if the Volcker rule
protects against a set of practices, bankers are not dumb people. Won`t
they just create a new set of risky practices?
JOHNSTON: The Volcker rule in a sentence is, banks are not allowed to
gamble with your paycheck. And we don`t need the Volcker rule with 900
pages if we just go back to Glass/Steagall, which says if you want to be in
the business of underwriting stocks and proprietary trading, you go right
ahead and make all the money you can.
HARRIS-PERRY: But no government backing.
JOHNSTON: But you`re not in the bank business.
FARZAD: -- bipartisanship led to the dismantling of Glass/Steagall. Larry
Summers, the Clinton administration, Republicans, it is very hard to
NICHOLS: This gets to the heart of it, too, because the Volcker rule was
put into Dodd-Frank, and then it took three years of unbelievable
negotiation, hundreds of meetings, the lobbyists flooded Capitol Hill. The
fact of the matter is when you analyze the Volcker rule as it`s written in
this big package, it`s pretty good, but there are loopholes, there are
areas that are weak, and the fact is we`re not done, and the dangerous
thing in enacting a Volcker rule is to pop the champagne corks. The
reality is, as David suggests, we haven`t restored Glass/Steagall, so that
firm line is not there. Also the fact is Sherrod Brown, senator from Ohio,
and David Vitter, senator from Louisiana, they`ve got a bill.
NICHOLS: They have a too big to fail bill. You want to really get to the
heart of the matter here? Let`s start moving on legislation to say we can`t
just have a handful of banks that can tell us what to do. Let`s start
telling them what to do.
FARZAD: I said it`s moved from too big to fail to too big to care.
JOHNSTON: Too big to prosecute.
NICHOLS: That`s for sure.
GILES: But how did it get this way? How is it -- this is a naive question
because I`ve never understood how banks, how money started running the
government. I mean, I don`t know. Can you explain that in one sentence?
GILES: I don`t know what happened.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is the time of year where all of us are going to have
that moment where we get to watch "It`s a Wonderful Life" and we will see
that lovely sort of conversation about, you know, here`s what a bank is, I
take some of your money and I loan it to build your house. That`s how we
want to feel about what a savings --
FARZAD: If Mr. Potter ran the SEC or Treasury, we wouldn`t be in this
position right now.
NICHOLS: I`m just glad that the pope is talking about this.
NICHOLS: You know, he is talking about this fundamental issue.
NICHOLS: You asked how did money get to run things? There`s an awful long
answer to that, but the biggest answer to it is we don`t have a good
discussion about the money power.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s not another voice with a similar kind of
international powerful stage. The pope does provide that. And
specifically challenges, right, Paul Ryan around that, in "Nerdland" --
FARZAD: Here`s the wild card domestically. Sorry.
FARZAD: Elizabeth Warren. She may not run for president in 2016.
FARZAD: But she could be the tormentor of the financial services industry,
which really banked (ph) incorrectly in thwarting her for an appointment,
not realizing she could go and run for a Senate position.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve got a pope and Elizabeth Warren.
FARZAD: Elizabeth Warren, and David knows this, she knows how to volley
the serve. She knows their vernacular. When they try to use terms and
euphemism, she cuts through that very well.
NICHOLS: It`s very interesting that the two people we`re talking about,
the pope and Elizabeth Warren, were not on the playing field years ago.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, there was a pope on the playing field. But he was not
this pope, this is our favorite pope. We`ve been working on a song in
"Nerdland." The lyrics include big pope and washing feet.
FARZAD: I love it when you call me big pope-a.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love it when you call me big pope, that`s right. John
Nichols, Roben Farzad. Thank you very much. Coming up next, Beyonce`s new
surprise. New music, new videos, and a whole new perspective. What her
new album says about her life and the lives of women everywhere. There is
more Nerdland and Beyonce at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Did you feel the tremor in Nerdland? Because on Thursday night, the earth
moved a little when out of nowhere Queen B dropped a bomb that nobody saw
coming. Just before midnight, with little more than a brief Instagram
video and a comment saying, "Surprise," as advance warming, Beyonce
unleashed her self-titled fifth album on the world, and the world may never
be quite the same, or at least the music industry, because B managed to
achieve the impossible.
In an industry where album links are almost as common as album releases,
she managed to quietly record 14 new songs and in a game changer created a
visual album of 17 videos all without nine finding out, which according to
Beyonce was exactly the point.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEYONCE, POP STAR: I felt like I don`t want anybody to give the message
when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it`s ready
and from me to my fans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Although if you were paying attention there were a few
clues. Earlier this year when we all thought she was changing up her new
look for a haircut, she was really getting into one of the many characters
she plays throughout the visual album. Somehow while in the middle of
world tour she managed to find time to shoot videos in at least two of her
concert location, in Brazil and her hometown of Houston.
In July, she dropped a track entitled "Bow Down." It stirred up
controversy for its repeated use of the B word and a command to bow down.
Now, that left some critics and some fans disappointed feeling like B had
abandoned her girls run the world lady first philosophy. As it turns out
the clip was only a sneak peek of "Flawless," the song on her new album
that is, in fact, her feminist manifesto.
Seriously, this is not just me trying to find feminism where it doesn`t
exist. This is Beyonce explicitly framing her message on the song in a
feminist context and responding to critiques of the earlier version of the
track. For an entire verse, Beyonce turns the mike over to a Nigerian
author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie who for an excerpt from truly flawless TED
talk on African feminism entitled "We Should All Be Feminists," with
Beyonce singing background vocals and giving full H-Town attitude in the
video, here`s what the deejay says in the song.
(BEGIN VIDE OCLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We teach girls to shrink themselves, to make
themselves smaller. We say to girls, you can have ambition but not too
much. You should same to be successful but not too successful. Otherwise
you will threaten the man.
Because I am female I`m expected to aspire to marriage. I`m expected to
make my life choices always keeping in mind that marriage is the most
Now, marriage can be a good thing, it can be a source of joy and love and
mutual support. But why do we teach girls to aspire to marriage and we
don`t teach boys the same?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In asking her fans to consider the answer to that question,
it`s clear Beyonce is not telling her female flowers to bow down. She`s
inviting them to stand up.
Joining me now feminist author and columnist for "The Nation" magazine,
Jessica Valenti, contributor to CBS "Sunday Morning", Nancy Giles; Syracuse
University College of Law professor David Cay Johnston, who`s always on
HARRIS-PERRY: And professor of English and African-American studies at
Columbia University, Farah Griffin.
Thank you all for being here.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Farrah, I just -- you know, part of the reason I wanted
you here this morning was because of your work around African-American
women artists who at earlier times dealt with some of the same critiques
that Beyonce has dealt with as being over-sexualized or somehow outside of
what we think of as respectable and normal. And yet presented and
generated a particular kind of feminism.
Do you see any connections between Beyonce and the blues women that you
FARAH GRIFFIN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Oh, absolutely. I think she`s fully
in tradition of the blues women and although she certainly has power and
control even than they had. But they struggled to have that kind of
control. But they also had kind of an artistic autonomy and I think
Beyonce falls within that notion.
HARRIS-PERRY: That notion of artistic autonomy, Jessica, my best
girlfriend sent me a text right away and she`s also a cultural critic and
historian, and she says Beyonce is about running this life, isn`t she? And
I thought that`s exactly it. Whatever else is happening in this visual
album, she`s like this is all me, you`re going to have to love it or hate
it. Is that a form of feminism?
JESSICA VALENTI, THE NATION: Absolutely. I think it`s about authorship,
right? She`s clearly the person in control of constructing and owning her
own image, which is not something you see very often when it comes to
female pop singers and celebrities. I`ve been calling this album to launch
is going to launch a thousand women`s studies papers.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, no, absolutely. In addition to launching a thousand
women`s studies papers, just also, David, it probably did sort of change
the game in a particular kind of economic way within the context of the
music industry, right? I mean, we were all sitting around and when I say
we I assume everyone who watches Nerdland also watches "Scandal", which
means we`re all on Twitter, scandal, scandal, scandal, and we`re all angst
because Kerry is going away until February.
And then moments later, Beyonce drops this and, wait a minute, what? Wait
a minute, wait a minute.
NANCY GILES, CBS: she knew, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: I felt like this is somebody who understands her audience,
understands social media platforms and just sort of produced in addition to
whatever the context is, she produced something extraordinary in terms of
the business side of this.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW PROFESSOR: Because
she appears to be in control of this, and none of this leak tells you that
her staff thinks well of her because contracts are one thing, respect is
And Beyonce strikes me as someone who beyond the fact that she has this
incredible talent so she can be both an incredible singer and an incredible
performer, we often get one or the other, I`m sorry, I always thought
women`s liberation was about getting to be who you wanted to be? You want
to stay home and have 20 kids? That`s OK. You want to be a CEO? That`s
OK. You want to do what she does? That`s OK. I`m surprised at the
criticism she`s getting.
But she`s in a marketplace where her rewards are going to be determined by
whether or not people want to shell out money for what she`s doing. I
suspect she`s going to do really well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. She is her own commodity in that sense. That might
be part of the angst people feel, right, because part of what feminism does
is push back this idea of women`s bodies as commodified so it can be a real
challenge to see someone who is actively commodifying herself in this way.
GILES: But to pick up on David`s point, what`s really incredible, what
she`s doing not only for women but for artists is she`s giving them the
power and the tools and showing them that your music can go straight to
your fans without record companies coming in between, without them trying
to shape your image and without them taking part of the money. I mean,
that is one incredible thing that`s come of music on the Internet is just
the straightforward with no other interference. I think that`s incredible.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I want to shift a little bit here. I`m going to stay on
Beyonce far while.
But I wanted to ask about this one aspect of the feminist discourse in the
piece where she says at one point we teach women to be competitors to one
another, not for position but rather for men`s attention. And, you know, I
was thinking, oh, yes, that`s like the team movies. But the moment when
that really happened was selfie-gate this week, right?
You have the president taking these, you know, inappropriate selfies during
Mandela`s funeral, but the story became about First Lady Obama`s face and
this idea that somehow she was jealous of or angry about the president.
And I just kept thinking we`re talking about the prime minister of Denmark,
the first lady, and we have to turn this into like a cat fight situation.
GILES: Actually, to be specific, the Danish prime minister was the one
holding the camera, so it was her selfie.
HARRIS-PERRY: Her inappropriate selfie.
GILES: And the photographer. I was so happy whoever it was went online
and said moments before the first lady was smiling. It just happened to be
a shot where she was sort of sitting there like that. I mean --
GRIFFIN: We were told how to read that narrative, right?
GRIFFIN: And we were given instructions for how to read it without saying
there`s a whole bunch that we really don`t know what happened, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: And we`re supposed to read it as women are competitors over
a man. Even though like -- I mean, why would that have been the --
JOHNSTON: Why are we supposed to care?
VALENTI: (INAUDIBLE) I think had one of the best responses to this when
she wrote, you know, the way -- the default way we see black women`s
emotions is anger.
VALENTI: And that`s -- we have no idea what she was feeling in that moment
but we immediately went to anger.
GILES: Angry black woman.
VALENTI: Right, angry black woman, and we live in the age of the Internet.
You know, the first lady is going to be in gifts, have means, that`s fine,
but we can`t ignore the sort of racial engendered narratives that construct
HARRIS-PERRY: My neutral face apparently looks angry to people all the
time. What are you so mad about? Nothing. I`m actually just sitting
Stay right there because up next, Beyonce and beyond -- the images of women
in 2013, the ones that we`re going to cherish and a few that we might want
HARRIS-PERRY: Among the many gift that Beyonce Claus brought us with her
surprise visual album is representation of womanhood and feminism that is
rich and multilayered and comfortable in its contradictions where he`s
unapologetically revealed, yes, her body, but also the fully realized whole
human being who goes along with it.
Just in culmination to a year in which we have celebrated and empowering
representations of women as subjects, not objects. But those moments are
still few and far between, the overwhelming misrepresentations of women`s
bodies in the media. If you have forgotten just how badly media failed
women in 2013, a new video recapping the handful of highs and a whole lot
of lows will remind you.
It`s from the Representation Project. A San Francisco based movement
designed to critique and change the limiting media depictions of women.
The three and a half minute video gives us about 30 seconds to feel good
about moments like these.
(VIDEO CLIP PLAYS)
HARRIS-PERRY: And in the remaining three minutes hits you with the reality
that as far as women have come, in this year it still isn`t far enough.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: If you are female, while you are also all those
other things, men who you defeat in argument will still respond to you by
calling you hysterical and telling you to calm down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now from San Francisco is the founder of the
organization that put together that video, Jennifer Newsom, who is
filmmaker and CEO the Representation Project.
So nice to have you.
JENNIFER SIEBEL NEWSOM, REPRESENTATION PROJECT: Thanks for having me,
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So tell me about this new video and how it fits into
the general project of misrepresentation.
NEWSOM: Sure. So we founded the organization out of making the
documentary misrepresentation which explores the underrepresentation of
women in positions of power and influence in America and challenges the
media`s limited portrayal of what it means to be a powerful woman.
So, each year, the film premiered at Sundance in 2012 and went on to
premiere on Oprah Winfrey Network. Each year since then we basically
premiere these end of the year videos that are calling out sexism in the
media and challenging our culture to take a look at this and change their
behave and ultimately transform the larger culture.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because, Jennifer, I want to talk about one aspect of this,
because I use misrepresentations in my class and there is this incredible -
NEWSOM: Oh, good.
HARRIS-PERRY: I find it really useful. It sort of represents the
challenges but also gives us something to push back against in the class.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the visual correcting of the model`s body through the
computerized retouching is kind of a pretty astonishing example, it`s
inherently troubling to me. But I guess I`m a little less convinced that
open displays of sexuality are inherently problematic. That`s part of
where this Beyonce moment, which is extremely sexy visual, you know, album.
So, how do you -- how do you challenge those two on the one hand saying,
OK, you know, those altering images versus just we have a right to
represent our real bodies, our sexy selves?
NEWSOM: Totally. Totally. Really what we`re trying to do with the
representation project is expand the spectrum of humanity for boys and
girls, men and women, so that we`re not limited by thinking there`s only
one stereotype, there`s only one sexuality, there`s only one femininity.
So, that`s what really what we`re all about.
And, obviously, the issue is complex and I think at the end of the day we
need to have a larger national conversation around healthy sexuality,
sensuality, eroticism. I do think we need to have, you know, clearly a
larger sex education discourse amongst our youth, give than the media is
sort of in their face 24/7. And then if you want to connect the dots with
violence against women, clearly and I`m making a big leap here, but clearly
there needs to be more of a national conversation, understanding amongst
boys and men that no really means no.
So I think the good news is that we`re in the beginning of having these
conversations and part of the reason we put out these videos and the
success of Beyonce really is that we can have these conversations. And so,
you know, good for you for bringing this all together today.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Farah, let me ask you about this. Some of the images we
saw while Jennifer was talking were from the "Pretty Hurts" video, which is
from this new album Beyonce just dropped.
And, you know, there were these moments in it when she is looking at the
camera and she`s performing what we think of as the normal Beyonce face,
that kind of big, wide-eyed smile and suddenly, I had this discomfort and
thought, my gosh, she`s always just performing that, this idea that pretty
hurts. It`s like she`s telling us that.
On the other hand, the woman is extraordinarily beautiful and so it`s a
little tough to hear this like pretty hurts from someone who is that
GRIFFIN: Well, I think that, you know, it`s the performance of pretty that
hurts. Right? I think, you know, so many women are naturally beautiful
and don`t realize how beautiful they are, and yet they`re made to perform a
certain notion, someone else`s notion of beauty and it`s a bind that young
women particularly not just entertainers find themselves in but young women
find themselves in all the time.
So, natural beauty -- no, that might not hurt. But the performance for
someone else`s desire can be painful.
HARRIS-PERRY: Can be painful.
VALENTI: This is my favorite video by far. You know, she starts the album
off, and this is someone who`s constructed sort of this iconic almost
superhuman persona, but she starts it off in this vulnerable place. You
see her waxing her mustache, throwing up in a bathroom stall, getting Botox
sort of bringing herself down to this human level and not holding herself
above the other women in the video and I think that way she`s sort of
acknowledging yes, she is held to patriarchal standards as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a lot of Beyonce vulnerability that we see here. I
mean, you know, there`s a moment she`s looking back at it, like looking
back at her own physical self but she`s also looking back at her life.
There are all of these citational moments as Daphney Brooks might say,
looking back at her own early failures as a reminder to all of us that, you
know, destiny`s child didn`t win the first talent contest yet here she is
and that`s something you can relate to.
GILES: Of course. I think what`s really lovely is in a way this to me was
real example of empowerment. Sometimes I see things that Beyonce did as
hyper-sexualized and I wasn`t sure -- whether it was just something to be
kind of outrageous and sexy or whether it was a woman saying she owns and
controls her own body. I`ve always been confused about that. But this was
HARRIS-PERRY: She got real --
GILES: Portrayal of all of it, warts and all. And you saw this whole
thought of education, which I love. I love.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us. We`ve got more on Beyonce.
Jennifer Seibel Newsom, thank you so much for joining us.
When we come back, exactly Nancy`s point, which is this question about when
you know someone is self-empowering. We`ll talk about twerking to teach a
lesson about feminism. I`m not kidding. You want to stay with us and meet
this young woman who is a twerking scholar, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Many of you might remember Juicy J Oscar night 2006 when he
and his fellow members of the Southern hip-hop group Three 6 Mafia accepted
the Academy Award for best original song for "It`s hard out here for a
pimp", from the film "Hustle and Flow."
But more recently, Juicy J has fashioned himself a philanthropist of sorts,
when he offered a $50,000 college scholarship student. I had to admit I
was a bit distressed about the single requirement for applicants to the
scholarship -- film a video of yourself twerking and send it to the Juicy J
song called "Scholarship."
But my distress turned to delight when at my gender sexuality and hip-hop
conference last week, Professor (INAUDIBLE) of Ohio State University
highlighted how one of those students used her video application to teach a
lesson in feminism. And why she`s not just a twerker but a twerk scholar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m not just a twerker. And I`m not just here for
your hypersexual compunction. I am an intellectual. I am an artist. I`m
a student. And I`m a teacher. I`m a motivator and encourager and a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The young woman who submitted that video twerk scholar and
University of Texas student Kimari Carter is joining me now from Austin,
Nice to have you Kimari.
KIMARI CARTER, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS STUDENT: Hi. Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Tell me your story a little bit. Why did you
enter the juicy J twerk scholarship?
CARTER: Well, I was coming back, returning from a study abroad program I
got to do this summer in Nicaragua where I studied politics and culture of
afro-Caribbeans. And during that time I studied, I did ethnographic
research, independent research, along with studying the politics and
culture of Afro-Caribbeans focusing on the ways that twerking can be
empowering for (INAUDIBLE).
And it was an amazing experience because I got to see that they do twerk in
another part of the world, and once I got back from that program and
returned to the U.S., everywhere I looked all on the screens and the
airports is Miley Cyrus twerking. I was, like, whoa, talk about culture
shock. This is crazy. This is a revolution of twerking now. Everybody
knows about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Kimari, I want to get in on this a little bit because
you were talking about going and studying twerk in a foreign culture, but
part of what I was interested in hearing is you talked about the fact that
in your own experience you`d had to do work as an exotic dancer in order to
help to pay for college. And so this was you being empowered to do what
you had to do to do for your schooling, but then were having trouble
finding folks on campus to respect you as the intellectual and the feminist
and the student leader that you are.
CARTER: Right. I`m very active on the University of Texas at Austin in
the black community because there`s not a very large percentage of black
students at U.T., and coming from a majority black high school or not
majority black environment and coming to U.T. I was very intimidated.
And I had to -- I wanted to immerse myself in the community and make
friends and be accepted by my peers like everybody would like to be. And
when I fist got to U.T., a lot of students were hearing about me or --
CARTER: -- you know, hearing in rumors oh, so you`re Kimari. I just felt
like I had to prove myself and defend myself. And I became a part of every
black organization at the University of Texas and a really strong community
I was a political action chair of the Black Student Alliance last year.
And I just -- I participated in everything.
HARRIS-PERRY: So --
CARTER: When I heard about this opportunity I had to take it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Pause for me real quick because I want to bring in Farah
Griffin for a moment.
So, Farah, so much of your work is around -- so part of what we love about
Kimari`s story, she`s clearly talented and the video she made was
extraordinary in her dancing skills, as well as her analytic skills, yet
she was managing and coping with questions of shame.
And I wonder about sort of how sort of, how within our communities
racialized or not we can make sure we`re not shaming young women for being
part of what is international cultural ways of presenting ourselves and our
GRIFFIN: No one`s more eloquent about shame than you have, Melissa, but
one of the things Kimari says that is fascinating is she can educate us
that twerking -- part of the problem is that twerking that became so pop
you lawyer with Miley Cyrus is taken out of context. And here`s a young
woman, I think most black Americans think of it in the context of an over-
sexualized dance in a strip club.
She`s saying no, it`s actually cultural. There`s this whole cultural
context that goes meaning to it beyond its commodification.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kimari in Austin, Texas, we`ve got to go but I want to
suggest two things. First thing is you`ve got to watch, if you haven`t
seen it yet, Beyonce`s video "Blue" because she`s doing the same work that
you were doing.
CARTER: I just watched it this morning.
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you see it when she`s in Brazil and she`s learning the
whole twerk culture?
CARTER: I did, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: So who knows maybe she`ll send money far scholarship, but
also I want you to know that your video became so central in our gender
sexuality and feminism conference and my bet is that if you contact
Professor Lindsey at Ohio State, maybe if you`re at all interested in
graduate study, I just know somebody who totally gets you there.
CARTER: OK. Great. Thank you so much. I appreciate that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much. Kimari Carter in Austin, Texas, and
Farah Griffin at the table. Thanks for being with us. Everybody else is
going to hang out with us a little longer.
I still want to ask David Cay Johnson if sex sells, who is selling and what
are they selling?
And I also want to talk to Jessica about this new thing they`re selling in
Michigan called "rape insurance", when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: A new measure approved Wednesday by the Michigan legislature
requires women covering most private and all public health plans to
purchase additional insurance to cover the cost of most abortions, coverage
that would have to be added before, not after a woman ever knows whether or
not she will desire to have the procedure done.
The only exception is when an abortion is needed to protect the life of the
mother, which means that to obey the law, women would have to plan for an
The new policy has been labeled by some as rape insurance because of the
possibility of needing to terminate unwanted pregnancy resulting from a
sexual assault. After Michigan`s Republican Governor Rick Snyder vetoed
similar legislation last year, the organization Right to Life of Michigan
reintroduced the bill to a citizens petition. According to Michigan law,
that means it can`t be blocked by the governor`s veto, and it can become
law without his signature.
The law is set to take effect 90 days after Michigan`s lawmakers adjourn
for the year.
So, Jessica, we`ve been having kind of a good time, talking about women`s
sexual empowerment and the whole idea of cultural representations, but how
can one be sexually empowered or personally empowered with these kinds of
VALENTI: I think it`s really difficult and near impossible. The rape
insurance bill I think is just one of the latest. It`s worth pointing out
actually that Michigan is the ninth state to do this, to put these
restrictions on private insurance companies and whether or not they can
But I think -- and, you know, I wrote an article about this -- I have a
real issue with the term "rape insurance." You know, I understand why it`s
taken off. It`s very media friendly. The policy is, in fact, very
terrible and awful for rape victims.
But I think when we focus on rape and the most extreme stories, we really
run the risk of creating this hierarchy of acceptable and unacceptable
abortions and women who are deserving of care and coverage and women who
are not. I think it just increases that stigma.
This point that even as we`re trying to fight for women`s reproductive
rights we end up generating stigma, it`s so present in this particular
case. I want to listen to a Michigan state legislator who was telling her
story from the floor at this moment. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STATE SEN. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: I`m about to tell you something
I`ve not shared with many people in my life. But over 20 years ago I was a
victim of rape. And thank God it didn`t result in a pregnancy, because I
can`t imagine going through what I went through and then having to consider
what to do about an unwanted pregnancy from an attacker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, State Senator Whitmer is incredibly brave in that moment
and yet there`s a part of me that thinks -- why in the world would someone
need to talk about their sexual assault in order to pass legislation? Like
there`s a part of me that also feels like we have just re-traumatized, made
her vulnerable again in that moment.
GILES: So unfair. That`s why I`ve been in therapy for many years is the
issue of fairness. Really. It comes up in so many different ways.
Why do women -- it`s so private. This is private. This is a private
decision a woman and her doctor should be able to make, period.
I`m one of those people who can`t understand -- I understand religious
women who feel that -- won`t go down that road, you know. But I just don`t
understand the basic issue of privacy and making one`s own decision. I
feel like women are being punished. I feel like they`re being punished for
having sex, and what you said about the hierarchy, you`re so right, in the
exception of rape or incest. Just shut up about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: I like the language of privacy, David, and I want to play
with it in connection to the things we`ve been talking about around popular
culture and the representation of women`s bodies which are off son not
So, on the one hand we have way in which you can empower yourself through a
Beyonce moment or you`re disempowered through the representation of women`s
bodies being very public and it feels almost like that public-ness of
women`s bodies is part of why people think they can then make policy about
JOHNSTON: I think it`s actually deeper and more disturbing than that. You
know, this is part of the Republican promise of less government in your
life? I mean, this is absurd.
HARRIS-PERRY: Regulating a marketplace.
JOHNSTON: And it reflects a profound misunderstanding of human beings and
of their lives. And, you know, I`m somebody who`s been confronted with
these issues several times in my life, including, you know, if things go
badly, who do you -- what`s your religious doctrine or view, do you save
the mother or the child? I assure you that anybody confronted with those
decisions, no matter how shallow they are in life, has to think very deeply
And this is -- government has no place being here. And I don`t care if the
market out there for selling sexuality is distorting our understanding.
People elected to office should know better than this.
HARRIS-PERRY: David, can I just say how much I appreciate what you just
said? I was screaming and yelling yesterday saying, OK, I am so
appreciative of this state senator, but why the hell are there no men
talking about this? Because men are intimate with women who are rape
survivors, who have had abortion. They have made these kinds of decisions.
Why is it the only women lawmakers making these personal claims?
JOHNSTON: Well, there are some men who talk about this, and they`re hard
to find. For example, the military officer who was raped by her superior,
her husband was very eloquent about these issues, and there have been some
The news media tends to pick women doing this. And that`s part of the
exploitive rather than explanatory side of journalism. You know, that`s
one of the things we should be very concerned about is the kind of
Murdochian news that is designed to exploit rather than explain.
But this development, you know, I covered the Michigan legislator for three
years when I worked for the "Detroit Free Press" back in the `70s. If you
had brought up this bill in the `70s, I assure you it would have gotten
zero to one vote.
HARRIS-PERRY: Fascinating, fascinating.
JOHNSTON: It`s a big change, in the second place.
HARRIS-PERRY: That in those 40 years actually now become easier to pass.
Jessica Valenti, Nancy Giles and David Cay Johnston turning Murdoch into a
verb -- there you go -- thank you.
Up next, a little Christmastime controversy that I`m going to take just a
moment to weigh in on. It`s my letter after the break.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, the debate about Santa got heated -- not the
existential discussion about the big man`s existence, the other Santa
discussion, the one about his race.
This week, Aisha Harris writing for Slate.com called for us to re-imagine
Santa Claus, casting him not as a jolly white man but as a friendly de-
Then during a discussion about the column, Megyn Kelly of FOX News said
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, FOX NEWS: By the way, for all you kids watching at home,
Santa just is white, but this person is arguing that maybe we should also
have a black Santa. But, you know, Santa is what he is, and just so you
know, we`re just debating this because someone wrote about it, kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, both Harris` initial penguin Santa proposal and Kelly`s
racialized Santa angst prompted enormous public backlash so much so that
last night Kelly responded on air, pointing out that the segment was
comedic and arguing that the over the top responses are reminds that even
when we`re talking about the lighthearted, the satirical, the magical, and
the admittedly imaginary, racial symbols are still powerful and
provocative. Yes, I hear you on that one, Megyn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY: For me the fact that an offhand jest I made during a segment about
whether Santa should be replaced by a penguin has now become a national
firestorm says two things -- race is still an incredibly volatile issue in
this country and FOX News and yours truly are big targets for many people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So give than I know a little something about how
awful it is to have a cable news host unwittingly launch an army of angry
trolls in your direction, this is not a letter to Megyn Kelly. I thought
I`d address my letter to the man who`s used to getting an awful lot of mail
this time of year:
Dear Santa, it`s me, Melissa. I`m not writing to appeal my placement on
the naughty list but to rather to make an early appeal. I think we`re
going need you before December 24th.
Now, I know it`s a busy time of year but we need to settle a little debate
that`s emerged asking, are you white, are you black, when you come in from
the North Pole? Do you have a legal visa or are you undocumented?
Your whole story which is supposed to be universal can leave plenty of kids
feeling distressed this time of year. Can you find a kid if he lives in an
apartment building not a house without a chimney? Can you find her in a
Why do you leave so many more trees under the big trees in the wealthy
neighborhood and so few under the trees in the poor communities? Are the
kids with unemployed parents on the naughty list?
Growing up in a household with one white parent and one black parent and
three siblings who were black and one who was white and me with a bit of
both, no one made up stories about Santa is the color of the people in the
house he visits. I mean, you would have been technical rainbow at 413-B
where I grew up.
I know that when you put dolls under the tree you knew that I need one that
looked like me. And my big sister needed one that looked like her too. I
know that you have inspired cultural artists such as Run-DMC.
Santa, come to think of it, you`re a lot like our country itself. You`re
as universal and encompassing or as narrow and exclusionary as we imagine
you to be.
So if we cannot imagine you as racially different from ourselves it`s
because our minds are stunted by a history that still can`t fathom
benevolence and kindness and intimacy in the bodies of those who are not
like us. If we still doubt that you can embody every possibility of racial
being, it is because we do not yet believe that every racial body is
capable of making our sugar plum dreams come true.
If we can`t imagine Santa across the racial divide, no wonder we have
trouble creating an America without a racial divide.
So, Santa, maybe this year, you can leave just a little more racial
imagination and tolerance in our Christmas stockings. Maybe you canes us a
little bit more sense of satire, help us to be a little slower to judge,
and give us the tools to have more empathy for one another. Because if we
as a nation can become polarized over you, we`re going to need a lot more
than candy canes this time of year.
Oh, P.S., Parker says she`s waiting up for you this year.
HARRIS-PERRY: Here in New York City, nearly 4,000 kids ended up in prison
last year -- and by kids, I mean children under the age of 16. Even when
they get out in New York state, two-thirds of kids released will be
rearrested within two years. Eight out of every ten girls and nine of
every ten boys will be rearrested before they are 28.
Our foot soldier this week is taking a stand against those deplorable
statistics. Jordyn Lexton spent three years teaching teenagers in the
Rikers adolescent facility. Of the 13,000 students she taught during that
time, over 600 of them cycled back into Rikers. Tried to change that,
Jordyn shifted from the classroom to the kitchen to try to change that or
more specifically to the food truck.
Her organization Drive Change is now training and employing formerly
incarcerated youth to run food trucks in New York City, giving kids the
chance at a job and hopefully a better future.
Jordyn Lexton is here with me now along with her head chef, Roy Waterman,
who himself was incarcerated when he was just 19. He is now the owner of
his own catering company.
Thank you both for being here.
JORDYN LEXTON, FOUNDER, DRIVE CHANGE: Such a pleasure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jordyn, tell me why food trucks, of all the possibilities?
LEXTON: So, as a teacher on Rikers Island, I was working with adolescents
who were treated as adults in the criminal justice system. New York is one
of two states, North Carolina the other, that automatically arrested 16-
year-olds as adults. And I watched my students recycle back into the
And there was a culinary arts class in one of the school programs. There
was this is amazing amount of pride young people had preparing their own
food, serving food. It stuck with me. It really stuck with me the whole
time I was teaching there. And I thought I want to start a business where
I can provide my students who are all too frequently recycling back into
the system with the opportunities for employment and transferable skilled
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Jordyn, that point about food and where I want to come
to you as a chef, that resonates absolutely with me. Maybe because I live
New Orleans and we are a food city. That idea of taking particular pride
in crafting something that is beautiful, that is nourishing, that is maybe
surprising for a young person to be able to make, is that why food connects
ROY WATERMAN, CHEF: Yes, pretty much. Food transcends everything. Race
divide, any sort of discrimination, people have towards each other. Food
happens to bring everybody together.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, it`s an interesting point. I think again about New
HARRIS-PERRY: People make different kinds of gumbo, but when you eat
someone`s gumbo, you`re part of their table.
LEXTON: The shared meal. It`s a really powerful thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jordyn, one of the things that I read about your goals for
Drive Change is you said beyond the program itself, you want to change
perceptions when people are thinking about what it means to be formally
incarcerated. So, less sort of what we think about the formally
incarcerated than what they think about themselves. How does this do that?
LEXTON: It`s a combination of both really. It`s the customer experience
and also the experience of the young person in our program. Food trucks
are visible, they`re mobile, they`re out there.
So, the idea of doing a food truck is such benefit to have that interaction
with the community at large. We`re giving people the opportunity to really
interact with the young people in our program face to face. And to have
that with the source of this beautiful food that you see in front of you as
something that`s going to hopefully dispel that preconceived notion of what
it means to be a formally incarcerated young person.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And you`re taking -- you`re taking the young people
to them. You`re not waiting for the community to come in.
LEXTON: Exactly, exactly.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me when you are working with these young people, when
you`re training them in the culinary arts, what are the biggest challenges
that you run into?
WATERMAN: I think just basically to just understand that don`t get caught
in the here and now. I think as a whole, young people, we tend to fall
into the here and now and not look at the big picture. We get caught up on
seeing things, attracted to things, things sometimes that aren`t good for
us and then we do foolish things to then attain those things.
I think it`s always about keeping to the forefront, listen, understand,
you`re only 16, 17, 18 now, but 10 years from now, you will be looking for
a career. You`ll be looking to get married. It`s all about partnering
with our young people to continue to just keep them focused and change
society`s perception of what formal incarcerated young people are or how
they should act or how they should carry themselves.
HARRIS-PERRY: Like all 16-year-olds have a hard time seeing the future,
but the stakes are so much higher for young people incarcerated.
LEXTON: So, the future is a daunting thing for anyone. It`s a daunting
thing for me and I`ve had the access to opportunity my whole life. Just to
think about how daunting the future is for somebody who at age 16 is
already leaving with the possibility of having an adult criminal record, we
really want to broaden those channels to access and broaden those channels
to opportunity for youth, so that they can go on and live crime-free bright
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Jordyn and Roy, thank you not only for being here and
your work as food soldiers but for bringing food to Nerdland. You
undoubtedly get rebooked for bringing foods because the nerds like that.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to all of you at home today for
watching. I`m going to see you again tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Writer, poet, activist, and educator, the great Nikki Giovanni will be
here. She`s going to be ego-tripping.
Now, it`s time for a 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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