'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, April 20th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
April 20, 2014
Guests: Ron Christie, Tara Dowdell, Julian Zelizer, Tanner Colby, Rob
Breymaier, James Perry, Rob Breymaier, Dorothy Brown, Tanner Colby, Julian
Marshall, Karen Finney, Tara Dowdell, Pearl Cleage
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, how do you
keep neighborhoods integrated?
Plus how race affects even the air you breathe?
And the troubling behavior some girls now seem as normal.
But first, will the Democrats be able to flip this house?
Happy Easter! I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Get ready nerds, there are 198 days until Election Day 2014. And I hope
you`re planning to vote. But many Americans, actually most Americans who
are eligible to vote are not going to cast a ballot because this is a
midterm election year with 507 congressional and Senate and gubernatorial
elections but not the big juicy commander in chief race. And this is how
it usually goes.
Older people, white people come out to the polls in big numbers, juicy race
or not. But young voters and minority voters, they are going to come out
not in big numbers that they did in the presidential years, but much less
so because it`s midterm.
Let`s take a look at the youngest voters. More than 50 percent of voters
18 to 29 went to the polls in 2008. And two-thirds voted for President
Obama. But in 2010, only 24 percent of voters 18 to 29 turned out, less
than half the numbers of `08. And they were right back up to 45 percent in
But take a look at the older voters. Those are over 65, turned out at a
rate of 70 percent in 2008, 72 percent in 2012. And in between, well the
number dropped, but only to 61 percent. And they vote Republican, 56 to
Now let`s take a look at white voters. Now, we know they also tend to vote
Republican, 59 percent of white voters chose Romney in 2012. And their
turnout rate which is in the mid 60s in the presidential year, dropped to
49 percent in 2010. But it did not drop as far as the turnout of voters of
color. African-American voters came out at a rate of just 44 percent in
2010 whereas in 2012, 66 percent of African-American voters came out to
cast that vote. Latinos voted at a rate of 31 percent in the 2010 midterms
compared that to 48 percent in 2012. And African-Americans voted 93
percent for President Obama in 2012. Latinos voted 71 percent for the
So, here is the deal, all the numbers, any way you slice it, midterms are
looking good for Republicans because, well, their people show up to the
polls and Democratic voters not so much. But don`t take our word for it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And the other side knows
that. And they`re models are constructed based on the idea that Americans
will sit out this election. Because they look at the past and in the past
it`s true. A lot of Democrats don`t vote during midterms. We just don`t.
Young people, African-Americans, Latinos, we just often times don`t vote
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, the midterms are not really just about ideology or
political party or policy. They are here about turnout. The politicians
are not trying to change your mind. They`re just trying to get your bodies
to the polls. But it`s hard. Maybe the midterms don`t seem as important
or exciting as the election. It`s hard to think of electing one
representative as something to change the country especially when you see
how downright depressing Congress can be.
But try thinking of it this way. It`s kind of like flipping a house. No,
I really mean a real house. You do a whole lot of little things. You
replace the counter tops. You add crown molding. You refinish the floors.
It all adds up to something entirely different than where you started.
Now, there are different strategies to house flipping. You can have some
people, let`s call them Republicans who will go into a fallen down,
blighted house, slap on granite counter tops or you are in real problems
and declare the work the best thing ever, the house swagger.
They can say to their voters, that`s right, we blocked every last thing we
could. We shut down the government. We`re still planning to repeal
Obamacare even though we know that would be taking health insurance from
millions of people. We talk a good game.
And then you have the people who will do the more substantial structural
changes. They`ll redo the wiring or reinforce the foundation. But they
won`t do anything to actively and aggressively court buyers or advertise
their work. Try if they might, they can`t make the house look good. You
know, Democrats. You know the same party that passed and defended and
implemented the most sweeping social policy in decades who can say that
millions of people now have affordable health insurance that they didn`t
have before, and they`re not even owning it, no confidence, no swagger, no,
yes, you can`t keep your crappy plans. You dole with that.
Now the president certainly has some of that swagger. Here he is on
Thursday after announcing more than eight million people have signed up for
insurance on the Obamacare exchanges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This thing is working. I don`t think we should apologize for it.
I don`t think we should be defensive about it. I think there`s a strong,
good, right story to tell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But the president is not running. So the question is, can
his swagger challenge fellow Democrats flip the house?
Joining us now is Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public affairs
at Princeton University and author of "Governing America: the revival of
political history," Democratic strategist Tara Dowdell, Ron Christie, the
columnist at "Daily Beast" and the Nerdland guest, #nerdland twitter
followers love to yell at. He is also the former assistant to President
George W. Bush, and Karen Finney, MSNBC host of "Disrupt with Karen
It is so nice to have you all here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Pleasure.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, and this is maybe a little bit unfair, Karen.
But we were kind of -- I mean, you can tell I`ve been looking for houses.
So I`ve been thinking about counter tops and wiring a lot, and crown
molding. The question is, so you know, here you really do have a massive
piece of legislation. And by massive, I mean both, the size of it, but
also the reach, the impact into the American public. And yet, you don`t
seem to have Democrats, other than the president, really taking hold and
saying this is what we`re running on.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC HOST, DISRUPT: Well, actually, I`m going to push back
on that just a little bit. Because I actually think the fact that the
president did that this week. I mean, he needed to show some swagger and
leadership and confidence in the affordable care act. Because that, I
think, Democrats will follow.
Because remember, there have been a few times when, you know, they say we
are going to -- people kind of get out there and then kind of pulls back.
So seeing him, I think, is a positive step.
The other thing that I thought was very positive is this week is you saw in
a number of places when Republicans went home and had to lace their
constituents and said you don`t deserve health care and that is why I`m
going to take it away from you or you don`t deserve an increase in the
minimum wage. I mean, that`s a different conversation.
And I think for Democrats have to stand offense on that conversation,
right? That the Republican message is we`re going to take away your health
care. We don`t think you deserve an increase in your wages. If they can
stand offense on that and not get, you know, sort of sidelined by other
stuff, I actually think Democrats have ha much better shot.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is an important point. And Ron, I want to come to
you on the question of kind of fatigue, like who is tired of talking about
Obamacare. Because the fact this idea that OK, now that it`s been
implemented, eight million people have now signed up for it. So now, it is
not stopping, I think, from being implemented. We actually taking
something away. And yet, when we look at polls, it`s clear that Democrats
overall in the public opinion are saying we have a little bit of fatigue.
We just don`t really want to talk about the Obamacare, ACA question at all
anymore, where as Republicans are still, a majority of them saying no, we
would still like to have the conversation.
RON CHRISTIE, COLUMNIST, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, I don`t think Democrats
want to talk about this, Melissa, because it`s still a wildly unpopular
law. In fact, if you look at recent Pew poll that came out last week, 50
percent of the American people surveyed said that they did not favor
Obamacare, when 37 percent were in approval of it.
So if you look at the promises were made, what were the promises, if you
like your health care, you can keep your health care. If you like your
doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you want to have your health care
costs lowered by 2500, they`re going to go down. All three of these things
have not come true.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, no. I think you`re absolutely right that the law
remains unpopular in public opinion polls, right? That is completely
clear. And it is part of the evidence of, I think, the sort of clarity of
the Republican message over time. I do think we can`t be certain whether
or not that disapproval in public opinion polls is related to any sort of
actual outcomes yet. I mean, I think we just don`t really know that. That
what we do know is the messaging.
CHRISTIE: Of course it`s an outcome. Because the outcome as the matter is
that a lot of people have had their premiums go up. A lot of people have
had their doctors taken away from them. A lot of people have had their
I can say this, Karen, you can say it is not true. My premium has gone up.
My network has changed as a result of the law. So, it didn`t make my life
easier. It didn`t make my costs go down. And that`s the truth for
millions of people, Tara.
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: That`s not the truth for millions of
people. That`s actually called end of one when you cite. Well, you know
this. You cite one example and say this is reflective of everyone else.
There are a lot of people, yes, who have seen their premiums go up. But
guess what, there are more people who have seen their premiums go down, on
balance. Overall the law has been working and the law has been positive.
Now here`s the issue for Democrats. It`s not just about messaging. It`s
message penetration. And Republicans do an amazing job at message
penetration. And this why to your point, Democrats absolutely, Karen, we
need to stay on offense because Ron and his team are going to continue to
say these things again the law, and they`re going to say the exact same
things over and over again, and that penetrates k which is why Democrats
have to have message penetration on the facts.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So what I`ve heard from all three of you is the
belief that the message matters, that the campaign actually matters.
But I want to just suggest the possibility that it doesn`t, that all that
really matters is turnout, so that whether ACA pass or anything else.
So Julian, I just want to ask, when we look at for example the youth gap,
right, and we say young people predominantly supported the president. That
is actually turned out as the race gap, that it`s actually young people of
color who supported President Obama, whereas young people who were white
were more likely to vote for Mitt Romney. So we can look and see the age
gap is also sort of a race gap.
Then we look at the folks who actually signed up for Obamacare. They tend
to be young people. They also tend to be people of color. So the
provisions of the Affordable Care Act are expected to provide as many as 41
million uninsured individuals. Almost half are members of ethnic and rich
And then final thing I want to show you her is, but "New York Times" today
reporting that those are precisely the groups, right, who will not likely
turn out, simply because they just don`t turn out in midterms, right?
Again, saying that they`re confronting this vexing reality that young
people minorities are the least likely to turn out.
So does it actually matter that these people just got the affordable care
act, and yet are also least likely to show up.
JULIAN ZELIZER, PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: It might not. This might
be one of those government benefits that take time to seep in. There`s a
connection between the coalition that Obama won on in 2008 and 2012, which
is a fragile coalition. It`s a coalition of people who are not going to be
big midterm participants and the beneficiaries of the program who are
feeling it the most immediately including Medicaid beneficiaries are not
the biggest voters in the midterm.
So, it`s an odd thing where you have a huge social program. Part of it is
controversy. But part of it is the nature and the beneficiary group which
isn`t the strongest midterm electoral constituency.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with me. I promise, we have much, much more. We have
a lot of 2014.
But up next, we`re going to look specifically at a Republican candidate who
is trying to flip the script. I am really interested in what happened if a
different kind of Republican ends up getting elected? We`ll also stay on
more of this ACA question.
But first, before we go to break, I do want to update you on the South
Korea ferry disaster. The death toll has risen to at least 52. It`s
expected to escalate quickly from this point forward. More than 250 people
are still missing. Most of them, high school students who had been on a
holiday trip, but five days after the ferry sunk the hope of finding more
survivors is fading. The boat`s captain is defending his decision to delay
evacuating the sinking ferry citing rough waters and a lack of ferryboats.
He`s accused of abandoning the ship and passengers among other charges.
We will be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: As we talk about Republicans running against the affordable
care act, I want to look at one in particular, Richard Tisei who is
challenging a Democrat incumbent for the sixth district seat for
Massachusetts. Now a Republican running against Obamacare isn`t
particularly anything special, but Tisei is running in the state whose own
health care law inspired Obamacare. He`s also pro-choice, pro-marriage
equality and openly gay. In fact, he would be the first openly gay
Republican elected to Congress.
Tisei narrowly lost to the incumbent John Tierney in 2012 in a close vote
of a 46 percent to 45 percent, and the rematch is shaping up to be just as
close. An Emerson College poll this month found the two deadlocked at just
under 44 percent of the vote.
So the Tisei-Tierney matchup is fascinating to me, in part because here`s
somebody who in many ways is a Democrat, right? I mean, he`s a
Massachusetts you know, pro-marriage equality, pro-choice, but, his key
issue is Obamacare in the state that created it in certain ways.
FINNEY: Right. Well, I mean, look, in the state that created it, they
have a much longer bit of knowledge and experience. I think this is the
other thing I wanted to say about the affordable care act. It`s not just
the issue per se, but it is the more the people have the experience of
having health care. The deeper the experience becomes, the more time
you`ve experienced the positive benefits, the more wedded to it you`re
going to become. And so, I think that`s the challenge there. And I think
in particularly in Massachusetts, yes, it`s been working for people for,
right, a while.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, he`s extremely close running against it.
ZELIZER: You`ve heard for a long time, boy, if Republicans could have
socially liberal candidates who are conservative on regulations, they would
do well. And here is the guy testing it. And he is testing it in a blue
state. And I think he`s winning some independents, not necessary for all
his positions but for the excitement of a Republican who doesn`t look like
the standards national Republican.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, are Republicans better at this about making sure that
there`s no uncontested seat. You know, it`s consistently felt, I mean, the
very idea of running in Massachusetts in the sixth, running again after
having lost just two years ago, it does feels like they were kind of I
don`t think if this is a safe seat. I`m nonetheless going to run.
CHRISTIE: Yes, I think that`s exactly right. And I think Republicans want
to be competitive the all the seats that we have available to us. And you
look at this particular candidate, Melissa, and I look at this guy and say
great. If we can find diversity in our party and we don`t always have to
deal with the divisive social issues, fine.
But actually, listen what he says. He says I want the government out of my
wallet. I want them off my back. And I want them to be rid of the
regulations that are crippling businesses. I think that`s a strong message
for a Republican to run on. And the fact that he is pro-choice, gay, and
is a little more liberal on social issues, God bless him.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so this is fascinating. Because there is within
the Democratic Party an experience of having different perspectives on
social policy. I live right now in Louisiana, although, I`m house hunting
in North Carolina. And you know, we are the home of blue dog Mary Landrieu
who is in trouble right now, right?
So this idea if only we could find a Republican who is a little bit
different than -- so here is Mary Landrieu. She is a democrat different
than other Democrats. But it`s not creating a good situation. It`s
creating a really tough one for this incumbent.
DOWDELL: Absolutely. Well, here is the thing about Massachusetts. I want
to just say something about it. All politics is local. This candidate to
say is actually very popular locally. He`s been for a while. He has been
in the state Senate for a long time. So I think Democrats, I guess, have
to have a national message and has to be consistent and aggressive in
delivering that message and doing it over and over again. When you look at
the Republicans, you know, you ask them what they had for breakfast and
they say Benghazi.
So I think we need to say minimum wage, minimum wage. We`ll raise the
minimum wage. We have to have that level of discipline every time we
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that`s not a small point.
As you pointed earlier, Ron, Kaiser family poll like the Gallup poll you
cited is showing -- Pew poll, I`m sorry, that you cited is showing that
Obamacare is -- remains unpopular. Nearly half of folks saying it is not.
They don`t have a favorable opinion of it.
But you ask them about minimum wage, and suddenly you have not only support
of Democrats. You have you also have support of Republicans. And this is
a Gallup poll showing a support, even 58 percent of Republicans and 78
percent of folks overall. But do you run on a national message if all
politics are local?
ZELIZER: Well, the minimum wage is an issue. It is incredibly powerful
for Democrats. Not only it`s a powerful, it is an immediate benefit. You
know, the problem with health care is always going to be a difficult
program because it is kind of Jerry built. It`s through exchanges. And it
has benefits, but that is hard to sell. The minimum wage, your salary goes
up. I know a lot of small business opposes that. But a lot of voters are
registering. This is a popular issue. And Democrats need to hammer away
in the same way Republicans are aggressive with their issues or they`re
just going to be the party of not being the Republicans.
DOWDELL: And minimum wage is local. It is national and it is local. If
you look at, when you go state by state, when it`s a ballot initiative,
Democrats win in those states when it has been asked about.
HARRIS-PERRY: But do you think it actually turns people out?
HARRIS-PERRY: You think folks who would not normally come out for an off`s
year election show up?
FINNEY: This is part of the thing, right? So there is the minimum wage on
a number of ballot issues. It may turn people out. But the biggest
problems Democrats have in the midterm elections is they don`t spend the
money and resources all year round to turn people out. And we don`t have
the same, you know, dog whistle of Benghazi, right? We just don`t. We say
things like we want to raise the minimum wage.
HARRIS-PERRY: We had one in 2012 and that was war on women, right? So
Democrats really effectively used war on women and took any -- I mean, some
of it was very real policy. And some of it was slips of gas, right? But
they effectively created this narrative.
CHRISTIE: Let me say something here.
HARRIS-PERRY: I promise, I promise I`m not cutting you off because we
disagree ideologically, but only because we have that commercial. I`m
going to come right back to you first. I promise.
Up next, the Democrat challenging the Republican congressman who won the
seat by one-third of one percent of the vote.
But first, we asked you to send in pictures of your little ones dressed in
your spring finest. So we`re happy to share with you some of this Sunday`s
babes in nerd land.
We are going to be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And the Republicans say this. One top Republican in one state
assembly said a lot of minorities and a lot of younger people said they
will not turn out in a nonpresidential year. It`s a great year for
Republicans. That`s a quote. It`s a great year for Republicans. A whole
bunch of people aren`t voting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama back on February 28th talking about
Nevada state assembly person pat hickey who told a radio station back in
September probably where we had a million voters turn out in 2012, we`ll
have like 700,000. A lot of minorities and younger people will not vote in
a non-presidential election year. It`s a great year for Republicans.
So I mean, I`m going to let you pick up where you were, but that notion
that decreased in turnout is good for a political party, I mean, should we
be troubled by the idea that one political party does better when fewer
people show up?
CHRISTIE: No, we shouldn`t. I think all Americans should have the ability
to vote. And all Americans should go out and exercise the right to vote.
The fact of the matter is that minorities and younger folks don`t come out
in this off presidential years. And I think we should find ways to
galvanize their vote.
I as a Republican want as many of people, people of color and younger
people to come out and vote and I would think the same for Democrats. So
we think we can win on the issues. And I want more people coming out to do
HARRIS-PERRY: So I`m not saying it creates the politics, but it simply
creates in incentive to -- and one can suppress through policy or simply by
-- there`s a set of thing. It actually creates an incentive to have people
CHRISTIE: That`s true. But I think the Democrats, and Karen eluded this
is the last segment, I think the Democrats traditionally have not had as
good ground game in getting people to vote.
FINNEY: And I think there is two parts of this though. So, Democrats need
a better ground game and doing a better job and I think they are doing it
this year of reaching out to women, of reaching out to young people on the
issues that they care about.
I disagree about nationalizing the election because I think when you`re
running for Congress. It`s about your district. It`s about what issue is
going to resonate, and how do you talk about that issue? But the flip
side, let`s not forget, is that while we`re trying to get people out, the
Republicans are trying to still depress the vote with voter suppression
tactics. And we are seeing it --
CHRISTIE: That`s absolutely false.
CHRISTIE: Yes, really?
Yes, I do. I think the notion that having a voter I.D. specifically
targeted at people of color. And so, people of color --
FINNEY: I`m talking about both --
CHRISTIE: The notion that people are too stupid because they are an ethnic
minority to go out and vote.
FINNEY: It has nothing to do with people are stupid. Have you read the
Supreme Court case?
HARRIS-PERRY: So I love watching you all do that because it`s good TV.
But that said, I think there`s a sort of set of questions about the ways in
which we can demonstrate empirically that it has an impact on communities
who are most likely to vote Democratic without thinking that anyone is
stupid, right. It simply has to do with these populations, these
demographics that we`ve shown and the ways in which we know that both
employment and circumstances of poverty. Circumstances of where polls are
placed within urban areas, which is part of what we saw in Ohio and what we
know about the availability of extra resources. It doesn`t require anybody
to be stupid to have that effect.
But it also seems to me that sometimes Democrats are not doing a good job
at the national level of figuring out how to make the local campaigns
operate best. So not necessarily nationalizing the issue, but saying OK,
here`s the gubernatorial race in Texas. How do we make Texas work for us,
right? And as we are making the national party do the work of the local
ZELIZER: Look, part of it is between World War II and 1994, the Democrats
had a master folks around and they only lost two terms, they didn`t control
the house and there was a reason. Organized labor was the heart of the
coalition. And organized labor was mobilized. They made those
connections. They brought the money. They brought the voters out. And
Democrats have lost that. That no longer a key part of the coalition.
And so, all the different constituencies we have don`t have that
organizational clout. And I think that`s a big part of the story of some
of the problems we`ve been talking about with the Democratic Party.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m so glad that -- I mean, just can`t say it enough that
the folks who are knocking those doors, who were getting out, who are
actually moving people to poll, were at one point in American has rewrite
there were the actual machines when they started to fall and then it was
organized labor and there were often African-American church resources and
that sorts of things.
We were talking in the makeup room earlier before the show about the kind
untapped Asian-American vote that could be critical, for example, in
Virginia. In the Senate race in Virginia where we know it seemed to have a
made a big difference in some earlier statewide races and yet asking have
Democrats figured out how to find South Asian and East Asian communities
and get them consistently to the polls for Democrats.
DOWDELL: Absolutely. I believe that the Asian-American community, in many
ways, is a sleeping giant. In some areas, you see high participation. But
in many areas you actually do not. And so, there`s a district right here
in New Jersey where my former intern is running in the fifth district or
New Jersey. He is a Korean-American. And there are so many Korean-
Americans that population is blossoming in that district, but they don`t
actually vote in the numbers that they need to be voting in to have a real
And so, I think Democrats deed to focus. This is a community as a block
because there is -- it is a diverse community, Asian-American and speaks to
many groups, but as a black, three out four voting for President Obama in
2012. And their participation was higher in 2012 than it was in 2008. And
the issues were aligned. Many have universal health care in the countries
from which they came. So they`re supportive of the affordable care act,
just need more information about it. And many support immigration reform.
And that`s something that you don`t hear enough about. So there`s an
alignment of these issues. And it`s a question of getting to them, talking
to them consistently.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. When we come back, I want to talk about the swing
districts. There`s a few left. And also remember senate races are not
like house races. So when we come back, we`re going to take a look at some
of those issues.
But first, more babes in Nerdland. Yesterday, I tweeted out and old school
pic of my big sis Beth and me. And some of you replied back with some of
your owned great throwback pics.
We`ll be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: The real trouble with midterm elections, at least for us in
the media is we don`t have just one juicy narrative to follow. We have too
many, 435 races for the House of Representatives, at least 40 of them
competitive, 36 races for the Senate and 36 state governor races. We have
to pick and choose individual races to look at.
Take for example the 13th district in Illinois. The freshman incumbent
Republican Rodney Davis is considered vulnerable since he only squeaked by
in 2012 winning his seat with the margin of one-third of one percents of
the vote. And this year the Democrats have a stronger candidate. Former
state judge Anne Callis who has been their first choice to run against
Davis in 2012.
Callis won the democratic primary this year with the support of Illinois
senator Dick Durbin, and the House`s Democratic campaign committee, labor
unions and other powerful members of the establishment. She is expected to
give Davis a run for his money.
So Julian, what I love about this particular district is that it`s a true
swing district. I mean, it is razor sharp, which is something we don`t see
in much of the rest of the country as a result of redistricting in 2010.
Would we be better served in general if we had more districts like this?
ZELIZER: Sure. You want some competition, you want some movement, you
want districts where both parties compete, rather than just a primary where
in either party you`re kind of pushing o the extreme. This is a good case
where because of this, Callis was able to introduce all these issues we are
talking about, equal pay, minimum wage, a lot of economic issues that
otherwise haven`t deserve a lot of attention. But this is healthy for
American democracy. We do want competition in these midterms and don`t
want just a wave of incumbents constantly winning if they survive their
HARRIS-PERRY: And it seems to that the competiveness also is part of what
drives people to the polls. So, part of it is contact the labor union as
somebody knocking on the door, but it is also the belief that my one vote
will actually make a difference.
FINNEY: Absolutely. And that`s part of why people thoughts are so
disconnected from the process. But you know, it`s also about going out
there and selling your ideas, but also (INAUDIBLE). This is part of the
thing I`m proud of my party for finally realizing. You can`t just show up
two weeks before the election and hand out some fliers and think OK, that`s
going to do it. And I think with the Obama campaign in 2008, he changed
the nature and the face of the electorate which means now the challenge for
Democrats is OK, we have Asian-Americans that are a voting bloc. Latinos
are a voting bloc. What are we saying about immigration?
We have, you know, African-Americans and women are powerful voting blocs.
And so, I think part of what`s happened from the time when it was labor is
that the nature of the electorate has expanded and changed, at least for
the democratic side. And so, that means, you have to be ready and willing
to figure out how am I going to talk to that group of people and to talk
about that they want to hear, what they need to know.
HARRIS-PERRY: So -- yes?
CHRISTIE: I was going to say wait for it. I actually agree she is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Plus, the twitter is going crazy.
CHRISTIE: No. I think she is absolutely right. And to Julian`s point, I
think if you look at my beloved home state, California, I think that we
have adopted out in California is you have the top two vote gaters in that
district, and then they go onto the general election. And I think people
actually recognize, my vote does make a difference. And you have people
knocking on their doors. You have Republicans, democrats, Independents
actually actively soliciting the vote. And I think that`s what we sorely
need and is missing in the political system.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. It also feels to me like part of what happens in this
moment, just before we are ramping up for another presidential election is
both parties are also going to start looking at very particular races as
potentially telling them something about the future, right?
So Democrats and Republicans both care about what happens at Virginia
gubernatorial race. And it seems to me Democrats are looking very
carefully what is happening in those Florida congressional races.
Any predictions for you guys on Virginia or any of the Florida races? I
know it`s very early.
ZELIZER: Well, the big one happened already. It was a special election on
the 13th. And Democrats thought they would win that. And it was a big
test and they lost. And I think that is part of why a lot of Democrats is
still scared about ACA. There is another election there. And the
Democrats don`t know who they`re going to run. It`s unclear. And so
that`s a case where Democrats have to show they are on top of this, not
just for 2014, but for the subsequent election in 2016. They can`t let a
seat like this go. Otherwise it`s not a good sign.
DOWDELL: And that was that turnout issue. That was a very low turnout
issue. And I think that`s the lesson and this going to be learned from the
I think, again, while I think we should have a national message in terms of
pushing back on things that are false, we should be on the offensive on
things that are false. But at the same time, I think all politics are
local. And I think that Democrats need to focus and drill down locally in
a way that we haven`t done in recent time. And I think you can`t take any
district for granted. I always say that.
We were blindsided in 2010. People can say what they want. But a lot of
people are blindsided. There was an expectation that we wouldn`t get hit
that hard and we got -- it was tsunami.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, I think the point that there was still sort of this
moment -- I mean, it seems though from the words, all the way forward to
mid 90s, it was almost a truism that Democrats ran the house. And it is
almost like it`s taken the party a decade to go, oh, oh yes, no.
That`s going to be hard.
Thanks to Julian and to Ron. Tara and Karen are sticking around.
But up next, the secession with you probably haven`t heard about. But
first, some spring time baby photo from our facebook friends. We`ll be
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a secession movement under way in Louisiana right
now. No, not a fringe group looking to make pint about Obamacare, it`s a
group of predominantly wealthy white resident of east (INAUDIBLE) parish
who are looking to separate themselves, their school and the tax dollars
for the rest of the parish. Now, in Louisiana a parish is equivalent to a
Now, technically they`re not actually proposing to secede. The area
they`re hoping to turn to a new city, St. George, is currently
unincorporated. This map from the (INAUDIBLE) on nola.com (ph) shows the
proposed city of St. George. You just see it right next to Louisiana state
capital, Baton Rouge.
This new city would look vastly different than the capitol. St. George
would be 70 percent white compared with neighboring Baton Rouge which is 55
percent African-American 40 percent white. And St. George would have a
median income $32,000 higher than Baton Rouge.
This proposal is coming at a time when East Baton Rouge parish is becoming
increasingly diverse. Between 2000 and 2012, the black population in East
Baton Rouge parish rose nearly six percent. Some of that changes likely
due to an influx of New Orleans in evacuated to Baton Rouge after hurricane
Katrina, which more than doubled the city`s population in the days
immediately after the storm.
Approving St. George would result in the creation of a more homogenous
segregated community. But that is not the reason that St. George
supporters cite for why they want a new city. For supporters it often
boils down to schools. In fact, the split was proposed after two failed
attempts to create an independent school district for the area.
St. George proponents cite dissatisfaction with the way that the parish is
currently being governed, particularly regarding the education system.
Becoming their own city would allow them to exit a school system they see
as struggling and would almost certainly result in more segregated schools,
something that may seem familiar with the longest running school
desegregation lawsuit in the country. And that was under a court oversight
to ensure school integration as we simply as 2007.
White and wealthy residents exiting a diversifying community and school
system is a story as old as efforts to integrate American neighborhoods.
But there are communities that are actively resisting residential
segregation. And instead have steadfastly worked to create and maintain
racially diverse neighborhoods.
We`re going to talk about that when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oak Park is a community outside of Chicago, Illinois, with
about 52,000 residents. Now, you may not have heard of it, but they
believe they have a model to tackle a problem that has plagued our country
for decades, residential segregation.
For more than 40 years, Oak Park has been actively working to create and
maintain integrated neighborhoods. In the early 1970s Oak Park was
predominantly white community with less than a dozen black families. But
housing choices for African-American in Chicago were intentionally
constricted, leaving black residents to look for homes outside the city.
That began a pattern of white flight for many of those communities. But
some Oak Park residents wanted to intentionally work against that, both by
welcoming people of all races and also resisting white flight from the
To do so, they founded the Oak Park regional housing center in 1972, an
organization that referred individual seeking homes to renters and realtors
in a way that built and then sustained racial integration.
The organization continues the work today. In their magazine, "the Oak
Parker," they explain sustaining diversity in any community requires
consistent effort. So long as there is an Oak Park, there must be a
Joining me now is the executive director of that Oak Park regional housing
center, Rob Breymaier. Also at the table is James Perry, executive
director of the Greater New Orleans fair housing center. He`s also here
because he`s my husband and I want to spend Easter with my family, Dorothy
Brown who is professor of law at Embry University and of course, our
friend, Tanner Colby, author of "Some of My Best Friends are Black."
So Rob, let me start with you with Oak Park. We have been talking for some
time about wanting to talk about this on air. What are the models of
success that you have developed in Oak Park for creating integrated
ROB BREYMAIER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, OAK PARK REGIONAL HOUSING CENTER: Well,
the way that we`ve been able to both promote and create and sustain Oak
Park diversity and immigration overtime is that we work proactively with
folks as they`re searching for housing. So when people are looking for a
place to live, we`re hoping everyone of all racial backgrounds are thinking
of Oak Park as a place to live. And then when they come to see us, we try
to help them think about how they can move in ways that will continue to
sustain our integration.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. It`s still a predominantly white community, although,
much more than it was 40 years ago when the center was founded. And it is
a community that is somewhat wealthier that sort of a median American
community. IS that what allows this to work?
BREYMAIER: Well, it`s interesting. As Oak Park has become more diverse,
the economic benefits have definitely been there. And it is sort of become
a wealthier community as we have become more diverse. It`s not
unreachable, by any means. But it`s certainly is one of the better off
community in the Chicago region. And we think that actually the racial
integration of the community and the benefits that we`re seeing both
economically and socially go hand in hand. It`s why Oak Park has been able
to succeed and strive.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Tanner, the story that I have told before we got to kind
of the Oak Park story of things going well is the story about a sort of --
secession is not quite the right word but there`s an attempt to create a
separate community in Louisiana and the narrative is about schools. And
you and I have talk before about the use of schools as a language for
actually generating residential segregation. I wonder, as you see sort of
that story and then you pair it with the Oak Park story if that resonates
for you about what you have been setting around it.
TANNER COLBY, AUTHOR, SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS ARE BLACK: Well, you know,
where I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, they did the exact the same thing.
They seceded more or less from the city. And it really sort of backfired
against them because by draining the Birmingham metro area of all the tax
dollars, the city schools cratered. And they created this island where
they thought we would have an all white, you know, candy land, I guess.
But then the city schools got so bad you have black flight. And now you
have tons of minority and low-income children flooding in this formerly
white suburb and they`re two or three grades off level. There are all
sorts of, you know, cultural adjustment problems as the kids come here.
So the idea that you can secede and hide from the problems next door is a
fantasy. And will work far better in Oak Park and neighborhoods like 4963
in Kansas City which when I looked at. When you tackle integration head on
in a conscious manner, you create a more sustainable, economically, viable
community. What they`re doing in Baton Rouge will be to the disservice of
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so part of what I love about what you said there,
what you wrote about and also what I have heard you speak about many time,
is this idea of intentionality. And this notion that you have to be by in
from the people with 52,000 people, that you can actually sort to say we
have by in here.
And yet, and this was I think maybe one of the most distressing parts of
the new year for me. In January the hope fair housing center actually
found evidence of persistent racial discrimination. I just want to read
this. Statistics show that compared to white testers, African-American
testers were not treated nearly as well at white counterparts. They
received considerably fewer cite units. Had to place more calls to get
return calls and in more instances their calls were never returned. They
were offered less information on rental terms and in some cases,
representatives, they discouraging statements to them. This is a study of
Oak Park where it`s meant to be working. And here this study of match pair
testing, don`t rampant discrimination.
BREYMAIER: Right. So the key here is to remember that Oak Park is not a
utopia. We are still part of the United States. And there is still racial
things we have to deal with. On the other hand, what happened, the reason
this report was done is because our local municipality wanted this to this
report to be done. They wanted to have an audit of the landlords in the
community so they can figure out if there was discrimination, what could we
do about it.
Also, the reaction from community as following the report once it was made
public, people were just, aghast. They really felt like this was not
acceptable. This is not the kind of community we want to have. The
landlords in the community, many of whom are locally based, actually
volunteered to be tested again. They volunteered to pay for the testing.
They were very, very proactive in their response.
Instead of, in what I think you find in most communities with saying that
must have been somebody else or this fair housing stuff is too much or why
are you always on my back? Our reaction from our landlords was, you know
what, this is horrible. We don`t ever want to see this happen again. We
want to make sure the next report doesn`t look like this. Please keep
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, so we got one bad story, we got one potentially
good story. When we come back at the top of the hour, I want to talk about
the big story sort of how these small local stories are actually part of a
big national story of whether or not we`re doing a good or a bad job in
addressing this fundamental issue of housing integration.
But first, more babes in Nerdland. Our good friend, MSNBC`s Craig Melvin
sent us a picture of his baby`s first Easter. And here are more of our
youngest fasts in their spring finest. That`s to our viewers for sharing
There`s more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
I received a text during the break from my mom and my husband`s mom.
Listen, last week we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964. The first of several pieces of landmarked laws on President
Lyndon B. Johnson`s civil rights agenda. And while the most comprehensive
of all of LBJ`s civil rights legislation, it had some weaknesses that
required additional policies to supplement and strengthen its
The law`s prohibition on housing discrimination and programs that
received government assistance was rarely, if ever enforced and he had no
provisions to protect against discrimination in the sale or rental of
privately owned housing. So four years later, President Johnson signed the
Civil Rights Act of 1968. A follow-up law that included sweeping
requirements to promote fairness in housing.
Johnson signed the bill in the wake of the assassination of Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. using the heightened sense of urgency for action on
civil rights to enact the law as a memorial to Dr. King`s life and work.
It would ultimately be the last of LBJ`s major victories for the cause of
civil rights because it was also one of his last legislative acts as
president of the United States.
By the end of that year, the 1968 presidential election meant the
work of enforcing Johnson`s laws. Putting its promises into practice would
now fall to someone else. As it turned out, that someone else was the new
administration`s secretary of Housing and Urban Development and in a report
on the history of U.S. housing policy, Pro-Publica Nicole Hanna Jones
writes that this person saw America`s housing patterns as a, quote, "high-
income white noose," end quote, around the black inner city.
The new HUD secretary could have interpreted the 1968 act narrowly
as simply a prohibition against discrimination. But instead he believed it
gave them the authority to affirmatively promote racial integration in the
nation`s cities. Hanna Jones goes onto describe that man`s belief that the
act gave him authority to pressure predominantly white communities to build
more affordable housing and end discriminatory zoning practices.
Maybe you`re wondering just who was this radical who believed the
law gave him a mandate to use the power of the federal government to force
an end to racial segregation. It was none other than George Romney, a
Republican. The former governor of the state of Michigan whose sun twice
ran for president and who also made his own run for the presidency against
Richard Nixon, the man who would later appoint Romney as his HUD secretary.
Romney believed deeply that desegregated housing was necessary not
only for African-Americans, but that it was paramount to preserve the
integrity of the United States. Nicole Hanna Jones notes in talking
points. Romney drafted for a meeting with President Nixon. He wrote that
equal opportunity for all Americans in education and housing is essential
if we`re going to keep our nation from being torn apart.
Romney had been convinced about the necessity of residential dis-
segregation since his time as Michigan governor gave him a front-row seat
on the worst riots in U.S. history, after Detroit streets erupted into five
days of violent conflict in 1967. Contrary to many who saw the riots as a
reason to keep the races apart, Romney wanted to use housing policy to
bring people together by eliminating segregation.
Ultimately his model of Republican progressivism clashed against
political practicalities and President Nixon bowing to pressure of his
supporters in the south and white northern suburbs shut down the HUD
program, kicked Romney out of the administration, and four decades after
George Romney`s thwarted crusade for desegregated residential segregation
in America has in some way radically transformed.
But in other ways, it remains very much the same. In 2012, "The New
York Times" reported on a study of the Manhattan Institute in which two
economics professors found the nation`s cities are more racially integrated
than any time since 2010. However, a 2011 Brown University study on
persistent racial segregation in metro areas also found this trend.
The average white person in metropolitan America lives in a
neighborhood that is 75 percent white. Despite the substantial shift in
minorities from cities to suburbs, these groups have not gained access to
largely white neighborhoods. For example, a typical African-American lives
in a neighborhood only 35 percent white. Not much different than 1940 as
much as 45 percent black. It`s clear that although there has been some
progress on housing desegregation, we`re far cry from the ideal that George
Joining me now Rob Breymaier who is the executive director of Oak
Park Regional Housing Center in Illinois, James Perry, director of the
Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center and also my husband, Dorothy
Brown, professor of law at Emory University of School of Law and Tanner
Colby, author of "Some of My Best Friends Are Black."
James, is the national fair housing act a success or failure?
JAMES PERRY, GNO FAIR HOUSING: It`s a very interesting question. America
itself is an experiment and this experiment is quite imperfect. And I
think we constantly work to perfect it, but clearly we`re not there yet.
The same is true when it comes to the effort to integrate the communities
in this nation and so I think demonstrated by the certain senses in Oak
Park, a community that we celebrate because of its diversity. We still see
there are clear problems. Have we succeeded? No. Have we made progress?
I think the answer is clear yes.
PERRY: Has there ever been a HUD secretary as good as George Romney? On
this issue, not on all issues, but on this issue, has anyone in our sort of
contemporary era including the Obama administration, been able to
articulate at that level, we have the right empowered by this act to hold
accountable local communities that don`t do what Oak Park is doing. That
aren`t affirmatively following fair housing.
JAMES PERRY: I would argue that the current HUD secretary, Secretary
Donovan, who is the best HUD secretary on this issue since Secretary Romney
and issue is that since Secretary Romney, no HUD secretary has dared touch
the issue of segregation. They haven`t even looked at it. So this was the
first HUD secretary to say wait, this is an issue. This is a real problem
and not only is it a real problem, but some of HUD`s own policies play a
key role in making the problem continue to exist.
So this HUD secretary has taken on issues in his own backyard. He
looked at segregation policies in New York and he said this is a problem.
We`re going combat that. Right now he`s taking on issues in Dubuque, Iowa.
I guess my point is that certainly there`s a lot more that he can do. I`m
a person who not only pushes him to do more. I`ve sued his administration
to push him to do more. But at the same time, this is the most we`ve seen
out of any HUD secretary in decades.
PERRY: As we were pulling together this conversation, the one that we`ve
been wanting to have for a while, we up in nerd land were saying we have
our bad story in Louisiana. We have a good story in Oak Park. It`s always
a mixed story at the federal government level and then we read your report,
and I`m telling you there was wails and sadness in nerd land.
In part because it does feel like, OK, we have to perfect this. We
just got to get where we figure out what are the right policies to create
integration? And then we read the "Forbes" article about your study in
which you say evidence indicates it`s the presence of blacks, not just
neighborhood conditions often associated with black neighborhoods that
account for white aversion to such areas.
In one study, whites reported that they would be unlikely to
purchase a home that met their requirements in terms of price, number of
rooms and other housing characteristics in a neighborhood with good schools
and low crime rates if there was a substantial representation of African-
Americans. Your report seems to say that in 2014, white people simply do
not want to live around black people, even if everything else is great.
DOROTHY BROWN, PROFESSOR OF LAW, EMORY UNIVERSITY OF LAW: And that`s true.
PERRY: That is painful.
BROWN: It`s personal preference. There`s the issue of who wants to live
next to who. There are whites that want to live in racially diverse
communities. Not just Oak Park. The majority of whites do not. Just like
the majority of blacks want to live in a majority/minority or 50/50
community. And the problem is the market personalizes the presence of
blacks in the neighborhoods. So if more than 10 percent of your neighbors
are African-American, the price of your home will be less than in a
neighborhood with less than 10 percent African-American.
PERRY: OK. We cannot miss this. In this country wealth is built
primarily for work can go class and middle class people through
homeownership. What you just said to me is if me and my friends who look
like me show up and move into a neighborhood, we will make everybody else
in that neighborhood poorer and ourselves poorer.
BROWN: You can`t have too many friends. You can`t that look like you.
You can`t have too many friends. The key is 10 percent. If it`s more than
10 percent. If it`s just you and your husband and you invite people over,
but they got to leave. They can`t buy next door then you`ll have a better
PERRY: OK. Now you in Oak Park say that`s not true. It has plenty of
brown and black folks living nearby.
ROB BREYMAIER, OPR HOUSING CENTER: That`s absolutely true. And you know,
there is -- you know, there is no way to prove a negative. There is no way
to say how much home prices would have gone up in Oak Park if African-
Americans didn`t live there. I can tell you as Oak Park became more
diverse, the housing stock became more valuable. The housing values went
up. The value and sort of the desirability of the community has definitely
And people seek out Oak Park for its diversity at this point. I
will say though, that we have to do things like, and when we`re talking to
our clients, we do have to have conversations with them to be more willing
and more interested and actually just be aware that it`s available to them.
That they could live in a place a part of Oak Park where they will be
integrating Oak Park.
Whether they are white, African-American, Asian or Latino, and we do
see that that sort of the way people think about that it definitely has
it`s being informed by race.
PERRY: The idea that if a neighborhood or a school has a lot of positive
things about it, but is predominantly majority/minority, which is a weird
term. But predominantly people of color, that in itself is seen as a
negative because there`s no inherent value. Value is always what the
market will bear if in fact the market is primarily driven by white
purchasers who see predominantly communities of colors of less value, then
they are simply less value.
TANNER COLBY, AUTHOR, "SOME OF MY FRIENDS ARE BLACK": The thing about the
social strategy of the United States of America is no matter what rung of
the socioeconomic ladder you`re on, the rung above you is whiter than the
one you`re at. White people are going to try to spend more time with other
white people because they`re trying to move up a ladder. And the
difference for something like Oak Park is the consciousness of this is a
diverse community full of people who choose to be here as opposed to a
neighborhood that just happens to be 10 percent --
PERRY: But that would suggest that there are a whole group of white home
buyer who is want to go to communities that are less white, in part because
they get a better deal on their housing. And it actually tips the housing
JAMES PERRY: I would back up and note we have had hundreds and hundreds of
years of not just marketing, but actual government investment in white
communities, in creating and building white communities. And so logic
dictates, you know, if government is investing here, if everything has been
saying that this is the way to go, then of course I`m going to invest in
this if I have money and stay away from minority neighborhoods. That`s
been the investment that Americans have made for centuries.
What we do know is we have an opportunity to change the way that the
United States invests in housing. And it is a kind of thing that Governor
Romney intended to do. It`s what Secretary Donovan is attempting to do
now. To make clear that diversity actually makes neighborhoods better. It
makes a neighborhood more favorable. That`s a difficult tide to turn but
it`s happening. And at this moment when you find diverse neighborhoods,
they have better value across the spectrum. Every single circumstances
better in those neighborhoods.
PERRY: I want to live in a community of color and not feel like this is
taking away our wealth building capacity.
BROWN: That`s absolutely true. I want to get back to the Oak Park
example. In terms of the racial diversity, what would you say is the
percentage of African-Americans?
BREYMAIER: Oak Park is about 20 percent African-Americans. That`s
reflective of our region though so that`s an important factor as well.
BROWN: But the key point is the blacker the neighborhood, the higher the
percentage, the lower the value.
PERRY: So it`s not an absolute.
BROWN: Exactly. So 10 percent starts the slide, 20 percent increases the
slide. It`s when you get greater percentages. So the fact that we can
find appreciation in the neigborhood is also a function of low percentage
of African-American. It`s not 50/50.
PERRY: If you are not depressed about the ideas that your housing value
will decrease, wait until I tell you the air quality will decrease. It
turns out housing is not just housing. It`s all kinds of things. We`ll
talk habit the details of the alarming new study when we come back.
PERRY: Luther Vandroff may have been on to something in his classic slow
jam a house is not a home. Because if you think beyond the understanding
of your house is just four walls and a roof, it`s clear that a house is
much more than just a home. The place where you live can dictate
everything about exactly how well you live.
Nicole Hanna Jones writes more than 20 years of research has
implicated residential segregation and virtually every aspect of racial
inequality. From higher unemployment rates for African-Americans to poorer
health care to elevated infant mortality rates and most of all to inferior
schools. One of the items on the list, the disparity in health outcomes
was the subject of a first of its kind study released this week by
researchers at the University of Minnesota.
The study found that across the country on average people of color
are living in neighborhoods with 38 percent more air pollution than in
neighborhoods where white Americans live. They`re estimated that people of
color will experience 7,000 fewer deaths if their neighborhoods have the
same cleaner air as their white counterparts.
Joining me now from Berkeley, California is one of the researchers
behind that study, University of Minnesota associate professor of
Environmental Engineering, Julian Marshall. Nice to see you, Julian.
JULIAN MARSHALL, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING,
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Good morning. Nice to this be here.
PERRY: OK, so explain a little bit what your findings are and precisely
how you reach your conclusion.
MARSHALL: Sure. We look at air pollution ferries across the U.S. where
the concentrations are higher or lower and the main finding as you saw and
we look at demographic groups like race, income, education level and we
found this large difference depending on what your ethnic group is. In
terms of how we did our study, there`s kind of twot things that feed into
it. One is a detailed map of where the pollution is higher or lower, and
the other is census information about where people live. We overlay the
two maps and that allows us to locate the differences by race and income
and other things.
PERRY: Now Julian, I presume that you are not saying that air is racist.
MARSHALL: That`s true. We`re mere looking at correlations so we are
looking at where the concentrations are higher or lower and where people
live. We`re looking at one particular pollutant. This is a chemical that
the molecule is not racist. People do not live in places as random. And
so on average, there are differences in exposure by race.
PERRY: So stay with me for a second. I want to come to the table for one
moment. That seems such an important point. We see this in natural
disasters, too, James, right. Where no one is suggesting that air itself
or this molecule is targeting people of color, but the health disparity or
the economic disparities are enormous all because of residential
segregation. It`s not just do I get to live in the house I want around the
people I want but can I breathe clean air?
JAMES PERRY: Yes. I`m about to move based on that study. But sure, we
know that consistently African-Americans have been sentenced essentially to
die in neighborhoods that had a few education opportunities,that had
greater difficulties around numerous health issues. We can go down the
list of all the different things that are bad. Over and over again, the
investment has been such that government said all the bad things will go
here and the good things will go elsewhere.
That`s what is different at this moment is that at this moment we
have a chance to actually ensure that there is policy that ensures that the
investment is equal and that ensures that we are not always putting the bad
things in one type of neighborhood and that`s the change that we make at
PERRY: Julian, obviously your study of diagnostic, not normative. Do you
have a sense of what would make differences in the pollution gap?
MARSHALL: Sure. Well, the main source of the pollution is burning fuels.
So gasoline and diesel from cars and trucks. Coal from electricity
generation and especially to target emission reductions in the locations
where the people are the most exposed.
PERRY: So you see this point of cause as a way of reducing it for everyone
rather than simply exposing new communities to it. Dorothy, let me ask you
because we were all so depressed from your study, is there anything that
you found from it? Is there something that feels like this might be a ray
of hope on the question of making an investment as communities of colors in
the purchasing of real estate and the possibility of creating integrated
BROWN: So my ray of hope was basically helping people to be intentional
when you buy a home in a neighborhood more than 10 percent African-
American, recognize the financial investment in that property isn`t going
to be as great if you were in a neighborhood where you were one of very
few. That perhaps to me would suggest then maybe I don`t spend all my
money in a home, but put some of it a stock market or max out the
retirement benefit at work if I have one.
So to me the racism in the housing market is not going to be solved
any too many soon. I would like to have some wealth sometime soon, which
would suggest that I`d be very intentional about where I buy my home and
what else I do with the rest of my money.
PERRY: So this is an interesting point that it`s a question of, you know,
if you have -- if you have $100, how you spend your $100 and if you expect
your line to be flattered, it means you have an expectation of a flatter
line for how it`s going to improve. Julian, I appreciate all of this
because from Julian Marshall in Berkeley, California we have language about
how to make decisions about fossil fuels that have different racial
impacts. From you we have an understanding about how to make some choices
From our advocates, we have an understanding about how we change the
structures underneath. And you talk about the connection between schools
and housing and sort of being the country that we want to be. It`s
complicated, but heck, it`s Easter morning. Thank you Julian Marshall in
Berkeley, California. Thank you to Rob Breymaier, Dorothy Brown, Tanner
Colby and James, who is going to stick around a little bit longer.
Up next, an update on the young immigration hunger striker that we
met on the show last week. But first, Christians around the world are
celebrating Easter today. There are more than 1 billion of them are led by
the head of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, who a few hours ago
officiated his second Easter mass at the Vatican. Pope Francis prayed for
an end to conflicts around the world and an end to hunger, which he says
has been exacerbated by immense wastefulness. We`ll be right back.
PERRY: We would like to update you on Cynthia Diaz. The 18-year-old
University of Arizona student on a hunger strike in front of the White
House, protesting her immigrant mother`s detention when she joined us a
week ago Saturday. She told us how she was doing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, this morning I woke up a little sore. So that
means my body is reacting to the lack of food and it`s been tough. And
it`s been tough. This is my first hunger strike. I haven`t eaten in five
days. But I`m still trying to stay strong and push forward and try to call
out President Obama because we are in his front yard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: She and her two fellow protesters began eating again later that
same day. But that doesn`t mean the immigration hunger strike is over.
Organizers hope to keep it rolling indefinitely, pressuring President Obama
to use executive action to slow the removal of undocumented immigrants.
One of the new hunger strikers is Ernestina Hernandez of Houston. She has
been hunger striking since Tuesday in honor of her husband, who was
deported earlier this month. Listen to what he she had to said in a video
posted Friday on YouTube by the National Day Labor Organizing Network.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERNESTINA HERNANDEZ: (Inaudible)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PERRY: We will continue to follow the story. Find out much more in our
report. Where you can also find Cynthia`s guest column. In that column,
she explains why she went on a hunger strike for her mom. We`ll be right
PERRY: Why do so few young women not report sexual violence and
harassment? And there are many answers, but an alarming new report suggest
it may be because they view this type of behavior as normal. As shown in a
new study called normalizing violence, young women account for harassment
and abuse that will appear in the June issue of "Gender and Society
Journal." The shame can be internalized and accepted as a normal every day
experience for young women.
One 13-year-old interviewee in the study said when referring to boys
at the school. Quote, "They grab you, touch your butt and try to touch you
in the front and run away. But it`s OK. I never think it`s a big thing
because they do it to everyone." The equally alarming thing the report
identifies is why young women do not report sexual violence like what was
Those reasons include girls believing the myth that men can`t help
it. They did not want to this make a big deal of their experience. The
lack of reporting may be linked to trust and authority figures and girls
don`t support other girls when they report sexual violence. The study also
described how many girls are often threatened or coerced into unwanted
behavior. They did not believe anything outside of forced intercourse
counted as an offense.
Joining me from Milwaukee, Wisconsin is Heather Halaska who is an
assistant professor of Social and Cultural Sciences at Marquette
University. She`s also the author of the report "normalizing sexual
violence." Nice to have you.
HEATHER HLAVKA, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY: Hi, thank you
for having me.
PERRY: So tell me what you see as the primary finding that we should be
taking away from your study.
HLAVKA: I think the primary finding of the study shows us young women are
interpreting their experience in these traditional, gendered sexual
scripts. It`s quite a reflexion on our rape culture that they`re
internalizing these normalities about boys are going to be sexually
aggressive and they have to take this as boys are going to be boys.
PERRY: Let me ask you about that because you used the language of "rape
culture." And that`s been a bit of a discourse about whether or not such a
thing exists. I don`t want you to go too far beyond the data, but do you
think it will be empirical evidence as the existence of contemporary rape
HLAVKA: Well, I hope so. I think it should be. I`m so grateful for being
on the show today. It`s such a reflection on our rape culture and lots of
research has been showing this with adult women for quite some time
especially women on college campuses. But what we have here is we realize
that really going to very, very young ages at what point this is taking
root in the culture. Children are telling us that they`re interpreting
these experiences in such a way and really getting it from their families,
from our media, from the culture around.
PERRY: So one of the things that I found most distressing was the idea
that girls did not support other girls if someone came forward and talked
about the experience of being victimized or touched inappropriately when
they did not consent to it. And I wonder if part of that is fundamental
attribute error. I feel safer if I can blame the victim, right? So if
it`s just that this thing may happen to someone blame less, then I might
also be in danger, but if the victim did something, if she wore the wrong
thing or if it seems to me behaved in a wrong way, then I can feel safe.
HLAVKA: Definitely. Absolutely. And also what`s happening here is the
girls are in this culture and they`re taking up these scripts that shows
them as internalizing them as the gatekeeper to sexual activity. If you`re
the gatekeeper and you did not say no, in this myth that we have to just
say no and rape won`t happen, then they get to blame each other. And
blaming each other for not adequately moving around the sexual aggression
PERRY: Heather Hlavka in Milwaukee, thank you so much for joining us.
It`s a stunning report. When we come back, we`re going to talk about it
with the table. More on this question of the new normal for our girls.
PERRY: So there`s a new report by the AAUW about sexual harassment among
middle and high school girls showing that 48 percent of students experience
some form of sexual harassment harassments. That 30 percent experience
electronic harassment and 56 percent of girls were sexually harassed. That
seems to give a little bit of credence to the study we were just
discussing, normalizing violence young women account for harassment and
That new study will appear in "Gender & Society." I want to talk a
little bit with my table about the findings. At the table, Pearl Cleage,
author of "Things I Should Have Told My Daughter." Yes, she`s here at the
table. We are going to talk to her shortly about the book. Also James
Perry my husband who along with me is raising two daughters and Tara
Dowdell who is a Democratic strategist and Karen Finney, host of MSNBC`s
"DISRUPT." Is anybody else completely distraught by the study?
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC HOST, "DISRUPT": Absolutely. Reading it, I felt like
this cannot be 2014. Think about how many women we have in Congress. We
have so many more positive role models, and yet, this is what they`re
feeling. But think about the conversation we`re having about equal pay for
example and the conservatives saying you don`t need it. Women don`t need
it. What does that make a girl or young women internalize about her worth
or value? While it seems shocking, I do think we have to look at we as
people who have a platform. And the broader culture, what signals are we
sending young women about their value and their place in this society?
PERRY: Absolutely. There`s a politics to this, right? The kind of air
that we breathe is in part an air that tells young women they are
worthless. But for me part of it was hearing the girls feel like they are
the gatekeepers to sexuality, as they don`t have the power to consent when
they want to and they don`t have the power to stop it when they don`t want
to consent. I wonder if that`s not only about the politics, but the
parenting. Girls many may want to consent in some circumstances and not
PEARL CLEAGE, BESTSELLING AUTHOR: That`s a big problem. We don`t talk
enough about sex or sexuality. Don`t do this. Don`t do that. Only bad
girls do this, but we don`t talk to them about the full range of questions
that they`re going to be confronted with as soon as they hit puberty and
the popular culture is telling them things about your sexuality is power.
You can have control over men and manipulate boys. None of that is
anything that anybody in middle school knows how to deal with. We don`t
know how to talk to them about the danger or on the other side the pleasure
if it is consensual.
PERRY: So on one hand I found it stunning and painful. Also James, I have
to say, I wonder why we`re asking whether or not girls are normalizing
violence, and not to invalidate the study. But I also want to know if boys
are normalizing violence in this way and sort of how we start to address
the perpetrators on this.
JAMES PERRY: You know, I think that`s a key issue. One of my favorite
quotes that a friend of mine uses is every snowflake in an avalanche pleads
not guilty. So the number of times I`ve been around guys who said all
these kinds of inappropriate things and when there was a point at which you
sit there quietly. But there`s a point when you have to realize this is
your responsibility to take a stand and to correct your friends. It may be
the most difficult to stand up to and say that`s not appropriate. That`s
our obligation as men. So there`s an obligation we have to right this
PERRY: If we connect the politics and the parenting and the
responsibilities of men, it seems that there`s at least at the moment some
conversation about whether or not a woman is going to run for president in
2016. Obviously most of the speculation is around Hillary Clinton, but I
also think there`s a very strong possibility a Republican woman may end up
on the ticket. What are the responsibilities of male media? Is this male
politicians in how they have discussions about women, giving them all the
same harsh treatment because women are in the ring, but at the same time,
not demonstrating the kinds of normalizing of sexualized violence against
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Exactly. And I think there`s an
intersection between the politics and the policy and the culture.
DOWDELL: And I do think what we see happening is there is still different
treatment of women when women run for office. I mean talking about
postpartum depression and how it impacts. You hear things you would never
hear about men. When you hear it coming from authority figures that makes
it worse. It reminds me of these young girls. If you link the two, they
go to authority figures. And those authority figures say what did you do?
What were you wearing? I don`t think if she was naked and drunk. No one
deserves to be raped.
PERRY: And for me the moment when that happened on a political stage was
the Anita Hill testimony at the Supreme Court hearings in which our
government actually performed that. We have the notion of authority
figures asking what did you do, it felt like here was Anita Hill testifying
about the set of experiences. The question seemed to be well what was that
you did Ms. Hill, but what it do was wake us all up in a really important
way that these practices we think are normal in the workplace, they are not
normal. They are not OK.
JAMES PERRY: The other interesting thing is when you talk about the
upcoming presidential election is the person who plays the key role in
mobilizing this, he presides over the hearing, of course. But it also
demonstrates the way in which men`s role is so imperfect and difficult.
It`s only a few years later he then authors the violence against women act.
And so it is this dual dynamic on one hand confronting the challenges that
FINNEY: I was going to say but I think part of it, we talk so much about
girls and teaching girls. And you mentioned boys. What are we teaching
boys and young men about normal behavior? About what is appropriate
behaviour because the question does get flipped to the girl. What did you
do? We need to say, well, what did the boy do? And that has to this be
part of the conversation. We don`t do that in any sphere. Not in
entertainment, not in media. That`s what I`m afraid of when we see this
presidential if Hillary runs, we`re going to see more of that. Rather than
in the sort of excuse of, well, we`re just trying to treat her --
PERRY: Right, right.
FINNEY: And we need to think about not just the message than sends to
girls, but what our young men and boys think about sexuality and how to
PERRY: Right. As we think about our brother`s keeper we should also
remember while we`re keeping and save these boys, let`s teach them
something about their relationships. James, Tara and Karen, thank you all
for being here. Remember to watch Karen later today. She`s not done.
She`s working hard today. She`s going to be disrupting with Karen at 4:00
Now Pearl Cleage is going to stick around, which makes me very
happy. We`re going to come back and discuss with her this extraordinary
completely different thing you`ve read before book.
PERRY: If the 1960s displayed the power of the people to alter the
direction of the country, well, then the 1970s and `80s demonstrated just
how powerfully the nation could resist change. Shootings of anti-war
student protesters at both state and Jackson gate, Watergate, the
assassination of John Lennon. And they had their own innovations, disco,
and the presidential bids of Jesse Jackson. Through it all, one woman kept
journals of her personal evolution toward what she describes as free
She writes of the decades between 1970 and 1990, I left college,
moved to Atlanta, got married, finished college, got a job, had a baby,
quit a job, wrote a book, helped to elect a mayor, lived by my wits, became
an artist, had a play produced, had my heart broken, mended it, found my
honor, found my smile, realized I was a lot stronger than I thought I was.
And a lot wilder, too.
In her newest books, "Things I Should award-winning playwright and
author takes us on a journey, as she both she and her country wrestle with
the new world they`re creating. Back with me now to discuss her new book
is the one and only, Pearl Cleage. I love this book.
CLEAGE: Thank you.
PERRY: I spent a lot of time with it. Why reveal so much of your inner
self in this way?
CLEAGE: I said to my daughter, which is how my book started, that I wanted
to give this book to my first granddaughter when she was 16. It`s
personal. It`s something you wrote for yourself. And my idea was that it
was certainly something I wrote for myself, but I also thought it was a
valuable record of a real journey of a real person who because of the life
I was living was touched by all of the major movements of our time. Many
of the people who were making those movements go in our time. I felt like
there was information in these journals that would help young women, and
also women of my age, look at our lives and see where the lessons are.
PERRY: I was so depressed by that beginning. The idea of your daughter
saying, I don`t want to read the journals, and potentially you should even
burn them. It made me sad, both because I`m obsessed with my mom`s
childhood, and I always like every little piece of it. But also because I
have two daughters and I think to myself, yes, they probably presume that
my life begins with theirs. And that sort of the humanity of who your
parent is, is unavailable to you in certain ways.
CLEAGE: I don`t think that was the thing. I think for my daughter, that
she`s been so close to me, we`re very close and have always been close, so
she`s gone with me to rehearsals. She would grab her little backpack and
we would go. She felt like if she had information she need, she knew me
very well. She also knew how much I cared for those journals, how much I
had put into those journals. I think actually there was a protectiveness
in her about me exposing myself in this way, to say, this is really me.
This isn`t a character. Novels are one thing. But this is my real life.
These are real people that I know. And I think she was less not interested
and more protective of me for saying, this is it. I don`t have any secrets
and I really don`t.
PERRY: That`s actually extremely helpful to me. You talk about mothering
your child very young. I think it was a 2-month-old, I kept screaming out
aspects of this. You have, at one point you said, I do feel a little
overwhelmed, a little insecure. I feel like I have to be super mom, super
wife, always smiling, cute, et cetera. I know I shouldn`t feel that way,
but I do. Good grief, she`s just a week old. And I thought, oh, yes, I
feel that sense. And I wonder, I guess it`s also surprising to me that
this daughter was born right around the same time that I was born. And in
all that time, a new mom can feel just the same way.
CLEAGE: The same thing. I think part of it is we don`t talk about how
hard it is. We think we can be -- that other women are this perfect being
and it`s just us. We didn`t get it organized and lay our clothes out the
night before. I thought I could have a baby, continue to work in the
mayor`s office at a high-level stressful job and run home at lunchtime and
nurse the baby and come back and that`s insane. You can`t really do all of
PERRY: Don`t tell me it can`t be done!
CLEAGE: It`s very, very difficult to do. You know how difficult it is to
do it. I think if we can admit that it`s difficult, it makes it more
possible that we can do it when we are trying to do it. We can get that
help. We can get people to help us do it. If we look at you and say, her
baby must be perfect. That baby never cries, we feel like we`re not doing
something right, because we only see the idealized version of you. We
don`t see you when you have the baby and carrying her on the plane and
carrying that stroller. We have to tell the truth about our lives to not
only our daughters, but to each other.
And people will look at the parts of the book that I said, OK,
everybody knows this, and they say, my God, they`ll tell me, I`ve never
seen this in writing before. I`ve never seen anyone admit this or that. I
think that`s why I`m loving the response of the book.
PERRY: There`s a kind of, almost bare-faced honesty. It`s not like, let
me tell you this painful thing. It`s a journal. It really does read like,
oh, of course, this is who I am. There was a moment I was reading last
night where you write, this was my last political campaign. I said that
out loud today. And I knew immediately that it was true, so true.
Politics is nothing but any kind of sustained good feeling or creativity.
Again, the idea that at this moment, when sort of -- particularly African-
American politics and urban politics was coming into its own, that it would
feel to you that it was opposite. That it was operational to good feeling.
CLEAGE: It was because, I think there was so much pressure. I went to
work for the first black mayor of Atlanta. He wanted to be perfect. He
wanted everything to go well. He didn`t want anybody to be able to say,
this is what happens when you put black folks at city hall. He was trying
to be the perfect mayor. So I think for all of us, that desire for
perfection meant that sometimes they would want us to shave the truth.
Don`t tell how hard it is. Don`t tell that the mayor made a mistake. I`m
an artist, I have to tell the truth, that`s the whole deal for me. So it
became a problem for me to do the work that I was trying to do, and also do
the work that he thought he needed me to do.
PERRY: Here`s what I heard you say. You don`t have to be perfect. You
don`t have to present as you`re perfect and you must tell the truth. That
is something I hope I remember to tell my daughter. Thank you very much to
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. Be
sure to join us next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. But right now, it`s
time for preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Hi, Alex. Happy Easter.
ALEX WITT: And to you. Thank you so much, girls. All of us in our purple
We`re going to go live to Boston where preparations are under way
for Monday`s marathon, where security is certainly tight and resilience is
very strong in the aftermath of last year`s bombings.
Should a Missouri man be forced to serve a 13-year sentence after a
clerical error has allowed him to walk free for more than a decade?
And today, a final chapter in the story of the Hurricane.
Remembering a boxing legend. Don`t go anywhere. I`ll be right back.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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