May 3, 2014
Guests: Ziva Branstetter, Stephen Bright, Brittney Cooper, Romani Jones,
Jelani Cobb, Ari Berman, Dale Ho, Phillip Atiba Goff, Brittney Cooper
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. Is the
outrage over Donald Sterling missing the point? Plus, this week in voter
suppression, Texas edition.
And Eric Holder investigates racial profiling. But first, 43 minutes in
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. We begin this morning with a story
that`s hard to hear, but necessary to discuss. Now, I`m going to be
referring to this clock behind me, OK, don`t get too distracted by it. I`m
going to bring it back whenever we need it. The state of Oklahoma was
scheduled to execute two convicted murders, Clayton Lockett and Charles
Warner this past Tuesday night. Their crimes were utterly heinous. And no
one is claiming they were innocent. Still, the inmates challenged their
execution asserting that they have a right to know the source of the drugs
in a planned lethal injection cocktail. A combination of drugs that had
never been tested before in this particular doses, and which the state was
A district court judge ruled on March 26th that the secrecy law signed by
Governor Mary Fallin in 2011 was unconstitutional. But after the state`s
Supreme Court granted a stay of the executions on April 22nd, so that it
could rule on this issue of secrecy, the governor responded, saying the
court had acted, quote, outside of its constitutional authority. At the
same time a fellow Republican in the state house began working on a bill to
impeach the five justices who voted for the stay. The state Supreme Court
soon ruled against the inmates regarding the question of secrecy of the
drug cocktail, lifted the stay and effectively allowed the plan for
execution to move forward. Time check. 1:22. Back to the story. Thanks
to the court`s ruling, the executions, complete with the untested drug
cocktail, were scheduled for last Tuesday night. At 6:23 p.m. local time,
Clayton Lockett lay strapped to a gurney. His sedation was finally flowing
into his body after officials spent nearly an hour searching for a vein for
the I.V. And soon it was clear that something was very wrong. Witnesses,
including one of my guests today noticed Lockett blinking, pursing his lips
five minutes into the procedure. A physician checked, he wasn`t yet
conscious when he - wasn`t yet unconscious when he should have been by
then. Shortly after the second and third drugs, the fatal ones started to
flow into him at 6:33 p.m. At 6:36 p.m., Lockett began to twitch, shake
and mumble. And one of his attorneys later described what he saw.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a horrible thing to witness. One of the
things he said was something`s wrong. He said, man, at one point. He kept
trying to raise up.
HARRIS-PERRY: A few minutes later, the Oklahoma director of corrections
attempted to halt the execution. At 6:42 p.m. the shades were drawn,
blocking the witnesses from seeing any more. Here`s what witnesses told
reporters they did see.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was struggling to talk, but those were the words
we got out, man, I`m not, and something`s wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seemed like he was trying to get up. And at 6:39,
they lowered the blinds.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We didn`t know what was happening on the other side
of the blinds. We didn`t know if he was still dying or if they were still
pumping drugs in him
HARRIS-PERRY: The state`s log indicates that at 7:06 p.m. Lockett was
declared dead of what the director of corrections calls a massive heart
attack. As a result of what happened during Lockett`s execution, an
immediate stay was put in place for Charles Warner`s execution. On
Thursday the director of corrections recommended in -- an indefinite delay
in any further executions while the lethal execution procedure is reviewed.
At a press conference Friday, President Obama announced a Justice
Department review of how the death penalty is carried out and responded to
a question about the events of that night.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: In the
application of the death penalty in this country, we have seen significant
problems. This situation in Oklahoma, I think, just highlights some of the
significant problems there. I think we do have to, as a society, ask
ourselves some difficult and profound questions.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I found that story difficult to tell. It`s gruesome.
But I know some people right now might be shrugging and asking why should I
care? And I get it - if you know anything about the crime for which
Lockett was sentenced to die, this story of a 43-minute botched lethal
injection procedure might not feel gruesome enough. Now, I`m not going to
share the details of Lockett`s crime because they are the kind of details
that can give one nightmares and evoke images you will never shake, but
this crime is as bad as you can imagine. And I feel a little difficulty in
having pity for someone capable of doing what this man did. And I can
understand why many people could react with disinterest or even with a kind
of morbid glee to learn that this man, Lockett, suffered in this way before
his death. Given his crime, who cares? Time check, 4:44.
So let me try to answer that question, who cares? We should. We, the
American people. No matter our party affiliation, no matter whether we
support the death penalty, we should care whether inmates are tortured to
death by the state and we should care because not torturing our inmates to
death is one of the distinguishing features of our founding. It is part of
how we understand who we are as a people. Look here at the Eighth
Amendment, which reads excessive bail shall not be required nor excessive
fines imposed. And then here`s the key part, nor cruel and unusual
punishments inflicted. That amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, bans
the state from torturing those we find guilty, even of heinous crimes. The
constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment is among the earliest
aspects of United States law. One that existed before the republic was
even fully formed. The language was borrowed from the Virginia Declaration
of Rights, which predates even the declaration of independence. We assert
this right to protection against cruel and unusual punishment, because we
are a government of laws. Not whims. Not emotions, not the will of a
dictator. We do not turn over the guilty to mobs of angry citizens. I get
Revenge is an ugly, but ordinary human impulse. At a human level, we can
countenance the desire to torture and kill people who commit atrocities
like those Lockett and Warner committed, but we don`t. We don`t because
who we are as citizens, as a nation must be higher than our lowest human
impulses. One of our founding fathers, James Wilson, explained in 1791 the
same year the Eighth Amendment was adopted, quote, "A nation broke to or
that tolerates cruel punishments becomes dastardly and contemptible. For
in nations as well as individuals cruelty is always attended by cowardice."
When we ratify the Eighth Amendment, our nation affirmed that we will not
engage in cruel and unusual punishment. And we have spent decades defining
just what that is.
In the 1878 case, Wilkerson versus Utah, the Supreme Court noted that
drawing and quartering, burning alive and a few other awful ways to die
constitute cruel and unusual punishment. In the whims case of 1910, the
Supreme Court ruled that the Eighth Amendment prohibited hard and painful
labor, shackling for the length of incarceration and severe civil
Time check. 7:12. Remember that execution chamber where Clayton Lockett
lay strapped to a gurney awaiting his death? 43 minutes may not seem like
a long time. It`s a long time. I`ve been talking about this for less than
eight minutes. That is an eternity in TV time. Imagine how long that is
in death chamber time. Multiply that number behind me by about four and
he`s still not dead. Clayton Lockett`s crimes were monstrous, but if we,
the state, torture him for 43 minutes until he is dead, then what does that
make us? At what point do we become monsters?
Joining me now from Tulsa, Oklahoma, is Ziva Branstetter, enterprise editor
for "Tulsa World," a witness to the execution of Clayton Lockett. And also
with me from Atlanta is Stephen Bright, president and senior counsel at the
Southern Center for Human Rights. So nice to have you both here.
ZIVA BRANSTETTER, ENTERPRISE EDITOR, "TULSA WORLD": Good morning.
STEPHEN BRIGHT, PRES. & SR. COUNCIL, SCHR: Good to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ziva, do I have the sequence of events on that night
BRANSTETTER: Yes, you do.
HARRIS-PERRY: What else do we need to know about what happened on that day
even leading up to that moment?
BRANSTETTER: Yes, so the inmate was very noncompliant. At 5 a.m. he
refused a verbal order to come out of his cell. Cell entry team had to
remove him forcibly using a taser. He - at that time the prison guards
discovered he had self-injured his arm. They took him to prison medical -
discovered - determined that he didn`t need any stitches and he was placed
in a sort of mental holding cell to review his behavior for a period of
time and then taken to the normal process of showering and preparing for
HARRIS-PERRY: So we know then there was -- obviously there was a legal
case, a challenge. We also know that there was noncompliance on that day.
And then we know about these 43 minutes. Steven, I want for a moment to
set aside the idea of the death penalty as itself inherently cruel and
unusual, which I understand many people argue. But I just want to set that
aside for a moment and just explain to me how it is that lethal I injection
has been seen by the courts as not violating the Eighth Amendment.
BRIGHT: Well, in the United States Supreme Court looked at this question,
they said there wasn`t a risk of unnecessary pain in looking at the
Kentucky procedures in a case which didn`t actually involve an attempt to
execute someone. Obviously in Oklahoma, that`s not true. This man, as you
said, was tortured to death over this time period. And what we`re seeing
is that with all the problems of lethal injection and there have been
plenty in states all over the country, Ohio, Florida, other places in
Oklahoma just in January, what the states have rushed to do is to make
everything secret. Rather than try to solve the problem or try to deal
with the issues, it`s to make everything secret so nobody knows what`s
happening. And basically the departments of corrections or the governors
and legislators, are saying, trust us. Even on something like killing you,
trust us, we`ll find some drugs, maybe from a compounding pharmacy, that is
judged by -- and the United States court of appeals said maybe like a high
school chemistry class. We`ll have unskilled people administering these
drugs and not there with the inmate, but in another room somewhere feeding
the drugs in. And so what you have is the disaster that we had in Oklahoma
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so, Stephen, you said some things that I think are
really critical there, Ziva, and I want to come to you on those. Because
this question of secrecy, the issue of having unskilled persons actually
doing this, is there a protocol in Oklahoma that allows for this kind of
secrecy or that allows for this level of unskilled persons actually
administering the drugs?
BRANSTETTER: Well, correct. We passed a secrecy law in 2011 that shields
the identities of the executioners, people who participate in the process
as well as the suppliers of the drugs and the medical equipment. They do,
according to the timeline that our Department of Corrections put out, they
do have a phlebotomist, I`m assuming the phlebotomist is licensed, but we
can`t check that, because we don`t have a name. They do have a physician
who is in the room. We don`t have his name either. I don`t know if he`s
been disciplined. He, you know, oversaw the process supposedly of
inserting the IV. They couldn`t find veins in his arm, so they placed the
IV in his groin area, femoral vein and so, there are a lot of questions
that we would like answered, but we can`t get access to the records of who
these professionals are.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, Stephen, let me come back to you for a
moment. I want to listen here to - for a moment to Jay Carney talking
about kind of how difficult this was and how it raises questions for us
about the processes of lethal injection.
JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In this case, or these cases, the
crimes are indisputably horrific and heinous, but it`s also the case that
we have a fundamental standard in this country that even when the death
penalty is justified, it must be carried out humanely. And I think
everyone would recognize that this case fell short of that standard.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is there a way to, Stephen, humanely carry out the death
BRIGHT: Well, I mean what you have with these departments of corrections
here, I mean it`s clear from the timeline that the director of corrections
sent to the governor that when things started to go wrong here, they had no
idea what they were doing. The warden is on the phone to the director
talking about, well, he`s not dying and the director is saying do we have
enough drugs or, no, we don`t have enough drugs. They were going to
execute another man later that night, they surely had more drugs. But it`s
clear from the summary of that that this - neither one of these people are
doctors, neither one is an anesthesiologist, they had absolutely no idea
what they`re doing and then they finally called off the execution and then
five minutes later, say the guy has a massive heart attack. But lethal
injection was seen as this kind of humane, almost like being put to sleep
before an operation. It just hasn`t turned out that way for a lot of
reasons that I talked about. And I just point this out. The director says
at the end of this letter to the governor that he is going to check with
other corrections departments to find out what best practices are for
carrying out an execution. Oklahoma has carried out 111 executions. And
now they`re talking about checking on best practices? They haven`t figured
out what the best practices is after -- I mean they`re second only to Texas
in the number of people that have been executed. And this was keystone
cops. I mean this was absolutely botched in every way conceivable,
starting with the tasering of the fellow first thing in the morning and
then all the things that happened when they tried to put him down. And the
other thing about putting the curtains down, I mean the idea of having
witnesses there, like a reporter and like people from the public is to see
what happens and to know what`s going on, but this is all shrouded in
HARRIS-PERRY: Ziva Branstetter, we are going to continue to read your
reporting around this. I know this is not over, as Stephen Bright just
brought up. There was another inmate who was meant to be executed that
night and we`ll be following this. Thank you for being here. Thank you
for being here, Stephen Bright.
BRANSTETTER: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Obviously we are raising big questions about that 43
Coming up, outrage over the comments on race made by L.A. Clippers owner,
Donald Sterling. And what we can learn from Kanye West.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cases of potential voter impersonation fraud occur so
infrequently that no rational person familiar with the relevant facts could
be concerned about them. So read the ruling out of a U.S. district court
this week striking down Wisconsin`s voter I.D. law. Voter impersonation
fraud does not occur in Wisconsin, wrote federal judge Lynn Adelman.
300,000 registered voters in Wisconsin lacked the I.D. that state tried to
make necessary and those voters are disproportionately black and Latino.
The voter I.D. law, therefore, produces a discriminatory result, the judge
wrote. The ruling was a major victory for voting rights advocates and the
300,000 voters in question, beating back the false narrative of voter
impersonation, which again the judge wrote "no rational person could be
concerned about." Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said his administration
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, Nerdland, do you remember this moment?
KANYE WEST: George Bush doesn`t care about black people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kanye West said that on live national TV during an NVT
telethon that raised more than $50 million for victims of Hurricane
Katrina. It was September 2nd, 2005. And New Orleans was still under as
much as ten feet of toxic water. Thousands of city residents were still
trapped in their homes, on their roofs or in the blackout Superdome in
convention center. Many had gone without food or water for days. They
were still waiting for aid by the federal government, four days after the
levees failed. President George W. Bush later said in his memoir and in
the 2010 interview with NBC`s Matt Lauer that Kanye West`s statement was
the worst moment of his eight years as president.
GEORGE W. BUSH: I didn`t appreciate it then, I don`t appreciate it now.
It`s one thing to say, you know, I don`t appreciate the way he`s handled
his business. It`s another thing to say this man is a racist. I resent
it, it`s not true, and it was one of the most disgusting moments of my
MATT LAUER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: And you say you told Laura at the time it
was the worst moment of your presidency.
LAUER: I wonder if some people are going to read that and they might give
you some heat for that. And the reason is that ...
BUSH: I don`t care.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, not the hurricane itself, not the aftermath, not the
slow government response, not the at least 1,800 people who had died, the
worst moment of his presidency was when someone called him a racist. Now,
let me be clear, I am not bringing this up now in order to mock the former
president. I`m doing it in order to make a point. That many people, good
intentioned people can think of nothing worse than to be labeled as racist.
And there is a lot of good in that. I mean I prefer to live in a country
where people do not want to be thought of as racist. In 2005, though,
Kanye`s comments launched a national debate about who is racist. About who
can call someone racist. And about what exactly is in Mr. Bush`s heart of
hearts. Now, I`m not making any claim about President George W. Bush`s
racial attitudes, but I do want to point out a problem. Instead of talking
about how the storm had a disparate impact on communities of color, we
ended up fighting over whether George W. Bush, the person, cares about
black people. What and who one man, even a powerful man, cares about is
much less important than determining how the decisions of those in power,
no matter how they feel, regardless of whether they`re black or white or
democrat or Republican, how those decisions and policies exacerbated
disaster that disproportionately harmed African-Americans.
Now, I think something similar is happening right now when we talk about
Donald Sterling, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers pro basketball team.
I am not, just to be clear, equating George W. Bush to Donald Sterling. I
am asking us to think about how we respond in these public moments of race
talk. Sterling was banned from the NBA for life this week for telling his
alleged girlfriend that he didn`t want her to be seen with black people or
to bring black people to his team`s games. And the outrage was swift, loud
and effective. Social media have all the feelings. Sponsors pulled out in
droves. Clippers` players staged an on-court protest. President Obama
weighed in and in less than a week the NBA commissioner banned Sterling
from the league for life.
ADAM SILVER, COMMISSIONER, NBA: The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are
deeply offensive and harmful. That they came from an NBA owner only
heightens the damage and my personal outrage.
HARRIS-PERRY: Many have pointed out that Sterling`s comments should not
have been surprising. He has a history of alleged discrimination,
including a massive $2.7 million settlement with the Justice Department in
2009 over accusations that he discriminated against African-Americans and
Hispanics at apartment buildings he owned and yet those allegations never
created the same media firestorm as Sterling`s comments. Those allegations
of ongoing structural racial discrimination did not produce a national
outcry sufficient to motivate the league to act. But a tape? Well, now
there is a tape, and we, the public are making the same analytic error
committed by Kanye West back in 2005. He alleged that George Bush, the
person, didn`t care about black people when the real issue was whether the
office of the presidency that happened to be occupied by Bush at that
moment was treating black citizens unfairly. Now we the public are
obsessing over whether an individual is a racist and we get outraged by
racially charged language, but we often fail to create the same kind of
firestorm for truly damaging versions of racism, structural racism and the
policies and actions that disproportionately harm people of color, whether
the policy maker himself or herself is racist. Joining me now is Jelani
Cobb, associate professor at the University of Connecticut, Ari Berman,
contributing writer from "The Nation" magazine, Brittney Cooper, assistant
professor at Rutgers University and Romani Jones, co-host of ESPN 2`s
"Highly Questionable." Welcome, everybody.
BRITTNEY COOPER: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Romani, what do you make of this moment?
BOMANI JONES, ESPN COMMENTATOR: It was funny. As soon as it happened, I
thought it was like Friday night. So, everybody - to watching basketball,
and they came across. And my immediate reaction was, Donald Sterling has
not changed. That was it. I had an archive of three things that I had
done in the course on Donald Sterling. He has not changed. This is the
same man who had a Black History Month celebration in March at his arena.
So, I mean I couldn`t figure out why anybody was so terribly shocked. The
next day everybody was so mad. And I listened to the tape. This wasn`t
nearly as offensive as people made it out to be. It was kind of crazy, it
was kind of kooky, but in the grand scheme, this wasn`t the one.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, but there are - as much as this is a smoking gun, it`s
an odd kind of smoking gun given sort of the longer trajectory, the longer
history. So, it`s a relatively mild one. I want to play, though, your
point here about this kind of longer history. I want to play actually
Bryant Gumbel saying something very similar and get your response to it.
BRYANT GUMBEL: I guess I`m surprised that anyone is surprised. I mean
Donald Sterling`s reputation is such that one could say if you keep a
vicious dog for a while and you know he`s vicious, you can`t be surprised
when one day it bites someone. Donald Sterling`s racial history is on the
record. It has cost him money. It cost him his reputation long before
this. And so I`m kind of amazed that anyone is surprised at this and,
frankly, I`m kind of surprised that the NBA is being let off the hook on
HARRIS-PERRY: Respond to that.
JELANI COBB, ASSOCIATE PROF., UCONN: Well, I mean I think it`s very
similar. I think very many of us had similar reactions. And, you know, my
editors - I wrote something for "The New Yorker" blog about this, and my
editors had to fight with me to get me to write about it because I said,
you know, what outrage says or what shock about this says that you didn`t
believe us before. So I mean if you were really listening to what the
narrative has been about how race works in the society then you`d
understand that these attitudes are prevailing and existent. And, you
know, one other thing about this, too. About the kind of moral question,
the great accomplishment of the civil rights movement was that we came to
understand racism as a moral failing. There`s no coincidence that Dr.
King, you know, led this movement about him, Deboys (ph) famously said when
King first emerged, "I plan to see a great many things in my lifetime,
never a radical Baptist preacher.
COBB: And we get a movement that talks about this in moral terms but as a
consequence we now look at racism as an individual failing. And it`s very
difficult to make that other argument saying this is systemic and there are
economic implications to it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as part of that, as part of that sort of the notion of a
moral failing, it does feel to me like the Sterling tape then becomes a
kind of baptism of innocence for everybody who doesn`t have this tape. So
if you`ve never said these kinds of words, if you can`t imagine telling
your alleged girlfriend that she couldn`t hang out with black people on
Instagram, well, then you clearly aren`t a racist, no matter what sorts of
policies you engage with.
ARI BERMAN, THE NATION MAGAZINE: Yeah, and Ta Nehisi-Coates had a great
column in "The Atlantic" this week.
BERMAN: Yeah, exactly. But elegant racism versus oafish racism. And his
point was that it`s the Donald Sterlings, the Bundys, they`re the oafish
racists who get caught. They are outed. But the elegant racism, the
systemic racism of voter I.D. laws, of poll taxes of housing
discrimination. That`s something that we`ve come to accept as normal. And
it gets to this whole question of how we define discrimination. Do we
define it as intent, intentional discrimination, do we define it as the
effects of discrimination. This is a broader debate we`re having in
society right now. We have a Supreme Court that wants to define
discrimination purely on individual Donald Sterling-like intent and that`s
going to miss all the structural effects of racism that really is what is
affecting society right now in a much greater way.
HARRIS-PERRY: So think a little bit about this. It`s also true that in
the tapes, because you point out there`s not a lot of "n" word being thrown
around but there is a moment to attempt to generate racial innocence even
in the tape where Sterling himself is saying, hey, you`re trying to make me
look like I`m a racist here. I can`t figure out whether I should be
excited that we live in a country where now people are like seriously, I do
not want to be a racist or whether or not that concern with being labeled a
racist is itself so contentless that I shouldn`t even see it as progress.
COOPER: Sure. I think the problem is that we`re focused on symbols rather
than substance. I think that that`s where you`re challenging us to place
our focus, right, which is to say that in this moment where we`re having
all these commemorations about the civil rights movement, one of the things
we`re also doing is having these symbolic funerals, where we`re slaying the
fathers, where we`re saying these old white men with these retrograde
racial views, we want to rid our society of them. And that gives people
credibility on race to slay them and to say this is a mark of progress.
Now that I have done this, I am not in league with them, and it allows
folks to separate themselves, and then no one has to then deal with the
substance of policy, right, and the way that these players have been
affected by this.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. I love that idea that there`s a way in which
initially having the black friend is the cloak that says you can`t be
racist, but now maybe it`s slaying the white racist elder dragon that
allows you to be the person who says clearly I can`t be racist. There is
more to come this morning. And a new report on voting in Texas. We`re
going to get to that in a little bit. But before that, when we come back,
we`re going to hear from the woman who`s at the center of the Donald
Sterling story. You may be surprised to find out what she had to say.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last night on ABC`s "20/20," we heard from the woman at the
center of the story surrounding Donald Sterling, in an exclusive interview
with Barbara Walters. She says she does not believe Sterling is racist,
but rather from a different generation. She also offered this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
V. STIVIANO: Through his actions, he`s shown to be a very generous and
kind man. If he was a real racist, then why would he help the world the
way that he has.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Because real racists don`t help the world, Romani.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t really quite know where to go with that. But that
notion of the real racist, I want to play for you a second, because seeing
her and remembering the extent to which this is all about is he a racist,
is he a real racist. The willingness of people just to say racist. But I
experienced this tape also as having a ton of sexism in it, which seems to
be generally silenced.
I want to listen to Jay Smooth, friend of Nerdland, Jay Smooth, who is of
IllDoctrine.com, who put out this fantastic video this week on the Don
Sterling controversy making a little bit of this point about sexism and
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SMOOTH: Racism and being a horrible, manipulative boyfriend turn out
to go really well with each other. They both basically work the same way.
They`re based on the same kind of mind games and evasive tactics and
emotional abuse. They`re a perfect match for each other. They go together
like man and `splaining.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: They go together like man and `splaining. But I kept
thinking, not only did people not have a reaction to the sexism in the
tape, but a lot of people reproduced it, even in their analysis saying you
can`t trust a woman like that who would put your tape out and actually
reproducing a kind of sexism.
COOPER: The real challenge here is this fits the script so easily. He`s
regulating this woman`s body. He`s saying here`s who you can sleep with,
but I want you to be the proxy for my sort of -- for my sort of racial --
be my racial proxy, right? So you prove that I am not a racist because I
have this beautiful woman on my arm, but this script about sort of old
white men and their fascination and fetishization of women of color, it`s
so old, and in some ways I`m trying to resist reading this according to
this old script. And it`s hard to get out of that. To think about what it
means that she has been willing to be his racial sidekick. Why is she
willing to do this other than money? And so I think that she too falls
victim to the sort of idea that real racists are sort of screaming terrible
people, but the reality is he is a terrible person, and it`s unclear why
she doesn`t see that. I say that he`s a terrible person because of the
sort of mind games he plays with her, the way he regulates her body, the
fact that he tells her that she can sleep with these men, but she just
can`t be seen with them.
HARRIS-PERRY: I like this idea that real racists never do anything good
for the world, and that`s just historically untrue. Thomas Jefferson was a
real racist and helped to found a pretty cool country. LBJ, as Adam Serwer
wrote, was a real racist who nonetheless passed the `64 and `65 Voting
Rights Act. I wonder if this goes to that whole idea of being more
concerned about these beliefs that people have than their practices.
BERMAN: Absolutely. We should look at what they have done. And this came
up over and over again in American history. I`ve been reading a lot about
Ronald Reagan right now and his assault on civil rights. Reagan kept
saying I don`t have a discriminatory bone this my body. Maybe he did,
maybe he didn`t, but that wasn`t the issue. The issue was what his
policies did in terms of decimating civil rights. And so we keep looking
at these individuals` views. Really, they matter as a proxy for larger
discussions, but their actions are so much more important. If we had
actually looked at Donald Sterling`s actions, if we had just read Romani`s
columns back then, we would have known what we were dealing with a long
time before this tape came out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me a little bit about that. Am I being too harsh,
particularly as a TV person? The fact is, if I can play a tape, it is
sexier. If I can tweet a link and people can sit around and watch it, and
it`s kind of funny, then of course it`s going to cause more reaction, or
are we really like incapable of engaging with the structure?
JONES: The tape is big. Once you have something you can reproduce and
people can hear and be shocked by, that`s one thing. The other part, is
how many people are truly qualified to dissect this in the terms that are
required to get people to understand the significance of going simply
beyond the terms, because we`ve turned racism basically into a semantic
argument. If you can`t walk somebody back on their logic all the way to
oh, my god, I`m a racist. That was the brilliance of Reagan Atwater
politics. There was dog whistle stuff. There was no mystery to what was
going on. But you always have plausible deniability. Hey, man, states`
HARRIS-PERRY: I just want small government, not racism.
JONES: But once you did that, those were the terms we have, so the null
hypothesis is almost there is no racism and you have to prove beyond 95
percent that there is, and that`s completely ahistorical. It has nothing
to do with what really goes on in the world. But once you put it at that
standard, it`s almost impossible to prove, and then all we do is we get on
people for being gauche.
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you just make a standard deviation reference at my
table, in a conversation about race, because that was high nerd? I
JONES: Just for you, though.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciated that. Stick with us. We of course have more
on this. As we go out, I want to take a listen to a little bit more of Ill
Doctrine and our friend, Jay Smooth, because he really did do this lovely
piece. When we come back, we`ll talk more about Donald Sterling, but I do
want to listen to Jay as we go out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SMOOTH: I`m not saying Donald Sterling got too much attention for these
words. He deserves all he is getting right now. I`m glad those tapes came
out. I hope more tapes come out. I hope he`s like the Tupac of unreleased
racism tapes and we can put them all together in a boxed set named "Here`s
what they think about you." But I just wish when I watch a story like this
that we could figure out how to take that same energy and fury we bring to
racist words and bring it just as hard to all the racist practices that
generate injustice without generating TMZ clips.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In the case of Donald Sterling, owner of the Los Angeles
Clippers, it was his words that got him banned from the NBA and not the
years of alleged housing discrimination that attracted multiple lawsuits
from tenants, housing advocates and the federal Department of Justice.
Sterling is a real estate mogul in Los Angeles, he owns more than 100
buildings, about 5,000 apartments, and the Justice Department claimed that
he did not like renting those apartments to African-Americans, to Latinos,
or to families with children. Sterling allegedly made statements to
employees indicating that African-Americans and Hispanics were not
desirable tenants, and it worked. According to the DOJ, Sterling rented to
far fewer Hispanics and African-Americans than could be expected in those
neighborhoods. As part of the DOJ suit, two families, an African-American
family and an interracial couple with children claimed that Sterling
demolished their private yards in order to push them out because of their
Eventually, Sterling settled that lawsuit. Although he maintained his
innocence, he paid $2.7 million to the Justice Department and to the people
he allegedly discriminated against. It was the largest settlement the
Justice Department had ever won anywhere for allegations of housing
discrimination in the rental of apartments.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s telling, of course, that Donald Sterling paid the
largest ever settlement won by the Justice Department for discrimination in
rental housing. But the fact that the Justice Department sued at all is
telling. It rarely does. The federal government rarely takes any action
against offenders, even though it knows there`s rampant housing
discrimination against people of color. They even know when and where it
So Jelani, obviously this is still alleged in the sense that he settled.
He didn`t admit to guilt. But there is this way in which housing in
particular, the thing that determined employment and access to
transportation and education, like housing discrimination is serious
COBB: It really is. And especially when we talk about the opposition to
the Civil Rights Act. We`re looking at the 50th anniversary of it.
Housing, even employment was not as contentious as the issue of housing.
We see this now even in housing patterns. This is kind of the bread and
butter where the economic implications of racism are. We talk about
disparities in wealth. Some people are accruing equity, other people are
not. Even we talk about holding constant for socioeconomic factors, a
black neighborhood with the same socioeconomic profile as a white
neighborhood does not accrue equity at the same rate. All of these things
are really going to the core of what we look at when we have a racial caste
system. It is intimately connected to housing.
One of the things I wanted to say to bring the conversation back for a
second about actions versus words. When we think about the opposition to
the kind of overt racism and, you know, as you said offish racism, we think
it always came from liberals, the people who were concerned with racial
equality. No. In the history of the South, there is a significant
antagonism toward that kind of declasse racism from other white racists,
who are saying this is not how we want to be understood. The difference
between the Klan and the White Citizens Council, right? And so the people
are saying we can still be racist, but we are just going to be racists in
more sophisticated ways. That`s what we`re talking about here. We`re not
interested in choosing between the Klan and the White Citizens Council,
we`re choosing between racism and actual equality.
HARRIS-PERRY: So that is extremely useful to me, in part because it is a
reminder that this idea of these kinds of racialized expressions, this kind
of racism, is something that we end up with this kind of entire social
angst against, right? It doesn`t necessarily have to be ideological, and
yet the very idea that it is only the discourse. And I want to point out,
it really is only the discourse that leads to the removal. Let`s listen to
Commissioner Silver saying it`s not that housing discrimination that caused
the decision by the NBA.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER: In meting out this punishment, we did not
take into account his past behavior. When the board ultimately considers
his overall fitness to be an owner in the NBA, they will take into account
a lifetime of behavior.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BERMAN: Yeah. It`s like why didn`t they? Why didn`t they? Like
discriminating in a systematic basis against blacks and Hispanics isn`t as
bad as saying something in one tape. That`s basically what Silver is
admitting. And that`s letting a whole lot of people off the hook for their
JONES: He also delegitimatized the punishment. If you`re telling me you
deserve to lose your team because somebody made a tape at your house,
that`s ridiculous. That is preposterous. The problem was they had to
answer for the fact that this happened all these years ago and they knew it
happened all these years ago and they didn`t know what to do with it, so he
jumps up and says we weren`t talking about that. And people weren`t bright
enough to look up and say, wait a minute, this is preposterous.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so pause right there, because this is important to me.
I kept feeling the same way. It is preposterous to lose one`s lifetime
rights to go to NBA games, which is basically what the ban is, or to
potentially lose the whole team over this particular tape. So why did it
happen? What are the things that make this happen?
COBB: Here`s exactly what it is. If you pay attention closely to that
press conference, someone said should he lose these rights and be punished
like this for a private conversation? He said well, it`s public now. The
problem wasn`t that he said it, the problem was that he said it in such a
way, he was not discreet enough that it could become public.
His problem is a lack of discretion. This is what the NBA is penalizing
him for. His lack of discretion, and it`s now having an economic blowback
on the rest of us (ph).
HARRIS-PERRY: And once it becomes public, it`s the public nature of it
that creates the economic consequences.
COOPER: But let`s also roll back and say it became public because of his
girlfriend or personal assistant or whomever she is. But that becomes
really important, right, because it`s part of this sort of narrative that
says that racism is only a thing that happens in private, and as long as it
stays connected to the private sphere, then there is no public
accountability that has to occur. Essentially these folks are saying we
got embarrassed, we don`t know what to do, now we have to do something.
But this also makes it easy if we just stay with these kind of individual
narratives. That is part of the reason that she then gets dismissed as
this sort of gold digger who throws her dude under the bus, right, because
we don`t have a more sophisticated narrative that says that our commitment
should be ferreting this out at the highest levels.
JONES: There`s another individual narrative at play here we can`t forget.
He said something bad about Magic Johnson. I tell you, if he said
something bad about Isiah Thomas, we are not sitting here right now. We`re
here because he said something about a guy that people like, a black dude
people like. If you say something about a black dude that people like,
then if you want to give the appearance that you are the opponent of
racism, look, if Magic Johnson can`t come to the game with your girl,
nobody can come to the game with your girl. That`s their perception. Wait
a minute, we`re not saying all of them. There`s a couple of them we can
understand how you feel that way about, but Magic, he smiles all the time.
That`s huge. That`s a big part of it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It`s (inaudible), and also let me suggest that Magic
Johnson is empowered in communities outside of basketball. Yes, there is
basketball, but he also is the businessman, he`s also the public health
advocate. There`s all these ways in which like sort of who the personage
that Magic Johnson is extends beyond sort of his days on the court.
BERMAN: But you mentioned how did it happen, it happened because the
players forced the commissioner`s hands. The players are employees. This
was also - these are rich individuals - this is also an economic justice
issue. It is a unionized community where the players could speak out and
they wouldn`t be penalized. So that`s something that wasn`t discussed
during this whole story. It was really the actions of the players that
forced this whole issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t know if you`ve been looking at our rundown for
tomorrow, but that`s actually how we are going to talk about this tomorrow,
because I am really interested in this question of how the union makes it
possible for them to speak and the ways in which I would love to see
players empowered in certain ways to speak in other contexts as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: So thanks for doing that for us. Thank you, Romani Jones,
who is already getting 14 invitations back from my - I was just listening
to my control room, they are like, yes, bring him back. So he will be back
on Nerdland. The rest of the panel is sticking around for now. Coming up
next, this week in voter suppression. Texas edition again. The surprising
tactics in play in the Lone Star State. And Eric Holder takes on racial
profiling. There is of course more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Voters in Wisconsin scored a big win on Tuesday when Federal Judge Lynn
Adelman struck down the state law requiring voters to provide state-
approved photo identification before they could cast a ballot. You could
chuck that up as a "W" in our column for the ongoing series, "This Week in
But "This Week in Voter Suppression", it is not all good news. For now,
voters in the Badger State will enjoy relatively unfettered access to the
polls. But a little farther South, a different effort is under way.
Welcome to Texas, or as a new group of Democratic volunteers has dubbed it,
"Battleground Texas." These volunteers led by former Obama for America
staffers are fanning out across the Lone Star State trying to register new
voters with hope that say they will turn out in the fall for a Democratic
gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis.
And this effort is not just about 2014. Battleground Texas is hoping for
something much bigger, Texas-size big. They hope that by tapping the large
unregistered population of Latino Texans, they might change the state`s
political landscape, flipping Texas from solidly red to battleground purple
and eventually to bright, shiny, 38-electoral vote garnering blue.
Now, if that seems farfetched, just remember that speculation about a blue
Texas was a headline grabber in 2012. "The New York times," "The
Washington Post" and "Forbes" all speculate about how the state`s new
demographics might change its electoral map destiny.
No such tectonic shift is imminent because even though Latinos are 38
percent of the Texas population and 44 percent of Latinos are eligible to
vote, that makes more than a quarter of all of Texas` eligible voters
But here`s the catch: only 39 percent of those potentially Latino voters
actually cast ballots in 2012. And that`s compared to a statewide turnout
of more than 58 percent.
Battleground Texas volunteers are working to change those numbers, getting
more eligible Latino voters registered and getting more of those registered
to the polls.
The state`s restricted voter registration laws could hamstring the process.
Two 2011 Texas laws complicated the state`s voter registration rules. If
you don`t live in Texas, you can`t register voters in Texas. And the laws
require county training for anyone registering voters. And these trained
volunteers must then personally deliver all registration applications as
opposed to mailing the applications to the state registration offices,
which you can do in other states.
These laws create obstacles for groups like Battleground to register
voters. So, I have a question, is that the point?
Joining me now: Jelani Cobb, associate professor at the University of
Connecticut. Ari Berman, contributing writer at "The Nation" magazine.
Zach Roth, the MSNBC national reporter who`s been in Texas reporting on
battleground and Dale Ho, director of the ACLU`s voting rights project.
Nice to have you all here.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nice to see you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Dale, talk to me about a set of laws, sophisticated and
elegant rules about registration. I mean, is this a kind of new way of
suppressing the vote by actually suppressing registration?
DALE HO, DIR., ACLU`S VOTING RIGHTS PROJECT: It seems like we`re playing a
game of whack-a-mole right now when it comes to voter suppression, right?
I mean, every time we whack down something like a voter ID law, some new
tactic pops up and that`s why the voting rights act was passed in the first
place in 1965.
So, barriers to registration and restrictions on voter registration drives,
right? What Texas is doing, other states have tried similar things before.
So, Texas, I mean, Florida, before the 2012 election, right, they imposed
this 48-hour deadline for you to return voter registration forms or you
would be fined $50 per form per day late.
I was representing the Okaloosa branch of NAACP in 2012. They got in
trouble for returning two forms four hours late. Here`s what happened.
HARRIS-PERRY: Wow, like a rental car.
HO: Right. They collected them on Sunday. They returned them on Tuesday
afternoon. Now, why didn`t they return them Monday, right? Monday was MLK
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, wow.
HO: And they didn`t get 24 hours of totaling for that. It was really,
really, really amazing.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, I love that in part because it is a reminder
that there are all of these multiple levels of barriers to voting that we
set up, right, that you would think in a democracy our goal would be to
increase the capacity of people to register -- for example, through the
motor voter laws or through same-day registration. And when we look, for
example, at same-day registration, folks in states with same-day
registration have higher turnout than in states like Texas that create
these registration barriers.
So, what is the narrative? What is the explanation that is given for these
kinds of laws?
BERMAN: Well, the explanation is always a one size fits all of voter
fraud. It`s this phrase that`s repeated over and over and over again
without any evidence to back it up. And Texas has thrown out this phrase
more than any other state and that`s why Texas has really unloaded the
kitchen sink of voter suppression. They have done so many other things.
Texas is the only state where the Justice Department blocked both a voter
ID law and restricting map as discriminatory and the federal courts ruled
in their favor. So, they already have two strikes against them. Now,
they`re doing the voter registration thing.
So they`re decreasing the representation of black and Hispanic voters.
They`re making it harder for them to cast votes and they`re making it
harder for them to register. So, every step of the political process
they`re discriminating against peep of color in Texas.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. And like, you were just in Texas. I`m glad you made it
back out into us, and you just came back from Texas where you were
reporting on voter registration.
So I want to share some of the videos from volunteers because they are
talking about sort of why they are there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIERA BAZAN, BATTLEGROUND TEXAS VOLUNTEER: I grew up in south Texas around
this area and I grew up around a lot of domestic violence and a lot of
poverty where, you know, we couldn`t afford food and we couldn`t afford
shelter. We usually lived in abandoned houses for a long time and by the
time I was about 17, I dropped out of high school. I became a single mom
at 19. And then I became homeless at 19.
And so, that`s why I joined Battleground Texas. I am now 21 and now I go
to college and have a 3-year-old, but it`s very personal.
I was wondering if you support Wendy Davis for governor?
I saw a lot of mow friends who had the same scenario, you know, absent
parents, fail. They didn`t get into college or they didn`t go to college.
They ended up with, you know, drug addictions or things like that, because
there just was no resources to get out. To me, that`s the way it seems.
Children who were born into poverty stay in poverty. It`s very, very hard
for us to get out of the system.
Everybody here is here for a reason. And it`s not just about numbers and
it`s not just about our party and expanding our party because we`re
awesome, but because we hold values and we hold our values here in south
Every time I leave these meetings, I always have to cry because I hear so
many different personal stories that connect all of us to one another. And
you start to realize how much you`re hurting your community and how much --
how real this is. It`s not only you that it affected, these policies, it`s
a lot of people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Zach, that`s not just a story about, here, would you
please sign up to register. That`s a pretty intense personal narrative.
ZACHARY ROTH, MSNBC.COM NATIONAL REPORTER: Yes, and, you know, the thing
is we could have included 20 stories like Siera`s if we had had space.
These are the people who -- you know, we hear about this Texas economic
miracle where the Texas economy is booming. These are the people who have
been left out of that, who have been ignored pie the Republicans who run
Texas, who don`t want to expand Medicaid, who don`t want to make it easy
So many of those people had those stories and it just gave you the sense
that there`s so much pent-up demand for these kind of organizing efforts,
whether in support of the Democratic Party, whether on issue-based
organizing, there`s really fertile ground in Texas for this because so many
people kept saying we`ve never had anything like this before. We didn`t
even realize that politics could help our situation.
And so, it`s a very promising thing for battleground and their allies.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I am reminded, Jelani, that we are 50 years from Freedom
Summer. Obviously, Texas has made it impossible to do what Freedom Summer
did where students from outside the South came to the South to do
registration. But as I listen to her, it felt more like that than your
average sort of League of Women Voters registration drive. That kind of
connection with community and a discussion about, as you said, that
politics can make a difference in these material circumstances.
COBB: I mean, I think it`s the biggest cliche in history. Those who fail
to understand their past are doomed to repeat it. In terms of Texas
specifically, this is where Thurgood Marshall cut his teeth, fighting
against white primary cases early in his career.
HARRIS-PERRY: Primary in Texas, I`m like, hmm.
COBB: Right, exactly. But, you know, what people fail to recognize is
when we look at things like the Voting Rights Act or the Civil Rights Act,
those were not things that were given to black people. Those were
concessions in the face of really, really powerful social movements.
And those social movements in and of itself if you were looking and saying
it`s either we work with these social movements or there`s out and out
social chaos and bedlam. And, you know, people have affirmative action
now. Affirmative action in education is on the chopping block but they
don`t recognize that affirmative action came about during the Nixon
administration because he was looking at people like Stokely Carmichael and
saying this person is brilliant. We want them to be in the system as
opposed to being outside the system trying to burn it down.
So, when you get rid of these things, when you get rid of these
protections, what you do is bring us back to the status quo ante and you
produce the same outcomes that the status quo ante produced, social chaos,
upheaval. What would be the actual yield of keeping this number of people
out of the electoral system? Certainly, I guarantee it`s not anything that
anyone would want.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it`s interesting -- as I`m listening to you talk about
this sort of bringing the best and the brightest back into the system,
thinking about the operations of democracy, listening to that young woman
say that it`s important to sort of break the cycles of poverty.
But then I also heard her say it`s not just about our party, but I wonder
if it doesn`t get received as though it`s just about Wendy Davis` campaign
and building the Democratic Party. Is there any weakness when the movement
feels partisan rather than sort of issue or ethically based?
BERMAN: Well, that`s been the whole problem with the voting rights fight
in the last four years, is that it`s been portrayed as a Republican versus
Democratic issue as opposed to a moral issue. And when LBJ introduced the
Voting Rights Act, he said it`s deadly wrong to deprive any American of
their right to vote, not a Democratic voter or a Republican voter.
And so, we really need to get back in terms of talking about voting rights,
in terms about talking about people participating in the political process
as a moral issue. And if it is one party that`s disenfranchising people
and one party which is trying to expand the ballot, which is unfortunately
what`s going on right now, we have to talk about it in those terms and then
remind people it hasn`t always been that way. It shouldn`t always been
When the civil rights went down to Mississippi, they weren`t fighting for
the Democratic Party. They were fighting for the Mississippi Freedom
Democratic Party to be able to participate in the political process for
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I`m wondering, Dale, given that. Given that there is a
history of certainly -- I mean your point nobody wanted the Mississippi
Democratic Party to be up to anything. I wonder, Dale, do you have any
optimism that this Congress will produce a new Section 5 formula that will
in fact cover places like, you know, what we`ve seen in Wisconsin and back
to Texas again?
HO: Well, the dysfunction of this congress is well known. Everyone talks
about how this Congress can`t get anything done. But here`s what we know
about the voting rights act and recent history in Congress, right? Passed
98-0 in the Senate. It passed 390-33 votes in 2006. Many of those members
are still in Congress.
And we`re confident that if we can get to a floor vote, right, and these
people have to put their names forward as to whether or not they support
the Voting Rights Act or not, that we can get it passed. The question is
can we get the process started because we haven`t had a hearing yet. So,
we need to get a hearing on the VRA and we need to get it soon if there is
to be any action before the session is over.
Everybody, stay with us. Zach, I want to ask you a couple more questions
about Texas. There are some assumptions that I`m interested in digging
into, and we`re also going to talk about another ultimate battleground
state, Ohio. And Dale is going to tell us how his organization is trying
to roll back the voting restrictions in the Buckeye State.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is wrong to make citizens
wait for five, six, seven hours just to vote. It is wrong to make a senior
citizen who no longer has a driver`s license jump through hoops and have to
pay money just to exercise the rights she has cherished for a lifetime.
America did not stand up and did not march and did not sacrifice to gain
the right to vote for themselves and for others only to see it denied to
their kids and their grandchildren. We`ve got to pay attention to this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama making it very plain at the
National Action Network Convention in April. His point is what makes part
of this week`s voting rights win in Wisconsin so pivotal. It pushes back
on that false assertion of rampant voter impersonation that conservative
lawmakers have used to justify voter ID bills. In Wisconsin, this law
could have impacted 300,000 registered voters.
Wisconsin is not alone. On Thursday, the ACLU took on Ohio for that
state`s dramatic new restrictions on early voting. The American Civil
Liberties Union filed a suit against Ohio petitioning the federal court to
strike down the law on the grounds that it violates Section 2 of the Voting
Rights Act. The law in question removes Ohio`s first week of early voting,
a period known as the Golden Week, that allows Ohioans to register and vote
on the same day.
In the 2012 elections, at least 157,000 voters cast ballots during the
Golden Week. The ACLU, which filed the complaint on behalf of the NAACP`s
Ohio conference argues that the law disproportionately impacts minority and
low income voters who cannot afford to take time off from work necessary to
wait in lines. Lines that were reported to be the longest in the country
for the ballot box on Election Day.
So, Dale, tell me about your level of confidence about the kinds of
arguments you`re making here to this judge.
HO: We`re really confident about this case. Ohio -- there`s a history
here that`s really relevant, right, because we`re not arguing that every
state in the country has to have X number of days of early voting, or
something like that. What we`re arguing is that there`s a history in Ohio.
2004, as you mentioned, right?
People waited in line seven, eight, nine hours to cast a ballot. How did
they address that? Early voting to try to take the pressure off of
Election Day, right? The problem is it worked too well.
HARRIS-PERRY: It worked, yes!
HO: You didn`t have those same problems with lines in 2006 and 2008. And
in 2008, you had record turnout by African-Americans and other people of
color and young voters in Ohio and all of a sudden, repeated efforts to cut
back on early voting in the Ohio legislature. A bill in 2010 that failed,
a bill in 2011 that they did manage to get through and then repealed
because they were worried about whether or not there would be a referendum
on them. But then the secretary of state got rid of the last three days of
early voting before the 2012 election, blocked by a federal court from
And now, they`re coming back and trying to get rid of the last two days of
early voting and the first week of it. So, there`s a history here. I
think people understand this is just repetitive attempts to push us back
towards 2004 and we`re very confident about our arguments.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Part of what I find so useful about the two of
you sitting here is the reminder that Jelani gave us earlier about the
initial movement in the 1960s to move us towards what becomes the Voting
Rights Act. Part of it was always these legal battles addressing the sets
of policies that were restrictive around registration, around the ability
to cast the vote, and then the other piece of it being that on the ground
social movement activity that built capacity in local communities.
So, let me talk -- so, I want to come back to Texas for a second because I
wonder when we look at Texas, part of what makes Texas very different today
than in the 1960 is that that capacity building in local communities is a
multi racial one. It is both about Latino voters and about African-
American voters and about poor white voters who have economic self-
How do you see those tensions playing out in that battleground group?
ROTH: Well, the thing about their organizing strategy is, it`s so
interesting, it comes directly out of the 2008 Obama campaign. These are
all former Obama campaign leadership. And their philosophy, which is a
very sort of well thought out, deeply rooted thing that was conceived by a
Harvard professor named Marshall Ganz, is that voters are going to react
better if they`re hearing about the election and being urged to vote not
from volunteers that are parachuting in at the last minute but from people
embedded in their community.
That`s why Battleground is starting so early. They`re there a year in
advance training people from the local community to talk to their neighbors
and talk to their friends about Wendy Davis or about the issues they`re
That`s the way they believe they are really going to build a long-term
infrastructure that will stick around beyond November. As you say, it is
multi racial, multi gender. There`s a huge female component.
HARRIS-PERRY: In part because of Wendy Davis` candidacy?
ROTH: In part, but I think also there are a lot of the people who are most
targeted by a lot of stuff that the Republicans who run Texas are doing.
And so, it`s a very sort of well thought out strategy. And it worked for
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Ari, you have been a student of this in so many
ways. As you look at these multiple strategies, this clear need
particularly without Section 5 preclearance, having to bring it under
Section 2, the kind of activism that will have to occur from ACLU and other
voting rights organizations and then the local capacity building, what does
that look like to you? Sort of read to me the tea leaves of 2014 or 2016.
Do we end up with a different narrative about voting in America or are we
still sort of fighting the whack-a-mole game?
BERMAN: Well, I think we are seeing a different narrative, and I think the
Wisconsin case was a great illustration of that. And to me, it was really
significant. They`re ruling, striking down the voter ID law for three
reasons, all of which are bringing up broader issues. I mean, the first is
just that the judge so thoroughly debunked the voter fraud argument.
Republicans can`t go back to this well anymore. I mean, they`re going to
keep doing it, but they have been debunked. They have lost, I think, this
The second thing is that this was the fifth voter ID law struck down by a
court. So the legal trend is moving on this issue and it`s moving on other
issues as well. In the 2010 election, we saw ten voting restrictions
struck down in court. The third thing is these lawsuits are being brought
under a new part of the Voting Rights Act, Section 2 of the Voting Rights
Act. Not a new part in the sense that it`s been there since `65, but a new
part that hasn`t really been used to challenge these new generation of
voter suppression tactics.
And so, the Voting Rights Act, even though it`s been gutted, there`s still
really important parts that still exist and they exist for a reason. And
people have to use them and so it`s great that dale and the ACLU are suing
A lot of people would like to see the Justice Department be a lot more
aggressive in enforcing voting rights outside of Texas and North Carolina,
and start suing these local jurisdictions under Section 2 of the Voting
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ll take a little aggression in Texas and North Carolina
from the Department of Justice.
Zach Roth, thank you for joining us today. Zack along with Jenn Brown who
is the executive director of Battleground Texas will be answering your
questions about Battleground Texas, Republican voting restrictions, and the
fight to turn Texas blue on MHPShow.com right after our show. So, start
leaving your questions right now in the Battleground Texas group thread.
My letter of the week is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Two hundred and seventy-six. That is how many Nigerian
girls ages 15 to 18 are still missing after a predawn raid nearly three
weeks ago. The raid occurred at the government girls secondary school in
the northern town of Chibok by the al Qaeda-linked group Boko Haram which
means Western education is sinful. Fifty-three of these girls have escaped
on their own, but the focus on their story is new.
Due to the unrelenting efforts of their relatives and social media to bang
the drums and let us know that this story matters, that each one of these
girls matters. And that is why my letter this week is to them.
Dear young women of Chibok, Nigeria,
It`s me, Melissa. And I cannot begin to comprehend the terror you are
feeling. You, who are already surviving in a country facing terror on a
daily basis, as evidenced by the car bomb explosion in Nigeria`s capital on
Thursday that killed at least 12 people, just days before your nation was
set to host a major international economic forum.
And this attack occurred across the road from the site of a massive
explosion less than a month ago that killed at least 75 people, the same
day that you young women were kidnapped from your school. But the reality
of your country`s woes does not excuse us from being absent in demanding
more attention be paid to your story, because you matter. Nor does it
excuse your president, who took two weeks to make a public vow to bring you
back, after you were taken at gunpoint and your school burned down.
Now, there are reports that you are being sold off for $12 a person to your
captors, being taken across the border and trafficked into slavery.
Twelve dollars? Your lives cannot be equated to a dollar amount because
your potential is limitless.
And now, the drum beat from those in your country and around the world are
banging loudly so that you will not be forgotten. From the dozens of
protesters that gathered outside Nigeria`s parliament on Wednesday to call
on security forces to search for you, to the growing online campaign
#bringbackourgirls, which is forcing the media and the world to pay
attention, and conveying to you that you are not just Nigeria`s daughters,
you are daughters of the world -- as evidenced by the group that rallied
outside the U.N. to protest your abductions, visibly frustrated by the lack
You matter to the U.S. State Department, which this week engaged in
discussions with the Nigerian government on what we can do to assist
efforts to find each and every one of you, and you most certainly matter to
your distraught parents. Many dressed in red holding a day of protests on
Thursday and marching from the residence of the local chief to the scene of
your kidnapping. Many carrying signs that simply said, "Find our
You have not been forgotten. We are sorry it took us so long to pay
attention. But we`re watching now. We`re pounding the drums, because each
one of you matter.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, every weekend, we try to pack a lot of information into
four hours of television. That`s a lot of stories and a lot of passion.
It doesn`t stop when the show is over, so occasionally we want to update
you on what happens after our discussions.
Now, you may remember last August, I sent a letter to Montana District
Judge G. Todd Baugh, after he sentenced a convicted rapist and former high
school teacher Stacey Rambold to just one month in jail for raping a 14-
year-old student who later took her own life.
Now, during the sentencing the judge said that the young girl was, quote,
"probably as much in control of the situation as the defendant. The
sentence and the judge`s comments sparked outrage and protests and the
judge later apologized.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE G. TODD BAUGH, MONTANA DISTRICT JUDGE: I made some references to the
victim`s age and control. I`m not sure just what I was attempting to say
at that point, but it didn`t come out correct. I owe all our fellow
citizens an apology.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, now there`s been a ruling by the Montana Supreme Court
that could reverse Baugh`s decision. The court ruled Wednesday that the
original sentence was too short. The unanimous decision also ordered the
case be assigned to a new judge for resentencing. One of the reasons cited
by the court was the inflammatory language by Baugh who still faces a
complaint from the Montana Judicial Standards Commission.
Another letter recipient also made news this week. A few weeks ago I sent
a letter to Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, urging him not to sign a bill
that would criminalize mothers who use drugs during their pregnancy that
may cause harm to their babies. Apparently, that letter may have well been
returned marked -- marked "return to sender" because the governor signed
that bill into law on Tuesday. The legislation allows mothers to avoid
criminal charges if they enter treatment. But opponents, including five
national medical organizations, and local doctors worry that threat of
criminalization will scare women away from treatment.
We`ve also been covering another southern state, Georgia, where pretty soon
it`s going to be easier to bring a gun almost anywhere in the state, but
it`s going to be harder to get help if you`re poor. Governor Nathan Deal
signed a bill Tuesday that requires drug testing for some welfare
applicants and makes them foot the bill as well.
The testing will be required if applicants raise reasonable suspicion of
drug use based on, among other things, their police record, reason for job
loss and their demeanor, whatever that means. According to "The Atlantic
Journal Constitution", at least 12 other states have passed similar
legislation, but only Georgia would require applicants to pay for their own
drug tests, even if they pass.
And last week, we told you that Mississippi could soon lose its only
abortion clinic, the Jackson Women`s Health Organization. A federal court
of appeals heard arguments Monday over a state law that requires abortion
provides to have local hospital admitting privileges and so far, the clinic
has not been able to secure them. We talked to one of the two doctors who
perform abortions at the clinic, Dr. Willie Parker, who travels to
Mississippi from Chicago and he explained what would happen if the clinic
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. WILLIE PARKER: We will be left with desperate measures, and those
desperate measures will increase the suffering and potential death of women
that we know occurs when abortion is not legally available.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In court so far, lawyers for the state have argued that
Mississippi is surrounded by other metropolitan areas where abortion
clinics are available. But one judge pointed out that in those neighboring
states, lawmakers are either considering or have passed similar laws.
We will continue to stay on top of this story and all the others.
When we come back, an update on Attorney General Eric Holder and his
ongoing, increasingly vocal quest for justice. This time the A.G. is
taking on racial profiling. And that`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder continues to make news
when it comes to criminal justice and civil rights. On Monday, he spoke
about a pressing problem facing young African-American and Latino men.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: A recent study reported that half of
African-American men have been arrested at least once by age 23. Overall,
black men were six times and Latino men were 2.5 times more likely to be in
prison than white men in 2012. This overrepresentation of young men of
color in our criminal justice system is a problem that we must confront.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Holder didn`t just acknowledge the problem, he went further
than that and announced the initiative that could in fact spark a change in
the way law enforcement interacts with communities of color.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: This month, the Justice Department is launching a new initiative,
the National Center for Building Community Trust and Justice, to analyze
and to reduce the effect of racial bias within the criminal justice system.
This effort will encompass a broad range of areas in which fairness and
trust can come into question, from stops and searches to wrongful
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This is an important step in the right direction, but it is
not an easy goal to achieve, as evidenced by the report, the essence of
innocence, consequences of dehumanizing black children, which reported on
back in March.
So, this report shows implicit bias or the attitudes and stereotypes that
affect our understanding, actions and decisions in an unconscious manner
can lead us to make judgments about other people based on their race,
ethnicity, age, appearance. The report found African-American boys are
routinely seen as less innocent than their white counterparts. And it also
shows that African-American boys and men are routinely estimated to be
older than their actual age.
One of the most chilling findings was how much more force police used
against African-American children who are under the age of 18.
At the table: Jelani Cobb, associate professor of University of
Connecticut, Ari Berman, contributing writer from "The Nation Magazine",
Brittney Cooper, assistant professor at Rutgers University, Dale Ho,
director of ACLU`s Voting Rights Project.
And joining us from Los Angeles is Phillip Atiba Goff, who is president of
the Center for Policing Equity and professor of social psychology at UCLA.
He`s also the co-author of "Seeing Black Report", which has recently
discussed his work with the officials at the Department of Justice.
It`s so nice to have you, professor.
PHILLIP ATIBA GOFF, PROF. SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY, UCLA: Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, I just want to make this clear in part, in relationship
even to the conversation we were having earlier about Mr. Sterling, your
research does not show police officers are racist, right? It`s something
more complicated than that. Help folks to understand what your research
does tell us.
GOFF: Well, basically what psychologists are interested in doing generally
is showing basic psychological universals. So the research that we`ve been
doing show it`s not police that are particularly or peculiarly racially
biased, it`s everybody. And so, rather than thinking about prejudice as
the problem, we start thinking about situations as the solution. Both
within colleges and communities and within law enforcement as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: So part of -- so let`s -- let me get you to draw this out a
little bit more. So, explain for folks the difference between kind of an
implicit racial bias versus an explicit anti-racial attitude.
GOFF: So, an explicit bias is the kind of bias that we think with when we
think about a racist person. Explicit bias is "I don`t like that group of
people, I don`t want my son or daughter hanging out with that group of
people, I don`t want to give that person a job.
That`s increasingly rare, though occasionally we do see it in the mouths of
Implicit bias is just the association we automatically have. So, if you`re
watching the local news and it`s about seven minutes in and there`s the
face of a young black man on there, you might imagine you`re watching
evidence of a criminal act.
GOFF: That`s because that`s when they do that during the news. You`re not
a racist person because you think, oh, there must be a crime going on, I`ve
got the sound down, but there`s -- seven past, and there`s a black man on
television on the news, it`s because you`re paying attention. That`s the
way it usually happens on the news at that time.
Now, it turns out when you have that association, then under intense time
pressure, that can influence actual behavior. And so, when we go from
implicit attitudes to actual behavior, that`s when we have a problem. It`s
a psychological universal, it`s not particular to any group, but there are
some groups that have more power. And those are the groups we have to be
particularly concerned about, helping them to resist the influence of our
basic human psychology.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. And I want to get one more with you before I come out
to this group and that is so you talked about them making situations a
solution and you gave us a little idea of it there. It really is these
implicit biases that we all share can either get activated and become more
salient when we have very little time, right? So, if I have to decide
whether or not to draw my gun as a police officer or if I`m an emergency
room physician and I have to decide, you know, how much to administer of
pain medication, right, it has to do with how quickly I have to make a
decision, is that right?
GOFF: Right. Sometimes, it has to do with how quickly the decision and
sometimes it has to do with how you`re actually feeling about you. I think
one of the most important things to get back to Attorney General Holder`s
announcement and that initiative is that there`s so much about police
behavior, we just don`t know because there`s no national data about it.
We don`t know the national level of stops. We don`t know the national
level of use of force. That`s why we`re so excited that the federal
government, along with the my Brothers Keepers initiative with multiple
foundations is moving forward to try and at least measure what police are
doing so we can better manage it, which is why the -- the reason why I`m
particularly excited about this, he`s talking about data collection and so
putting together a national justice database is what policing equity has
been trying to do the last couple of years.
Now, it seems like it`s got the national spotlight and it`s got support of
chiefs, it`s got the support of researchers, and it`s got the support of
civil liberties groups.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right.
GOFF: That can allow us to get at that a little better.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Professor, I love the level of enthusiasm and the smile
you have when you say data collection. It has been a very nerdy day.
Hold on, don`t leave us. We`re going to take a quick break but we`re going
to come right back because I want to open it up to the panel and talk a
little bit about the politics. You`ve given us the social psychology. I
want to talk about the politics and the law when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s take a look, I want to take a listen to the former
police chief from east Palo Alto, California, who`s now in D.C., saying
something here about how we should think about race and policing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RONALD DAVIS, FORMER CHIEF OF POLICE, EAST PALO ALTO, CA: Simply put, Mr.
Chairman, race is a descriptor not a predictor. To use race when
describing someone who just committed a crime is appropriate. However,
when we deem a person to be suspicious or attach criminality to a person
because of the color of their skin, the neighborhood they are walking in,
or the clothing they are wearing, we are attempting to predict criminality.
The problem with such predictions is that we are seldom right in our
results and always wrong in our approach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Dale, I want to ask you something, because I
really like the professor`s research and this idea of implicit attitudes,
and the way it gets activated in particular settings. But I also worry
that it then creates a kind of legal messiness where, you know, you just
have been doing the stop and frisk work and -- well, it`s just their
implicit attitudes, they can`t really be held accountable.
HO: Yes, this is something really interesting I`ve been talking about with
colleagues and with some law professors about, right, because there`s this
line of cases that say that the only kinds of discrimination that are
unlawful or unconstitutional are this expressed intentional discrimination,
I hate you because of your race, I`m going to treat you differently, right?
But from my perspective, what the Constitution prohibits is being treated
differently because of your race, right? So, it doesn`t matter as a victim
of discrimination whether you do it intentionally or if you do it because
of implicit bias. Either way I`ve been discriminated against. It should
be just as unconstitutional from my perspective.
HARRIS-PERRY: So it`s a question of looking at the role of the victim of
the discrimination rather than the intentions of the person who`s making
I do wonder, you know, there is, Jelani, this excitement with collecting
the data. Why in fact we haven`t been collecting data. So, what the
politics are around not collecting data on police forces for so long?
COBB: Well, if you don`t have the data you can`t prove what people are
doing or aren`t doing. I do want to push back, though, a little bit about
the implicit bias part of this. I think that`s likely very much the case.
We understand this.
Also, economic factors here. Also kind of people who are being policed in
particular ways because it protects the interests of people who are
moneyed, people who do not live in the communities they live in and, you
know, I`m hesitant to get to the place where people are going, oh, we`re
all kind of -- this is something we all do democratically and we all have
I mean, I took an implicit bias test and it said I was moderately skewed
toward African-Americans. We all have our crosses to bear in this.
But I think this is very different than saying structures which are
producing these outcomes intentionally and that`s a different kind of
So, Professor, let me come back to you and ask that question. How should
we reconcile this social psychology. This notion of all of us sharing an
implicit bias with this question of intentional, structural aspects of
policing that impact black and brown communities?
GOFF: You know, I have to say a really appreciate Jelani`s comments just
now because there`s a temptation. It`s really seductive to reduce
everything to implicit bias, right? To say, well, all right, we don`t have
explicit bias anymore, not so much, it`s a rare occurrence. But really,
it`s all about implicit bias. And since we can`t control that -- eh.
But in reality, we can do things to prevent the translation of our implicit
biases into behavior and we can also look at the ways in which the
structures that we are responsible for and are intentional do that.
I wrote a piece yesterday on CNN talking about big data can produce --
HARRIS-PERRY: Sorry, yes.
GOFF: This data can produce knowledge about what part of the disparities
that that we`re seeing as a result of law enforcement behavior and what
part of it is as a result of the schools, the housing, right, the health
care situation. Each of those has a role to play. If we`re not collecting
the data on the disparities, we can`t get at what part is implicit, what
part is explicit, what part is policy, what part is personal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Brittney, I want to come to you on the politics as well,
because the other side of this, the communities that have been victimized
in this way by stop and frisk and by other kinds of over-policing are now
in a place where they`re often in very troubling relationships with police
officers and ways that actually can then have negative consequences for
crime prevention in their own communities.
So, you have this kind of racial implicit bias but you have very clear
decision-making on the part of over-policed communities not to snitch and
not to engage with the systems which have proved themselves untrustworthy.
Any chance DOJ can also start in this data collection, in this research
process moving us towards a more reasonable relationship there?
BRITTNEY COOPER, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: Sure. I think
we have to zoom out and recognize this is not just a problem of racial
profiling but we are long overdue for a conversation about policing in
general, about the ways in which people interact with police.
I know that I`ve had very contentious interactions with police officers and
sometimes we don`t think that women of color actually also have these
harassing and uncomfortable kinds of situations. One of the things that
concerns me about the way that this is being framed is that they`re
continuing to situate this as primarily a problem of men of color. But
women of color are the fastest-growing incarcerated group in the country,
which means we`re having more interactions with law enforcement, which
means we`re not necessarily protected because of gender and unless that
becomes a -- so is that going to be part of this data collection? And how
are the sort of different -- so I don`t want to minimize what happens to
member n of color but women of color matter in this situation, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I mean, and particularly, even though as we talk about
the of color, right, this also matters across what we`re talking about here
so for African-American women, there may be assumptions about a certain
criminality. For Latinas, there`s often the assumption of illegality or
not being documented.
And, of course, we know that the impact on communities because women tend
to be primary care providers for children and elders, when women are
incarcerated, right, you have these multiple effects.
So, Professor Goff, is gender a relevant aspect of what you`re up to in
GOFF: Absolutely and it has to be. Really this comes back down to
communities. When we talk about over-policing or we talk about discomfort
with law enforcement, we`re talking about communities, we`re talking about
families. And 80 percent of incarcerated women are also mothers. So,
really when we`re talking about women in law enforcement, we really need to
talk about families and law enforcement, the same thing talking about men.
We have the trope of black being absentee dads. We have law enforcement
that sometimes wants to do the right thing but doesn`t know how. So, data
collection is a tool for social justice. That`s good news. It`s a good
news race story during a week when there weren`t very many of them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I`ll tell you what, Professor Phillip Atiba Goff, if
you would like to write something for, say, MSNBC.com, MHP Show would be
happy to publish that. We`d love to have you continue to think about this
notion of data as a tool for social justice. That fits right in here at
Also, thank you to Jelani Cobb, who has an implicit bias preference for
African-Americans, to Ari Berman, to Brittney Cooper and to Dale Ho right
here in New York.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you again tomorrow morning at 10:00 Eastern. We are going to bring
you an incredible update on a young woman that we featured a few weeks
back. Cynthia Diaz was on a hunger strike in front of the White House in
an attempt to get her mother, who was detained as an undocumented
immigrant, out of holding. Her update, you will not want to miss this, is
But right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT" with
our guest host -- hey, T.J. what`s going on?
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