July 6, 2014
Guest: David Cohen, Laurie Garrett, Kiron Skinner, Hillary Mann Leverett,
Jack Jacobs, Dean Obeidallah, Aisha Moodie-Mills, Danielle Moodie-Mills,
Maya Peterson, Cori Murray, Alicia Quarles
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question. Would the
Supreme Court rule differently with more women justices?
Plus, why the first black woman president was kicked out of office.
And do not adjust that set. Television is now in color.
But, first, tensions boiling over in the Middle East with no sign of peace
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Shortly after becoming secretary
of state last year, it was John Kerry`s hope to deliver what no U.S.
secretary of state before him was able to birth. Something that because of
the time frame he set forth, we couldn`t help but to call a peace baby in
the Middle East.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: The parties have agreed here today that
all of the final status issues, all of the core issues and all other issues
are all on the table for negotiation. And they are on the table with one
simple goal, a view to ending the conflict ending the claims. Our
objective will be to achieve a final status agreement over the course of
the next nine months.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But, by April 2014, nine months after the initial
declaration and after meeting 34 times with President Abbas and twice that
number with Prime Minister Netanyahu, Kerry`s quest to deliver a peace deal
between Israel and the Palestinians failed.
And now, nearly after a year after that promise, the reality facing Israel
and the Palestinians is anything but peaceful as violence escalated
significantly in just the last week.
On Monday the Israeli confirmed that the bodies of three Israeli teenagers
kidnapped back in mid-June had been found dead. The three young men
ranging in age from 16 to 19 were laid to rest on Tuesday and were buried
side by side.
As the young men were being laid to rest, hundreds of right-wing extremists
demonstrated in Jerusalem some attacking Arabs as they were passing by and
at least two Palestinians required medical attention.
Earlier that day, Israeli defense forces launched air strikes in Gaza that
struck 34 targets. According to the Israeli military, the air strikes were
in response to 18 rockets fired into Israel since Sunday.
Then on Wednesday morning, Israeli police discovered the body of 16-year-
old Muhammad Hussein Abul Kadr in a forest outside of Jerusalem. He`d been
reportedly kidnapped just an hour earlier. Kadr`s death led to violent
clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces on
Wednesday in east Jerusalem. And it is suspected that Kadr`s killers were
revenge, that Kadr was killed in revenge for the killings of the three
What Kadr`s father telling "Time" magazine quote "the settlers killed my
son. They kidnapped him and killed him."
On Thursday Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu condemned that the killing of
the Palestinian teen and also cautioned that if the rocket fire from the
Gaza Strip did not stop, the increased Israeli forces that were moving into
the forces could act. Kadr`s body was handed over on Friday under intense
Israeli security presence and placed into a Palestinian ambulance, which
was then rushed by mourners who took the teen`s body, wrapped it in the
Palestinian flag and carried it head high through the clouds to a nearby
Thousands showed up to the teen`s funeral on Friday afternoon in east
Jerusalem where he received a martyr`s burial. After the funeral, mourners
and Israeli security forces clashed to injuries on both sides. And
yesterday, clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police not
only grew, they spread from Jerusalem to northern towns and this morning
even more developments as the Associated Press reports the number of Jewish
suspects have been arrested by Israeli authorities in response to the
killing of Muhammad Kadr. And officials speaking on the commission of
anonymity said that police believed that the teen`s killing was quote
"nationalistic in nature."
Speaking of disassembled cabinet earlier today regarding the ongoing
unrest, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said quote "experience proves that
at such times we must act responsibly and with equanimity not hastily. We
will do whatever is necessary to restore quiet and security to the south.
Peace now seems like a pipe dream in a region that is once again home to
rocket attack, air strikes, abductions, violent clashes and the killing of
While a lasting peace may still be the long-term goal in the near term,
just getting the bullets to stop flying would be progress.
At the table this morning, Dean Obeidallah who is a columnist at "the Daily
Beast," Hillary Mann Leverett who is professor at the school of
international service at American University. She served the national
security council twice at U.S. embassies in across the Middle East and is
the author of the book "Going to Tehran." Colonel Jack Jacobs, a Medal of
Honors recipient and MSNBC military analyst and Kiron Skinner who is the
director at Carnegie Melon University`s center for international relations
and a politics and research fellow at Stanford`s University Hoover
It is so nice to have you all here.
Is the possibility of peace in this region just a pipe dream or a kind of
U.S. trophy or is it a realistic possibility in our lifetimes?
HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, AMERICAN UNIVERSITY: Well, you know, the peace
process started after the 1967 war. There, in the state of Israel was
declared in 1948. From 1948 to 1967, there was a lot of fighting, but
there was no peace process.
The reason the peace process was initiated, in particular, by the national
security adviser Henry Kissenger was to get buy in by Arab states for what
was going to be an increased amount of military aid, dramatic increase in
military aid and financial aid to Israel, to justify that Arab state.
And so, we had since then are various federations of the peace process.
And we`ve come to the end of the road with the two-state solution being the
punitive goal of that kind of peace process. And I think what we`re seeing
now and we`ve seen probably for the last couple of years is this death of
the two-state solution as a possible resolution and we are left with a one-
And I think what you are going to see over the next few weeks, you may see
more or less violence. But I think what you really going to see if the
politicians can step up to what I would call their Nelson Mandela moment is
to proclaim one state, one person, one vote and to push in September with
the opening of the general assembly here in New York at the U.N. for a
state to sign up to the international criminal court and bring the Israelis
there and have it educated that was and not rely any longer on the United
States and Israel to come to their aid.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I appreciate your point about a Nelson Mandela moment.
That said, I`m also always nervous about calling on individuals,
collectives, communities, even states that perceive or experience
themselves as being in a state of oppression to necessarily behave in ways
that we see historically as being representative of the right solution.
And, so, part of what I hear you saying tragically this may be where we
are. But I also worry about the particular ethical claim that may underlie
that particular discourse, Dean?
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, POLITICAL COMEDIAN: I would say just overall that I wish
when President Obama came to power, there was an Israeli administration
that was a progressive, at least sent at left administration, not the
Netanyahu which is to the right.
I don`t think he has any ability whatsoever for a two-state solution. His
cabinet officials, Bennett and Lieberman, actually, he is a foreign
minister, he is actually a settler. These are pro-settler people who are
against the new Palestinian state. The new president of -- the Israeli
president elected by the (INAUDIBLE) to replace Shimon Perez, who we all
know Shimon Perez, two-state solution, is against the Palestinian state.
The idea of a two-state solution, I think, may have been dead years ago,
but the reality is that, you know, forget Nelson Mandela, forget Martin
Luther King, forget Gandhi, all that rhetoric. It`s about one person, one
vote because I don`t think there is any idea for a compromise truthfully
and trust in either side`s gun.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to, we can`t listen to him, but I do want to read
quickly something that Netanyahu said this week just in advance of the
fourth of July holiday about this kind of special relationship between the
U.S. and Israel. In part because you were saying that as President Obama
assumed the mantle of the presidency, you wish a different really Israeli
administration. But I want to sort of listen or I`ll read this for a
moment and then I want to ask you to respond.
So this is Netanyahu speaking this week saying what is the secret of the
special relationship between the U.S. and Israel and the answer can be
summarized in four words -- shared values and common interests, shared
values because the United States and Israel were both founded on the
principles of liberty, democracy, and freedom in both our lands of rise of
the (INAUDIBLE) are sacred and the foremost right without which the others
that cannot exist is the right to live.
And so, apparent this administration, Netanyahu who has been very, very
critical of President Obama`s administration, in this moment is saying,
hey, we are all together. It feels strategic as much as it does like an
active and realistic assessment of what that relationship is.
KIRON SKINNER, DIRECTOR, CARNEGIE MELON UNIVERSITY`S: I think it`s both,
but the fact that he states it so passionately and I think in the middle of
this crisis, this should not take away from the fact that Israel isn`t an
important ally for the United States and the Middle East for a number of
reasons. But, in particular, that we`re both democracies and that we share
And although the two-state solution may appear to be over and we want to
shift toward international for helping resolve the crisis, let`s not forget
that the United States is an organizing force in the international system
and especially in the broader Middle East.
And the failure of these peace talks does not mean that the U.S. has failed
or that the Obama administration has failed. We`re the only nation on
earth that could have attempted the last nine months.
LEVERETT: Critical difference that the shared value is so important to
understand this. From 1948 to 1967 when the holocaust was fresh in our
minds and Israel was arguably at its most democratic, we barely gave Israel
food. It is not about shared values. It is about, just as Kiron said, it
is about our relationship, our lines with Israel but I must say,
strategically to work with or to use Israel to project American dominance.
Now, if you want that out of U.S. policy, Israel is useful. And so, during
the Bush administration, Israel was particularly useful. Where it is less
useful is an administration that is pulling back from the Middle East and
that`s where you have the friction between Obama and Netanyahu.
SKINNER: But I actually think, if I can come back for one moment, that
it`s not the issue of post-1948 Israel and U.S. relations. It should not
be the shadow of what we`re doing right now. And I don`t think it helps us
understand this current period. Israel is a firm democracy and the U.S. is
the world`s most fully functioning --
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So I want to apologize. As soon as we come back
I want to give you the first word as we come back because I want to think
on this sort of huge geopolitical fundamental question and then there are
human beings involved and what we have seen over the course of the past
week with these teenagers and how that impacts what our military strategy
is, as we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: In both our lands, the rights
of the individual are sacred. And the foremost rights without which the
others cannot exist is the right to live an unequivocally condemn the
murder of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem a few days ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on
Thursday confirming the murder of slain Palestinian teenager Muhammad Abu
Now, I do want to ask one thing about, we have the big thing happening at
the top in terms of geopolitics. Then we have the death of the three
Israeli teenagers, the one Palestinian teenager and then the beating of,
we`ll see some of this video, which is tough to see, but I do want us to
see because this is what, this is what Israelis are seeing right now. This
is what people in the area are seeing on the televisions, this teenager who
is actually an American citizen and the cousin of the slain Palestinian
being beaten by Israeli security forces. People start getting very serious
when it`s about their children, as well as these very old tensions. How
does this change the American position when we have images like that?
COL. JACK JACOBS, MEDAL OF HONOR RECIPIENT: I don`t think it changes the
American position at all. Anybody with any memory has seen that and much
worse over the last decades. I don`t think it`s going to change the
American public`s position. And I don`t think it`s going to change the
American government`s position because the American government has a
strategic interest in not just the region, but in peace. And we`ll do what
it thinks it can get away with in order to make it happen.
That`s why it seems so frustrating that we`ve been doing this for 40, 50
years and haven`t gotten anywhere. And, indeed, when we talk about a two-
state solution, it`s really kind of interesting because you`ve got possibly
a three-state solution over there, even though Hamas and the politician
authority have sort of coalesced, at least, for the time being but not
exercising the kind of influence that they could. Any more than the United
States can exercise influence over Israel.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, such images have changed nations before. I mean,
you know, I understand that we have seen literally decades of, as you point
out, sometimes images worse and more appalling and yet sometimes it is the
death of innocence that has the capacity to shift global opinion even. But
in this case, it does feel like all that happens isn`t ratcheting up of the
Is there a distinction between or what are the distinctions between how the
people may be feeling in this moment and the kind of policies they may want
versus, for example, Netanyahu`s administration?
SKINNER: I think you`ve seen two things. One is a change in international
public opinion where we`ve seen with the Arab awakening, for example,
starting in 2011. There is this global awakening particular focus in the
Middle East where people are using and have access to information like
they`ve never had before.
So even though I completely agree with my colleague that we`ve seen these
types of images and it hasn`t changed the U.S. government position, this is
a new element. In addition, critically important, are changes in the
international system where in the United States as a power in relative
decline and other powers as relatively increasing.
And, so, with that, this focus I think that you`ll see as a next step for
the politicians to unilaterally declare statehood in the general assembly
here in New York in September, bring their case to the international
criminal court to use international institutions and international public
opinion will be something the United States has never had to deal with
HARRIS-PERRY: So Kiron, does that change your assertion that the only
broker available in the world for this work is the U.S. if Hillary is
suggesting, well, no, power relationships are changing. We`re still the
global big foot, but new information sources, new forms of imagining what
human rights looks like actually could push us back from that single
SKINNER: Yes. I hope I didn`t say we`re the only country that could be an
important power and peace broker in the broader Middle East. But we are
the, but we are the essential state to use. President Obama`s term more
broadly in the international system and I think the events of the past week
underscore the fact that we`re still important in this game because what I
think is happening and those images were so disturbing and sometimes they
do affect public opinion around the world as we saw with Vietnam. Once
that war really got televised, American assessments of it began to change
in part because of what we saw the atrocities in Vietnam.
But the U.S. is important here and in this conflict because President Obama
has declared early on in his presidency that sovereignty was an important
test for the United States and international crises and the fact that we
helped make Iraq sovereign and whole was a justification for existing in
December 2011. We see sovereignty now at stake in Israel. We see
sovereignty at stake in Iraq. We see sovereignty at stake in Ukraine.
I think it`s making the American public those atrocities of those young men
being killed ask bigger questions of the White House about what is the
ultimate test for our involvement in crises, especially in the Middle East.
OBEIDALLAH: Can I, just from a human point of view, because we were
talking about a human point of view and not an academic one. You know, my
fianc‚ is Israeli. She was born in Israel, raised in Israel. She is Arab
Palestinian. I have Palestinian family in the West Bank.
Speaking to them now, it`s different. The West Bank up until this
explosion three week ago was calm. They were living their life. There was
Congress there. However, my soon to be brother-in-law who is a lawyer,
(INAUDIBLE), he never felt less safe in his life as an Arab living in
Israel because a death to Arab chance are no longer isolated at soccer game
where they heard them. Last year, the U.S. state department, the global
terrorist report, actually had a column for price tag attacks. So it
attacks by Israeli extremists against Arabs, against churches, against
mosques and against people. There was almost 400, almost non-prosecuted.
His point to me was very simple. He said death to Arab used to be a
comment anonymously on a Web site. Now it is pasted on a facebook profile
where a person doesn`t have to hide anymore their racism. So he feels
actually uncomfortable in his country because he is Israeli than his Arab
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So I think at this point, such a critical one. And
so, what I don`t want to miss is I think we don`t always know when we`re in
the moment. What will be the thing that shifts even long-term inequities.
So, you know, there`s many decades of lynching and then there is Emmett
Till, right? And there are many, many years of the Vietnam War and then
there were those images in our households. And maybe it will simply be an
explosion of violence that then goes back to this kind of normal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or maybe this is a moment when it begins to shift. So when
we come back we`ll shift ourselves to Iraq and the new announcement from
Prime Minister Maliki.
And the video of the ISIS leader declaring himself the ruler of all
HARRIS-PERRY: As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate that Iraqi
force are not the only ones that remain in battled. Despite criticism and
numerous calls to step down, Iraq`s Prime Minister Maliki has announced on
Friday that he would run for a third term. In fact, the statement that
Prime Minister Maliki released was downright defiant. In it he said, I`m
going to talk to you frankly and transparently. I`ll never give up on
being the candidate from the premiership. Nobody has the right to stand
Maliki even went so far as to liken himself to a soldier who does not
desert the battlefield saying he would defend Iraq and its people against
terrorists. The group that he was referring to as terrorists is ISIS or
the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria who have taken over major cities in
And now a new video distributed by ISIS reportedly shows the group`s leader
declaring Abu al-Baghdadi declaring himself head of the Islamic
Colonel Jack, how bad is the military situation? Will Baghdad fall?
JACOBS: No, Baghdad won`t fall, but the situation is militarily extremely
difficult. When you have an army that we trained and supplied that can`t
hold the extremities of the country when the Sunni north falls. By the
way, plenty of Shi`a up there too reminding me of taking a look at the map
of the -- a map of India before partition, a million people died, people
trying to run to the polls and get away from each other. When that kind of
stuff happens, you know the Iraqi army is not capable of doing anything.
However, Baghdad won`t fall because I don`t think that ISIS has attests
very much interested the fighting and built up areas in Baghdad. They are
not going to do that. What you might wind up here is with a partition, a
de facto partition Iraq and that`s, in many respects, just as bad as almost
HARRIS-PERRY: As you say solution is dead for peace in the Middle East but
it is somehow, right, but not in Iraq.
JACOBS: You have the Kurds, too. The real problem from Iraqi army is the
following question. Does it have the capability to counterattack and take
back those areas taken ISIS and at the moment, the answer is no.
HARRIS-PERRY: And because of a lack of resources, because of a lack of
skill and training. I mean, isn`t that what we were meant to have been
JACOBS: There are two things. Skill and training is always at the
forefront of any military operation. But at the end of the day it doesn`t
really matter whether or not you can fight. You want to be able to fight.
You have to want to fight. And in fact, the Iraqi army doesn`t have a
great deal of interest in fighting for Maliki, doesn`t have a very much
interest in fighting for the government in Baghdad.
Indeed, what you`ve seen happen is an enormous recruitment among Shi`a
militias to go fight, not for Baghdad, not for Maliki, not for Iraq, but to
fight for Shi`a.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So your point here about Maliki, I want to listen to
the president because he makes this point that the issue is Maliki. And I
want to ask you what you all think of this. Let`s listen to the president
of the United States on this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve said it publicly that
whether he is prime minister or any other leader aspires to lead the
country that it has to be an agenda in which Sunni, Shi`a and Kurd all feel
that they have the opportunity to advance their interests through the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is about Maliki`s failure to be a uniter instead of
LEVERETT: You know this is an excuse. This is a bipartisan failure of
catastrophic proportions for the United States, first with Republican in
invading Iraq and now with the Democrats essentially blaming it on Maliki.
The idea that Maliki can be more inclusive and bringing in foreign fighters
one of the key leaders is Chechen from Russia. The idea that can be a more
inclusive government is snake oil and should be seen for what it is.
Maliki won the last election and parliamentary democracy. He is now going
to go about the very messy process like he did last time of assembling a
coalition in a state that is majority Shi`a. So surprise, surprise, the
majority of the government is going to be Shi`a. The Sunnis never accepted
this. They have very accepted to live under a Shi`a dominated political
order. And have very powerful patrons outside the country, like the
Saudis, like the Qataris that have armed, funded and trained to the hilt
and now we have a disaster on our hands.
HARRIS-PERRY: Should we learn more about Islam or should we learn less?
Like every time I hear this discussed, it is primarily in this discourse
about Islam and I keep thinking isn`t this about interest and wealth and
control and power.
OBEIDALLAH: I think it -- one thing I just said. When you see Maliki`s
statements it make you realize why there are not a lot of former Arab
leaders walking the streets. You know, either you go in prison, dead or an
exile. You don`t see them on election (ph). People don`t want to give up
power in the Middle East. And part of it, I think, a fear of once they get
out, will they be prosecuted or not or be prosecuted criminally.
Understanding Islam, this is about power, frankly. Islam is used. It`s
very effective to use -- people to bring them together like Abu Bakr who --
that is not his real name. His real name is Doktar Awat (ph). He used the
name Abu Bakr because that was the first leader. That was Mohammad`s
closest friend who led after Mohammad left. So he gave his name -- so to
symbolic politics, this man gave himself a new name so people would be like
that is Abu Bakr. That is the guy who Mohammad wanted to run the Caliphate
after he passed away. And he was the first, you know, Caliphi (ph).
HARRIS-PERRY: So we both need to know more and know less, right? I mean,
and use it as less as the clear explanation for the actions and practices
while simultaneously knowing more.
OBEIDALLAH: It is not just Islam.
LEVERETT: But no more but micromanagement. We shouldn`t be in there
manipulating political outcomes to our favor. People don`t want to live in
a militarily dominated U.S. political order in the Middle East. We need to
pull back and rethink this policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Colonel Jack Jacobs, thank you as always, for being here.
The rest of these folks are all sticking around.
And up next, the Ebola outbreak.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ebola is nothing short of terrifying. People are typically
infected when they come into contact with infected people or objects. And
when you`re infected the virus doesn`t waste time. It can cause headaches,
fever, severe diarrhea and vomiting and kills up to 90 percent of its
victims. It has no cure and perhaps most frightening. It is back and
worse than ever.
In the first outbreak, we knew of in 1976, 280 people died. That`s the
most an Ebola fever outbreak had ever infected was 425 people in 2000 and
2001 in an outbreak in Uganda. Most outbreaks of Ebola don`t reach near
those pipes of numbers because they`re contained and they`re contained
because they often occur in rural regions. The one happening now, right
now, is very different. It is happening in the cities in Western Africa
and that is a big reason why it has now become the most infectious and
deadly outbreak in history.
The World Health Organization two days ago quantified just how bad the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL EPSTEIN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION SPOKESPERSON: There are now a
total of 779 cases of Ebola in the three countries involved of which are
New Guinea, Libya and Sierra Leone of which 481 people have died.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, here`s a map from the CDC, if you see all of that
orange, that orange represents confirmed and probable cases of Ebola as of
Joining the panel now is Laurie Garret. She is a senior fellow for global
health at the council of foreign relations. She won the Pulitzer-prize in
1986 for her journalism chronicling an Ebola virus outbreak in Congo.
Thanks for being here.
LAURIE GARRETT, SENIOR FELLOW, COUNCIL OF FOREIGN RELATIONS: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I`ve been sort of watching this happen and wondering why
we haven`t heard more about it. So help me to understand how we can sound
the alarm without hitting a panic button. What should we be concerned
about and how, in what ways?
GARRETT: I think the last thing we need to be concerned about is, well
Ebola come to America? So let`s just take that off the table for now and
let`s get real.
Getting real is we have an unprecedented situation that is very hard to
forecast because we`ve never had urban Ebola before, as well rural. We
have never had a situation where Ebola is coming out of the rain forest and
the rain forest happens to cut across all three of the countries. So, we
don`t actually know how many of these cases are reintroductions from the
wild bats and monkeys that usually are the transmitters of this really rare
virus in humans.
The third thing is it`s across border. We never had that situation before.
And it`s across border between countries that are (INAUDIBLE) in Africa,
which historically thanks to colonialism have never really been able to get
along all that well or speak a common language, literally.
And it`s in an area that has been completely devastated by a decade of
civil war with Charles Taylor at the head of all of that, a convicted war
criminal. And it was a kind of civil war with a brutality level so severe
that it pitted ethnic group against ethnic group chopping off arms,
kidnapping your children and turning them into warriors. And now, you`re
asking these people to cooperate, to work together to stop a virus. It`s a
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to pause on that a little bit, and Kiron, I want
to bring you in a little bit because this idea that the issue of war of
social disintegration of ethnic group inter-tensions having something to do
with disease, I think can be complicated for people to understand. Why not
just go cure the physiological thing. Why would we need to talk about
these other social and political issues?
SKINNER: I think the way you just described the landscape is just as
frightening as what we`ve been talking about in the broader Middle East.
And the fact of the matter is we that talk about terrorism as a problem
with the Al Qaeda affiliates in North Africa and Boko Haram. But these are
symptoms of the deeper problem across the continent and that`s good
governance, the absence of it. And weak health care delivery system as
results. And the lack of regional organizations like (INAUDIBLE) and
others that have any real liability and power. They`re not close to being
the EU, for example.
And so, when you get a crisis like Ebola in the context of really weak
governance structure, it`s a formula for disaster and for the United States
and for the rest of the world. And I think the WHO is having a hard time
figuring out how to operate in the context of weak governance, bad health
care delivery systems, countries that don`t work together, all of this is
just extremely difficult. There is no easy way out.
GARRETT: I would add to that, you know, not only is there a history of
civil war in the area, but these are three of the poorest countries by any
calibration method you use on the planet that in the best of times, they
had a horrible set of public health systems.
Now, on top of it all, you know, it`s not just that Ebola is there. This
is also the region from which the (INAUDIBLE) virus emerges. The initial
symptoms, it is a rodent carry disease, the initial symptoms are very
similar to Ebola. And like Ebola, it is a hemorrhagic disease. So you
could end up bleeding out and then it`s also an area of cerebral malaria
endemic across Syria. Initial symptoms, very similar. And again, you can
go into the deranged whose hygienic state with adult onset cerebral malaria
that is very similar to what happens when the Ebola virus gets into your
brain and you become a truly frightening thing.
So, just to put this in perspective, Melissa, what`s happening now and one
of the reasons we have violence in the area related to the Ebola outbreak
now is that the health care systems are afraid to take people in.
HARRIS-PERRY: Touching cadavers or being exposed --
GARRETT: Touching the fluids. But now they can`t tell which one is
malaria, which one is losa (ph) and which one is Ebola. Children coming in
with high fever, they`re all being rejected by the system.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, one of the things you did early on, soon I can ask
question, you don`t need to worry about or take off the question whether
Ebola will show up in Chicago or New York or San Francisco. But as soon as
you do that I`m wondering is do all of my viewers are going to go well
then, whatever. So, tell me why, right, why we have to still care that
this is happening?
GARRETT: So, this week there was an 11-nation summit held in Accra, Ghana
because the whole of West Africa now sees this is out of control. It is
literally by WHO definition out of control. And it is crossing borders and
people are fleeing all across the region.
So, here`s some big countries to think about, part of that 11. It`s not
just Ghana, Synagogue, Liberia, (INAUDIBLE), it`s Nigeria, OK? Now, you
really start getting into heated problems because what have we already got
in Nigeria, Boko Haram versus everybody else. And it`s a huge oil
producer. The whole world economy pivots on oil from, Iraq, big problem
there right now. Iran, oops, big problem there right now. Let`s lean on
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Laurie Garrett and Kiron Skinner. Thanks,
also, to Hillary Mann Leverett for being here today. Dean is going to
stick around a little while longer.
Still to come this morning, how the Supreme Court made a huge impact on
women this week.
But first, what happened on this day on 1957?
HARRIS-PERRY: The 20th annual essence festival is wrapping up in New
Orleans today. Over these past four days up to half million people have
been enjoying the ultimate party with a purpose. I was even honored to be
there on Friday to join Alicia Keys and others for a discussion on HIV in
the African community.
Whether it`s about taking control of our health or exercising our rights at
the ballot box, the empowerment of African-American women is what the
essence festival is all about. And it is with essence festival and the
empowerment of women of color and mind that I want to go back in time for
this next story.
Fifty seven years ago today tennis icon Althea Gibson became the first
African-American ever to win at Wimbledon. No, not the first African-
American woman, the first African-American, full stop. Arthur Ashe (ph)
who becomes the first African-American man to win Wimbledon but not until
1975. We took a look in our vault to see how history recorded Gibson`s
moment on this day in 1957.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A new tennis queen was born. Althea Gibson of New York
became the first of her race to win the title at Wimbledon, England. And
she won the U.S. nationals, too. Sportsmen everywhere applauded her
triumph and shared in her moment of glory when Queen Elizabeth herself
present to the girl from Harlem will became a toast of the tennis world in
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That girl from Harlem was actually born in South Carolina
and was mindful of her roots in the segregated south and all that she had
overcome, even as she won Wimbledon. She wrote in her memoir shaking hands
with the queen of England was a long way from being forced to sit in the
colored section of the bus going into downtown Wilmington, North Carolina.
We`re making that journey and paving the way for so many others, we
celebrate Gibson today.
And up next, we`ll celebrate some other women making a stand from a very
HARRIS-PERRY: Wheaton College is a Christian college in Illinois. A
religiously affiliated, nonprofit, it is exempt from the affordable care
act`s mandate that employer-sponsored health insurance cover birth control
at no cost. All Wheaton College has to do to get that exemption is to fill
out a form. EBSA form 700 to be exact. And this is what it looks like,
just a one-page form.
But Wheaton College says it shouldn`t have to fill out the form. That by
filling out the form, it would be complicit in the use of contraceptives by
its staff and students. Wheaton says that therefore filling out ESBA form
700 is a substantial burden and on this religious freedom. And on this
past Thursday afternoon, the Supreme Court agreed with Wheaton College.
The court ruled that Wheaton College doesn`t have to fill out EBSA form 700
and that it could instead send a letter of its own design and still be
exempt from the mandate.
Joining me is Irin Carmon, national reporter for MSNBC.com, and David
Cohen, professor of law at Drexel University.
What in the entire (INAUDIBLE) are we talking about here? I am looking,
that`s a technical term. The EBSA 700 form is one of the easiest forms I
think I have ever seen from the United States government. What is at stake
DAVID COHEN, DREXEL UNIVERSITY: Well, the Wheaton College says that it
violates the religious freedom to have to comply with the contraceptive
mandate from the affordable care act. And all they have to do is fill out
that form and say we don`t want to provide contraceptive through our
insurers, ourselves, and that`s all that the act requires them to do. But
they`re saying even filling out that form violates their religious freedom.
And on Thursday, the court agreed and said, you don`t have to do that why
you litigate this case in the lower court. And it was a phenomenal
decision because, as you said, this form is nothing. As you think of
government forms, this is nothing. But they`re still willing to sign a
form to the government saying we don`t want to cover this.
HARRIS-PERRY: On their own stationary.
COHEN: On their own stationary, right. So they don`t want to fill out
this one form, but they`ll fill out this other form and the Supreme Court
in a 6-3 decision says, yes, it is a violation of your religious freedom to
fill out this one form but go ahead and write this other letter.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I mean, it really is actively confusing to me, Irin. I
want to hear what Sotomayor said about this notion of religious liberty
issue. She says let me be absolutely clear, I do not doubt that Wheaton
generally believes that signing the self-certification form is contrary to
its religious belief, but thinking one`s religious beliefs are
substantially burdened no matter how sincere or genuine that belief may be
does not make it so. So, how is it that six judges decide that filling out
this form is a substantial burden on the religious beliefs?
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC.COM NATIONAL REPORTER: Well, so far this is a
preliminary decision, but it`s extraordinary. In order for the Supreme
Court to act the way it did, it has to believe that there is a compelling
public interest and that this is an emergency and that they t step in over
the lower courts. This is something that they didn`t even do when a third
of Texas` abortion clinics were about to close. They didn`t think that was
an emergency. But they thought that two-page form was an emergency.
And I think that the reason that you saw basically blistering rage from the
three women of the court who signed on to that descent is because on Monday
we had our Hobby Lobby decision. That one of the tests of whether it
violated the law, the religious freedom restoration act was can the
government find another way to do this? So, they said, look, the
government found another way to do this. The nonprofits can sign a two-
page form that they literally use the phrase that respects religious
Ironically, this is a form that came about because the Obama administration
wanted to placate the religious nonprofits that were rebelling against the
contraceptive coverage. This is, I guess, is what happens when you try to
find a solution that you think is going to mollify people. Then they turn
around and use it and undermine the private corporations.
HARRIS-PERRY: I just do not want to miss this, David, because sometimes
blistering when it comes from a Supreme Court justice doesn`t sound
blistering to an ordinary person. So I want to listen or actually I will
read what Sotomayor`s words are when she says those who are bound by our
decisions usually believe they can take us at our word, not so today. That
action has been disregard for even the newest of this court`s precedence
and undermines confidence in this institution.
So as Irin was saying, Monday they said, all right, we can decide Hobby
Lobby this way because this form exists. Then Thursday they say, no, you
don`t have to fill out this form. And Sotomayor was like, excuse me, you
just made this court irrelevant. Is she over speaking that?
COHEN: I don`t think so. I mean, I think Wheaton shows this court as a
political, bias institution. We like to think of the court as
nonpolitical, non-bias, based completely on law. Completely separate from
the political branches of government. But there are times in the court`s
history where it shows its cards as the political institution as it is.
Bush v. Gore comes to mind when it put George Bush into presidency in 2000.
But this is another example. And to compare the two, I don`t think is too
extreme. Because like you said, on Monday the court pointed to this form
as the reason why Hobby Lobby doesn`t have to cover contraception. And
then on Thursday they said, we were wrong, actually. That form is too
burdensome. The court is being a political right-wing institution and
showing its cards.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, you know, so I guess part of what has been confusing
to me. And this is, you know, we`ll take a break and come back, but it
really is when you were sitting at the table previously, Irin, and we were
talking about the buffer zone position, which had been unanimous, I
thought, OK, maybe it isn`t behaving just politically, right? As soon as
you are get a unanimous decision, even if I disagree with it, it does make
me think, OK, maybe I need to take a step back and this court is really
deciding things based on the precedent or law that I don`t get and then the
very next week, right, behaving in this way.
So when we come back I want to ask what you`re thinking about that
unanimity on the buffer zones now that we`ve seen Hobby Lobby and Wheaton.
Everybody, hold on with me. We have to get to that Hobby Lobby decision as
well as how Shonda Rimes is taking over f-thing (ph).
There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
For years now groups that opposed reproductive right have used African-
American women to make their case. One Texas group called Life Always
erected controversial billboards. There was one in New York City that read
the most dangerous place for an African-American is in the womb. One in
Chicago suggested that the next President Obama could be aborted at any
There was Georgia right to life, a group with a largely white staff which
in 2009 decided to hire a black woman to be its minority outreach
coordinator. Catherine Davis` job was to travel to black churches and
colleges and explain that abortion was a conspiracy to commit genocide
As Davis said upon her hiring, quote, "There are some individuals and
organizations that have as their mission to eliminate blacks from America.
Most of us do not know about these plans and I am working to make sure that
they`re exposed. We must take steps to preserve our God-given genius and
legacy in this nation."
Davis successful in getting more African-American women to call Georgia
Right to Life pregnancies hotline where they were discouraged from
terminating pregnancies. The group eventually expanded the idea by putting
up billboards like this one, calling black children an endangered species
due to abortion.
And then there are all the politicians. Members of Congress who proposed
bills that would make it a crime for a woman to terminate a pregnancy based
on the race of her fetus like the Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass
Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act. Oh, really, didn`t make that up. That one
garnered nearly 100 co-sponsors and came pretty close to passing the House
of Representatives in 2012.
This is an ongoing strategic attempt to shame African-American women out of
getting the reproductive health care of their choice. The shamers cite
statistics that black women have disproportionately high rates of abortion
compared to white women. But when these opponents to reproductive rights
are successful in changing policy like when their state passes a law that
will close clinics or when the nation`s highest court strikes down buffer
zones outside those clinics or makes it harder to get contraception,
African-American women and other women of color are often those most
affected by those choices.
With me at the table are Dean Obeidallah, who is columnist for "The Daily
Beast", Irin Carmon, national reporter for MSNBC.com, Aisha Moodie-Mills,
senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and David Cohen,
professor of law at Drexel University.
Aisha, I just made a claim that African-American women and women of color
are disproportionately impacted by the closing of reproductive rights
options? Is that a valid claim?
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: Absolutely that`s a
valid claim. I mean, we have the least access to contraceptives that we
don`t have to pay for. It is more likely that we`re going to have
unintended pregnancies for a variety of reasons, and there`s a whole layer
of class element here in terms of support from not only kind of the family
structure, but also from a societal structure around our families, to keep
us from being able to from having unintended pregnancies.
So, the claim that you`re making is absolutely true. I find it`s so
frustrating this conversation that it`s the very same people who are
talking about how the black community and particularly what they`re trying
to say are black boys are endangered. But once we do have black men in our
society, they`re the ones who will leave them behind.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this point about a kind of eugenic or genocidal attempt,
Irin. I mean, when we look at abortions by race -- I don`t want to pretend
that that stat isn`t true, right? When we look at abortions by race,
African-Americans do have a higher termination rate than other groups.
Actually, I think that might be a little off. I think its` 40 percent as
opposed to 90 percent. And the unintended pregnancy by race however is the
thing driving it, right?
So, if we look at unintended pregnancies, they are much higher and, so,
here we have Hobby Lobby saying that you`re not going to have access to
birth control simultaneous with people saying this is genocidal attempt
and, of course, part of the solution would be to have more access to birth
control, not less.
CARMON: It seems like it`s dammed if you do and damned if you don`t,
right? Because we all know that also African-American and also Latino
child-bearing is profoundly stigmatized, right, even in liberal California,
they can`t repeal the maximum family grant that limits public assistance
that you get if you have more than one child.
So, I don`t understand how it all adds up that you can make it impossible
for privately employed, insured women who are relatively well off in our
society to get birth control, make it very hard for them, if they choose to
have an abortion to get one and then if they do have children, make it
nearly impossible for them to care for those children. It`s an ideology of
punishment, it sort feels like.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, it is frame as an ideology of freedom. Dean, you
wrote about a recent video by Rick Santorum.
HARRIS-PERRY: That came in the wake of the Hobby Lobby decision. I want
to watch just a piece of that and then have your response.
OBEIDALLAH: Yes. I can`t wait to --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it will go away if we do not attend to the threat
of religious freedom right now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you and I don`t do this and you and I may well spend
our sunset years telling our children and our children`s children what it
once was like in America when men were free.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
OBEIDALLAH: This is just so everyone knows just a trailer to a movie that
Rick Santorum`s company, EchoLight is producing. First of all, I`m happy
he`s making movies and not public policy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right.
OBEIDALLAH: I applaud that. Let him just make movies. But the movie, to
you, is not imagery. To say that liberals are going to literally cut down
across and those are government agents, the men in suits, I assume, and
that they`re going to put, other images of nuns in prison, that somehow
they`re going to put nuns and religious leaders in jail and they want
contraception and Rick Santorum is against contraception. Remember, it`s
not like --
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes.
OBEIDALLAH: To me, it`s so counterintuitive. The University of Washington
Medical School two years ago, free birth control in this study brought down
unwanted pregnancies remarkably. They should be advocating free birth
control. Free IUD. It was really helpful.
That`s what they really want to prevent, the lower abortion rates. That
study showed it to me. How much more clear do you need?
HARRIS-PERRY: Help me then to think about this from a constitutional law
perspective, because, seriously, for me, what I see happening is on the one
hand the realities of women who earn less, who are in communities with a
variety of social and structural difficulties -- as you were talking about,
Aisha -- who have less access to termination and it`s getting as though
it`s about individual freedom, when in fact -- and the court seems to
increasingly be deciding against individuals and towards corporations and
towards corporate freedom, whether they are private corporations for
profit, or whether they are these private nonprofits.
COHEN: The court is showing that it prefers some people`s freedoms and
some people`s rights over others.
HARRIS-PERRY: They`ve done this. I mean, there is an actual Supreme Court
history of saying that and we`re kind of embarrassed about the Constitution
COHEN: What we`ve seen in the buffer zone case and in the Hobby Lobby
case, the court ignores the lived experiences of women, particularly poor
women, particularly women of color. The court ignores the importance of
contraception to women`s health. The court ignores that contraception is
not cheap if you`re a low-wage earner in this country.
The court ignores the fact that the government is not just going to pick up
the bill when we know that Title 10 funds contraception for people who
can`t afford it are being cut by the same people who oppose the
So, the government is not going to step in. Why? Because the court and
the government are ignoring the experience of real women who have real
issues in their lives that they need health care and the court is, instead,
listening to people like Rick Santorum.
HARRIS-PERRY: And while the court is ignoring them, Aisha, we have
conservative commentators making fun of real women`s experiences. I
generally try not to do this, but really, the Beyonce voters moment. Let`s
just take a look at it. I want you to comment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She needs the single ladies vote. I call them the
Beyonce voters, the single ladies, Obama won single ladies by 76 percent
last time, and they made up about a quarter of the electorate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s true.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They depend on government because they`re not depending
on their husbands. They need things like contraception, health care and
they love to talk about equal pay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, those crazy ladies. Jesse Watters talking about
this. I just, I mean I think there are real and substantial and meaningful
discussions to be had, particularly about the issue of abortion. I think
that is a reasonable, public concern.
But the kind of mockery of people`s life experiences doesn`t seem like that
moves us towards a meaningful conversation.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS: No, it doesn`t. First of all, they`re spouting a lot
of things that are misinformation and half true. The idea that, oh, it`s
only single women who want to run out there and have a bunch of sex and use
contraceptives is completely false because 90 percent of women at some
point in their lives are using contraceptives, and that many women are
HARRIS-PERRY: A majority of married, Catholic women use contraception.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS: Use contraception. OK. So, one, that`s just
I think the other big piece of this, too, that no one wants to talk about
and I`m glad you mentioned it, is that this is also about health care. So,
we want to focus on abortion, but the reality is many, many women who are
using birth controls are using them for some type of reproductive health
care issues. So, for example, if you have very painful menstrual cycle,
birth control can mitigate that. If you have an irregular cycle, birth
control can --
HARRIS-PERRY: If you have fibroids, which we know that African-American
women are far more likely to suffer from.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS: Exactly. And so, there`s a whole big conversation
that I think that we`re missing having, which is really about health care,
because we`re so distracted with abortion.
CARMON: But also preventing pregnancy is also a legitimate use of
CARMON: That is a public health concern. The government presented
detailed information about why spacing and controlling your pregnancies is
a public health interest. And I think what`s really staggering is we`re
seeing the Supreme Court legitimize the view that we should be stigmatizing
contraception the way we stigmatize contraception.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. This ends, by the way, Irin, if you just had a husband
HARRIS-PERRY: Beyonce has a husband and had her baby --
HARRIS-PERRY: I love it.
You get to stay with us. You hang out, Dean.
Irin Carmon, thank you. David Cohen, thank you for being here.
Dean is hanging out with us a little longer along with Aisha.
But coming up, do not adjust that TV set. Something incredible is
happening and you just know that Shonda Rhimes has something to do with it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Imagine this headline: first black lesbian elected
president. Now, imagine this headline: first black lesbian president
forced to resign after offending white people. That story is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: At college campuses across the country this year, we`ve seen
issues of race come to the forefront as students of color speak out about
their experiences on campus and challenge their institutions to improve
their diversity. At UCLA Law School where black students have not made up
more than 4 percent of the student body since 1996, a video campaign was
launched to push the program to admit more African-Americans, at the
University of Michigan, as students advocated with demonstrations on
campus, drawing in luminaries like Harry Belafonte to help urge the
university to address what they see as its diversity problems.
And at Harvard University, the "I, Too, Am Harvard" campaign featured
African-American students posting photos displaying the commentary they
either overhear or hear directly from other students on campus. Then,
there was this story out of a high school, not just any high school, the
Lawrenceville School in New Jersey is the most expensive prep school in the
nation, as well as one of the most prestigious. Over the years it has, at
times, take on the long road to diversity, admitting its first African-
American student 50 years ago, a decade after Brown V. Board and admitted
its first female student less than 30 years ago in 1987.
Which is why it was such a big deal when the student body elected Maya
Peterson a young, gay, black woman to be student body president and an even
bigger deal when she resigned over this photo. Posting to her Instagram in
March, Maya attempted to parody a campus culture she describes as, quote,
"Confederate flag hanging openly misogynistic". The photo which features
her in Ivy League regalia was accompanied by the #romney2016, #confederate,
HARRIS-PERRY: Sorry. Apparently, the panel finds that to be funny. Some
students and alumni immediately took issue of Maya`s depiction of the white
male culture and their criticism reportedly led the school administration
to use a threat of disciplinary action to urge her resignation as student
Joining the panel, the former student body president of the Lawrenceville
School herself, Maya Peterson.
MAYA PETERSON, FORMER STUDENT BODY PRESIDENT: Hi.
HARRIS-PERRY: Also, Danielle Moodie-Mills, advisor for the Center for
So, I want to start by saying you have graduated from the Lawrenceville
School. This is not a save Maya campaign.
DAVIS: No, I`m out.
HARRIS-PERRY: To reinstate your presidency.
But -- so, les let`s back up to this moment and tell us what were your
goals with that satirical photo?
PETERSON: I think that a lot of people saw the photo and thought it was
retaliation for there being uproar about a photo that my friends and I
posted with our fists in the air and that`s just not the reality of it. I
think the photo was meant to be satire and I think satire is directed at
people on people on my side of the issue. I don`t think that I used this
photo as a means to effect any change per se. I think I did it as a way to
put a -- like put a satirical spin on something that I felt was an issue
and I think a lot of people had mentioned it to me and brought it up to me
that it`s a way, especially in black culture was mentioned that making
jokes about a kind of culture that we can change to something that we tend
to have been done in order to make things a little bit more lighthearted.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So, one of the things we have uncovered on this show is
that when white students on predominantly college campuses have done things
that are later perceived by minority communities on those campuses as being
racially insensitive. So, if we take for example the case of the ASU
fraternity who had, you know, this party or sometimes we see it on other
campuses where people, right?
How is what you did differently than what happened here with the Arizona
State University fraternity that threw this Martin Luther King party and
sort of performed this version of black culture? Tell me how it`s
PETERSON: I think -- first of all, I would like to say that the photo and
what I did in my leadership position was not the smartest thing to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, sure.
PETERSON: But I think that it`s different because things like that and
things like people making culturally insensitive jokes happen at
Lawrenceville and there`s no repercussion. And I think that, you know,
it`s the kind of thing where you have people dressing up as Indian chiefs
and geishas and taking pictures and it`s funny, but then when it happens
the other way around to the majority of the population, all of a sudden,
it`s a problem and it`s brought to the forefront and there`s issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dean, it`s tough stuff as you well know, right? And we are
talking about young people here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, but on the other hand, you know, I do want to be clear
that we condemned other young people, condemned might be wrong, we
certainly critiqued other young people as we`ve just suggested, who have
performed this kind of racial angst.
I want to want, however, there was an open letter to you, Maya, from Ms.
Wilkerson, who is the first African-American woman to lead the Harvard
Lampoon, in which she says, "To me, it was the power dynamic that made your
Instagram" -- Maya`s post -- "comical and harmless and that power dynamic
that allowed you to be stripped of your position because as much as you
were in charge, it is the people you mocked who have the capacity to remove
that power, not the other way around."
And so, does that go to the heart of what makes the satire different?
OBEIDALLAH: Duh, if you are making fun of people in power, I think it`s
completely fine and you`re making a point. If you`re the minority, you`re
the oppressed one, you should make fun of people in power. It`s a great
way of sometimes opening people`s minds up to an issue they have not seen
before, and you`re doing it better than a speech. You give a speech and
four people show up. You do a great picture that`s funny, everybody shares
it, everyone talks about it.
If you`re in power, you make fun of that minority, whatever that minority
is, that`s where you have problems. That`s where you`re seen as a jerk or
bully, and you`re just taking advantage of a situation.
So, I think what you did. I would defend 100 percent. I think it`s great
and I`ve got in trouble for race jokes. But when you`re making fun -- if
you`re a minority and I`m Arab and look like a white guy and I view the
rule as minority. So, I make fun of white people, I get attacked by white
people for it, you guy are in control, let it go, and laugh it off.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let`s cross cut it with class, though, right? Because
the other piece of this is Lawrenceville is an extremely expensive prep
school. And, so, Danielle, just to draw you in here a bit, when we see the
students at Harvard saying "I, Too, Am Harvard". When we see the kids at
the University of Michigan, when we see a young woman at Lawrenceville, is
it just poor little rich girl, or shouldn`t the brown and black folks who
have the opportunities at the wealthy schools like, yes, so it wasn`t a
perfect environment, but what a great opportunity?
DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: So, we should just be
thankful that we`re there, right? I think that`s the reaction from the
administration in this case and in other cases that we`ve seen, is that
black people are not afforded freedom of expression, because anytime that
we have an opportunity to say, you know what, I`m going to push back
against this patriarchal experience that I`m having and saying, look, I`m
visible, I`m here, that there is somehow something threatening about that.
Because it`s threatening you`re forced to resign or other people are
relegated, you know, or beaten or what have you to the margins of society
and that`s what they want.
I think that in this ideal experience that the administration would have
wanted her to kind of just be there and just be happy. Be happy, be
president and kind of move along with this idea of legacy and tradition,
which means whiteness.
HARRIS-PERRY: But let me complicate it a little bit. I want to read for
you a little bit Lawrenceville statement and then come to you on a
question, because -- there is a part of me, yes, back up, we get to say
what we want to say, right? But then I want to complicate it a little bit,
So, the Lawrenceville School in a statement said, "The Lawrenceville School
works hard to foster an inclusive open and engaging atmosphere, that gives
all students opportunities to be heard, feel respected and succeed. We do
not tolerate racial discrimination and has had a few issues on campus for
many years now. Like any institution in America, we appreciate the
challenge of having discussions about issues of diversity. We remain
committed to developing young people`s ability to engage with these issues
in productive way.
So, part of what I want to come to you on is they elected you. You are an
African-American woman, openly queer, and you were elected president. What
are you mad about?
PETERSON: OK. Touche, I`ll give you that.
I think the one thing that is not coming out very clearly in a lot of the
articles that are coming out about me is that I am absolutely in love with
the Lawrenceville School. I think that it`s an amazing place. I think I
wouldn`t have run for president, had I not think it was an amazing place
that gave people of color, gave minorities, gave white people this amazing
academic experience. I wouldn`t have run if I didn`t think it could get a
I think just because I`m there and I`m happy and I`m getting a great
education doesn`t mean I don`t want things to be better, doesn`t mean that
I don`t notice a lot of micro-aggressions that plague the entire student
body and things that make me feel uncomfortable and make my friends be
uncomfortable to be there because they don`t fit in to the status quo.
And I think that, you know, with their statement I completely agree that
Lawrenceville does tremendous things. Excuse me -- y know, just the
administration, I`m sure, is a very liberal administration, but then,
again, a lot of back push from alums and people like that who are not as
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I just want to suggest here, Maya Peterson, are you
suggesting that someone could love their country --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- and, nonetheless, even when their country, for example,
elects an African-American president, nonetheless, continue to have
critiques of their nation while at the same time loving their country and
wanting to be a part of it?
PETERSON: Dare I say I may have --
HARRIS-PERRY: Maybe something kind of like that is what was happening with
you at the Lawrenceville of it all?
PETERSON: Yes, absolutely.
HARRIS-PERRY: What are you doing next?
PETERSON: I`m going to Wesleyan University next year.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Well, I`m sure they`re excited for you to come to
PETERSON: I`m very, very excited to be there. Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good luck. We`re excited and thank you for coming and
sharing your experience and it`s not easy and we appreciate your time and
come to share it with us.
PETERSON: I love you, mom.
HARRIS-PERRY: And would you still tell a young African-American woman if
she had an opportunity to go to go to Lawrenceville to go?
PETERSON: I would 125 percent say that. I think that Lawrenceville needs
those type of people in order to change. And if those people don`t
exchange on campus, they`ll be no reason for there to be any type of
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you for being with us.
PETERSON: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, don`t adjust that television and certainly don`t
turn it off. What you are seeing is real. Yes, TV, network TV, cable TV,
subscription TV, Internet TV, whatever you call it now more than ever is in
color. And it`s about time.
Politini is in Nerdland. We`re going to talk TV.
HARRIS-PERRY: If the experience of the Essence Festival could be summed up
in two words, it would have to be entertainment and empowerment, which on
the surface may seem like two mutually exclusive concepts, but they find
common ground. And one of the issues that has long been a focus of both
the festival and "Essence" magazine, the representation of African-American
women in the media.
And looking ahead to what`s coming up in the fall television lineup, no
person embodies that intersection of entertainment and empowerment more
than former "Essence" cover girl and the reigning queen of primetime
herself, writer, director and executive producer, Shonda Rhimes.
Because while her diverse cast of characters and their salacious characters
keep us watching, Rhimes is the one behind the scenes pulling the strings
and making power moves like a boss.
This fall, ABC is turning over not one, but two now three hours of its most
valuable television real estate to Rhimes who on Thursday night will run
back-to-back primetime shows on the network from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m.
Dang! Rhimes` dominance of the Thursday night lineup had ABC`s president
of entertainment turning over his title to Rhimes during the time spot,
declaring her the new president of entertainment on Thursday night.
Thursday has officially become Shon-day.
Now, it`s no secret that we here in Nerdland stand hard for Shonda and in
particular, our favorite Shonda Rhimes creation, "Scandal`s" main character
Olivia Pope -- I even did my best to try to do a white jacket Olivia Pope-
style situation at the Essence this Friday.
But after getting a look at Rhimes` latest leading lady in the trailer for
her new show "How to Get Away with Murder", it looks like we`ll have to
reserve some of the room in our hearts and DVRs for another formidable
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t know what terrible things you have done in
your life up to this point. But, clearly, your (INAUDIBLE) is out of
balance to get assigned to my class.
I`m professor Annalise Keating and this is criminal law 100. Or I prefer
to call it, "How to Get Away with Murder."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes! That was none other than two-time Academy Award
nominee Viola Davis playing a criminal defense attorney and jacket-wearing
professor in the new show.
And Annalise Keating is just one of the new characters of color we`re going
to be getting to know this fall.
Joining us at the table, Alicia Quarles, correspondent for E! News, and we
also have `Essence" entertainment director, Cori Murray, who is joining us
from the Essence Festival in New Orleans and who is currently working on
upcoming issue of the magazine about diversity and the fall TV lineup.
Hi, Cori. How are you?
CORI MURRAY, ESSENCE ENTERTAINMENT DIRECTOR: Good and you?
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So, other than clearly the world of Shonda, what
should we be looking for in this new fall lineup?
MURRAY: Well, there`s, you know, Shonda Rhimes is definitely going to be
taking over Thursday night, which is amazing.
But there`s also Academy winner Octavia Spencer and "Red Band Society" on
FOX. There`s also Tracee Ellis Ross, joining Anthony Anderson in "Black-
ish". We have Alfre Woodard playing the president of the United States,
which I think is a first, on NBC show "State of Affairs". And then you
also got the return of Nicole Beharie and Kerry Washington, both as leads
of their show. Nicole with "Sleepy Hollow", and then, of course, Kerry as
Olivia Pope on "Scandal."
HARRIS-PERRY: Cori, hold for me one second, don`t go away. But I want to
play for folks that we are about to have a black woman president on NBC. I
want to play a little bit of NBC`s "State of Affairs" just so folks get a
sense of what is coming up.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is this true? I had to make a very difficult
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A decision that was not yours to make.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could we have killed Abdul Fatah today?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There is a strong possibility, yes. But not a
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Butler`s rescue, where are we now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jack Dawkins and his team are on standby, ma`am.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let`s bring him home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Could my life be happier?
ALICIA QUARLES, CORRESPONDENT, E! NEWS: It could be happier, because guess
what? There are 10 shows coming up in the fall with minority leads in the
cast. That`s unheard of for fall television.
Our minorities are 38 percent in this country, yet on TV usually 10 percent
of the demographics. There`s been a huge change. Advertisers want to
reach that 18 to 34-year-old range. And, finally, networks are paying
attention, saying in order to that, we`ve got to get diversity in cast.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cori, let me come back to you real quickly because we had
troubled in the past in television shows that have black women either
individually or ensembles in the lead role with keeping them on air and yet
this kind of primetime real estate on the major networks looks to me like
we`re looking at real commitments to these projects.
MURRAY: Well, you`re right, Melissa, because what it is, Meli -- the great
thing about Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes combo is that t they really
proved -- I mean, we`re going into season four of "Scandal", that a black
woman can lead a show and it can be successful. I mean, what other show is
talked about on Twitter and social media. I mean, we`re all like everyone,
black, white, whatever is tuning in to "Scandal." and that just proved
we`re coming to TV.
I mean, you`re right. We`re already there watching television in droves,
but now advertisers can see the true effect of what the power in our brand
and watching television.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I`m also wondering, Cori, hold for me in a second. I`m
also wondering, Aisha, you know, clearly one of the things that happened
with black women on television has been the proliferation of the reality
shows in which African-Americans, or unscripted is the better way to say
African-American women are often playing roles that have -- that have been
critiques in spaces like Essence and others. Now, we`re talking about a
return of a different kind of TV, a Thursday night lineup that includes --
is this also not a return of or an emergence of black women and the return
of a different kind of television?
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS: It`s a different kind of television, but it`s finally
a time when black women get to play black women as opposed to caricatures
of ourselves. Black women have always been able to carry a show if we got
a script that was about just being a human being, being a woman, being
complex, being --
HARRIS-PERRY: Sometimes we carried them even when we were on those
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS: Yes, we did. And so, now, you`re seeing, oh, my God,
this woman is a law professor and she`s a little bit crazy. This woman
having an affair and she`s a little bit crazy and we love her. This woman
-- I mean, we`re seeing people who are really interesting diverse
characters. I think that`s not only will black women are proud of and
flock, but all of America flocks to that.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what I like about what Aisha just said here, Danielle,
is like the a little bit crazy part. So, in other words, we weren`t
necessarily looking for roles where -- so, it`s not just like either the
mammy or the goddess, right? I mean, they`re complicated and salacious and
quirky and problematic, and that`s actually part of what`s so enjoyable
DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS: I`ve decided to call this fall TV lineup anti-
ratchet television. We were absolutely going to be combating the
stereotypes that we have been fed through reality TV, and I won`t go down
the list of shows, but of the wig polling and name-calling, and we can
finally get back to what it means to be these complex, gorgeous, fierce
I mean, I`m going to get my life, I have to clear my DVR, and need to clear
my schedule, because like black women are here. And thank God for Shonda
Rhimes and Kerry Washington and the success of "Scandal", because if it was
not for that, if it had not been for them, and the ferocious like
commitment of the Twitter followers, we would not be seeing this right now,
because we as black people constantly have to prove ourselves in
entertainment or politics or what-have-you. We`re constantly having to
And this, Kerry Washington and Shonda Rhimes did, and thank you for them
because now we have a full lineup that I think is going to be breathtaking
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Cori, let me come back to you for one last moment here,
which is to say, you know, so we`re all clearly quite excited just about --
apparently, we have nothing to do on Thursday nights. We`re going back to
the land of TV watching. But let me ask why it might be important beyond
our enjoyment, right?
So, yes, it`s great for black women, but if I`m watching Nerdland right now
and I`m not a black woman, why should I care that suddenly all these new
characters are going to be on television?
MURRAY: Well, I think you should care because what the fall TV lineup is
going to show the diversity of our country, the diversity of real life.
And like what we`re talking about. These are women who are going to be
multi-faceted. They have flaws. They are different characters and they`re
not stereotypes and just more of a reality of what the world is.
And I think in seeing these women, it just lets us know as minorities in
this country that, you know what, we are here and we are a part of this
fabric of America and we are being recognized and we are here to stay.
So, I think that it`s just uplifting and it just makes you feel good
because you don`t have to clearly watch these television shows and just see
this whitewash, but here it is. You see somebody that looks like you. I
mean, I love when Lupita Nyong`o won her Academy Award because my daughter
looked at her and said she looks like me. And she did.
And that`s what the importance of this lineup is, is for those -- for
everyone to see themselves in television.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cori Murray of "Essence" magazine, and also at the Essence
Festival in New Orleans. I`m going to try to be on the plane and get there
for Erykah Badu tonight, so just maybe --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I want to I want to see Erykah tonight. But, up next,
we`re going to talk about all the joyous, wonderful, black, brown, and also
maybe some of the problematic black brown that`s coming to fall TV in the
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we`ve been talking about the colorful new fall lineup.
I want to show a little bit of an introduction to the ABC show "Black-ish."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Andre Johnson. I have a great career, a
spectacular house and a loving family I`m surrounded by every day. But as
a black man with all the success, sometimes I feel like an oddity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you look to your lift, you`ll see the mythical and
majestic black family.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, "Black-ish" is going to deal very clearly and directly
with issues of race. Here`s another great moment about the son, Andy,
Andre, what is the son`s name?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s up, Andy?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Andy? That`s not even close to Andre.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it says I`m edgy but approachable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it says I hate my father and play field hockey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, some of the shows we were talking about previously,
they`re not about race, just have the extraordinary women playing roles,
but "Black-ish" is going to go into the question of race.
QUARLES: It`s very much about race. So, as Anthony Anderson, Laurence
Fishburne plays his father, and Tracee Ellis Ross plays his wife, Larry
Wilmore is the show writer and important because he has now taken over "The
Colbert Report". It`s going to be the "Minority Report".
This is about a family, the father is trying to hold on to their blackism,
shall we say, and the kids are assimilating. There is one episode where
the kid asks him for a bar mitzvah, and the dad, he goes, what, this goes
directly with race and it`s also back to that family comedy that we were
talking about. About race, it`s relatable, because as families that we --
we all understand that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, this was the moment that was the Huxtables.
Interesting in part this is happening on Thursday nights, again, right?
Yet I`m always reminded that the Huxtables were occurring at the same time
as the Reagan era, right?
So, there`s part of us who wants to say, all right, this is a great moment
in which we`re going to bring back the black family to television, this
will have -- and, yet, when we had them before it didn`t necessarily
translate for us politically?
OBEIDALLAH: It may not have translate, but every scene that I`ve seen,
black communities got to see a positive representation for the first time
on the home and for some white families who don`t have black friends, these
are the first black people invited to their house. And what more could you
want? The dad`s a doctor and the mom`s a lawyer. It`s a dream of every
Like I`m of Arab heritage, if we get this many Arab or Muslim shows on TV,
people would call it a plot.
HARRIS-PERRY: You got in a way. You got "Tyrant." What do you think
OBEIDALLAH: Again, I interviewed Howard Gordon for "The Daily Beast" who
created that. He created "Homeland" and "24". It`s not beloved in our
community. "Tyrant" represents the worst of all the Muslim Arab
stereotypes. It`s the dictator, it`s the guy abuses women. Terrorists are
You know, our struggle was -- let me put it this way, after 9/11, Arabs are
new black. I can only dream we are the new blacks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Popular culture.
OBEIDALLAH: Throwing with cold water. What you guys have done is open --
it will open the door for us. The same thing I told people about President
Obama being elected, it opened a door for other minority groups to be
president. It changes the idea it has to be a white man. Even helps a
woman be president.
So, you guys having all shows, sincerely, will help other minorities
because others will say, you know, you can have a brown face. You have the
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s actually funny that you say the language of
help in part because the women who are playing these extraordinary roles
that we`ve been talking about literally were the help in previous films.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS: Yes, they were. I mean, very, very recently, in the
bulk of their career.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS: I want to go back to a point you just made, though. I
would say that "The Cosby Show" is the reason why we`re able to have the
Obamas in the White House.
DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS: I agree.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS: The cultural shift of having this family that was in
your home every night and little white kids are growing up saying, I want
to be like Theo, too, is the reason why we have the Obamas and, of course,
there`s always --
HARRIS-PERRY: Which is not a small point, even if we go to NBC`s "State of
Affairs" in which you have an African-American woman as president even
though her race and gender is relatively incidental to the larger story.
It turns out there is some research suggesting that the incidental black
and female characters actually do better in shifting that heuristic for us.
When we come back, I want to talk about one last show. It is called "Fresh
Off the Boat" and it`s getting maybe more critique than the celebration
we`ve been having of some of the other pieces, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m so sorry you all couldn`t be here for the commercial
break in which Dean was schooled by a table of black women about how we
feel about Tyler Perry. But we`re not going to talk about that at the
Because I want to point out that as much as we are having kind of a
celebration of the changing complexion of our fall TV line-up there are
some new projects that are getting potentially a little more pushback. I
want to show this sort of introduction here to a new show called "Fresh Off
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s me. Your boy, Eddie Wong. Check it, 11 years
old and moving from D.C. to Orlando.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So this lead character is not unlike the story we just
talked about around "Black-ish." It`s a question about assimilation and
culture. Here is the same lead character addressing the issue of being in
a school in which he is a minority.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Me, my American dream is to fit in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why do all your shirts have black men on them?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: It`s Notorious B.I.G.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: B.I.G.?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Yes, man.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Come sit with us.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: What is this?
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Chinese food.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: Get it out of here. Ying Ding`s (ph) eating worms.
UNIDENTIFIED BOY: I need white people lunch.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is this store so excited about?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So I actually love the idea that wearing a black man is the
thing that makes white kids accept the Asians. There`s a lot of
interesting stuff here. But this has been getting more complex pushback.
QUARLES: This is based on Eddie Wong. He`s a famous chef. But this is
based on his biography of the same name. It`s the first time we`ve had an
Asian cast on television since 1994`s "Margaret Cho`s American Girl" in
But it`s getting pushback because of the title, we`re talking about it
here, (INAUDIBLE). And also because of the accents, you heard the accent
on the mom which just sounds stereotypical and fake. Two steps forward,
two steps back. It`s amazing we have an all Asian cast in primetime.
However, the show has problems.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dean, you were saying we would just take some representation
at this point. We want our own Tyler Perry, and then got yelled at.
OBEIDALLAH: But you know what? I think minorities who are not represented
all the time on television like Asians, there is complaints about this when
you see it online. The reason is because of the Cosby, we want to be
represented as Cosby, if we`re going to be introduced to America in our own
terms, a doctor, a lawyer, upper middle class, living a life that we dream
that our community only lives.
There are bad people in my community. There are fresh off the boast Arabs.
They get a whole show about it there would be a backlash. But they`d be
funny and likeable.
As long as they`re not a terrorist in my community, as long as they`re not
a terrorist on TV, I`m actually happy.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet so, on the one hand, you say -- well, you know, we
all want to be the Cosbys, which in a certain way we do. It`s clearly part
of why we like the Obamas, they remind us of the Cosbys in an important
But part of what I like about this new line-up is that everybody isn`t the
Cosbys. They`re not this kind of perfection. In fact, I want to show
"Black-ish", there`s this one interaction between the African-American
father and the mom who is mixed race about the question of race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s not that big of a deal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All this coming from a mixed woman who technically
isn`t even really black?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If I`m not really black, then could somebody please
tell my hair and my (EXPLETIVE DELETED)?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Clair Huxtable would never say that but I am also excited
that Tracee Ellis Ross just said that.
QUARLES: That`s why shows like "Orange is the New Black" do well. "Orange
is the New Black" is not a comedy but it could be. You`ve got transgender,
you got lesbian women. The things they deliver are so intense and funny
and they`re not p.c. These are real conversations. And it`s good writing.
Let`s take race out of it. Good writing.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting that you bring up "Orange is the New
Black", right, because here we have a transgender black woman playing in
this role and she`s an inmate. So you might get the kind of like pushback
like here they are inmates, but instead like the depth of their humanity
keeps coming forward.
DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS: I think that`s one of the major things about what`s
happening on television is that you need to have the depth of character. I
think that you can tackle a lot of issues that people see within the black
community, within the Arab community, if you have good writing. But if the
writing is very shallow like let`s say a Tyler Perry, then we fall into
these traps where we`re just like this is just more stereotypical garbage.
But because they`re allowed to really express the fullness of their
character, like the Tracee Ellis Ross character, I love that line. I
thought was brilliant because Claire Huxtable would never say it, because
Vivian on "Fresh Prince of Bel Air` --
HARRIS-PERRY: Would never say. But wouldn`t have even pointed out that
our hair is different. We catch that moment, right?
DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS: But it`s OK now. It`s OK for to us show our
diversity within this space.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS: And let`s be clear. This is not benevolent.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, no.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS: This is good business. I push back on the language
that keeps getting tossed around here. We keep saying minority, minority,
I completely resist this.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s because we`re a majority now.
AISHA MOODIE-MILLS: We are actually the majority. And that`s 20, 30 years
in this country people of color will be the majority in this country.
We`re talking about a trillion dollars worth buying power. This is good
business to have diverse characters to show the fullness --
HARRIS-PERRY: African-American women the highest voter turnout of any race
gender group in the past two presidential elections and now we get to play
the president. It`s so great.
Thank you to my panel, to Dean and to Alicia. Also thanks to the Politini
Polinistas themselves, Aisha and Danielle Moodie-Mills. Yes, they are
married to each other that`s what`s happening on TV.
HARRIS-PERRY: That is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for
watching. I`m going to see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m.
But, right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT".
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