'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, August 30th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
August 30, 2014
Guest: Adrian Karatnycky, Nina Khrushcheva, Karen Finney, Hillary Mann
Leverett, Earl Catagnus Jr., Mychal Denzel-Smith, Nancy Giles, Charlene
Carruthers, Dean Obeidallah
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, is Beyonce
the face of feminism? Plus, a new generation of activists speaks out in the
wake of Ferguson. And, a good laugh for a very serious cause. But first,
the president says not so fast.
HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. The media
speculation this week over the possible expansion of U.S. air strikes
against ISIS in Syria was stoked in part by the news of surveillance
flights over Syria and the comments of some key U.S. officials. Even
though those officials gave no definitive indication President Obama was
about to approve additional air strikes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK HAGEL, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We continued to explore all options
regarding ISIL and how best we can assist our partners in that area.
GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Can they be
defeated without addressing that part of the organization which resides in
Syria? The answer is no.
BEN RHODES, DEPUTY NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: So we`re actively
considering what`s going to be necessary to deal with that threat and we`re
not going to be restricted by borders.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So we`d heard all of that. But then on Thursday, President
Obama basically told everyone, take a breath. He clearly stated that the
responsibility for what happens in Syria will not fall on the shoulders of
the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The issue with
respect to Syria is not simply a military issue, it`s also a political
issue. That this cancer that has developed is one that they have to be
just as invested in defeating as we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The president was also quick to put an end to media
speculation over the imminent expansion of air strikes in Syria without
first taking all of the proper steps.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: I don`t want to put the cart before the horse. We don`t have a
strategy yet. The suggestion, I guess, has been that we`ll start moving
forward imminently and somehow Congress still out of town is going to be
left in the dark. That`s not what`s going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: While President Obama is mulling over options for dealing
with ISIS in Syria, his statement that the U.S. did not have a strategy on
how to deal with the problem yet was met with immediate mockery from some
Republicans, the likes of Senator John McCain, tweeting, "We don`t have a
strategy yet. President Obama 8/28/14 #ISIS is the largest, richest,
terrorist group in history. 192,000 dead in #Syria." And according to
reports speculation over the next moves by the United States having no
effect on the continued torture and killing by ISIS. On Thursday new video
surface purporting to show the capture and killing of more than 150
soldiers in northern Syria in just the last few days. Regardless of
President Obama`s approach, Britain`s Prime Minister David Cameron, struck
a far more dramatic tone yesterday when he revealed how Britain will deal
with the deteriorating situation in Iraq and Syria and its potential effect
on Great Britain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITAIN`S PRIME MINISTER: Earlier today the home secretary
confirmed that the joint terrorism analysis center has increased the threat
level in the United Kingdom from substantial to severe. This is the first
time in three years that the threat to our country has been of this level.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Severe is the second highest of the five potential threat
levels in the U.K. and signifies that an attack is highly likely though
there is no specific intelligence suggesting an attack is imminent at this
time. After Cameron`s announcement the White House and Pentagon reiterated
President Obama`s decision not to take immediate action against ISIS in
Syria. But with the drumbeat getting louder for a tough response to ISIS,
how much longer can the president ask everyone to wait? At the table Karen
Finney, MSNBC contributor, Earl Catagnus Jr., the system professor of
history and security cities at Valley Forge Military College, and an Iraq
war veteran and Hillary Mann Leverett professor, the School of
International Service at American University. I want to start with you,
Hillary. Does ISIS pose an immediate threat to U.S. lives or interest
either domestically or abroad?
HILLARY MANN LEVERETT, AUTHOR, "GOING TO TEHRAN": No, it doesn`t. Its
sights are set on the Henjaz - this part of Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of
Islam, the holiest place in the Islamic religion. That`s where their
sights are set and they`re pursuing a very carefully crafted, sophisticated
strategy to get there and to really take over leadership within the Sunni
Muslim world. The president, though, it doesn`t look good to say hold on a
second, perhaps looks a bit - a bit weak and decisive, is probably doing
the right things in terms of holding off the bombing. I remember a year
ago this weekend I was on a different program, and I said, wait a minute,
don`t go bomb Assad`s military in Syria because they`re they only military
that are fighting ISIS. We will essentially be al-Qaeda or ISIS air force
if we do so. The president was correct, even though he took a lot of
backlash - he was correct not to bomb Assad`s army last year and he is
probably correct not to do so this year because that`s exactly what ISIS
wants. They want the United States back in full throttle to send hundreds
of thousands of troops back and make this an all-out war with the United
States to take over their swath of the Middle East.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, your point about where we have come over the course of
the past year, that`s precisely what I was thinking, a year ago I was
sitting here, we were talking about the possibility that the president
having drawn this sort of bright line about chemical weapons was going to
be - it is - it will be forced into being against Assad and yet I`m now
beginning to hear discourse that we might have a strategic partnership with
Assad in the context of defeating ISIS. Would that be equally problematic?
EARL CATAGNUS JR., VALLEY FORGE MILITARY COLLEGE: Well, the whole
situation is getting muddled because we have people saying that we should
have supported the insurgency in Syria before it`s - extreme - became
radicalized. But when you really look at the evidence, it was always going
to eventually tend to be that way so to even have suggested that red line
be there whether it be actual intervention was a mistake. It was a
mistake. I think the president realized that. Unfortunately, the damage
is already done. Now with this, with moving into Syria, this conversation
whether or not we should have airstrikes in Syria. There`s a lot of
problems right now in Iraq and we have a full-fledged - you know, the Iraqi
military, the Peshmerga, are actually starting to make gains against ISIS
with the U.S. advisers, that`s the key. We are not being talked - we`re
not talked about, that are on the ground that are actually supporting those
troops that are actually allowing them to make the gains, so we can push
them back to the Syria border and then let things happen in Syria.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, part of what both of you have done is to reveal the kind
of complexity that is central to a problem this enormous and yet I wonder,
Karen, if politics don`t allow for much room for that kind of complexity,
we are just sort of looking at the poll data asking, for example, is Obama,
is President Obama tough enough? 54 percent suggest a, no, the president
is not tough enough, right, and only 36 percent about right. That notion
that there just simply is not enough tough discourse, but then when I talk
with folks who are in the know, they keep saying to me, no, this is
complicated. You actually don`t want to go David Cameroning yourself all
over this process.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, and don`t forget - I mean in 2008
and 2012, that`s what we voted for. We said we don`t want cowboy
diplomacy. We don`t want to just send troops in kind of not based on
factual, actual evidence. So, what I find so interesting, because so we
prefer that the president use tough rhetoric but then not do - I mean he
can`t do that either. And so, I think, you know, this president is very
thoughtful and he`s laying it out, I think more honestly. I think the
problem this week, though, is the language. I wouldn`t have set cart
before the horse. He might not have said - we don`t have a strategy - Josh
Earnest, his spokesman went on CNN and says, there`s a five part strategy,
the president is waiting for options from the Department of Defense.
That`s a better answer, frankly.
HARRIS-PERRY: There were a lot of optics problems with that press
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, as we now know vis-a-vis the light colored suit. But
it does - it does lead me, though, to wonder -- and I guess I`m always sort
of wondering this as I watch this particular leader, Hillary, whether or
not legitimately isn`t the strategy or whether the strategy is a kind of
public, obfuscation so that there is a set of things going on in the back
channels that we just don`t know about.
MANN LEVERETT: I agree with Karen, certainly the choice of words, what was
very, very problematic but I also served in the Bush administration, both
Clinton and Bush. I`m not partisan. And in the Bush administration we
forget, but after 9/11 it took the administration about a month to come up
with plans to attack Afghanistan. They also had no strategy even though al
Qaeda had been attacking us for six years from 1995 on. We knew al Qaeda,
we knew Afghanistan, but we had no strategy. So my concern is that the
president, and it`s not just the president, but it`s the entire foreign
policy elite and bureaucracy have not learned a thing since 9/11. And here
we are, we know Iraq. We had 150,000 troops in Iraq. We were there for
years. We bombed that country for a long time. We know the situation and
we still don`t have a strategy. I actually would question whether the
White House spokesman is really being frank with the American public in
terms of there being a strategy. Because if there were a strategy, it
would actually tell the American public the hard things they need to hear
which is that you don`t have - you don`t partner with - allying with - have
coalitions with those countries that have just had like-minded so called
values. You deal with countries as they are, like Iran and Assad, Syria,
who are the only governments in the region fighting ISIS. And to have this
policy that keeps them in the ground is enormously destructive for the
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re going to take a quick break. And when we come back, I
want to ask you, as you`ve talked before about that advising group and some
of what we`ve heard coming out of DC. This week was the idea that part of
the - we have no strategy is really code for we are having internal battles
about it. So when we come back, we`ll talk more about that but also quite
specifically about the human toll of the terror created by ISIS or ISIL and
one mother`s desperate plea.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHIRLEY SOTLOFF, MOTHER OF STEVEN SOTLOFF: I ask you to please release my
child. As a mother I ask for justice to be merciful and not punish my son
for matters he has no control over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Shirley Sotloff, the mother of captured American
journalist Steven Sotloff. On Wednesday, Ms. Sotloff released a video
statement to plea directly to the leader of ISIS to spare her son`s life.
Her son, Steven, was abducted more than a year ago but was seen last week
in the video to show the beheading of fellow American journalist James
Foley. The lives of both journalists and aid workers are put in jeopardy
by ISIS` campaign to expand its caliphate across wide swath of Iraq and
Syria, so, too, are the lives of the everyday people that cross their path.
In a new report the United Nations documents what it calls war crimes being
committed by ISIS in Syria. On Wednesday the chairman of the panel
investigating possible war crimes in Syria had this to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAULO PINHEIRO: So, what concerns ISIS, the commission as you can read in
the report indicates that members of ISIS have committed war crimes and
crimes against humanity including acts of torture, murder, enforced
disappearance and forcible displacement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Earl, however complicated the politics and the military
strategy are here, add on top of it the personal horror of seeing Americans
in these circumstances. Because - no wonder that the advisers are fighting
about what ought to happen.
CATAGNUS: One thing I`ve said this continually, ISIS will not be
successful. Their success will ultimately lead to their failure. The
problem is that whether or not, whether it`s going to sustain in a movement
that will be dispersed, how many people will be killed before this happens.
So, but nobody, really nobody wants them to succeed, no regional player.
What they want to do is manipulate ISIS to actually gain control within -
specifically I`m talking about with Saudi Arabia, with the funneling of
money and the loose - finger - like the invisible hand, pulling the strings
within the region to maintain its hegemony across from Iran. So, how much
of an impact we need to look at and how to reduce that impact of the - on a
humanitarian level. So, I think that forcing the issue with the advisers
and getting Iraqi military mobilized with the Peshmerga and working through
and pushing it up to the Syrian border, Syria is a whole different thing.
When you cross that border, it is a whole different situation other than
Iraq with ISIL.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, as you make this point about the kind of
enormity and potential growing enormity of that humanitarian crisis and
yet, Karen, the politics of it is sometimes one life or two lives can
actually take on heightened meaning even over and above that kind of
enormous suffering, I want to listen to a moment to Prime Minister Cameron
talking about - being shocked and sickened by what we saw in the context of
the beheading of the American journalist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID CAMERON, BRITAIN`S PRIME MINISTER: We`ve all been shocked and
sickened by the barbaric murder of the American journalist James Foley.
And by the voice of what increasingly seems to have been a British
terrorist recorded on that video. It was clear evidence, not that any more
was needed, that this is not some foreign conflict thousands of miles from
home that we can hope to ignore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: They got real personal for the British and now we`re
starting to see a different tone.
KINNEY: Well, and for a lot of people here in America, particularly people
who knew James Foley, right? And I think that is part of the politics here,
again, on the one hand nobody wants boots on the ground, that`s part of the
political calculation in whatever decision gets made. At the same time,
you know, seeing that you have people tune in and say, wait, what`s going .
KINNEY: Tune in in a way that I don`t think they had in terms of what`s
really going on over there and the potential of danger and it raises then
the questions that you started with about, well, is there a danger to the
United States? I mean .
KINNEY: So, I do think that .
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not unlike the Ebola crisis, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: And there was, you know, massive human suffering and death,
we were sort of seeing it as the American public, but it is when, it
literally comes to Atlanta in the body of an American citizen, we are like
wait a minute, what`s going on, and it changes the world.
KINNEY: And had anybody thought before this also, had anybody thought of
the fact that there are over 1,000, you know, British citizens fighting
with ISIS? 100 American citizens fighting with ISIS.
HARRIS-PERRY: Carrying British and American passports.
KINNEY: That changes the calculation for people.
MANN LEVERETT: That we really put our head in the sand hear that ISIS has
support. It has thousands of people from the United States and Europe and
probably about 4,000 Saudis. A Saudi newspaper, al-Hayat, did a poll of
this - in Saudi Arabia of Saudi public opinion. They found 92 percent of
Saudis believe that ISIS confirms to their view of Islamic values and
Islamic law. So we have our head in the sand that somehow this makes no
sense, everybody hates them. We can recruit our Sunni autocracies and
allies to fund even more Sunni militants to deal with this. That is
HARRIS-PERRY: But that is actually the disagreement between the two of
you, because you are saying, actually, that its very expansion is the thing
that will ultimately lead to its demise because nobody likes them.
CATAGNUS: Right. Because when you look, this ISIS is not - they are not
Muslims. And when you talk, they talk - their actions, how they act, what
they do, they are not Muslims in the true sense of the word. And when you
talk to the actual people when - people Saudis and Kuwaitis, and I have a
large population in Valley Forge military college they access all the time.
And they see - when they see this and actually see what`s happening and
they see it in America through seeing what`s there, they actually said
these are not Muslims. This is not what we -- they may have a sentiment
that they .
MANN-LEVERETT: In terms of who we talk to, when you look at public
opinion, you look at the number of people that Saudi Arabia has beheaded as
a state, it`s quite different.
CATAGNUS: Actually having like a sentiment to feel for it as opposed to
fighting for it and actually going and cutting someone`s head off .
KINNEY: And we`ve seen 4,000 Saudis go with their feet and fight.
CATAGNUS: That`s the .
HARRIS-PERRY: But then - I mean so this is - I mean it`s fascinating,
right, this idea, OK, so what constitutes the basis for it, and I do think
it`s important, again, I will listen to Cameron again for one more second,
where he`s talking about the British citizens who are there. Let`s listen
to Cameron one more moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMERON: The first ISIL-inspired terrorist acts on the continent of Europe
have already taken place. We now believe that at least 500 people who
traveled from Britain to fight in Syria and potentially Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So whatever the fighting may be about - whether to support
ISIS or ISIL on the ground in that region of the world, if people are
carrying British and American passports, the problem that I keep saying
that is because that`s the thing that makes me wonder whether or not
there`s a threat. Because those passports allow you to move around the
globe in a very different way.
MANN-LEVERETT: To the extent that we support governments like the Saudi
government, that Saudis themselves and ISIL have as their target. Their
target is to bring down the Saudi government, bring down the other Gulf
autocracies. Then take over the heart of Islam, the Hejaz, Mecca and
Medina. So, to the extent that we are seeing - spending $60 billion in
weapons systems to Saudi Arabia, ISIS has us in their sight. And remember,
the execution of Foley happened not just because they were looking to kill
an American but when we started bombing them in Iraq. It`s a very
deliberate, sophisticated military strategy.
KINNEY: I think one thing to keep in mind here, is that exactly what you
guys are talking about, the level of complexity and trying to understand
the various relationships that this person who is actually your enemy is
your friend when it comes to this fight over here. And the fact -- I think
the game changer is that these groups now can control their own message.
That created a whole new ball game, ISIS, ISIL, whichever, you know, they
put it out on the Web and that`s what we`re talking about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Very powerful through the context of social media. It
changes whether or not we should think of them as a state versus - And what
Up next, there is a state crisis going on. It is the other international
crisis confronting the president right now. The growing tensions between
Russia and Ukraine.
HARRIS-PERRY: The world is focused on ISIS and Syria and Iraq. But it has
not stopped the escalation of tensions between Ukraine and Russia. On
Thursday the Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko supported by NATO
satellite imagery accused Russia of invading Ukraine to aid separatists.
Poroshenko called an emergency meeting of the Ukrainian National Security
Defense Council and dismissed claims by the Kremlin that Russian soldiers
were volunteering and helping the separatists after sacrificing their
vacations. This latest round of accusations comes just two days after
Ukraine`s president first met with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Thursday President Obama said there would be no U.S. military intervention
to solve this problem, but he did hint at further sanctions against Russia.
The president was also adamant about who is at fault for this ongoing
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: These separatists
are backed, trained, armed, financed by Russia. Throughout this process
we`ve seen deep Russian involvement in everything that they`ve done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining my panel now is Adrian Karatnycky, who`s a senior
fellow at the Atlantic Council`s program on Transatlantic Relations and
from Washington, D.C., I`m joined by Nina Khrushcheva, an associate
professor of international affairs at the New School. Nina, I want to
start with you, because I want to ask whether or not you see this situation
between Ukraine and Russia specifically with Putin, is it just sort of
stagnant or is there the possibility of an escalation?
NINA KHRUSHCHEVA, ASSOC. PROFES., INTL. AFFAIRS, THE NEW SCHOOL: Well, it
is an escalation and I`ve always maintained that Putin is going to bite off
any piece he can and so that`s what exactly he`s doing. Maybe the large,
full-scale invasion, the way we used to look at it in all geopolitical
environment is not something that he`s going to do, but he`s certainly
trying to destabilize as many parts of the border between Russia and
Ukraine as he can because, let`s face it, annexation of Crimea in March
actually does not make any sense if there is at least not part of either
Ukrainian part that is somewhat connected to the Russian land. Because
Crimea is not technically connected to Russia geographically and I think
that`s what he`s doing. I also think that another part of his calculation
is that the more sanctions pushing in, his - parts of his elites, the
oligarchs, so to speak, they`re really getting very, very nervous and we
know they`re getting very nervous, but the military elites, the other part,
they are actually pushing for nationalism, for patriotism, and what not.
And I think Putin knows very, very well that in order to maintain his
position in power, and he needs to maintain his position in power, he needs
the siloviki, he needs the power forces, and that`s why in some ways he
began this kind of escalati-sh, sort of, this incursion or this part of -
how to say, this movement that seems to be much more open than it was
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you put something on the table, Nina that I`m going to
ask you about, Adrian, and that`s the sanctions issue. I want to listen in
for a moment to Ukraine`s president, asking for sanctions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UKRAINE PRIME MINISTER: We urge the U.N. and the United States to frozen
all Russian exits until Russia pulls back its forces, its military and
stops the supply of Russian-led guerillas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that`s the Ukraine prime minister, not the president.
But I wonder whether or not sanctions are, in fact, the sort of thing that
will stop Putin.
ADRIAN KARATNYCKY, SR. FELLOW, ATLANTIC COUNCIL: I think you need a
combination of countermeasures. The first measure is to go deeper into
sectoral sanctions and I think, you know, you can`t look at these issues
without thinking what the broader context is. We don`t really know what
Putin`s final end game is and that`s what makes him exceptionally
dangerous. We don`t know how far he will go. Will he go to Kiev, will he
take half the country, will he start trouble in the Baltics, Russian
majority population centers like Narva and Estonia. Will he start a new
conflict in Moldova and the Transnistria and try to link that up with
Ukraine from that - to Crimea. So we have got a lot of - you know, he can
escalate and open in a lot of places, and I think we have to show -- the
West has to show and the United States has to show some degree of firmness
and response. So, economic sanctions, sectoral sanctions, blocking Russia
out of the world financial markets, out of swift, out of money transactions
will have a deep effect. Secondly, a military aid directly to Ukraine in
terms of technology so that they can resist better and, third, you know,
Putin has not sent in his full forces. He`s not used air power, blah-blah.
He`s conducting a kind of a new type of limited, limited war. And I don`t
think he`s ready to escalate to occupy Ukraine. And I think we have to
send him signals to prevent him from, you know, advancing.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I want to bring this factual moment that I guess, so -
all this, Nina, part of the media and always also feeling a little bit
outside of it, like a consumer of media, I mean this summer, a civilian
aircraft went down in the context of this battle between Putin and Ukraine
and honestly the fact that there was so little cost to Putin as a result of
the downing of a civilian airliner feels to me like, come on now, are we
seriously now going to claim that there`s going to be sort of an effective
set of sanctions against this leader?
MANN-LEVERETT: And President Obama, not that I would agree to use force,
but President Obama preemptively almost immediately and repeatedly has
taken force off the table and has said we`re essentially going to rely on
sanctions. Sanctions which have not affected Russian calculations and we
have no basis to believe they will affect Russian calculations. What we do
know about sanctions is it will be extremely counterproductive for us. It
will accelerate the replacement of the dollar as the world`s reserve
currency. We`ve seen Russia and China coming closer together. The
increase in the Chinese currency, the RNB is more accepted internationally
and once foreigners stop wanting the dollar, we are done as the superpower.
So, the idea to take force off the table and to say we`re going to rely on
sanctions is not going to affect Putin, but it will affect us. It will
send us and our European allies into recession.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nina, I want to come back to you for one moment. Because I
really do respect the way that you`ve helped me to think through Putin and
what he cares about here. And I guess it goes back to what Adrian was
saying. So what is this end game? Are we clear enough about it to be able
to start to set barriers about wherever we think he`s trying to end?
KHRUSHCHEVA: I actually completely agree with Adrian. I think that
sanctions -- they may work. They may not work, but as we`ve discussed on
your program for so long, I think this kind of incursive war that Putin is
fighting, this asymmetrical war actually models or fits those sanctions
that the West has against him. So the sanctions go very piecemeal. His
incursion goes very piecemeal and let`s see and try since he`s not ready,
and I agree with Adrian completely, that he`s not ready to take over
because Russia is already choking and it`s going to really, really choke on
much larger Ukraine if he tries to take over, but let`s see how further the
sanctions go. Not piecemeal, because Putin is a great adjuster. He really
adjusts to the new realities and then he sort of pushes back and sees how
far he can go with that. And so I think this asymmetrical goes in very
symmetrical way. A little sanctions, a little incursion, a little
sanctions, a little incursion. Let`s do more sanctions just as Adrian
said. Blanket sanctions maybe. You know, maybe Russians would look back
at his own leadership, their own leadership, and say, wait a minute.
That`s not what we settled for this kind of war, and now actually Russian
soldiers come from Ukraine in body bags so there are already questions for
this president that are not entirely in his favor.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nina Khrushcheva in Washington, D.C., thank you. And also
here in New York, thank you to Earl Catagnus Jr., Hillary Mann Leverett and
Adrian Karatnycky. I will undoubtedly have you back to talk more about
this situation. Karen is sticking around.
Coming up, for a change there`s actually something to cheer about. Good
HARRIS-PERRY: 13 deserving tweens received a hero`s welcome home on
Wednesday. We are talking about Chicago`s Jackie Robinson West all-stars.
Thousands of fans gathered from the South Side all the way to Millennium
Park to greet their Little League champions fresh from their appearance in
the Little League World Series.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR EMANUE RAHM, CHICAGO: JRW brought Chicago to its feet. Tears to our
eyes and pride in our heart. And they are not just Chicago`s team. They
are now America`s number one team. Let`s give them a hand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yep. Even Mayor Emanuel joined all those fans at
Wednesday`s parade for more than three hours chanting the names of Jackie
Robinson West players to celebrate their incredible season. Now they may
have lost to South Korea in the final, but that did not stifle the city`s
pride. The players are the first Chicago team since 1967 to land a spot in
the Little League World Series championship. Among the fans at the parade
were representatives from the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox. White Sox
Vice President Ken Williams celebrated the Little Leaguers with a speech
and a $20,000 White Sox donation to the Jackie Robinson West team.
Nerdland joins Chicago in congratulating the U.S. Little League champs both
for their impressive season and for bringing an entire city together to
celebrate its youth. Go JRW!
When we come back, more young people doing amazing things.
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama`s historic victories in 2008 and 2012 were
due in large part to the votes of young people. In 2008, 66 percent of
those under age 30 voted for Obama. Making the disparity between young
voters and other age groups larger than in any presidential election since
exit polling began in 1972. In 2012, only 60 percent of those younger than
30 voted for the president. It was a smaller percentage, but according to
the Pew research center, they may have actually been a larger factor in the
victory. But the most important political work of young people may happen
far from the ballot box. Take Ferguson, Missouri. In moments of racial
unrest we have come to expect veteran civil rights leaders like Reverend Al
Sharpton and Reverend Jesse Jackson lending support to communities, but
today the work of organizing those communities is increasingly being
shouldered by a new generation of activists, the dreamers, the undocumented
young people whose grassroots activism at the state level led to
successfully convincing the president to take action in 2012 in the form of
deferred action for childhood arrivals or DACA, which has, in fact, helped
to stem deportations.
The dream defenders, they emerged in the wake of Trayvon Martin`s death and
the not guilty verdict for George Zimmerman. The dream defenders led a
month long sitting in Florida`s capital to protest the state`s stand your
ground law and many of us got to see the work of Philip Agnew for the first
The Black Youth Project initially formed to address the inequities of urban
youth of color highlighted in the research of University of Chicago
political scientist Kathy Cohen, but BYP has provided intellectual
leadership, analysis, forums for youth voices, and most recently they
helped lead the national moment of silence vigil on August 14 in Chicago in
honor of Michael Brown. The Black Youth Project like the dream defenders
were also on the ground in Ferguson and have now launched a new campaign to
address policing in their communities.
Joining us now in the studio are Karen Finney, MSNBC contributor, and
former DNC communications director. Nancy Giles, writer and contributor to
CBS News "Sunday Morning." Mychal Denzel-Smith, contributing writer at the
Nation.com who has a new story in the magazine`s issue on "The fight for
racial justice, a new generation takes on the struggle," and joining us
from Chicago is Charlene Carruthers, the national coordinator of the Black
Youth Project who just returned from Ferguson. Nice to have you this
CHARLENE CARRUTHERS, NATL. COORDINATOR, THE BLACK YOUTH PROJECT 100:
Thanks for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, help us to understand the Black Youth Project and how it
sees its larger goals.
CARRUTHERS: It`s a great question. So, the BYP 100 It emerged out of the
Black Youth Project and we are a national organization of black 18 to 35-
year-old activists committed to achieving freedom and justice for all black
people. And, more specifically, we do our work through a black queer and
feminist lens. And so that`s important to us because predominant
conversations about what it means to have civil rights or racial justice in
this country oftentimes leave out black women and girls and also leave out
black trans folks and black LGBT folks and for us that`s a nonnegotiable.
And of course, we emerge out of a deeply traumatic moment and have been
organizing and building our base nationwide.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I think this is important. I want to pause here just a
bit because obviously the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown have
galvanized national attention in critically important ways, but it`s also
true that in this moment we have lost Renisha McBride, we have lost others.
HARRIS-PERRY: And how then does the work of the BYP try to do the
intersectional work of both talking about the loss of these young men, but
also the ways in which police violence affects young women and queer folk?
CARRUTHERS: So, number one, we started to be reflective of all young black
people. We all represent all young black people, what reflective of that.
I serve as the lead organizer. I`m black. I`m a woman. I`m a queer
person and I also have a politic that`s reflective of the issues that we
face in our story and so for us it`s about centering the narrative of those
who live on the margins. It means that we don`t just talk about theory.
It means that when we have our leadership we`re intentional about having
young folks, or intentional about having women. We`re intentional about
having queer folks and leadership and also when we tell the story of the
criminalization of black people in this country we don`t just talk about
men but we recognize, in fact, if any of us are to be free we have to bring
those of us who are on the margins to the middle of the story. And talking
about it and walking it are oftentimes they come in conflict but we strive
every single day. We work very, very hard to make sure that shows up in
our work. So we talk about Renisha McBride, we talk about Ayana in
Detroit, we talk about Zakia Gun (ph), we talk about Rickie Avoy (ph), we -
in addition to talking about Amadou Diallo, Mike Brown and the young man
who just got shot and killed by the Chicago police department right here,
So, we tell the full story and we don`t limit how we talk about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to ask you, I started the conversation here with
you with the 2008 and 2012 elections of President Obama. And in the recent
days I worked for the Nation, I actually blamed the Obama presidency in
part for the activism and by blame what I mean is that for me part of what
I have seen with young people is the disconnect between these deaths and
the reality of what full citizenship could be that is present in the
presidency himself, in his body, in his family, in sort of what you all
voted to make possible, and then that contrast. So I`m wondering, am I
only wholly inaccurate or only partially inaccurate in that assessment?
CARRUTHERS: Well, first, I believe that the relationship between black
folks in this country and citizenship has always been tenuous at best,
right? When we were first stolen and brought to this land, we were not
citizens and not even seen as full human beings. And so how that`s
embodied in President Obama, it absolutely shows up. He can`t be divorced
from that. His reality can`t. However, I believe that the rhetoric and
the practice don`t always line up with that and it shows up just as recent
as his statements about the Mike Brown murder in Ferguson, right? It shows
up and you see the contradictions in his words and also in his actions.
And, know, I`ll never understand what it means to be president of the
United States of America, but what I do know is that as the president, as a
black man, as a person who has a black family, his position is reflective
of a history in this country, right, and a history of what citizenship
means for us and it`s not full. It never has been full. And I hope that
in my lifetime I`m able to grasp a little bit more of that feeling of being
a citizen in this country than my forefathers and my foremothers have
experienced. So, I don`t think you`re wrong at all. I think that it`s an
experience that`s full of contradictions and that`s why we do the work that
we do and why black liberation organizing is especially essential right
HARRIS-PERRY: Charlene Carruthers of the Black Youth Project. Thank you
for joining us and talking about this. We are going to continue the
conversation after the break. But thank you for joining us from Chicago.
And did you go and celebrate the all-stars? Because that was a pretty
CARRUTHERS: Yes, I was celebrating from home.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. It was nice to have that moment in Chicago. Thank
you for joining us today.
CARRUTHERS: Absolutely. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: And when we come back, more on the question of how young
people are changing this country right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: My guest, Mychal Denzel Smith, has a new cover story in "The
Nation" magazine on, the new fight for racial justice. He writes, quote,
"We millennials are charged with continuing the fight against the system of
racism that has been the defining component of the black American
experience for centuries. We come after civil rights, after black power
and after the hip-hop generation and the perception the millennials are
apathetic isn`t entirely fair, but this work has been taking place in
isolated pockets. What millennials have yet to achieve was the formation
of a sustainable national movement. So, Mychal, why does the movement need
to be national? How does that change what`s happening?
MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THENATION.COM: Well, I think
that it has to be national because the problem is national. I mean you can
address it in - your new community and build that from there, but I think
that when you`re witnessing Michael Brown being killed in St. Louis and
Trayvon in Florida and Oscar Grant in Oakland, it tells you the problem
cannot be fixed just by addressing it locally. You have to upend the
entire system of racism and white supremacy that is - that is the defining
characteristic of American philosophy and government because to do that in
one pocket and not advocate for the freedom of all across would be too -
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I - I so appreciate that argument. One of the things
that I do like about how millennials are organizing, that`s probably too
limited, a way of thinking about it. But the idea is that - the idea of
that Phillip Agnew is not necessarily a household name and Charlene
Carruthers is not someone that everyone sees. And yet, it doesn`t mean
that their work is absent. But part of what they are doing, it feels to
me, at least at this moment, is not necessarily crafting a charismatic sole
leader version of movement, but instead these sort of isolated pockets
allow for like a local credibility.
NANCY GILES, WRITER AND SOCIAL COMMENTATOR: I totally agree. It`s like
sewing the different areas together. Because in the end, I think one of
the biggest things that`s affecting this whole movement are local laws that
have affected how black people are treated and how black people get access
to the vote and black people are policed. I mean things like stand your
ground, that`s started as a Florida law. And so, what I love about the
nationality and the locality about these movements is it`s helping
reinforce the fact that all politics are local and you have got to make
sure your vote counts and get up there and vote and influence this law
enforcement and all these different things that affect people.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you said your vote and getting out there with your vote.
And I really, you know, - was very kind of the piece, but I do want
occurring like, if part of what`s happening, you know, what we think about
social movements - or some who say, well, it`s sort of absolute oppression.
The more oppressed you are, the more likely you are to get a social
movement, but there`s another school of thought that says, no, it`s
actually when you start to see that something else is possible .
HARRIS-PERRY: And it does feels to me as though showing up, making your
vote count, electing the first African-American president and then
nonetheless having young black people dying, make people feels like, all
right, for real, the vote is not enough.
FINNEY: But also, what`s the narrative of elections? Young people,
African Americans, women, unreliable voters. So, to me, part of why
nationalizing this is so important. And localizing is important is because
as a culture, as a society we have to have a consciousness raising about
the fact that -I mean we can go back to the L.A. riots, we can go back to
the Kerner commission report, and it`s the same story as we saw in Ferguson
and that`s never going to stop if we don`t have - you know, we have to stop
running away from the conversation, right? And so, yes, that`s part of why
I think, yes, there are local laws that have to be changed, but on a
national level we have to - this is still a problem. And one of the things
I would love to see in this midterm election and all that, you know,
elections after it, it`s not just about having a black man on the ticket,
right? It was about black people winning - and young people being reliable
voters and holding the system accountable time after time after time.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wonder if there`s a level of accountability, though. They
can`t. The vote is too blunt an instrument, and that`s part of what we are
seeing here with this kind of social and political activism.
DENZEL SMITH: Yeah, I think that what this generation is understanding is
the limitation of electoral politics and not to say that it`s not important
to get out and vote and make your voice heard in that way, but it is also
important to inform the candidates that will be running. So, getting out
in the streets and organizing around these issues like Black Youth Project
just recently organizing around marijuana arrest discrepancies in Chicago,
or dream defenders fighting youth services in the national, which is about,
you know, the privatization of prisons and juvenile facilities, ensuring
that`s what the politicians then recognized is important for these young
people. And that`s what - if you talk about that and you`re against that,
and you are willing to address that in office that`s what would win the
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I love your piece. I will say, I - you know, my
professorial hat on, I wanted to see, there is not such hard division,
whether they feed into each other, and the part of what might be
interesting is figuring out how these young people are connected back to
those other things. So, I look forward to installment number two.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. That`s your homework assignment, Mychal.
That`s why you know, I`m the old lady at the table.
Coming up next, we`re going to take a closer look at the politics of
respectability and why it will not stop the next Ferguson. Plus Beyonce
and feminism. There is more "Nerdland" at the top of the hour."
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
I want to turn back to earlier this week when "The New York Times" had to
go on the defensive after a Sunday profile on the life of Michael Brown
when it drew criticism because of this little piece of editorializing.
"Michael Brown, 18, due to be buried on Monday, was no angel."
The article went on to make the case for that claim with reporting on
incidents where Brown disobeyed his mother, dabbled in drugs and drinking,
expressed frustrations with his family on social media, fought with a
neighbor and tried his hand at producing hip-hop songs or, as some of the
story`s critics have described it, being a teenager.
To many "The Times" characterization of Brown as a promising but troubled
teen smacked of the kind of victim blaming that all too often emerges in
the wake of racialized killings of black youth.
The writer of the profile, John Eligon, has since said he understands the
concerns of the critics and has acknowledged that the "no angel" phrasing
was not a good choice of words. Now he`s going to get no disagreement from
But in reading the article, my mind immediately went to someone else who
used those same words alongside an honest and unvarnished portrayal of
black men in a way that was not only a good choice but a loving tribute.
In the video for "No Angel," a track from Beyonce`s self-titled visual
album, she pairs her declaration -- "you`re no angel" with gritty images of
African American life in her old hood, in Houston`s Third Ward.
And while Beyonce sings sweetly about her imperfect love, her co-stars in
the video look unapologetically into the camera, unashamedly baring gold
teeth, blinged-out jewelry, tatted up skin. The video pays homage to those
who defy any standard of black respectability while also inviting
recognition of its subjects` humanity.
And life imitated art when we witnessed this moment during the days of
unrest in Ferguson
following the killing of Michael Brown, young African-American men,
shirtless and wearing bandanas that would mark them to some as no angels,
acting as guardian angels in defense of businesses in their community, all
of them reminding us that to be recognized as fully human does not require
a dress code.
And as our history has already taught us, no matter how angelic their acts,
no matter how appropriate their attire, responsibility has never been armor
against violence towards black bodies. The modest layers of dignified
clothing worn by enslaved people during the 19th century made them no less
vulnerable to being bought, sold and worked as chattel.
The distinguished uniforms worn by the 380,000 African-Americans who served
in the wartime Army during World War I were no protection against the lynch
mobs that awaited them when they returned home. In fact, many of the
veterans were targeted precisely because of what they wore.
In 1922, historian and intellectual father Carter G. Woodson summarized the
dangers that awaited the returning soldiers, writing, "To the reactionary,
the uniform on a Negro man was like a red flag thrown in the face of a
In September of 1957, when 15-year-old Elizabeth Eckford showed up
perfectly pressed and polished for her first day at Little Rock Central
High School, her clothes could not deflect the hateful taunts of that angry
mob that awaited her.
A classic trenchcoat, that timeless staple of style, was no shield for
Congressman John Lewis when, as a leader of the Student Nonviolent
Coordinating Committee, he was beaten by a state trooper as he and 600
others attempted to march across Alabama`s Edmund Pettus Bridge in March of
The lightweight fabric worn to keep cool during a Mississippi summer 1963
did not deflect the blows to activist Fannie Lou Hamer`s body when she was
arrested and clubbed by police after refusing to vacate a white-only lunch
This 17-year-old boy`s pants were pulled all the way up when police
attacked him with dogs as he marched with hundreds of other young people in
Birmingham during the Children`s Crusade in May of 1963.
And on the evening of April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. stood on the
balcony of Memphis` Lorraine Motel, getting ready to go out to dinner in
what "The New York Times" described as "a silkish-looking black suit and
But King`s perfect and proper dinner wear provided no defense against an
However the styles change over the years, none were invulnerable to reality
that has always remained the same. Clothing black bodies and black lives
in angelic respectability will not save them from those who see their very
skin as a sin.
Joining me now at the table is MSNBC contributor Karen Finney; Nancy Giles,
writer and contributor to CBS News` "Sunday Morning;" Mychal Denzel Smith,
contributing writer at thenation.com and "The Daily Beast" columnist Dean
So nice to have you all here.
Let me ask then, what difference does it make, Mychal, when we lay the
blame for inequality at the feet or on the backs of these young people and
their clothing choices?
MYCHAL DENZEL SMITH, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, THENATION.COM: It means we don`t
have to take responsibility for anti-black racism, it means that the
country is let off the hook. It means that when you place the
responsibility on the victims to correct their behavior, it means that then
I don`t have to respect you until you prove yourself worthy of my respect.
I don`t have to respect you even as a human being existing on the same
plane as me and that means that we are never going to get to the point
where we are actually dealing with what leads to those perceptions of this
style of clothing to be thug wear.
We`re never going to get to the point where we`re addressing the fact that
hip-hop is a cultural phenomenon and an artifact that is an incredible
creative outlet for people. But we`re now -- we want to associate it with
criminality. We do that because of anti-black racism.
KAREN FINNEY, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: You know, Professor Henry Louis Gates
was dressed more than appropriately, looked like a professor, and that
didn`t stop him from being arrested.
HARRIS-PERRY: I know no one more post-racial and respectable that -- like
when I first heard black professor arrested, I was like, oh, now that could
be -- there`s a list.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a group where I`m --
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, she was probably shouting at the police but like Skip?
That was one of those moments.
FINNEY: I feel like for African-Americans -- and to your point about the
racism, it`s we`re damned if you do, damned if you don`t. So if I show up,
I mean I`ve had my door slammed in my face when I had my workout clothes on
and a cap versus their perfectly -- times when I`m perfectly suitably
dressed and the same reaction happens. So the combination if Skip Gates,
if it can happen to him and it can happen to these kids, like my vote,
dress how you want.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this is part of why I was so irritated, Nancy, that the
president and the administration sent to Michael Brown`s funeral
representatives from My Brother`s Keeper and it`s not -- I want to be
clear. It`s not that I think the president himself should have gone and I
think that the sending of Eric Holder the week before was an extremely
important move on the part of the administration, but it did make me
wonder, like, are they not seeing that actually My Brother`s Keeper would
have produced a Michael Brown, would have produced a kid who had some
challenges but nonetheless finished school and was heading off to college.
Like the thing that is My Brother`s Keeper, whatever value it has, could
not shield Michael Brown from that moment.
NANCY GILES, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I think that`s -- I`m kind of without
words just looking at the presentation that you made and just seeing that
what we wear does not make a difference and the other thing that`s still
hurtful is how certain aspects of hip-hop culture could be co-opted by
young white kids who suffer no damage or aren`t threatened in any way.
I was looking through a J. Crew catalog and the word hoodie was in there so
often it made me want to like scream.
So I do understand and I have to echo what Karen said. There almost
doesn`t seem to be a way to avoid this kind of thing, whether someone comes
up through the ranks through a group like My Brother`s Keeper or not.
Black people are targets and it doesn`t matter what you wear. I`m a female
who, when I lived on the Upper West Side, because I`m tall, sometimes if I
was walking home and there was a white person in front of me and in turned
out we were heading in the same place, they would looking over their
shoulder like I was going to mug them. So I would have to sort of jangle
my keys or like sing classical music so that they`d know -- and even that
doesn`t matter because we`ll still not get a cab. And -- you know what I
mean? It`s like --
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s so interesting, because we`re talking about if you`re
wearing the black skin, nothing else matters.
But, Dean, I was also thinking -- and it`s one of the reasons I wanted you
here at the table, is I was also thinking about the ways in which Americans
have difficulty, still have difficulty but particularly immediately post
9/11, we couldn`t figure out who those enemy Muslims were. And so there
was this discourse and practices often around Sikh Americans who wear
turbans. And so that became this signal for Islamic identity when , in
fact, it actually wasn`t, right, or in that community often for women who
veil, women actually become more visible, as a visible -- and so in that
context, it doesn`t matter what you wear because it becomes the signal for
the other ring of who you are.
DEAN OBEIDALLAH, "THE DAILY BEAST": It makes it easy for people to
identify. If you don`t look at me and think Arab Muslim. They think
generally a white guy, maybe Italian. I`m half Italian so that`s accurate.
Women who wear hijabs have different challenges. I mean, they`ll tell me.
I have cousins, half my female cousins wear hijabs. Half don`t. Sisters
in the same families. Some do, some don`t. That`s their choice and I
think that`s great.
But they`ll be stared at. You know, they`ll get dirty looks, they`ll get
comments made to them.
HARRIS-PERRY: The airport is madness, seriously.
OBEIDALLAH: Well, the airport, I had this slogan, "Dress white, make your
flight," because --
OBEIDALLAH: -- because if you dress brown you`re never leaving town and
that`s the reality of the world that we live in, where everything is
obvious. And what you said about not wanting to discuss race is absolutely
I just cited a poll in my "Daily Beast" articulate, 80 percent of people of
color, African Americans, want to discuss race now. Only about 35 percent
of white people do. White America for the great part desperately does not
want to have a discussion about race because I think they view it as
accusation. Maybe it`s the way of bringing them in as a conversation and
not an accusation. Because I don`t know what else to do.
What else do you do to get them to talk?
HARRIS-PERRY: It is my favorite part of these Ferguson protests, were the
extent to which -- particularly young men in the community showed up in
themselves as we go out and we`re going to stay on this topic.
But as we go out, I do want to just quote Martin Luther King Jr., who
talked about creative maladjustment, who said, "I never intend to become
adjusted to segregation and discrimination.
"I never intend to become adjusted to religious bigotry. I never intend to
adjust myself to economic conditions that will take necessities from the
many to give luxuries to the few. I never intend to adjust myself to the
madness of militarism.
"In other words, I`m about convinced now that there is a need for a new
organization in our world, the international association for the
advancement of the creative maladjustment."
And my sense is that they would sag their pants.
Up next, the growing calls for justice. Michael Brown`s family is not the
only one wanting answers from the police.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week as the grand jury hears evidence in the shooting
death of Michael Brown, the ongoing calls for justice from Brown`s family
and community have amplified the voices of others who are also seeking
justice from the police.
Yesterday more than two weeks after the police shooting of Ezell Ford, an
unarmed mentally ill man in South Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Police
Department released the names of the two officers involved in the shooting.
On Tuesday in Ohio, the state attorney general announced the appointment of
a special prosecutor to investigate the death of John Crawford III, who was
shot and killed by police while holding a BB gun at a Walmart earlier this
And in New Iberia, a town about two hours west of New Orleans, the family
of Victor White III is awaiting the final results of the Louisiana State
Police investigation into their son`s death. A coroner`s report this week
ruled White`s death a suicide, finding that White shot himself in the front
while he was in the back of a police cruiser with his hands cuffed behind
The report contradicts the account released six months ago by the Louisiana
State Police who originally said White shot himself in the back. The
family has retained a lawyer but has yet to decide whether to file a
OK. For real?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I guess his name`s Houdini as well as everything
else, you know, talented.
HARRIS-PERRY: There just comes a point for me that is just -- because I am
willing to acknowledge that we have made progress and to think that a lot
of what happens happens as a result of implicit bias and fear on the part
of police rather than as active attempts to take the lives and to -- but
then there are moments where you`re like, no, that just looks like old-
fashioned bad actions.
GILES: Yes. Lynching with a gun almost.
But I was at the rallies on Staten Island last week and I met a young man
whose father was a policeman, a black man. And he said that they really do
almost brainwash -- he`s quoting like his dad -- brainwash the cops and
they do, whether they`re black, Hispanic or white, they do see like black
men as a certain kind of target.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to make sure we`re expanding. I want to take that
cue from the Black Youth Project. Let`s look at the dashcam video that we
showed last week of -- because we`re talking about black men but I want to
see a mother, a woman and her four little children and what happened in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on back. Keep walking backwards.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is wrong?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep walking backwards. Put your hands behind your
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on back.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is wrong?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in the car.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My kids.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How old are they?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`re 6 and 8 and 10, 9. What are we doing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hold on a second, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Sir, what is going on?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE).
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my God, you are terrifying my children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And Kametra Barbour was on "POLITICS NATION" with my
colleague, Reverend Al, yesterday talking about that notion of terrifying
her children and what she was terrified was going to happen in that moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
I don`t understand what`s going on but I have to follow the instructions of
these officers because I cannot have the thought of my children seeing me
being gunned down in front of them. So that was the thought in my head at
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, for real.
OBEIDALLAH: As someone who is a former white person, which we`ve talked
about before on the show, I would never honestly think for a second police
were going to shoot me (INAUDIBLE) but never in life, like if they pulled
me over on a dark night, I would never be afraid.
Even if they handcuffed me, I would never fear I was not going to arrive to
the police station alive. But if you`re African American, you have to fear
-- the case in Louisiana is insane. The guy was handcuffed -- they pat
people down. I used to be a lawyer prosecuting cases. They pat people
down before they put him in the police car.
Are you going to say they patted him down and they left him with a gun?
And he took it out and shot himself?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In the back and in the front apparently.
OBEIDALLAH: It`s laughable and it`s alarming. And I don`t know -- if I
was -- I would be so angry if I was --
SMITH: And see, for me this is why we can`t define justice so narrowly in
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
SMITH: Justice needs to be collective.
SMITH: -- about this officer.
It needs to be proactive and it needs to be about addressing what leads to
that moment because there is no justice if that mother has to go through
that in front of her children especially. Like that just -- that we do not
exist in a world where justice isn`t prioritized.
If the only retribution that she has is that maybe that police officer is
removed from duty. That`s a singular officer and that does not address the
HARRIS-PERRY: To me it feels -- that part of it feels so important because
this is a continued life experience that shapes us.
Karen, you are, I know, writing about this. I want to come to you on that.
But I want just for a moment because that was the terror of the mother. I
want to see what happens in the moments after that when the young boy
finally actually gets out of the car.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They`re young. Gun down. Gun down. Gun down.
Come on back here, son. Come on back here. You`re all right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that`s the understanding.
FINNEY: So the piece that I wrote for MSNBC.com actually is up this
morning and I start with an experience that I had with my father when I was
about 8 or 9 years old and we got pulled over in Virginia.
My dad, who is African-American, was driving a Mercedes, and that was his
crime. That was it. We weren`t speeding. He was not disobeying any laws.
And the officer -- I`ve actually talked about this on MSNBC before --
called him boy, and said, "Boy, you got any ID?"
And I was sitting in the car just stunned that someone would talk to my
father that way, first of all. And then angry because then I realized what
was really going on and, you know, one of the things I talk about is we all
have these stories and we do internalize it and we internalize the lessons.
And I was sitting there terrified but then sort of relieved because I could
hear in my dad`s tone he knew how to handle it. He knew what -- you know,
"Yes, officer. Here`s my ID."
He happened to work for the government at the time so he made sure the guy
saw that. But, you know, as the situation went on, it was a hot summer
night and it went on and on and there was that thought in my head, how is
this going to end?
HARRIS-PERRY: And it changes forever your relationship to the state. It
changes your sense of citizenship. It makes you --
SMITH: -- and that little boy know that he is a threat and he has to arm
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Put up his arms.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He has to come out like that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And as (INAUDIBLE) was said last week, and we know
that it may not make any difference, that him walking out with his hands
up. We now know it may not make any difference. Thank you to Mychal
Denzel Smith. The rest of the panel is sticking around. Up next, my
letter of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Among those asking questions about the police shooting of
Michael Brown and the militarized response that followed, are young people
hoping to pose those questions in a space where they`re used to getting
answers: The classroom.
So it was already this week to send a scathing letter to a school
superintendent in Edwardsville, Illinois, who not only told his teachers
not to discuss Ferguson if it comes up in class, but to change the subject
if it does.
But he later went on to send a letter to parents assuring them that his
directive was meant to offer the students clarity, not censorship, saying,
quote, "It was not our intent to ignore the educational relevance of these
"However, we felt it was important to take the time to calm a potential
situation at the high school and to prepare administrators and teachers to
approach this critical issue in an objective, fact-based manner."
So it sounds like he just needs a little help with lesson planning around
Ferguson. And since I am already in my full professorial mode, because the
fall semester began, I am more than happy to oblige in this week`s letter.
Dear Superintendent Ed Hightower, it`s me, Melissa. Now I know it`s not
easy helping teachers to help students navigate the emotionally charged
events that unfolded in Ferguson. And it`s not like there`s a ready-made
curriculum for racial justice.
One Alabama teacher has already shown how misunderstanding how to teach
Ferguson can go horribly, horribly wrong. But it is crucial that you make
the effort, because the classroom is exactly the space where young people
should be examining their assumptions and exchanging ideas and engaging in
democratic deliberation over the complicated questions of race invoked by
the events in Ferguson.
Fortunately, Twitter has already provided teachers with a great head start
with the #FergusonSyllabus hashtag. Now educators around the country are
using the hashtag to share resources, readings, topics for discussion and
activities to help students at every grade level. Join the meaningful
national dialogue about Ferguson.
And, Ed, I`d like to add to that list and offer your teachers a few
syllabus suggestions of my own.
History teachers looking to spark a dialogue about the complicated
relationship of African Americans to their American identity will find an
invaluable assist in the words of Frederick Douglass, from his 1852 speech,
making the case for abolition, "What, to the slave, is the 4th of July?"
English classes could spend an entire semester reading Richard Wright`s
"Black Boy" and discussing how race reflections of his early life in Jim
Crow South still resonate today in the lives of Michael Brown and the
protesters in his community.
In social studies, teachers looking to help students make sense of the
activism in response to Brown`s killing can use PBS` documentary about the
murder of Emmitt Till to get them thinking about how a single death can
launch a movement.
Science teachers may want to consider sharing this historical document with
their students. In this 1851 article, Dr. Samuel Cartwright, at the time a
widely published and well respected doctor, discusses his discovery of
drapetomania, a mental disorder he claimed caused slaves to run away.
After reading the article, students can explore the history of scientific
racism and how it continues to influence our thinking even today.
Now some students may already be engaged with hip-hop music`s exploration
of racialized violence. But music teachers could help them trace these
themes across decades and genres of music by having them listen to and
discuss everything from Public Enemy`s "Fight the Power" to Billie
Holliday`s "Strange Fruits."
So you see, Ed, there`s no need for your teachers to change the subject
because what we do as teachers is to offer guideposts and context and space
for disagreement. We can teach our students not to be afraid of the
unknown and the complicated by confronting the hard topics as well as the
And now is the time to teach, not hide.
Oh, yes. And P.S., Nerdland, we`d actually love to hear more suggestions
for teaching Ferguson. So please share your thoughts in the comments on
this letter on our webpage, mhpshow.com.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sunday night was the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards show, and
our girl, Beyonce, won four Moonmen statues, including the Michael Jackson
Video Vanguard Award, the VMA version of a lifetime achievement award
presented by her husband Jay Z, who appeared on stage holding the couple`s
daughter, Blue Ivy.
Now King B also performed a medley of nearly all of the songs from her
latest album, "Beyonce," in an epic 16-minute-long performance. One moment
in particular stood out. No, not the pole dance that she performed for
partition, but that was memorable. What I`m talking about happened just a
moment later. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Feminist, the person who believes in the social,
political and economic equality of the sexes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the biggest pop stars of our time wearing a leg-
baring body suit and standing proudly in front of the word "feminist" seen
by 13.7 million people on TV on Sunday night alone and likely many more
online since then.
So what does it say about feminism and Beyonce?
Joining my panel now is MSNBC.com national reporter Irin Carmon.
So is Beyonce the new face of feminism?
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I think this moment was a game changer.
Beyonce used to be equivocating about feminism, she used to say yes, but,
I`m for equality. Here she is with the F word. For decades we`ve been
hearing people say why won`t more women call themselves feminists? Why is
there such a stigma about feminism and here she is, directly citing the
work of another black feminist, actually using her work in this enormous
pop culture display and saying this is something cool. This is something
you want to be. And if -- I know that Bell Hooks is not a Beyonce fan but
it`s possible Beyonce will be a gateway to Bell Hooks.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh. That`s an interesting possibility.
And yet I think the first question that people ask was -- because when you
put Beyonce and Bell Hooks together there, I think one of the first things
that then emerged for -- from many feminists was, well, is she the right
kind of feminist?
Is this the kind of feminism that we want to see?
What does it mean to us?
GILES: You know, being an artist is so difficult. Being an artist of
color and being a female artist, the burden that you carry, I don`t know
that people really understand it, because like white guys can run around
and do things like bite bat heads, OK, and then make it -- but when you`re
doing all of this and there`s a burden of how you represent yourself and
what you`re saying, it`s really tough.
What I respect about that moment is I think it`s -- it is going to open the
door for a lot of young people, hey, many, to at least look up the word
feminist in the dictionary. And I`m cool with that.
My issue, in a way, is like -- because I think she`s an incredible
performer and she has got the eyes of the world on her. I just worry that
a lot of young girls who might look up to her don`t really listen to the
feminist part, don`t really see that and they just missing booty shaking
and that`s all that means as something to them. They don`t really hear the
And there`s a lot that young girls can learn from her that -- about being
independent women and powerful women and not necessarily as sexualized as -
HARRIS-PERRY: So what I love about what just happened is, as you began to
criticize Beyonce --
HARRIS-PERRY: -- oh, no, you will not, Nancy Giles. That is not how it
goes down in Nerdland. Nerdland will not criticize King B. That will not
But part of what you did there I think is interesting and that is language
of the little girls, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: So here is what I want to suggest, every generation of
feminists has come out of some old regressive popular culture like -- I
mean, if you think about, you know, wave 2 feminists in the 1960s, they
came out of "Leave It to Beaver" on television and I think about hip-hop
feminists who emerged from a set of truly regressive practices.
And I wonder if we don`t give enough credit to young women for their
capacity to think about critically what they consume.
FINNEY: But also, who cares who calls themselves a feminist? You can be a
feminist and she`s a billionaire. She`s a -- clearly a talented
businesswoman. She`s a mother. She is a performer and an entertainer, all
of that. And she`s like, yes, I am a feminist and she`s rocking hot. Who
would not like to have that body?
And she`s a feminist just as much as my dear friend Kirsten Gillibrand is a
feminist and had her male colleagues telling her she was too pudgy or she
I think as women we put ourselves in these boxes. And it`s like wait a
second. Instead of figuring out what`s the right kind of feminist, how
about let`s just say as women being a feminist there`s a wide range of
women who can be feminist and teach that to our girls.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I wonder if her fierceness, like her -- the very
enormity and sort of majesty that is King B is almost too much to aspire
to. Like almost as though her very greatness, if that is what it means to
be feminist, who the hell can live up to that because that`s a lot?
OBEIDALLAH: But she`s a woman who is in control. I mean, and feminism is
just equality. If you just tell people it`s equality, they`re like, oh,
between the sexes. Most people are down with it.
I guess the word is what`s problematic for certain people. When I read the
history of it and people saying it`s a dead word or not, she is up there.
She`s saying, I`m in control. It`s her songs. It`s her dancing. It`s her
choice of costumes. I think what a great role model for certain people.
But for other women, I guess you have -- being a man, I`m outside of the
club meetings, but if I were in the meetings --
OBEIDALLAH: Maybe you guys didn`t invite me. But you can have a
discussion about what`s the right feminist just like we might have what`s
the right Muslim or who is representing us or who do we want to be on this
platform as the right Muslim or the wrong Muslim?
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting when you say feminism suggests equality and
for me what feminism is is slightly different than that part of how I
finally came around to thinking of myself as feminist. I wasn`t born
thinking that, is when I started thinking of feminism as a question.
So if feminism is the question, what truths are missing here?
That what a feminist does is to ask about whatever we are looking at. What
voices are left out? Who isn`t at the table? So I have been having these
imaginings where instead of behind her are these enormous letters that say
"feminist" that she come out and instead said hands up, don`t shoot. Or it
has said birth control. I mean --
HARRIS-PERRY: "Abortion" behind Beyonce. Then she would never sell any
more records. But I do wonder if it couldn`t have been even more
political, beyond the F word.
CARMON: I am hoping it`s a gateway but I also think, look, there are
celebrity feminists, there are senator feminists, there are waitress
feminists, there are secretary or assistant feminists. There is room for
many feminisms and I think if we normalize it then we create the space to
have those conversations about the critique.
I agree it`s not just like call yourself a feminist and then go home at the
end of the day and you`re done. There`s a constant process of critiquing.
But I think checking her card at the door because she embraces sexuality in
performance, you are going to turn away so many people.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right. If I can`t love Beyonce and be
feminist, then I`m going to get rid of feminism because I`m going to love
HARRIS-PERRY: Before we take a break, some good news for women. An
important ruling out of Texas. Friday a federal judge threw out new
abortion restrictions that would have essentially shuttered more than a
dozen clinics in the state. The judge ruled the admitting privileges
requirement along with mandated hospital level operating standards placed
an unconstitutional, undue burden on women throughout Texas.
The state will appeal the ruling and the case could end up before the
Supreme Court. At least two clinics planned to close Monday will remain
open for now. Don`t forget Beyonce is from where? What? Texas. When we
come back, the spin that had a lot of people in a tizzy.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been talking about Beyonce`s feminist moment at the
MTV Music Video Awards this week and now I want to contrast that with what
Sophia Vergara did at the Emmy Awards ceremony held the following night.
The "Modern Family" actress spun slowly on a pedestal while the chairman of
the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Bruce Rosenblum, gave a speech
about the state of the television industry, including this bit about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE ROSENBLUM, CHAIRMAN, ACADEMY OF TELEVISION ARTS AND SCIENCES: Our
academy is more diverse than ever before, both in front of and behind the
camera resulting in a greater diversity of storytelling.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So the people had all the feelings about this, Dean, but,
honestly, you know, Sofia is performing a certain thing in the ways of for
example Nicki Minaj is -- like, they purposely are embodying and performing
a satirical version of the Betty Boop oversexualized -- but I get why it
was problematic but they were also making fun of the thing that is
OBEIDALLAH: She was in on the joke so there`s -- that`s one -- and she
defended it afterwards, saying, look, I`m showing I can be hot and be funny
at the same time. I think the problem for people -- you watch Beyonce.
She is showing her talent as a writer, as a performer. She is in control.
Here you have Sofia Vergara as a prop, as a sexual prop for certain people,
like a car in an auto show going around and around. Because like wow, look
at that. But she made the choice to do this. If she had power, if she was
a powerless woman who was just cast and thrown up there to do this, which
would be crazily off the charts, and don`t forget one thing they were doing
this to be funny. It was ironic. It didn`t play for everyone. But they
CARMON: It was too soon. Too soon. You can`t have that kind of irony
when Hollywood is still such an incredibly sexist place.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that -- because I couldn`t quite get -- I mean clearly
people understood that this was satire, right, that they weren`t actually -
CARMON: I just don`t think they`ve earned that position of satire when
women and people of color are have so little power.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, that`s interesting.
CARMON: Particularly Latina women within the establishment of Hollywood, I
mean, they skipped a few steps. They have a little consciousness raising
to do to in the middle.
GILES: Well, there were two things. One he was giving a boring speech so
they were trying to jazz it up.
We do that on it TV sometimes. The music is coming on, I just want to let
And then the other thing, though, I actually have a different take on it.
I feel like television of late has been one place where roles for women and
women directors and women writers have really flourished but by seeing
that, yes, I sort of thought, yes, you`re flourishing but just remember
your place is this. It was a little chilling like that to me. Like you`ve
done all this but let`s just remember that this is how you`re seen. Maybe
it`s just my own blatant bitterness.
HARRIS-PERRY: A point about agency and the notion of Beyonce speaking for
herself in that moment versus Sofia not speaking for herself in that
GILES: But she was in on the joke. I don`t know if that makes it an
equivalent or not.
OBEIDALLAH: She had to agree to do it. You`re not forcing --
HARRIS-PERRY: I always have to be careful about choice, though because
choice is always within some limited range of options that exist. So
sometimes we`ll hear that about video vixens and hip-hop videos, oh, well,
they`re not being exploited because it`s choice. And you`re like, yes, but
choice within a very limited context.
FINNEY: Yes, I agree. I think both of these women, what`s interesting,
maybe segueing a little bit to our previous conversation, yes, she was in
on the joke. I think there`s a little bit of what bothers me about it is
it`s hypersexualizing her and that is a stereotype about Latina women.
And obviously that was part of the irony and part of the joke. But I agree
with Irin. It`s a little too soon. And I think that with Beyonce, that`s
sort of part of she really challenges a lot of those stereotypes that
people have and so why couldn`t Bill O`Reilly --
HARRIS-PERRY: She is doing it. I think this is part of like the Nicki
Minaj thing for me is, you know, so there was a lot of critique and angst
about the anaconda. But for me, she is actually mocking all of us in her
personal embodiment of the thing that is our angst about African-American
women and --
FINNEY: And I think that is what makes people uncomfortable is that
there`s the sense of should I laugh? Should I not laugh?
GILES: Well, do you think most people get it? I guess that`s my question.
Do most people who aren`t sitting at the table, who don`t have the context
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it the responsibility of the people to get it?
GILES: I don`t know and don`t turn on the music, I`m just saying I don`t
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s time for a commercial. Thank you to Karen Finney and
to Nancy Giles who will nonetheless be allowed back, even --
Irin Carmon also thank you for being here.
Dean will stick around a little bit longer. We`re giving the guy the last
Up next, my friend Dean is going to tell us about his special night of
comedy and a lot of laughter before a very serious cause.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nerdland friend and guest Dean Obeidallah recently joined
forces with other male comedians to highlight the need for men to be part
of the push to end violence against women. Tuesday night`s sold-out comedy
show benefited Breakthrough, a human rights organization that works to make
discrimination against women unacceptable.
Though it was for a very serious cause, there were some very funny moments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m a bald man. Balding man. I kind of came out to my
family about it last year. And they reacted exactly the way you would
react when somebody comes out of the closet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m doing tech support for mom and dad because I`m from
the freaking future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was like, yes, you know, so I`m balding now, I don`t
know if you noticed.
They`re like, sweetie, we`ve known for years. It was so cute the way you
were covering it up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every time I visit them I have to fix their damn
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But only 50 percent of marriages work out. So that
should be what that vow means, 50/50. Like, hey, man, you going to be at
the party on Saturday?
I don`t know, I vow to.
All right. Hopefully, we`ll see you there. Put you down as a maybe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All my life, I`ve heard people say, you know, black
don`t crack. It does in the polar vortex. I dare any of the four black
people that are in here to go outside with no lotion on your elbows, see if
black don`t crack, all right.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My daughter saw a picture of me with hair from years
ago. She goes, Daddy, you were handsome. I was so hurt. I felt like I
had to hurt her back. I said, well, you were an accident. So.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now to discuss the event and the importance of
being a male ally, Dean Obeidallah.
So it was interesting to hear so many of the men being self-deprecating in
part because I thought, maybe is that part of how you do the ally, is to
take the male privilege and bring it down a little bit?
OBEIDALLAH: I think -- I don`t think we thought it through to that degree,
but I will say this, that a lot of the men who become defensive when you
talk about violence against women, they view it as an accusation. And they
immediately pull back. They become defensive. And you can`t have that
conversation which they need to have about the role that men can play.
So comedy`s this great way of disarming them. I worked with Breakthrough.
We put this show together. All male comics, for a reason, we want it to be
men standing up on stage against violence against women to inspire men in
the real world to stand up against violence against women, which is just
simply telling your friends, if you`re concerned about perhaps they`re
being abusive, to get involved in organizations, to be aware of it. And I
think a lot of it -- men are just -- and I wasn`t, until a few years ago,
aware of statistics, what`s going on.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wonder if we need to take the word "domestic" out of
domestic violence. That we would take it more seriously if we didn`t see
it as a kind of private moment between man and woman but interested
understood it as violence.
OBEIDALLAH: I think that`s a good point. Sometimes people do not want to
interfere. They feel like, well, it`s my neighbor, do I knock on the door?
It`s my best friend, should I say something?
Before I had gotten involved with Breakthrough, I didn`t realize, in New
York, there`s 700 phone calls a day by women to the NYPD about violence
against them. Or three women are killed every day in this country. Or
every 15 seconds, women are subject to violence by men they`re in
Let me be honest. If women were doing this to men, we`d be going crazy.
We`d have gender profiling. We`d want terror alerts put out there.
When you bring it up to men, I did it on Twitter and in the real world they
become defensive. Again, just like race earlier, it`s about having a
conversation and not being defensive and telling men who are in general
great people where they can play a role in lowering the amount of violence
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that you became aware of all of those dramatic and
painful statistics and were like, you know what, comedy. That`s how we`ll
OBEIDALLAH: My eyes are open. I use the skills I`ve written about for
"The Daily Beast." I wrote about it for "The Daily News" this week. I use
that and my skill set from comedy to try to bring awareness. You know, I`m
a comic and a writer. But overall, I`m an activist. And everything I do
is trying to change things for the better.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you this, as you were bringing together men to do
this work, did you get resistance from them?
Or were they generally on board, these male comics?
OBEIDALLAH: These comics were great. There`s not too many comics who are
horrible. There`s a few who did jokes that we didn`t want to put in the
show. So that`s part of the problem.
Men, when you really have a conversation, will talk about it. But if you -
- like I tweeted about, you know, about, yes, all women`s stuff. And I get
so many men going, I`ve never hit a woman, how dare you bring this up to
me. How dare you say -- and if you`re hitting women, you should do
something about it. (INAUDIBLE) yourself.
I`m like, no, guys, women aren`t hitting themselves. Let`s be brutally
honest. We are doing that. And I say we, we`re in a group. So sure, you
can close your eyes to it, but my eyes were open to my work with
Breakthrough. And I refuse to do nothing about it. I must do something
after seeing what`s going on.
HARRIS-PERRY: I appreciate your work as an ally. We appreciated being
invited as Nerdland to come and spend a little time with the comics.
OBEIDALLAH: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that is our show for today. We thank you at home for
watching. I`m going to see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 am Eastern. But
right now, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT."
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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