'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, November 29th, 2014
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: November 29, 2014
Guest: Chloe Angyal, Salamishah Tillet, Khalil Muhammad, Ozier Muhammad,
Sabrina Rubin-Erdely, Nina Turner, Jelani Cobb, Psyche Williams-Forson,
Sunny Anderson, Josh Reisner
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question. Is
Plus professor Jelani Cobb`s story of one night in Ferguson.
And the response to brutality at the University of Virginia. But first, a
12-year-old boy joins the list that keeps on growing.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. We start today with Ferguson,
Missouri, where 16 more arrests were made in front of the police department
last night and early this morning. Protests have continued since we all
learned the news Monday night for which we have been waiting for more than
100 days. The St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict Officer
Darren Wilson for shooting and killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown. In
a rambling half hour speech delivered well past night fall, Prosecutor Bob
McCulloch acknowledged that there`s no doubt Officer Darren Wilson shot
Michael Brown to death. There`s no question that when he died Michael
Brown was unarmed. But McCulloch intimated that there were many more
questions. Questions, which only the grand jury has the privilege offed
adjudicating, because only they knew the whole story, had seen all the
evidence, heard all the testimony, and they, he told us, decided there was
no crime in this killing. Nothing for which to indict Officer Wilson.
Yes, Michael Brown is dead, but that is not, they decided, a criminal act.
And what followed was pain, disbelief, grief, fury, protests. How could
this boy be dead, but the man who shot him would not have to face a
criminal charge, an open trial, a jury, a verdict?
For no one was this anguish more acute and personal than for Michael
Brown`s parents, and through that pain they continued to pursue one very
specific effort with fierce determination. "We need to work together to
fix the system that allowed this to happen," they wrote. Join with us in
our campaign to ensure that every police officer working the streets in
this country wears a body camera. Michael Brown might still have been
killed by Officer Wilson, even if Wilson had been wearing such a camera.
But if he were wearing that camera, then there would also be a recording of
Wilson`s stop of Brown, of their interactions, and of Wilson`s ultimate
decision to fire repeatedly at Brown until he was dead. And that video
would have been seen by the grand jury. Instead, this week the story came
first from the prosecutor who told us the grand jury`s decision and then
from the full testimony of Officer Wilson, which was released to the
public, and then from Wilson himself. Who had the chance to tell his story
to ABC News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: You say he starts to run, does it
- starts to come towards you. And .
DARREN WILSON: At that time I gave myself another mental check. Can I
shoot this guy? You know, legally, can I? And the question I answered
myself was I have to. If I don`t, he will kill me if he gets to me. He`s
already overpowered me once. If he gets to me I will not survive.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Even though he`s what, 35, 40 feet away?
WILSON: Once he`s coming that direction, if he hasn`t stopped yet, when is
he going to stop?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That is Wilson`s account. We cannot hear from Michael
Brown. Many witnesses gave their accounts to the grand jury, but without
video of the encounter between Wilson and Brown, we`ll simply never have
Michael Brown`s side of the story. Back in July we were able to witness
for ourselves Marlene Pinnock, being ruthlessly beaten by a California
highway patrolman on an interstate ramp near Los Angeles. That same month
we were able to see the New York police chokehold, which the city`s medical
examiner says took the life of Eric Garner in Staten Island. We saw what
happened to Levar Jones in September, when he was shot by a now former
South Carolina state trooper who had asked Levar to produce his driver`s
license. That`s what Levar was reaching for in this video. We saw how
police entered a Walmart in southern Ohio this summer and shot 22-year-old
John Crawford III to death. Crawford was in the store carrying around an
air rifle that shoots pellets and BBs. Ohio, by the way, is an open carry
state. And now there`s another police shooting in Ohio, which we can see.
One week ago today 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot by 26-year-old Cleveland
police officer Timothy Loehmann. Rice died the following day at the
Loehmann was a passenger in the car responding at about 3:30 p.m. last
Saturday, November 22nd, to a 911 call from the man at an outdoor
recreation center on Cleveland`s west side. Complaining about a guy with a
gun pointing it at people. This is the gun Rice allegedly had on him. A
BB gun, not a real one. The caller told dispatchers that the gun was
quote, "probably fake," but that detail was not relayed to the responding
officers. Video released Wednesday at the behalf of Rice`s parents by
Cleveland police shows Rice displaying the pellet gun in the park. It also
shows the moment at which police arrive and Rice was shot. As you can see
in the jarring real time video, that was virtually the same moment. We see
Rice standing beneath the gazebo in the rec center alone. Suddenly the
police car arrives on the scene in front of the boy. In about two seconds,
it`s over. Rice is shot by the Officer Loehmann and doubles over.
Why did this happen? In an initial statement following the shooting, a
Cleveland police spokesperson said, quote, "upon arrival on the scene,
officers located the suspect and advised him to raise his hands. The
suspect did not comply with officers` orders and reached to his waistband
for the gun. Shots were fired and the suspect was struck in the torso."
The Cleveland deputy police chief at Wednesday`s press conference also said
that Rice was given three warnings to raise his hands. After that event
Rice`s family called for an investigation in the statement that read in
part "It is our belief that this situation could have been avoided and that
Tamir should still be here with us. The video shows one thing distinctly,
the police officers reacted quickly." Indeed, the video does show that
Joining me now here at the table are Khalil Muhammad director of the
Schomburg Center, Chloe Angyal, senior columnist at Feministing and opinion
columnist at Reuters. Raul Reyes, an attorney and NbcNews.com contributor
and Salamishah Tillet, associate professor at the University of
Pennsylvania. And joining me from Cleveland is Ohio State Senator Nina
Turner, a native of the city of Cleveland.
It`s nice to have you this morning, although I`m sorry for, you know, these
circumstances. Now we have video of the shooting, but we don`t have any
video of the time period, the nearly four minutes when Cleveland officials
say the officers waited to give Tamir Rice first aid. We`ve seen in the
case of Eric Garner, the man who died after being put into a choke holder
in New York, that not being given proper medical assistance can in fact
make the difference. I am wondering what you know about those four
minutes. What people are talking about in the video that we didn`t see?
STATE SEN. NINA TURNER (D) OHIO: Yeah, Melissa, this is gut wrenchingly
tragic. You know, every fiber of my being, every time I hear about this
video, watch this video, hear people talk about it, I mean you are just
consumed with emotion. And certainly our hearts go out to the family of
young Tamir Rice, who was a 12-year-old boy. According to reports, there
was an FBI agent nearby that was on another call who came and actually
started CPR on young Mr. Rice. But the two officers on the scene for
whatever reason, and it doesn`t make sense, and that is why we must let
that investigation go forward, they did not do anything to try to save his
HARRIS-PERRY: So state senator, this is a moment, as you point out, when
you were talking about this, this video makes me physically ill to watch.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we even talked about how we felt about playing it. But
we have Michael Brown`s parents saying we need body cameras. Because we
have to have these videos. What difference do you think it makes for us to
be able to see this? To have this as part of the testimony?
TURNER: Because this is truth. You know, and you see it and you cannot
deny what happened. As you talked about, that happened within seconds and
what is it about seeing a black male that drives people crazy? To do
things that are extreme in that way? Again, we must wait for an
investigation, but the video doesn`t lie. Tamir did not have a chance,
even if he wanted to. I`m not even so sure that he knew what was going on
at the time. Because the footage that happens before that, you see a young
12-year-old boy just playing. You know, in his mind I`m sure he did not
know that what he was doing would have caused you know, that kind of
tragedy to occur. We must have some national commission on policing and a
lot of experts, one in particular, Dr. Ronnie Dunn of Cleveland State
University, believes that we need a national commission on policing,
similar to the Kerner report that President Lyndon B. Johnson commissioned
in the 1960s. We have unfinished business in this country that is bigger
than what`s happening all across this nation. We must look at this
nationally and do something about it. It must be visible. And it must be
HARRIS-PERRY: I know, I want to - you know, part of this that`s tough is
the phone call that`s made. If you pause for me for a second, I want to
listen to a part of the 911 phone call and what was said. Let`s just take
a moment and listen to it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CALLER: I`m sitting in the park at West Boulevard by the West Boulevard
Rapid Transfer station. And there`s a guy holding a pistol, you know.
It`s probably fake, but he`s like pointing it everybody. The guy keeps
pulling it out of his pants. It`s probably fake, but you know what, he`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, listen to that. I mean this sounds like a
sort of a Good Samaritan. I mean we don`t know the whole story yet. But
it sounds like a Good Samaritan making a reasonable call and saying, look,
it`s probably fake.
TURNER: Yes, but that message, professor, as you know, was not given to
the police. You know, maybe they would have responded differently. We
need more training, we need more transparency. We need cultural
competency. This deserves a moral response. The cries of the people
across this nation from Ferguson to Beaver Creek to Cleveland to New York
to Los Angeles, this deserves a moral response. And we have to master
every single effort, from the president to governor`s mansions to
legislatures all across this country to answer this. This is not just one
person. This death of this little boy. And he`s a little boy. And it
pains me folks try to paint African-American males as more criminal, more
violent. And we know that it elicits a certain type of response. This is
unfair that the burden of skin still has to be bore by African-American and
Latino men in particular across this country. We have got to do something
about this, and right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, State Senator Nina Turner on a holiday when so
many of us had beautiful African-American boys and girls sitting at our
tables, this was a tough one. I appreciate you joining us from Cleveland,
Ohio, this morning.
Up next, the things we heard Officer Darren Wilson say this week.
HARRIS-PERRY: The annual consumer ritual known as Black Friday launched
right after Thanksgiving, and holiday shopping commenced unabated. But not
in St. Louis, where people protesting the grand jury decision in the
Michael Brown case temporarily closed one of the area`s most popular
shopping malls. The St. Louis Galleria. The protesters numbered more than
100 per "USA Today", chanting "Black lives matter," and "Stop, don`t
shoot." And urging shoppers to skip shopping to show solidarity with their
cause. So, this rallying cry of black lives matter has been central to the
protesters, but I want to level it as a question. Do black lives matter?
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, SCHOMBURG CENTER: There`s a fascinating statement
circulating on Facebook right now that says how interesting that we have
moved from Black Power to black lives matter. The diminishing of the
social movement that helped to transform and make possible a black
president has now become about how do we save people?
CHLOE ANGYAL, FEMINISTING.COM: About protecting the bare minimum, the bare
minimum of common decency statement black lives matter.
HARRIS-PERRY: And of course, you know, I almost wanted to talk to the
state senator about it, but I figured I would leave it for the table. Of
course as soon as there`s demonstrable outrage in communities over the
shooting death and then non-indictment of Officer Wilson of Michael Brown,
over being appalled about the death of Tamir Rice, the next point,
Salamishah, tends to be, well, what about all of the black men and boys who
are killed by other black men and boys?
SALAMISHAH TILLET, AUTHOR, "SITES OF SLAVERY": Yeah, I know, I mean .
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean I feel like we can`t - we can`t not talk about the
fact that that is this kind of open critique that sits out there.
TILLET: Yeah, but it`s a really challenging response to sanctioning of
state violence committed against black children, right? So, there`s this
quote in the Toni Morrison`s "Beloved" where she says there`s not a house
in the country that ain`t packed to the rafters with some dead Negro`s
grief." Meaning that this ritual of black death or the violence committed
against black bodies that is both state sanctioned. Right? Police
officers or you have individuals, as in the case with Renisha McBride or
Trayvon Martin, individual citizens who feel, you know, complete power to
just kill black people as they see them, if there`s no real threat. In
Renisha McBride`s case, she was asking for help, right? So, what does it
mean to be part of a country from its very beginning? And I think that`s
what, you know, is part of this conversation, that was predicated on black
lives not mattering, or mattering only in the service of property or
service of maintaining the power of white slave holding society. So it`s a
founding principle. The fact that, you know, that black people have been
denied humanity as a part of the democratic experience. It`s not just
shocking, but it`s true. But now we`re at another moment where that same
principle is just resurfacing. And we have to deal with it as a nation.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Raul, I feel like we saw part of that sense of that kind
of foundational element and that question about whether or not black lives
matter occur in the context of how this prosecutor made the decision to
seek or not seek an indictment. And you`ve written about it, claiming that
it`s almost farcical, this discourse of this is more fair, this is more
democratic, and this grand jury just made a decision not to indict.
RAUL REYES, NBCNEWS.COM CONTRIBUTOR: He opened himself, whatever you think
of the whole process, he opened himself up to all the charges of
impartiality, first of all, by not stepping aside. Giving his own family
background with the police, and in a sense, he put it all on the grand jury
as a way to escape any accountability, and the way, you know, we`ve heard
so much this week about the way he conducted that whole procedure. It was
anything but by the book. And at the very least, you know, I always tell
people that when you talk to attorneys about a particularly a legal case.
If you talk to 50 lawyers, they all have their own opinion .
REYES: About how it should done - be done. But at the very least, with
such a high profile case with the nation watching, you would have at least
think he would go by a certain a, b, c, d standard procedure. So he can
say, well, I did this, and the grand jury came up with this result.
Everything about the way he did this was unprecedented. And now, we have -
a result that has left so many people just, you know, outraged and
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s only just - Chloe, either one of you want to weigh in
on this. Part of what I found stunning here is we`ve known that this sort
of thing happened in literally in the kind of dark of night, right? That
often when there wasn`t media attention, when there wasn`t international
focus that the deaths of young black men often went unpunished.
Particularly if they came at the hands of police officers. But there was a
sense of like, but this is not meant to be the dark of night. This is
everybody is now -- literally everyone is watching and seeing results. And
I think that - that`s maybe the hardest.
ANGYAL: I mean I think what is - what is - so to your point about the
immediate conversation about black on black violence, what I think is so
interesting is that a white man has committed an act of violence against a
black man and immediately the conversation becomes about black masculinity.
But we would not be at this table having this conversation were it not for
hundreds of years of entrenched, an entrenched configuration of ideas about
black masculinity and about white masculinity and about the whites`
masculine responsibility to police black masculinity and particularly to
protect white womanhood. And I think that is - that has been logically
absent from the conversation and it really shouldn`t be.
HARRIS-PERRY: And if you don`t believe it, I mean I just need to quote
Officer Wilson here, so that people don`t think we`re just sort of making
HARRIS-PERRY: In his full testimony, which was released to the public, he
says at this point, "It looks like he, speaking now about Michael Brown,
was almost bulking up to run through the shots, like it was making him mad
that I was shooting at him."
MUHAMMAD: So they - I have a couple of things to add to this. So one, the
idea that black people have disproportionate rates of violent criminal
activity has been the longest running script in post-(INAUDIBLE) American
history. At the end of slavery from the very beginning that we could track
statistically. Because as in slave people we didn`t care much for their
birth mortality rates in terms of national census reporting.
HARRIS-PERRY: It really didn`t count.
MUHAMMAD: But literally in terms of prison rates and arrest statistics,
from the very beginning of freedom in this country, white people discovered
that black people were more violent than they were. A consequence of both
discretionary use of power as well as the fact that when black people
defended themselves against white violence, they were either murdered,
lynched or charged with a violent crime. So, if we want to say that the
evidence of black criminal statistics proves that black people are to blame
for their victimization in terms of state violence, then that would be true
since the Jim Crow period, since the end of slavery. And if we want to say
collectively that we`ve moved past that point, we can`t have it both ways.
MUHAMMAD: We can`t say that that is a period marked by state-sanctioned
wild violence lynch marking the lynching era where police officers were not
fair. Where the criminal justice system was stacked against black people
in spite of the higher rates of violent crime. And say all of the sudden
today we`re in racial nirvana, and all of this is on black people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with me. I have one last thought on this. Because
when we come back, not only did Officer Wilson say that Michael Brown
bulked up in the context of being shot, but I also want to read again and
remind you what he said about how he looked when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: It sounds like you don`t think you were responsible.
WILSON: I did my job that day.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you feel any remorse?
WILSON: Everyone feels remorse when a life is lost. Like I told you
before, I never wanted to take anybody`s life. You know, that`s not the
good part of the job. That`s the bad part of the job. So yes, there is
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on ABC News
on Tuesday. When you read the entire testimony that was released by the
prosecutor, part of what Wilson says about that encounter is "And then
after he did that," he being Michael Brown here, "he looked up at me and
had the most intense aggressive face. The only way I can describe it, it
looks like a demon. That`s how angry he looked."
MUHAMMAD: So I grew up playing first-person shooters. So, in this
culture, you are playing against demonic supervillains, where you run
through in your mind, and visually a virtual catalog of weaponry that you
can shoot and kill the evil villain. And even back to days of Super Donkey
Kong, where the - big gorilla bulks up, and it`s that much harder so that`s
one problem. The other problem is, what he`s evoking here, goes back to
the days of the Negro-cocaine theme, who was a super predator who cannot be
put down. Or the Mexican immigrant who`s high on marijuana and is as
strong as a horse. These metaphors .
HARRIS-PERRY: It was the language.
MUHAMMAD: The language of these metaphors of these people are so violent
that we have to resort to extreme means, even killing a 12-year-old who
potentially can`t be put down by a simple set of instructions.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this - it feels to me like it also then goes to what
happens on the other side, which is then we - then so many people who are
trying to indicate why this is a problem, then have to take the demon and
turn the demon into and angel. And then you have to be perfect, right?
And you have to have been a perfect - every point along the way you must be
a child. You must, right, rather than saying no, no, no, this is a problem
even if there had been a convenience store robbery. Even if there was
marijuana in his bloodstream. Even if .-
Even if his parents had a criminal past.
ANGYAL: Even if his parents had a criminal past.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Even if his parents aren`t married. Like there`s
this weird respectability politics that then emerges on the backside of
REYES: Right. But even as you said, even if all of the things that were
thrown out there about Michael Brown were true, he still did not deserve to
be gunned down. A citizen without any type of due process. But to go back
to Tamir Rice, just look at that. You know, this was a child with a toy in
the park. But to the officers who drove right up to him. I mean there was
- we see on the video, there was no securing of the perimeter, the
insectants (ph), how can you make a threat assessment? They drove right up
to him and they had a split second decision because they saw a young black
man with a gun. Now, guns .
HARRIS-PERRY: Guns that we produce .
HARRIS-PERRY: . as toys that look like that.
REYES: Remember the Cliven Bundy, when you had middle aged white men with
REYES: . pointed right at the federal officers?
REYES: They`re all here, still among us, living to tell the story. No
one- none of them were even approached being shot.
HARRIS-PERRY: And they actually had stolen from the state.
TILLET: And I think this is going back to the idea of black lives not
mattering, right? So, we are saying that black children and Stacey Patton
wrote about this in the "Washington Post." That black children are denied
adolescence that black children are denied the access to toys that we may
not necessarily agree with.
TILLET: But that one .
HARRIS-PERRY: But we produce them in this country.
TILLET: But we produce them .
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, yeah, right.
TILLET: Not the state ...
TILLET: That all these - and these rituals of black death are the denying
of black humanity down to the most basic thing as a childhood .
REYES: a childhood toy.
TILLET: That`s one thing. The other thing, like - to a question about,
the kind of myth of black on black violence, because this is really a myth
- most violent acts in this country are committed intra-racially, right?
So, that`s one person from the same race committing that. And then we`re
going to talk about this later. But in terms of the ideas of who is
committing what forms of violence, whether it`s domestic violence or sexual
violence, those stats are primarily white men. So, it just depends on how
you`re going to skew what counts.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think more than anything else, the thing that kept driving
me nuts this week was the idea of calling property crime violence. So,
they kept saying these are violent protests because they were vandalizing
protests. Because it was property crime. Property crime is not good, but
this is also not the same as killing unarmed children. Khalil is sticking
around. The rest of my panel is going to be back later in the program. Up
next, I want to bring in a special guest to the table. He`s actually
Khalil`s father. He`s also a Pulitzer Prize winning photo journalist.
Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve seen powerful images emerge out of Ferguson, Missouri,
since August 9th, the day 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed by
Officer Darren Wilson. We saw the Ferguson community`s outrage and
despair. We saw the traumatic effects of tear gas as it was tossed into
crowds. And this photo of a protester hurling a canister of tear gas back
at police. And this past Monday night brought stunning images just after
the grand jury`s decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson. There was
the haze rising around the message of season`s greetings framing a row of
battle ready police officers. Images of cars set ablaze capture the
attention of news crews conveying a scene seemingly out of a modern day
film noir. And perhaps no image more surreal than the cable news split
screen showing President Obama addressing the nation even as unrest
continued in the streets.
These are just some of the images that will remain with the Ferguson story
and come to define it over time. Most big news stories have them. Those
defining or enlightening single moment snapshots that convey even more than
a thousand words can. From presidential candidates on the campaign trail
to revolutionary leaders who changed the course of a nation to the strife
and desperation that followed catastrophic tragedies like the 2010
earthquake in Haiti to the horrors of famine in places like Ethiopia. This
photo of a child being weighed is etched in the minds of the photographer
who took it and the others you just saw.
Ozier Muhammad is a father of one of this program`s regular favorite
guests, Khalil Muhammad. And on this Thanksgiving weekend, I am pleased to
welcome the Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Ozier Muhammad to the table
as we talk about his work, Ferguson, movement building and the power of the
So, we have these amazing images coming out of Ferguson. Do you think they
will come to define a generation of activists in the ways that we saw some
of those civil rights images and Black Power images defining a generation?
OZIER MUHAMMAD, PHOTOGRAPHER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": I do. I think that
the ironic thing about it is that the race that we saw in the `50s and `60s
was rage imposed upon African-American people who were seeking equal rights
and fairness in our society. And now you look at Ferguson, and it`s just
sort of a strange irony that the rage that is expressed in the streets of
Ferguson, is a rage that is coming from a place also of on miscarriage of
justice. And the perception of the people who have responded to Michael
HARRIS-PERRY: I - there`s a kind of ethical question about documenting,
photographing, talking about the moment that is movement. But not being a
participant in it. And I wonder given the moments where you have been
present the images you`ve taken, how you reconcile that? What is the value
of that documentation itself is?
OZIER MUHAMMAD: Well, I think that the image adds something to the
voracity in some measure. And sometimes it`s - there could be some debate
about whether that`s a true moment of actual occurrence of some news event.
But for the most part, it clarifies any ambiguity that cannot be expressed
in the story that`s written by the reporters. So, photography has been
always, I think, very extreme and pointing element in conveying to the
public the societal problems that we have. Especially you look at the
pictures from the civil rights era, and then also, you project forward, and
you look at what has happened in political change in places like Africa, on
the continent of Africa. From Nigeria all the way down to South Africa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Khalil, is there a reason that you are historian, your
father has worked - I mean at least in part, I mean I`m sure you have your
own independent identity, but as you`re sort of looking at these images I
was looking at, the images just from late April of 1994. Nelson Mandela
depositing his ballot at the polling place. And I`m thinking to have the
father who is documenting history, and then to be the historian who also
preserves it in this public space in this .
KHALIL MUHAMMAD: Yeah, I know. First of all, you know, these never quite
KHALIL MUHAMMAD: So my memory of his coverage of the Ethiopian famine and
the Nigerian (INAUDIBLE) was receiving a letter from him with a picture of
him on a camel. Like that`s what - that`s what a child experiences as a
12-year old when your father is half way around the world. What I can say,
though, is that working alongside of him, he took me to work with him every
summer from the time that I was about 9 to the times of 15. I loaded his
cameras. When there was still a film kind of - inside a mechanical camera.
He exposed me to everything from Ed Koch press conferences to the Broadway
premier of "Little Shop of Horrors" to sporting events. Everything that
makes up the daily stuff of life that becomes the historical record that we
mine and that we look for those transition moments. Those significant
moments that help us understand who we are as a people, absolutely shaped
and informed me. And I`m grateful that he continues to work. I`m grateful
that his work continues to inspire, that he`s still there on the ground in
places far and near, including and most recently in Haiti in 2010. He was
embedded in Iraq. I remember the phone call. He called me, for example,
from Somalia telling me that his entourage had been kidnapped on the
satellite phone and that in case they didn`t hear from him to call "The New
York Times." So, the world was changing. And he was there to document it,
and as a historian, I`m grateful to know that those of us who we`ll be
looking to the record 50 years from now will have his work to draw upon.
HARRIS-PERRY: I imagine that Thanksgiving must be quite intense at your
HARRIS-PERRY: It is lovely to have you here. Thank you for your body of
work, thank you for your continued work and for your insights on this.
Thank you to Khalil Muhammad and to Ozier Muhammad.
And up next, the shocking "Rolling Stone" magazine piece about sexual
assault at University of Virginia.
HARRIS-PERRY: The growing list of schools under federal scrutiny for their
handling of sexual assaults has brought increased attention not only to the
ordinary occurrences of assault on these campuses, but also, the
unwillingness or inadequacy of colleges and universities to help survivors
find justice. One of those schools, the University of Virginia, is the
subject of an article in this month`s "Rolling Stone" magazine in which a
young woman`s story of surviving a horrific and brutal rape exposes a
devastating individual cost of sexual assault and the consequences of a
rape culture run rampant on campus.
The story follows this young woman`s attempt to piece her life back
together following the assault and pulls back the - on what seems at best
an incompetent response. And at worst, a willful ignorance on the part of
UVA administrators to recognize and respond to the vulnerability and
violation of their students. Joining the table is the writer of that
story, "Rolling Stone" contributing editor Sabrina Rubin Erdely and back
with us, Chloe , Raul Reyes and Salamishah Tillet.
This article was extraordinarily hard to read. It felt to me not unlike
watching the 12-year-old Tamir Rice being shot on the playground. And I
guess part of what I`m wondering also and part as a survivor is the choice
to tell the details of the rape in such detail, what that does to
contributing to what we have seen since the article was published?
SABRINA RUBIN ERDELY, CONTRIBUTING ED., ROLLING STONE: Well, I felt it was
very important to tell the story in as graphic a way as Jackie, the main
character in my article tells it. I think that when we talk about rape and
sexual assault we have started becoming very mired in euphemism. We call
it sexual misconduct, we even - we call it sexual assault. What does that
really mean? So I thought it was important to show that this is not some
form of misconduct, that this is a violent crime. And it was important to
shine the spotlight on just how violent it is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Probably the hardest phrase is the discourse that calling
her a thing. Hold its leg. And, you know, I grew up at the University of
Virginia. There`s this kind of honor code, as you write about, this kind
of Thomas Jefferson`s ghost haunting the place and the idea not only of the
violent crime, but also that students could see their peers, their fellow
student as a thing, as an it.
RUBIN ERDELY: Well, I think that this is - It says something very
essential about what rape is. That this is not about sex. That this is a
dehumanizing act meant to rob somebody of their power and really robbed
them of their humanity. It`s one of the reasons why it is such a
traumatizing crime and why it is so abhorrent.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me ask you about the university`s response. I want to
play here - this is the University of Virginia`s president Teresa Sullivan
in an interview last Saturday with NBC. I just want to play this for a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TERESA SULLIVAN, UVA PRESIDENT: I would say, Jackie, I am so sorry about
what happened to you. You did not deserve this and it should not have
happened to you. I do not believe the information was entirely there. I
think that is why we were all so surprised when we read the article. The
information tends to come to us in bits and pieces, and for someone who has
been traumatized, that`s not surprising.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So there she`s saying we didn`t have all the information,
this is why we were surprised when we read the article. So many people in
institution have failed this young woman, Jackie. What do you see as the
university`s primary culpability here?
RUBIN ERDELY: Well, I think that it`s rather disingenuous in the
university to say that they didn`t have all the information in Jackie`s
case. Jackie has told me otherwise that she did give them a fair amount of
information. If they didn`t have the graphic level of information that I
revealed in the article, I can only think it`s because they just didn`t ask
her. And I think that that does say something about the way in which
administrations, particularly this administration that I just covered,
tries to limit its culpability, its - they don`t really want to deal with
these kinds of situations. And so, they limit their responsiveness by
maybe not asking too many questions, by shunting them into these - these
campus courts where these cases disappear.
HARRIS-PERRY: Salamishah, you were actually at the University of Virginia
recently for an event addressing the issue of sexual assault prior to this
piece being published.
TILLET: So, I just want to bring up, you know, Roger Goodell and Teresa
Sullivan, and this idea of not having enough information and therefore
basically, you know, sanctioning the behavior of these perpetrators of
violence against women. So, that`s a coming tactic, as you point it out.
And two, you know, University of Virginia is recently adopting a zero
tolerance policy, akin to the Catholic Church, right? So, this is one
response of the University as having - yeah, based on your article,
obviously, not based on Jackie`s coming forward before and telling them
what happened. Because they chose to cover that up. But I want to talk
about the institutionalizing of violence against women. And so, we have it
in the NFL. We have it in the U.S. military. We have it in the Catholic
Church, and now we are seeing that higher education and universities that
we send our children to to get information, to grow up, to become
professionals people and to become better citizens have for the last 40
years and I would argue much longer been covering up these violent acts
against women as part of their daily regimen, as part of the educating of
our future citizens and ironically, by invoking Thomas Jefferson`s code.
And, you know, I read about Thomas Jefferson as a quite problematic figure
of race and gender and violent acts as a slave holder. But I just want to
say that at this point to invoke the zero tolerance policy is good, but it
that actually has to be on a systematic level. That we have to change the
entire university culture. That all of us have to be implicating in the
change. And that it can`t just be about, you know, prosecuting certain
people here and there. But it has to be a shift of how these colleges are
protecting basically a white male citizenry to perpetrate these acts of
violence all the time.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to get to Raul and Chloe and because I want to talk a
little bit about the legal aspect as well as talk about how the students
themselves have been responding.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. I want to ask you, Raul, about the question of
the law here. This isn`t just about practice or culture. This is a legal
REYES: Right. And I think when many people read this - their article, a
common response is to just think well, these students should go to the
police. But actually, under our existing law, under title nine, the
government requires that the government looks at these type of cases as a
form of sexual discrimination. So it requires the schools to handle these
things through their internal processes. And as we are no seeing, their
internal process is usually are designed to protect the school`s
reputation. Any bit as we are talking about UVA here. I mean .
HARRIS-PERRY: It is certainly not just UVA.
REYES: It`s not just UVA, nor is it just what you - sure, there are some
schools on the list that are being - the list of schools being investigated
by the government. Some of the schools maybe you can say like Arizona
State, or University of Colorado, Boulder, you might - maybe they`re
considered party schools. But there are plenty of schools on that list,
Catholic University, Princeton, Harvard, even Harvard Law School, that are
not "the party schools." So, it`s not just UVA and it`s not just these
party schools. It`s widespread.
HARRIS-PERRY: And when you bring up the party thing, this is so important.
Because the response has been, so, you know, we saw on November 22 that the
University of Virginia has decided to suspend all fraternities until
January. Of course, most students are not - on campus most of December.
But the thing, I think, the second most painful after the "hold its leg for
me" was this. The three friends launched into a heated discussion about
the social price of reporting Jackie`s rape. The - Jackie, listen to this.
Cindy prevailed over the group, "She`s going to be the girl who cried rape
and we`ll never be allowed into any frat party again." And here`s the
thing. They`re not wrong. You know, on the one hand it`s appalling. On
the other hand, they`re not wrong. And that social sanction is a powerful
one at 18, and I`m sitting there thinking, these kids are three weeks into
college. This can`t be the first time they`ve encountered this. How far
back does this go into high school?
ANGYAL: Well, I would say that social sanction is a powerful thing at any
age. Not just in 18, at any age. Before I say anything else, I have to
thank you, Sabrina, for writing this. I think you`ve done a tremendous act
of public service. And I`m genuinely very, very grateful.
RUBIN ERDELY: Thank you.
ANGYAL: It is hard to read an article like this and avoid the conclusion
that we live in a culture that hates women. Just hates us. It`s hard to
read an article like this and conclude that the men in this culture, boys
and men in this culture are raised to see women as not just less than them,
but in some cases as less than human. But one thing really stood out to
me, which is, you know, the statistic about how boys and men in frats are
three times more likely to commit sexual violence. But I think as Raul
says, you know what, I just used a euphemism there. And I shouldn`t do
that. They are three times more likely to commit rape. And I think Raul
makes a really interesting point, this is not just about party schools.
And I think at our peril, it would be at our peril to pretend that this is
just a frat problem. Yes, it happens at frat, but - but it also happens on
the chess team and in dance companies. This is not just a frat problem,
this is an American problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: The president of Lincoln University just resigned after sort
of these comments, in which he diminished or blamed the victim around rape
and sexual assault. Then your piece. Is there any university that is
setting a standard that is a model for addressing this better?
RUBIN ERDELY: I would say that so far no college has really emerged as
being a leader in this field. I think that they`re all scrambling to get
their act together and figure out how exactly to deal with the situation.
But I do think that we are on the cusp of some kind of cultural change.
And the reason for saying that is just the idea that we are listening to
these rape victims for the very first time. I mean, that is a huge shift,
I mean, between as you were saying, the Catholic Church, military rape, you
know, sexual assaults on college campuses, Bill Cosby, all of these things.
They all have a certain pure line. And that is that we as a society are
finally beginning to talk about rape and give credibility to rape victims
and be willing to listen to them for the first time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Again, having grown up at UVA, I wish that the answer was
the UVA was setting a standard. They have a single sanction honor code,
infused all of our life in Charlottesville, and the idea that there is no
honor in this moment is hard. It`s awful. Thank you to Sabrina Erdely and
to Chloe Angyal, also to Salamishah Tillet. Raul is going to be back in
the next hour.
Coming up next, a new demonstration gets under way in Ferguson, Missouri,
and we`re going to go there live. Also, it`s still Thanksgiving weekend,
so we`re just going to try to lighten up just a little bit and we are going
to talk a bit about food and race and culture and identity. Maybe that`s
not that light. There`s more "Nerdland" at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Protesters in
Ferguson zeroed in on Black Friday shopping sales as a way to draw more
attention to their cause. The "No Justice, No Profit" campaign resulted in
a handful of demonstrations across the nation, like this one Friday
Protesters marched silently through a shopping mall in St. Louis with their
hands up. Police eventually escorted them off the property. In Ferguson,
Walmart delayed opening surrounded by state troopers and the National
Guard. No arrests reported there.
But less than 4 miles away, 16 people were arrested last night in front of
the Ferguson Police Department after a protest that started at shopping
And in New York City, seven people were arrested after a march through
Macy`s flagship store in Herald Square. Today another march is set to
begin, one that will go 120 miles in seven days.
In the NAACP`s event "Journey to Justice," protesters will march from
Ferguson to Jefferson City, calling for new leadership in the Ferguson
Police Department. Joining me now from Ferguson is MNSBC`s Richard Lui.
Richard, what other events are planned throughout these seven days of
RICHARD LUI, MSNBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Very good morning to you there,
Melissa. As part of the "Journey to Justice," there are the seven days
you`re talking about. And the idea behind this, I was speaking with the
president and CEO of the NAACP this morning.
He was telling me that the idea of this march is at every stop they would
be able to have teach-ins as well as rallies. Now those teach-ins the idea
behind that is to try to educate those who are going to be marching with
them. They hope to have anywhere from hundreds to thousands.
They`re pressing on the thousands part here, Melissa. And during part of
the teach-in is to re-educate and what he said is to try to rewrite history
based on what the non-indictment means to many right now that happened on
So that those who become part of this, those that watch this "Journey to
Justice," they can understand the realities that he describe. Part of
those realities is what he says right here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORNELL BROOKS, PRESIDENT, NAACP: We`re marring across Missouri from
Michael Brown`s hometown to the governor`s hometown to really speak to the
consciousness of the country and to argue for specific policy reforms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LUI: And the idea that he is alluding to there is the grand jury process
that happened here in Ferguson. Each day, just to get a sense of what
they`ll be going through here, Melissa, it will be 10 miles on the first
day and then about 20 miles each day in between and then the final day
another 10 miles.
They`ll be trying to get enough food, in terms of, look at the logistics as
well as enough sleeping bags. And he said to be honest they`re hoping they
have the problem of not having enough of that, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC`s Richard Lui, thank you so much. We have all eyes on
Now I want to bring viewers back now to Monday night and one particular way
that night was covered. Between the shouts of anger and despair from those
demonstrating to constant footage of the two burning cars and of several
businesses, few were watching on television from afar, it could have been
confusing to understand what was happening and how it fit together, if it
fits together at all.
That all came, of course, after St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch`s
lengthy remarks earlier that evening, which included eventually the grand
jury`s decision as to whether Officer Darren Wilson would be indicted in
the August 9th shooting death of Michael Brown.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB MCCULLOCH, ST. LOUIS COUNTY PROSECUTOR: After their exhaustive review
of the evidence, the grand jury deliberated over two days, making their
final decision. They determined no probable cause exists to file any
charge against Officer Wilson in return to no true bill on each of the five
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Almost immediately after that announcement at 8:44 p.m.
local time, University of Connecticut associate professor, Jelani Cobb, a
contributor to the "New Yorker" magazine tweeted this from Ferguson.
On West Florissant, crowd angry, disappointed and then right after that,
quote, "People here are largely peaceful right now, some threatening
violence, others counseling calm."
And the mood in this crowd is probably more sombre than anything else. It
was not long before Professor Cobb`s tweet indicated signs of the situation
escalating pretty quickly.
At 9:08 p.m. local time, he tweeted, quote, "Armored vehicles rolling down
South Florissant" followed shortly thereafter by, a quote, "This is a very
bad situation. Police, heavy vehicles moving in, weapons drawn, and dogs
It soon got worse as he described in his "New Yorker" piece the next
morning, quote, "Gunshots. The first I heard that night cut through the
air and a hundred people begin drifting in the direction of the bullets.
One man ripped down a small camera mounted to a telephone pole.
A quarter mile away, the crowd encountered an empty police car. And within
moments, it was a flame. A line of police officers in military fatigues
and gas masks turned a corner and begin moving north toward the police
There were 400 protesters and nearly that many police filling an American
street, one side demanding justice, one side demanding order. Both
recognizing that neither of those things was in the offing that night."
Joining me now back from Ferguson in the studio is Jelani Cobb, associate
professor at the University of Connecticut and contributor to the "New
Jelani, your piece, you wrote in part from the outset, the great difficulty
has been discerning whether the authorities are driven by malevolence or
incompetence. You`ve spent a lot of time in Ferguson, have you come to a
decision about that?
JELANI COBB, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF CONNECTICUT: Maybe a
malevolent incompetence. It`s difficult to just looking at those tweets it
took me back to being in that space. It was difficult to really assess
what exactly was happening and why it was happening from things like the
decision to give the announcement at 9:00 p.m.
And there were very distinct personality traits to the groups that were
gathered in the day and the groups that were gathered at night, and it has
been since August.
And the groups that were gathered at night were more volatile and so when
they made the point that they would make the announcement at 9:00 p.m., it
also meant that they were probably be fewer of the people, who were out in
the day, who could counsel calm.
And it almost seemed as if there was a benign neglect or something far more
insidious behind that decision and behind that calculation.
HARRIS-PERRY: A kind of provocation almost.
COBB: Right. And indeed, when I was there, so what I was describing was
the events on South Florissant, when you drove over to West Florissant, you
know, which is the black side of town, there was not that kind of response.
As a matter of fact, it was striking in the absence of police presence
there, and so, we remember back. We think back to 1992, there was a
Webster Commission that happened after the Los Angeles riots to find out if
in fact it was true that people had policed and protected high value real
estate more so than they had the communities where poor people live.
You know, they say that did not happen. There was every reason for people
to believe here in Ferguson that that was what was happening. The mayor of
Ferguson came out later and said, why was there not any presence there?
West Florissant is a long unbroken boulevard, you know, between two highway
onramps. You can go from one side to the other and there was just kind of
bedlam developing and erupting and exhilarating throughout the length of
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to listen for a moment to the response of our
president on that night, and then read back to you a piece of what you had
to say about it. Let`s listen to the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Those of you who
are watching tonight understand that there`s never an excuse for violence,
particularly when there are a lot of people in goodwill out there willing
to work on these issues.
On the other hand, those only interested in focusing on the violence and
just want the problem to go away need to recognize that we do have work to
do here. And we shouldn`t try to paper it over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In response, you wrote in your "New Yorker" piece, "The man
who once told us there was no black America, no white America, but only the
United States of America has become a president whose statements on
unpunished racial injustices are a genre unto themselves."
COBB: There`s a particular even handedness, which is kind of frustrating.
It`s defined his rhetoric more often than not. It`s a detour from the
Trayvon Martin circumstance. But more often than not the president has
said on the one hand there`s this.
And you know, the race speech that he gave in 2008, which people praised,
you know, tremendously, but even then when you go back, you kind of look at
the resentments that white people have about things like affirmative action
and compare it to the resentments that black people have to being
systematically excluded in society from the onset of our time here.
So that statement in it of itself betrayed a particular kind of
disingenuousness I think because, you know, the president knows that the
riots of 1960s were part of the reason he`s able to have the position he
Part of it was non-violent protests, but the other part of it was the very
real threat of violent protests, which in fact, facilitated what the
nonviolent protests wanted. So it exacerbates the idea or intensifies the
idea that there is no recourse available.
You know, people cannot understand why with all the constitutional
mechanisms here have failed, people did not riot. They had become small
scale conflicts. But by and large, people waited, as they did in 1992 to
see how the legal process would play itself out before they resorted to
kind of full scale violence.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to push back on this. I do think we`re over using
that word and that we are using it in a very specific context here.
Vandalism, property crime, arson, are all distinct things that are not
about -- about murder, rape, assault.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so I do wonder even about calling these violent
protests. They are volatile. They are vandalizing, but doesn`t another
kind of even handedness and equivalency occur when we call them violent
that doesn`t allow us to carve out this space, the moral and ethical space
to talk about when something is actually violence against the human body.
COBB: Right. And I think that`s true. It`s interesting also what people
took note of when things began to go up in flames. And people have been
saying all along, you understand that a human life is worth more than this,
So people became offended, become upset and they were irate. But what
about this person dying and what about the people, the category of people
who are disproportionately likely to die in these circumstances?
HARRIS-PERRY: Our friend and a friend of the show, Jay Smooth, tweeted
"The fundamental danger of a non-indictment is not more riots. It`s more
Darren Wilson`s and I presume he means an officer who could shoot and kill
COBB: Yes. If I can add to that, the fundamental danger of what Bob
McCulloch did is there`s now a template for how these matters are handled.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I appreciate the direct reporting that night, the
continued thinking through this. I appreciate you being there.
Still to come this morning, food and identity and also a visit from a
pretty incredible little person, Masterchef junior, our foot soldiers of
the week. But first, a Greyhound bus station on this day in 1961.
HARRIS-PERRY: On this day in 1961, a Greyhound bus station in the small
town of Mississippi became a flash point in the Civil Rights Movement. All
that summer freedom writers, hundreds of black and white Americans, mostly
college students, traveled Greyhound and Trailway buses across the south,
risking arrest and their lives to test compliance with desegregation
In Mississippi in a blatant show of defiance, Jim Crowe, signs were put up
at the Greyhound bus station at virtually the same time a federal ruling
went into in effect prohibiting racial discrimination on interstate bus
Just a few weeks later on November 29th, a group of freedom writers from
New Orleans arrived in (inaudible), and attempted to get service at the
lunch counter of the Greyhound bus station. The group was told there was a
gas leak and they should not enter. They refused to be deterred.
That`s when according to the "New York Times" a mob of cursing whites
shouting kill them, set upon five negro freedom writers and drove them from
the Greyhound bus station. One of those attacked was Jerome Smith, a
student leader with the Congress of racial equality.
He received such severe injuries to his skull, more than 50 years later he
still suffers from lingering nerve damage. After the attack, when the
freedom writers who made it safely back to the black section of town called
the attorney general, Robert Kennedy, who offered to have FBI agents drive
them back to New Orleans, but they refused.
Determined to leave town the same way they came in. They were able to
elude the angry mob by going to the highway and flagging down the bus. In
the book, "My Soul Looks Back in Wonder," Jerome Smith reflected on his
experience as a freedom writer.
He said all the fear was never in the moment itself. It was always after.
When you think about what you had done, what you have been through and
tremble. Most times I would try to deal with moments with emotional
detachment you find in some of Gandhi`s teachings because you cannot
surrender. You have to keep moving forward.
Words that still resonate today as young activists in Ferguson, Missouri
and around the country stand up to the status quo and demand we do better
just as the activists before them did at a small town bus station in
Mississippi on this day November 29th, 1961.
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning many of you likely find yourselves trying to
figure out yourself what to do with a whole lot of Thanksgiving leftovers,
the remains of the turkey taking up space in your fridge. Maybe that
homemade cranberry sauce experiment you tried this year.
Then there are the old standbys, your Aunt Glady`s green bean casseroles
with the dried onions or grandma`s color greens braised with all the most
delicious parts of the pig. All the parts are delicious.
Whatever it was, those default dishes that you can count onto grace your
Thanksgiving table year after year are part of your tradition, the stories,
those special foods tell about your family, culture and identity mean that
if you are what you eat then what you eat is also part of the narrative of
who you are.
When culinary choices are attached to a racial identity, sometimes those
foods can be hard to swallow. It was especially bitter pill for author,
Jacqueline Woodson, received the Young People`s Literature Prize at the
National Book Awards.
After she accepted her award, an author took the stage to share what he
told Woodson he would tell everyone if she won. Quote, "Jackie Woodson is
allergic to watermelon. Just let that sink in your mind."
Woodson responded to the comments in an op-ed published yesterday in "The
New York Times" in which she says, "In a few short words, the audience and
I were asked to take a step back from everything I`ve ever written, a step
back from the power and meaning of the National Book Award.
Lest I forget where I came from by making light of that deep and troubled
history, he showed that he believed we were at a point where we could laugh
about it. His historical context unlike my own it came from a place of
That troubled history Woodson is referring to includes what was once a
common pairing of watermelon with hateful dehumanizing depictions of
To this day, that history has left some filling the need to police their
plates. While others like the legendary Pete Green resisted the history by
not only embracing it, but taking a big juicy bite out of it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just can`t understand how we as black people started
eating our watermelon in the closet. Lord have mercy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So if we follow his lead, what can we learn about who we
are? When we shake off the shame about how or what we eat. Joining me now
is Jelani Cobb, associate professor of Africana Studies at the University
Sunny Anderson, author of "The New York Times" bestseller, "Sunny`s
Kitchen," host of Food Network`s "Cooking for Real, and co-host of "The
Kitchen," and Raul Reyes, attorney, a nbcnews.com contributor, and Psyche
Williams-Forson, who is associate professor of American Studies at the
University of Maryland College Park, and author of "Building Houses Out Of
Chicken Legs. Black Women, Food And Power."
Her work examines the complex legacies of African-American women and food
as a cultural form of work. So, how is it some foods came to have -- how
is it that some foods, fried chicken, watermelon came to have derogatory
PSYCHE WILLIAMS-FORSON, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UMD COLLEGE PARK: It goes
back to those images that you were talking about all morning. Black people
were negatively associated with chicken, stealing chicken as chicken
thieves. And so you began to see this over and over in images, and in
popular press, in restaurants, and that narrative sticks with you over
HARRIS-PERRY: I think about in part about how that gives reclaimed.
There`s a kind of power in the nuevo soul food. The reclamation of greens
and a way of saying we are not ashamed. This food is delicious! Yes.
SUNNY ANDERSON, AUTHOR, "SUNNY`S KITCHEN": In my space and food, I find
myself all the time having that internal conversation with myself. You
know, when I`m asked to go on a show and do something I love, the first
thing is I`m going to show you how to fry some good chicken.
HARRIS-PERRY: Am I the black woman on TV talking about fried chicken?
ANDERSON: The only thing I can say is first of all, if it`s OK with my
grandma it`s OK with me. And I also say to myself, I don`t want to let
past prejudices mess with my present or my future success.
If I`m in a space where people want me to cook, and I cook everything, you
know, that`s another misconception that I get because I`m black. It`s only
soul food, but I cook everything.
And if I think I`m exceptional in one area because of past prejudices, I
don`t want to stop my forward movement in my career, which is being on
national television, sharing foods from my friends, my family and my
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think part of what surprises me is how not past these
prejudices are. So I`ve really -- Aunt Jamima being on the pancakes and
syrup, like every time I grocery shop having to encounter, Uncle Ben. I
would like them to go away now.
COBB: It`s idea that we stereo type people along with food all the time
and these are particularly resonate ones. And so at some point there`s a
story which will not be told on air that involves me and a large
ANDERSON: I just want to know where the watermelon is --
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, OK, that`s a real thing. There was watermelon on the
plate when we first started the show when I was like, in part because I was
ANDERSON: It`s delicious. I don`t get it.
COBB: Can I just say one thing? And hat tip to my good friend, Etta
Fields, who is a historian who has worked on these things. The colony of
South Carolina was a failure. They could not get that to work. The reason
that Carolina rice is there were African populations, and they were
bringing people who knew how to cultivate that grain.
When they tried livestock in South Carolina it didn`t work. They tried all
these things. They were like, rice, this will be our stable. And it`s
these Africans who know how to grow it. And the species of rice, the genus
of rice that they grow is of the African strain. It`s part of this
narrative. It`s not something outside of us.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s like I just want to. There`s a story that you tell
that I kept thinking about last year, and it`s of here`s the coon chicken
inn. It`s a restaurant chain.
HARRIS-PERRY: It existed up until fairly recently and the whole time that
the whole Paula Deen moment was occurring in our national discourse, I kept
thinking about, is somebody going to remind us that we were literally
buying food from the coon chicken inn a few years ago basically?
WILLIAMS-FORSON: Right. Right. All of these things have histories. They
don`t come out of air. You know, and so when we get to a situation like a
Paula Deen, we`re reminded that these narratives existed in history.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I`m wondering. So I just -- Dave Chappelle is quoted
in this NPR code switch article, doing this work about trying to think
through race. The piece is called "Where did that fried chicken stereo
type come from?" And Chapele says the only reason these things are even an
issue is because nobody knows what white people eat, right?
WILLIAMS-FORSON: They eat everything like we do.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I do wonder because this idea of whiteness then becomes
the norm, right? That`s normal food. And everyone else is eating ethnic
REYES: I remember when I was a kid, you know. The first time I heard the
word beaner, which is a very common epithetic aimed at Mexican-Americans.
We grew up eating rice and beans. I didn`t particularly like beans.
I remember asking some other kid like why would they call us that. He said
because we eat beans. I said, why don`t they call the Asian kids ricers or
the white kids ham sandwichers? But I think with the bigger picture is
that when you put these stereo types around food, it really goes to the
heart of some of our cultural identity.
You know, the things that are staples in our guide, things that maybe in
our home is a source of pride, but then as you say in the outside world,
all the sudden you feel a type of shame or self-conscious eating.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. When we come back, I want to talk a little bit more
about this, focusing specifically on the role of black women in this big
story. Maybe we can get Jelani to tell us the watermelon story on break.
HARRIS-PERRY: This summer artist, Karen Walker, stunned New Yorkers with
larger than life installation that invoked a legacy of sugar that is
anything but simple or sweet. She created a massive sugar coated sphinx
with the head of a kerchief wearing.
Put it on display at Brooklyn`s soon-to-be demolished Domino Sugar Factory
and entitled her bold, artistic statement a subtlety. Walkers work was
commentary on everything from the legacy of African-American women`s
domestic work and the over sexualization of their bodies to the lives
sacrifice throughout the history of sugar production and consumption to the
cultural connotations of whiteness.
It`s also a reminder that`s it`s more than flavor that makes our food
complex. That installation felt to me like a lot of the work we were
talking about here connects the enslavement and enslaved labor and sugar.
But it also put a black woman at the center of the story and it does feel
to like there is something particular about this question of race and food
where black women are at the core of it.
COBB: So it`s interesting. The point at which black women were not, kind
of least capable participating in civil life, you know, having their voting
rights protected, having their personal safety protected from sexual
There was a move -- this was the 1920s to have a monument in Washington,
D.C. and they could not understand why black people were saying no we don`t
HARRIS-PERRY: Can you imagine to the assault that it would be on you,
Psyche? The first black Disney princess is of course a chef, right, and a
chef from New Orleans, and based on the extraordinary Leah Chase, who is
the owner of a restaurant.
So again I wonder about like on the one hand, the anxieties of shame that
emerge, but also the legacy of our cooking and our role as chefs.
ANDERSON: I`m 40. So my age I think puts me into an era where I did not
live through some of the pain --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Where they post-civil rights --
ANDERSON: Yes. And so I say to myself if we are as women and black women
the ones that are known for being in the kitchen where are we in the public
now because all of the famous chefs they don`t look like us?
If you go to the restaurants, we`re not the ones that are running it. You
know what I mean, but it`s all of our food. It`s our ox tails and greens.
It`s our chicken. It`s our pork --
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet there is the first lady, Michelle Obama, the first
African-American first lady chooses food at the public platform, plants a
garden and somehow manages to avoid -- I don`t mean she`s trying to avoid
When you see her performing it, she doesn`t seem to be performing a kind of
enslaved moment. It feels like a free garden if there`s a way to say that.
I`m wondering how you think she manages that.
WILLIAMS-FORSON: She moves around the issue of race. She doesn`t deal
with it head on, right? This is an every person movement, but the thing
that we have to be very clear about is everything we`ve been talking about
has long histories.
Now black folks have been growing gardens for centuries. This is not new
and yet, part of that platform that she is participating in is this new
movement of gardening is everything. And you know, we have to really think
more complexly about food for every culture and particularly about black
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a way in which that discourse about localism or
about organic food, it`s our food that`s there and there`s value in saying,
yes, that`s our food that is there.
REYES: Sometimes I obstruct by the phenomenon, some of the foods we enjoy
in our home don`t gain popular acceptance until they`re sort of repurposed
as high end cuisine. Now it`s OK if you`re paying a lot of money for them.
If you`re eating these same foods in your house, it`s down home cooking.
It`s an expression of a certain type of food. It`s hill billy type of
food. Some people go to high end restaurants and pay a lot of money. Why
is it only acceptable when it has this monetary value or greater social
acceptance attached to it? It`s the same food.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I`m thinking about it in the context of the president`s
immigration reform attempts here where he talks about high skilled labor.
High skilled labor immigrants will have protection because of their
But so much of our food sitting on everybody`s table in this country
emerges from the labor of often very low paid sometimes wage theft it and
often undocumented men and women who are doing the agricultural work in
WILLIAMS-FORSON: That`s the piece that we can forget why we sit in front
of the beautiful table. And we pay the high price. We forget what`s
happening behind the kitchen door. We can just eclipse all of that.
And the other thing we have to remember is, you know the foods that we eat
in public or private, once they become public, everyone wants to criticize,
that`s part of the food policing. The story of shaming, and black people
catch a lot of that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Does this bring joy to eating all of it, Sunny?
ANDERSON: Sure. I mean, listen, I love all food. I`m an omnivore without
a dilemma. If there`s a fruit tray and there`s some watermelon on it. I`m
eating the watermelon because it`s delicious. So are the bananas and
I understand there might people with their internal dialogue about Sunny is
eating the watermelon. Sometimes I break the ice and say where is more
watermelon because it`s delicious. And listen, I come from South and North
Carolina. My parents grew up on farms.
I understand how the land is worked. I also understand my history. But I
think that the further we go, right, the further we get away from people
that lived in it, right, which is I think a benefit so we can start getting
out of these constraints from our past.
I understand and respect the history, but I don`t want it to stop what we
can do in the future, which is not let these things have so much power over
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the greatest joys of my life right now as the mother
of a 9-month-old, is watching my daughter discover food and watching how
much she is enjoying everything being delicious. I don`t want to leave
this segment without giving a shout out to B. Smith.
She is, of course, the former model stricken with Alzheimer`s, but far more
important is she is really one of the ground breaking kind of celebrity
black women chefs. She had a rough week this week. Just want to send our
love to B. Smith and to her family in this Thanksgiving week.
Also thank you to Jelani Cobb and to Raul Reyes and also to Sunny and
Psyche, who are going to stick around. Because after the break, we are
going to talk to somebody else who knows food is delicious. He`s 11 years
old. But in his house Thanksgiving dinner rests on his adorable shoulders.
Master Chef Junior comes to nerd land next.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Thursday like many families across the country, my family
enjoyed a lovely Thanksgiving dinner, and then my family Thanksgiving
traditions start early. My 12-year-old Parker helped with the corn bread
and the green beans.
Her little sister, A.J., helped by eating them on her first ever
Thanksgiving enthusiastically with two fists. In many homes the children
help out with the cooking. In some homes they take the lead.
Fox has a cooking competition show for kids like these. Master Chef Junior
where young people between the ages of 8 and 13 cook for celebrity judges
and compete for $100,000 prize.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH REISNER, MASTERCHEF JUNIOR CONTESTANT: Cooking is my favorite thing I
would rate myself on a scale from 1 to 100, I`m 96. I`m probably not your
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was now 11-year-old, Josh, one of the contestants on
Master Chef Junior. He joins me now. Josh, what did you make for
REISNER: I made the turkey. I made almost everything.
HARRIS-PERRY: How do you make the turkey? Do you bake it? Fry it? Turn
it upside down?
REISNER: I bacon wrap my turkey basically. You start it in the oven. Put
compound butter under the skin.
HARRIS-PERRY: What`s in your compound butter?
REISNER: Lemon juice and lemon zest, butter and herbs. That goes under
the skin and then you bake it. Then you put the bacon on it. It makes a
nice base for the gravy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Bacon has never made any food worse. Do you prefer the
cooking or baking?
REISNER: I`m more of a fan of cooking. My mom does the baking usually. I
think I want to definitely expand my world of baking. I want to expand my
whole food world, like everybody does. But I`m definitely more of a chef.
HARRIS-PERRY: So you have a pretty expansive food world to be 11 years
old. I have a 9-month-old daughter. She`s starting to eat food. What
should parents be thinking about? Do you think we don`t offer the right
kinds of food? Too limited? What would your suggestion be to us?
REISNER: I think if you want to get a child to turn into a foodie, start
them young. How old is your daughter?
HARRIS-PERRY: Just 9 months.
REISNER: If you`re feeding her like this, she`s going to be a master chef
HARRIS-PERRY: So do you have suggestions for Thanksgiving leftovers, a lot
of us have them?
REISNER: I like making my Thanksgiving turkey sandwich, which you put
turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing then cranberry sauce top to contrast with
everything. It`s really good.
HARRIS-PERRY: You brought something here. What do we have here?
REISNER: It is a braised short rib the mashed potatoes and braised
HARRIS-PERRY: Somebody take a taste for me. It`s far from me.
ANDERSON: Pass that down. Don`t ask me twice.
HARRIS-PERRY: You were here last year, Sunny. We ate pie so take a taste
for me and let me know what you think.
ANDERSON: A little bit of everything. I love pearled onions, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: They`re beautiful.
ANDERSON: Very good. And it`s cold, which lets you know it`s delicious.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s still good. I know you were recently eliminated from
Master Chef. I`m so sorry to hear that. We were really rooting for you.
What are your future chef dreams? They`re not over, right?
REISNER: Of course they are not over. It`s the only the beginning for me
I think, but I really want to start getting some internships, definitely.
I want to start cooking much more. I want to start cooking in restaurants.
But I think I just really want to keep doing what I`m doing right now. I
love what I`m doing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last question, you have a younger sister, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: And are you kind of bringing her along on this great
REISNER: Well, she`s one of my biggest supporters for the show. But she`s
not your -- she`s not really the best eater in the world.
HARRIS-PERRY: More for you.
REISNER: Yes, yes. So I got her into -- I make sometimes dumplings with
her. Sometimes I make breakfast with her. I think I don`t want her to be
exactly like me. But I want her to admire food because that`s one of the
most important things in life.
HARRIS-PERRY: Josh, thank you for being a great Master Chef contestant and
a great big brother, it sounds like.
REISNER: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Happy Thanksgiving weekend to you.
REISNER: Happy Thanksgiving.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thanks to you, Josh Reisner and also to Sunny Anderson,
thanks for hanging out and eating the yummy food cold. And thank you to
Up next our foot soldiers of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s Thanksgiving weekend. That means the holiday season
has officially started. Here at our offices in 30 Rock, the Rockefeller
Christmas tree is scheduled to have its annual lighting ceremony this week
and storefronts all over the country are already displaying their holiday
This time of year is also the season of giving, when charities like the
Salvation Army send representatives to street corners to channel the
goodwill of passersby and collect donations for the needy. And while we as
a nation almost universally agree that charity and humanitarianism
represents the very best parts of human nature, not all charity is created
Sometimes there are problems with the way we help. One of the best
examples of this challenge was after the devastating earthquakes that all
but destroyed the nation of Haiti in 2010 after what some called the worst
natural disaster in the history of the western hemisphere.
Large multinational aid organizations flooded into the small island nation
with troves of dollars and the best of intentions. But years later, little
of that money had reached the Haitian people and large powerful aid groups
had to some extent undermine local Haitian institutions.
As one Haitian economist put it, the billions of dollars in earthquake aid
have further marginalized the Haitian state, Haitian social organizations
and Haitian businesses. The case in Haiti leaves many concerned global
citizens looking for a better way to help.
And that`s where my foot soldiers of the week come in. The young men
behind a small U.S. headquartered bag manufacturer have made it their
mission to find sustainable ways to help the people of Haiti recover.
The company was founded by Sam McGuire at the age of 23. After returning
to the United States from post-earthquake Haiti he sold his car to start
the business, which began hiring workers in Haiti to make a line of
handcrafted bags and satchels.
The company set up its manufacturing base in one of the most impoverished
part of Port-Au-Prince paying twice the average wage for Haitian workers.
After Sam stepped down as CEO to do more on the ground work at Haiti, he
handed over the reins to his 22-year-old co-founder, Ben Green.
Under Ben`s leadership, the company has partnered with a small local non-
profit committed to helping Haitians participate in their own development
and aid in in rescuing children from situations of abuse, slavery,
homelessness or severe neglect.
A portion of the proceeds goes to helping vulnerable Haitian children in
addition to funding the salaries of its full-time employees. For finding a
way to partner with the Haitian people in leading their own recovery and
building sustainable partnerships for the future, the young entrepreneurs
of this company are our foot soldiers of the week.
That`s our show for today. Thanks for watching. I`ll see you tomorrow
morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. We have a packed program tomorrow,
including the news of Ray Rice`s appeal to get back into the NFL and the
story of a young woman with her eye on Chuck Hagel`s old job.
But right now, it`s time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Hi,
ALEX WITT: Hello to you, Melissa. Thank you so much. A search is under
way for a missing Ohio State football player. Did concussions play a role
in his disappearance?
Also, the call for change after the Michael Brown decision, what specific
changes can be accomplished as a new march gets under way?
The close calls between drones and planes on the rise. We`re going to ask
an expert if a drone can bring down a commercial airliner.
And while many of us are making shopping plans this weekend, some food for
thought about how hard it is to be the working poor in this country.
You`ll hear from the author of a new honest and very blunt book about what
it`s like to live hand to mouth. Don`t go anywhere. I`ll be right back.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
<Copy: Content and programming copyright 2014 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Copyright 2014 Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>
WATCH 'THE MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY SHOW' SATURDAY AND SUNDAY AT 10:00 A.M. ET ON MSNBC.
MORE FROM MSNBC
Add msnbc headlines to your news reader: