'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, January 25th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
January 25, 2015
Guest: Nikole Hannah-Jones, Vince Warren, Shanna Smith, Jasmine Rand,
Jonathan Metzl, Chang Kee Jung, Kavitha Davidson, Jason Page, Chris
Valletta, Don Rondeau, Russell Barnes, Earl Catagnus Jr., Alicia Quarles,
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question: when is the
next Bill Belichick conference? Because I really cannot wait.
Plus, race, guns and mental health. And the controversy over "American
But first, the fight for fair housing goes to the Supreme Court. Be very
HARRIS-PERRY: Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Early Wednesday morning, my husband, James, caught a flight to Washington,
Y`all know James. He sometimes joins the MHP show table to share his
professional expertise earned through a decade of advocacy on behalf of
fair housing. Protecting hard-earned victories in fair housing is what
took him and dozens of other activists and advocates to Washington, D.C.,
on Wednesday morning, to D.C. and to the steps of Supreme Court.
Because on Wednesday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case
Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive
Communities Project. I know, it`s not exactly a snappy title, but this
case is really, really important, so stick with me.
When the court rules on this case, the one that got those activists out in
the cold with their hand-lettered signs, when the court makes this
decision, it could be among the most historic and consequential choices
ever made about an issue at the heart of American lives and dreams, the
place we call home, because at the core of this case is the Fair Housing
Act of 1968.
Now, see the Fair Housing Act was the final piece of civil rights
legislation resulting from that fraught but productive partnership of Dr.
Martin Luther King Jr. and President Lyndon Johnson. Johnson signed the
Fair Housing Act just seven days after the assassination of Dr. King amid
riots that gripped the segregated communities of American cities and
altered our urban landscape for decades.
Johnson insisted even as cities burned in the aftermath of shock and
mourning for the loss of King that this piece of legislation was the
necessary capstone of civil rights.
Quote, "Now, with this bill, the voice of justice speaks again. It
proclaims that fair housing for all, all human beings who live in this
country, is now a part of the American way of life."
Johnson and King had been working on the issue of housing for years. The
president`s Kerner Commission had found that housing segregation was a root
cause of previous riots in 1967 and urged, quote, "opening up opportunities
to those who are restricted by racial segregation discrimination and
eliminating all barriers to their choice of jobs, education and housing."
At the time, property owners and realtors and banks and local governments
and even the federal government explicitly discriminated against African
Americans, restricting which neighborhoods they could live in and
preventing them from buying homes, even if they had the means and money to
The federal housing act ended all of that. And yet more than 45 years
later, residential segregation remains a serious obstacle to equality. Now
discrimination is rarely so explicit as it was before the fair housing act.
Most people, although certainly not all, know better than to publicly
refuse to rent or sell to someone because of their race.
Still, enforcement of the Fair Housing Act has proved nimble enough to
adjust to the more subtle forms of discrimination.
Rather than needing to prove intent, most cases provide evidence of
disparate impact. A housing policy of practice can be found to be
discriminatory if it has a disparate impact -- that is, a different and
negative effect on one racial group or if the policy or practice
perpetuates or deepens segregation.
Disparate impact looks at the effects without having to prove intent.
That`s where the Supreme Court case comes in.
In the case the court heard on Wednesday, a group in Dallas has claimed
that the State of Texas was being discriminatory when it gave incentives to
build affordable housing almost exclusively to developments in poor
minority neighborhoods. The group argues that the practice violates the
Fair Housing Act because it keeps those who need affordable housing,
disproportionally people of color, in minority neighborhoods and thus
perpetuates residential segregation.
But the State of Texas, even though it`s already agreed to change its
practices, disagrees. Texas claims that the Fair Housing Act only
prohibits discrimination, quote, "because of race and therefore that it
only bars intentional discrimination and, therefore, that the disparate
impact standard is invalid.
And even though every federal circuit court that has heard a challenge to
the disparate impact standard has upheld it, the Supreme Court has been
trying to get a clear shot at it for years.
And now it has one. That is pretty scary.
Joining me now, Nikole Hannah-Jones, ProPublica reporter, contributor to
"The Atlantic" and author of "Living Apart: How the Government Betrayed a
Landmark Civil Rights Law" and Vince Warren, executive director of the
Center for Constitutional Rights.
Thank you both for being here.
Vince, I want to start with you because, you know, as we were listening to
those oral arguments, one of the things that we heard was Justice Alito
saying should we be concerned here about the use of Chevron to manipulate
the decisions of this court?
Help people to understand what the Chevron deference is and what that might
mean for where this court is going to go.
VINCE WARREN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS:
Several years ago there was a case called Chevron versus NRDC. And in that
case what the court found was that it was very important for judges to
defer to administrative authorities when there was a question about the
statute`s clarity, about the statutory interpretation.
So here where you have Texas arguing that this only covers intentional
discrimination and not disparate impact, saying that that`s not clear, it`s
not in the statute, what Chevron tells the court to do is actually defer to
HUD, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, for them to fill in
those gaps, to fulfill the broader mission of that statute.
So it`s very important to see how the Supreme Court pivots.
Are they going to listen to HUD or are they going to listen to what they
think the society is ready for in terms of housing discrimination?
HARRIS-PERRY: And so Nikole, I want to follow this up because obviously
there`s this kind of legal set of questions that will emerge. Some of that
I think will be hard for people -- I mean, to start using words like
"deference" and, you know, "administrative rules."
But just at its core, why does disparate impact matter as a standard for
the enforcement of fair housing?
NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: Well, because much of the
discrimination that happens now is very systemic. It`s not about the
individual landlord denying housing to an individual person.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although that happens too.
HANNAH-JONES: It happens all the time. And the law very explicitly
But what this gets at is the way discrimination really happens in a
systemic way, which are banks that charge different groups of people higher
interest rates and they can`t explain why. It`s in the way that insurers
might charge different rates for types of housing that is usually only
available in black communities.
And without disparate impact, you don`t have a bank that`s saying we`re
charging black buyers higher rates because we don`t like black people. You
have them oftentimes not even giving an explanation, just saying, oh, we`re
just charging this part of town a different rate and it just so happens a
lot of black people or Latino people live there.
What disparate impact does is it gets at that. It says if you have this
practice that is hurting or harming or disproportionally harming a
protected class, you have to justify that. If you can`t justify that with
a legitimate practice, you may be violating the law.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels to me, Vince, like because this is about
housing and because housing goes to the very heart of the notion of the
American dream that we have to be able to build a coalition.
People have to think that this matters not only to, although critically
importantly to communities of poverty and to communities of color, why
should this matter if I`m a middle class white American?
Why should I care about disparate impact and about this case?
WARREN: Well, because in our society we recognize that for years we
segregated people based upon race and we still do.
But let`s look at the intergenerational effects of this. This is not
something that happened before 1968 and we`re over with now. It impacts
the very fabric of our society, the ability of people to get to jobs, the
ability to form schools that are full of life of energy and good
connection. It all has to do with how we segregate ourselves as a society
so we all should be concerned about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s this piece in "The Washington Post" with this
incredible graph showing that from 1992 to 2000, both white families and
black homeowners, you know, they`re all kind of losing value. But then --
then it just splits and you just see black families continuing to go under
In what way is that related to housing segregation?
HANNAH-JONES: Well, what they found is that housing segregation makes it
easy to discrimination against certain groups of people because you have
entire communities that are locked out of the standard credit market. And
so lenders can just go into those communities. They don`t even have to
But segregation makes it easy. It`s like shooting fish in a barrel. If
you have entire communities that in the past were red lined, they don`t
have traditional banking, then you go in and offer them exorbitant rates
and either they don`t know or they feel like they don`t have a choice but
to accept them.
Then what`s happened is during the recovery then is those neighborhoods
were the ones that suffered most from foreclosures, their property values
went down the highest and they have not been able to recover.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s so important for people to know that this piece was
about Prince George`s, right? It`s like the middle income kind of black
American dream of this suburb that would be close by and yet we see this
Stick with us, we`ll bring in more voices to the table when we come back.
But speaking of voices, as we go out, I want us to listen to President LBJ
on the day that he signed the Fair Housing Act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNDON JOHNSON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Democracy`s work is
being done. In the Civil Rights Act of 1968, America does move forward.
And the bell of freedom rings out a little louder. We have come some of
the way, not near all of it. There is much yet to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Your home is not an island. Well, I mean unless you`re
super rich and you`ve actually bought yourself an island, which sounds
nice. OK, I digress.
Your home, let`s say this is your home, well, it exists within, say, a
neighborhood, right? There are other homes around it, you know, a
district, a hamlet, whatever you want to call it.
And here`s the deal. When you have that neighborhood, there might be good
jobs around it within commuting distance -- or not. The schools that your
kids go to, they might encourage and challenge them and give them a strong
foundation for the rest of their lives -- or not. The air that you breathe
in your neighborhood might be good and clean or not.
You might have healthy, affordable food at your grocery store or not. You
might be able to walk down the street without fear of crime or not. You
might be able to walk down the street without fear of police or not. Your
political representatives might be a powerful force for their constituents`
interests or not.
Where you live affects everything, your opportunities economically, your
health, your safety and your children`s and all of theirs all depends on
the place that you call home. Fair housing is at the very core of every
other civil right and the Supreme Court may be poised to knock down our
best tool to fight fair housing discrimination.
Still with me, Nikole Hannah-Jones and Vince Warren.
And joining the table, Shanna Smith, who is president of the National Fair
Housing Alliance and Jasmine Rand, civil rights attorney at Rand Law.
Shanna, you at NFHA have been doing this work for a long time.
What would be different if, say, for the past 15 years you had not had
disparate impact as a standard?
What things as you see as foundational would simply not have happened?
SHANNA SMITH, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL FAIR HOUSING ALLIANCE: Well, let`s just
use your house. Lending discrimination is both overt and subtle, with
policies and pricing issues. So in the past 15 years, African American and
Latinos got loans, but they got bad loans.
And the result was that the Department of Justice looked at that and saw
that equally qualified credit qualifications between African American,
Latino and white borrowers, the African American and Latinos were higher
priced, higher fees, predatory loans.
So if the Justice Department couldn`t use disparate impact to challenge
that pricing model, well, they didn`t right away and so we ended up with
this, but the insurance companies, once you get that house, you want
replacement cost coverage so if there`s a loss you get to rebuild your
You get to have everything put back in your house, your clothes, your
furniture. But we challenge the insurance industry because they had a
policy based on the age or value of your house, you couldn`t get
replacement cost coverage.
HARRIS-PERRY: So if you are living in an older, established, African
American neighborhood was your home but then you wouldn`t have that
Part of then what I want to think about here, when we think about all of
this -- and Jasmine, when we think about a court that has brought down
Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, that has entered into the conversation
about affirmative action to reduce the capacity to use it.
If they come for disparate impact, have they -- and during the
administration of the first black president, have they managed to dismantle
the entire civil rights legislative agenda of the 1960s?
JASMINE RAND, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: I think we`re coming very close to
that. In fact I think the Supreme Court has a decision to make and they`re
going to be able to go either way on it. So the decision will really be a
reflection of what they want to see for our nation. There`s a very easy
way to uphold disparate impact.
Under the Chevron principle, all that you have to do is look to HUD and the
administrative policies that they put in place allowing disparate impact.
HUD, as we know, governs the Fair Housing Act. You can also look to Title
VII, employment discrimination, which allows for disparate impact. That`s
And then you want to look at the public policy. You just heard from
President Lyndon B. Johnson on the matter. The whole policy of the Civil
Rights Act was to uphold these fundamental civil rights, not just in the
vacuum of the voting context or the vacuum of employment discrimination,
but to look at the broad impact of the nation, which really begins in the
home, it begins in housing. Housing is fundamental in upholding civil and
human rights in this nation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nikole, you have written so beautifully about this. I made
it into a funny little chart, but you`ve written beautifully about this and
I think also uncovered some of what we find to be a bit of a surprising
history here. So yes, it`s LBJ who first articulates it, but the first
presidential administration who gets a chance to do anything with this act
is actually the Nixon administration and the HUD secretary at the time is
What was his vision for how to actually use this act to bring about a more
fair and just circumstance of housing?
HANNAH-JONES: I think it`s important to know that LBJ actually wanted to
introduce the Fair Housing Act much earlier and they understood that
housing of all of the other civil rights that they were fighting for was
the most toxic. This was a Northern civil rights bill. This was a bill
that went into the homes or the backyards of the Northern congressmen, who
were very much in favor of civil rights that affected the South.
So we`ve always had very uncomfortableness (sic) with dealing with housing
and I think that`s reflected now.
So Nixon appointed George Romney. And George Romney is kind of the
unlikely hero of fair housing. He was a huge champion of using it to
actually -- the Fair Housing Act to break up housing segregation.
So when the court is kind of looking at what did -- what did the -- what
was the -- what did the Fair Housing Act intend, what they`re showing is
that one of the biggest cases initially was blackjack. In that case it was
looking at zoning and the administration was saying, yes, the Fair Housing
Act covers disparate impact. It covers policies that have an effect on a
large group of people, usually African Americans.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Romney himself, George Romney, let`s be clear, who was
at the time secretary of HUD, actually called the patterns of housing
discrimination "a white noose around the black inner city." This
reflection of an understanding of that connection and thought that the
federal government ought to really aggressively use its power.
Vince, when we come back, I want to talk to you about other protective
classes and to think a little bit about where the fair housing fight goes
And up next, the mandate to affirmatively further fair housing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Local and state governments that receive federal funds are
required to do more than not discriminate. They are also obligated to
affirmatively further the purposes of the Fair Housing Act.
So, Shanna, how we doing on that?
SMITH: Well, if you look at the Fair Housing Act, it was passed to
eliminate housing discrimination and promote residential integration. So
in order to do that, you have to combat intentional discrimination in
policies and practices. And then you have to affirmatively take steps to
rectify the results of that discrimination.
But the Fair Housing Act doesn`t require quotas; it doesn`t require you to
have set-asides for people, it just opens up the door so everybody has that
HARRIS-PERRY: And when you talk about everybody, you know, we`ve been
focused very clearly on race here in part because that`s the crucible in
which this was formed. But there were other protected classes under the
Fair Housing Act.
And in fact, my mom talks about having experiences of housing
discrimination in the late `70s as a result of being a single mom, right?
And it wasn`t that it was race; she was showing up as a white woman, but
she was a white woman alone with children and people who didn`t want to
rent or sell to her.
WARREN: Exactly. So this is much broader than race, which I think speaks
to the societal nature. There is -- gender is a protected class. Familial
status as we talked about, that you can`t discriminate on people based upon
single parent status and things like that. Religion is something that also
When you begin to look at it in that context, there are a range of things
that a government or a state can do, not focusing particularly on those
things but can make for devastating consequences, things like building --
not being able to build housing next to or around particular religious
communities or in a religious context or creating income guidelines that
single people can`t meet.
So there are a range of things that society wants to have happen, which is
have people have fair housing and affordable housing, that gets thwarted if
the Supreme Court decides to take away discriminatory impact.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I get the feeling like we are missing what actual --
what produces inequality -- and the Don Sterling thing for me is the
clearest example. The whole country gets all revved up about him saying
words that are bad and negative words towards people of color, but he
already had a settlement in which basically it was clear that, in his
housing practices, he had discriminated against people.
But that seemed to be less relevant.
And I wonder is this right at the core of how the court is thinking, that
it`s not quite sure what it is we think discrimination is anymore?
Anybody on that one?
RAND: I mean I think when we`re talking about discrimination, nobody --
and Don Sterling is a rare example because he actually vocalized his
discriminatory behavior. But before that you made an important point, he
had already demonstrated this pattern which may have been perceived to be
nondiscriminatory at that point, although it had a discriminatory outcome.
That`s what`s happening within our nation. Most people are intelligent
enough not to vocalize their hatred of another person based on race or
religion or class. And what happens is find these ways to systematically
deny people the right that the Fair Housing Act meant to protect, which is
the right to live where you want to live in a community where you have
HARRIS-PERRY: Can you imagine if we had to wait for every disparate impact
to have their Don Sterling public moment? To have to get into the brains
And I also wonder, Shanna, if part of what happens is once you see
disparate impact, it doesn`t have to be then you sue the person. Like if
you see that a policy has a disparate impact, there`s possibilities for
active working together as organizations.
SMITH: Absolutely. We now continue to work with insurance companies all
the time as they`re developing policies. They run it by us, saying, do you
think this could have a disparate impact and we tell them, run these tests.
See -- if it does have a disparate impact, let`s sit down and talk about a
less discriminatory way you can do this.
It is not about -- disparate impact isn`t about intent; it`s about the
result of your policy. And the remedies are not race conscious. The
remedies are to open up the door, to treat everybody fairly so everybody
gets the same shot.
And I think the Supreme Court understands that -- well, members of the
court understand that it is not a race-conscious remedy, it`s a remedy that
removes a barrier that has a disparate impact.
Now some policies, though, sometimes people do develop a policy. Banks
have said we`re not going to make loans in Indiana to homes that had 1,200
Well, those homes and the bankers knew that that was an African American
community that was built after the war for veterans. So sometimes they
make a policy and they understand what they`re doing, but I would say a lot
of times the actuaries at an insurance company, the underwriters, they
haven`t been trained in fair housing so they just go, this is a good
HARRIS-PERRY: Nikole, just briefly. You`ve been reporting on this for a
Are you optimistic?
When you think about what this court is likely to do, are you optimistic
that disparate impact holds on the back end of this?
HANNAH-JONES: It`s hard to be optimistic because the court has been
fighting so hard to get this case. This is the third time it`s tried to
take it up in the last three years and you can be pretty sure it`s not the
liberal justices who want to take it up.
But with that said, Scalia has been a bit of a surprise.
HARRIS-PERRY: He said Chevron like 15 times.
HANNAH-JONES: He`s been very opposed to disparate impact. He has said
that he doesn`t believe disparate impact -- that he believes that violates
the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
At the same time he`s deferred to regulatory agencies. And his line of
questioning surprised a lot of people. So I don`t tend to be optimistic
about these things in general, but it looks like Scalia may have something
in surprise for us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Love that.
Thank you to Nikole Hannah Jones and to Shanna Smith. Vince and Jasmine
are staying with us.
Up next, the president who tries something different with the media that
even made reporters say, you sure that`s a good idea?
HARRIS-PERRY: On this day in 1961, President John F. Kennedy launched what
would become a staple on the office, the first live televised presidential
He`d already proved his natural affinity for the relative menu phenomenon
of television during the 1960 presidential debate with Republican opponent
Richard Nixon. While Kennedy appeared well-groomed and in control, Nixon
was seen as sweaty and flustered, that debate would be a game changer for
Kennedy and every politician who followed him.
Five days after taking the oath of office, Kennedy demonstrated that same
calm, cool demeanor as he faced more than 400 reporters and 65 million
viewers from a podium in the state department auditorium. For 37 minutes
he took questions on issues president are still being asked about today,
everything from bone rights to Cuba.
But in 1961 that kind of presidential calendar on live T.V. was so rare
even the press express concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President there has been some apprehension besides
the instantaneous broadcast of Presidential press conferences such as this
one, the contention an inadvertent statement no longer correctible, as in
the old days, could possibly cause some grave consequences. Do you feel
there is any risk or could you give us some thought on that subject.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FMR U.S. PRESIDENT: I don`t think that the interests of
our country are -- it seems to me they`re as well protected under this
system as they were under the system followed by President Eisenhower. And
this system has the advantage of providing more direct communication.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite that initial skepticism, Kennedy would hold 64 press
conferences during his brief presidency, attracting on average 18 million
Now, more than 50 years, later another media savvy president is once again
facing questions about the appropriateness of his engagement with the
Thursday, President Obama sat down with three YouTube stars to discuss his
State of the Union Address. Many of the questions were insightful, but
there were also some amusing moments including this exchange with YouTube
sensation, GloZell Green.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GLOZELL GREEN, GLOZELL GREEN: I have green lipsticks. One for.
BARACK OBAMA, U.S. PRESIDENT: Yes.
GLOZELL GREEN: -- your first wife, I mean.
OBAMA: My first?
GREEN: I mean, I mean.
OBAMA: You know something I don`t?
GREEN: Oh boy, for the First Lady.
OBAMA: One for the First Lady.
GREEN: .and the First Children.
OBAMA: And the First. I`m teasing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Film media critics wondered if the YouTube sessions were
worthy of the Office of the President.
But consider this, the three YouTube stars combined have nearly 14 million
subscribers also known as potential voters. It was on flick Mr.
President`s proof that sometimes trying a new way to reach a new audience
may be just as worth it today as it was for the young president who took a
chance on live T.V. on this day, January 25th, 1961.
HARRIS-PERRY: A jury pool of 9,000 is slowly being whittled down to a mere
24 people, 12 jurors, and 12 alternates for the trial of James Eagan
Holmes, the man accused of killing 12 people and injuring dozens more
inside a Colorado movie theater. Some of the largest jury pools in U.S.
Police say, two and a half years ago Holmes sacked into a movie theater in
the Denver suburb of Aurora and open fire on 421 people watching a midnight
showing of the Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises".
According to police, Holmes used three different types of gun, a
semiautomatic variation of the military`s M16 riffle, a pump-action 12
gauge shotgun, and at least one 40-caliber semiautomatic pistol. Witnesses
say he walked calmly and silently through the theater as he fired.
Holmes says -- pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but he could be
sentenced to death on multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted
It is a rare occurrence to have a person accused of a deadly mass shooting
to go on trial and face a judge and jury.
As the Washington Post points out, "An FBI study of active shooter
situations looked at 160 incidents between 2000 and 2013, a list that named
the Aurora shooting as the deadliest during that period. More than half
ended when the gunman stopped shooting, often because he committed suicide
or fled, nearly half of the shooters looked at by the study ended their own
Joining the table, Dr. Jonathan Metzl, who`s Director of the Center for
Medicine, Health and Society and professor of psychiatry at Venderbilt
University. He also has a new article in the American Journal of Public
Health, "Mental Illness, Mass Shootings and the Politics of American
And so, I want to start with -- Jonathan, you have kind of some assumptions
that we often work from in moments like this, and one of them is this idea
that mental illness causes gun violence. What`s wrong with that
JONATHAN METZL, PROFESSOR OF PSYCHIATRY, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Well, and
let me just say, first of all, they`re talking about the Aurora shooting.
Of course, the Aurora shooting like all mass shootings is an unconscionable
tragedy? 12 people lost their lives, 70 people were badly injured, and a
whole community, a whole country were traumatized.
The problem we get into with focusing so much on the mass shootings and I
think it`ll be at the case on this trial, is that it reinforces the notion
that there are crazy people running around the country kind of trying to
And what we know from -- with research we did in the article with my
colleague Ken MacLeish and I, we looked at the cases of shootings across
the country over the last 50 years. And what we found was that, first of
all, persons with mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of
crime, than the perpetrators of crime overwhelmingly.
And the second, that if you really want to stop then violence, not in terms
of mass shooting but in terms of everyday violence, you know, one of the
main factors we argue is that there are factors associated with sanity not
with insanity. So things like, are there guns in bars, do you have a loud
neighbor, all these kinds of every day factors and the availability of
And so, really, the problem with these trials is that we just focus. This
trial is entirely going to be on the question of mental illness. But
really we should be asking at the same time, how can we stop every day
violence, and that is not linked to mental illness.
HARRIS PERRY: I mean, there just is a way that a moment like that shooting
is not just horrifying in the moment but terrorizing. In fact, like it
makes you feel like at any moment we could be victimized in a random way.
But the realities are that, particularly for a woman for example, you`re
much more likely to be victimized by an intimate much more.
If you`re going to die with gun violence, probably not in a movie theater,
it is much more likely to be because your partner, your spouse and you`re
in a circumstance of domestic -- with the thing that`s domestic violence.
How do we certainly seek justice there, but also look for just rules that
are actually much more likely to impact us on a day-to-day basis?
RAND: I think you have to start with overall gun policy. Because if we`re
placing these guns into peoples hand so easily, then, you know, we can`t
blame it solely on mental illness. You know, that`s an easy escape goat to
say, "Oh, well, it is just metal ill people that are using these guns."
But it`s not always mentally ill people.
You know, we`ve seen the issue with officers, and we have culture that
promotes the use of guns. You know, we have this movie that just came out
called, "American Sniper." And that`s -- the name alone is indicative of
how our nation feels about the use of guns.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, we like them. I mean, we like, we own them, we
romanticize them. You know, we were just sort of, you know, looking at
this amazing image from Colorado.
A waitress says who, you know, sort of open carries, you know, they`re
carrying their side arms while working, you know, waiting tables. And I,
you know, I get the reasons why that might be sort of a fun Colorado
Western moment, but there`s also, I think in their -- the sense of like
that it`s so deeply entrenched in our culture that we would never talk
about making guns less available but much more likely than simply talk
about crazy people doing the bad thing with them.
WARREN: No. I think that`s right and I agree that this type of
cataclysmic event causes people to focus on the wrong things.
So, what we are talking about with this case is what is the problem that
we`re really trying to solve as a society. And I think that surely this
case is going to deal with the problem with this particular person in that
But the broader question really is, as we are talking about, is how do guns
actually play out on a day-to-day? What is the sort of hidden effect in --
of having so many guns in our society?
And I`m, you know, thinking about this example that it does make sense to
have sort of guns as a natural -- national heritage symbol. But the
heritage historical symbol doesn`t imply what`s happening now which is that
we use them to kill each other. We`re not shooting elk, we`re not, you
know, out there pioneering. We are shooting each other in almost bizarrely
mundane ways that we need to be talking about.
HARRIS-PERRY: But that mundane is not -- I mean, instead, we don`t focus
on the mundane but the spectacular. And then we want you to become our
frontline. So, you are practicing psychiatrist. Shouldn`t you be telling
us which of your patients are likely to turn into Mr. Holmes?
METZL: Well, there have been roughly 200 mass shootings since the 1970s in
the United States. Meanwhile, there have been 32,000 gun deaths on average
And so, I think psychiatrists and public health scholars really have a very
hard time predicting even among the many patients they see which one of
their patients is going to be violent. And certainly, they can`t predict
this 200 awfully tragic but statistically random events which are mass
Psychiatrists can say there are things that are risk factors for gun
violence such as the past history of violence, a past history of assaults,
substance use, these are all the things that unfortunately many legislators
are enabling rather than making more difficult.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. When we come back, one of the thing that we`ll talk
about is the fact that actually Michigan Governor Rick Snyder made a
decision go against the NRA on exactly on issue like that. We`ll check
that it was sort of fascinating.
The other thing we want to talk about is what happened to this African-
American man who was carrying a gun for which he had a legal permit. When
we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: A 62-year-old man in Florida was tackled and held to the
ground in a chokehold as he try to shop inside a local WalMart because he
was carrying a gun lawfully.
In this video, you can see the African-American man, Clarence Daniels,
knocked to the floor by Michael Foster, he`s a 42-year-old white man you
see there. As Foster tackled Daniels, he yells to other that Daniels has a
gun to which Daniels yells back, "I have a permit."
According to police, Foster side Daniels in the parking lot placing the
handgun underneath his coat and try to take matters into his own hands.
Daniels did indeed have a permit to carry. Foster was arrested and charged
Is the second amendment only for people who are not African-American men?
METZL: We`ll, I think that there -- with our two competing discourses
right now. On one hand there is this second amendment conversation, we
want though -- we want -- firearms we have open carry, we want, you know,
dudes walking around, you know, coffee shops and burrito restaurants with
And at the same time there`s a historical in there that taps into the
longstanding fear of the black gun owner. And as we show in the paper you
mentioned before this actually goes back to the 1960s when the moment of
the civil rights, you know, that the Black Panther`s wanted guns and Malcom
X wanted guns for self defense. All of a sudden, everybody is like no,
no, no we need gun control.
And so all of the sudden, you know, the NRA supported the Gun Control Act
of 1968 for example.
And so there are these competing discourses that play to racial stereotypes
really about a bigger conversation about the raise of firearms.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this is a tough one in part of me because I do think
I`ve spent a fair bit of time on the show, you know, trying to think about
more sensible, more reasonable gun legislation.
On the other hand I grew up in a household -- my father`s household had
guns. My father believes that people should know how to shoot a gun. I
have a gun in my household. And yet the open carry in particular, it never
makes me feel safer. I don`t care the race of anyone when I see guns in my
chipotle, in my Starbucks it is, you know.
HARRIS-PERRY: In any public space. It only makes me feel more nervous.
WARREN: I don`t blame you. And I think the discourse narrative plays out
like this there`s nothing more American than an American with a gun. And
there`s nothing more dangerous than an African-American with a gun.
Like -- So that`s how that plays out. And, you know, I think the equality
paradigm and I`m not conflicted by it. But part of what we do as civil
rights attorneys is we`re trying to say that African-American folks have
the same -- the right to do things -- stupid things that white folks do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, right.
WARREN: Right. So that`s part of the analysis.
WARREN: But I think we`re elevating this is that let`s look the stupid
thing that we`re doing nightly and really ask this question. Should we be
doing it at all?
WARREN: And I think that`s where I think I will agree with your analysis.
RAND: I think this case is, it`s really fascinating because what we an
African-American man expressing he`s rights to open carry gun and I agree
with you. I`m not comfortable with anybody of any race carrying gun inside
stores, I believe in the home.
But, you know, what very interesting is you`re seeing this vigilante
behavior once again with majority white man in the WalMart attacking this
black man who has a right to be there with his concealed weapon.
But on the back end I`m really kind of proud of the local sherif because he
said this type of vigilante behavior will not be tolerated and this man was
charged with a battery. And didn`t -- as a civil right attorney, I didn`t
expect to see that outcome.
RAND: So when I started looking at this case I`m saying, "Oh, and he
wasn`t arrested," and then when I find that he`s charged with a battery, I
think that`s good sign of progress.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. You know, at this point there`ll be kind of three big
stories that have been headlines over the course of the past few months.
First it was the WalMart killing of John Crawford, right? John Carwford
III the young African-American man who was walking around the WalMart with
an item that is sold in the store, right? The 911 call comes in and we`re
able to see on that surveillance tape where officers come in and shoot him.
And then the other kind of tragedy where a mom in WalMart with her two-
year-old and her two year old pulls the gun out of the diaper bag and shoot
him, you know, obviously accidentally shoots and kills his mother. And
every point I think who are we kidding about this idea that we are being
made safer by this.
METZL: No. I think that`s absolutely right. I mean, like Walmart has I
think has some issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, right. But then they`re usually labor practice issues
not like gun violence issues, right.
METZL: I mean, I would also say that this is a microcosm of I think the
bigger gun issue which is on one hand, you know, we -- as much as we have
the rhetoric and we want to -- the crazy person, it`s really the everyday
violence that is at issue here and in a way. I think this illustrates in
the other point is that in emotionally charged moments when people feel
threatened, they fall back on stereotypes.
METZL: Racial stereotypes very often. And so, having a gun present at
that moment just leaves to these kind of outcomes.
HARRIS-PERRY: But you want to give everyone in those circumstances the
feeling of threatened. You want to give them five more seconds.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right? To pause to make a decision, because I have to say
this is how low my expectations have become. I mean, (inaudible) that I
was just so happy no one was shot in that video like I thought, "Oh, thank
God they tackled him" I mean, like please don`t tackle someone with the
legal rights to carry a gun but I just kept thinking of John Crawford III
and how it could have turned out so differently.
Thank you to Vince Warren and to Jasmine Rand. Johnson is going to back in
the next hour.
But before we go to break I do want to update you on the next major winter
storm set to wall up the East Coast over the next 36 hours. The historic
storm is expected to bring blizzard-like conditions to New England.
Some areas could get up to two feet snow. It comes as residences are still
cleaning up from Saturday snowstorm. The first significant snow fall so
far this winter.
Stay with MSNBC for the latest on the weather conditions.
And still to come this morning, the debate over American Sniper. my letter
of the week, and the news conference from Saturday afternoon that had been
More Nerland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And by now, you
have undoubtedly heard about the case of the under inflated footballs used
by the New England Patriots during last Sunday`s AFC Championship Game.
First, the Indianapolis Colts sensed something wasn`t quite right with the
game balls. Then the Pat`s coach told reporters he has never even had a
conversation about ball pressure in his whole career. Then the Pat`s
quarterback told us all about how he likes his footballs but claims he
didn`t do anything unusual or untoward to his balls last Sunday.
By yesterday afternoon, we figured that our inner 12-year-old would have
been sent back to our collective subconscious because surely, there was no
further ball talk possible from this particular kerfufflel.
But all of that changed when the Patriots` head coach Bill Belichick held
yet another press conference Saturday afternoon. But this time, he took a
very different approach. This press conference was about the science of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL BELICHICK, NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS HEAD COACH: We found that once the
balls -- the footballs were on the field over an extended period of time,
in other words, they were adjusted to the climatic conditions and also the
fact that the balls, you know, reached an equilibrium without the rubbing
process that after that had, you know, run its course and the footballs had
reached an equilibrium that they were down approximately 1.5 pounds per
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Could life be better? It`s about the balls and the rubbing
process. That`s right. The Patriots conducted their very own simulation
to review the way that their game footballs are prepared to meet league
requirements. Through their experiment they found that after the footballs
are conditioned to meet the standards of both the NFL and the quarterback,
once the footballs are used outside, climate and atmospheric pressure can
result in substantial deflation. The hypothesis Belichick ultimately
rendered is that the climate could be responsible for the footballs` under-
inflation. Belichick did qualify his hypothesis with this, though.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BELICHICK: I`m embarrassed to talk about the amount of time that I`ve put
into this relative to the other important challenge in front of us. I`m
not a scientist, I`m not an expert in footballs, I`m not an expert in
football measurements, I`m just telling you what I know. I would not say
that I`m Mona Lisa Vito of the football world, as she was in the car
expertise area, all right?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Man, I love him. Kudos to Belichick for working in a
performance of Marisa Tomei Oscar winning performance in "My Cousin Vinny."
Listen, he`s not an expert, I thought it might be useful to talk to some
people who are. Here at the table, Professor Chang Kee Jung, who is a
professor of physics at Stony Brook University who, in fact, teaches a
course entitled "The Physics of Sports." Kavitha Davidson who`s sports
columnist at Bloomberg View. Jason Page, host of the week night NBC Sports
radio program "Up Late with Jason Page" and Chris Valletta who is a former
NFL player and author of "Team Works: The Gridiron Playbook for Building a
Championship Business Team." Professor --
CHANG KEE JUNG, PROFESSOR, STONYBROOK UNIVERSITY: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Was that a solid hypothesis? Seriously. Like, is the
process he went through like a reasonable experiment to get us to some kind
of conclusion about what may have happened.
KEE JUNG: So I`m a physicist, I`m trying to be factual as much as
KEE JUNG: To have that kind of effect of just atmospheric pressure alone,
you need to have some kind of condition of tornado when initial
measurements are made and then, you know, on the field. But actually the
things that makes more influence is the temperature. So if your initial
pressure was pressured at higher temperature, room temperature, say 80
degree Fahrenheit, and then on the field it was a 51-degree Fahrenheit, and
that will make at most one psi difference. So the big question here is all
of these theories, however, is a moot because the physics is universal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. So why would it be 11 in footballs and not 12.
KEE JUNG: Right. If there is 12 footballs, if it`s subject to any kind of
theory, I don`t care whatever difficult theory, but it has subject to all
12 footballs as well as to another 12 footballs the Colts had. So I would
like to know what are those measurements are. Why is there one particular
football measured normally and 11 measured under?
HARRIS-PERRY: So that of course -- that was my very first thought. Okay.
Physics doesn`t work differently for some footballs and then for others and
yet, so I don`t want to miss this. So you played in the role of center,
right? So that means that before your quarterback gets the football, you
get the football.
CHRIS VALLETTA, FORMER NFL PLAYER: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: For my mother who`s watching who may not, right?
VALLETTA: You`ve grabbed a lot of footballs. My fair share.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the way the whole thing starts is it`s an interception
and the defensive player is like this doesn`t feel right. If you`re the
center, would you notice, right, before you hike the ball -- would you have
noticed this ball is a little squishy, it`s soft.
VALLETTA: Not necessarily. But look, I will say this, this whole thing is
being exploded to proportions that are completely unbelievable.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because it`s so great!
VALLETTA: It is. But let me tell you this. Tom Brady makes his living
knowing every square inch of that football. Every stitch, every single
piece of it, he knows how they feel, he knows how they carry in the air, he
knows when they have been broken in versus when they haven`t. The
equipment managers, the staff, the coaches, including Belichick, they all
know exactly what kind of footballs Tom Brady likes to use on the sideline.
And, I`d like to add, when footballs come off the field, they`re usually
dried off in in -- weather, they`re usually put in places that keep them
warm so that they don`t stiffen in the cold weather.
HARRIS-PERRY: Everyone is very kind to the footballs.
VALLETTA: I will say. This is clearly an issue that is much larger than
deflate gate. This is an issue that`s addressing the integrity of the NFL,
the integrity of Belichick and many more issues.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I agree. I actually think that -- I mean it`s fun
because we get to say balls over and over and we get to learn things like
you guys really know one another`s balls and take care of them and that
kind of thing. But I want to go back to the science for a bit because
instead of going to an ethical question which was the first response was, I
am not a cheater. And then it was like, are you guys just being
ridiculous. But ultimately yesterday when Belichick comes out and decides
to kind of go through a long, you know, pseudoscientific discourse, then he
draws us right back in. We have to ask, you know, his response to the 11
out of 12 was each is an animal and each one is made out of leather that
could be different and may have been rubbed or manipulated differently and
that`s why you wouldn`t have a universal outcome.
KEE JUNG: I think that`s very unlikely. And then again, I will say that
what is a measurement of the other 12 balls Colts used. Okay? So it just
-- it`s highly unlikely just one particular ball.
JASON PAGE, HOST, "UP LATE WITH JASON PAGE": Well, it obviously fell -- it
obviously fell, the Colts footballs obviously fell between 12-and-a-half
and 13-and-a-half because they fell within regulations. If they hadn`t,
then we would have known it by now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because they surely must have checked all of those
PAGE: Correct. And it`s important to note this too. The Patriots
footballs, there was talk that there`s 11 of 12. There`s still some people
that are suggesting it may have been all 12 footballs. So, while we`re all
assuming it`s 11 of 12, there`s still a chance that all 12 footballs may
have fallen below the league`s standards by at least two psi and maybe
more. And that`s the thing right now. We`re still in a waiting game. We
still don`t have all the information from the NFL. They`re staying very
quiet on this.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I am not at all surprised to discover that there is psi
shrinkage in cold weather, but that said, does it matter, right? Like
should -- would this have had any ultimate outcome changer? Why should we
care so much?
KAVITHA DAVIDSON, SPORTS COLUMNIST, BLOOMBERG VIEW: So I think on the one
hand people are saying, you know, the Patriots totally blew out the Colts
and this didn`t actually have a meaningful effect on the game. And while
that`s true, we can also look back at other games against the Ravens, for
example, that were closer and wonder what the actual effect there is. The
overarching question that still hasn`t really been answered though is how
common of practices actually is. There are players and there are equipment
managers who are saying that this really isn`t that a big deal. Yes, in
the rule book. But you know, it`s kind of just look the other way, that
people don`t really comply by this, that deflation happens often. That
quarterbacks are very specific about how their footballs are handled.
HARRIS-PERRY: Does it affect -- from a physics perspective, does it affect
how that ball flies? Does it affect, I mean, obviously in bad weather if
it`s softer, it`s going to be easier for the quarterback to grip and for
the receivers to catch, but is there anything else about the physics of
this ball that changes with that kind of deflation?
KEE JUNG: Oh, sure. It really for the optimal conditions, if you want to
throw the ball long or kick long, you would like to have more proper
inflation. Okay? So if you make it a little bit softer, really is it good
for the bad weather, you have good grip so that you can throw it with a
tight spiral which accuracy is the most important thing at the time.
Especially teams like the New England Patriots, who lives with short
passes. I don`t know what is the statistics of that particular game. I
bet there was not that many long throws. And not only is it good for
throwing, but also receivers like it when it is softer and also running
backs like it because it prevents them fumbling. So it is all good for in
a bad weather a little bit softer. One thing I go back is that it measured
psi was indoor when the officers measured it. It was indoor at 10.5. That
could have been 9.5 on the field. So that would have made --
VALLETTA: Not by the time they went back in.
PAGE: And the tighter the spiral, the further the football is going to go
as well, right?
KEE JUNG: Yes. The tighter spiral will get you more accuracy and further.
So in bad weather it really helps in terms of having good grip.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Professor Chang Kee Jung for mostly putting up
with our silliness. And man, I would take that class.
Up next, what we learn from the Black Sox of 1919 stance on deflate gate.
Ballgazi when we get back.
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC Sunday night football is one of the most watched
primetime programs on television. On any given Sunday, more than 21
million people tune in to watch their teams take the field and take part in
some good ole competition. Some fans still even relinquish the comforts of
the couch and choose to root for their players in person, sometimes during
brutal weather conditions, all because of the love of the game. And that
love of the game has to do with the competition. A competition that hinges
on one central assumption that the game is actually competitive. That it`s
fair. So what happens if it`s not? Consider one of the most infamous
sports scandals in history, the 1919 black sox scandal when eight Chicago
White Sox opted for big bucks over fair play and conspired to throw World
Series games, ensuring a win for the Cincinnati reds. After news of the
scandal broke, the league appointed the first baseball commissioner Kenesaw
One of his first tasks was to decide what the league should do about the
eight alleged conspirators. He banned them all from the game forever.
Legally the eight were indicted on counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and
faced trial. In the end, however, they were acquitted and nothing really
happened to the league or to the game itself. In fact the Chicago White
Sox were seventh in the league in 1921 and baseball lived to fight and
thrive another day. Years later, some of those days even included a series
of steroid scandals with players are officially increasing testosterone
levels to get a competitive edge. But the sport of baseball, fine. This
year the NFL has seen scandals involving individual players and their lives
off the field, mainly the infamous allegations of domestic violence and
child abuse. Fans still watch the game every week. But the NFL news this
week is different. This scandal has to do with the way the game itself is
played down to down, end zone to end zone. How does a scandal on the field
impact the game, if at all.
Back at the table is Jonathan Metzl, director of Center for Medicine Health
and Society. And professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University. I want
to ask about this. Is this a moment when again, nobody is turning it off,
everybody is going to watch the game. You know, this is the pro bowl and
then they`ll all going to watch the Super Bowl. But does this like do a
thing because it`s different, even if it`s small, it`s different that off-
field scandals when you`re talking about something on the fields.
DAVIDSON: I think that that`s a more important distinction to make. That
fans are a lot more willing to express outraged when they feel like the
integrity of their game is been compromised than necessarily the personal
integrity of their athletes, let`s say. That said, I think that we tend to
be both very moralistic and very idealistic when it comes to the actual
fairness of our sports. Right? I mean, there are all of these unwritten
rules that we don`t really acknowledge in the open and there are a lot of
inconsistencies that exist. Baseball stadiums aren`t regulated for their
dimensions, for example, so I think that there are many ways that there
isn`t actually an even playing field that we kind of overlook because we
like to think of sports as the ultimate competitive arena.
HARRIS-PERRY: Look, as a Saints fan, it`s not fair that we have to play
outside, ever. Why would one have to play football outside? Right?
PAGE: Listen, I don`t think fans care as much about fairness as you think,
and here is why. I think sports is entertainment. And entertainment is
entertainment, whether there`s fixing -- boxing is still enormously popular
worldwide. Boxing matches, how many people talked about boxing matches
being fixed. One of the most popular things on the planet is WWE
wrestling. Everybody knows it`s fake, but everybody still goes and watches
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it`s not --
PAGE: It`s entertaining.
HARRIS-PERRY: It was not fake. In fact there`s a lawsuit right now with
some of the folks about the injuries they sustained.
PAGE: But the outcomes are fixed.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. But I do get your point that entertainment
is a different question than whether or not it`s sports-like competition.
And so, then maybe it goes to the question of what part of the sports world
we`re talking about. So, you know, one of my favorite new reality shows is
the Friday night tykes and the idea that like the kids engaged in football.
So whenever we think about the NFL, like at the core it teaches you
something about competition and teamwork.
VALLETTA: So I`ve spent my entire professional career outside of the game
on that exact topic. I believe wholeheartedly that athletes represent the
skills, the tools, the methodologies to be excellent not only in life but
in business and their relationships. I think what we`re talking about here
is the one percent that make the mistakes and that`s what we tend to focus
on. I truly believe the NFL is a league of integrity. I believe that the
game is a game of integrity. It`s built on sportsmanship, it`s built on
integrity, it`s built on honor and code. I believe in it so much that I
think that the skills that you learn in that sport, especially at the young
age to the show that you just talked about, are translatable to every
single facet of your life. I think that athletes represent the best
business people. I think they represent people that can hold the highest
level of standard. Because you look at people that are being focused in
the media right now and that is what`s giving this halo effect to the
entire NFL. It`s unfortunate, but I truly believe the NFL is in a power
position right now to represent those qualities and broadcast them to the
public in a way that they have never seen before.
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is fascinating. I wish Dave Zirin could just like
pop down in the middle because I know that a fight would occur. But like
there`s such a part of me that knows all the guys who are those guys and
who like, you know, I have core experiences where I`m like, yep, that`s
exactly, you know, the guys I know who played. I want to show this because
it went to it in an interesting way that sesame street got in on it because
it did feel this was the childhood part of it. I want to see Sesame Street
planting a shade tree over the NFL.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: We`re here to tell you all about the word inflate.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Inflate, baby.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Now, the word "inflate" means to fill something up
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Inflate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So that was the word of the day on Friday, right? I mean I
just -- at least it wasn`t ball. I mean, it`s great.
METZL: I want to be that wind sock guy for Halloween next year. So, I`m
honored to be at this table as a psychiatrist, a profession that really has
a long history of thinking about what men will do in competition with each
other and also about balls. But I would say that when I watched the Bilts,
I have no horse in this race at all, I`m from Kansas City and we never even
make it this far for the most part. But when Belichick started saying, we
follow the rules to the letter, it was almost a textbook kind of, you know
if you look at the letter charm on the psychology of cheating, that`s the
kind of language people used is to be very, there`s a kind of slippery
HARRIS-PERRY: The kind of the technical.
METZL: The technical point and the fact that basically if winning
supersedes everything, people will start to kind of fall down that slope
where they won`t see the ethical implications. And the other idea goes
back to what you`re talking about before which is this idea that everyone
else is doing it. That was the rationale people used during the steroid
METZL: So I think that, you know, there`s a lot of insight into that press
conference that told us maybe about -- you know, I`ve never met the man and
again, I`m rooting for the chiefs, but I think that there was a lot going
on that was interesting.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is one thing, because I did feel like you evoked the
spirit of Dave Zirin here, and made me think about one of the piece. This
notion of the technical letter of the law, which we`re saying, you know,
whatever that is. But in the NCAA, take it out of the NFL. In the NCAA it
has ruined young men and women. This technical letter of the law and the
way the NCAA acts about tiny infractions that don`t impact the outcome of
games, I guess part of what I`m wondering, what feels unfair to me is the
idea that the rich, powerful guys get away with tiny infractions when often
like the kids who are making millions for their schools and nothing for
themselves end up losing scholarships over things like this.
DAVIDSON: Right, exactly. And I think that that -- it`s really important
to separate the idea of sports and the fantastic things that athletes do
for us and sports teach us as human beings from the professionalization and
the organization of sports and the corrupting power that that absolutely
has. Because, you know, I think that holding an entire organization of
professional athletes and coaches to the standard that athletes are the
best businessmen and the best people really makes us overreact when they
don`t live up to that ideal. So when we kind of -- when the glass kind of
shatters a little bit, we`re not prepared for just how human these people
are and just how flawed some of these people can be too.
HARRIS-PERRY: And humanity is what pushes them toward making choices that
are sometimes bad ones around the competition. Chris Valletta, I am
keeping you at this table at some point. You are coming back. We`re going
to have a fight about whether or not it is good for your mind and your soul
and your spirit.
VALLETTA: Let`s do it.
HARRIS-PERRY: To play sports. Because I think it is and then Dave Zirin
tells me it`s not. It`s just very confusing. Thank you to Kavitha
Davidson and to Jason Page and to Chris Valletta. Jonathan is sticking
around because I like him hanging out here.
But up next, why no one is being held accountable in the murder of a 16-
HARRIS-PERRY: I wanted to tell you about a homicide case that caught my
attention. In December of 2010 Phylicia Barnes, 16-year-old honor student,
suddenly vanished while visiting her older half-sister in Baltimore.
Phylicia had everything going for her. She was beautiful, smart, she was
set to graduate from high school early and was applying to college. In
April of 2011, Phylicia`s body was found in a river about an hour from her
sister`s home. She had died of asphyxiation. Police ruled it a homicide.
For more than a year Phylicia`s family waited for answers. Finally in
April of 2012, a man named Michael Johnson was arrested and charged with
Phylicia`s murder. Johnson was Phylicia`s sister`s ex-boyfriend and had
been staying at the home when Phylicia disappeared. Johnson pleaded not
guilty and the case went to trial.
One key witness, a man named James McCray, testified that Johnson called
him to ask for help disposing of Phylicia`s body. McCray`s testimony was
so crucial because he could tie Johnson directly to the murder. The jury
found Johnson guilty of second-degree murder, but at the sentencing the
judge threw out the conviction on the grounds that the prosecutors had
withheld information about McCray from the defense. A second trial began
in December of last year without McCray`s testimony. After the prosecution
rested its case, the judge, a different judge this time, granted the
defense request for a mistrial. This time on the grounds that the
prosecutors had exposed jurors to material they weren`t supposed to see.
Then this past week, the judge dropped all charges against Michael Johnson.
The judge cited insufficient evidence calling the prosecution`s case
unarguably circumstantial. The district attorney vowed to appeal, thing
the judge had, quote, "no jurisdiction to judge the acquittal." For now,
Phylicia Barnes` family will have to wait even longer for justice. We
don`t know if there will be another trial. What we do know is that we have
another case of a young black woman killed and no one being held
accountable. All lives matter. Phylicia`s life matters.
Joining me now from Baltimore, Maryland, is Barnes family spokesman Don
Rondeau and Phylicia`s father, Russell Barnes. Mr. Barnes, thank you for
being with us. Can you talk to me about how you and your family are
responding to this latest judge`s decision?
RUSSELL BARNES, FATHER OF PHYLICIA BARNES: Myself and my family, we`re
really in disbelief on what has happened in this case. We just -- our
hearts are like shattered, you know. We just don`t understand how the
judge has just ruled that this person can walk out of the jail on Tuesday.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, obviously, you know, you have a beautiful 16-year-old
daughter and she just goes missing. I know that you all -- you put up
purple ribbons because purple was her favorite color, that you organized
people in the community to try to find her before her body was found.
During all of that, were you at all or any members of your family
suspicious of Mr. Johnson or were you as surprised as anyone to find that
he was the person charged with your daughter`s disappearance?
BARNES: When we first started looking for Phylicia, this person seemed, he
showed signs that he knew something about her whereabouts. Because at that
particular time we were just looking for Phylicia. We thought she was just
missing. This person did not help search, he did not do anything, lift a
finger to help with the community and with the police and anyone in just
helping us find Phylicia. So, in the beginning, we just knew something was
not right with this individual.
DON RONDEAU, BARNES FAMILY SPOKESMAN: If I might add, you hit on a key
point though that all lives do matter. And early on the Barnes family
really drove interest in this case and so, you know, we really are
certainly disappointed by the current turn of events. The many trials and
mistrials and dismissals. But to be frank, that`s how things have
progressed from day one for us. That from day one we`ve had to fight to
get attention to our case, we`ve had to generate interest in the community.
We, the people, rose up and made sure that the process started and that she
wasn`t just another no-name girl of color that has fallen through the
cracks. And myself and others, I`m here representing not just the Barnes
family but a coalition of people who all have vowed to not stop until
Phylicia receives justice. And so, you know, while we are disappointed in
how things have progressed, we are not surprised that we are sitting here
because this has been five years of this. From day one to right now.
Melissa, we`re certain -- I am certain that if -- that our system may have
to change so that we have resources dedicated towards protecting and
serving children and not just incarcerating them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Actually it`s on exactly that topic I want to ask you about.
Tell me about Phylicia`s law. Because in addition to trying to get justice
in this one case, you`re also -- you all have been working to try to make a
more just system.
RONDEAU: Well, certainly. You know, there came a time when after
searching with great groups, pastors, local politicians in the city of
Baltimore to search for her, we drove that search. We, the people. Well,
we found -- we were informed that she was murdered and so there came a
critical point where we had generated all of this good will and developed
all of this expertise and resources, did we just go back to our lives as
individuals and leave Russell to fight and not do anything to affect
permanent change or do we stand as a community and say, hey, we`re going to
make sure that going forward there will be an expectation that we will, you
know, we will go after -- we will seek justice for any kid anywhere, any
color, any time. And so we drafted legislation and with the support of a
real great street-fighting delegate, Joel P. Carter out of Baltimore, we
passed Phylicia`s law and we past Phylicia`s law before, you know, there
was justice, obviously, for Phylicia, the name sake.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Don Rondeau and Russell Barnes from Baltimore, Don
Rondeau, thank you for your advocacy. Mr. Barnes, we are all grieving with
you in your loss and we do hope that you and your family find some measure
of justice. Thank you both for joining us this morning.
BARNES: Thank you.
RONDEAU: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, my letter of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Friday evening, while potential republican presidential
contenders scurried to Iowa to court support, an East Coast residents
hurried home to beat the snowstorm, and those of us in cable news cracked
ourselves up with underinflated balls jokes, a "New York Times" op-ed
columnist was on twitter sending some of advice to activists. Tweeting,
quote, "activists perhaps should have focused less on Michael Brown and
more on the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland." And that is
why my letter this week is to Nicholas Kristof.
Dear Mr. Kristof, it`s me, Melissa, just wanted to say thanks for the
strategic advice you offered Friday afternoon. It was a great reminder of
how important it is to endure injustice until just the right victim comes
along. Back in 1955, it was Claudette Colvin who had to learn this hard
lesson. She was 15 years old when she refused to move when the driver on a
segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama ordered her to get up. She endured
arrest and eventually challenged the law in court. But civil rights
leaders felt the working class pregnant teen was the wrong symbol for the
movement. So they waited nine months for the unimpeachable Rosa Parks to
do exactly the same thing Colvin did. Then they launched a movement.
After all, what`s nine months of injustice if it ensures you have just the
right symbol for organizing? I presume that is the point of your tweet,
Nick, to encourage activists to find palatable and pitiful victims so that
skeptics will be forced to admit a wrong has been committed. After all,
who can be sure that Michael Brown didn`t deserve to be shot? Six times
while unarmed. Who can say for certain that it was a bad thing for his
body to be left lying under the sweltering Missouri sun for four hours?
Who has the right to label that a travesty? Apparently not a community of
mostly black people whose schools remain effectively segregated, whose
voices feel silenced and who are policed by a department of mostly white
officers. And clearly not the prosecutor or grand jury who refused to even
bring the officer to trial for Brown`s death. And not the thousands of
allies and organizers who stood in solidarity with the people of Ferguson
for months. No, no, no, no, no. The Michael Brown slaying was far too
murky because he was no angel. Activists should not have organized against
the brutality they perceived or drawn attention to the militarized response
of police they endured. Your tweet was a reminder that they should have
waited. Waited for more than three months after the August 9th death of
Brown until November 22nd when Cleveland police would offer a more perfect
victim. A more palatable protagonist to dramatize the fragility of black
lives. Tamir Rice was just 12. He was killed in a playground within
seconds of officers arriving. And he was killed in full view of a video
camera, a camera that even captured the horror of his 14-year-old sister
being wrestled to the ground and handcuffed.
If only those impatient activists had waited. And while I`m sure you must
be right, because after all you`re Nicholas Kristof, I was just thinking
about how hundreds of activists did organize in Cleveland just days after
Rice was killed. They actually didn`t need to wait for "The New York
Times" to tell them a wrong had been committed in a January 22nd article
that you helpfully tweeted along with your advice. And I was thinking
about how many of those activists were activated because of their outrage
over the events in Ferguson months earlier and I was thinking about how
those activists articulated connections rather than distinctions between
the cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and John Crawford III and Tamir
Rice. And I was thinking how many of them even saw links with the killings
of Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride and Kajieme Powell and Jonathan
Ferrell and even Emmitt Till and Jimmy Lee Jackson. And I was thinking how
unlike you, Nick, these activists were not searching for perfect martyrs to
tell a neat story. They were responding to the realities of loss and
experiences of injustice as they happened.
And these activists, who you felt the authority to counsel on Friday
afternoon, didn`t wait for Rice because they were dodging tear gas in
Ferguson and stopping traffic in New York and disrupting shopping in
Minnesota because they did not want another unarmed man or woman or child
to be killed, because they believe that justice delayed is justice denied.
And because they took Martin Luther King seriously when he said we cannot
wait, because there comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and
men knows longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. And
because these activists are wildly foolish enough to believe that all black
lives matter. Thank goodness you set them straight about that. Sincerely,
HARRIS-PERRY: The movie "American Sniper" is drawing big crowds at the Box
Office and creating a big controversy. The film directed by Clint Eastwood
starring Bradley Cooper is the true story of the real life Navy SEAL Chris
Kyle dubbed the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. He has served
four tours in Iraq. Since opening in wide release less than two weeks ago,
"American Sniper" has raked in more than $154 million. The bulk of that
during its record-breaking opening weekend. It`s also been nominated for
six Oscars, including best picture and best actor. Along with accolades
came controversy. Most immediately high profile figures began offering
opinions on social media. Seth Rogen tweeted "American Sniper" kind of
reminds me of the movie that`s showing in the third act of "Inglorious
Bastards," fake and Nazi propaganda film.
And while not mentioning, the movie by name, filmmaker Michael Moore, who
reports that his uncle was killed by a sniper in World War II said, quote,
"We were taught snipers were cowards will shoot you in the back. Snipers
aren`t heroes." Both Moore and Rogen would later walked back their
comments clarifying that they do not intend to offend anyone. Sarah Palin
put liberals on their place writing on Facebook, "just realized the rest of
America knows you`re not fit to shine Chris Kyle`s combat boots." Just how
did this film, "American Sniper" become such an American controversy.
Joining me now, Jonathan Metzl, director for the Center for Health Medicine
and Society and professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University. Earl
Catagnus Jr., assistant professor of history and security studies at Valley
Forge Military College and veteran of the Iraq war. Alicia Quarles,
correspondent for E! News and Jeremy Scahill, investigative reporter for
The Intercept, and author of "Dirty Wars, the World is a Battlefield." Did
you actually like the movie? Not the controversy, the movie itself.
ALICIA QUARLES, E! NEWS CORRESPONDENT: I actually liked the movie itself.
And I`ve got to say, full disclosure, I interviewed Clint Eastwood, I`ve
interviewed Bradley Cooper several times, and I interviewed Taya, Chris`s
real-life wife and also Sandy Miller who plays her and I like the movie
itself because it`s very different from the book. The book is
controversial. The movie, Clint cut out a lot. He cut out 44 pages of
dialogue so it`s hard to get everything that`s in the book in the movie in
two hours. This is Hollywood. And also Bradley Cooper said, this is not
meant to be a political film, this is meant to be a film telling a
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. So that moment, this is not to be a political film, I
think is right where the angst lies, Jeremy, the idea that you can tell a
story about this particular moment and that it can be somehow personal and
JEREMY SCAHILL, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER: Of course it`s a political film.
I mean, I view this sort of as a non-objective fairy tale that represents
how certain people in the special ops community and their fans view their
role in the world. It was totally void of any context. Why were we in
Fallujah, why was the U.S. in Iraq? You know, the term savages is used a
number of times during the film. And if you read Chris Kyle`s book, of
course he refers to Iraqis as savages regularly throughout the book. He
brags about having a crusader tattoo on his forearm that he had put in red,
you know, to symbolize blood. You know, I didn`t know Chris Kyle
personally. I know people who trained him that are friends of mine and
have talked to him. He`s a beloved figure in that community which is part
of why there`s the high-stakes emotion here. But as a film, of course,
it`s pure America first propaganda. In the end I think it does a
disservice to the people in the U.S. military because of the cartoonish
portrayal. All he needed was a captain America shield to sort of solidify
its role as that kind of a film.
EARL CATAGNUS, JR., IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I completely disagree. This film
really could have been me, could have been any of the other brothers that I
served with. Chris Kyle was with me for two weeks in Fallujah and I cannot
tell you how much of the purity that he had for love of country and the
patriotism. He was -- he talked like that. He believed it. He was the
real deal and he was a true warrior. And many of our warriors are like
that, and that`s what I`ve been trying to say over and over. You will not
understand. This is not a -- this is it. This is the way we think. This
may -- the combat scenes are obviously Hollywooded up. This isn`t
propaganda, this is Hollywood. They make money. So this is about, and
mentioned in the break about sniper -- you sit there for days just looking
for glass, just glassing targets or glassing potential targets and not
seeing anything for weeks, so you can`t sit there and show that. But there
is frustration --
HARRIS-PERRY: But actually, on the movie making of it that is actually
what I had hoped for. So, I was saying that I have someone in my life who
is in the role of a sniper. And when I asked this young man about it, the
first thing he said to me was that experience of the long, drawn-out,
sometimes even boring and then suddenly having to make decisions. And I
thought -- I guess what I was so surprised at again as a movie is that I
felt a sense of disconnection from that, from that sense of, like, angst
and of human experience, but as I listened to you talk, Earl, I guess I`m
wondering is it just because my human experience is so removed from this
one that it doesn`t read to me as a kind of authenticity.
QUARLES: Can I jump in because I want to defend my comments and what you
said earlier? It`s a political movie by nature, but that`s not what
Bradley intended it to be. He fought for this movie.
HARRIS-PERRY: He bought the --
QUARLES: He bought the rights to it. Steven Spielberg was supposed to
direct it. Steven had a very different vision, pulled out and that`s when
Clint Eastwood came aboard. Clint Eastwood almost didn`t do the movie
because he didn`t want to be associated again with another war movie.
Especially after, you know, all the controversy during the republican
convention and all of it, but that`s what he got. I say it`s not purely a
political movie because this is Chris`s pointed of view. This came from
his book. This is his story-telling. Bradley did this as an actor and
tell his story.
HARRIS-PERRY: I get it. But I will just suggest and yet our points of
view do have political meaning. So "12 Years a Slave" is also a point of
view film told from a memoir, but it has enormous political meaning.
Stay with us, more on "American Sniper" when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Earl, I want you to again express some of this,
and Jeremy, I want to hear you respond.
CATAGNUS: So it was a movie, and that`s what we have to put it in context.
Hollywood makes movies to make money. It`s not propaganda. You can attach
all of that on top of it from your perception, but for me being a sniper,
being a warrior for six years and being in combat and being wounded, that`s
how I felt when I come home. It`s a very touching movie to me and my
SCAHILL: And I, I mean, I respect that. And that`s part of -- when I say
that I think it`s a fairy tale to some of that perception, what I mean is
that, you know, everyone that I talk to who worked in special ops or worked
in Fallujah on the military side of it says the same thing you do, that it
resonates with them. I`m not military, and I experienced that war as a
journalist on the ground from a very different perspective. And one of the
most troubling things to me about the film -- and this is the director`s
prerogative is that there is no context of why the U.S. is in Iraq or why
the U.S. was in Fallujah at that time. To not even reference the fact that
there was basically no al Qaeda presence in Iraq before the U.S. invaded is
and that it was U.S. policy that facilitated Fallujah, which I spent time
in before the Iraq war, becoming this hot bed of al Qaeda in Iraq, al Qaeda
in Macedonia (ph) to not explain that and then just have it as he`s
shooting all the bad guys, including kids. In his book, he says the rules
of engagement early on were kill any male 16 to 65. You don`t get any
QUARLES: You just hit a major point.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right, Earl?
CATAGNUS: So the rules of engagement are there for us literally to -- one,
they come from the Pentagon. So, it`s legal for us, so we don`t get
prosecuted. But more importantly, it`s for psychological purposes.
QUARLES: You just hit on a major point though.
CATAGNUS: I`m saying, that is not the rule of engagement. So, the rule of
engagement would be military age males that were showing either aggressive
actions, different things that were stipulated, including cell phones. If
you actually monitored them and actually saw them and where they would
trigger IEDs, but they were the trigger man was a cell phone saw a certain
behaviors. So we`re taught as a sniper to pick up on these behaviors. And
there`s a sort of psychological component to it. And we have to build that
evidence in our heads and justify every single shot. And that`s why you
can see that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want you to jump in on this Jonathan.
METZL: Well, it seems to me like there`s a slippage between the rules of
engagement for what soldiers are actually doing and the movie. So, this is
a movie. And I think the problem is potentially it kind of reproduces the
book`s lack of moral anguish, about what it means to kill people in short
span of time. I think that`s the debate that people are having.
CATAGNUS: You didn`t think there was moral anguish in there?
METZL: Well, I think that the movie oversimplified Iraqis. I think it
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, right, right. And so the moral anguish is coming
home. And that`s part of what I heard you say here.
METZL: Exactly, that`s my point the moral anguish is coming home.
HARRIS-PERRY: That for your family, this mattered because that sense of
distance from the experience, the home experience versus the war
experience. And I think for me, maybe that`s part of why I was having
trouble relating to the film. Even though I know those who have had those
experiences, once they`ve come home, because that part that`s happening
away from home is so shrouded. But then for Jeremy, you were in those
places. You just weren`t there as a combatant.
SCAHILL: Well, I mean, you know, as someone who has struggled also with
post-traumatic stress disorder from, you know, seeing kids blown up and
dead bodies in Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan, you know, I did actually
relate to some of the scenes. And I think -- in fact, to me it was one of
the most important parts of the film was these allusions to Chris Kyle
really struggling with his own demons, from what it would been a part of an
Iraq and how it affects the family. And, you know, when Chris Kyle was
killed -- and, you know, the ending of the film actually is quite powerful.
When you see him getting into his car with this young guy who ends up
killing him at a shooting range, this is a highly under addressed issue in
our society. The domestic violence that occurred as a part of PTSD but
also lack of really good support for people that --
QUARLES: I`ve got to say this. Surprisingly, I`m defending this film.
Surprisingly because I agree. If you watch the film, you think, gosh, this
film seems just completely, you know, racist. It seems ridiculous. But
again, this is Chris Kyle`s interpretation. This film is based off of his
book, his experiences. I`m not saying it`s right, it`s wrong. I actually
don`t agree with a lot of the things that he felt, but it`s based on his
experiences. As journalists, right, we`re open to everyone`s experiences.
Hollywood didn`t say -- I mean, but this was his experience. People don`t
SCAHILL: Read the counts of Muslims who have gone to the theater to read
this. People think this was real.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. Jonathan Metzl, Earl Catagnus, Jr., Alicia
Quarles, and Jim Scahill are going to continue to do this work in the
commercial. But that is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for
I`ll see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Now, it`s time for a
preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Hi, Alex.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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