'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, March 22nd, 2015
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: March 22, 2015
Guest: Wade Henderson, Joshua Steiner, Connie Razza, Leora Tanenbaum,
Salamishah Tillet, Alicia Quarles, Roxanne Gay, Whitney Dow, Amer Ahmed,
Tracy Clayton, Jessica Disu, David Maxwell, Chazz Johnson, Melvin McCray
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning my question, just who does
Starbucks think they`re talking to?
Plus the renewed power of the U.S. dollar.
And the very real experience of virtual abuse of women. But first, it has
been 134 days and we are still waiting.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. There is a Washington, D.C.,
puzzle confounding me. Let`s start with the first piece of the puzzle.
It`s from June, 2012. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
voted to hold U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
That decision to hold the AG in contempt makes it clear that Eric Holder
and the U.S. Congress do not have a good working relationship. So that`s
puzzle piece one.
Puzzle piece two, In September 2014, Eric Holder announces his intention to
resign as soon as his successor is in place. Congressional Republicans
barely contain their thrill at the news.
Congressman Darrell Issa tweets, "By needlessly injecting politics into law
enforcement, Holder`s legacy has eroded more confidence in our legal system
than any AG before him."
Now he`s joined by Congressman Jeff Duncan who tweets, "Good riddance, Eric
Holder. Your disregard for the Constitution of the United States will not
The two were backed up by Senator David Vitter, who adds via Twitter,
"Anyone sad to see Eric Holder stepping down as AG? Not me. I can`t think
of any AG in history that has attacked Louisiana more than Holder."
OK, are you all still with me? In 2012, Congress makes clear their disdain
for Holder. In 2014, Holder says he`s resigning. Now on to puzzle piece
three. In November, President Obama announces his choice for attorney
general, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.
Experienced, respected and popular are the immediate characterizations
offered of Lynch. Her 2010 Senate confirmation is defined as overwhelming.
So that piece should have completed the puzzle, giving us a clear image of
the next attorney general.
But instead of a nice, neat resolution, we`ve got a scrambled mess in
Washington, D.C. It has been 134 days since President Obama named Loretta
Lynch, and in that time the Republican-controlled Senate has introduced new
baffling puzzle pieces that don`t seem to fit at all.
There is the Justice for Victims of Human Trafficking Act piece into which
Republicans shoved anti-abortion language which angered Democrats and has
the whole Senate stalled. A worthy debate perhaps but why is it part of
the AG confirmation?
And before there was the abortion and human trafficking piece, there was
the immigration and executive action piece. During her confirmation
hearings, Lynch affirmed that President Obama`s executive action, which
offered temporary legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants was
legal. That really irritated Republicans.
But this is a confirmation for President Obama`s AG chances are any
candidate is going to support this action. So again, why is this piece
part of this puzzle?
In the meantime, and this is the part that makes it so puzzling, guess who
gets to remain attorney general, Eric Holder, Holder, who has spent the
time releasing blistering reports about patterns and practices of racial
bias in Ferguson, announcing major new initiatives on national police
reform, vehemently defending marriage equality in national publications,
and reiterating the commitment of the DOJ to protect the right to vote.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me be very clear. While the court`s
decision to remove one of the Justice Department`s most effective tools, we
remain undaunted and undeterred in our pursuit of a meaningful right to
vote for every eligible American.
Since the court`s ruling, we have used the remaining provisions of the
Voting Rights Act to fight back against voting restrictions in states
throughout the country and we`ve won.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The vote. Now there`s an interesting piece of the puzzle.
It is the historic turnout of young voters and voters of color that elected
and re-elected President Obama. It is those votes that made the tenure of
Eric Holder possible.
It is those votes that came under attack by both the Supreme Court and the
state legislators in recent years, and it is those votes that in a speech
in Long Beach, New York, last year Lynch made clear that she has no
patience for suppressing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LORETTA LYNCH: But I`m proud to tell you that the Department of Justice
has looked at these laws and looked at what`s happening in the deep south
and in my home state of North Carolina has brought lawsuits against those
voting rights changes that seek to limit our ability to stand up and
exercise our rights as citizens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Home state of North Carolina because you see both of North
Carolina`s senators have said that when and if they are given a chance to
vote on her, they will oppose Lynch`s confirmation.
Senator Thom Tillis released a statement that read in part, "By all
indications Ms. Lynch would continue to pursue the costly and frivolous
lawsuit against the state of North Carolina to overturn a common sense and
constitutionally sound voter I.D. law. I will not be voting to confirm Ms.
Well, now maybe we have a clue. This delay doesn`t make any sense if you
think it`s about making the self-interested choice of replacing Eric Holder
with Loretta Lynch.
But it does make sense if this puzzle is actually about President Obama and
process congressional scholars call the new nullification where Congress
blocks nominations not because the nominees are unqualified, but because
there is political opposition to the laws that their positions helped to
In other words, if you can`t beat the president in an election, you can use
the new nullification to block the people that would enact the policies
that he was elected to implement.
Joining me now is Wade Henderson, the president and CEO of the Leadership
Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Wade, what in the world is going on?
WADE HENDERSON, PRESIDENT/CEO, LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE ON CIVIL AND HUMAN
RIGHTS: You know, Melissa, you have described the perfect Rubik`s cube of
toxic partisanship in Washington. What is happening to Loretta Lynch has
two dimensions I think that are worth noting.
As you`ve said, she`s been held over 134 days. She`s been held seven times
longer than the totality of the delay of her predecessors applying for
attorney general position. There are two issues.
One is that facts and circumstances have conspired to certainly suggest
that there is a racial dimension as I think Senator Dick Durbin mentioned a
while ago to this debate.
But secondly and more importantly is about President Obama. This is about
disrespecting the president and, thus, the presidency in part because the
attorney general position has become a surrogate for the policies of the
Never has a cabinet nominee been held hostage to an unrelated policy
development over which they had nothing to do with.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think your point is so important because when we talk
about race being part of this, people say how can that be, it`s a black
attorney general being replaced by a black attorney general, but it`s the
way race is associated with all of these other policies -- because people
aren`t just sitting back and taking this.
We heard the current Attorney General Eric Holder standing in Selma and
calling on people. But I want to hear some people doing this. This is
some women from North Carolina who took themselves to exactly the middle of
this Rubik`s cube to say, come on, let`s get Lynch confirmed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. LAVONIA ALLISON: Senator Burr and Senator Tillis, it`s time for you to
act like you have some sense.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Enough of playing politics with this nomination.
O`LINDA GILLIS: An African proverb says when you strike a woman, you
strike a rock. Senator Burr, Senator Tillis, when you strike our sister,
Miss Loretta Lynch, you strike the women of North Carolina. And when you
strike the women of North Carolina, you strike a rock.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So did they just turn this into a social movement when it
needed to just be a simple confirmation process?
HENDERSON: I think they have. I think the women who came in from North
Carolina thanks to Dr. William Barber and the NAACP, they really made an
important point, which is to say, look, you can`t disrespect the first
African-American nominee for the attorney general position, who has been
outstanding in her presentation for the job.
Twice confirmed unanimously for a U.S. attorney position and somehow you`re
going to set that aside and use her nomination as a surrogate for other
I think Senators Tillis and Burr for the first time felt the wrath of the
constituents of North Carolina, who were concerned about what they conveyed
in their opposition to Loretta Lynch.
HARRIS-PERRY: The other, again, this is the part that for me just keeps
making it so baffling is this idea that by not confirming her, they retain
Eric Holder, who they do not like. I wanted to play a little piece of the
attorney general talking about how this is baffling to him as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOLDER: It`s almost as if the Republicans in Congress have discovered a
new fondness for me. I`m feeling love that I haven`t felt for some time
and where was all this affection over the last six years, you know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you want Eric Holder unplugged to be the current attorney
general? Is that a good idea for them?
HENDERSON: No, they don`t, but this is the paradox of their hatred of
President Obama in this sense. They are prepared at this point to hold up
his nominee to be the next attorney general even if it means that they`ll
have to live under the attorney general that they don`t like.
You know, it obviously is a bit ironic, but I think here is the more
important part. Eric Holder has been outstanding in his focus on law
enforcement and the need to ensure that every American is protected equally
under the law.
His focus on the police department in Ferguson, his willingness to confront
issues of race that impede our ability as a nation to come together
deserves to be lifted up. I think Loretta Lynch is certainly an attorney
general in that same mode.
I think her ability to really cross lines. You know, she has the
endorsement of Rudy Giuliani. She has the endorsement of Louis Freeh, our
former FBI director. If you`re being fair-minded, this is a woman that
deserves to be confirmed and you really can`t deny that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I noticed that you and others have signed on again to
this push to get Loretta Lynch confirmed.
HARRIS-PERRY: But my favorite signatory was the president of Delta Sigma
Theta, which is a good sorority that both Loretta Lynch and I are part of.
HENDERSON: They have done an incredible job in lifting up the importance
of this nomination. We are so grateful to have --
HARRIS-PERRY: Later in the program, this morning you and I as well as the
roundtable will be discussing Starbucks and the handy survey the company
has provided on race. I`m looking forward to having Wade as part of that
But up next, dollar, dollar bills y`all, so strong they might even make it
back into a Jay-z video.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to talk to you about a president who`s making a
comeback, a president who went from being relatively insignificant in 2007
to a global superstar in 2008. A president who then endured six years of
near apocalyptic predictions about his performance, but who now has proved
all of those critics wrong and solidified his place as a leader on the
It`s not our nation`s 44th president. It`s our nation`s first president,
the man on the U.S. dollar. President Washington is making a comeback.
The dollar is back. Sorry, you weren`t looking at Washington there. Now,
you might not think to call it a comeback.
After all the dollar has been here for years, but the dollar has not always
been in vogue. Back in 2007, Jay-z displayed euros instead of dollars in a
music video that was set here in New York, implying that true ballers don`t
call shots in dollars, they trade more in the valuable currency of a global
marketplace, the euro.
That prompted headlines like this one, Jay-Z dissing the dollar. But then
the dollar gained unexpected strains as both the global financial and
European economic crisis drove international investors to seek refuge in
the safety of the U.S. dollar in government debt.
During the same time, some in the U.S. started to panic, warning of massive
inflation that was just around the corner and a few even predicted a run on
the U.S. dollar. But the dollar crisis never came. It stayed strong and
Look at this graph of the dollar versus the euro, based on this trend the
U.S. dollar could soon be on a one-to-one par with the euro and that makes
a European vacation a heck of a lot more affordable.
But then on Friday the dollar had its biggest decline in more than three
years, plummeting as the euro rallied. Wall Street responded with markets
closing up, way up, which leads to the question do we prefer our dollars
weak or strong?
Joining me now to help answer that are Josh Steiner, head of Industry
Verticals of Bloomberg LP, and a former chief of staff for the U.S.
Department of Treasury during the Clinton administration, and Connie Razza,
who is the director of strategic research, the Center for Popular
So weak dollar, strong dollar, what is preferable, a two blunt way of
JOSHUA STEINER, HEAD, INDUSTRY VERTICALS, BLOOMBERG LP: Well, the first
thing I would say is if President Washington is grateful, he owes a lot to
President Obama. The reason we`re seeing a stronger dollar has to do with
the fundamentals of the U.S. economy.
As you said, we`ve been living in an environment where our growth is a lot
higher than Europe. Interest rates are still low. Unemployment is down.
Not down as much as we would like certainly in certain population groups
and inflation is still low. If you`re an investor on the global stage,
where would you rather invest?
For the last couple of years, it`s clearly been in the United States and
that`s led to the strengthening of the dollar.
HARRIS-PERRY: So why then was the weakening of the dollar relative on
Friday a Wall Street boom?
STEINER: You know, these things are very hard to read. I think that`s
happening is Wall Street was trying to look at Janet Yellin`s comments very
closely. They were following her comments on the dollar, but they were
also trying to understand where the FOMC, where the Federal Reserve Board
was going in terms of interest rates.
And the FOMC is trying to balance a couple of things. They have two clear
mandates. They need to keep inflation low, but they also want to keep
unemployment low. They`re constantly trying to balance those two things.
Wall Street is watching to see whether the Federal Reserve thinks that the
economy is overheating and is going to need to raise interest rates
dramatically quickly. It doesn`t appear to be the case and, therefore, you
saw the markets rallying.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so, Connie, I know for folks who are not CNBC watchers
they might have said what just happened in nerdland. Why are we talking
about this idea of the dollar and global marketplaces? I teased about a
European vacation becoming more affordable, but in a real way for ordinary
Americans earning wages, what does the strength of the dollar mean one way
or the other?
CONNIE RAZZA, CENTER FOR POPULAR DEMOCRACY: The strength of the dollar
really is tied to the ability of people to manufacture in the United
States, which means jobs in the United States. And so for working
Americans and for the economy, the strong dollar really is a threat.
It makes it harder to have a tight labor market, which means that it`s
harder for workers to be able to bargain for better wages. And so while it
may be that a strong dollar means that imports are cheaper, vacations are
cheaper, that really is only for the people who still have jobs.
They`re not making more money and so what we would rather see is a
competitive dollar that allows for increased employment and for the economy
to return to a full recovery for all of our communities.
HARRIS-PERRY: So are the policies that would lead to that outcome from
your perspective, are those policies that are in the purview of the fed, in
the purview of -- is this in any way related to issues that can be
addressed by voters on the ground or is it really about fed policy?
RAZZA: In large view we`ve been looking at the fed because the Federal
Reserve is able to, as you said, sort of look at the employment and at the
inflation rates. One of the upsides of the strong dollar is that inflation
is going to be relatively low.
So the fed can really focus on reaching that full employment mandate and
making sure that communities like African-Americans who are still in
recession are able to enjoy the recovery.
HARRIS-PERRY: The interest rate decisions that are constantly every single
week we`re wondering are they going to bump up those interest rates and the
impact that that then has for folks, who are holding debt of one kind as
opposed to likely actually have money on the bank on which they`re earning
So that`s particularly communities of color, more marginal communities, do
you have any reason to think Yellin will behave any differently than her
predecessors in these decisions?
STEINER: I think what she`s looking about is the concern about the long-
term unemployed and the fact that the unemployment rate is higher in the
African-American community should be of concern to everyone, not just the
African-American community, but to all Americans.
I`m sure she is focused on that. At the same time it`s important to keep
in mind that the people who suffer the most from high inflation rates are
those people on a fixed income. If you`re an elderly person on a pension,
inflation is a killer.
If you`re shopping at Walmart, inflation and a weak dollar is very
damaging. You`re going in and buying things made in Vietnam and Cambodia,
and Bangladesh, and a strong dollar is clearly helping you.
By the way, the strong dollar is helping you at the pump. One of the
reasons gasoline prices are so low today is not just because of falling oil
prices. It`s also because the dollar is so strong. Oil is so globally on
a dollar basis. The strong dollar is helping us keep prices low.
HARRIS-PERRY: Joshua Steiner and Connie Razza, thank you so much for being
Still to come this morning, Starbucks, SAE and Kendrick Lamar, it seems
like everyone is talking about race.
Plus Olivia Pope gets shamed, but before that I want to give a shoutout to
some dollar raising that happened by the students of Wake Forest
I`m a professor and I`m also the executive director of the Pro Humanitate
Institute there at Wake Forest and those students have been organizing this
year`s "Wake and Shake Dance Marathon."
The students transformed Wake`s varsity gym into a festival setting where
1300 dancers spent 12 hours on their feet to raise funds for the Brian
Piccolo Cancer Research Fund.
At last year`s marathon, they`ve raised more than $180,000 and we`re
looking to reach $200,000 this year. It`s a great reminder of all the fun
we can have and all the good we can do when we work together. We`ll be
HARRIS-PERRY: On this day in 1972, the United States Senate gave final
approval for the Equal Rights Amendment and sent it to the states for
ratification. Section 1 of the ERA reads simply the quality of rights
under the law shall be not abridged by the United States or by any state on
account of sex.
The fight to add it to the U.S. Constitution began in 1923 when the founder
of the National Women`s Party, Alice Paul, first introduced it to Congress.
But it wasn`t until nearly 50 years later with the rise of second wave
feminism and leaders like Congresswoman Bella Abzug that the push for the
ERA gained momentum.
It won the required two-thirds vote in the U.S. House of Representatives in
1971 and the Senate followed suit the next year, but not without strong
resistance from some members of Congress, as explained in this NBC News
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Opponents in the Senate called it the unisex amendment
and said it would destroy traditional man-woman relationships, weaken
family ties, increase homosexuality, violate biblical teachings and
undermine thousands of state laws designed to protect women against life`s
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Despite all that fear and trembling, 1972 was an election
year and then, as now, more women than men vote and the ERA won Senate
approval and was on its way to ratification. For a while it seemed to have
momentum, 30 of the required 38 states had ratified the proposal by 1973.
But then the tide turned as a highly organized and effective opposition to
the ERA sprang up, led by anti-feminist conservative, Phyllis Shlafley, who
warned it would deny women privileges like exemption from the military
By 1982, the deadline for ratification, only 35 states had voted in favor
of the ERA, three shy of the necessary total. More than 40 years later,
there are still efforts to revive the ERA, including a rally in Minnesota
just this month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s still relevant because we still do not have
equal rights. And some folks say to me, well, what`s the rush?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Today women make up only 19 percent of the U.S. Congress.
Today there are only six women serving as governors of U.S. states. Today
only 24 percent of state legislators are women. Today women on average
earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns even though women make up half
of the American workforce. They make up less than 5 percent of Fortune 500
It`s easy to wonder if any of that would be different if the country had
followed through on the Equal Rights Amendment, passed by Congress on this
day, March 22nd, 1972.
HARRIS-PERRY: Regular viewers of this show know we are obsessed with
Shaunda Rhymes` scandal. At its best, scandal draws us in with the drama
then taps into psych guys to reveals keen insights on our cultural moments.
Last week we talked with actor, Courtney Vance, about his star turn in the
powerful episode "The Lawn Chair" confronting issues of race and police
violence. This week the fictional Olivia Pope confronted an issue that has
dominated real world headlines all week.
Slut shaming, a young woman is threatening to expose all of the D.C. power
players she`s bedded through a scandalous book. Olivia Pope reminds her
what happens to women who publicly dish about their sex lives and asks do
you know what they will call you?
But rather than shrink under the weight of shame, the young would be author
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Instead of celebrating the fact that I fully own my
body and use it however I want with whomever I want as many times and as
many kinky ways I want, you`re shaking your finger at me? You`re telling
me to be afraid of what name someone is going to call me because I had the
audacity to have too much great sex? I`m not ashamed. This is my life, my
body, my story to sell or tell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It is a biting incrimination of Olivia Pope who typically
sees herself and we are presented with her as an advocate for women under
attack. That actor is Liena Dunham, Golden Globe winning creator of HBO`s
"Girls," who recently said she is cutting back on Twitter because she`s
trying to create a safer space for herself emotionally. It could have been
part of the talk that everyone is talking about given by Monica Lewinsky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONICA LEWINSKY, SOCIAL ACTIVIST: I admit I made mistakes, especially
wearing that beret, but the attention and judgment that I received, not the
story, but that I personally received was unprecedented. I was branded as
a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo, and of course, that woman. I was seen
by many but actually known by few. And I get it. It was easy to forget
that that woman was dimensional, had a soul.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So just how powerful is this kind of shaming and how are
women pushing back? Joining me now are Leora Tannabaum, author of "I Am
Not A Slut," Salamishah Tillet, associate professor of English and Africana
Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, Alicia Quarles, correspondent
for E! News, and Amir Ahmed, who is Intercultural Center director at
It`s so nice to have you all here. I just want to start with the simple
sort of question to hear Lewinsky say those words, how powerful is slut
shaming for silencing and impacting young women in their lives.
LEORA TANENBAUM, AUTHOR, "I AM NOT A SLUT": Slut is the absolute worst
insult you can call a girl or woman. And, yes, it can ruin a person`s
life, absolutely. She is correct. Her analysis is correct. She deserves
all of our empathy and sympathy on this.
The fact of the matter is no less a publication of the "Wall Street
Journal" in 1998 called her in an editorial, and this is a direct quote,
folks, "a little tart." What did we say about the president, that he is a
womanizer, that he has a problem, these are not equivalencies. She`s
ruined for life.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it is presumed to be essential to her character, who she
actually is as a person. In writing this, there`s a great piece in "The
New York Times" talking about the actual process Monica Lewinsky went
through around this talk.
And I wanted to just play a little bit where she`s talking about this
surprising thing that happens when she`s 41 and we can talk about the
discussions that went around it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEWINSKY: At the age of 41, I was hit on by a 27-year-old guy. I know,
right? He was charming and I was flattered and I declined. You know what
his unsuccessful pickup line was? He could make me feel 22 again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So there was debate about whether to include that, where to
put it in the speech, because it might revive the idea that she is a little
SALAMISHAH TILLET, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: But
you know when I listened to that, it reminded me of the fact that she was
22 at the time so retrospectively it creates a lot of empathy on the part
of women who came of age. I`m two years younger than Monica Lewinsky with
One, that she`s 41 years old and it`s like the times or the discourse has
caught up with her. Now we have a new generation of feminist activists who
are taking on cyberbullying or online harassment as a feminist issue.
So I don`t think Monica Lewinsky, even though there was a burgeoning
feminist movement at the time, the particularities of the way in which like
slut shaming occurs is of this moment and so she`s able to speak back to
HARRIS-PERRY: And these are the same tools that women are using to push
back. I`m interested in how you read what Amber Rose is up to. If we were
to talk about someone who has been both very direct herself about it and
then also branded by others.
But she is currently right now she says pushing back because her ex, Kanye
West, had to take 30 showers after his relationship with him. I want to
listen to what she said she`s planning to do.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I deal with it every day. I deal with it via social
media, people out on the street. I`m sick of it. I`m here for my girls
and we`re going to do the Amber Rose slut walk this summer and it`s going
to be awesome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ALICIA QUARLES, CORRESPONDENT, E! NEWS: So Amber Rose, she was a stripper
in the past. She did Kanye for a long time and got married to Wiz Khalifa.
There`s also a morality issue that we`re talking about here. A lot of
these women and men were cheating. People were married.
So that`s where I think labels get called into account. It`s not just
about slut shaming, it`s also about morality. These aren`t single people.
Lena Dunham`s character wasn`t just sleeping with her co-workers who were
HARRIS-PERRY: But she wasn`t married?
HARRIS-PERRY: Monica Lewinsky or the Lena Dunham character.
QUARLES: They are not married, but they were sleeping with people who were
married. I`m not downplaying women. Bill Clinton was 20 years older than
Monica Lewinsky. There`s no way, shape or form --
HARRIS-PERRY: But it is the responsibility of the person not in the
marriage to maintain the vows of the marriage even from -- I`m taking out
the gender politics and talking about who -- she didn`t stand up and say I
want to have sex with anybody else.
QUARLES: There`s responsibility on both sides. If you suddenly sleep with
a married person and get called a name, you might have had it coming.
TILLET: I guess the easiest way to think of this as a feminist issue is
there`s no equal term for men who are -- even if she were married, the man
who was sexually active with her wouldn`t be called that so that`s part of
HARRIS-PERRY: But I guess part of what I`m wondering is does the slut
shaming, the walking out and saying, all right, you want to call me that,
me and my girls are going to go, does that help to push back against it?
AMER AHMED, INTERCULTURAL CENTER DIRECTOR, SWARTHMORE COLLEGE: I just feel
in general men need to take more responsibility for themselves. I think we
don`t have the conversation amongst ourselves about the implications of our
actions and the effect that it has on women. And so I think we need to
create space amongst ourselves about how we`re going to go about having
these conversations or recognize that there`s a real impact on women`s
You know, if we as male identified individuals don`t really get deeper into
what it means to be a man around our sexuality, around our masculinity, how
are we going to be able to address these issues? We have to get honest
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us, because up next the bad feminist herself is
back. Roxanne Gay is coming to nerdland.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, we learned that the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity at
Penn State University maintained a secret invite-only Facebook page called
2.0. According to police records, quote, "Some of the postings were of
nude females that appeared to be passed out and nude or in other sexual or
embarrassing positions. It appears that the individuals in the photos are
not aware that the photo had been taken."
Other posts revealed pictures of drug sales, fraternity hazing and
unconscious women that were being taunted. An affidavit revealed that 144
members had access to the private invite-only site. The result could be
Demonstrators protested on the Penn State campus asking the university to
sever all ties with the fraternity and to put members of Kappa Delta Rho on
The national fraternity of Kappa Delta Rho has already placed the Penn
State chapter on a one-year suspension and said during that year the
chapter will be reorganized.
Joining me now from Naples, Florida, is Roxanne Gay, author of "Bad
Feminist." I`m wondering what we`re seeing is a real life manifestation of
the virtual violence that women experience online?
ROXANNE GAY, AUTHOR, "BAD FEMINIST": Absolutely. We`re seeing that there
really are no boundaries that won`t be crossed when it comes to women,
their privacy and their bodies. It`s incredibly frustrating that yet
another fraternity or yet another group of men has taken it upon themselves
to do some sort of thing and then everyone acts surprised. There`s nothing
to be surprised about here. It`s really just the same old, same old.
HARRIS-PERRY: Amir, I want to come to you. One of the reasons I wanted
Roxanne here and you here is because of the work that you both do on
college campuses. We were talking about a place where we can investigate
our masculinity and think about our notions of gender. Shouldn`t college
campuses be the place where that is happening?
AHMED: Exactly. And I think that`s woefully how that`s underrepresented
in terms of how we do out of classroom work in higher education throughout
the country. We`re learning how to better support women and victims, we`re
But really we`re not having the conversation of what does it mean to be a
man, how do we deal with our masculinity and being beneficiaries of
patriarchy and the implications on others in terms of our lack of
responsibility around that. We also don`t hold each other accountable.
Some of these fraternity rows on these campuses, you have entire streets of
HARRIS-PERRY: I went to a school like that.
AHMED: Where there isn`t a culture of challenging the notion of one-
upsmanship around women.
HARRIS-PERRY: A current member of that fraternity said this is indignant
misplaced self-righteous behavior that looks to ruin people`s lives is the
abuse and violation that should be at the center of the discussion not the
humorous antics of college kids.
It feels that these misguided antics have such an impact. I want to bring
in Ashley Judd`s piece. She tweets about, you know, the other team can
kiss her ass because, you know, something about free throws or some other
such thing. And the responses aren`t just nasty and mean, they are violent
threats against her.
QUARLES: It`s a crazy internet culture that we live in. I`m a hard core
USC Trojan so I can relate to all of this because I went to a school where
sororities and fraternities are very prevalent. But when has the internet
gone too far? When has it gone too far? I don`t blame her.
HARRIS-PERRY: On the one hand it`s the internet but the on the other hand
that it`s manifests in all these places is the internet is the tool that
TANENBAUM: The internet is just one other avenue for delivering the
message of the sexual double standard. You know what happened at the Penn
State fraternity, what`s going on with Ashley Judd, these are logical
conclusions in an environment where you have the sexual double standard and
a culture of slut shaming.
Particularly in the Ashley Judd example, we see that being labeled a slut,
being sexually degraded and threatened with sexual violence in a horrific
graphic way doesn`t have anything to do with sex at all.
What did Ashley Judd do? All she did was assert an opinion about a sports
event. Frankly, I think we can all agree a pretty mild opinion too.
HARRIS-PERRY: Roxanne, I want to come to you on this because this was also
-- I actually had difficulty reading the Ashley Judd piece. I want to
offer a trigger warning to anybody that`s going to read it now. I
purposely don`t -- I have been run out of my own at replies.
I no longer see my own Twitter feed because as a survivor I can`t see
people say those particular things to me. The impact that it has on me
over the course of a day, a week, a month, like how tangible that reality
GAY: Absolutely. I think it`s a constant for many women who dare to have
opinions and then exist in the world. And on the internet, there`s just
something that makes people feel incredibly free to say the most horrifying
And to try and describe the most horrific kinds of violence a woman can
face. It`s incredibly frustrating because all we`re doing is having
opinions. But somehow we`re not allowed to do that and these men that
perpetrate these crimes feel no compunction whatsoever about going to that
place where they feel we`re the most vulnerable.
And it`s constant. I think conversation is one part of it, but I think we
need to have consequences and I think we need to start having more
fraternities being banned and more people losing their jobs and losing
internet accounts. Obviously they know better, they just choose not to do
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, I want to talk more about this idea of
what we`re teaching and when. I want to talk about how you raise sons and
daughters who can push back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Young women are the leads in both films topping the Box
Office this weekend. The new live action remake of "Cinderella" has
grossed more than $100 million since it opened last Friday, but it is set
to be eclipsed this weekend by "Insurgent" which is expected to rake in
more than $350 million in its first two days.
A tiny wasted princess with a glass slipper and a butt-kicking shero of a
distopic future, if you`re a parent trying to raise a daughter to navigate
the sexist mine field we`ve just been discussing, which movie ticket should
Roxanne, I wanted to start with you because my favorite part of the
beginning of your book is the fact that you read Sweet Valley High books.
I too was a Sweet Valley High obsesses young person.
GAY: Yes, represent Sweet Valley High.
HARRIS-PERRY: What does it mean to encounter regressive images, but to
still be able to develop a critical consciousness around them?
GAY: Well, I think it`s really about parenting. I encountered regressive
images, but every single day I was reminded by my parents that I can be
anything and do anything and I have to work hard. So I think the world is
always going to be full of regressive images and we have to counteract them
at every single moment.
My mom told me raising us that she was in constant combat against the
images that white America would offer us of what it means to be black and
to offer me positive images of what it means to be a woman and so, you know
-- go ahead.
HARRIS-PERRY: The gift that you gave to my daughter, my baby when she was
born, was a stack of books, and all of them kind of little black girl books
in which the little black girl at the center of it. You`re a mom yourself
of a daughter. I wonder -- it seemed to me clearly you were signalling
this is important.
TILLET: Yes, I mean, part of it is because I`m an English professor, and
so I understand what it means to have your imagination being formed in
which you`re the center of the text, you`re the center of the narrative.
So we`re talking about Cinderella and, you know, my daughter is 2 1/2 so
she`s not going to see Cinderella, but I`m adamantly against Cinderella
even with the brandy version because I don`t see what the point is.
There`s an essay about Cinderella`s step-sisters and what does it mean to
have these girls that are indoctrinated for hating another girl. I think
that would be an interesting film. The current version isn`t so different
from apparently even more regressive than the original version.
QUARLES: The director claims that he made adjustments like having the
Cinderella and prince meet at the same time so they`re on the same level.
I`m not a parent, but I don`t think there`s anything wrong with having your
child see Cinderella because it does start with parenting.
This is something I`m always fighting is the stereotype because you`re a
pretty woman or you cover entertainment, people try to belittle you. No,
you have a brain, you`re smart, you can be well rounded and it`s important
to know all of these things and watch all of these things because power is
knowledge. So watching these things, having of the conversation, being
informed about it is knowledge.
HARRIS-PERRY: All information is spendable currency, depending on the
market. I had Barbies and then I cut their hair off. Thank you to Roxanne
Gay in Naples, Florida and here in New York, thank you to Leora Tanenbaum
and to Alicia Quarles. Salamishah and Amer are going to be back in our
Coming up next, Starbucks wants to do it, SAE wants to do it Kendrick Lamar
wants to do it, honestly, we do it every week here. So here we go, race
talk. There`s more nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. If you join us
regularly here in Nerdland, then you know we rarely shy away from directly
engaging in race talk. You might even have talked those very words
appearing on the screen behind me during our, you know, race talk segments
as my guests and I try to unpack the complicated questions of race that so
often appear in the news each week. So I wasn`t entirely unsympathetic to
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz this week when he charged his legion of
baristas for one week with getting customers thinking about more than
whether they want whipped cream on their Macchiatos.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HOWARD SCHULTZ, STARBUCKS CEO: What if we were to write race together on
every Starbucks cup. And that facilitated a conversation between you and
our customer. And if a customer asks you what this is, try and engage in a
discussion that we have problems in this country with regard to race and
racial inequality and we believe we`re better than this. And we believe
the country is better than this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, between my hosting duties here on MHP and my other gig
as a university professor, I know a little something about facilitating a
conversation on race. And even with years of study and training in the
academy and jobs where I research and think a great deal about racial
inequality, getting people to talk honestly and meaningfully about race can
be tricky business. So it seemed like Schultz was making a big ask for
baristas to push a conversation on race when they already have plenty to do
trying to manage the ridiculously complicated orders of venti non-fat half-
cup extra hot lattes.
But the campaign is called Race Together, which means Starbucks wasn`t
leaving all the power to change hearts and minds solely with the people who
make the coffee beverages. Starbucks had some race work for the people who
drink it too. On Friday, these special race together newspaper supplements
appeared on the newsstands in Starbucks stores and it included a fill in
the blank test meant to get the race conversation started among family and
friends. It`s been a while since I`ve given a pop quiz on the show, so why
don`t we all just take the Starbucks racial reality check together.
Nerdland, get your pencils ready.
Number one, my parents had (blank) friends of a different race. Okay.
Number two, I have (blank) friends of a different race. Number three, my
children have (blank) friends of a different race. Number four, (blank)
members of a different race live on my block or my apartment building.
Okay. I most often talk to someone of another race at work, church, home,
shopping, school. Only church, huh, not places of worship. Interesting.
Okay. In my Facebook stream, (blank) percent are of a different race.
Well, Facebook actually figured that number out. Okay.
In the past year, I have been to the home of someone of a different race
(blank) times. In the past year, someone of a different race has been in
my home (blank) times. I always keep a little tick mark when people of a
different race come over. At work we have managers, (blank) managers of
different races. And number ten, in the past year I have eaten a meal with
someone of a different race (blank) times. Okay, pencils down, how did you
do? Maybe more importantly, how did it make you feel? Because this
reality check is, well, how can I put this, a hot mess. I`m not really
sure where to start. But here are just a few things that are maddening
about it. It sets out to measure contact with people of different races
without the slightest acknowledgement that race is socially constructed and
not some simple, notable, immutable characteristic.
It implies that race is just about people being different instead of coping
with how those differences are impugned with meaning that has deep and
overwhelming social, political, economic, legal, and personal consequences.
It reduces the long, ugly, painful complicated joyous, absurd, fascinating
issues of race in American to a Cosmo quiz about personal experiences
instead of collective historical structural realities. And it indirectly
absolves people who have enough friends of a different race from any
responsibility for racial iniquity. Took my Starbucks quiz and I`m all
good. #notracist. It seems to assume that the person taking the test can
make the choice to live in a world where she could choose not to have
encounters with different people unless she sought them out, which suggests
that this is perhaps actually a test for white people and their experiences
of interracial contact. Why, Starbucks? Why? I mean you took a simple cup
of coffee. You turned it into multi layered mosaic of elaborate, joyous,
milky sugar. So why would you simplify the demanding and difficult work of
race talk into this?
Joining me now is Whitney Dow, director and producer of the Whiteness
Project. Salamishah Tillet, associate professor of English and Africana
Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Wade Henderson, President and
CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. And Amer Ahmed
who is dean of Sophomores and Intercultural Center director of Swarthmore
College. Help me. Am I being too hard? Should we at least be happy that
a corporate giant thinks race is important to talk about?
WHITNEY DOW, WHITENESS PROJECT: First of all, it`s hard to follow you,
Melissa, after hearing that opening. I`m really nervous about why I`m here
because I`ve got to say I love it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, you love this?
DOW: I love it. It`s problematic, it`s lazy, it`s privileged, it`s nuts.
It`s all the things you said it is. But the idea that a $70 billion
company would like -- that`s managed its brand so carefully for so long
would take this, this idea and turn it over to their lowest paid employees,
turn their brand over to discuss something that`s so inflammatory I think
is really in some weird, crazy way radical.
AHMED: I want to appreciate the fact that they did take this risk, but
what I`m concerned about is the way that they waded into it is going to
scare off every single other company or organization in the future because
I don`t really think that they have done the organizational development
work within their organization. From what I can tell, because if they did
there would be more texture, there would be more nuance and they would
understand that baristas are not the people to be facilitating --
HARRIS-PERRY: Look, actually baristas totally might be. I mean, I don`t
even want to make a claim about whether or not the baristas are. I do know
that when you begin with this presumption about like -- the first thing
they think is important for you to know about race, the most people who
identify themselves as African-American in the United States have some
European ancestors. So now we`re going to redefine race and say it`s a
genetic -- I`m not saying we have to have a whole social construction
conversation. But it is important that Chipotle did this real differently.
Instead of like charging in and talking about like how one-tenth we are of
blackness or whiteness, you know, instead they go ahead and they put
literary references and then you can read it and have thoughts about it.
TILLET: Well, I was thinking about the risk factor and we just talked
about this a little bit more. So, I actually do have a problem not with
the baristas in the sense of their skill set --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, they might be great.
TILLET: But in terms of the burden, the responsibility to push this
conversation forward being on those who are not necessarily the most
empowered in the organization, so that`s one thing. The other thing I
think in terms of a risk, I do think, you know, they`re aware of their
brand and they`re trying to push their conversation forward in a climate in
which people are really actively and consciously trying to address issues
of racial inequality. A bigger risk would be let`s take on things like the
prison industrial complex, I mean, there`s risks and then there`s risks.
So, I just want to say -- I just want to point that out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. But even within that context, I still -- so here`s
part of my concern about what happens with that privilege and the
presumption that it`s so difficult and people don`t talk about race is,
again, it`s always standing in a place of whiteness. When I go to get some
coffee, please, God, don`t talk to me about race. I`m going to do that all
day about work. I love this tweet from Rain of April who said, "not sure
what Starbucks was thinking. I don`t have time to explain 400 years of
oppression to you and still make my train." #RaceTogether. And like, I
kind of felt like, you know, I`m going to go to Dunkin` Donuts where I
don`t have to talk about race.
HENDERSON: So, let`s stipulate as you characterized it, it`s a hot mess.
Let`s say, the Cosmo quiz that they put is absolutely, you know,
unconscionable. But having said that, I do agree that a corporation
exposing itself both to this kind of criticism and ridicule, seriously,
while trying to push a conversation that needs to be handled much more
substantively and thought fully is still a good thing. I mean, it`s done
two things. First of all, we are talking about it.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are certainly race talking. And drinking coffee. Yes.
HENDERSON: Now, the issue is, is this a one off. Is this all they`re
doing or is this part of a broader campaign to put the issue of race in the
context of the business community, of the country in a larger way. Look, I
do think it puts a burden on the baristas that they never asked for but
they shouldn`t have to bear alone. I do think at the same time it puts and
makes it awkward for customers but it`s also provoking a set of
conversations that I hope lead to a higher level of analysis and some
additional steps. So, if they would use their influence, and this is not
just Starbucks, it`s USA Today, it`s Larry Kramer, the publisher they
brought into this, so trying to expose this to a higher plane of
conversation I think is a good thing. And so, let`s see whether it moves
AHMED: I think they need to, not just talk about race but talk about
racism. You know, I mean --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. It`s not just about being different. Yes.
AHMED: Exactly. And so, how do we go beyond -- because when we have
conversations as facilitators of conversations on race, you know, we know
that you mentioned it earlier, people of color are often burdened to go
through every single frustrating experience we`ve had ever in order for
white people to learn. And so taking that into unsafe situations, it`s so
hard just to create that safe space just to talk about it. And not just
talk about race, but talk about the power inequities as we walk through the
world with our bodies and the implications that it has for us.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, if only 10 percent of the people in your corporation
for example are African-American and all the white folks have to have black
friends, that means I got to be friends with like 400 individual white
folks just to get them where they need to be on their quiz. We have a
little bit more on this when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LYNDON JOHNSON, UNITED STATES 36TH PRESIDENT: The real hero of this
struggle is the American Negro. He has called upon us to make good the
promise of America. And who among us can say that we would have made the
same progress were it not for his persistent bravery and his faith in
For at the real heart of battle for equality is a deep-seated belief in the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Lyndon Johnson in 1965 giving an address
to a joint session of Congress on voting rights. And what I love about
that moment is that he tries to express that we still believe in
deliberation as part of it, so like I am deeply irritated by this campaign,
but I want to preserve a space to say that even when we`re trying to deal
with structural inequality that we have this belief that deliberation is
also part of what goes on with race talk or with racial healing. And I
guess I just want to ask that. What do we think the value of talking about
race is in the kind of work of eliminating racial inequality?
HENDERSON: Well, if talk leads to action, then it`s productive. I think
as I said before if this is really only a one-off, a one-time event that`s
intended to provoke conversation, then I think it`s been a wasted
investment. I think if this really leads to action and examination of
structural inequality, then I think that`s a really important dimension.
In your last segment, you talked about the health of the economy and how
wonderful it is and that`s great. But the truth is we have a systemic gap
and disparity in the unemployment of people of color and white Americans.
And the African-American community is the only community that has yet to
respond to the benefits of the recovery. So this conversation has to shift
from the symbolic to the substantive and I think there has to be a set of
recommendations and the involvement of business. That`s what Starbucks and
USA Today can do. They can be -- for others in the corporate community to
really engage in a serious effort to address stuff like this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because I`m looking in this -- if you came up with
zero members of a different race live on my block or in my apartment
building, A, you might be racist or, B, you might just be living in the
realities of a persistently structurally segregated America which leads us
to not live next to each other and those can be solved. So even if
tomorrow you could fix whatever internal anxiety you have, you still might
have zero members of a different race living on your block or in your
apartment building. You said something during the break that was
interesting, it was the idea of what needs to be interrogated here is not
so much race but maybe whiteness. I wanted to listen, God help us, to
common talking to Starbucks about this. Let`s just listen for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: For a long time I would get on elevators. And on the
elevator ride if a white person would get on, I would feel like they didn`t
like me. But after thinking about this for a while and thinking about how
truly felt in my heart, I decided that I would speak and I would be more
present. And now I must say these elevator rides are way, way better now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. So that`s nice, common, but it`s not really that like
blacks folks don`t just really reach out to white people enough. Like I
mean, I just feel like that`s what that equivalency of difference,
difference, difference does instead the interrogation of for example white
supremacy and its impact on American lives.
DOW: You know, absolutely. And I think, you know, you just ask, you know,
does talk make it better. Well, it really depends like who`s talking, who
they`re talking to and what are they talking about. One of the things for
me the work that I`ve been doing is we`ve been trying to get white people
to talk about whiteness. But two things about the idea of how you start
conversations. You know, not everybody at this table but there`s a lot of
places in the country who are going to Starbucks and getting a cup that
says Race Together could be a radical moment for them. There`s people in
my family that that could be a radical moment, when they could think about
something that they haven`t thought about before.
HARRIS-PERRY: What if instead of it saying #Race Together it quoted that
LBJ, right? And it said something like, you know, at the heart of the
battle of equality is a deep-seated belief, like, what if instead it gave
DOW: Absolutely. I would rather have it say, you know, white supremacy
has been the organizing principal of America since it was founded.
HARRIS-PERRY: There you go, put that on the cup.
DOW: Please discuss. Absolutely. But it`s so -- I mean that is the
complicated part. But you have to give people access points and not
everybody is starting from the same place. And it`s clear that Howard
Schultz is not starting from a place. He`s just entering this thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I get you, I get it. So, part of it is this is therefore
a manifestation of Schultz`s power and privilege because here he is a
neophyte to it and he can make it a global issue in a way that people
experiencing it on the ground or who are experts in it can`t, right? And
so checking that privilege does seem to be like an important starting
TILLET: So, I mean, we talked about this during the break too, but I do
think what would it mean for Starbucks to do like an internal review of the
racial culture of the organization, publicly share that and then go from
there. Right? So as an organization --
HARRIS-PERRY: Start with self-vulnerability.
TILLET: Yes. Self-vulnerability. Introspection and then changing a
culture. The only question on that list that maybe deals with structural
inequality is about the managers, right? Like, you know, the racial
breakdown of people who are in positions of power. So I just think that to
me would be like a radical position. That could be like, if you`re going
to be at the front line of the movement, you can then change corporate
culture. And then, right now it`s almost as if they`re putting the
spotlight on American society, on the individual consumer and then the
baristas themselves as opposed to thinking about how Starbucks itself
manifests, plays into and reproduces racial disadvantage.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have so much more to get to on race talk this morning.
We`re not going to give it a short time, we`re going to give it a long
time. And in fact the next part of it, how the fraternity SAE says, it
wants to engage. But I just want to show you one more thing before we go.
Because I love this as a comeback. @ZackStafford tweeted barista, your
total is $5.45 cents. Me, you can just put that on my reparations tab.
Thanks. #Race Together.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity is doing damage
control after a video surface showing members of its University of Oklahoma
Chapter participating in a racist chant. SAE announced an initiative that
includes a pointing a diversity director assembling a committee on
inclusion and requiring members to participate in a diversity education
program. The fraternity`s executive director said the incident has caused
the organization to recognize its need to engage in a public dialogue about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAINE AYERS, EVANSTON-BASED FRATERNITY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: We are
committed to having the tough conversations in every chapter and with every
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining the table now is Tracy Clayton, a staff writer at
BuzzFeed.com and author of the story "A Black Girl`s History With Southern
Frat Racism." So this story got quite the buzz from BuzzFeed. Tell me
just a little bit for folks who haven`t read it yet what it`s about.
TRACY CLAYTON, STAFF WRITER, BUZZFEED: Well, the essay is about my time at
Transylvania University which is then a real school that actually exist.
And I was there from 2000 to 2004. And it`s just about what it`s like to
be a student of color on a campus where there are so many of the trappings
of the confederacy which there were for a lot of different reasons. One
was just like a school tradition, there`s a dormitory that`s still named
after Jefferson Davis who was an alumni there and there was also a
fraternity that had lots of confederate flags hanging out on campus. And
it`s just about what it was like to try to go to school and focus on school
but also feel really unsafe and unwelcome. And I`d like to say that my
story is both common but also not so common because obviously not a lot of
schools I would hope, I guess I can`t really provide proof of this, but I
would hope that there aren`t a bunch of confederate flags on more campuses
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh! I have attended or taught at a lot of southern
universities. It is not uncommon, again, having grown up in the south.
Now, I`m older than you so I was coming through, you know, like just early
enough that, you know, our Kappa Alpha order had confederate flags, had old
south parties and that kind of thing in the early `90s when I was on
campus. You know, part of what I thought was important here is that SAE, I
do not want to be my Sherpa to race dialogue in the world, right? So I am
distressed by it. On the other hand, as compared to the way the
Transylvania University reacted to your BuzzFeed piece which was there is
at least appears to have been an e-mail that went out to students that said
I just want to make each of you aware of an article that just came out on
BuzzFeed referencing your article. And the President, dean of students and
this person are all aware that it`s out there. The President is
determining how to address it. And at this time we are asking you not to
comment about the article on any social media platforms. So I don`t really
want SAE to talk, like as a leader of the conversation, but I so prefer
that over how don`t you dare talk.
CLAYTON: Right, exactly. And I feel that`s a very, very common reaction
for any university to have because, you know, your reputation is a big
money getter for you. Right? You know, you want people to think that you
are a very, very great campus. And by the way, I do want to point out
Transylvania is a very, very good school --
CLAYTON: Education wise. I met some beautiful, beautiful people there.
However, there were a lot of things that were not handled the right way as
far as listening to students when they say, hey, I don`t feel safe. And
this is a story that is not specific to me or Transylvania or Kentucky or
the South as the SAE video showed us. But, you know, this is about people,
students of color on white campuses all over the place. And my hope -- you
know, it`s kind of annoying to me to sort of champion the starting of
CLAYTON: Because you know, after that conversation starts, that`s real
cool, but what do you do afterwards? But the biggest advantage that I feel
that we can get from this story is finally being heard. Like my goal was
not to make the school look bad, it was for me to be heard.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that to me feels critical. And as a matter of fact it
feels to me like you have to give the school an opportunity in that moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the idea that let`s not talk about it is the way to
appear to be a great school again as a college campus, right? So it seems
to be another way to respond to it is, we have been challenged on this
point. Let`s talk about it and that is how we will indicate how open we
are, how willing we are to engage in dialogue and discourse and how
unafraid we are to be challenged.
AHMED: Yes. When we think about institutions and organizations, I think
we have to pay attention to being proactive than so reactive. Because if
you`re being proactive about these issues, when things like this come up,
you have a lot to say. You have a lot to talk about and say we`re doing
this, we`re doing this, we`re doing this. And it didn`t work out here
because these are challenging issues. But we have the things in place,
we`ve been working on these things that position us to be able to have
these conversations going forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: That idea that maybe the race talk conversation starts not
by asking how many friends you have but asking about the questions of power
and influence I think is a critical one. Tracy Clayton, thank you so much
for your piece.
CLAYTON: Thank you for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: And up next, UVA.
HARRIS-PERRY: I go to UVA. Those were the words University of Virginia
third year student Martese Johnson shouted as he was grabbed, thrown to the
pavement and left with a bloody, swollen face during an arrest by the
Alcohol and Beverage Control officers after midnight on Wednesday. The
cell phone footage of the incident was captured after the ABC officers
questioned, then detained Johnson when he was denied entry into a bar that
is frequented by UVA students. Johnson was charged with public
intoxication, and obstruction of justice and spent a night in jail. And
his attorney has denied earlier reports that he attempted to present a fake
I.D. On Thursday, Johnson, recovering from a head injury that requires 10
stitches, stood by silently as his lawyer read a statement on his behalf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL WATKINS, MARTESE JOHNSON ATTORNEY: I trust that the scars on my
face and head will one day heal, but the trauma from what the ABC officers
did yesterday will stay with me forever. I believe we as a community are
better than this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So it feels to me like Salamishah, this is the moment when
we remind that the race conversation has consequences. It`s not just do
you feel good about interracial contact.
TILLET: Yes. I mean I guess this is where it also shows that the race
conversation isn`t alone like you`re saying the solution to it. I mean, in
this case, and also the owner of the bar has recently come out saying that
he did not think he was intoxicated. So, this really gets back to the
question of weaponized black bodies. I mean, it`s structural, it`s
instinctive, it`s intimate in the ways in which these particular men
responded to seeing this young African-American man and what spaces they
thought he was violating and what spaces they thought he should not be
entering. And just the brutality of their actions toward him are
unconscionable. So, I mean, I look at this and I say these are my
students, these are students I interact with every day. And to see that
his claim of I`m a UVA student.
TILLET: Right. It`s like, you know, I`m American. I mean, these are
different versions of the same thing and yet that means nothing in this
HARRIS-PERRY: And that, for me, I think, these so are our students that
the first time I heard about this story, I was in the middle of a lecture
and I look over and one of my students is weeping. And I said what`s going
on? It was Thursday morning. And she says I just -- I just got a message
on my phone that my friend -- and so mark, he says her friend.
TILLET: Yes. One of my grad students, this was her friend.
HARRIS-PERRY: But literally these are our students.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think we`ve had this sense that somehow there is some
kind of protective thing that occurs as a result of some level of
privilege. So when you`re saying I`m a UVA student, it`s like hands up,
HARRIS-PERRY: Is blackness so powerful at this point that it overwhelms
all other statuses that are meant to confer some sort of privilege?
HENDERSON: Well, I`m afraid it is. And I think in this context it has
been demonstrated clearly by the treatment of poor Martese Johnson by the
ABC board, the Alcohol Board of the State.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. They just regulate the sale of alcohol.
HENDERSON: This is not your traditional law enforcement entity.
HENDERSON: And yet they acted in a way that clearly demonstrated an excess
with respect to law enforcement technique. I think the protection that one
would have expected a student to have gotten from any state school or in
any context like that would have been different from the experience of
Martese Johnson. I think coming as it has in the aftermath of Ferguson and
the aftermath of the Justice Department`s long overdue focus on police
practices nationwide and the appointment of that task force on police
practices, I think that this is a serious issue that will require all
campuses to look at their practices and how they police their student body.
And that`s something that I think is long overdue as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Amer, the last time as student suddenly began weeping on my
campus was also earlier this semester. And it was because, you know, I`m
at Wake Forest, it`s down the road from UNC and it was after the shooting
death of Muslim students at the University of North Carolina. And again, a
reminder that this is not just about difference, there are these life-and-
death consequences associated with it.
AHMED: Absolutely. These are not abstract ideas. And we have to
recognize that it translates into violence. It`s not -- it`s not just
whether we feel good about these issues or not. This translates into
people`s level of safety. And when it happens to one, it happens to an
entire community, you know. And so when we hear about anything related to
murders, police brutality, any of these things, it has this major impact
beyond just the individual as much as the trauma is so deep for that
individual, it also exists for that entire community.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact black students at the University of Virginia wrote
in The Cavalier Daily, "In many ways the physical pain Martese endured that
night has left an open wound on the hearts of our people again. The
physical bruises that mark his body, perhaps scars that will never fade,
invoke the emotions of the black student body. Only time will heal the
ugly scar that this incident has left on the community. The trauma will
follow us into the classrooms. A distraction that does not burden the
majority of our nonblack peers." And that -- that idea that now these
babies carry this tax with them when they go to class, is to me that is the
evidence of like this deep injustice associated.
DOW: You know what really struck me about that clip, he used -- he said
we`re better than this. Those are the exact same words that Howard Schultz
had used in all his interview. My reaction is always but historically
we`re not. But I think that this idea that somehow we`re looking at this
default that we`re better as opposed to we can be better than this. And
that`s really the conversation that I think should be happening. I mean,
what`s really interesting also is its relationship to the Ferguson police
report because the narrative has been set.
DOW: And Police Departments know the narrative. And what`s really scary
now is we know the narrative of police departments and that`s what`s so
terrifying for this. This fits into now the narrative we understand of
HARRIS-PERRY: And again for people who don`t live in the bible belt of the
south, we have these, you know, we have this, I mean their job is to keep
illegal alcohol sales -- the level of over -- I mean at the University of
Virginia. Like, okay, I mean, they`re just --
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Fake I.D.?
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, also talking about race right now is hip-
hop superstar Kendrick Lamar. It`s the ABC board.
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you feel it? The gravitational pull on Sunday night?
Because that was the day the album being hailed for its, quote,
"Overwhelming blackness emerged into the universe." At least that seems to
be the consensus around to pimp a butterfly, the third studio album just
released from hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar. Now, the album which dropped
Beyonce`s style in a surprise early release that no one saw coming has been
called a masterpiece, and the great American hip-hop album. Critical think
pieces have celebrated the unrelenting and unapologetic blackness of the
album from its cover to its content to its sound. This week it seemed that
when Kendrick Lamar talked about race, everybody stopped to listen.
Joining me now from Chicago is Jessica Disu who is a humanitarian rap
artist known as FM Supreme. Jessica, what do you think of the album?
JESSICA DISU, FM SUPREME: How are you doing, Melissa? I think Kendrick
Lamar`s album is amazing. It`s an excellent teaching tool for artists and
young people across the country and across the world. Hip-hop has the
power to transcend cultures and barriers and I believe that -- covertly
teaching us with this project. I`m reminded of black face, maestro show
Jim Crow, things like that and there are different things of white
supremacy that`s hinted in his project. I think it`s an amazing piece of
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s -- you know, I`m old and so I think it is amazing
relative to the current landscape of hip-hop, but I`m going to just retain
from those critiques for a moment. I want you to talk to me for a second
about what it is -- you`ve said it before. I heard you say it just now
which is this idea that hip-hop can make a difference in this. What is it
that hip-hop particularly as a cultural form can do that can shove this
race conversation into a different place?
DISU: Absolutely. I think with Kendrick`s album to pimp a butterfly, I
believe he`s telling his story and he`s battling his complexities of being
a successful black man in America despite white supremacy and the
conditions that hip-hop has been exploited by corporate rap as we discussed
before. And I think that with this project he`s teaching us that it`s okay
to tell your story. It`s important to tell your story and he`s not willing
to -- Kendrick Lamar is not trying to be understood. He`s trying to
understand. And that in itself is a great place to be when you`re trying
to understand the world versus trying to be understood, which means that
he`s not seeking acceptance, he`s just being true to who he is. I`m
reminded of Bob Dylan in 1964 when he released "Times are a changing" when
he`s, you know, critiquing society in about what was going on, so that`s
how I look at "to pimp a butterfly" as a, you know, social critique of
society. Kendrick Lamar`s parents are from Chicago. And here in Chicago,
we`re you know, organizing, we`re having a youth peace movement conference
June 4th through the 6th here in Chicago and I think it`s important that
our young people listen to prophets and poets like Kendrick Lamar because
he`s saying something. He has a message here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jessica, I love this. Stick with me. Amer, I wanted to let
you in on this.
AHMED: Yes. Well, you know, there`s a lot of people that have been doing
hip-hop activism for a long time. And so, yes, Kendrick is great relative
to the time and I know you love a certain era that I love as well. But,
you know, in many ways, I think he`s reflecting the fact that there`s a
movement going on in the country and that in many ways a lot of hip-hop
artists have no choice, but they have to say something because people are
looking at them like, what are you going to say? You know, and but
meanwhile there`s folks on the ground doing the work. You know, people
like Jasiri X, people like Rosa Clemente.
AHMED: People like Becari Sixuana (ph). People like Mimona Youssef (ph).
AHMED: And we have to lift up those artists and we have to recognize that
we`ve got to put our dollars and our investment into the people who are
doing the real work, you know?
HARRIS-PERRY: But I will say I love Salamishah and I love the cover art.
Maybe we could see it again. And it`s -- you know, it`s obviously right
there on the White House lawn. They have the foot on the neck of a judge.
There`s all kinds of things going on there. But as much as I love it, I
love it because this challenge of all sorts of things about respectability
but I also wonder about this description of it as overwhelming blackness
and sort of what is at stake with that idea, Salamishah?
TILLET: So there`s two things, I think. I like the album. I`m from a
similar generation that you are so I appreciate that this generation is
deeming him a prophet. But I do think, you know, when we`re thinking about
hip-hop, when we`re thinking about kind of radical blackness, questions of
gender always come up. So in the album there is kind of a conflation of,
you know, black women`s voices and corporate greed. So that`s just a quick
of his critique. Fine. The cover of the album I think like you say is
really beautiful and strong, but in the moment of black lives matter where
we`re actually like, having this really exciting moment of like deep
intersectionality, like black lives matter coming from a group of like
queer black that I mean as activist, what does it mean to only think about
racial oppression through the bodies of black men. You have to keep those
things in mind as we celebrate this album and celebrate it`s like radical
blackness. And I think she`s much better. He`s not like misogynist in any
real clear way, I think, you know, it`s a subtle sexism that then becomes
the way in which we understand black oppression.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So black oppression becomes just --
TILLET: Yes. So let`s just keep that in mind as we`re continuing to
praise the album.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thirty seconds there.
DISU: Okay. I just want to interject and say that I think Kendrick Lamar
is the closest thing that we have to Tupac Shakur. And to artist like
myself, Jasiri X, Seth Paul (ph), Tidab O (ph) from St. Louis and so we
come and set the game. We were able just at south by southwest and we
performed at a freedom house showcase and there with Rebel DS (ph), again
Seth Paul (ph), Tidab O (ph) from St. Louis, Ferguson. You have artists on
the ground who are in the movement. Kendrick Lamar is not a part of the
movement yet. However, he`s speaking from a perspective of people who can
appreciate where he`s coming from. We have, you know, a plethora of
artists who speak from their ulterior motives to make money, they`re not
speaking from their soul.
What I`m hearing is I`m listening to you or he`s even the -- where he`s
having a conversation with Tupac Shakur, you hear someone who is completely
embattling his place in society and his place to hip-hop because he`s
messaging is being true to himself. And I don`t see that very often. So I
salute artists like you know, Kendrick Lamar and Jay Cole (ph), Jasiri X
and Seth Paul (ph), Tidab O (ph) and myself and Rebel DS (ph) where, you
know, for being real to who we are. I think that with corporate rap, that
money making is the goal. I don`t think Kendrick`s goal is to make money,
I think his goal to change the world.
HARRIS-PERRY: FM Supreme in Chicago, Illinois. My producer Victoria says
thank you. She and I have been fighting about the album for three days and
I defer to you, Jessica. Thank you to Whitney Dow and to Salamishah
Tillet, also to Wade Henderson and to Amer Ahmed.
Up next, the White House just held its second annual student film festival.
Of more than 1700 entries, 15 were selected and the students behind one of
those films joins me next.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Friday, the White House hosted its second annual Student
Film Festival. Students from all over the country submitted short films
that focused on the themes of service and giving back. Out of more than
1700 entries, 15 were chosen. Selected entries range from the Archer
Hadley story, a film about a high school senior with cerebral palsy,
fundraising to install handicap access stories in his high school. To 6-
year-old Noah Gue`s Project for protection of Montana`s wildlife and
environment in Noah`s project, through my eyes. One group of young
filmmakers, many of whom are residents of the Ulysses Grant Housing Project
in New York, focused on mentoring programs in their Harlem neighborhood.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We live in Harlem, USA. It`s often called the Mecca
of Black America.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Like all great communities, there`s a tradition of
providing guidance and training to the next generation. We took a look at
several programs in our neighborhood.
UNIDENTIFIED GIRL: First, we need a great definition of a mentor.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: A mentor brings you insight. A mentor shares
experiences from his or her life in order that when you come up against
hard knocks, he made it, I think I can too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Student filmmakers David Maxwell and Chazz Johnson and their
mentor and director of the Digital Media Training Program in Harlem, Melvin
McCray, joins me now. All right, guys. So you got to go to the White
House. Was that your first time in that experience?
DAVID MAXWELL, STUDENT FILMMAKER: Yes, ma`am. It was. And it was a very
HARRIS-PERRY: What was the best parts of it?
MAXWELL: Meeting the president. And just going to the White House in
HARRIS-PERRY: How did it feel to have a film that you`d worked on screened
there in the White House?
CHAZZ JOHNSON, STUDENT FILMMAKER: I felt very honored and grateful that I
got to make it there. I mean, how many kids my age or of my color actually
get to go to the White House.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to dig into the actual film a little bit itself.
It`s on mentoring. After working on this project, what did you learn about
mentoring? What do you now know you didn`t know before?
MAXWELL: Well, I know that mentoring is a fatherhood, motherhood, and
brotherhood. It could be very informational.
HARRIS-PERRY: So there`s tons that you can learn from. Are there mentors
that you would identify people who in your life or in this project who will
say, these are clear mentors?
JOHNSON: Yes, my mentor is Reverend James Singletary. You know,
throughout my life, he`s been there. For instance, you know, he introduced
me to this program called Friday Night Live that I attend now which is in
cooperation with digital media training program. And you know, we entered
this film into the White House. And we got there. And you know --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s kind of amazing. Let`s listen to the Reverend
Singletary for a moment and then I`m going to ask you a question, Mel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REVEREND JAMES SINGLETARY, THE RIVERSIDE CHURCH: I had no experience
working with kids, but the one thing that I did have was an ability to love
people unconditionally. All the kids want to know is that you love them.
And when they get a sense that you love them and that you care about them,
you can lead them from here to Kalamazoo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So speaking of leading kids from here to Kalamazoo, Mel,
tell me about the program and sort of what you want young people to learn
and what you`ve seen them learn in the process of becoming young
MELVIN MCCRAY, DIRECTOR, DIGITAL MEDIA TRAINING PROGRAM IN HARLEM: Well,
you know, I realize that people, black and Latino kids, in my community
were consuming media. They weren`t producing media. And I wanted to do
something about it. So, I wanted to teach them skills. Photography,
video, journalism so they could tell their own stories and be empowered by
that. And we got an opportunity to do so with this program. We partnered
with Riverside Church, my image studios in Harlem, as well as the Columbia
University. And we got funding from the West Harlem Development
Corporation and we started teaching these skills. And we`ve noticed that
it really made a difference to be able to tell your own stories. And the
paradigm shifts. You begin to be a player. You begin to reach out and
express your view of the world to others.
HARRIS-PERRY: Given that we`re in the middle of a social movement about
Black Lives Matter, do either of you see yourselves going on to make
films, to tell the stories of some of those black lives?
JOHNSON: Me personally, I don`t because my dream is to become an airplane
pilot, and I want to go into the military to get my degree. But as to
black lives matter, in my community, I think they do matter because you
have children with broken homes and no mentors. You know, they don`t know
which path to take so they choose the path that they see everybody else
going. And that leads them into some drugs, getting arrested.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so part of the story you told is about mentors helping
young people to find a different path. Thank you to David Maxwell and to
Chazz Johnson and to Melvin McCray.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going
to see you next Saturday, 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Right now, it`s time for a
preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Hi, Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT": Hello to you, Melissa.
Thanks so much. Will everyone surviving a terrorist attack?
A member of Congress says it`s time to pack a new go bag. Why some are
calling this idea irresponsible.
The mania over college admissions. One guest will tell me why having that
Ivy League degree may not be the ultimate key to success.
Farewell to a king. Thousands turn out as Britain gets ready to rebury a
king 530 years after his death. 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
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