'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, May 10th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: May 10, 2015
Guest: Jonathan Rosa, Deray McKesson, Casey Gerald, Michael Skolnik, Tara
Conley, Osagyefo Sekou, Dominique Stevenson, Angie Nixon, Natalie McGriff,
Jay Caspian Kang, Wesley Lowery, Michael Skolnik, Danielle Moodie-Mills,
Robert Klitzman, Melissa Brisman
HARRIS-PERRY: -- first, the making of a modern movement.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Donde Johnson, Sr., Jeffrey
Alston. For many of you this may be the first time that you have heard of
either of them. The mention of their names didn`t elicit any particular
thoughts or ideas.
You can`t necessarily summon an image of their faces or any of the details
of their lives. But if I said the name to you that`s different -- Freddie
Gray, your neurons are firing, making connections in your mind between the
name of this man and all his name has come to signify.
Now you are thinking about the image of a young man in a red t-shirt
squinting slightly against the sun shining on his face. Now you are
thinking about police violence. Now you are thinking about the worth of
Now you`re thinking about Baltimore, Ferguson and Staten Island and
Cleveland. Now you are thinking about other names like Mike Brown, Eric
Garner, Tamir Rice. All sparked by the mention of that one.
But the circumstances that led to the end of Freddie Gray`s life are the
same as those that forever changed the lives of those we don`t know. Donde
Johnson, Sr., was paralyzed following a 2005 police van ride and later died
of pneumonia caused by his paralysis. His family won a $7.4 million
verdict against the police.
In 2004, a jury awarded Jeffrey Alston $39 million after he emerged from a
police van paralyzed from the neck down. All three are African-American
men seriously injured after a ride in the back of a Baltimore police wagon
and all of their lives have inherent value.
But the difference in the layers of meaning and understanding triggered
when we hear the name Freddie Gray, our immediate response to the question
famously posed by William Shakespeare, "what`s in a name."
That`s the difference a movement makes, the movement that the "New York
Times" magazine this week recognized as the most formidable American
protest movement of the 21st Century to date.
Now certainly the Ferguson Police Department drew heightened media scrutiny
to the issue of police violence with its militarized response to the
anguish of Ferguson`s community reacting to the death of Mike Brown.
There is no question that the ubiquity of cell phones enabled with cameras
and individual citizens willing to record the police have exposed the
nation`s police practices that have been common place in some communities
But our recognition of the names of the dead as a call that demands a
response that the police who protect us are not immune from committing
injustices against us, the expectation that our government bears some
responsibility for finding a solution to a problem it has been complicit in
All of that is the result of the sustained focused and organized work of a
movement that over the last two years has been propelled by youth driven,
Young people who amplify anger, outrange and frustration of individuals in
communities into a national campaign for social justice. In the bones of
this movement, we can see some of the DNA of the definitive freedom
struggle of the previous century.
Radicalized young people played essential roles in the civil rights
movement`s most pivotal campaigns. The movement to end police violence has
borrowed at least one page from the strategy book of their predecessors.
Both have used video images to highlight the vulnerability of black bodies
and expose injustices against black lives. This modern day movement is
also something separate and apart from what came before.
It took weeks of planning and strategizing to engineer the moment on the
Edmond Pettis Bridge during the Selma voting rights campaign and it took
television news, cameras, and broadcasts to bring the violence against the
protesters to national attention.
Today`s activists send their own images of police aggression toward
peaceful protesters to hundreds of thousands of computers, cell phones and
tablet screens with the push of a button.
Twitter and text are their tools for organizing and communicating about
protest action on the ground as it happens. Unlike icons who emerge as the
face and voice of the movement for civil rights, the young people calling
for an end to police violence today pride themselves on being a leaderless
movement in which many voices are raised as one.
It is what the "New York Times" magazine characterized as a communal
expression of pent up anguish spilling onto the streets. This week the
magazine profiled two of the people who, while they reject the title of
leaders, are recognized as key organizers and chroniclers of the movement.
Jeneta Elzi (ph), a St. Louis native began protesting in Ferguson the day
Michael Brown was killed. Using social media to give a first-hand account
of what she witnessed. Deray McKessen, who is a public school
administrator, who traveled to Ferguson from Minneapolis, and was
teargassed by police while participating in a peaceful protest.
But the diffuse nature of this particular protest movement means its
stewardship rests in the hands of many activists, who are all coordinating
and coalescing around a common cause.
There are names like Alicia Garza, Patrice (inaudible), Opol Tometi (ph),
clear feminist of color who gave the movement its rallying cry when they
first proclaimed that black lives matter.
Sharlene Caruthers, the Black Youth Project, a Chicago-based collective
using non-violent direct action to confront the criminalization of African-
Philip Agnew and the Dream Defenders, who long before Ferguson launched a
protest against police violence organized against Florida`s stand your
ground law in the wake of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
All of them joined by many others in cities around the country whose names
we may never know but whose work we can see in the response to their calls
for justice. Federal investigations into police departments in two cities
where is the movement has focused its protests against police violence.
Increased transparency when police are conducting use of force
investigations after a citizen has died at the hands of an officer.
Criminal charges brought against six officers involved in the death of
Freddie Gray. An FBI director acknowledging the racialized tensions
between law enforcement and the communities they police.
All of this in the wake of and in response to a movement that made it
possible for us to see the names of lives that have been lost without
considering their claim that those lives matter.
Joining me now is one of the members of the movement profiled in the "New
York Times" magazine, Deray McKessen, whose cofounder of
wetheprotesters.org. Deray, nice to have you.
DERAY MCKESSEN, WETHEPROTESTERS.ORG: Nice to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: You are on the phone even as we are speaking in part because
clearly part of what you all do as organizers, chroniclers, is walk many of
us not there in the streets with you through what`s happening. How
important is that technology to the work you`re doing?
MCKESSEN: It`s huge. We have always faced issues as people of color.
Either our stories have never been told or they have been told by everybody
but us. Twitter allows us to tell our stories real time.
Missouri would have convinced you that we didn`t exist if it had not been
for Twitter. We could like come together. We could push back on these
narratives and ways that were powerful. We can continue to tell our own
HARRIS-PERRY: So talk to me about the idea that this is a movement because
I think for more than 50 years or at least 50 years there have been an
unwillingness to describe social action and unrest as a movement because it
wants to keep sacred a particular narrative of a movement that exists in
the 1960s. When you see the news that`s fit to print, "New York Times"
declaring this a movement, what does it mean?
MCKESSEN: It is a movement. I think what`s hard for people is the origin
story, the beginning is so different. This started because people came
outside their houses and said though more. There was no Martin, Malcolm.
It is people who made this happen.
Today is the 275th day of protest and the movement is growing, continuing.
What`s interesting is people across the country, across race can have a
conversation about what`s happening in race and policing in ways that never
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting. I wonder if that`s -- the distinction you
made. I wonder if it`s as much lack of understanding of what happened in
the civil rights movement, which was made by the people and all the
organizations coming later.
One of my favorite stories that is told about you in this piece is you
talking with Diane Nash. The idea of you saying to her, Twitter is the
movement. What do you mean when you say that to Diane Nash?
MCKESSEN: You know, Diane Nash is great. She said to the movement, you
have to do it your way. She never would have taken those risks with the
freedom rides. We can just come together differently. So we can spread a
message quicker than they could back then.
That`s what we talk about when we say Twitter is a movement. This is idea
that like at the heart of revolution has always been the well told story.
For the first time as people of color we can own the way we tell the story.
HARRIS-PERRY: For some people the idea of being a movement organizer, what
does it mean? You were working a job that was an identifiable job that
people -- you`re in the schools. You`re a school administrator, a teacher.
Those are good jobs that people strive to have. So talk to me about the
decision to move away from that and into this more nebulous space of
MCKESSEN: You know, Mike got killed on August 9th. On August 16th, I was
sitting on my couch and I was like this looks crazy on Twitter. I got in a
car, drove nine hours to St. Louis. Put on Facebook I was going and that
began my time in protest.
I will never forget getting teargassed the first time. This is not what I
thought America was. When I made the decision to eventually quit on March
6, it was a thing like all this cool work, finding teachers, developing
human capital systems.
You have to be alive to learn. I never felt more covered and sort of doing
the right work than what I do now. This is about empowering in ways that
HARRIS-PERRY: I wanted to ask you what you think you have achieved, not
you personally, but what has this movement at this point -- it`s not done.
Maybe in some ways it`s getting started. What`s been achieved?
MCKESSEN: In the beginning it was about confronting and disrupting. A
notion that you can push back on the state in a way that`s meaningful that
you can confront a state that`s killing people.
I think what then happen is that community (inaudible) that literally
people are coming together in ways that are unprecedented in blackness,
that there are these communities that are forming around political power
We are transitioning to capacity building phase where people are like
actually understanding the work and issues better. I mean people like
broadly, people like middle schools, high school -- people who would
normally would not consider themselves activists.
That`s like a really disruptive and powerful. It`s no longer someone who
has to have like a title and sit in this office who can like affect change.
It`s people in the street, who can confront and disrupt in powerful ways.
HARRIS-PERRY: You just use the language of blackness and I want to pause
for a second. Is that a truly expansive definition of blackness where
blackness where blackness comes to stand in for social marginality,
rejection, being unequal or is it a more narrow definition of blackness?
I ask in part because I want to know for whom this movement is. Is it only
for people who would self-identify as African-American or is it a movement
in which blackness gets defined as all people in conflict with the state?
MCKESSEN: So the movement -- we believe once we achieve sort of freedom,
liberation for black people that everybody wins so in that way the movement
is for everybody. The social justice, in equity, everybody wins.
I do think there is an understanding that people of color are affected in
important ways or destructive ways. It is about black people. We are not
afraid to say black lives matter. We are not affirming our lives. We are
exposing the depth of evil that we face as black people in the context of
HARRIS-PERRY: You are going to join me again at the top of the next hour.
I appreciate having a few moments to speak with you here. The movement
will continue when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning we are talking about the national protest
movement against police violence. Joining my table is Jay Caspian Kang,
who is a "New York Times" magazine writer, who recently profiled leading
voices of the movement, Tara Conley, who is a social manager for Race
Forward, Wesley Lowry, who is the political reporter for the "Washington
Post," and Michael Skolnik, editor-in-chief of globalgrind.com and
political director for Russell Simmons.
Jay, the title of your piece -- "Our Demand Is Simple, Stop Killing Us." I
wonder about the notion that it`s a simple demand. Your piece actually
complicates the idea. I wonder about the idea that death at the hands of
the police is the center movement versus some other set of demands.
JAY CASPIAN KANG, WRITER, "NEW YORK TIMES" MAGAZINE: When I spoke to Deray
or (inaudible) or other people in the movement over the five months that I
spent reporting the piece it would boil down to that actual demand which is
that body cameras, civilian review boards, all that stuff happens after
somebody is dead.
Fundamentally you have to address the fact that somebody is dead first and
that I think that that was sort of the center piece of what people were
doing. While people are working toward other solutions, policy solutions
and other demands people, I think that people within the movement want that
There was an emotional grief that comes out of these deaths that needs to
be amplified, talked about before you start talking about whatever the
solution might be to this.
HARRIS-PERRY: So part of what I love about your piece and what I have seen
to be valuable in the work that you have been up to is respect for the
young people in the movement itself. I think respect that both counters
some of how journalists covered movements as recent as occupy and as
distant as the civil rights movement itself.
I wonder whether or not you initially approach these movements with a sense
of respect for them or whether or not it is, in fact, learning in the craft
that you come to respect these activists.
WESLEY LOWERY, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It`s a
combination of things. I think many of us -- for example, many of us who
arrived in Ferguson when Deray arrived in Ferguson, when Netta, the same
first days following Michael Brown`s death had a shared experience.
Many of us journalists on the ground were also being arrested and
teargassed and hit with rubber bullets. And so that creates in some ways a
communal space and a communal understanding that was very different than,
for example, myself as a reporter on the ground versus my editor back in
And so I think that institutionally there isn`t always that same respect.
That`s where there`s been a lot of more skepticism, what are they doing. I
remember when I would be back in D.C. in staff meetings versus on the
ground with the press corps covering this in real time.
We could see these things. We had relationships. We could see the
legitimacy at least of the feeling and anger of the power of the people.
When you are just watching a burning building on TV for nine hours you
don`t necessarily see and understand.
HARRIS-PERRY: The complexity.
LOWERY: That`s the difference between the media at large and those of us
who are actually physically there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Michael, we have the "New York Times" declaring it`s a
movement, right, which is fascinating to me. In part because whatever we
know about movements, there is always a lot going on oh underneath for
Often failures, defeats before the thing that we are willing to define as a
movement emerges. I think about following on Twitter. There was a point
at which I would wake up every morning and look at your Twitter feed to see
who died that week.
I`m interested in how you see the work that you`ve been doing that so many
others have been doing that are feeding into this even if it may have been
a bit below the surface.
MICHAEL SKOLNIK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GLOBALGRIND.COM: I think as Deray has
said there is a place for everyone in the movement and that`s the beauty of
it. We look back in the civil rights movement. You know, King was in his
young 30s in the march on Washington. John Lewis was in his young 20s.
These were young people during that time as well. So for "New York Times"
Jay`s piece was, to me, so important to put a flag and say, listen to these
young folks. They are telling the stories of the movement.
Netta and Deray are telling the stories about the black lives matter that
founded the hashtag and this movement and also for the "New York Times" to
put Walter Scott on the cover.
And Wesley, I`m a huge fan. He`s journalist with integrity and respect for
the movement. He`s fair and honest and tells it the way he sees it.
Sometimes we don`t like the way he sees it, but he is telling it in a fair
and honest way.
So I think that young people who are using these -- I was watching Deray.
He had his phone in his hand.
HARRIS-PERRY: Two phones.
SKOLNIK: Because he`s the story teller. You can`t miss it. In this day
and age we go to the folks on the ground in Baltimore yesterday, who were
having a huge rally to hear first-hand. Sometimes the media has been in
the way. We want first-hand information and Deray and Netta and many, many
others have been in that process.
HARRIS-PERRY: I was asking Deray earlier what has the movement
accomplished and we were looking at these kinds of interesting data. If
you look back at December of 2014, an ABC News/"Washington Post" poll
asked, are African-American deaths caused by police isolated incidents, and
51 percent said they are isolated incidents.
In March of 2015, we asked the same question and the percentage was down to
39 percent, who says that they are isolated incidents. It`s even more
dramatic when you look at white folks. So in December of 2014, at that
starting point, are African-American deaths caused by isolated incidents
versus being part of a broader pattern, 60 percent of white Americans
saying these are isolated incidents.
By the time we get to March of 2015 it`s down to 45 percent. So a minority
saying these are isolated incidents, which now means a majority see it as a
pattern. It accomplished changing the belief this was a one-off versus a
pattern of action.
TARA CONLEY, SOCIAL MEDIA MANAGER, RACE FORWARD: What we are seeing now
with Twitter and we can document these stories, see them in real time and
witness what`s happening on ground. One of the things I appreciate about
Jay`s piece was this notion of place making, right?
They can be in different places at different times. They can be on the
ground and on Twitter. They are doing constant work. It is not trivial.
What we do on Twitter, with hashtags, with the movement is incredibly
It takes a certain capacity and ethics of care. It is wonderful to see how
these young people are using these of sort platforms in ways that are
HARRIS-PERRY: They are also just young people. Occasionally you look for
activism and people are just turned up at the club.
CONLEY: It`s part of it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, I want to ask my panel what their role as reporters
is. We`ll get down more to the reporting question.
HARRIS-PERRY: What`s the role of the journalist in covering a movement?
This passion, objectivity, unbiased reporting of the facts, how does the
"New York Times" and all the news that`s fit to print motto differ from
colorlines.com which displays the slogan news for action.
How does globalgrind.com with focus on music and pop culture report on a
movement differently from a legacy institution like "The Washington Post"
and how do reporters themselves when they have a vested interest in the
movement that they are covering or what if they are part of the story
themselves, which was the case for Wesley Lowery of "The Washington Post."
Back in August of 2014 he was arrested while working out of a local
McDonald`s covering the unrest in Ferguson. You became part of the story,
which is what journalists are never supposed to be.
LOWERY: Of course.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yet I keep thinking, Aida B. Wells is the foundational
LOWERY: There is a fundamental kind of arrogance and misplaced priority
with this idea that 2,000 journalists will show up at a small suburb in St.
Louis and it will in no way affect the story. That doesn`t make sense.
When a protest is happening and breaks off to take selfies of Anderson
Cooper, I think he`s in it. So this idea of the National Press Corps
showing up in Ferguson, Missouri, and it would not impact anything, was
To go to the question from the beginning what is our role in covering this?
It`s to seek the truth. Sometimes as journalists we are referees. People
forget they call balls and strikes. Sometimes one team isn`t happy about
That`s our role, our job. To seek the truth, ask hard questions, but also
fundamentally to stand up to institutions. You have citizens asking
questions of their government, of the police about what happened in this
killing, in this shooting.
I think it`s our role to ask the hard questions. The question we need to
be asking isn`t did Michael Brown have a juvenile record. It`s why is
Michael Brown dead in the street? That`s disconnected from his record.
HARRIS-PERRY: Whether or not this work we are doing if you are an
activist/journalist, if you then forget to ask questions. I`m thinking
about the "Rolling Stone" UVA piece where the rules of sexual assault
activism at the core begin with believe the person who is telling the
But the rule of oh journalism is skepticism about whoever is telling you a
story. I do wonder about challenges of being the activist journalist.
SKOLNIK: From our part we took the approach from early on from five years
ago to do a series of articles bringing dignity to those who have been
killed, not just by police but each other as well.
We took the idea that do we believe what the media is telling us and can we
force the national media to have conversations they weren`t happening?
It`s a great credit. You have been at the forefront from the beginning.
HARRIS-PERRY: I ain`t a journalist. I have a different set of rules.
SKOLNIK: Speaking truth and power and giving people a voice to have
access. For us which was constantly fighting a main stream media machine
that wanted to hide these issues and pushing them to the limit to discuss
HARRIS-PERRY: So Jay, you are the main stream media machine in important
ways. The "New Yorker" and the "New York Times," these are legacy pieces
like "The Washington Post" is. I wonder if there are different rules, if
you see your role in this context differently.
KANG: I think so. I`m not an activist. I`m agnostic about most of these
issues when I go in. I think that as journalists, I think the default is
to be skeptical towards most activism movements. There are a lot of
movements that manipulate the press, that will not tell you what you as a
reporter are supposed to do, which is like the entire truth.
I also think it`s very misguided. I think what Wesley was saying toward
this is traditionally as a reporter you want to -- the idea that you would
triangulate yourself between one side of the story and the other side and
somehow find yourself in the middle.
I don`t think that works in this case because the sides are so far apart.
Like you said, Mike Brown is actually dead in the street and you have to
follow that story.
It can`t be like on this one side the police unions say this this and the
activists say this so let`s find somewhere in the middle that`s objective.
I think that that impulse in journalists is actually really destructive.
And so yes, but I do think that the skepticism comes first and then the
more time you spend, you figure out where you are in that.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have talked about this relationship between the
activists, the movement and the journalists. The other piece is the piece
that`s the government. So I`m thinking about if you are a Department of
Justice, if you are the Obama administration, if you are the mayor of
Ferguson, you also have are very interested in manipulating the --
influencing, making sure you have the right --
HARRIS-PERRY: And so I`m also wondering about the ways in which press has
to be careful not to be played by those institutions as well as its concern
around the movement.
CONLEY: Those are important questions to ask, but I also think it`s
important for us to continue to push back. I think any time we have the
opportunity to push back toward these institutions whether it is a
government or main stream media, this is part of what the activist movement
I want to make note that one of the things we are seeing with social media
in particular is citizen journalists doing some of these work and pushing
some of the main stream journalists to think differently about how we tell
stories from a systemic analysis when we talk about race.
We are not talking about it based on an individual level like are you
racist? I`m not racist. This is very kind of like personal prejudice
One of the things I really like to study is the ways in which young people
are doing citizen journalism work and pushing against these institutions
that are so entrenched this this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to say thank you to Jay Caspian Kang and to Wesley
Lowery. Tara and Michael will be back later in the program. Up next, a
different story in today`s modern family who has a claim to an embryo.
HARRIS-PERRY: Before "Modern Family" star, Sofia Vergara, could claimed
her brand new star the on the Hollywood Walk of Fame Thursday, she squared
off with her ex-fiance on morning television over the other reason her name
is in the headlines this week.
Her ex-fiance, Nick Lobe, is taking her to court over two frozen embryos
they made together before they split up. He appeared on the "Today" show
explaining why he wants to bring the embryos to term with or without her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NICK LOBE: Not only do I not have any financial motivation I have offered
her to waive all financial responsibility. I will pay to raise the child,
put them through college. I can give them a wonderful life. The girls
will be raised knowing that they have a father who fought for them and they
will be loved so much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Vergara appeared on ABC`s "Good Morning America" the same
day saying that Lobe`s timing is suspect and that she thinks he is doing it
all for press.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SOFIA VERGARA: I don`t want to allow this person to take more advantage of
my career and try to promote himself, get press. This shouldn`t be out
there for people to give their opinion when there is nothing to talk about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: One thing bound to come up during the scheduled court
hearing scheduled for later this month, the couple signed a contract saying
both parties had to consent to bringing both embryos to term.
The case underscores challenges facing real life modern families who rely
on science and assisted reproductive technology. Contracts fall into the
complicated web of state legislation with no national consensus on how to
The United States is one of the few countries without federal laws on
gestational surrogacy. Only 17 states have laws permitting surrogacy
granting pre-birth orders throughout the states. And in five states and
Washington, D.C., surrogacy contracts are void and unenforceable.
It`s really more complicated than that. Each state`s laws vary greatly,
some with different conditions for same-sex couples. In more a dozen
states there is a void, which means that no law exists. This is one of the
most comprehensive maps that we could find on the subject.
And it was compiled by creative family connections, a law firm that matches
surrogates with intended parents because while the practice is gaining this
popularity it remains unregulated.
As the complicated landscape of reproduction expands where you live and
your states political stand could affect how you make your family. After
the break, would regulation really be an improvement? And why will we see
more cases like Vergara`s and Lobe`s.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As a mother, from Sofia`s perspective you wouldn`t
want to have children walking around because you would say who is our mom?
It`s the lady on television. Doesn`t it put her in a position where she
has to agree in some sense?
LOBE: I have left it open to her. If she wants to be involved, doesn`t
want to be involved either one is OK with me. I want them to have the best
lives possible. Whatever makes everybody happier, but there is nothing I
want to do more than bring these children to life. They are already alive.
They are on a journey and a pathway to being born.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The legal battle between Sofia Vergara and her ex-fiance
over their frozen embryos complicates our ideas about just who has a say in
making a family.
Joining my table, Dr. Robert Klitzman, he is a professor of clinical
psychiatry and director of the Masters of Bioethics Program at Columbia
He is also author of "The Ethics Police, The Struggle to Make Human
Research Safe" and also Melissa Brizman, a reproductive rights attorney,
who is the founder of Reproductive Possibilities, which coincidentally is
the agency I employed when I had my own daughter, AJ.
And Danielle Moody Mills who is contributor to MSNBC BLK and co-host of
"Politini," and still with us, Michael Skolnik of globalgrind.com.
So Doctor, I want to start with you, is there ethics to family-making,
rules that we can use for the complicated world we live in to say these are
ethical practices and these aren`t?
DR. ROBERT KLITZMAN, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: There
are, as a matter of fact. We have certain legal practices so there are
contracts people do and should sign and they should lay out all the
possibilities of who`s going to be in charge, who will have are rights to
child and also responsibilities.
There are ethical issues as well that the technology has advanced way ahead
of our ability to understand the ethical and legal issues involve involved.
These are cultural practices.
Childbirth has been around since human beings have been around. Different
cultures have different attitudes and moral beliefs and technology is
creating all new kinds of possibilities that we have to figure out for the
HARRIS-PERRY: At the core of any set of ethical claims around family
making should be consent. That we would want in an ethical context of any
family-making for all parties involved to be consenting.
And yet we recognize that in the non-technological version are of this, we
don`t necessarily require consent. If a woman is pregnant we absolutely
see it as her right to bring a pregnancy to term even if the man doesn`t
I wonder if part of what happened in this context is that it`s shifting our
gender norms and making us rethink that idea.
DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS, CONTRIBUTOR, NBC BLK: We have to think about who
has the right to these embryos. They signed a contract. Contractually it
says neither one of them are able to use this and I listen to him saying if
she doesn`t want to be involved, she has already said she does not want to
have children with you.
I think forcing that situation to happen, I worry. If a court decides to
say, yes, he has the right to those embryos and you are now going to have
however many kids walking around in this universe that you have claim to or
that have claim to you, what kind of family structure is that?
HARRIS-PERRY: Isn`t that -- we would never want a man to say I don`t want
to be a parent to those children, you must terminate a pregnancy.
MOODIE-MILLS: There is no pregnancy now. His justification is that life
process has already begun, which is a bigger conversation about conception
and when conception begins. We have been litigating that for centuries it
It hasn`t been, but it feels that way. So this idea that she`s said no,
when we were together we were going to plan to have a family together. We
are no longer together. She`s engaged to somebody else. She will want
maybe to start a family with somebody else.
So to put her in that precarious situation because you decided the contract
you signed is no longer valid, that`s the point of a contract.
HARRIS-PERRY: So it`s interesting to hear Danielle talk about the contract
language. Because when we look at the map of laws governing assisted
reproductive technologies, a variety of kinds, so whether it`s surrogacy or
whether it`s the question of what happens to embryos and ethical and
responsible disposal or adoption.
These are huge questions. I wonder does the patchwork of laws make it
harder. Would we have a preference for a national framework for this?
We might have a preference, but that would be really hard to do
because of states` rights and because the ethical rules in each state are
very different that you would find it like you find the Dakotas are strict
about having are abortions.
MELISSA BRISMAN, REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS ATTORNEY: Whereas you are much more
liberal on the east coast and I would think it would be very hard to get
the states to come to an agreement on this. But the lack of regulation
whether it`s surrogacy or embryos is really a problem. Most reproductive
attorneys think it should be.
This is unusual for lawyers to think there should be more regulation. It`s
hard to advise your clients. If you come to my office and I find you a
surrogate and I do everything for you, you want me as your lawyer to say,
that woman 100 percent cannot change her mind.
The hearing to get your name on the birth certificate goes like this. As a
surrogate you want me to tell you, this couple cannot turn around and say
we don`t want the baby because it doesn`t have a finger. All of those
things, I can`t give anybody any guarantees and what kind of lawyer can`t
tell you what`s going to happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I think anybody in the family. It`s almost like the
technological aspects of family making reveal vulnerabilities that all
people have none of us can say just what will happen. We are so used to.
We`ll do it in the back of the pickup truck and whatever happens. Then
when has to be intentional we see that.
Stick with us. We`ll talk a little bit more about this because when a
court has to rule on who a mother is, that`s next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last month a judge ruled Sherry Shepherd was the -legal
mother of an 8-month-old boy born via surrogacy. That ruling ended a
month-long legal battle Shepherd and her ex-husband, Lamar Sally.
Before the two divorced they decided to have a baby with Sally`s sperm and
an egg donor. But at some point during the pregnancy, Shepherd had a
change of heart and filed papers asking to be relieved of her parental
rights and responsibilities.
The ruling makes Shepherd financially responsible for the baby named Lamar
Sally Jr. In 2014, a surrogacy lawyer told the "New York Times" there have
been 81 cases of intended parents who change their minds about a surrogacy
And 35 cases in which the surrogate changed her mind with 24 of them being
surrogates who provided the egg. So Melissa, you know, this for me was
probably the most surprising part of my family`s journey through surrogacy.
Because of the baby m case initially, I think there is a sense of the
vulnerability on the side of the intended parents, who somehow the
gestational surrogate will keep the baby.
In fact, discovering and had lots of text messages with my daughter`s
surrogate even through the Shepherd case that there is a great deal of
vulnerability for pregnant gestational surrogate that that she may somehow
end up having a rear a child and that wasn`t her expectation.
BRISMAN: Absolutely and that`s why we need more laws. People think the
laws are for these benefit of the rich intended parents who will rip the
baby from this woman`s womb and never talk to her again and not be nice to
her, treat her like a cow when that`s not the case.
Most intended parents are so thankful. We need more women willing to be
carriers all the time, 50 percent of the United States gets divorced.
What`s the chance? I have had not a single gestational carrier ever try to
keep the baby.
We have done over 2500. I can tell you we have had plenty of intended
parents get divorced and then sometime it is intended mother says, it`s not
my egg. I don`t want the baby. The carrier doesn`t want your baby.
She can have her own baby. It`s not hers. She goes in, has a psych eval.
She wants to know the intended parents are going to take the baby. They
are not stick her with the medical bills and a child.
HARRIS-PERRY: My experience is again for us our daughter`s surrogate was
one who wants to give life in a way that is a happy and joyous and
connected family. We have been texting a lot and she kept saying this is
so sad. I even feel it with the Sofia Vergara case. There is asadness
here. We want family making to be joyous and consensual.
MOODIE-MILLS: I don`t feel we are talking about the children. I feel like
in these conversations and the Shepherd case in particular it`s about her
ex-husband, about their messy divorce. What about the child?
This little boy has a mother that was told by the courts is now your
mother, but she wants nothing to do with this child. She wants nothing to
do with him. I don`t know if laws can protect that.
If laws can actually protect that change of heart, that 50 percent of
people get divorced and this may happen. I don`t know where we go with
KLITZMAN: The problem is technology has given us wonderful possibilities
for people who are not able to have children before to now have children.
The problem is there are also ethical responsibilities that come with that
and the fear is people will enter into it lightly saying, sure, I will sign
a piece of paper.
It can be your sperm, someone else`s egg and if I will borrow your car for
the afternoon. It needs to be clear that even though it`s simple
technologically there are still more responsibilities involved in raising a
People need to think about these things carefully. Like teenagers have
having sex and not thinking a kid may come about as a result.
HARRIS-PERRY: So much less fun. That was not my experience of having eggs
harvested wasn`t at all like teenagers having sex.
SKOLNIK: I come in as a new father and our child is 2 years old. It is
Mother`s Day. To the mother of my child, I love her dearly and I also
think to Sofia Vergara she has a grown child. She`s an incredible mother.
Nick Lobe, it`s bullying.
It`s bullying a woman you are trying to get revenge because maybe she broke
up with you, maybe you`re not together anymore. It`s sad to trivialize
these things. I had a dear friend who had a child through surrogacy. It`s
a beautiful process.
So many people want to have children and use the process to have a child.
For Nick Lobe to use this publically is terribly sad. Also it speaks to
the holly-weirdness of watching people in Hollywood and playing to the
I think to Sofia, the way she`s handle this, I give her tremendous credit
to handle this process and wish her a happy mother`s day. She`s a good
HARRIS-PERRY: We didn`t scratch the surface. There are so many ethical
questions that exist here, questions about commerce and money and it is a
deeply complicated set of questions. So I thank you for the work you`re
I hope we`ll have opportunities to talk more about this. I also want to
say thank you to Dr. Robert Klitzman and to Melissa Brisman and to Danielle
Moodie-Mills. Michael Skolnik is going to hang around a bit.
I will say happy mother`s day to the woman who carried my lovely Anna James
for those nine months and say thank you as we say every day. Up next, a
graduation video going viral online and hat Americans think about race.
More nerdland at the top of the hour.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, "MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY": Welcome back.
I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And it`s graduation season. Yesterday First
Lady Obama delivered the commencement address at us the Tuskegee
University. She spoke at length about the distinguished history of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHELLE OBAMA, U.S. FIRST LADY: Instead of being defined by the
discrimination and doubts of those around them they became one of the most
successful pursuit squadrons in our military.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And that is one way to address black graduates on their big
day. On Friday we saw another when according to a report on the Grio.com
Nancy Gordeuk, the founder of TNT Academy in Lilburn, Georgia failed to
allow time during the graduation exercises for the class valedictorian to
speak. Now, having already conferred diplomas Gordeuk was having trouble
convincing graduates not to leave and to instead stay for yet another
speech. And that is when this happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NANCY GORDEUK, FOUNDER, TNT ACADEMY: You people are being so rude to not
listen to this speech. It was my fault that we missed it in the program.
Look who`s leaving. All the black people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. So, that happened fast there. Just in case you
haven`t seen this video yet and if you aren`t clear in what she just said.
She was saying it was her fault that the young man didn`t have the
opportunity to give his speech. And then she said, look who`s leaving --
all the black people. In a statement provided to NBC News, Gordeuk said
that she was frustrated due to a previous disruption at the graduation
ceremony. And her statement reads in part, "I sincerely apologize to all
the persons in attendance at the ceremony for the actions of the few
causing the disturbance and for my emotional, uncalled generalization of
the black persons in attendance. I deeply apologize for my actions made in
the emotional state of trying to let this student finish his speech."
This week, "The New York Times" and CBS News released a poll that asked
whether or not interactions between people of different races are generally
good or bad. Sixty two percent of white Americans said that interactions
between the races are bad. And 65 percent of African-Americans agreed.
When asked whether if things had improved or worsened, respondents also
gave negative answers with 44 percent saying things have gotten worse and
37 percent saying they haven`t really seen a change. We cannot be certain
just what Americans are assessing when they indicate that interactions
between people of different races are generally bad. But it`s reasonable
to believe that recent video of Eric Garner repeatedly pleading that he
cannot breathe while EMTs failed to respond and images of protesters facing
off against riot gear clad police clashing with two protesters in the
streets of Ferguson and chilling video of a South Carolina police officer
shooting unarmed Walter Scott in the back as he flees.
And the stunning pictures of patrol cars and flames in the streets in
Baltimore might contribute to the sense that all is not well between the
races. Add to those defining moments of video of college kids singing
racist chants and even a historic confirmation subjected to a historic
delay. And well, you can see why optimism may not be in order. It leads
me back to Lilburn, Georgia, a small suburb outside of Atlanta. The latest
online viral video isn`t of this unarmed black man dying at the hand of
police, it`s not even a video of anybody using the n-word but it somehow it
captures the absurd, almost comical if it weren`t so painfully familiar.
The humanization and disrespect that purveyed far too many interracial
interactions. But here`s the thing. The moment didn`t go unnoticed. It
was captured on video, shared on social media and that lead to so many
visits to the school`s website that it crash yesterday afternoon. Well,
now we are here talking about it.
Joining me now Jonathan Rosa, assistant professor of Anthropology at the
University of Massachusetts Amherst. Deray McKesson, who is co-founder of
wetheprotesters.org. Casey Gerald, co-founder and CEO of MBAs Across
America. And Michael Skolnik, editor and chief of GlobalGrind.com. So,
let`s be honest. This video happened to appear on this TV show because my
executive producer follows you on Twitter and I thought, whoop, there it
is. Exactly the thing that we talked about an hour ago about the power of
social media to set a media agenda.
DERAY MCKESSON, WETHEPROTESTERS.ORG: You know, the thing is that we have
been seduced to believe the racism is only structure. Like done laws has
really need to change but really this idea of attitudes and beliefs too.
And what we saw in that video is just how easily she said it, how casually
she said it. And that`s what we need to fight in a different way as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. So, that`s interesting. Because I want to ask
whether or not we care. So, we capture this video of her saying not even
the n-word. Just there go the black people. Now clearly it`s happening in
the context. And we see the response of black folks to that context. But
why should we care about what one individual living basically in Georgia
where the Ku Klux Klan was re-founded. Like why should we care about that?
CASEY GERALD, CEO, MBAS ACROSS AMERICA: Oh boy, poor Nancy. I mean, you
know, bless her heart. She`s not really worth our time. But because I
think what she represents more than anything is just severe incompetence,
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me say we don`t know. Right? We don`t know. Maybe,
GERALD: Incompetence because let`s start back up the tape a bit. The
principal of a school forgets to let the valedictorian disrupt.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. Okay. Alright.
GERALD: So, what the problem, right?
GERALD: The problem here, I`m optimistic, you know, in general. But we
don`t need a poll to tell us that race relations in the country are bad.
Right? They have always been bad. And I think the optimism for me comes
partially from the case that, you know, my grandmother`s grandfather was
born a slave in Texas and I`m here with you. So, the arc is long and it
bends because of the efforts of people who are willing to put their lives
on the line. The problems with a person like Nancy is partially because it
really shows the myth of this idea that our kids can`t be educated unless
they have integrated schools and folks like Nancy who are giving them
opportunities but they are not. And so, how do we bend the arc of justice
for young black people children in this country? It has to be in a case
where a school like mine and high school like mine, there are more S.A.T.
courses than drug searches. And that`s not the case. And that`s the
problem that Nancy represents.
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. All right. So, I like kind of the double things that
you`re doing here. And I want to just say, we did actually invite her Miss
Gordeuk to be on the show. We hadn`t receive a response in part because I
think, if all I know about her is that that I agree with every single part
of your assessment. But I want to acknowledge that I don`t know everything
about her. But you have raised exactly the questions like -- I have which
is when I look at the fact that this is a small town, 10,000, 11,000
people. And she is a school founder and think, why we need to found a
school? What kind of school is this? You know, like in other words, it
raises for me a set of structural questions. The questions I want to ask
are whether or not there is an embedded educational injustice that maybe
happening beneath whether or not this particular school leader says what
she says in this moment.
JONATHAN ROSA, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS AMHERST:
Oh, absolutely. I mean, I think that this kind of video demonstrates the
need to re-conceptualize policing is not just a matter of our formal
criminal justice system but in fact people who are in position of
institutional power and a range of contexts who participate in the
surveillance of racialized populations. I mean, the other striking thing
that is so striking about this video is the way that the reason why she was
asking everyone to sit down is because an African-American apparently had
an iPad upfront and was taking video of the commencement ceremony. So, to
see this woman call for security to remove this African-American man from
the commencement ceremony shows how policing isn`t just a situation where
it is a relationship between police and suspects, but in fact it involves
broader publics, the racial anxieties and the way that they call for police
to participate in the department.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right. So, I just want to point it out for my
audience if they haven`t seen kind of the longer video. That part of, when
she`s talking about the disruption that happens earlier, it is apparently
probably a parent or someone at this graduation taking a video. And she
does in fact calls for a security. They are graduating like in a church.
And you see a security officer come up an aisle of the church during a
graduation. And even the idea that police ought to be present in a moment
like that, I think it gives that you a feeling again that we do not have
all the answers. My bet is that we`re going to get a lot of them over the
next couple of days as people start digging in.
But so Mike, I guess, and yet it belies a reality that I experienced as
somebody who grew up this the south, who lives in the south. Who like in
the `70s if you said interactions between the races, are they bad? Like
actually, like people actually using the n-word and the n-word lover to my
white mother and me in, you know, grocery store parking lots versus my day
to day experiences now, some of which are about my position of privilege.
But also, like I guess I want to be able to acknowledge that those one on
one interactions can be better at the same time the structural interactions
can be bad or even worsening.
MICHAEL SKOLNIK, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, GLOBALGRIND.COM: We are at a remarkable
time in this nation. I think a time that no one has ever seen before.
It`s not just a change in power but a change in demographics. So, unlike
the 60s where law has changed, some civil rights act, now we`re saying the
next 30 to 40 years white people will be the minority. And so, we see
white people in this country. They are kicking and some of them -- not all
of them are kicking and screaming because they realize that the gig is up.
Right. The gig is up.
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. So, sure. But aren`t also a lot of them standing
right next to you in the protest?
SKOLNIK: Absolutely. Absolutely. But I think that`s also where, you
know, as the white guy here, the optimism as to my privilege, the white
privilege I have optimism that we will get there. Because there is no one
with a boot on my neck. I do see young white folks, young Latinos, young
people of color, young LGBTQ at these protests, right, standing side by
side. But it`s no longer good enough to just be an ally. We have to be
accomplices. Right? If they say march, we have to march and get arrested.
If they say show up, we have not just to tweet about it, we have to show
up, I think that`s what the next stage or white ally ship is, isn`t being
accomplice, not just an ally.
HARRIS-PERRY: Deray, give me a quick second.
MCKESSON: I will say that the scary thing that people their racism is only
in the extremes, right? It doesn`t have to be the n-word. It also
manifest in subtle ways.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, that`s right.
MCKESSON: And I don`t want people to be seduced by the extreme racism.
Right? She was really problematic. As a white woman exercising her power
like that, like that matters, and that functions in this space.
HARRIS-PERRY: And part of how we know is because of how they react.
Right? The fact that that audience in that moment, we have to honor that
that reaction doesn`t require the n-word. That they recognized that --
MCKESSON: They are no longer individual people. They were the black
people. Like that functions in a way that matters.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Deray McKesson who just, if you want to come any time,
hang out with us. The rest of the panel is sticking around. And up next,
the question we put to people on the street about race and the fascinating
answers that we got back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I think we have fallen behind in our fight for
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I feel like it`s finally becoming part of the
conversation for this generation. And that`s really a good thing.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: But there isn`t a lot of action. And it`s much harder
to put into action what we say.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Everything is under the surface. You scratch enough a
little bit, and you see that, you know, we are still fighting the same
demons that we were like 20, 30, 40 years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Last week "The New York Times" and CBS released a poll
showing that public perceptions of race relations in America have grown
substantially more negative in the aftermath of the death of a young man
injured while in police custody in Baltimore, that of course is referring
to 25-year-old Freddie Gray. This week I sent a couple of my producers out
into the field to ask people about their perception of race in America.
Specifically one question of my own.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: How has race in America changed in the past two years?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: How has race in America changed in the past two years?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: How has race changed in America over the past two years?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It`s gotten worse. That`s what I would say.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: People are being confronted with the reality of racial
tensions and institutionalized oppression in the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Race if America hasn`t changed as much as people
actually think it has. And that`s really definitely brought up to light by
the protests in Baltimore and a couple of other incidents.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I think we were maybe a little bit asleep in certain
part of the country after 2008 with the election of President Obama that we
were maybe in a post racial society. We are not.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Sometimes we try to ignore the fact that people are of
a certain race or things like that. Just to, you know, just to feel like
you`re color blind or something like that.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: You don`t as often, you know, a white person stepping in
to defend a black person and vice versa.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I would say that social media has actually started to
call more racism out.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: All these things that`s happening -- Trayvon Martin,
Ferguson -- it`s more an explosion of things, of people`s thoughts that are
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We are still fighting the same demons that we were like
20, 30, 40 years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Our leadership has not stepped up and been out front in
leading the fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Is there a solution currently? I don`t believe there is
a solution to the situations that have happened lately.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I think we have fallen behind in our fight for
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: There isn`t a lot of action. And it`s much harder to
put into action what we say. So, I think we are going in a good direction.
But I think people need to push harder, no matter the opposition.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: If you think that other races -- has to deal with
racist intimately as black people have. Are now becoming more aware of
issues that we have known decades ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Back at the table now is Tara Conley, who is a social media
manager of race forward. And I wanted to ask you if the context of race
forward you have actually been working on sort of rules for interracial
conversations, and trying to figure out how we do have meaningful,
productive, moving forward discourse. Can you share some of that?
TARA CONLEY, MEDIA MAKE CHANGE FOUNDER: Yes. Absolutely. We produce the
moving the race conversation report. And basically what we do is we would
look at news media. And we found that 66 percent of the coverage is not
systemically aware about these issues on race. And so, what we do to talk
about how we talk about race in these contexts. We think about the ways in
which we use coded language, right? Thug. The ways in which media has
sort of talked about the spectacle of media without thinking about history.
You can textualize in what happens before and after the burning CVS
building. Again, talking about these sociopolitical issues, these cultural
issues, these economic issues, education issues. Things that are
surrounding that spectacle that we always see in the media. So, part of
that report is doing its service and having us step back and say, this is
not about individual level of racism. Right? This is about systemic
issues that we really have to talk about in order to, again, move the race
conversation forward in this day and age.
HARRIS-PERRY: Every time I hear the race conversation, there`s a part of
me that thinks, yes. Because I mean, I`m a college professor. I have no
tools, like I have, you know, I have a mic and a pen and the ability to
talk. But there`s also part of me that thinks, oh, God, are we going to
talk about it again? Where does conversation fit within a broader racial
ROSA: Yes. I think conversation is a profoundly informal way of framing
much broader issues. So, it`s worrisome that if we locate the solution
that this interpersonal level if we would just converse then institutions
would magically be transformed.
HARRIS-PERRY: By the way, I want to be able to talk a process, like I also
don`t want to lose that. Right?
ROSA: Well, on some level, but it`s even interesting to watch the people
in these interviews sort of grapple with their presumptions about racial
progress as a linear of phenomenon. So, this idea that things are always
or should be getting better. Because people are paying attention today
doesn`t mean they`ll pay attention next week, or next month or next year.
So, race can come into and out of focus, so.
HARRIS-PERRY: That idea. So, you talked about that arc of history which
the President also likes to use that arc of history, that bending toward
justice. But I always think of it more as a spiral. So, it doubles back
on itself. It can be improving. You know, my father used to say to me
pretty regularly, who are you to think you get to live during the part of
the movement that`s winning. Right? You might be living during the part
of the movement that`s losing. Like you can`t be sure. You have to stay
in those struggle.
GERALD: It`s fascinating that you bring that up. And that is really the
power obsess, right? All these layers of history, and truth, and mistruth
and trauma. Right? And so, the idea of race relations is a misnomer in
and of itself. Human relations in this country are deeply troubling. And
in my time in MBAs Across America, I spent most of my time driving across
the country. And when I say human relations are terrible, is that we don`t
know each other. It`s the Maya Angelou thing right to have the courage to
look into your brother`s eyes, and your sister`s face and say good morning.
We can`t do that. And then you look beyond the individual and personal
which are critical human relations. And you say, what is the structure?
And I think about Detroit. And I go to Detroit. And we got there the week
before the city went bankrupt. And there was a counter narrative about the
city that said entrepreneurship would going to save them. We went to see
the entrepreneurs and they were all these sort of, you know, beautiful,
young white guys in hoodies making mobile apps. And I said, well, Detroit
is 700,000 people, 82 percent black, 40 plus percent below the legal
poverty line, 60 percent practically below the poverty line. You can`t
tell me that mobile apps are going to save us. So, I want us to do the
HARRIS-PERRY: Or that it`s all that counts.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t know anybody more entrepreneurial than just like the
regular black folk. Like let it rain and see if they don`t come out with a
cart with some umbrellas selling stuff. And the, you know, like regular
GERALD: On June 20th, 1865 we were all entrepreneurs. Right? Think about
that. So the black extremists in the country is an entrepreneurial
HARRIS-PERRY: Wait a minute. You took me back to liberation day. I would
have to pause. You can`t just take a sister back and be like 1865, think
about that. I need a commercial to think about it. And when I come back,
I also Michael, want to talk to you a little bit about this perception
gulf, the way we actually look the world and see it differently through the
lens of race when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: There are moments when those stark and substantial divide
between white and black Americans is plainly visible. Go back 20 years to
1995 when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty of murder. ABC News asked
Americans if the jury reached the right verdict. According to a review by
the Ruppert (ph) Center, 81 percent of black people, agreed with the jury
while only 37 percent of white Americans agreed. We can go back just 10
years ago to 2005 when the city of New Orleans was devastated in the
aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Pew found that 66 percent of Black
Americans believed the government would have responded more quickly if most
victims had been white.
But 17 percent of white Americans thought that way. And even though 71
percent of African-Americans believed the disaster revealed that racial
inequality was still a problem, fewer than the third of white Americans
agreed. So, it`s not surprising to find similarly large differences
between black and white Americans and last week`s NBC News Wall Street
Journal poll about the unrest in Baltimore following the death of Freddie
Gray from injuries sustained while in police custody. Sixty percent of
black respondents saw the events in Baltimore as resulting from long
standing frustrations about police mistreatment of African-Americans. But
white respondents, 58 percent believe that it was just an excuse to in
looting and violence.
There is one thing on which we seem to agree these days. We think race is
in a bad place and likely to get worse. Not only do a substantial majority
believe interactions between the races is bad but 96 percent also expect to
see more unrest this summer. So I am constantly Michael in this position
trying to figure out what we do when we, you know, when we are looking at
the same thing. But race which is not a biological reality is, the thing
that it becomes, like the glasses we put on. Right? So, I put on my white
glasses and we literally see something different. We see that verdict
differently. We see that protest differently.
SKOLNIK: A lot of time white people will say, I understand. And we will
never understand. Just like I will never understand what it is to be a
woman who works to a parking late at night and has to have, you know, a can
of mace on her keys. We`ll never understand the social conditions of black
people in this country. The best we can do is come to the table and say,
we respect your struggle and we`re not doing that enough. Oh, you just
want to loot, you just want to, you know, get some sneakers out of a store
or some liquor out of the liquor store when that guy was killed by the
police. I`m thinking a lot about how do we measure progress in the next
10, 20, 30 years and so much of our conversation is been around the poverty
line and getting the middle class jobs. But what about disparity between
wealth, between black and white? If we look at that as well as a social
indicator of our progress, it`s a home ownership, who lost the majority of
the wealth in the 2008 recession was black people. Right?
HARRIS-PERRY: And black women in particular.
SKOLNIK: So, we have $120,000 white family wealth in this country compared
to 5,000 per black family. We say get out of poverty, get out of poverty.
Get out. But if you close that gap, just like equality and equity. It`s
not just about, you know, equal rights. It`s also about equity. Close
that gap over the next 20, 30, 40 years, our work now will be worth it. If
the gap remains and black folks continue to stay in the social condition
they are today, I`m not sure, you know, how much progress we have made.
HARRIS-PERRY: So that gap right, that you`re talking about, that`s
measurable that we can think of as something that we can determine whether
or not progress -- I also don`t want to miss that at the same time that
this perceptual gap may also be part of our understanding around progress.
And so, that very idea of, like, oh, you just want to loot or the way that
you see things, I also wonder if -- so -- I am challenged by the idea that
so much that`s happened for us visually and what I can`t figure out is,
when I`m showing Baltimore, when I am showing the shooting of Walter Scott,
is what we are showing in that moment, something that people are receiving
like Emmett Till? Are they receiving it like those images on the Edmund
Pettus Bridge pricking our conscious, making us change or are they
responding to it like the lynching photographs where it is just a
spectacular consumption of the death of black bodies? And I think that
goes seems to have to do with literally the glasses through which we`re
seeing the world.
CONLEY: Absolutely. And, you know, when I think about and I love the
example you cupcake here and it`s all perception. We see this cupcake
differently based on where the situation --
HARRIS-PERRY: I also love that you see the muffin as a cupcake.
CONLEY: But so, what`s interesting is that with all the images past and
present one thing is for certain. That Black Death is alive and well. And
we see it constantly, particularly with social media and video and cell
phone cameras. I think one of the reasons why our perceptions are changing
and the gap is widening in that respect is that we have access to seeing
these moments on across time and space. And it`s difficult to reconcile.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. But if I don`t see a black body as human then I
don`t see breaking it as a problem. Right? And so, that`s my worry. Is
when I show that is it just -- are you enjoying -- do we click on it that
many times because we are appalled that the woman says -- or do we find it
funny to watch that moment?
ROSA: I actually think that this is one of the ways in which social media
have profoundly changed the nature of the conversation. So, in face to
face encounters you don`t have the opportunity to rematerialize your body
to show it as innocent or valuable. But on social media you can do a
hands-up, don`t shoot to actually challenge the way that the body is seen.
And I have been profoundly kind of -- I`ve been thinking about the ways
that people are really challenging how their bodies are viewed and how they
make their bodies visible in particular ways. And the question is always,
for whom are these isolated incidents that are happening there now versus
for whom are these longstanding histories that have always been happening
that are part of a broader system.
GERALD: I think about this in the context of something my grandmother
said. Well, when you know better, you do better. And the challenge and I
don`t think it is about perception alone. I think it`s about the truth
that we are invested in. And the truth that we are resistant to. Because
if you, let go of the myth of America and understand the truth of it in all
of its ugliness and all of its glory, I think you`ve got to do something
about it. And the challenge is that the truth in this country -- is that
reparations is not just the financial exercise. It is a deep reckoning
with the truth of this country. And I think I still can believe in
America. I can still have hope in America. And I can still have hope in
this idea of this country. But that doesn`t excuse me from facing the fact
that we have been built for 400 years on a system of white supremacy. Now,
if we did that, these perceptions might be a bit different. And the action
because of the truth of the perceptions might be different as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I think it`s a useful comment for me in part because
I`m really a big American optimist impart because, it`s mine. It isn`t
actually better or worse but than anybody else is. But it`s my country.
I`m not going anywhere. The people we built it and here we are. And we
have to figure it out. And I also, I just want to put an exclamation point
on your point about bodies and I hope maybe we can think about it more here
on MHP show as we go. Because I think that that idea are is also connected
to what`s happening with Trans-Politics and with LGBT politics. And also,
it`s coming out of the shadows for the undocumented, all of them about
changing the way the bodies are seen.
I think that is very valuable way of thinking about it. The last thing I
also say is, there is a voice that I would really love to invite on my
show. And that is, if we go back to our conversation about that graduation
video, that young man didn`t get to give his valedictorian speech. And I
would certainly like to hear it. And so, I don`t know your name, young
man. But if you`re out there, in all of this I don`t want to miss that you
had a valedictorian speech to give and Nerdland would be a lovely place for
you to give it. And if you want to come to give it, there is an open
Thank you to Casey Gerald, the rest of my panel is all sticking around.
And still to come this morning, the black girl superhero with magical hair.
Also, we`re going to go to Baltimore for the latest on the movement there,
even as that city awaits a concert by the purple one himself, prince, later
tonight. Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s been more than five months since Tamir Rice was shot
and killed by a police officer. Tamir was 12-years-old, on November 22nd,
he was playing with a toy pellet gun in a park near his home in Cleveland.
Police responding to a 911 call about an armed man in the park shot Tamir
almost immediately upon arriving at the scene. Surveillance video shows a
police car racing into the park on the grass and pulling up next to Tamir.
In less than two seconds Officer Timothy Loehmann, gets out of the
passenger side and shoots Tamir twice. It`s been five and a half months
and the county sheriff`s department has not yet completed its investigation
into the shooting. Tamir`s body has not yet been laid to rest. The city
of Cleveland has asked a judge to stay the Rice family`s civil lawsuit
against the city. Officer Loehmann and his partner, until the criminal
investigation is complete. But Tamir`s family says, there is no indication
of when that might be and they are tired of waiting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMARIA RICE, MOTHER OF TAMIR RICE: Less than a second my son is gone. I
want to know how long I have to wait for justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Tamir`s mother Samaria Rice. She and her children
were able to move into a new apartment a few weeks ago, according to her
lawyers, but before that desperate to move away from the park where her son
was shot and killed, she was living in a homeless shelter. Mother`s Day
began as a call for peace in the aftermath of the civil war as Julia Ward
Howe wrote in her Mother`s Day proclamation of 1870, quote, "Our sons shall
not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach us from
charity, mercy and patience, we the women of one country will be too tender
of those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure
theirs. From are the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with
our own. It says disarm, disarm. The sort of murder is not the balance of
justice." And so on this Mother`s Day to Samaria Rice, "I wish you
whatever peace you can find. Peace and justice, dear mother."
HARRIS-PERRY: This weekend some mothers are celebrating Mother`s Day a
different way, by marching for justice for the children they`ve lost.
Yesterday mothers marched through Washington, D.C. to the Justice
Department to honor loved ones who have been killed by police and to demand
accountability for officers who used deadly force. It was called the
million moms march and the march was organized by Maria Hamilton whose son
Dontre was shot and killed by a police officer in Milwaukee last April.
That officer was fired from the department but has not faced criminal
charges. The group presented a list of demands including the creation of a
public database and a Justice Department review of all officer involved
deaths. Maria Hamilton spoke directly to Department of Justice Press
Secretary Kevin Lewis who came out to hear the demands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARIA HAMILTON, SON DONTRE WAS SHOT AND KILLED BY POLICE OFFICER: I need
for you to do this. I`m tired of going to these moms` houses, comforting
them. (INAUDIBLE) They lose everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Meanwhile, in New York, hundreds of people gathered to call
for stricter gun control laws in a rally organized by moms demand actioner
for gun sense in America.
Joining me now to talk about the power of activism are the Reverend
Osagyefo Sekou from the Fellowship of Reconciliation. And live from
Baltimore Dominique Stevenson, a community organizer and a mother of four.
Miss Stevenson, I want to start with you. Can you talk to me about what
Mother`s Day means from a justice perspective?
DOMINIQUE STEVENSON, COMMUNITY ORGANIZER: Wow. That question is kind of
hard to answer. One because I think that so many mothers in the community
that I come from have lost their children. You know, whether it`s due to
police violence, whether it`s due to violence in the community. I think as
a mother I feel like, you know, it`s my responsibility to do what I can do
to assist, to try to really bring some justice to the community here in
Baltimore. That is regardless of Mother`s Day. I think every day is a
Mother`s Day. It may not be a good day, but every day is a Mother`s Day.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with me. Reverend, you and I have talked a lot over
the time that you have been in Ferguson. And then over these past weeks,
you have been in Baltimore. And part of what I hope to do is to bring the
humanity of what these lawsuits are because they feel political but there
is humanity here. I wonder if you can help to talk about how you organized
that human part as well as that political action.
REV. OSAGYEFO SEKOU, FELLOWSHIP OF RECONCILIATION: Well, I think the
organization, the ways in which people engage in social movement in and off
itself have a redeeming and healing process and possibility. That when
folks stand up and resist something stands up in them. And it offers a
certain form of healing. So, when we look at a mass headed by Yvette
Harris in Sikeston (ph), Missouri, leading mothers on dealing with these
questions of police violence against black bodies and other spaces that
when they organize something happens to them. And what happens to them
individually also speaks to what happens to our nation. So then these
movements become a kind of thermostat, if you will. They begin to set a
political climate. And then we get some of these political victories which
are grounded in the tears of mothers.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to go -- we heard the moms speaking and saying -- Ms.
Hamilton speaking and saying that she was broken and so she learned to
HARRIS-PERRY: I also want to point out that when mothers and his children,
also brothers and sisters lose siblings, I want to listen to the junior
ambassador, Christopher Underwood, for moms demand action for gun sense. I
want the listen to him talking at the New York City rally yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER UNDERWOOD, MOMS DEMAND ACTION FOR GUN SENSE IN AMERICA: He was
a great big brother. He used to take me to the bus stop in the morning and
pick me up from the bus stop in the afternoon. Then one day he was gone.
Gun violence killed him and took him away from me forever. At that time he
died he was 14 and I was five. I was angry about losing him. So I took my
pain and anger and I turned it into action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Dominique, I don`t know if there is a dry eye at my table
here in New York. But there in Baltimore obviously those are the voices
not only of the moms but of the brothers and of the sisters who have lost
people. How do we turn that kind of pain into actual change?
STEVENSON: I`m sorry. I`m having difficulty hearing you. Could you
repeat the question again?
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m just, I`m trying to think about how we take our personal
pain and turn it into meaningful change.
STEVENSON: You`re asking how to take personal pain and turn it into
HARRIS-PERRY: Meaningful change, yes, ma`am.
STEVENSON: Is that the question?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, ma`am.
STEVENSON: Yes. Wow. Honestly, I think that people of African descent,
African-Americans have been doing that for a long time. I think that it`s
time for that pain to end. I think that we have been taking that personal
pain very often and turning it into something meaningful whether it`s
activism, whether it is doing something to transform, you know, our
community have transformed the lives of folks in the communities. I think
we need to -- that needs to end. I`m sorry. I just think that pain is no
place to be. You know, who wants to live this in constant pain? And I
think that these mothers deserve relief. There is no justice once a child
has been taken.
STEVENSON: We can plead for justice. But once that life has been taken,
it`s not just going to be restored. I think that we need to worker harder
so that these lives aren`t taken.
STEVENSON: So that mothers aren`t grieving the loss of a child, so that
mothers don`t have to become active because they`ve lost a child.
STEVENSON: I think that we also need to really extend love, to people who
are not necessarily of our family or in our particular community.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Reverend, I want to come to you on that. You are not
necessarily from Baltimore. You are making the move to Missouri, having
grown up there but having lived away. Sometimes what happens is activists
from around the country are engaging in communities that are not
necessarily theirs but are theirs in some broader way. Can you talk about
SEKOU: Well, I think fundamentally to be that I`m black all over America.
And so, wherever I enter into a space I`m going to encounter various forms
of the way in which the state is going to encounter my body. Another
reality is that Martin Luther King went from Montgomery and Malcom X went
from Harlem. And so, this idea that we are outside of any kind of damage
and despair inside of a local community is deeply problematic at least of
the cosmic level. And then secondly, I think the reality for us is that
when we enter into these spaces as organizers we have are moral and ethical
obligation to submit ourselves to local leadership and to follow them in
such a way that we come to understand what are the nuances, details and
that kind of thing. And then lastly for me as we think about these
mothers` tears and all the tears at this table that on this Mother`s Day it
seems the case that everyone in the nation that Tamir Rice needs to be
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Yes.
SEKOU: For everyone in the nation, every time a black baby is shot in the
back, it has to be the fact. And for white folks, that something
cosmically is at stake for them. And so, in that sense, what we need from
white folks is not for them to be allies but to be freedom fighters.
HARRIS-PERRY: And for these children to be their children.
SEKOU: And these children to be their children. Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Dominique Stevenson in Baltimore, Maryland.
Here in New York, thank you to Jonathan Rosa, to Tara Conley, Reverend
Sekou, and to Michael Skolnik. Up next, the black girl comic book hero
with the magical hair prepare to meet Moxie Girl.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me show you Natalie McGriff. She`s seven-years-old, and
she is adorable. She loves to dance, and apparently her favorite artists
are Jasmine Sullivan and Beyonce. Natalie is a great kid, but after seeing
how many kids in school and storybooks had long, straight hair, Natalie was
feeling insecure about her own natural hair. Also, while she loved Science
and Math, she was not a big fan of reading. Her mom, Angie Nixon, knew she
needed to intervene and cooked up a plan to help boost her daughter`s self-
esteem and foster a love of reading. The two joined forces to create a
comic book about a superhero where magic afro-puffs that attempts to save
the public library from book-eating monsters.
"Moxie Girl" was born. In "The Adventures of Moxie Girl," the hero she-ro
like Natalie doesn`t like her hair, but with the help of special shampoo,
her perceived flaws are transformed into superpowers. And in April, the
comic book, more than $16,000 at one spark, the world`s largest
crowdfunding festival. The mother and daughter duo will use the money to
publish the comic book, meaning the great afro-puffs will come great
responsibility. Will Moxie prevail? You`ll have to read for yourself.
They plan to publish the book in June.
Joining me now from Jacksonville, Florida is Natalie McGriff and her mom,
Angie Nixon. Angie, what a great idea!
ANGIE NIXON, MOTHER OF NATALIE MCGRIFF: Thank you. Thank you, good
afternoon. And Happy Mother`s Day!
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, and Happy Mother`s Day you to, too. Have you
seen a difference in your daughter about that hair positivity since "Moxie
NIXON: Definitely. She`s more outgoing. And she`s happy to be who she
is. So she loves her hair now. There are still moments, but she loves her
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Natalie, I love your hair. I love how you`re wearing it
right now. What has been the most fun of doing "Moxie Girl" with your mom?
NATALIE MCGRIFF, "THE ADVENTURES OF MOXIE GIRL": I don`t know.
HARRIS-PERRY: When you picked the name "Moxie Girl," what is it about her
that gives her Moxie? What do you mean by that?
MCGRIFF: Determination. Boldness.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that. What do you feel determined to do?
MCGRIFF: To save the libraries.
HARRIS-PERRY: To save the library. Talk to me about that. Ms. Nixon,
what saving the library?
NIXON: Well, I`m a community organizer by trade. And Natalie and I
actually worked on a campaign here in Jacksonville last year in which they
were closing down some library due to funding issues. And so, I kind of
wanted to combine some of what was going on in real life in her book.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ve got two daughters of my own. And it can be tough to
find books that really have images that -- both have great, good stories,
but also images that reinforce the value of what these little girls look
like. Do you see "Moxie Girl" as being a series, do you see her going on
and doing other things beyond this one book?
NIXON: Right. Definitely. So, I definitely see "Moxie Girl "as being a
series. You would be amazed on just how many young kids, girls and boys,
that ran up to us when we had the big banner with "Moxie Girl" on it. So,
I actually have a nephew whose name is Chris. And he has tubes in his
ears. And so we wanted to do "The Adventures of Moxie Boy," as well, in
which his tubes and his hearing aid actually become superpowers. So, we
want to address a lot of insecurities within kids and just make them their
superpowers and make them love who they are regardless of whatever it is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Natalie, can I ask, what are you doing for your mom for
Mother`s Day today?
MCGRIFF: Taking her somewhere.
HARRIS-PERRY: Taking her somewhere that`s fun for her?
MCGRIFF: Yes, but I`m not telling.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh! It`s a secret. I love it. Natalie McGriff, you are
one fantastic kid. Thank you for being here. And Angie Nixon, thank you
for being here.
NIXON: Thank you for having us.
MCGRIFF: You`re welcome.
HARRIS-PERRY: Happy Mother`s Day.
NIXON: And follow us on Instagram.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, good.
NIXON: "The Adventures of Moxie Girl." And then like us on Facebook at
"The Adventures of Moxie Girl."
HARRIS-PERRY: We will absolutely do that. Thank you so much for giving us
on Mother`s Day. And giving us a good hopeful moments ago out on.
NIXON: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. That`s our show for today, everybody. Thanks to
you at home for watching. I`m going to see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m.
Right now, time for a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Happy Mother`s
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT": And to you, oh my gosh,
we love that. Like, oh, she`s kind of -- speaking of Happy Mother`s Day to
you, too. Your precious daughter is here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
WITT: Oh my gosh, what a baby girl. She is precious. Yep. She is.
Well, everyone. What`s in the name? A new report on Hillary Clinton and
Jeb Bush. And a similarity they share as the race for 2016 gets underway.
My conversation with author and talk show host Tavis Smiley. He responds
to critics who say he may be too tough on President Obama.
And riding the rails. Why can`t trains in America get us there faster? A
new look at how the U.S. is behind the times in this type of travel.
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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