'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, May 31st, 2015
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: May 31, 2015
Guest: Gordon Chang, Mira Rapp Hooper, Jennifer Pozner, Jamie Kilstein,
Cristina Beltran, Danielle Moodie-Mills, Jamil Smith, Jemele Hill, Cornell
William Brooks, A.J. Jacobs, Paul Washington, Regina Wilson, Ginger Adams
Otis, Terence Blanchard
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning my question, can Lebron
save Cleveland? Plus, Roxanne Gaye and Taylor Swift, the new "Maxim"
magazine it girls, and the missing 86 minutes of video surveillance
connected to a Chicago police shooting.
But first, China is building something in the sea. It is not a new
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. This morning the country is
waking up to saddening and stunning news. It first broke late last night.
Beau Biden, the former attorney general for the state of Delaware and son
of Vice President Joe Biden is dead at the age of 46.
A statement from the vice president reads in part, "It is with broken heart
that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our
husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same
integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life.
The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words. We know that Beau`s
spirit will live on this all of us especially through his brave wife,
Hallie and two remarkable children, Natalie and Hunter."
Barry Erent (ph) of NBC News has more.
BARRY ERENT, NBC NEWS (voice-over): Beau Biden, former Delaware attorney
general and eldest son of Vice President Joe Biden died Saturday from brain
cancer. The 46-year-old Bronze Star recipient who served in Iraq was first
diagnosed in August 2013.
Following treatment, he was given a clean bill of health and returned to
his work as Delaware attorney general just months later. He announced last
year he would not seek a third term as attorney general instead planning a
run for governor in 2016.
BEAU BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN`S SON: Please join me in welcoming my
friend, my father, my hero, the next vice president of the United States,
ERENT: Biden gave an emotional speech are introducing his father at the
2008 Democratic National Convention and was considered a rising star in the
Democratic Party. Just this spring, Biden suffered a recurrence of the
cancer and sought treatment.
But despite a valiant fight, Beau Biden died surrounded by his family. He
is survived by his wife, Hallie, and their two children, Vice President Joe
Biden and Dr. Jill Biden and his brother and sister. Barry Erent, NBC
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is NBC news White House correspondent,
Kristen Welker. Kristen, this is certainly a sad day there at the White
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is. Everyone
here is in mourning, Melissa. Condolences have been pouring in from
lawmakers on both sides of the aisle overnight the nation`s capital, and so
many people across the country devastated to learn this news.
President Obama released a statement late last night. I will read you part
of what that statement says, Melissa. It says, quote, "Beau took after
Joe. He studied the law like his dad, even choosing the same law school.
He chased a life of public service like his dad, serving in Iraq and as
Delaware`s attorney general.
Like his dad, Beau was a good, big hearted, devotedly Catholic and deeply
faithful man who made a difference in the lives of all he touched. He
lives on in their hearts."
Now a lot of people have been noting the special bond between Vice
President Joe Biden and his son. Not only did they share the big broad
smile, but they also a love of public service, dedication to family and
what`s so hard, Melissa, is that this is not the first time tragedy had
struck the Bidens.
In 1972, Beau was just a little boy when he was injured in a car accident
that killed his sister and his mother. His father had been elected to the
U.S. Senate. He was famously sworn in at beau`s bedside.
You remember the picture. Beau talked about his recollections of that
tragic moment at the 2008 Democratic National Convention while he was
introducing his father.
This was a man whose political future seemed just as bright as his
father`s. I will give Joe Biden the last word. He said this speaking on
behalf of his entire family, quote, "Beau Biden was quite simply the finest
man any of us have ever known" -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Truly, truly sad news. Thank you to NBC`s Kristen Welker at
the White House.
We have other breaking news to tell you about this morning. Secretary of
State John Kerry was hospitalized this morning after breaking his right
femur in a cycling accident in France.
Because the injury is near the site of a previous hip surgery, Kerry is
cutting short his trip to Europe and returning to Boston today to be
treated by the doctor who performed the hip operation.
A spokesman says the 71-year-old secretary of state is in good spirits and
expected to make a full recovery. Stay with MSNBC throughout the day for
the latest on this developing story.
Now, we are going to turn to a story about islands. This in particular
artificial man made islands. Some of which you have heard of. The
Netherlands, for example, boasts one of the largest man-made islands formed
by reclaimed land.
Then there is Qatar, a rivier, a style man-made island, the so-called
virtual Veniz in the Middle East and Dubai, home to several man-made
islands including the Palm Islands.
You can see in this mega feat, shaped like a palm tree, set to rival the
island party capital. Then we have this stretch of man-made islands in the
South China Sea. There is no tourist attraction, nor luxury resort.
What you are seeing is a hot spot of another kind, the site of escalating
geopolitical tension. Here`s why. This smattering of artificial land is
called the Spratly Islands. These are contested waters.
And what is increasingly alarming the international community is how China
is rapidly building new artificial islands to expand its territory claim
According to U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, China constructed more than
2,000 acres of new territory in the resource rich, Spratly Islands in the
past 18 months.
This has built-out has angered neighboring countries such as Vietnam and
the Philippines, who also claims sovereignty over all or part of these
scattered islands and reefs.
That`s not all. U.S. officials have announced that artillery was spotted
by satellite and surveillance aircraft about a month ago on one of the new
U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft captured an image of, what is purportedly,
Chinese dredging vessels, even more troubling is that the mobile artillery
has since disappeared, which has many speculating the Chinese government
has removed or hidden it.
Tension also escalated last Wednesday when a U.S. spy plane flew over part
of the South China Sea near where China is building. The Chinese Navy
issued eight warnings to the aircraft to move away from the contested
Two days later, China said it was strongly dissatisfied with the action and
called on the U.S. to stop. The U.S. has become increasingly vocal about
opposing any further militarization of islands in the South China Sea.
The speech yesterday at an annual security policy forum in Singapore that
included defense officials from over 30 other countries including China,
Secretary Carter called for an immediate and lasting halt to land
reclamation by all countries. It is unclear how much farther China will
go, he said.
Joining me now is Gordon Chang, a columnist for forbes.com and author of
the "Coming Collapse of China" and Mira Rapp Hooper, who is a fellow at the
Center for Strategic and International Studies, Asia Program.
OK, Gordon, this story is one that we reported on a long time ago as a sort
of, this is happening. But suddenly, you have called this a classic zero
sum confrontation. What exactly is at stake here?
GORDON CHANG, COLUMNIST, FORBES.COM: Well, really it`s freedom of
navigation from the U.S. point of view. Because if there`s been a
consistent American foreign policy over two centuries, it has been
defending the global commons.
China, by building these islands is infringing on that by declaring a
military alert zone over them and protesting U.S. planes in international
air space. The Chinese have territorial claims. We don`t, but what we
want is everyone to have access to sea and air space.
HARRIS-PERRY: Which is precisely what -- when she was secretary of state,
Secretary of State Clinton said so I think it is important we are not
claiming that we own any portion of this land. But she did say in July of
2010 that the United States have are a national interest in freedom of
navigation, open access to Asia`s maritime commons and respect for
international law in the South China Sea.
So for those of us who are not specialists in this area, help us to
understand the difference between air and sea versus land.
MIRA RAPP HOOPER, FELLOW, CSIS ASIA PROGRAM: Under international law, all
rights to maritime delimitations as well as air space must come from land.
Part of what we believe China is doing is building islands where none
existed before so it can claim rights to sea as well as the air above it.
It is why as Gordon mentioned we are concerned that China`s island-building
may interfere with freedom of navigation and freedom over flight in the
South China Sea.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so what is at stake? Again, we know most Americans
aren`t good with geography. These islands are man-made. If we go back to
the Cuban missile crisis and the question of proximity of Cuba to the U.S.,
but what`s at stake for the U.S. in the South China Sea for goodness sake?
CHANG: Well, there is $5.3 trillion of annual commerce that goes over the
South China Sea and in many ways it is more important than the Suez and
Panama Canals combined. But really --
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, I need you to pause there, more -- there is more going
on there as a matter of commerce than the Suez and Panama Canals?
CHANG: Yes. And so essentially what we have here is a problem of open
seas. Now it`s not just the South China Sea because essentially there are
a lot of other countries that would like to close off international seas.
This is really a contest for whose vision of the world is going to prevail.
It`s going to be the U.S. which is open and available to everybody. This
open architecture, or it is going to really be China, which will close off
the sea and other countries will do the same thing. Essentially this is a
zero sum contest. There is little way to compromise this.
HARRIS-PERRY: The other important piece of this is this white paper out of
China saying we will not attack unless we are attacked. But we will surely
counterattack if attacked. This is obviously a translation. Are we about
to go to war with China?
HOOPER: I don`t think we are there yet, Melissa. I think certainly
tensions have been heightening in the last several weeks. The real danger
here is those accidental or inadvertent escalation between the claimants.
What I mean by that is if China begins to flow vessels, forces, aircraft
into these artificial islands, those islands are in very close proximity to
islands that are held by other claimants in the South China Sea such as
Vietnam and the Philippines.
The real danger is that there could be some sort of accident where aircraft
clash or ships have some kind of accident and conflict escalates from
HARRIS-PERRY: As a matter of an accidental interaction as opposed to an
HOOPER: Exactly. I think at this point certainly both the United States
and China and the other claimants involved in the South China Sea
understand a decision to go to war would be absolutely catastrophic on all
HARRIS-PERRY: Gordon, when we come back, I want to ask you that same
question about whether or not we are about to go to war with China. I want
to do it in a way of thinking about our conflict with China. Stay with us.
We`ll have more on this topic in a moment.
Also reminder that we are following breaking news about Secretary of State
John Kerry, who broke his leg in a cycling accident in France today. A lot
to cover this morning. We`ll be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to take a moment to play Senator John McCain speaking
on the issue of China`s island-building in the Pacific Friday while he was
traveling in Ho Chi Minh City.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: We just have received information about
mobile artillery now being placed in the islands that the -- excuse me --
in the years that have been filled in and reclaimed by the Chinese
government, and it is a disturbing development, an escalatory development.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Disturbing, escalatory, is this a drum beat of war we are
CHANG: Well, I don`t about war. But one of the things that we will have
to do probably in conjunction with friends and allies is drive our ships
close to the islands because we want to make sure that the waters are still
considered to be part of the global commons.
We probably will fly our planes into what China considers to be its air
space, but everybody else considers international, that is a problem, and
also if the Chinese declare an air defense identification zone over the
South China Sea.
It means that commercial traffic will be put at risk because probably
they`ll be conflicting instructions to planes and clearly China will try to
reinforce it perhaps with its own air force, which they`ve done in the
So this is a problem and as Mira said, it`s accidental escalation that`s
the real risk.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the last time you were here, Gordon, we were talking
about the Transpacific Partnership. We were talking about the economic
peace. I was looking back and noticing that as far back as 2007, one of
then Senator Obama`s first initiatives was a ban on -- wanting to make a
ban on toys from China as a result of a led paint concern.
And then just in his most recent "state of the union" in 2015 saying China
wants to write the rules for the world`s fastest growing region. That will
put our workers and our businesses at a disadvantage. Why would we let
that happen? We should write the rules." Is this military piece actually
about an economic conflict?
CHANG: Well, I think the economic issues are really more important because
those really I think will determine most everything else and the
Transpacific Partnership, I believe is the most important part of what
people call the pivot.
This is important for the United States because it`s not just the TPP and
also TPA which is the Trade Promotion Authority. What`s important is that
there are a lot of big trade deals in the hopper as well.
And so this is a vision of the United States trading with countries in a
peaceful and democratic world. That`s really what`s at stake in connection
with the TPP, the Transpacific Partnership.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mary, want to weigh in on this?
HOOPER: Well, when it comes to writing the rules in the region, I think
economic peace is crucial. Part of what China`s island building is doing
is calling into question some of the rules the United States has stood by
in the region.
And the include freedom of navigation and also international law and the
peaceful resolution of disputes. Part of why you are seeing policy makers
take a strong stand on the issue is because of the concern that the rules
that the United States has always stood by are jeopardized by island-
HARRIS-PERRY: Why should we be writing rules? As I try to dig in, I keep
looking for the other side of the story. Is there some other world view to
be seeing this? Part of it is so why should it be us writing the rules?
CHANG: It`s not our rules really. It`s the rules of the international
community. As Secretary Carter said a couple of days ago, this is not just
American warships in the South China Sea, these are our fishermen, all
sorts of people who use the global commons.
And basically other countries want the same thing we do. It`s not just the
United States. The United States is an important part of it, but these
aren`t our rules.
HARRIS-PERRY: Got it. Thank you, Gordon Chang and Mira Rapo Hooper.
Up next, what happened to the missing 86 minutes of surveillance video
connected to a Chicago police shooting? Thank you both for being here.
HARRIS-PERRY: As the grand jury this in the Michael Brown shooting was
announcing its decision in November, the fatal shooting of another young
black man went largely unnoticed by national media.
The 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was suspected of breaking into cars when a
Chicago police officer shot him 16 times last October. Circumstances of
the shooting were not completely clear.
And then when the city settled with McDonald`s family for $5 million,
before a lawsuit had even been filed, it raised more questions.
Surveillance video from a camera are near the shooting might have answered
questions to precisely what happened to McDonald that night.
But we will likely never know because we`ve learned that 86 minutes of that
video are missing. Carol Marin, a political editor at NBC Chicago
affiliate, WMAQ, has been covering the story and filed this report.
CAROL MARIN, POLITICAL EDITOR, CHICAGO NBC NEWS (voice-over): The Burger
King sits at 40th and Polaski and has a series of outside security cameras.
On the night of October 20th, Laquan McDonald was trailed by Chicago police
officers through the Burger King parking lot after a call about a man with
Just south of the restaurant, McDonald was shot 16 times after police on
the scene said he posed a very serious threat, a claim denied by attorneys
for Laquan McDonald`s family and by some eyewitnesses that night.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This witness told us this was an execution. That`s his
MARIN: After the shooting, according to the district manager for Burger
King, four to five police officers wearing blue and white shirts entered
the restaurant and asked to view the video and were given the password to
Three hours later they left, he said. The next day when an investigator
for the Independent Police Review Authority asked to review the security
footage they discovered that video was missing.
In a statement IPRA said, "We have no credible evidence at this time that
would cause us to believe CPD purged or erased any surveillance video."
(on camera): According to the district manager for Burger King, all of the
cameras and the recorder were on and working properly the night of the
shooting. So what happened? He believes that one of the officers deleted
(voice-over): We had no idea they are going to sit there and delete the
files, Jay Darshane said by telephone on Friday. I mean, we were just
trying to help the police officers.
(on camera): The irony of the missing video, all sides agree, is it would
not have shown the shooting. But according to lawyers for the McDonald
family, it could have shown events leading up to it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our first time down at the Burger King restaurant when
we realized video was deleted or is missing, we knew something was up.
MARIN (voice-over): While the video from the Burger King is missing the
shooting of McDonald was captured on a police dash board camera. That
video has not been made public.
The FBI, the U.S. attorney and the Cook County State`s Attorney Office are
investigating the McDonald shooting as is the Independent Police Review
HARRIS-PERRY: Carol Marin joins me now from Chicago. Carole, you have
continued to report on this story. Have there been any new developments,
new information about what happened specifically to that 86 minutes of
MARIN: There have not. We were told, Melissa, that the federal grand jury
meeting in Chicago continues to take testimony. This is really a two-
pronged process. One is what happened with Lequan McDonald. Something so
serious the city would settle $5 million on it very fast and pretty
quietly. But the other is what are the civil rights implications and is
there or was there or has there been some attempt at a police cover-up.
HARRIS-PERRY: This $5 million from the city -- and we know cities
sometimes settle these cases, but there wasn`t yet a lawsuit. It`s got to
raise questions, eyebrows all over the city.
MARIN: It does. This really flew under the radar. It happened quite
recently last October. There were a couple of independent journalists,
Jamie Calvin, Craig Fuderman of the University of Chicago and a colleague
of mine at the "Sun Times," Mary Mitchell, who all wrote about it.
It never really got picked up. Not until after the election of a mayor in
Chicago in April does the city`s lawyer go before city council to say, we
have a case. It involves one officer, but there were many on the scene.
Only one officer fired.
We need to settle because there is another video, Melissa, it was on the
dashboard of one of the police cars. It is the video that captures the
shooting, even though, I might point out there were cameras on all of the
dashboards, but only two of them were working.
This one delivered the video. We haven`t seen it. Aldermen in Chicago
have called for it to be seen. Editorial bodies have said, we need to see
the video. Thus far it hasn`t been released. The argument being the FBI
and the U.S. attorney`s office are still probing this matter.
HARRIS-PERRY: There does seem to be -- I presume from the medical
examiner`s report that this distressing piece of information that nine out
of 16 wounds were entrance wounds to McDonald`s back, the back of his
forearm or back of his hands. We saw in the report there is at least one
witness who described this as an execution.
MARIN: Exactly. We should point out there were witnesses, many of them on
the scene because this was a busy intersection. We are told by the lawyers
that many of the witnesses were told to get out of here or we`ll arrest
We don`t have their names or numbers. But the lawyers do have some who
have come forward. The fact of the matter is that this case was described
on the scene by a police union representative as one in which Laquan
McDonald lunged at the officer and the officer in fear of his life shot.
What we are told by those who have seen the video is there isn`t evidence
of him lunging and all the other officers apparently exercised a high level
of restraint. So what was this and why was the officer threatened?
McDonald had a knife, not a gun. Something about the video is apparently
powerful enough for the city to quickly take care of the case.
HARRIS-PERRY: Carol Marin in Chicago, Illinois. Thank you for joining us,
but for raising if questions, and doing the investigation. I`m sure that
all of us will be keeping an eye on what happens next. Thank you.
MARIN: Thank you, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: What are you reading this summer, my letter of the week is
HARRIS-PERRY: We celebrate Memorial Day and we listen politely to
commencement speakers, we suffered through unforgiving three-way mirrors
while trying to find a swim suit. It`s summer and along with summer`s
promise of a little vacation time and the good weather to enjoy it, comes
the beloved annual nerd ritual, the summer reading list.
This week, Janet Maslin, the "New York Times" literary critic shared her
suggestions titled "Cool books for hot summer days." On the list 17 books
by 17 white writers.
I know what you`re thinking. This is the part where MHP sends a letter
care to Ms. Maslin care of the "New York Times" and goes in about
whitewashing summer reading.
You might expect me to point out that Jabaria Asim`s debut novel "Only The
Strong," which is set in St. Louis during 1970s social unrest is an
important book to read this the context of Ferguson, Baltimore and the
ongoing Black Lives Matter movement.
Maybe you expect to hear best-selling author, Juan Gabriel Vasquez`s book
"Lovers On All Saints Day" is available in English for the first time this
summer or that everyone who`s ever loved and lost needs to read the gut
wrenching and lyrical memoir of inaugural poet, Elizabeth Alexander, "The
Light Of The World" that we profiled right here on MHP.
Or maybe point out that Toni Morisson, America`s only living Nobel laureate
in literate has a new book this year, "God Help The Child." Maybe that
could warrant a summer read.
But here`s the thing, I don`t need to write that letter because from the
moment her suggestions appeared in the paper that still purports to bring
all the news that`s fit to print, many other outlets offered meaningful and
richly diverse alternatives.
Check out the MHP show Twitter feed and Facebook page for some of them.
When we asked them, the "New York Times" executive director of
communications shared this statement with us.
"The summer reading list is not meant to sum up the best or most noteworthy
books of the summer, but to alert readers to some options for slightly over
the top escapist fun.
The criteria for selection include recently and soon to be published books
from among specific genre categories, few of them substantive or weighty.
While our selection reflects summer releases offered by book publishers, we
will be more alert to diversity among authors in the future." So with so
many others weighing in already and the "New York Times" promising to be
more alert in the future, I really didn`t have a letter to send to Ms.
Why my letter of the week the going to you. Dear readers, it`s me, Melissa
and this summer I`m asking you to read three books. First, to back and
read a book that you read before you were 18 years old.
I don`t care if it`s "Sweet Valley High" or "Little Women," "Souls Of
Black Folk" or "Sounder." See if it feels different. See if you missed
something before. See if you still love it or if you have learned to hate
Revisit it and see how you have changed. Second, read a book with a kid
this summer. Whether you have children in your life already or you have to
volunteer at a local shelter, school or library to find a young reading
partner I`m asking you to read one book with a much younger reader.
It can be as simple as "Green Eggs & Ham" with a pre-schooler at Head Start
or as involved as working through a trilogy with your twin niece, the
experience will remind you of the extraordinary ability of books to
transform how we see the world.
Third, I`m asking you to read one book by an author who doesn`t share your
race, gender or sexual orientation. African-American sisters, try to pick
up a Hono Diaz novel and white brothers, may be time to read Janet Mac.
Black queer men, have you ever read Joyce Carol Oates. Dig in to far more
three books this summer and I hope you will take this humble suggestion
because reading is not about so called political correctness or enforced
Reading especially with our toes in the sand and the sun on our faces is at
its best about finding something new in ourselves and expanding and sharing
this extraordinary world of ideas with one another. Happy reading.
HARRIS-PERRY: Each year, "Maxim" magazine unveils its ranking of women.
It has pronounced it the Hot 100. Other than the revelation of who makes
the magazine`s number one spot, it`s easy to guess what will be on the
cover from year to year.
A woman, always young, always thin, often white, displaying her body in
just enough clothing to keep things from full on "Playboy" territory.
When we can see her face she`s staring out from the cover with a come hit
her stare. Inside the issue, there is pretty much more of the same which
is why the image on this year`s cover was surprising.
It still features the woman who occupies the number one spot on the list,
and that woman, pop star, Taylor Swift, is yes, young and white and thin.
But the focus is not on her body, but her face with fresh barely there
makeup and she is giving a look that doesn`t exactly say go away, but isn`t
quite the full come hit her we have gotten used to, but that`s just the
Open up the issue and that`s where things get really interesting. The
author of the introductory essay to the Hot 100 list is none other than one
of our favorite feminist writers, bad feminist author, Roxanne Gay, who
writes of the images of the pages that follow.
These lists tend to reflect social norms, which means a rather narrow
beauty standard. Gay goes on to complicate this even more with a reminder
that if a woman has an unruly body or if her features deviate from the
typical European beauty ideal she`s often rendered invisible.
Studies have shown that beautiful people, men and women, will earn more in
their careers over a lifetime, a nice $230,000 beauty bonus on average.
Before sending us off, she gives us something to think about while we are
Consider the people behind those beautiful faces. When you close the pages
of the magazine, allow yourself to appreciate a broader range of beautiful
skin, fuller bodies and complicated surfaces. Now that`s hot.
Joining me now is Christina Beltran, associate professor on social and
cultural analyst at NYU, Danielle Moody Mills, adviser for the Center for
American Progress and co-host of "Politini," Jamie Kilsten, co-host of
Citizen Radio and Jennifer Pozner, executive director of Women in Media and
News -- Jen.
JENNIFER POZNER, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, WOMEN IN MEDIA AND NEWS: Melissa, I -
HARRIS-PERRY: I haven`t even asked a question!
POZNER: The first thing I want to say is I`m glad "Maxim" has a woman
editor trying to rebrand away from ten years ago when Eva Longoria`s cover
could be seen from space. They blew it up the in Vegas in the desert.
HARRIS-PERRY: She`s tiny in real life to be able to be seen from space.
POZNER: Right. We have such an incredibly low bar. There were headlines
about the "Maxim" list that this is the new feminist bible. Even "Miss"
magazine saying this is the new feminist thing. I have to say feminism
needs to more about the absence of misogyny.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or the absence of the very worst kind of it.
POZNER: I love that they wanted to get Roxanne to write an essay, but I
think it`s very telling. They don`t have a photo of her on her by line and
all of the women -- so much has been of the fact that this is about women`s
accomplishments this year.
Well, if it really was about women`s accomplishments, wouldn`t you have a
different kind of body shape and all of that rather than Roxanne saying,
you can still remember there are other women you should feel are beautiful
not in the magazine.
JAMIE KILSTEIN, CITIZEN RADIO: I want to see the cover with Ruth Bader
Ginsburg on it. We are talking about the issue. But the dudes who read
"Maxim" don`t necessarily know how to read. When I see the guys reading
"Maxim," they are not going to read the article. It will be John. It is
sort of a low were bar.
HARRIS-PERRY: So it`s interesting when you say like I`m not even sure what
they are using it for like, I guess, part of what`s interesting is the fact
that if you want porn, it`s easy to get it. This is basically the most --
actually these women are quite fully dressed in comparison.
CRISTINA BELTRAN, "NEW YORK UNIVERSITY": It`s not just boobs. It`s
something else. The top 100 watches, things you should worry about with
the Patriot Actor top 100 reasons you can`t use your phone. Can feminism
be more about pretty rich people making choices? Why are there pictures
all of the women who are manicurist in New York City, who are being
HARRIS-PERRY: I think there is an answer to the question. Maxim`s number
one job is to make money as it is for lots of businesses and we consume.
And when I say we, I mean, there is no like group of little feminists on
the corner who are exclusively reading about the Patriot Act who are not
also like consuming all kinds of questions around women`s self-
DANIELLE MOODIE-MILLS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: I like the idea that
"Maxim" has decided to take an intersectional approach. The politics and
pop culture, the kind of let`s have a conversation about feminism. Let`s,
you know, not have a scantily clad woman on the cover.
She`s still white, thin, really pretty. She still fits the ideal. So I
do, I think that there are so much more that we can do about feminism in a
conversation that we can that isn`t just like, look, she is smart too.
HARRIS-PERRY: But is feminism always meant to have been with scantily
clad? My version of feminism is not respectability. I like that we need
to be able to reclaim all of those.
POZNER: Show me interesting black trans women.
HARRIS-PERRY: There are a lot of hot trans women out there.
POZNER: If we want this to be the feminist bible wouldn`t it have been
interesting to have Laverne Cox in a sexed up photo on the cover? That
would have been interesting. This is so new.
Ten years ago girls in government did a project responding to the cover
called the real Hot 100. Today took nominations, got 400 nominations,
chose a hundred women. I was one of them. A media activist got an award.
Let me see, Melanie Cervantes.
It was hundred women, the tag line was see how hot smart can be and it was
activists and ministers and people from all over the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: I also think the pressure to be hot and smart seems like a
lot sometimes having to be all of those things. We`ll talk about that and
ask Jamie about the new hotness for men -- the dad bod.
HARRIS-PERRY: In our introductory essay for "Maxim`s" hot 100 list,
writer, Roxanne Gay invites readers to consume the images of beautiful
women with their eyes and their minds open. She wants them to think a
little bit about the beauty standards and make a point of noting that it`s
not only women who face pressures to adhere to them.
Gay rights men aren`t immune from these machinations either and as they
strive to maintain a lush full head of air and a six pack. Only if one of
the internet`s latest obsession is to be believed, they are not be striving
quite as much as they used to be. Behold the dad bod.
A term which is now a thing since it emerged online in the March article
for the "Odyssey" in which writer, McKenzie Pearson described it as
physique that says, I go to the gym occasionally, drink heavily on the
weekends and eat eight slices of pizza at a time.
And according to Pearson girls are all about that dad bod. Jamie, I would
how much I liked your hair this morning.
KILSTEIN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: In listening to your program, I learned you have narrow hips
but a large bottom. That makes it difficult for you to buy jeans.
KILSTEIN: I wasn`t -- here`s the thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: I didn`t know you had a luscious booty.
KILSTEIN: Yes. It`s fantastic. We`ll throw that out there. When the
producer brought it up backstage I was like, we weren`t having a feminist
conversation or talking about dad bod. I was like, I can`t find shorts.
Also that`s the one.
That`s a problem I have to deal with. I don`t walk down the street and
people are like, small hips, big butt. Nobody`s like, bring that dad bod.
POZNER: Nobody is heckling you is this.
KILSTEIN: Nobody heckles me about it. I can go on my show and it`s a
HARRIS-PERRY: But this point matters. I think it`s part of what I wanted
to drive home. It`s not that there aren`t standards for men`s beauty and
attractiveness. It`s that the stakes are different.
KILSTEIN: The only stake we had just got sort of written about as a good
thing. It`s like eating eight pieces of pizza and drinking beer is not
something to strive for. It`s like, dude, are you are ok? Do you want to
talk about it? That`s not good. It doesn`t matter how we look and now you
see it`s clearer where it`s like --
MOODIE-MILLS: Now you have the comparable to that is the momshell, the mom
and the bombshell together.
HARRIS-PERRY: The pressure!
MOODIE-MILLS: Then they show a list of women. Look at Heidi Klum, she had
a baby six weeks ago. Look. She had a baby two hours ago. Do you see her
face? They did it with the duchess. She walked out. She`s still wearing
a maternity dress. How brave. She had a baby nine hours ago. That`s not
brave. That`s like your human body.
HARRIS-PERRY: With my youngest daughter I didn`t even have her. Many
people know we worked and I put on 20 pounds during my six-week maternity
leave anyway because it`s hard to care for a new born. Mom bod isn`t sexy
BELTRAN: Mom bod, book bod after finishing your book --
BELTRAN: It`s like old bro again, I`m -- this is driving me crazy. There
are other ways to think about soft bodies like gay men bears. There are
other spaces where there is lots -- people are out there thinking like sexy
disabled bodies. There are so many kinds of ways to talk a hot bod,
different bods versus six-pack guys.
HARRIS-PERRY: I never will forget when you said there will be Spanx for
men and we had a thing about it. I was like, whatever. I was in a
department store and I tweeted you a picture like, you were right! Here
are the man Spanx.
POZNER: I pitched a story around. No one picked it up. In 99 or 2000
about how -- I didn`t have the word metrosexual. I was ahead of that.
Nobody wanted the piece. I was like, look, we have reached peak
commercialization of women`s security and beauty issues.
They started to do plastic surgery on women`s feet to look better in
sandals like on "Sex And The City." But men were an untapped market for
insecurity. You saw men`s health magazine change from health to a "Maxim"
clone around that period of time.
So it`s all about what we can sell to men. It used to be there was a
product like a dull box of cover your gray and then --
HARRIS-PERRY: Now the men are dyeing their hair gray now to look like
POZNER: The silver fox. It is the silver fox.
HARRIS-PERRY: Age and wealth, if you are talking about a marriage and
mating market, there are still standards, but the standards aren`t
necessarily -- they are about this notion of what you put. Beautiful young
women and wealthy older men are the two things that go together.
KILSTEIN: I want to backtrack a little bit. This panel has been so fun we
were getting side eyed in the hall way. I don`t want to shame anybody.
This is important. I had to quit drinking. I struggled with eating
I definitely have body issues. I do jujitsu every day. If I don`t I`m
like I`m garbage. Men go through this. What`s important about
intersectional solidarity is you have to say, yes, it`s hard for me, hard
for everybody. It`s not as hard as women.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t want to do that. I want to do the idea that there
is no human condition that doesn`t include having problems. Every human
condition has problems. But some bodies are identified actually as a
problem. Your body is inherently a problem.
Thank you to Danielle Moodie Mills and Jen Pozner. All the rest will be
back in my next hour. I want to point out for nerdland Chicago, Jamie
Kilstein will be there at the Playground theatre on Saturday, June 6. You
can check out his luscious booty for yourself.
Coming up next, the king of Cleveland, what Lebron`s trip means for his
city and legacy and a special performance by a Grammy award winning jazz
musician. More at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. An outpouring of
sympathy for the Vice President`s family is emerging this morning following
the news that Beau Biden has died. Joseph Beau Biden III, former Delaware
attorney general and son of the Vice President Joe Biden died last night
after a battle with brain cancer. Biden was hospitalized earlier this
month at Walter Reed National Military Center. And he died last night
surrounded by his family. He was only 46 year-old. The Vice President`s
office released a statement last fight that reads in part, quote, the
entire Biden family is saddened beyond words. We know Beau`s spirit will
live on in all of us especially through his brave wife Hallie and his two
remarkable children Natalie and Hunter.
Joining me now from Washington, NBC White House correspondent Kristen
Welker. Kristen, the Vice President`s son was a successful politician in
his own right.
WELKER: He absolutely was, Melissa. And as condolences have poured in
overnight from lawmakers and politicians on both sides of the aisle, so
many of them have noted the strong relationship and also the similarities
between Beau Biden and his father. As you say, Biden was a rising
political star. He was an Iraq war veteran who had earned a bronze star.
Biden served as Delaware`s 44th attorney general from 2007 to 2015. And he
was widely expected to run for governor of Delaware in 2016. A lot of
people thought he would have been the front runner. But those who knew
Beau Biden say, he valued family above all else. And his wife Hallie and
children Natalie and Hunter.
President Obama is one of those people grieving today. He released a
statement late last night that read in part, quote, "Beau took after Joe.
He studied the law like his dad, even choosing the same law school. He
chased a life of public servant. Like his dad, serving in Iraq and as
Delaware`s attorney general. Like his dad, Beau was a good, big hearted
devoutly Catholic and deeply faithful man who made a difference in the
lives of all he touched. And he lives on in their hearts." Now, this is
not the first time that tragedy has struck the Biden family. In 1972, Beau
was just a little boy when he was injured in a car accident that killed his
sister and his mother. His father had just been elected to the U.S. Senate
you recall Melissa and he was famously sworn in at Beau`s bedside. Beau in
fact talked about his recollections of that really difficult moment for the
family at the 2008 Democratic National Convention when he introduced his
father. Speaking for the entire family, Joe Biden said, quote, "Beau Biden
was quite simply the finest man any of us have ever known -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. It`s a huge loss for the Democratic Party. But far,
far greater, more important for the Biden family.
HARRIS-PERRY: What an enormous question and loss. Thank you to NBC`s
Kristen Welker at the White House.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are also following breaking news this morning that
Secretary of State John Kerry is returning to Boston for medical care after
a bicycle crash in France. Secretary Kerry broke his legs, specifically
his right femur when his bike hit a curb. The 71-year-old was rushed to a
hospital in Geneva and never lost consciousness according to the State
Department. Mr. Kerry had left this morning`s schedule open in case his
Saturday talks with the Iranians were extended. So, when the talks ended
yesterday afternoon he decided to cycle a route that was part of the Tour
de France. The State Department said, his trip to Spain that was scheduled
for later today has been cancelled. Secretary Kerry will travel back to
Boston to be examined by the doctor who performed a prior surgery on his
hips which is, you know, the site of his new injury.
We are turning now to sports news. The NBA finals begin this week. It`s
one underdog city versus another. And it`s anybody`s game. On one side,
Oakland`s Golden State Warriors who haven`t been to the finals in 40 years
back when they won the championship in 1975, will be playing the Cleveland
Cavaliers who have never once won the championship title. The last time
the Cavs won the finals was 2007 with LeBron James on the team. Now,
LeBron James, the king, the number one draft pick right out of high school
in 2003 and four time NBA MVP left his hometown and went to the Miami Heat
in 2010. The ESPN special announcing his decision, James said he wanted
some championship rings on his fingers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, FOUR TIME NBA MVP: I feel like it`s going to give me the
best opportunity to win for multiple years. And not only just to win in a
regular season or just to win five games in a row or three games in a row,
I want to be able to win championships. And I feel like I could be down
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Man, some pain never ends. There is pain in my table at
having to watch that. Listen, the reality is he got two, and back-to-back
championship wins with the Heat. And last year he announced his return in
an essay in Sports Illustrated explaining his decision he wrote, "I feel my
calling here goes above basketball. I have a responsibility to lead this
more ways than one. I take it seriously. My presence can make a
difference in Miami, but I think it can mean more where I`m from -- in
Northeast, Ohio, nothing is given, everything is earned. He said he wanted
to win a trophy for Cleveland. But admitted it might be a long haul.
Quote, "I`m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to
deliver. We are not ready right now. No way, of course. I want to win
next year but I`m realistic. It will be a long process." But in his first
year back in C-town, the king has brought his team to the finals once
again. And that trophy is in sight. There has been a lot of debate over
whether James is the best player the game has ever seen -- better than
Jordan. He brings the Cavs the championship trophy this year, that to me
might just get hotter.
Joining me now, Cristina Beltran, associate professor at New York
University. Jamil Smith, Cleveland native and senior editor at "The New
Republic" who`s latest piece for the magazine is entitled "Cleveland on the
Brink." You may also remember that Jamil is a Nerdland, he was one of the
ONs, an original nerds, one of the former producers on this program. And
he has now come home just like LeBron.
Also with us this morning, Jamie Kilstein, co-author of the book "NewsFail"
and co-host of the podcast, Citizen Radio, and Jemele Hill, ESPN.com
columnist and co-host of ESPN2 "His and Hers." Jamil.
JAMIL SMITH, SENIOR EDITOR, "THE NEW REPUBLIC": It`s an interesting time
in Cleveland at least. I mean, I think that, you know, when you take an
account -- it`s been 51 years since Cleveland want any kind of sports, the
HARRIS-PERRY: Fifty one. Anytime?
SMITH: Fifty one years.
HARRIS-PERRY: Anytime of sports?
SMITH: My father and my uncle were at the 1964 Browns NFL championship
game the last time they won. And my father just turned 18-years-old. So,
that gives you some kind of perspective is to how long we`ve been
suffering. But the thing is that I mean, Cleveland, as I wrote this week
is really big on loyalty, but short on hope. We are really, really fast.
You know, we hold tight to our teams. And we just, we keep believing, we
keep going through this process no matter what. But you know, it`s about
time we get some kind of a reward.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Yes. You know, and yet because of that, there is a
part of me that thinks, you know, I was surprised. Watching with my young
nephew. He`s 14-years-old. He`s like, I just hate this LeBron James.
He`s just, you know, he`s so dramatic. And I was like, oh, I`m kind of
shocked actually that that was the response. I`m wondering why still so
much anti-LeBron emotion out there.
JEMELE HILL, ESPN: You see now the conversation has turned. You mentioned
Michael Jordan. And we have seen this evolved, we`ve seen this happened so
many times before it happened with Kobe Bryant. Whenever there`s a player
who threatens the alter of Michael Jordan then it comes --
HARRIS-PERRY: My nephew is from Chicago.
HILL: It becomes about finding ways to nitpick against their legacy. And
I have said this for a long time. People, you all need to let Michael
Jordan go, okay, let him go, let him have his dad jeans and his hoop
earring and let him go.
KILSTEIN: Let him have the dad bod.
HILL: Right. He`s turned into Paul Bunyan. He`s like, we act like he
never missed a shot. And I realize he went undefeated in the finals. And
I get it. And while I wouldn`t say that if LeBron wins, if he wins a
championship that he`s going to automatically be a greater player than
Michael Jordan. I will say he deserves to be in the conversation. I will
say he could maybe potentially beat Michael Jordan. But people don`t want
to do that.
KILSTEIN: He put Cleveland just on his little back like, here we go.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I mean, I just have like, I have great respect. I mean,
the idea that he would say it will take us a while and then, nope, here we
go. Let`s do it.
KILSTEIN: Here we go. I don`t think I was going to have anything to say.
About sports. I would say this is my favorite Taylor Swift song, "Wildest
Dreams," under rated.
HARRIS-PERRY: And in response to this. Right. Haters going to hate,
KILSTEIN: You get me. But we talked about on Citizen Radio the other way,
there was this common section that like exploded about with the bunch of
like old white dudes who were complaining about the slam dunk. Like these
types of players. And we`re like, black players? We used to throw a
hackie sack into a bucket and nobody would watch. And they were -- and
think that with any athlete of color with tattoos is confident in what they
do, there are a lot of people that go, I don`t like, you see it in
musicians, right? You see it with Nicki Minaj, you see it with Beyonce, et
cetera, et cetera, et cetera.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting because that, I mean, certainly the LeBron
James self-presentation must be part -- the other fascinating thing going
on here is that there is another under dog team in the sense of being an
underdog city. Right? I mean, Oakland is itself also a city that again,
had a long time. And Riley Curry. I mean, just everything, that little
girl. Right? So, his daughter is there and we`re getting to see like
daddy being daddy and there was criticism even of this young man being this
extraordinary father in this moment.
KILSTEIN: It`s absolutely ridiculous.
HILL: Can I be the ogre though? Can I be ogre? Look. I have been a
reporter in those situations where you have 20 minutes to file a story,
okay? And you have to get this file. You have an editor on your back.
You are there. It is a working, professional environment. I wouldn`t go
as far to say kids should be banned from the press conference. But I will
say this, when you are in that moment and you need to file a story, I`m not
caring how cute Riley Curry is. She`s adorable. She`s wonderful. And I
have nothing against her at all.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m just going to ask you not to go on Twitter for the next
HILL: I have already said it.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m just saying, that baby is --
HILL: She`s adorable.
KILSTEIN: What if there is a cute bar. Like, however cute the kid is, you
get like an extra five minutes.
HIL: Oh, no, no. no.
We`re on the age now with the media where your access is very limited.
HILL: And this is your only access to talk to you about the game. I could
understand why reporters in that situation could be a little irritated.
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. I get it but I also do think there`s a, so I get what
you`re saying like I do get the life work piece. But I also get that part
of what LeBron says when he goes home is, you know, I`m doing something
more here. And I also think part of what Curry is doing in a moment of
dadding at the same time that he is working is also presenting a different
image of black manhood that we typically have an opportunity to do.
SMITH: And I think that makes a lot of people uncomfortable frankly. I
mean, I think that you see, you know, and also we act like Stephen Curry is
the first player to do this this even during the playoffs. And Derrick
Rose has brought his son on to the podium. And nobody said one thing. He
was making strange faces and causing what you might think would be a
distraction. I think that, you know, also I think a lot of this has to do
with like people not understanding, like any kind of children that don`t
look like theirs. You know what I mean? And so, you see this young black
girl, you know, just doing her thing, and just being carefree.
HARRIS-PERRY: And being free. Hmm. I love me a little free black woman
in my house.
SMITH: And people are just not ready for that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. The world is not ready for free black women. And that
is true. Everyone stay with me. I want to bring in actually the President
and CEO of the NAACP. Why? Because Cleveland is in a complicated moment.
But as we go to break, just a little reminder of former Nerdland Producer
Jamele Smith`s reaction to the news that LeBron James was going home. And
honestly the party hasn`t really stopped for Jamil. We can`t get him to
stop really all because LeBron James is going back to Cleveland.
HARRIS-PERRY: LeBron James returned to Cleveland was always about more
than basketball. The same would be true if the Cavaliers win their first
every NBA championship this month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, CLEVELAND CAVALIERS: Something is going through a city
that`s very dramatic and traumatizing to me in that case. Sports is one of
the biggest healers in helping the city out. You know, sports just does
something to people. Either if you are a player or a fan. If you just
have something, as anything to do with the city you feel a certain way
about rooting for a team that you love. It could get your mind off some of
the hardships that may be going on throughout your life or in that
particular time and period, it just does that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But although we have seen LeBron literally rebuilding
northeast Ohio seen here working on a home for HGTV`s "Rehab Addict" is
part of his charity work in his hometown of Akron. We must reckon with the
fact that no one person not even the king can fix the structural problems
of the area faces. At least of which is Cleveland`s policing practices
which the Justice Department has found unconstitutional.
Joining us now from Washington, D.C. is Cornell William Brooks, whose
president and CEO of the NAACP. Nice to have you this morning.
CORNELL WILLIAMS BROOKS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, NAACP: Good to be here,
HARRIS-PERRY: Cornell, as dominating as sports news has been out of
Cleveland this week, the other big news story is obviously the DOJ consent
decree which is stunningly specific.
HARRIS-PERRY: And Vanita Gupta says should be a model. Tell me your
thoughts about that.
BROOKS: Well, first of all, I just want the say how extraordinarily
pleased I am that we have this consent decree. I had a chance to speak to
the assistant attorney general earlier this week. And it is a sweeping
document. It speaks to all of the kinds of reforms that the NAACP has long
advocated for. In this 100-plus-page document we see elements like
inspector general. A civil rights commission. Reform in training. It is
extraordinarily comprehensive and I believe what the city of Cleveland
needs. I will also note that LeBron James speaking to the issue,
extraordinarily encouraging and really represents I think a standard not
only of athleticism but advocacy as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, that is maybe the good news, of course the bad news
or at least still waiting news that there are still no charges in the Tamir
HARRIS-PERRY: What do you or the NAACP in general know about that current
BROOKS: We just know that it is ongoing. The assistant Attorney General
is somewhat limited in terms of what she can say. In terms of these
investigations. But I think the point for us to be clear about here is
we`ve got to continue to shine an unrelenting spotlight on the tragedy of
Tamir Rice, the tragedy of the Brelo verdict. Are these tragedies playing
out all across the country and be clear that Congress has to act in terms
of passing the End Racial Profiling Act. We can have a Congress that
watches with the citizenry of the country as these tragedies unfold as
though they are not capable of doing something and doing something with a
sense of urgency.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yep. Cornell, stick with us. Don`t go away. But Jamil, I
want to turn to you on this. Because this is precisely the kind of push
me, pull me that you wrote about. You wrote in part a Cleveland team
advancing this far, typically gives the entire front page of the plain
dealer. But on Wednesday the Cavs had to share with the mayor, a U.S.
attorney and the headline "Deal seeks sweeping reforms."
SMITH: Indeed. I mean, typically as you see right here, I mean, you know,
you`ve got onto the finals and deal seeks its legal reforms.
SMITH: I mean, this is, you know, something in Cleveland like that`s this
woman as far as the Cavaliers advancing. Normally, it`s just the obsession
of the entire city. But frankly, I mean, I`m glad for this kind of
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Because the headline of the other is still there
above the fold.
SMITH: Indeed. Indeed. And I`m glad honestly to see taking this kind of
prominence in my hometown. But the thing is, well, I`m encouraged that
there is a consent decree. We should remember that this is the second
time. That this Police Department has been under the observation of the
Justice Department for more than a decade.
SMITH: So, we need to understand that like while words are great and while
ideas and proposals are wonderful, action needs to be taken immediately.
And with consent decrees, the average time of implementation is five years.
So, we are not promising to see any kind of immediate changes. And
frankly, there are still a lot of things that are left out.
HARRIS-PERRY: And in fact Jamil, when you look about, you know, we need to
let Michael Jordan just go ahead and go retired, be himself. So, this is
for me I think why I have a preference for LeBron James over Jordan. It`s
not so much a basketball, certainly it`s part of it. But in this moment in
his city, I mean, he`s on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter
movement but he is willing to speak in this moment in a way that we never
HILL: Oh, and this was not the first moment he`s spoken.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, exactly.
HILL: And remember it was him in the Miami Heat when Trayvon Martin, when
that happened. They were the ones that Don Hoodies became an issue that
bled into sports. So, I think this is part of his powerful impact that he
said. We know Michael Jordan, for the most part has been about one thing,
HILL: Okay? And LeBron James, even when he wrote what I essentially call
a love letter to Cleveland and coming back, this is what he talked about.
Is that he realized that has a responsibility does far bigger than him just
bringing home championship trophies and --
BELTRAN: Often what we have is that celebrity and citizenship are often
not treated like they can live together. Celebrity and citizenship and
he`s living like a citizen and that`s one way your celebrity culture can
actually do something productive in our --
HARRIS-PERRY: Cornell, let me come back to you on this question of
celebrity and citizenship and just ask, you know, in a moment like this, do
you go ahead and just root for the team and enjoy the celebration or how
does that live intention with the continuing injustices?
BROOKS: Well, I think that advocacy and athleticism can be linked
together. So, when we think about Jackie Robinson who for years raised
money for the NAACP to wage an assault on separate but equal. We think
about LeBron James, really standing in the lineage of Paul Robertson, and
so many artists and athletes who really want to bring about social justice
and yet speak to the social life, the artistic life, the cultural life of
their communities. So, the fact that he is waging war if you will on the
basketball court and moving forward. I mean, I live in a household with
two son sons for whom LeBron is a secular saint. They like the fact that
he is a great athlete but also an advocate, who with the brevity of
imagines and words speaks volumes in terms of symbolism. So, it`s
important to do both. And in fact he is doing it in Cleveland is
extraordinary particularly at this moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Cornell William Brooks in Washington, D.C. for
giving us athleticism and advocacy and with the citizenship and celebrity.
These things can live together. And right here in New York, thank you to
Jamele Hill who really should not go on Twitter because --
HILL: I love Riley!
HARRIS-PERRY: People live Riley. The rest of the panel is sticking
around. And up next, the man who says both President George H.W. Bush and
Jeffrey Dahmer are his cousins. And next week, he`s holding a giant family
reunion. Want to go? Sure.
HARRIS-PERRY: Try to contain your jealousy. Because author and humorist
A.J. Jacobs has a long list of notable names among the members of his very
large and very diverse family. You may have heard of a few of his
relatives. First cousin George who has the distinction of being the 41st
president of the United States. And then there`s his cousin Chris, the
actor. Maybe you know him better by his rap name Ludacris. And can`t
forget A.J.`s Cousin Jeffrey. Okay. Maybe it`s better to forget cousin
Jeffrey, let`s see. There`s also his cousin Al. A.J. is pretty proud to
be related to Cousin Al. It`s kind of a genius.
Yes, believe it or not this guy really is related to all of these guys.
And there`s no need to envy his statement`s relations. Because Jacobs says
that you probably have them, too. He`s part of a project that is making
connections using data from several online genealogy sites to piece
together a sprawling family trees. And among the trees interlocking
branches, Jacob says, he`s discovered that not only are all of us or a lot
of us related to celebrities, we are also related to one another. So, next
Saturday Jacob is looking to break a world record by inviting the whole big
dysfunctional family to a gigantic global family reunion in New York right
here in New York. Cousin A.J. is joining the table now.
A.J. JACOBS, CREATOR, GLOBAL FAMILY REUNION: Hello, Cousin Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hey, thank you! So, on my mother`s side, we are Latter Day
Saints. So, we know who all are people are because we`re very good at
genealogy and have been tracing it back forever and ever. But why host a
77-person family reunion? I mean, 77 million, I mean.
JACOBS: There you go. Exactly. Well, started two years ago I got an e-
mail from a man and he said, you don`t know me but I`m your 12th cousin.
So, I figured he`s going to ask me, he`s going to say, here`s my Nigerian
bank account. But it turns out he`s part of this movement that`s building
a family tree of the entire human race which is just mind blowing. That
for the first time ever, we could see how everyone on earth is related.
And I love this idea so much. I thought, why not throw a festival and have
everyone show up. And we`ll have more than 50 speakers, 400 activities and
we`ll all have a great time and we`ll solve all problems and end all wars
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. And so that`s where, all right, okay, so I know you
are being funny there. But I do wonder about the presumption that if we
know we are family, we will necessarily be kinder, nicer, gentler towards
one another. Because if you ever been to like a holiday dinner, right?
You recognizes sometimes family can be the nastiest, meanest, most cruel to
JACOBS: I have three sons. And I see how they wrestle, so I know. But I
also have seen this has had a remarkable effect not just on me, but on
thousands of people who have been working on this family trees. And we do
have a bias as humans to treat family a little better than strangers. And
so, if we can re-conceptualize that we are all family, then it will nudge
us in the right direction. Like when someone cuts me off in traffic, you
know, I now think, you know, what? Maybe he`s my cousin and he`s going to
pick up his kid at physical therapy. I`m going to cut him slack.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me also push, because you know, I want to kind of
draw you a little bit on this idea of what family is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because this is a fight that James and I have been having --
intellectual fight, not a fistfight.
JACOBS: He`s a speaker by the way.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, undoubtedly. Because he really likes to swab the
inside of your mouth as well as like historical tonight. And I keep
thinking, if everybody is my cousin, then nobody is my cousin. And I want
to make a claim towards the specific, ongoing engaged relationships that
are family versus just our genetic ties to each other.
BELTRAN: Right. Because I think the idea of family can be a problematic.
Because then disagreement isn`t simply just disagreement among strangers,
it`s betrayal. Right? So something you can think about identity movements
where the fact that we thought we were so close that we actually recognized
that in democratic politics I would argue we are strangers to each other.
And what`s exciting about democratic politics is the possibility that
strangers can become connected. That we can forge agreement that it`s not
blood or tribal. And so, I think, you know, I think this is kind of great
if it can be pivoted in a way where it`s like, not just like my uncle is
royalty, but I like I owned slaves.
BELTRAN: You know, like if we can sit with like, you know, my cousin was
Hitler. Like, if we can sit with our collective responsibility then I`m
JACOBS: That`s the idea. To make it instead of exclusive, inclusive and
instead of tribalism there is one tribe.
KILSTEIN: Yes. And I think it`s a beautiful concept. That I`m had at
myself for being distracted. Of course Bush is related to Jeffrey Dahmer.
But I knew it. But I also think there`s something to like, and this is to
push me, because what they are doing is like --
I`m like, what you`re doing is great. I think it`s beautiful. But I also
think that there needs to be a space for like self-made families where
there are lots of people that come from very dysfunction families, very
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, we make one. We choose one.
KILSTEIN: You see that in New York City. Right?
JACOBS: That`s actually the one of the big points of that, and I will say,
you can now choose your family. Because everyone is family.
KILSTEIN: And I love that. I think it`s so important.
JACOBS: The idea of family has become so much more expensive.
JACOBS: With gay marriage and sperm donors and the UK just passed along
that said, you can have three parent embryos.
HARRIS-PERRY: But let me just say in everybody`s my cousin it does make
dating and sexual --
Thank you to Cristina Beltran and to Jamele Smith, to Jamie Kilstein, to
A.J.J. Still to come, a true firefight. The inside story of integrating
the New York City Fire Department. Thank you guys for being here.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have an update now on two major news stories we have been
following this morning. Political leaders around the country are offering
their condolences after the death of the son of Vice President Joe Biden.
Forty-six-year-old Beau Biden, the former Attorney General of Delaware
passed away last night after a battle with brain cancer. He was considered
a rising political star in his own right and had planned to run for
governor next year. Both Biden leaves behind a wife and two children. In
a moving statement, the Vice President said, Beau embodied my father`s
saying that a parent knows success when his child turns out better than he
did. In the words of the Biden family, Beau Biden was quite simply, the
finest man any of us has ever known. President Obama express his
condolences in a statement saying, "Like his dad, Beau was a good, big
hearted devoutly Catholic and deeply faithful man who made a difference in
the lives of all he touched. And he lives on in their hearts."
In other breaking news, Secretary of State John Kerry is returning to the
United States for medical treatment after being injured in a bicycle
accident in France. The secretary was hospitalized after breaking his leg,
specifically his right femur when his bike hit a curb. The injury is near
the site of a previous hip operation. So, Mr. Kerry is returning to Boston
to be treated by the same doctor who performed the hip surgery. A
spokesman says the 71-year-old secretary is in good spirits and expected to
make a full recovery. Kerry was in Switzerland for talks on Iran`s nuclear
program and was expected to travel to Paris Tuesday to meet with foreign
ministers about ISIS. He`s now expected to participate in that meeting via
Up next, the long road to integration. In the New York City Fire
Department. And still to come this morning, a special performance by the
award winning musician Terence Blanchard.
HARRIS-PERRY: Protests over policing tactics in cities like Cleveland and
Ferguson, Missouri, have in part put the spotlight and diversity on law
enforcement and the disparity between the racial make of a Police
Departments and the communities they serve. In Ferguson where the
population is 67 percent African-American as of August the police force was
only about six percent black. And in Cleveland, black residents comprise
the majority of the population but as of last year only a quarter of the
police force. Compare it to Ferguson and Cleveland, New York City looks
like a success story. More than a quarter of its population is black and
as of 2009 black officers made up 18 percent of the NYPD.
But these numbers do not extend to all public service sectors in New York.
According to a new book for more than a century the New York City fire
department or FDNY discriminated against applicants of color with biased
written exams and shadowy character evaluations. Meanwhile nepotism and
loop holes allowed well connected less qualified applicants to join the
ranks. As of 2007, black firefighters made up less than three percent of
the force. So, some of New York`s bravest decided to take a stand. The
Vulcan Society and Association of Black FDNY firefighters fought City Hall
and won. They sued the city alleging discriminatory hiring practices and
in 2010, a federal court agreed, the court hold for sweeping changes
including a new nondiscrimination exam and the second chance for hundreds
of applicants of color. The results were staggering. Since 2013, 20
percent of new FDNY hires have been black. And just last year, the city
settled the case by paying $98 million in benefits and back pay to minority
applicants who faced discrimination.
Joining me now, two of the leaders of this charge, Captain Paul Washington
and current president of the FDNY Vulcan Society Regina Wilson. Also,
Ginger Adams Otis, the author who tells their story in the new book,
"Firefight: The Century-Long Battle to Integrate New York`s Bravest."
So, Ginger, I`m actually going to start with you. Because I read the book
GINGER ADAMS OTIS, AUTHOR, "FIREFIGHT": Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: What is it that -- I was listening on the break. I`m just
shocked impart because I don`t think we talk about Fire Departments in a
way we do police departments.
OTIS: Sure. I think a lot of people don`t realize that New York City was
the biggest example of this disparity but certainly not the only example.
Boston had some of the problems, Chicago had some of the problems,
Baltimore, Los Angeles. And, you know, we are not talking just in the past
but ongoing recent day struggles. So, it`s something that a lot of people
don`t really think about. And we think about civil service generally as
being friendly to the people of color, particularly blacks. But when you
get to the uniformed jobs and particularly here in New York City with the
Fire Department, the uniform positions generally tend to be better paid,
they have better pensions. They have much more stable jobs although
obviously they carry big risks.
OTIS: But the reward is also in the paycheck and the benefits and the
pensions. The competition is fierce.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, obviously, that`s part of what`s at stake here is
literally jobs and we know jobs are having impact on our entire
communities, on families, on long term careers. But I wonder what else is
at stake in the idea, I think people really understand in a police
department why it matters to have racial diversity that reflects community.
Because we think of those interactions as impacting and influencing the
likelihood of public safety. Is public safety at stake in the diversity of
the Fire Department?
CAPTAIN PAUL WASHINGTON, FORMER VULCAN SOCIETY PRESIDENT: Well, our
opponents would like to pretend that it is. They went on and on about
we`re going to lower standards and all New Yorkers are going to be at risk.
And that`s been shown to be completely untrue. Because as you pointed out
many more blacks and people of color and women are coming on now. And
there has been no adverse impact. But to be clear, the biggest factor is
what you mentioned, economics. This is entry into the middle class,
someone you have this job, are you a basically set for life. And black New
Yorkers need to participate in that as much as white New Yorkers.
HARRIS-PERRY: This idea of merit becomes so central and you are currently
REGINA WILSON, ACTIVE DUTY FIREFIGHTER: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: And leading the Vulcan Society. Yes. And so, I guess that
idea that merit is somehow counter to diversity. Rather than the idea that
merit is invested in diversity, that those to go hand in hand instead of
opposite with each other.
WILSON: Right. Well, sometimes merit is used very loosely.
WILSON: And merit sometimes only apply when they wanted to for certain
people. They expect merits, a matter only when it`s something that has to
do with someone thinking about their own point of view as being white
males. So, when they feel like something is being difficult or wrong for
African-Americans or females, all of the sudden your character and your
merit comes to play. Just like the terms lowering of standards is only
applicable to women and to African-Americans. But we, by the test of time,
have shown that we can do this job. We have been on the Fire Department
for many, many years. Just like women, for instance. There is not even a
percentage. There`s only 11 African-American females out of almost 10, 000
firefighters. So African-Americans right now were only making up five
percent. So, the numbers have always been horrific. But merit only comes
into play and it`s selective.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, help me to understand and help folks who haven`t read
the book yet to understand what it is about the test that we are troubling
WILSON: That`s actually a source of a lot of misinformation. So, the
Vulcan Society actually never said that the tests themselves were biased.
Or that the questions were biased in some way. What their argument was
that minorities and we know this happens across the nation. That this is
something that psychometricians, those who make test know what`s going to
happen. They generally are going to score in bands that a little bit lower
than white people on this type of the test. It doesn`t mean the test is
biased. What you have to prove as a city using taxpayer money is you`re
giving this kind of test that the measurable difference in scores is going
to correlate to job performance. So, if you get a 98 and you actually do
better than me as a firefighter and I get a 95, the city has some level of
protection. But it comes down to how good is the test, how much investment
has been made in it to make it actually an open and fair process.
HARRIS-PERRY: And connect it back to the actual jobs. First, I want to
play a sound for you. This is Cassano welcoming a diverse new class.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SALVATORE CASSANO, FORMER FDNY COMMISSIONER: -- and better represents the
city we serve with more women and people of color in every -- firefighter
class as diversity which makes us stronger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Have you feel hearing Cassano saying, this is diversity that
makes us stronger?
WASHINGTON: This is history being rewritten as it`s occurring. For him to
say that and for Mayor Bloomberg to also take credit as a joke. They did
everything that they could to fight against this. The reason that it was
diverse, is that we have some diversity now is solely because of the Vulcan
Society and our efforts. And also, too, it was not only the mayor, and the
fire commissioner and the brass of the Fire Department but also to Rank and
File, white firefighters in the fire houses. They were against these two.
They were against any change that was going to bring about an increase in
blacks in the job.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s an extraordinary book. I loved learning about Vulcan.
I love that you are there still leading the work that has been done really
since the Jim Crow era in this context. Thank you to Ginger Adams Otis, to
Captain Paul Washington and to Regina Wilson. The book once again is
"Firefight: The Century-Long Battle to Integrate New York`s Bravest." And
it`s worth reading.
Up next, if you have seen a Spike Lee movie then you already knew his music
Grammy winning trumpeter, Terence Blanchard joins us with a special
HARRIS-PERRY: The sounds of jazz trumpeter Terence Blanchard have provided
the sonic backdrop to nearly 30 years of American cinema. Since first
landing his horn to the early work of Spike Lee went to his composed music
for all the iconic directors` film since 1991. And branch out to become
the most in demand jazz musician in the film-scoring world with more than
50 soundtracks to his credit. But the five-time Grammy award winner is
also a politically engaged solo artist who hasn`t shied away from making
political statements through his music. Whether on screen on screen or on
stage. And his work with Lee is just one example of what he considers his
place in a jazz tradition. Pushing for social change through art. His
latest solo album, "Breathless," is a direct reference to the "I can`t
breathe" rallying cry that followed the death of Eric Garner and other men
of color at the hands of police.
I`m so pleased to welcome to the Nerdland composer, musician, and
dramatist, one and only, Terrence Blanchard. We were talking earlier about
the athlete and activist. What is the role of artist as the activist?
TERENCE BLANCHARD, GRAMMY AWARD WINNER: Well, I think our roles will be
the social conscience. You know, to constantly engage and challenge
people`s thinking, you know, through music. You know, one of the things
that has always happened to me throughout music is music is that one thing
that can touch you deep in your soul. Where that vulnerable spot, where
everybody tries to keep safe. And with what we do, you know, we try to
open up people`s hearts and minds. To make some changes and to change our
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. King, Jr. used to talk about being creatively mall
adjusted to a role of racism and sexism and inequality. And I worry that
without music in our public school, without music education that teaches us
that, but kids can`t be creatively maladjusted. They won`t know how to
create something out of nothing.
BLANCHARD: Well, here`s something that I think really important in music
is in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, as you know, there
were a lot of kids who probably didn`t have the ability to verbalize what
they were going through. So, for me, you know, as we brought the monk
institute to New Orleans. Because I thought it very was important for us
to engage with those students and give them something that would allow them
to express themselves in any way possible, feasible. And we saw some great
results with some young kids. I remember we had a thing with some young
students performing and talking about improvisation, and the 13-year-old
girl just raised her hand and she said, I think I can do that. And for me,
that`s huge. Because for her to get up in a public forum like that and
feel the need to express herself but also find a vehicle to do it was
HARRIS-PERRY: The monk institute referring of course to Thelonious Monk.
BLANCHARD: Thelonious Monk. I`m sorry. Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Where are you in that tradition of people like monk in cool
train in terms of using your art to do this kind of work?
BLANCHARD: Well, you know, I`ve always felt like being an artist you have
to be socially conscious. You know, when I look at John Coltrane and what
he did with Alabama, you know, and all of the things that Mark Davis (ph)
talked about, Max Roach. You know, it`s kind of hard for me to turn a
blindside to some of these issues. So throughout my career, I`ve always
felt like an artist, part of our job is to document our environment, our
community, as we`re experiencing it. You know, so and hopefully shine a
different type of light on it, you know? And that`s what I`ve been trying
to do with all of my career. And that`s what we`re doing with the c.d., as
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, I want to invite you at this point to perform. So
Terence is now going to perform his song, "See me as I am." This is from
his latest blue note records release, "Breathless."
(TERENCE BLANCHARD PERFORMING)
HARRIS-PERRY: Terrence, you make me miss home and hearing the live music
of New Orleans. Terence Blanchard, his latest album, "Breathless," it`s
available through Blue Note Records.
And that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll
see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Right now it`s time for a preview of
"WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT": Right. I was going to
thank you, except, how do I follow that? Come on, really? But that was
very inspirational. Thank you so much Terrence for that.
The Senate showdown over the Patriot Act is just a few hours away. What
happens if it expires tonight? And is there a backup plan?
The cleanup along the California coast gets more complicated. Also, new
information on the effort to save the animals caught in that mess.
Young, educated, and jobless. New numbers show the uphill battle against
millennials and its effect that it`s having on university enrollment. So,
don`t go anywhere. I`ll be right back.
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