'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Saturday, June 13th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Saturday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: June 13, 2015
Guest: Cornell William Brooks, Glenn Martin, Erika Eichelberger, Robert
Gangi, Farai Chideya, Ken Lacovara, Allyson Hobbs, John Cuff, Marc Silver,
Katon Dawson, Farai Chideya
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hello, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry, and
you have been listening to Dallas police chief, David O. Brown talking
about the standoff with the gunman who ambushed Dallas police overnight.
SWAT officers are using robots to examine the suspect`s vehicle right now.
And according to Dallas police, SWAT snipers shot the suspect through the
windshield. The robot is being used to determine whether the suspect is
injured or dead. And there are still concerns over possible explosives in
the vehicle. Now, all of this started just after midnight when one or more
suspects inside the black van that you see here, struck a police squad car
and opened fire on officers. That crash and shootout happened outside the
police department headquarters in Dallas, Texas.
The officers then chased the van into the town of Hutchins where there was
another exchange of gunfire in a restaurant parking lot. In an overnight
news conference, Dallas PD said that no officers had been injured, but the
bags were found outside headquarters with pipe bombs inside. Joining me
now from outside police headquarters in Dallas, NBC News correspondent
Charles Hadlock. Charles, it looks like we are - you know, we just
obviously heard from the police chief, what do we know right now about the
man inside the van?
CHARLES HADLOCK, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, we know he might be dead there.
They -- he was shot by Dallas police sharp shooters, perhaps with a .50
caliber weapon, something strong enough to penetrate the armored steel and
heavy bulletproof glass that surrounded the van. They still don`t have a
positive I.D. on who the man is. He did call 911 and identified himself,
if it is that man, they say that he has three prior family violence
incidents on his record. He also has a case of mental history, apparently.
He choked his mother, and choked his uncle, and lost custody of a child.
He was very angry about that. He mentioned that to police officers today
and said I`m going to blow you up because you think I`m a terrorist and you
took my child. The paraphrase in what was said there. Police were
surprised by this at midnight. The black van pulled up and began shooting
the building, shooting through the lobby. In fact, the police chief just
said that a receptionist had stepped away from the front lobby.
If that person had been there, they would have been shot where they were
sitting. That bullets were that accurate. Other police officers were shot
in their cars. They were not wounded, but their cars were shot up. The
police chased this vehicle down to Wilmer-Hutchins, an area about ten to 15
miles to the south of Dallas. Interstate 45 is closed while police
continue to find out what is in that van.
What they`re going to do now, the police chief said, they`re going to send
robotics, robot apparatus into that area, up to the van, to see what`s
inside. And then they must begin the delicate task of perhaps exploding
part of the truck to gain access and initiate other explosions. The man
said that his van was filled with c4 explosives. They have no reason to
doubt him because back here at police headquarters, in a bag, they found a
pipe bomb. And as the robot approached it and picked it up, it exploded on
So, this was an attack on the Dallas police headquarters, they`re taking it
very seriously. This crime scene is going to be going on all day today as
they round up all the shell casings, and all the other evidence they have
to collect not only here at the police station, but now at that restaurant
parking lot some 10 to 20 miles from here, Melissa.
Clearly, an ongoing situation. Thank you to NBC`s Charles Hadlock in
Dallas, Texas. Everyone should stay with MSNBC throughout the day. We
will bring you any new developments in that breaking news story.
And we are going to turn now to yet another story still unfolding right
now. The ongoing manhunt for two escaped convicts. Convicted murderers,
Richard Matt and David Sweat escaped from a New York maximum security
prison eight days ago. Now, a prison employee has been arrested in
connection with their escape. Joyce Mitchell is accused of aiding the
fugitives by providing contraband. She was arraigned late last night and
pled not guilty. Despite more than 800 officers aiding in the search, at
this hour, Matt and Sweat remain at large. Joining me now from
Morrisonville, New York is MSNBC correspondent Adam Reiss. Adam, what more
can you tell us about - and about Joyce Mitchell and this ongoing search?
ADAM REISS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Melissa. Very serious
charges, promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation. The
complaint says that on May 1st, five weeks before the escape, she snuck
into the jail, hacksaw blades, chisels, a punch and a screwdriver bit.
Officials say she thought it was love. She thought she had some kind of a
romantic relationship with Richard Matt, maybe even David Sweat as well.
And that is why she agreed to participate in this escape plan. Even
agreeing to be the getaway driver before she got cold feet. She faces
seven years in jail. She has been suspended from her job at the prison.
At the same time the search continues. We`re in our second week. They got
this perimeter of five miles, they`re tightening the perimeter. They have
got 800 searchers, they have got choppers in the air. They have got dogs
on the ground. They believe they`re going in the right direction. They
believe these guys may be together. They believe they`re cold and tired,
wet and hungry. That makes them even more desperate and even more
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to MSNBC`s Adam Reiss in Morrisonville, New York.
And we`ll be checking in with you a little later in our program for
Also this morning, Democratic presidential candidate and former Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton will hold her first big campaign rally. I`m
sorry, we see Tamir Rice here. There we go. It will take place on
Roosevelt Island in Manhattan. Her backdrop will be a monument to
President Franklin D. Roosevelt for a freedom speech, in which he described
the freedoms of speech and of religion and of - freedoms from fear and from
want, as fundamental human rights. On the ground on Roosevelt Island is
NBC News chief foreign correspondent, Andrea Mitchell. Andrea, can you -
I`m sorry, we don`t? I`m sorry, we don`t have Andrea Mitchell with us
right now. We will be coming back over multiple times during this day to
check in on Hillary Clinton who will be giving her first major campaign
speech at that rally on Roosevelt Island.
Let me turn to yet another story. On Thursday, Cleveland municipal court
judge Ronald Adrine found probable cause in order to charge two Cleveland
officers in the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. Specifically,
the judge found probable cause to accuse Timothy Lowman, the officer who
fired the shot that killed Tamir of murder, of involuntary manslaughter, of
reckless homicide and of dereliction of duty. For Lowman`s partner,
officer Frank Garmack, Judge Adrine found probable cause for negligence,
homicide and dereliction of duty charges.
Now, these are just opinions at this point, opinions from the municipal
court, which are purely advisory. They have not resulted in any actual
charges. They were rendered two days after a group of activists, called
the Cleveland eight, submitted an affidavit in an attempt to spur the
arrest of Lowman and Garmack. They signed affidavit under a rarely used
Ohio law that allows a private citizen having knowledge of the facts, to
start a legal process against the parties they seek to accuse. So, how did
the eight Cleveland activists know enough about Tamir`s shooting to file
the affidavit? Well, clearly, from the viral surveillance footage of the
officer shooting Tamir in the park. They argued and Judge Adrine also
referenced the video in the ten-page opinion that he forwarded to city
prosecutors on Thursday. Saying the video in question in this case is
notorious and hard to watch. After viewing it several times, this court is
still thunderstruck by how quickly this event turned deadly.
Judge Adrine`s advisory opinion does not supersede the investigations and
decisions of city prosecutors. The Cuyahoga County prosecutor has been
handling the case and said in a statement Thursday this case, as with all
other fatal uses of deadly force cases involving law enforcement will go to
the grand jury.
Joining me now is president and CEO of the NAACP, Cornell William Brooks.
So nice to see you this morning. Obviously, this is just an advisory
opinion. But it was one I think that was met with many of us who have been
watching this story very closely as a potential sort of turn, in what we
may see happen in Cleveland.
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PRESIDENT & CEO, NAACP: I think it`s an
encouraging turn. This judge, by this finding of probable cause, even
though it`s advisory with respect to the first officer, five charges,
second officer, two charges has essentially made the case for why. The
prosecutors are then left dealing with the question of why not? Why not
have a grand jury bring forward charges and have these officers arrested?
I think it`s a significant development. And where we have a local NAACP
legal redress chair working with the group of activists and other lawyers
to bring -- to use this law, this not widely known, although it has been
used over the course of the last several years as a tool of accountability.
I think this is important. It`s an important step, particularly in a case
on this anniversary, close and following the anniversary of Tamir Rice
losing his life. It`s a very positive development.
HARRIS-PERRY: It also seems to me, it suggests one of the things we`ve
been seeing, obviously, within the Black Lives Matter movement more broadly
and nationally is an attempt to try to think about new ways to press for
accountability. And I`m wondering if this looks at all like a model to you
- again, not that we have charges yet, not that many folks believe that
justice has yet been served, but whether or not this is a new model for
thinking about accountability.
BROOKS: It is an important model. It empowers citizens to come forward
and look for ways to hold their police departments accountable. It takes
place in the context of a broader effort to hold police departments
accountable. So where the NAACP, with so many others, worked hard to bring
about this consent decree in Cleveland, which is a model, it is broad, it
is comprehensive, it includes features not included in consent decrees
elsewhere. I think that`s incredibly important. Also, the racial
profiling law, which was passed in Cleveland just this week, not the most
robust law in the country, but it does provide and mandate that statistics
be kept in terms of how people are treated. Why is that important? Think
about Ferguson. The NAACP passed a similar law there which mandated the
statistics be kept. Those statistics were used by the Department of
Justice to establish the evidence and a pattern of practice and
investigation. So, we have got to think creatively. We have got to use
all the tools at our disposal in order to bring about a true change, a
fundamental change in policing in this country.
And that`s really not just a policing effort, it`s a grassroots effort.
It`s a legislative effort. It`s a policy effort. So, we have got to do
what`s necessary at the federal level in terms of passing the end racial
profiling act, but we`ve also got to do things on the ground through our
local branches in our communities.
And this is, I think, a very significant moment and it speaks to the fact
that people are determined to bring about fundamental change. So, I put
this way: there`s a direct correlation between our creativity and our
ingenuity and our determination.
HARRIS-PERRY: Cornell William Brooks in Washington, D.C. this morning.
Thank you, because you`re weighing in - obviously, we`ve been talking about
the Dallas issue, life and death issue around police officers there,
talking about the prison break, potential life and death issues associated
with that, and then the case of Tamir Rice. That said there is obviously a
very big story going on with the NAACP. And I promise, in the commercial
break I`m going to ask you a little bit about it so that we can get you on
record to have a conversation about it in the next hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me also just say that on Monday the NAACP will announce
a coalition called America`s Journey for Justice, which involves an 860-
mile march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C. to mobilize activists
around criminal justice, voting rights and education.
This morning, Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of
state Hillary Clinton again, as I mentioned before, is holding her first
big campaign rally. It will take place on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan.
Again, as I mentioned before, her backdrop will be a monument to President
Franklin D. Roosevelt`s For Freedom speech. As on those For Freedom
speech, freedom of religion and freedoms from want and from fear. Those
are fundamental human rights, Roosevelt told us. On the ground on
Roosevelt Island is NBC News chief foreign correspondent Andrea Mitchell.
Sorry, we didn`t have you earlier, Andrea. But let`s start with who and
what, other than Secretary Clinton, is going to be at today`s event? What
can we expect to hear?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, they`re practicing
the band now. So, you are going to hear a lot behind me as they rev up for
this. The crowd is just beginning to be let in. What you`re going to hear
from it, it`s about 30 minutes from Hillary Clinton. This is her first big
public rally. She`s been running for two months on her listening tour
before early primaries take. This is the first time she has got a big
public event. But you really only are going to hear from her. She is
going to be introduced as well by a dreamer, by a young - a young person
who is one of the people that say they have been trying to help with their
new immigration policy by expanding the dreamer rule. The executive order
to include also the parents of dreamers. That`s one of the things that
Hillary Clinton has already announced during a Nevada appearance at a
largely Hispanic high school.
This is a young dreamer who won the lottery really to be here today. And
then you are going to hear from Hillary Clinton. Interestingly, because
this is the first time at the end of her speech you are going to see Bill
Clinton, the former president, of course. They have not campaigned
together. He has not appeared at all alt her side. But he`s not, I`m
told, are going to have a speaking role. There`s always been concern when
they appear together that he, as a great public speaker, one of the
greatest Democratic surrogates there is, can overshadow his wife. But you
are not going to hear from him today. You are going to see him. They
obviously hope that this is going to be an event to organize people. They
are going to be taking names, and e-mails, and cell numbers, and trying to
get an organization started here in New York City.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Andrea Mitchell. And we`re going to be
following up with you a little later in the program as we wait to see that
rally kick off.
Up next, the hard questions that need to be asked. It is still the MHP, so
I know we`ve had a lot of news. But we`re about to dig in now. Why would
(INAUDIBLE) in records for them for three years without a trial? And how
could this life have been saved.
HARRIS-PERRY: Rikers Island, a 400-acre island in the East River that
serves as the principal jail complex for New York City. On any given day,
about 10,000 inmates live behind its bars. For three years, Kalif Browder
was one of them. In 2010, when he was 16m Kalif was arrested in the Bronx
for allegedly stealing a backpack. He strongly denied the charge, but
soon, partly because his family couldn`t afford to post bail, Kalif was
aboard a department of correction, but headed to the records jail facility
for adolescent boys. The facility named the Robert N. Davoren Center,
known as RNDC, and has troubling allegations of brutality that were exposed
there last year when the U.S. Attorney`s office in Manhattan reported that
a deep seeded culture of violence is pervasive throughout the adolescent
facilities at Rikers. Kalif`s experience supports that claim. In a
profile by "The New Yorker" in 2014, Kalif described the horrors he says he
endured while inside, the beatings he suffered at the jail were also
captured in two surveillance videos from Rikers. They were obtained by
"The New Yorker" and then published by the magazine in April.
We are going to show some of that video now. And warning, it is quite
disturbing. This was in 2012. The video shows a guard arriving to escort
Kalif to the prison shower. Kalif appears to speak to the guard who then
pushes him to the ground. In another video, Kalif is shown in a violent
altercation with several of the fellow inmates. As you can see, "The New
Yorker" blurred the faces to protect the identities of the teens.
Kalif also spent time in solitary confinement. 23 hours a day. His first
send in solitary known at Rikers as the Bing (ph) lasted two weeks.
Another stay lasted ten months. Throughout his ordeal, Kalif`s case was
repeatedly delayed by the courts and Kalif maintained his innocence
rejecting several plea deal offers. By the time prosecutors dismissed the
charges, Kalif had been in prison at Rikers for three years. Nearly two of
those in solitary confinement. And he never stood trial. He was never
found guilty of any crime. Kalif was released May 30, at 2013. But his
troubles were far from over. Troubles that led him to attempt suicide six
times after his release. He could not forget the horrors he saw inside the
jail. And he told "The New Yorker" before I went to jail, I didn`t know
about a lot of stuff. And now that I`m aware, I`m paranoid. I feel like I
was robbed in my happiness. Last Saturday Kalif committed suicide at his
family`s home in the Bronx. He was 22 years old. The New York City
Department of Corrections is looking into the incident. A spokesperson
told us. And in December, New York did away with solitary confinement for
16 and 17-year-olds and the DOC plans to end punitive segregation for 18 to
21-year-olds by January 2016.
Joining me now is Glenn Martin, President and founder of Just Leadership,
How is it possible that a young person in our country, a citizen of our
country spends three years in jail without ever being found guilty of a
crime, subjected to what at least some international bodies think of as
torture, solitary confinement?
GLENN MARTIN, PRESIDENT AND FOUNDER, JUST LEADERSHIP, USA: The question,
unfortunately, is probably how is it not possible? We have a culture of
punishment, and here in New York and North Carolina, specifically we`ve
decided to treat 16-year-olds as adults automatically, no discretion by
judges. You have 9600 people on Rikers Island on any given day, 78 percent
of them like Kalif have not been found guilty of any crime, and yet because
we have this very archaic bail system, we have tons of people who are
sitting, that were bailed under a thousand dollars, unable to go home and
unfortunately are subjected to type of violence and a violent culture that
exists on Rikers. And not just amongst the people doing time, but also
amongst the correction officers.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you said so many different things there, when we talk
about young people being treated as adults, but whether - whether youth or
adults, don`t we have a constitutional right to a speedy trial? And is
there anyone who thinks that three years without a trial constitutes
MARTIN: Yeah, it`s unfortunate. Because what we have done with mandatory
minimums, is that we have transferred power to prosecutors. And
prosecutors are always looking for a conviction. And one way to get a
conviction is to have a person who you think is a witness sit on Rikers
Island, they call it bullpen therapy, give them bail high enough that they
can`t afford to go home. And for poor people, a $1,000 will be a million
dollars. And then you hold them there as long as possible until you get a
HARRIS-PERRY: You mentioned two states.
MARTIN: North Carolina and New York.
HARRIS-PERRY: New York and North Carolina, those are very different states
in a lot of ways. How do that end up being kind of beacons of this kind of
MARTIN: Yeah, it`s important you asked that, because for me, I ask myself
how can we be in one of the most progressive, resource-rich cities in the
United States and have this Island just off LaGuardia Airport where we
incarcerate our children and have them treated this way. And this is not
anything new. So, when I read the report from the Feds, I said to myself,
well, wait a minute, as you know, Melissa, I served time on Rikers, 20
years ago. 20 years ago I served a year on Rikers Island. The conditions
have not changed. Everything I read in that report, existed two decades
ago. So, imagine how many of our children have been treated that way over
the last 20 years?
HARRIS-PERRY: You just brought up another group of people here, and that
is the Feds, or another institution. Is there something that the
Department of Justice should be doing to address this?
MARTIN: You know, I think the Department of Justice is pushing at this
point. I`m hoping that our mayor in New York City actually takes up that
charge and makes a decision. There`s 210 or so children there now, just
like Kalif who can be moved tomorrow. So, we should be pushing to get our
progressive mayor here in New York City, to take action and to get those
kids off of Rikers immediately.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that`s the purview of the mayor. It doesn`t require
MARTIN: That doesn`t require. Now, he has to move them to institutions
that are defined as jails, but still, they`ll be safe and they could be
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, stay with us, Glenn. I want to add some other
people to the table, because up next, I also want to talk about an
investigative report about the women at Rikers.
HARRIS-PERRY: According to the New York City Department of Correction,
women comprise about six percent of the population detained or incarcerated
in New York City. So, in one women facility on Rikers, and it`s called the
Rose M. Singer Center, known simply as Rosie. According to a recent
article in "The Intercept" which focuses on the death of a woman who died
in Rikers custody last year, the legal aid society has received complaints
from 17 Rosie inmates who said their prescriptions had gone unfilled or
their meds were discontinued for no apparent reason.
And in May two women who accused a Rikers guard of repeated rapes sued him
and the city of New York, accusing the city of indifference to a pervasive
culture of rape and sexual abuse of women inmates at the city jail.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Correction said in a stamen to NBC
station WNBC, "We do not comment on pending litigation." Joining my table,
Erika Eichelberger who was an independent journalist who wrote the article
for "The Intercept." You call this a medical emergency, death and
negligent at Rikers Island women`s jail, also Robert Gangi, who is director
of the police reform organizing project, and a former executive director of
the correctional association of New York and Farai Chideya - a professor of
journalism at NYU.
So, I want to come to you first, Erika, on this question of rape and sexual
assault. In this case we`re looking at women, but it is also a problem for
men who are incarcerated and as well as, I think, apparently most
frequently report for trans inmates. Talk to me about how big the problem
ERIKA EICHELBERGER, INDEPENDENT JOURNALIST: Yeah, so as you mentioned, a
class action lawsuit was just filed alleging systemic sexual abuse at the
Rose M. Singer Center. It`s totally pervasive. In between 2011 and 2012,
I believe, it`s six percent of all women at the Rose M. Singer Center said
they had been sexually assaulted. And it`s just sort of goes along with
this culture of impunity at DOC. You know, investigations -- DOC won`t
release any information on investigations of complaints of sexual assault.
So it just keeps happening.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you used the language there, the language of the culture
-- the kind of pervasive culture. And Robert, I guess for me, I`m always
looking for structural explanations. It is possible that police
departments, it`s also possible that correctional officers are just bad
people, there`s a bunch of them, you put them altogether and they do band
and terrible things. It`s also possible that there`s a set of structural
realities that both allow those who are the bad folks to go unpunished, but
also that creates these cultures. And I`m wondering for folks who have
never been inside the prison, never been inside a facility like this, if
you can help us to understand what maybe some of those structures and
ROBERT GANGI, DIR., POLICE REFORM ORGANIZATION PROJECT: Well, you make a
good point. Because any agency, any institution that has huge amounts of
power, like prison systems do and police forces do, they have the power to
arrest people, confine people, deprive them of their liberty for extended
periods of time. So, it`s enormous power. Unless there`re outside
agencies or unless there`s a political climate that carefully watches what
they do, abuses are inevitable. We know this from the history of
imprisonment in the United States and, of course, the world and we know
this from the abusive behavior of police departments in the United States
and New York City.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean we know it from social psychology experiments going
back to before there was - the kind of .
HARRIS-PERRY: People who were just students, some of them become
prisoners, it`s a Stanford study, right?
GANGI: A Stanford Prison Experiment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Immediately it turns to abuse, even though no one
there is actually a COO or a prisoner.
GANGI: Exactly. These institutions - There is a simplistic truth. When I
think it`s a truth, there are systems that can bring out good in people and
systems that can bring out bad in people. And prisons are inherently
designed, not maybe intentionally, but certainly by now we know, to bring
out bad in people. In some people. People who might not have had bad
intentions, or sadistic intentions or racist intentions, before they became
police officers or correction officers.
The remedy is simplistic, but it`s true. There needs to be strong outside
monitors whose sole job - first of all, that they`re independent of the
government, and their sole job is to monitor and report the -- what goes on
inside the facilities. And it also goes to insufficient health care. I
mean we know -- anybody who looks at prisons and jails in the United States
knows that health care is virtually inadequate in every facility. There
are some exceptions, and that there are unnecessary deaths.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, as you talk about this idea of independent monitors,
clearly one of the roles that the press is meant to play, what "The New
Yorker" played in giving us Kalif`s story, what Erika plays in giving us
the story of the woman at Rikers. Is to shine a light. But we also know
as journalists that part of trying to get that is a sense of mattering, of
stake. And I`m wondering how we create that sense of stake among so many
in American communities who don`t feel like this has anything to do with
FARAI CHIDEYA, PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM, NYU: Well, you know, I think that
most people, and most families have some connection to the criminal justice
system. But what happens is that there are very much class based divisions
in how criminal justice interaction is played out. If you have access to
good legal representation that you`re able to pay top dollar for, you can
get what might be a felony reduced to a misdemeanor. Conversely, if you
have no representation, if you look at someone like Kalif Browder, you can
have a crime that should never arguably have been prosecuted in the first
place turn into essentially a death sentence. And so, I think what we have
to do is also make people realize, people who say, well, that wouldn`t
happen to my kid. It`s like well, actually, it could have happened to your
kid if your kid didn`t have a good lawyer when his frat party had turned
into a melee and the police showed up, but they know that they`re good kids
and they are not bad kids. A lot of times in this country we have
divisions that are based on access to legal representation. So, we need to
have a class based discussion, I think, around who gets funneled into the
criminal justice system. If we only consider just the pure numbers of who
gets sentenced to what, then I think that people are allowed to have this
illusion that it`s not me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with us. I want to go to a place of asking some
questions about what some of the solutions to these problems may be as soon
as we come back. But before we go to break, a quick update on the standoff
in Dallas, Texas, where a gunman is accused of opening fire on police.
Investigators are using a robot to examine the suspect`s vehicle at this
hour. SWAT snipers shot the suspect through the windshield. The robot is
being used to determine whether the suspect is dead. Police say the
suspect gave them his name as James Boulware, but that name has not been
confirmed. We will continue to monitor this breaking news situation, bring
you any information right here on MSNBC.
And still to come this morning, we have much more on the NAACP leader
raising nationwide questions over racial identity and the presidential
candidate, Hillary Clinton`s, first big rally.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re back and talking about issues of abuse, assault, the
conditions at Rikers. I want to come back to the Kalif Broward story for a
minute. In part because there is a bill that might have made a difference
for him right here in New York. So, among the bills still pending in
Albany is a proposal to raise the state`s age of criminal responsibility to
18. And at present both, as you said in New York and North Carolina, 16 to
17-year-olds are prosecuted as an adult. What can move this bill through
MARTIN: A little bit of horse trading, unfortunately. The Senate
Republicans are holding out for hybrid detention facilities in their
communities that would house some of these kids. So, at best it seems like
we are going to end up with incrementalism, which is unfortunate. Which is
why again, I think, the mayor should move immediately. The problem with
Rikers is Rikers. You know, the fact of the matter is that we have a
culture there that we won`t be able to break. And particularly our
children. We need to move them immediately. But all in all, we should
shut the facility, we should decentralize, we should shrink the number of
prison beds and we should also hold officers accountable.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this sounds to me - when we have a problem, and it seems
like well, we have a policy solution here, but I`m also not naive enough to
think that just a good policy solution is sufficient. There`s politics
here. I want to play a little sound of Rand Paul actually talking about
Kalif`s case and then ask you about moving the needle on the politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAND PAUL: He died this weekend, he committed suicide. His name was Kalif
Browder, he was a 16-year-old black teenager from the Bronx. For goodness
sakes, are we going to let people be raped, and murdered, and pillaged in
prison because they`re convicted -- he wasn`t even convicted. So, when I
see people angry and upset. I`m not here to excuse violence in the cities.
But when I see people angry, I understand where some of the anger is coming
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that`s a Republican from Kentucky saying this has gone
too far. I just wonder if we actually are seeing the political needle
GANGI: It`s encouraging that Rand Paul and some other Republicans are
taking on their criminal justice issues. And I think we are encouraged
overall by the political movement. I`m relatively an old man, I`m 71 years
old, lived in New York City all my life. I have never seen, for example,
issues of abusive policing be front and center in the political debate as
it is now today. Issues of mass incarceration much more part of the
political debate. Hillary Clinton`s first big speech was about mass
incarceration and criminal justice and disproportionate numbers of people
of color being locked up. But still significant changes have not taken
places. Abusive discriminatory policing, for example, still takes place
every day in New York City. So we - the challenge to us as advocates, as
reporters, as academics, to people at MSNBC is to keep hitting these
issues, exposing these issues. For example, if you think about the old Jim
Crow, in place for 80 or 90 years, liberal progressive politicians
tolerating it, FDR, JFK, and LBJ until the civil rights movement came.
HARRIS-PERRY: Until it was the actual movement. And so Erika, I just want
to be doing it real quick on the last of this, which is I think that part
of what`s happening around Black Lives Matter which is critical and so
important, and yet sometimes it can also have a moment of obscuring the
role of women and the experiences of women at the core of these same kinds
of prison concerns.
EICHELBERGER: Right. Absolutely. Because prison is designed, you know,
around men, a lot of times women`s concerns get ignored. So, nationally
that means, you know, poor ob-gyn care, miscarriages that are not treated.
Women not getting, you know, care for drug addiction. And the thing is
that they come in with their crimes are much less severe, 84 percent are in
for nonviolent crimes. So they`re almost punished more severely for, you
know, much pettier crimes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. And we know that women are often coming in
themselves, secondary or tertiary, having been victimized in other parts of
their lives and then experiencing more victimization here.
EICHELBERGER: Yeah. Yeah.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to say thank you to Glenn Martin and to Erika
Eichelberger and also to Robert Gangi and to Farai Chideya who is actually
going to be with us in our next hour as well.
This morning we are continuing to keep an eye on Roosevelt Island here in
New York, where the first big campaign rally for Hillary Clinton`s
presidential campaign is just getting underway. We expect to hear from the
candidate a little later this morning. We`ll bring you that live. Maybe
she`ll talk about prison reform.
HARRIS-PERRY: In 1972, three men were placed in solitary confinement at
the Louisiana state penitentiary after they were accused of being involved
in the murder of a guard. The facility, Angola prison, is the biggest
prison in America. And it sits on the side of a former plantation. They
got its name from the home nation of many of the people who were once
enslaved there. The men, Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace and Robert King
became known as the Angola Three. Each of them locked alone in a six foot
by nine foot cell for a minimum of 23 hours a day almost every day for
decades. Most of that time spent inside the penitentiary, - together, the
Angola Three became a rallying point for human rights organizations and
supporters around the world to decry the inhumanity of solitary
confinement. Woodfox and Wallace were first confined to Angola`s closed
cell restricted block, after an all-white jury many of whom had personal
connections to Angola, convicted them of the murder of prison guard Brent
Miller during a prison strike in 1972. There was no forensic evidence
linking Woodfox or Wallace to the murder. And the case relied solely on
the testimony of witnesses.
King, also a member of the Black Panthers at the time, joined them at
Angola when he was identified as a conspirator in the crime, despite the
fact that he was 150 miles away when the murder took place. He was later
sent to the closed cell restriction block alongside Wallace and Woodfox in
1973, the three was convicted of another murder inside the prison.
In 2001, King was freed when his conviction was overturned after 29 years
in solitary. Herman Wallace was freed when his conviction was overturned
by a federal judge in 2013. Wallace who was sick from liver cancer at the
end of his 41 years in solitary died just three days after he left the
jail. Which left Albert Woodfox, the last of the Angola Three still
confined in isolation. Today by some estimates, he has served more time in
solitary confinement than any other prisoner in the country. And in the
year since his confinement, Woodfox has come close to freedom more than
once. Twice he has been tried and convicted, twice those convictions were
thrown out by state and local judges. This week, while Woodfox was
awaiting a third trial at Louisiana detention center, a federal judge said
enough and ordered his unconditional release. Judge James Brady ruled
against a trial and for Woodfox`s freedom citing his age and poor health,
the unavailability of witnesses, his lack of confidence in the state to
provide a fair third trial and the prejudice done onto Mr. Woodfox by
spending over 40 years in solitary confinement.
But following an appeal of that decision from Louisiana Attorney General,
Buddy Caldwell, an appeals court temporarily blocked Judge Brady`s
decision. And yesterday, freedom eluded Woodfox once again when a federal
circuit court panel agreed with the state and ordered Woodfox to remain in
prison, pending his appeal. Which means for now, at least, Albert
Woodfox`s more than 40 years of solitude has not yet come to an end.
HARRIS-PERRY: When the movie "Jurassic Park" premiered in 1993, it was a
major commercial success that gave us the enduring wisdom of lines like
"Hold on to your butts." But it was more than that. It also actually
revolutionized how the masses understood dinosaurs. The original "Jurassic
Park" didn`t get everything right, but it used some of the best science
available at the time, and portrayed dinosaurs as quicker, more social and
altogether more varied animals than a popular audience had ever seen
before. It helped to fundamentally change how we viewed the dinosaur and
by extension life on our planet.
But if you dinosaur nerds out there were hoping for the new sequel
"Jurassic World", the new film from our parent company, NBC Universal, that
it would do the same thing 22 years later with more than 22 more years of
science behind it, you might be a little disappointed. Take a look at the
velociraptors, the true stars of "Jurassic Park". In the new movie, leave
aside the fact that the dinosaurs appear to be very well trained by Eddie
(INAUDIBLE) from parks and rack. And they look pretty much the same as
they did back in 1993, but since the first "Jurassic Park" came out, we`ve
learned something new about velociraptors, and many of the dinosaurs. That
they were covered not with leathery reptilian skin, but with feathers.
Joining me now, Ken Lacovara who is professor of paleontology and geology
in Drexel University.
So, it turns out, that it`s our parakeets were dinosaurs?
KENNETH LACOVARA, DREXEL UNIVERSITY: That`s right. All birds are
dinosaurs. A parakeet, a penguin, an ostrich, they are all dinosaurs.
HARRIS-PERRY: They are not related to them. They are them.
LACOVARA: Exactly. They literally are dinosaurs. Imagine if you went
back to your great, great grandmother, and take all her descendants, and
then you have this big family, you wouldn`t just like pick cousin Bob and
kick him out of the family, right? You can`t kick birds out of Dinosauria.
They are literally dinosaurs.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you saw the movie yesterday, right?
LACOVARA: I did. Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, and what did you think of the science of it, in
LACOVARA: Well, you know, there were some things that they probably could
have done better, but it`s a monster movie, right?
LACOVARA: I try not to be pedantic about it. It`s a fun, summer movie.
But there were some things that we learned in the last 20 years that were
not incorporated in the movie.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, talk to me about what was learned in the last 20
years. What is new in dinosaur science these days?
LACOVARA: Sure. Well, we know a lot know about how birds evolved. And we
know that dinosaurs first evolved feathers before flight evolved. So, they
were probably for some other function like insulation. And so, there`s a
whole group of dinosaurs that are feathered, but aren`t birds. And
velociraptor would be one of those. Also, velociraptor is small. A real
velociraptor is about the size of a turkey.
LACOVARA: You can take a velociraptor.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, man. Take that chicken, give that dinosaur. But
actually, the whole thing about the feathers was highly upsetting to my,
you know, eagle scout husband who, as a young boy, loved dinosaurs, saw
them as like these great fighting reptiles, and something about the fancy
feather of it all, I think is somewhat distressing. And so I`m wondering,
is there something big and giant, and enormous that we`ve learned about
dinosaurs that can help restore the boyhood?
LACOVARA: Well, they may look fancy, but they can still kill you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh! Fancy killers.
LACOVARA: T-rex probably had some fuzz on its body, maybe even some
feathers, but I wouldn`t mess with a T-rex.
HARRIS-PERRY: And what are we looking at here on this table.
LACOVARA: So, we have some fossils here from a site in Mantua Township,
Southern New Jersey.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m sorry, dinosaurs in New Jersey?
LACOVARA: The first dinosaur skeleton was found in New Jersey.
LACOVARA: The first tyrannosaur was found in New Jersey. New Jersey is
the birthplace of dinosaur paleontology.
HARRIS-PERRY: I love that.
LACOVARA: So we have here, this is a bone from a mosasaur. That`s
featured in "Jurassic World." And the mosasaur, think of a Komodo dragon
that`s 45 feet long, has petals for limbs, maybe a ten-foot jaw, and then
it has a second set of teeth at the top of its throat that points
backwards, these, to keep you from swimming back out.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, these are teeth we are looking at here.
LACOVARA: These are teeth. That only appear on the top of the back of
their mouth. And they point backwards.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this guy is the size of a school bus?
LACOVARA: He is the size of a bus, yeah. Super scary.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s pretty - and is this a relatively new find? Is this
past 20 years, something - "Jurassic Park" find?
LACOVARA: Well, mosasaurs have been around for millions of years,
paleontologists have known about them for hundreds of years. But this is
something that we found last summer, actually.
HARRIS-PERRY: What is the most important thing we need to know about
dinosaurs that helps us to understand life on our planet today?
LACOVARA: Sure. Well, we should know that they were - they were long-
lived, it`s not just dinosaurs. They turned over, they adapted to the
environment, they were cosmopolitan, meaning that they were on every
continent, they were on every kind of niche on the land.
And, you know, if we want to understand how the world is changed in the
future, if we want to understand climate change, none of us has access to
the future, you have to look at the past. And we can look at how this past
landscapes and these past - changed in response to climate change in the
past, the different things changing in the past. And that consists an idea
of what we are headed into in the future.
And honestly, it`s not great news.
HARRIS-PERRY: I could have taken a velociraptor, but maybe if you do - a
dinosaur, if they bring some back, we should not try the dinosaur with the
LACOVARA: I would not try the (INAUDIBLE).
LACOVARA: I think that`s going to get you killed.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, Ken, I appreciate you coming and I appreciate you
bringing us some - some fossils to take a look at here. We still have a
lot to get to this morning.
Hillary Clinton`s campaign kickoff rally is underway right now on Roosevelt
Island. And when we come back, the story that has all of social media
asking, does it matter if you are black or white? "Nerdland" is at the top
of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And we are following a number of developing stories this morning, including
the NAACP leader who has been in the headlines this week.
But first, new information in the police standoff in Dallas, Texas. SWAT
officers are using a robot to examine the suspect`s vehicle right now.
According to Dallas police, SWAT snipers shot the suspect through the
windshield of his van and the robot is being used to determine whether the
suspect is dead.
This all started just after midnight when one or more of the suspects
inside a black van struck a police squad car and opened fire on officers.
That crash and shootout happened outside the police department headquarters
in Dallas, Texas. The officers then chased the van into the town of
Hutchins where there was another exchange of gunfire in a restaurant
parking lot. Dallas police say no officers have been injured, but the bags
are found outside headquarters with pipe bomb inside.
Joining me now from outside police headquarters in Dallas, NBC News
correspondent, Charles Hadlock.
Charles, what do we know now that we didn`t know in the last hour about
that man inside the van?
HADLOCK: Well, we believe he may be dead. Police sharp shooters using a
.50 caliber rifle shot into the engine block to disable the vehicle, and
when negotiations apparently stalled, fearing for their lives and the lives
of others around that armored van, police shot through the windshield,
perhaps killing the man. They don`t know for sure.
What they`re having to do now is send in a robot to look inside the van and
perhaps use explosives to carefully open up the vehicle, because the man
claimed to have C4 explosives inside that armored van.
Let me back up and start where this began about midnight tonight -- last
night, right down the street here. South Lamar Boulevard, south of
downtown, Dallas police headquarters. A man driving a heavily armed black
van began shooting up the lobby and shooting at officers on the campus,
shooting at officers this their cars. He then rammed several police cars.
Police could do nothing to stop him because he was driving this armored
van. The van took off. Police chased him down to Hutchins, which is about
10 to 15 miles from here. They surrounded him, and then shot out the
engine block and made the decision to shoot the man in the driver`s seat of
the vehicle. They`re determining now exactly who he is, and what he was up
to -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC`s Charles Hadlock in Dallas, Texas -- thank you.
Stay with MSNBC throughout the day for any new developments in this
Also this morning, we`re waiting to hear from Democratic presidential
candidate and former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, at her first
major campaign rally.
The rally is underway right now on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan.
Secretary Clinton is expected to speak later this hour.
Clinton`s back drop will be a memorial dedicated to President Franklin D.
Roosevelt`s Four Freedom speech in 1941 in which he described four
fundamental human rights -- the freedoms of speech and of religion, and the
freedoms from fear and from want.
On the island this morning is NBC News chief foreign correspondent Andrea
Andrea, what kind of details do you have on the speech that Secretary
Clinton is expected to give today?
MITCHELL: Hi, Melissa. She`s going to be very personal. She`s going to
speak about her mother -- her mother, the late Dorothy Rodham. The
influence her mother had on her.
They`re trying to fill in personal details that, frankly, have been
available and well known from her book, "Living History". But even though
she`s the best known woman politician in America and one of the best known
people globally, they believe that people don`t understand where she came
Now, obviously, there`s another strategy here, because they have tried to
offset the talk about the cash, the multimillion dollar deals, the cash and
lucrative speeches. That said, they think that it`s important for her to
explain why she wants to run for president. This is her first public
rally. She`s been on the road for two months on this, so far listening,
meeting with small groups, but never really explaining why she believes
that she should be in the White House.
This is her first big public opportunity. The crowd is here. This is an
interesting venue, because, as you pointed out, it does have the Roosevelt
sort of aura, FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt who was always such an icon as a
former activist, first lady.
But the most important woman she`s going to be talking about today is her
own mother -- Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Andrea Mitchell. We`ll be following up
with you a little later in our program.
Now, I want to switch gears a bit. This week, a local news reporter in
Spokane, Washington, interviewed Rachel Dolezal, who is president of the
local NAACP chapter, about hate mail that she says was sent to the
organization`s post office box.
Near the end of the interview, the reporter presented her with a photo of
an African-American man who is identified on Facebook as Dolezal`s father.
Then, he asked a simple four-word question that left Dolezal stumped.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Are you African-American?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The interview came abruptly to an end shortly after that
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RACHEL DOLEZAL, SPOKANE, WASHINGTON NAACP LEADER: I don`t understand the
question of -- I did tell you that, yes, that`s my dad. He was unable to
come in January.
REPORTER: Are your parents -- are they white?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But what went unsaid during that very long pause has turned
Rachel Dolezal`s life and story into a topic of national attention, and her
name into a hashtag at the center of firestorm of social media outrage and
debate about racial identity, because if you look at how she has chosen to
live her life, she most certainly has a clear and unambiguous response to
the simple question, and well, it`s complicated.
You see, if I described her to you, without you ever having met her, you
might think Rachel Dolezal sounds like the kind of woman who exemplifies so
many reasons that black girls rock. There are not just membership but her
leadership in the NAACP. There`s a reputation, as what the "Spokane
Spokesman-Review" called one of the inland northwest`s most prominent civil
rights activists, work she has passionately pursued.
But by Dolezal`s account has made her a target of hate groups throughout
her career. There`s her part-time professorship and the Africana studies
program at Eastern Washington University. The fierce twist-out selfie she
posted to selfie declaring her transition to natural hair when she turned
36. Her Facebook advice about where to sit during "12 Years A Slave" to
avoid people, quote, "constantly looking at you to monitor the black
response to the film."
The two African-American sons that she often mentions in her interviews and
writing. Then, most tellingly, there is Dolezal`s application to Spokane`s
office of the police ombudsman commission where she identifies herself as
white, American Indian, and also black.
And then there`s this -- Ruth Ann and Larry Dolezal, a white couple from
Montana, who in an interview with "The Spokesman" this week claimed Rachel
as their estranged daughter with whom they have not had contact with in
years. The Dolezals presented "The Washington Post" with what they said
was her birth certificate, with their names listed as mother and father,
telling the paper, "We are definitely her parents, we are both of Caucasian
and European descent, Czech, German, and a few other things."
According to what Ruth Ann Dolezal told "The Spokesman", Rachel began to,
quote, "disguised herself` as early as 2006 after the family had adopted
four African-American children. And then, the Internet exploded.
In a matter of hours, Dolezal`s racial identity became the story that
launched a thousand memes. And what felt like just as many cable news
discussion panels, most responses were a mix of judgment, anger, confusion
and, frankly, hilarity.
At the root for most observers was the unquestioned gotcha moment. Here is
a person who is living her life as though she is black, but after seeing
and hearing from her biological parents, we know that, in fact, she really
is white. Why would a white woman be president of the NAACP? Well,
there`s nothing inherently surprising about a white person being president
of the NAACP.
In fact, white leadership is as old as the organization itself, going back
as far as the NAACP`s founding by multiracial coalition of writers,
activists, educators, and suffrage movement leaders and past leaders like
the NAACP`s very first president, Moorfield Storey, Joel Spingarn and his
brother Arthur who succeed him in the position.
But all those people operated in the world as white allies. Their
commitment to racial justice was profound, but their sense of self remained
planted in whiteness.
Dolezal is different. For year, she has presented herself not as a white
ally in the work of racial justice, but as a black person who has felt the
keen and personal brutality of racial injustice. For many observers, that
claim of identity is patently, inherently and permanently false.
But let`s just pause for just a moment, and let`s bracket for just a second
Rachel Dolezal`s personal story, because I think what may be more
interesting than her story is our national reaction to it.
Many discussions of Dolezal has been fueled by suspicions about her
motivation, what is she trying to gain? This is rooted in an assumption of
cultural appropriation, appropriation that confers material or reputational
benefits to the white person for being adept at performance of black
culture while not directly benefiting the community where the culture
itself was born.
Other responses to Dolezal have asserted an unyielding biological
determination. It says, if your parents are white, you`re white. You can
never be black. Blackness requires a proximate black ancestry.
I think this response ignores decades of assertion that race is largely
arbitrary as a social construction and very fuzzy and highly contested at
boundaries. But then there are the responses rooted in a powerful desire
to make specific claims that blackness is tied to histories and experiences
unavailable to Dolezal or to other people born white. These experiences
both positive and negative create a kind of black social cultural and
familial world that is both distinct and some claim largely unknowable by
someone like her.
The confusion about identity, the fear of appropriation, the assertion of
biological blackness and the insistence on racial cultural distinctiveness,
each has been woven into how we as a nation received and understood
Dolezal`s story and they tell us as much about ourselves as they do about
Now, this point, there is still so much we do not know about the choices
that Dolezal has made about her identity. But the whole thing just makes
me want to ask, what exactly is race? Who has the power to define it? And
what is at stake for so many people policing its boundaries so starkly?
And those are some questions that I`m going to ask as soon as we return,
because my guest is the woman who literally wrote the book on racial
HARRIS-PERRY: Yesterday Rachel Dolezal was interviewed by CBS affiliate
KREM about the claims that she`s misrepresented her racial identity. This
is what she had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Would you identify yourself as an African-American?
DOLEZAL: I actually don`t like the term African-American. I prefer the
term black. I would say that if, you know, if I was asked, I would
definitely say, yes I do consider myself to be black.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is Allyson Hobbs, assistant professor of
American history at Stanford University and author of "Chosen Exile: A
History of Racial Passing in American Life."
Man, there`s nobody I want to talk to more than you, Allyson.
ALLYSON HOBBS, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Thank you so much for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, and in part, let me just read back to you a piece from
your own text which I have found useful in trying to think through this.
You write, "The constructed nature of race becomes evident when individuals
change their racial identity by changing location, clothing, speech and
life story. Thus seemingly making themselves white. These individuals
cast light on the historically contingent and procedural nature of race-
making and demonstrate that the concept of race can be specious but also
utterly real. That`s the painful consequence of a passing often
So, that is what I feel like I`m watching happening here. Changing her
name, her clothes, her location -- not her name -- but all of her story.
People are saying, well, she`s a liar, I`m like she`s passing. Passing
always creates lying.
HOBBS: Right, exactly. And she really follows a kind of familiar
narrative, and that she has to move away from her family. She`s got to
separate from her family, so that she can have the anonymity, or so that
she can recreate her identity away from her parents.
The thing that`s very interesting is that in this case her parents actually
outed her, whereas in most cases of racial passing, it`s often the parents
who are trying to protect their child and who are very concerned about what
may happen to their child once they are passing. Sometimes, it`s the
parents who have to actually encourage the child to pass and it`s the kind
of iconic image of that heartbroken mother who has to watch as her child
walks down the street and can`t acknowledge her --
HARRIS-PERRY: The imitation of life story.
HARRIS-PERRY: The other piece of it then is that those stories of passing
were about passing into a higher status identity. And it does seem to me
what`s baffling about this story for so many people is passing into what is
perceived as a lower status identity, or at least an identity that we know
carries more disprivileges with it.
HOBBS: I think what makes this story so difficult for people to understand
and for people to sort of make sense of is that Rachel really doesn`t fit
into any of the kind of familiar frameworks that we`re used to think being
So, number one, as you mentioned before, she`s not really using blackness
to sort of appropriate a kind of street cred or make any claims about a
particular kind of racial knowledge or to gain fame or fortune through
associating herself with black music or other forms of black culture. And
then, on the other hand, she`s also not necessarily -- I think there`s some
confusion in that many people would wonder, well, what is she trying to
gain? What is she after?
And that`s where I`ve been really interested in some of the responses,
because some people have gone as far as to say that she must be mentally
ill. She must be disturbed. There`s something actually psychologically
wrong with someone who would choose to give up white privilege in order to
live as a black woman.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hmm-hmm. That -- let me -- let me pause there. I want to
ask this question as clearly and historically as I can. Is it possible
that maybe not Rachel -- again, I don`t know what her whole story is. We
will see more of that.
HOBBS: We don`t know.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is it possible that she might actually be black? The best
way that I know thousand describe this, I want to be very careful here,
because I don`t want to say it`s equivalent to the transgender experience.
But there`s a useful language in trans assist (ph), which is to say some of
us are born cisgendered, some of us are born transgendered, but I wonder,
can it be that one would be cis black and trans black is there a different
category of blackness that is about the achievement of blackness despite
one`s parentage? Is that possible?
HOBBS: That`s absolutely possible. That -- why not? I mean, I think one
thing that she said that I found so fascinating, she said her identity is
multi layered, and that her identity is very complicated and that she
didn`t expect for people to understand it easily.
And I think what she`s eluding to is this sort of perhaps -- again, we
don`t know that much about the story. We need to hear more from her, more
of her personal story. But there certainly is a chance that -- that she
identifies as a black woman, and that that there could be authenticity to
HARRIS-PERRY: Ta-Nehisi writes back in 2013, for "The Atlantic". He
writes, "Race clearly has a biological element because we have awarded it
one. Race is no more dependent on skin color today than it was on
Frankishness in Emerson`s day. Over history, race has taken on geography,
language and vague impressions as its basis."
So, I guess part of the other question I want to ask is, all of the
extraordinary people you write about in your text, were any of them
actually white? Let`s say -- I think about the passing moment, what
happens when somebody says, no, I know you`re really black. And I would
say, I don`t know, maybe they are. Maybe they achieved whiteness. Like
maybe that`s what happens when race is socially constructed, they
HOBBS: Right. It`s certainly possible. I mean, these are questions that
unfortunately, in a very frustrating way, historians can`t really answer
because we don`t know -- it`s very possible, given the extensive nature of
racial mixture in our country, it`s very possible that someone who believes
themselves to be white could actually have black ancestry. Someone who
believes themselves to be black could have white ancestry. I mean, that`s
But I think the question that I`m so fixated is why we immediately make
these assumptions that she`s being so deceptive, fraudulent and, you know,
why there`s such outrage, and, you know, such kind of comedy about this as
HARRIS-PERRY: And watching our feelings and reactions to it, feels it
tells me more about all of us and about our national anxiety around it.
As we go out, I do want to play, we did have NAACP president William
So, I`m going to say thank you to Allyson Hobbs.
HOBBS: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Both for the extraordinary book "Chosen Exile", which people
should absolutely read, but also, as we go out, I want to listen, because
this is also an NAACP question. I want to listen to the president as we go
out. When we come back, we`ll have the latest on the manhunt for two
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, NAACP PRESIDENT: The candor around her racial
ancestry is in question. What`s not in question is her leadership. And to
be frank with you, when you talk to people on the ground, they`re less
worried about her ethnic ancestry than the work that she has done. It`s
frankly based on the opinions, the assessment of people who work with her.
It`s just not an issue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: We have a quick update on the standoff in Dallas, Texas,
where a gunman is accused of opening fire on police. Investigators are
using a robot to examine the suspect`s vehicle at this hour. SWAT snipers
shot the suspect through the windshield of his van. And the robot is being
used to determine whether the suspect is dead. Police say the suspect gave
them his name as James Boulware, but that name has not been confirmed.
We`ll continue to monitor this breaking news and bring you any new
information right here on MSNBC.
And now, we`re going to turn to the manhunt in New York. For more than a
week, law enforcement officers have been searching for two convicted
murderers who escaped from a New York maximum security prison. Richard
Matt and David Sweat escaped from the Clinton correctional facility after
cutting through the walls of their cell.
More than 800 law enforcement officers are involved in the manhunt, along
with search dogs and helicopters. And last night, a prison employee, Joyce
Mitchell, who works in the prison`s tailor shop was arrested and arraigned
on charges of providing the convicts with contraband. She had pled not
Joining me now from Morrisonville, New York, is MSNBC correspondent Adam
Adam, what`s the latest on Mitchell`s status now and on the ongoing
REISS: Melissa, good morning. She`s facing some very serious charges,
promoting prison contraband and criminal facilitation. She was attempting
to sneak in materials to help them with their escape, that included hacksaw
blades, chisels, a punch, a skew driver bit.
Officials say she thought it was love, that there was some relationship
between her and Richard Matt, maybe even David Sweat as well, and that she
was going to participate in this escape plan, even being the getaway driver
before she got cold feet and decided not to be involved and not to do that.
She faces seven years in jail and she remains in jail this morning. She
has been suspended from her job at the jail.
Meanwhile, the search does continue. Officials don`t believe these men
have left the area. They have got the perimeter set up, about a five-mile
perimeter. They`re tightening that perimeter. They`ve got choppers in the
air. They`ve got dogs on the ground.
They believe these men are cold, and wet, and tired and hungry and that
they`re desperate, and being desperate makes them more dangerous --
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to MSNBC`s Adam Reiss in Morrisonville, New York.
We`re going to be checking in with you later in the program for updates.
Joining me now in New York is John Cuff, who`s the retired chief of the
fugitive investigation division for the U.S. Marshal Service for the
So, help us to understand here, how is that two individuals, as Adam just
said, potentially desperate, hungry, had been expecting a car they don`t
have, have managed to elude officers for so long.
JOHN CUFF, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE (RETIRED): Well, it`s not the first time,
Melissa, that something like this happened. This was a well-planned
escape. These two inmates formed a symbiotic relationship with a common
goal. So, they use or manipulate people that they see a weakness on, which
apparently was this staffer. They -- however, the plan did not plan out
all the way when the getaway car didn`t show up. So, that put them into a
tailspin. They had to improvise a plan.
These guys are not outdoorsmen by all accounts. They`re not survivalists.
What supports that to is the fact that this couple that returned at 12:30
in the morning last -- the morning after the escape, but before it was
reported, they did not take any action to neutralize those people to hold
them at bay for not making 911 calls. So, at that point, they were
confident that the getaway car was nearby.
However, the people never called 911, anyway, so it`s no reflection on
them, they didn`t know about the escape, but when they saw the getaway car
was not there, they had to kick in to this other mode.
Now, they do not know the area, presumably, it`s one of the largest
mountain areas in the United States. It`s a difficult search pattern. So,
the timeliness to this were, you know, now coming into one week on this I
wouldn`t worry much about that. There`s nothing to suggest they got out of
the area. But the public needs to remain vigilant. There always is the
possibility of a porous perimeter where they could have gotten out of the
And we just hope for the best that if they did get out of the area, chances
are they will resort to what they know best, criminal behavior. Possibly
stealing a car, holding up an establishment or whatever it might be to get
Right now, we`re looking at it like it`s -- they are in the area. There`s
nothing to suggest otherwise. And as far as them splitting up, this
symbiotic relationship would last until they achieved their goal. They
didn`t get their goal. They`re only halfway there.
HARRIS-PERRY: We expect they are still together.
CUFF: That`s correct.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tank you. It helps to think through what the process of
something like this is.
Up next, the searing new documentary on Jordan Davis, a teen killed at a
gas station. The director of "3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets" joins me next.
HARRIS-PERRY: It took just 3 1/2 minutes for an argument over loud music
to culminate in the fatal shooting of African-American teenager, Jordan
Davis, by then 45-year-old Michael Dunn at a Jacksonville, Florida gas
station, on November 23rd, 2012. Dunn confronted Davis and several of his
friends in an adjacent SUV about what he described as thug music and rap
crap blaring from the vehicle.
Dunn said he believed he saw the barrel of a gun coming out of the vehicle
Davis was in. Police never found any such weapon. And fearing for his
life, Dunn says, he proceeded to fire ten shots into the vehicle, three
into Davis` body, another three into the SUV as it sped away -- 3 1/2
Minutes, 10 bullets, and Jordan Davis was dead.
Dunn was sentenced to life in prison without parole in October of 2014, a
verdict that is still open to appeal. But even with nominal justice
served, Jordan`s parent, Lucia McBath and Ron Davis, will have to grapple
with their son`s tragic fate for the rest of their lives. And that brutal
question, what happened to Jordan Davis when he met Michael Dunn is the
focus of the new documentary, "3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets."
(BEGIN VIDEO CXLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The confrontation began over loud music.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was there music playing in the car?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What type of music?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rap.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did the defendant say anything about the music?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I hate that thug music.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe they didn`t have a gun, but he thought they had a
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They think it`s a gun when it`s in the hands of a
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was the 21st century lynching.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Was it all right to kill my son?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happened to Jordan? What happened to Jordan?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now is activist and director of "3 1/2 Minutes,
10 Bullets," Marc Silver.
What happened to Jordan?
MARC SILVER, FILMMAKER: What a good question. Well, we looked at this "3
1/2 Minutes", I guess, at two different levels. What happened to Jordan in
a pragmatic, inside the courtroom kind of way.
And then I think we were able to undo several layers and asked what
happened to Jordan and why did something like that happen to Jordan. On
the surface, there was an argument about loud music. Someone felt their
life was threatened and they shot in self-defense.
To me, what really happened what there was to hone in on, why a white man
felt fear when looking at a car full of black teens.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, in fact, part of what seems to unravel that first story
about what happened is testimony by Rhonda Rouer, who is the girlfriend of
Michael Dunn, but who casts some light on the possibility that this
narrative about being in fear of his life is not quite what we expected.
I want to play one more piece from the film. This is Lucia McBath, Jordan
Davis` mother, talking about Rhonda`s testimony.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LUCIA MCBATH, MOTHER OF JORDAN DAVIS: She was the key witness that could
testify against him. And she did. I don`t know if she has any children.
I don`t know if she`s a mother. But I was praying if she were, that
something in her conscious, something in her heart, something somewhere
would kick in and she would be convicted to tell the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Lucia McBath and Ron Davis are extraordinary parents of
their child. Not together in romantic relationship, but somehow able to
continue to parent their child even after his passing.
SILVER: Yes, that`s right. They got divorced when Jordan was three years
old. Ron, Jordan`s father, was living in Jacksonville. Lucy went to live
And, yes, on the day Jordan was killed, Ron had to call Lucy, she was
actually in Chicago for Thanksgiving, and tell his ex-wife, the mother of
his son, that their son had been shot and it was on his watch. There is a
moment in the film where he describes having to make that phone call and
being just so confused that his son was in a safe place, with good kids,
and there was no reason for this to have actually happened. And to have
that responsibility, that he was looking after their son, as a divorced
And then following that day for the last, you know, two and a half years,
they had to come together. Like you said, I think there`s a sense that
they`re still, in a way, parenting Jordan even though he`s died.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to listen a little bit to Ron who joined the club
that no one wants to join. Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON DAVIS, FATHER OF JORDAN DAVIS: Me and Jordan had talked about the
Trayvon Martin case. I remember Jordan put a hoodie on, he has a brown
hoodie, he said we kind of look alike, dad.
Trayvon Martin`s father texted me a couple days after it happened, "I just
want to welcome you to a club that none of us want to be in."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, we talked earlier about
Tamir Rice, killed within moments of police arriving on the scene.
Do black lives matter in 2015?
SILVER: I think this is really what heart of the film is when this
happened, many of these other cases hadn`t happened, it was just before the
George Zimmerman verdict. And as we were on the edit, Ferguson happened,
all these other cases happened.
In the beginning when we approached the film, I really thought it was going
to be a film about the perfect storm of racial profiling, access to the
gun, and the laws that give people confidence to use the gun. And then,
over time, really what that 3 1/2 minutes came to represent in a larger way
was, as you said, the 1 1/2 seconds it took to shoot Tamir Rice, the four
hours that Michael Brown lay on the ground.
And suddenly, even though I could understand that some media pundits would
like to speak about all of these things in a disconnected way, actively try
and disconnect these things, for me and for us as a team making the film,
even though we don`t need to talk about all of these other cases in this
particular film, of course, when you watch the film, you understand that
there are deep connections between all of these cases.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Those 3 1/2 minutes, those four hours, those 1/2
seconds, they are deeply connected.
Thank you for the film. It is hard but important to watch. Thank you to
And up next, Hillary Clinton`s appearance at her first major campaign rally
is set to begin just moments from now. We`re going to bring it to you
HARRIS-PERRY: Democratic presidential candidate and former secretary of
state will be taking the stage any minute on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan
where Hillary Clinton is due to give her first major speech of the 2016
Joining me now is Farai Chideya, professor of journalism at NYU, and Katon
Dawson, national Republican consultant and adviser to Rick Perry,
Republican candidate for president, and no relation to Melissa Harris-
And live from Roosevelt Island is MSNBC national correspondent Joy Reid.
Joy, let me come to you first, first, what is happening there? Is it
energetic? It`s the time first we`ve seen her in a rally. How does it
JOY REID, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely, Melissa. Good
So, there is a very large crowd. The sun is now out. We had some cloud
cover earlier. People are happy about that.
Interesting, just looking at the crowd behind me, Melissa. A pretty young
crowd. One of my producers described it as the young millennial kind of
hipster New York crowd.
It`s very age, I guess, the kind of age group that the Hillary Clinton
campaign would want to see. A lot of young people, a lot of women. Not a
tremendous amount of ethnic diversity. It`s something that just my initial
observation would be.
But, definitely, they got the numbers they were looking for. And now,
they`re playing top 40 music to keep everybody excited and happy.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, have you had an opportunity to hear from folks in the
crowd there at all, Joy, about what they`re hoping to hear from the
presidential candidate, this far and away front-runner?
REID: Well, they have been very successful in keeping us in the pen,
Melissa. So, we`re not able to get that close. And interestingly enough,
a lot of the people that I sort of tried to talk to over the little
barrier, not really trying to talk to the media. So, that`s an interesting
People were a little bit more open coming in. And I think in general, if
you just look at the signage, sort of what people are kind of self-
selecting are their issues, it just seems to be the enthusiasm to have a
woman president. You have a lot of sort of Hillary herself being kind of a
star of people`s imagination here.
So, it`s difficult to know if there are specific issues that are attracting
them. I will tell you that the campaign within 24 hours ago released a
video where they kind of shaped the narrative that they would like to see,
which is essentially Hillary down through the years, and all the times she
fought for regular people, the times she fought for women.
It definitely opens with an image of her, with an African-American family,
really trying to sort of hit on all of those constituency groups. But the
crowd here seems to be glad to be here and glad that ain`t raining.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Really, one last quick question for you. One of the
big issues is whether or not Hillary Clinton, given she has been with us on
the public stage for so many years, whether or not she really can
reintroduce herself. If there is something new, that whether it`s the
crowd gathered at Roosevelt Island or voters who will be making choices in
the early primaries, something new that they can learn. Is there something
here that Hillary Clinton will say that we haven`t heard before?
REID: Yes, actually, it`s very interesting that you say that. I was
speaking with a very long-time friend of Hillary Clinton. They talked
about that article that I believe was in "The New York Times" about her
mother, and sort of bringing out stories that maybe people in the media
have heard before, but that the general public has not.
I think what you`re going to hear is a lot more focus this time around on
Hillary Clinton`s upbringing, her family, kind of the personal Hillary.
The first time she ran, it was all about establishing her bona fides to be
commander in chief. It was all about Hillary the tough person. Hillary
prepared on day one to be president.
This time around, I think they`re going to go very biographical. They`re
going to talk about the sort of personal moments in her past, where she
learned the gulfs between the haves and the have-nots and stuff up for the
have-nots. They`re going to really focus on her relationship with Marian
Wright Edelman, who appeared in that video that they release.
And I think that you`re going to will hear a lot about her, a lot about
Marian Wright Edelman, and a lot of other significant, particularly female
relationships that she`s had throughout the years. That and also her focus
on issues regarding children. They actually addressed in that video her
failure to pass health care reform but then they pivoted to the children`s
health -- the CHIP initiative, SCHIP, and they really are hitting home on
issues of women and children. So, I think that`s what you`re going to
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. Don`t go away, Joy. We`ll be popping back in
But I want to come out to Farai and Katon here for a moment.
Katon, you can hear the music, you can hear the rally, young people are
there. They are there to hear Hillary Clinton.
As a Republican, do you look at that and think, oh, my, this is about to be
a fight -- oh. I`m sorry, it sounds like apparently Bill Clinton, former
president of the United States is walking up to the mike. Let`s --
KATON DAWSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Of course.
HARRIS-PERRY: I know. He knew I was asking you the question, Katon.
Here comes Bill Clinton. We had heard earlier from Andrea Mitchell that,
in fact, we were not expecting to hear Bill Clinton speak today. He`s
prepared to be there, to support Hillary Clinton. We see Chelsea Clinton
there as well.
But that we were not expecting to actually hear from him. It will be
interesting to see whether or not we actually hear from Bill Clinton today.
Obviously, you see that the crowds are still enthusiastic about the former
president of the United States. He is undoubtedly a part of this big draw
But when you start seeing the family, you know that you`re likely to see
the candidate soon. So, folks are now beginning to take a look it looks
like there she is here comes Hillary Clinton. She`s going to be making her
Again, she has had public speeches before this point. But this is truly
her first major public rally. An opportunity for her to speak not only
directly to the people through the lens of the camera, but in this case an
opportunity to speak directly to people gathered there at Roosevelt Island
in Manhattan with an opportunity to hear from Hillary Clinton,
reintroducing herself to the American people, apparently focusing closely
on her biography.
We`ve heard a lot today about the likelihood that she is going to talk
about her own mother. She`s going to talk about other women in her life,
in her professional life who has truly focused and created the Hillary
Clinton, the woman who she is now, that she`s likely to talk about Marian
Wright Edelman of the National Children`s Defense Fund, someone with whom
she worked very early in her career, evidence of a discourse that Hillary
Clinton is going to move towards reminding us of her personal and
professional and political accomplishments.
This is a woman who has been on the national American stage for two decades
now. Most in America -- first meeting her as the first lady of the United
States but now knowing her as a former senator from New York, knowing her
as the former secretary of state in the administration of our current
President Barack Obama and now seeing her once again as a presidential
candidate in her own right.
Of course, she had a hard-fought primary battle in 2008 with the man who is
now president. We do not expect a primary battle of that extent currently
in the Democratic Party, based just on current polling. But you never
know, we might end with another candidate. But for now, she is the far and
away front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Hillary Clinton who will begin her speech shortly. We did, in fact, see
both Bill Clinton, her husband and former president of the United States, a
two-term Democratic president, one who continues to be a force in his own
right, but this day on Roosevelt island is very much Hillary Clinton`s day.
Her opportunity to move beyond the Instagram posts, to move beyond the
YouTube videos, to move beyond even the straight policy speeches to a real
public rally, an opportunity to see how a base group of voters might, in
fact, respond to her.
Again, this is Hillary Clinton on Roosevelt Island here in Manhattan, in
New York City, where she served as the senator from the state of New York
immediately after being first lady -- The first first lady to run for the
U.S. Senate in her own right really in many ways eclipsing that first
And now, we will hear from Hillary Clinton.
(HILLARY CLINTON`S SPEECH)
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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