'The Melissa Harris-Perry Show' for Sunday, November 29th, 2015
Read the transcript to the Sunday show
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: November 29, 2015
Guest: Bill Murphy; Susa del Percio; Zephyr Teachout, Khalil Muhammad,
Joshua Guild, Allyson Hobbs, Julian Vasquez-Heilig, Payton Head, Derecka
Purnell, Toni Tipton-Martin
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question, will there be
justice for Freddie Gray?
Plus, what we are learning about the suspect in the Colorado Springs
And race on college campuses.
But first, Senator Ted Cruz tries to convince voters that he is the adult
in the room.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And the Iowa caucuses are now just 64 days away. It will be the first
major electoral event of the nominating process for the next president of
the United States kicking us into high election season.
Yes, looks like pre-season is wrapping up and now it is time for voters to
get to actually know their choices. And as much as it`s been a bit of a
hard election season on the Republican side to really get to know the
candidates because, well, there`s just a lot of them.
And also, this has mostly been a campaign of distraction, shall we say, a
campaign driven by unlikely outsider candidates whose very appeal seems to
be their lack of experience or policy depth. We watch and wonder as they
say ridiculous, often offensive things, and that leaves us little time for
the rest of the field.
The GOP inability to remove the distractions has been the ongoing political
surprise story line of the year because the Republican Party is usually
pretty disciplined, pretty orderly in its succession. A party that views
itself to its quote "next in line," allowing candidate to build a strong
campaign and win, good on paper governors like Jeb Bush with his family
legacy, or New Jersey governor Chris Christie, former head of the
Republican governors association and candidate party leaders yearned to see
run back in 2012. Even Wisconsin governor Scott Walker with his blue-
collar populist appeal before dropping out of the race in September.
But none of these logical, reasonable choices has managed to break through
the crowded chaotic class of 16 field. Instead the leading contenders are
a former neurosurgeon and a reality TV star. That is until now. Because
now the spotlight shines on Ted Cruz.
Remember him? The junior senator from Texas, the former police sore
general who argued in front of the Supreme Court, Princeton and Harvard law
educated, son of a Cuban immigrant. Senator Cruz may have gained most of
his national notoriety by rhyming.
Last September he staged a 21-hour quasi filibuster using part of his time
to read this to his two young daughters who were supposedly tuned in to c-
span at that time?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Do you like green eggs and ham?
I do not like them, Sam, I am. I do not like green eggs and ham. Would
you like them here or there? I would not like them here or there. I would
not like them anywhere. I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like
them, Sam I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Outside his antics, he is known as a conservative firebrand
buoyed by the tea party support. Now, here is a snapshot of where he
stands. Same-sex marriage, he wants to deny it. Obamacare, he wants to
repeal it. Planned Parenthood, he wants to defund it. IRS, he wants to
And now, he is having moment. This week the tea party favorite emerged
from the crowded GOP field feeling less like an unknown and more like a
serious contender. As Dr. Ben Carson fades Ted Cruz is currently climbing
in the polls in especially in Iowa. New polling from Quinnipiac University
puts Cruz near the top of the field in the state with 23 percentage points
inside the margin of error on Donald Trump`s 25 percent. And while
according to the evangelical vote, Cruz has picked up the endorsement of
representative Steve King, the outspoken Iowa Republican and conservative
and has raised a lot of money trailing only Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton.
Yes, we are still little more than two months away from the first votes
cast, but silly season is over. It is go time and the field is starting to
take shape. And Texas senator Ted Cruz repudiated by his colleagues in the
Senate for his antics, the man who brags not about leading a government but
about shutting government down, who until last year held dual citizenship
in Canada. That Ted Cruz is looking more and more like a real contender.
With the poll numbers, the money and the organization to go the distance.
Joining me, Dorian Warren, an MSNBC contributor and a host of "Nerding Out"
on MSNBC Shift. Susan del Percio, Republican strategist, Raul Reyes,
attorney and co-host of "Changing America on MSNBC Shift. And Zephyr
Teachout Fordham law professor and former Democratic candidate for the
governor of New York.
Susan, can an outsider like a Carson or Trump actually win in a place like
Iowa where you have to have or we at least used to think that you had to
have actual strategy and machine?
SUSAN DEL PERCIO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There is a difference between
what Trump`s doing, what Carson`s doing and what Ted Cruz is doing. Trump
is speaking at as many people as possible. He is not (INAUDIBLE). He is
not meeting them one-on-one. He is not listening to what they have to say,
but he is speaking to them. So he has these huge rallies and gets all this
coverage and that`s working for him so far.
Then you have Ben Carson who is trying to do a little bit more, has the
money for an organization but really hasn`t gone into it and now we`re
seeing that because of his lack of credentials, it is really starting to
Ted Cruz, on the other hand, is going to every county, 99 counties. He is
doing another town hall tomorrow even though he has this big bump in the
polls. He is not taking anything for granted. Nationwide he has 100,000
volunteers. This is building up a machine. And the biggest difference I
would say between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump right now is Donald Trump
doesn`t know what it takes to run a campaign, you know, face to face. He
doesn`t have -- he doesn`t get what people want from him. Because he`s
never been a candidate. Ted Cruz gets it. He knows what it is to be in a
primary. He knows what it is to be in a run-off. He knows that he go
press the flesh especially in a state like Iowa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And that idea especially in a place like Iowa,
right. I mean, the caucuses are basically these folks are professional
voters in their certain right. And they are used to a particular kind of
candidacy even if they claim they want an outsider to the process.
RAUL REYES, ATTORNEY: They expect it in places like Iowa and New
Hampshire. It is hard for us I say in say like New York to even imagine
this. But they are used to meeting candidates one-on-one in their town
HARRIS-PERRY: Multiple times!
REYES: Multiple times. They expect that. But the thing is at that point
Donald Trump has just rewritten all the rules. And you know, all the talk
that we`ve heard all summer that at a certain point a serious candidate was
going to emerge or grown-up was going to emerge, it may or may not happen.
And now, even if we look at Ted Cruz, someone is emerging but he is not
that quote-unquote "grown-up" that people expected it to be. You know,
people thought it would be maybe Jeb Bush at some point or perhaps Marco
Rubio. And now it is Ted Cruz and it is just so bizarre!
HARRIS-PERRY: You think Ted Cruz is not the grown-up?
REYES: I don`t know.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s listen again to Ted Cruz`s statement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m so shocked that you don`t see him as the grown-up in the
ZEPHYR TEACHOUT (D), FORMER CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: One of the
things that`s happening here especially post citizens united is you see the
parties basically playing less of a role and outside money playing more of
a role. And Ted Cruz in some ways is more the thing that we feared with
enormous amounts of hedge fund money, pro fracking money, coming in.
Actually a lot of Silicon Valley libertarian money. Google, Facebook Pac,
both supported Ted Cruz earlier and Peter Thielm, a serious in policy terms
but serious cash, Silicon Valley libertarian have all backed Cruz. And he
has not a lot, a lot of not traditional Republican support. But I would
say quasi anarchistic libertarian --
DEL PERCIO: But if money was the only issue, or --
DEL PERCIO: Then you would have seen Scott Walker doing better. Jeb Bush
wouldn`t be (INAUDIBLE). And that is a lot of the money that you are
talking about and that is where it went. And they are now doing as well.
The candidates need to find a way of connecting with the voters especially
in early voting states.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it also interesting. You know, when you Zephyr, you
know, say he is in some ways more of what we feared and yet I have learned
to fear new things. Right? I mean, so it is one thing to deeply disagree
with a party or with a candidate and yet feel like they are perfectly
capable of governing, right. And I guess I`m not sure with Cruz. Like,
you know, I look at someone like a Marco Rubio or Jeb Bush, again, deep
ideological disagreements but I don`t fear that they could make executive
decisions from the oval office.
With Ted Cruz, given the kind of glee in shutting down the government, I
guess I`m not quite sure if I should fear it in the way I do a real out
like Trump or Carson or if I should see him as just a version of a, you
know, a candidate who I disagree with but who I think is quite confident.
DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: I`m not sure we should fear him yet.
Because this isn`t very surprising, the rise of Ted Cruz. I think he was
the first candidate to jump in the primary race back in March. And
political scientists who are analyzing has police preferences showed of the
first four primary states he was most in line with Republican primary
voters. So this isn`t a shock that he has come up in the polls.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dorian, he was most in line with Republican primary voters?
WARREN: In March. Absolutely.
HARRIS-PERRY: I would like to hear again Mr. Cruz`s statement?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WARREN: But here`s the thing about -- he owes his rise to Donald Trump
because as a political scientist (INAUDIBLE) says, you don`t have to win
the nomination to win the conversation. Trump changed the conversation
around immigration. And most of the -- the vast majority of the primary
voters that are most active, their intensity of preference is around
immigration, the support goes to Trump.
HARRIS-PERRY: So they would vote for a Canadian? No, no. Look. He just
is a Canadian. It just -- like there isn`t any question that man was born
in Canada and that is fine with me. But I will just say that there was a
sort of hounding of our current president for years about whether or not he
was born --
REYES: President Obama wasn`t born here either and Republican voters
decided to debunk that.
DEL PERCIO: But putting that aside, there is one other thing. Your
concerns when you say there are candidates you couldn`t agree with but see
hem leading? Guess who you share that same view with? The Republican
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, exactly.
DEL PERCIO: You want to be scared of something new, you and the Republican
HARRIS-PERRY: We actually agree on all kinds of things, me and the
Up next, the evangelical angle. We really do. You`d be shocked at the
things we agree on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: The promise of America seems more and more distant. What is the
promise of America? The idea that the revolutionary idea that this country
was founded upon which is that our rights, they don`t come from man. They
come from God almighty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was Senator Ted Cruz in March just moments before
officially announcing his 2016 presidential bid. The address was at
Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, the largest Christian university
in the world.
And Zephyr, he really has done a good job on -- in that particular space,
right. I mean, more than 200 faith leaders having endorsed him for
president. Just announcing that his formation of a national prayer team.
And so there is going to be sort of national leaders who will be doing
these, you know. So I mean, this is real strategy in the context of a
TEACHOUT: Yes. Again, I want to return to this sort of strange marriage
between the sort of libertarian quasi anarchistic donors, and then the sort
of deep faith leaders that you see in Cruz. I find a lot of what he`s
talking about very disturbing, including his response to the refugee moment
recently was to say we should not allow in Syrians who are -- Syrian
refugees who are Muslim, but allow in Syrian refugees who are Christians.
There is really -- it is not just a faith but a pretty deep religious
bigotry that he`s expressing.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, during that announcement, we just also take a
listen to what he said about that point about kind of radical Islam as a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: Imagine a president who says we will stand up and defeat radical
Islamic terrorism. And we will call it by its name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, I find that troubling as well, right. Defeating
terrorism, sure. But I mean I think we just saw - I mean, literally just
saw in the Colorado shooting that acts of terror are not about one
REYES: But that goes back to the Trump effect. If it weren`t this bizarre
primary field this year, Trump has pulled things so far to the right that
now Ted Cruz to a lot of people looks the quote-unquote "moderate"
You know, as you pointed out in the intro, he is known for obstructionism,
shutting down the government, absolutely inflammatory rhetoric. But by
comparison to the people in the field, he is now presenting himself as the
electable candidate, as a reasonable alternative candidate, a role that
many people thought should have gone to Bush. But this is where we are
right now. For all the talk about riding the party and the primary voters
coming to their senses. This is where they are. Maybe me they have
righted themselves. This is what they want.
HARRIS-PERRY: So does the GOP essentially really want Cruz? Marco Rubio
was the last person we were talking about.
DEL PERCIO: And I don`t think you`re going to see Ted Cruz go all the way.
And the question is also, if he`s peaking this early, don`t forget the Iowa
primary is a month later than it normally is. So it is very early for him
to peak this high in this norm because he will be torn down. When you are
in the spotlight, people will -- you are a target. And does he want to be
a target of Donald Trump? It will be very interesting to see how their
relationship which has been a bit of a bromance will now evolve.
Now, he did go after Trump about the Muslim registry. He said that was
inappropriate. But this is a man who will go all the way to an extreme.
He called President Obama -- now I disagree with that, but he called him
the largest supporter of state sponsored terrorism. That`s absurd! That
REYES: He says he doesn`t want to defend the country.
DEL PERCIO: That is unacceptable. Now, you can have a different point of
view but not that extreme. And that`s what he is known for. That`s what
people are afraid of because you can`t rely on him to do something
HARRIS-PERRY: So, it is interesting. This question of sort of something
responsible, the "New Hampshire union leader" endorsed Chris Christie and
did it with discourse about national security, saying, OK, now that, you
know, the Paris attacks have happened, now that we`re in this moment we
need a real grown-up, someone who will do something responsible and that is
Chris Christie. Does that create a space for kind of the grown-ups in the
room to show up?
WARREN: I think so because they also in that endorsement attack those
candidates from the private sector. So Donald Trump and Carly Fiorina.
Because they don`t have the experience as a Christie as governor, right.
HARRIS-PERRY: They also attack all the senators by also attacking the
president. So they said we don`t need a young senator because that`s what
we have now and it is a terrible thing.
WARREN: It is an interesting priming because what they have done in that
endorsement of Chris Christie is put international terrorism or foreign
terrorism, not domestic terrorism, the point you just made in terms of
Planned Parenthood and the attack on Planned Parenthood. But they have
lifted terrorism as an issue that is much more salient and try to make the
argument for their endorsement for Christie.
One of the thing that is interesting about Cruz and I think this is a
structural change in the Republican Party over the last several decades, in
1980 there was only one debate before the primary and for the caucus in
Iowa. Now there is six. Ted Cruz is an excellent debater as we know. And
so this gives him a chance to make himself know --
HARRIS-PERRY: Is he an excellent debater, Dorian Warren? I would like to
hear once again Mr. Cruz speaking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CRUZ: I do in the like green eggs and ham, I do not like them, Sam I am.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Dorian Warren (INAUDIBLE).
Up next, a democrat won in the south and not just in the south -- in
Louisiana in a state wide race. Really, it happened. We are talking about
him when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the biggest political surprises of the year happened
just last week when Louisiana elected a democrat as its next governor.
John Bel Edwards will be the first democratic governor in all of the Deep
South since former Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco left office in 2008.
Political insiders had expected Republican senator David Vitter to cruise
to an easy victory, so much so the Democrats who were more prominent that
Edwards decided against running because their chances appeared to be so
slim. But Edwards, a formerly obscure state legislator who surprised
everyone by winning the open primary last month with 40 percent of the vote
and then he soundly beat Vitter in the run off by 12 points. How in a
world did he do it?
Here with us to help explain is John Rowley, the media strategist for John
Bel Edwards successful gubernatorial campaign.
So John, how did you all do it?
JOHN ROWLEY, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It`s interesting. We worked for an
independent expenditure, not directly for his campaign. Two of the keys
were the candidate got a very early start. He started running two and
three years out which I think is a model for other candidates in very
competitive, if not red areas. And also there were a number of independent
expenditure groups that came together early and helped him early in that
primary around the runoff that were key.
And also, you know, you had David Vitter as an opponent. I mean, he had
big problems going into the race, then a huge scandal broke by an
investigative blogger that blew things up. And then another thing that I
think is also a model for Democrats and competitive various is we had -
there was a candidate with a great profile, military veteran, army ranger,
West Point, and also he was pro-life, pro-gun which should mitigated some
of the late attacks that Vitter and his super PACs tried to volley at him.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So I want to - just for folks who weren`t
following this race. And I know this isn`t actually an ad that your group
did, but this really was the kind of extraordinary ad that points out I
think kind the candidate nature as opposed to the ideological nature of
this race. So let`s just take a look at what I think is one of the best
ads of the year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The choice for governor couldn`t be more clear. John
Bel Edwards who answered our country`s call and served as a ranger in the
82nd airborne division. Or David Vitter who answered a prostitute`s call
minutes after he skipped a vote monitoring 28 soldiers who gave their lives
in defense of our freedom. . David Vitter chose prostitutes over
patriots. Now the choice is yours.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Man, I mean, I hardly -- like I can hardly even believe that
even it happened in the world. So let me ask you this, John. So given
that you can make -- that someone can make an ad prostitutes over patriots
in this case, is this actually a story that can be bigger? Is this
something about how Democrats can run in the south? Or is this really just
like if you`re running against a guy who answered a prostitute`s call
instead of, you know, taking a vote --
ROWLEY: Well, Democrats didn`t beat him in 2010 when a lot of this
information was out there. So there are certainly things to replicate the
profile of the candidate, forming of third parties to match all the
Republican third parties being very aggressive against Vitter. And I think
that ad needed a disclaimer of, you know, strong words to follow probably
before it aired.
And then, you know, the other thing is, the organization we are involved
with, Louisiana families first, is also very focused on motivating African-
American voters and the field program and black turnout was higher in the
jungle primary and in the runoff as they call it in Louisiana.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold on. Zephyr, I want to let you in on the money piece.
Yes, go ahead.
TEACHOUT: OK, great. I`m thrilled that Edwards won, but this is not a
good development for Democrats in the deep -- small D Democratic sense or
big D democratic sense because outside money funders are going to be hedge
funders. They are not going to be in general be focused on core democratic
populist issues. And it sort speaks to the rise of personal politics
instead of politics that is actually about roads, bridges, schools and the
basics in our society. So I don`t think there is any celebration in the
use of outside groups even I`m thrilled with that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold on.
John, because it just occurred to me as somebody who`s lived in New
Orleans, that when you say jungle primary, I hear something different than
what the rest of the world might have just heard when you said it. Can you
please explain that for a second?
ROWLEY: Well, I mean, this race proved like Louisiana has proved a lot of
times. It is one of the more fascinating places to watch politics. In
Louisiana, like California`s primary, Democrats and Republicans are on the
ballot together in the first race and in the second race. So there is not
a conventional Democratic primary. So you could have gone in and voted for
the D or the R. And so there were three strong Republican candidates and
John Bel Edwards.
And in terms of what was said about the independent expenditures, in this
case anyway that wasn`t really the case in terms of a lot of the people
that were supporting some of these efforts. And I think I guess as
progressives and on the Democratic side, we have got a choice to make, do
we want to unilaterally disarm or do we want to be competitive in terms of
spending. I mean, Vitter he a super PAC still incredibly outspent the
Democratic side of things but they were able to prevail.
DEL PERCIO: And so with strategists -- a win is a win so I hand it over.
That was a well done race from Edwards` side. However, it is very
interesting to see in 2015 that race happening when you see nationally
where the progressive movement on the democratic side is moving. Don`t
forget, I wonder how governor-elect Edwards is going to do being -- he
doubled down on being pro-life. He doubled down on being pro-gun. He
moved very much away from President Obama.
HARRIS-PERRY: No, see, I think he didn`t.
DEL PERCIO: I think he is quoted saying I am not like national Democrats.
That`s what --
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. He did say I`m not like national Democrats but
unlike so many of the southern Dems who in the mid-terms ran hard against
the president, they actually in this case recognize that black voters -- I
mean when you look at - John, am I wrong that African-American turnout in
this off-year election was one of the highest that we have seen in an off-
ROWLEY: That`s four or five points up.
DEL PERCIO: That`s great political strategy. I will give you that. That
is great strategy. That`s good outreach. There were some great ads done
in that race. But it wasn`t necessarily saying just because you do
outreach in those communities, it doesn`t mean you`re saying I am with the
president`s agenda. It doesn`t mean that you are with the president. It
means you are doing a very smart retail campaign.
REYES: Twenty percent approval rating, even majority of Republicans don`t
like him. That`s sort of flipping the script because in the past
Republicans liked to tie candidates to President Obama. This time they did
it with such a massively unpopular governor.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And you know, I guess the main thing I just want to
take away from this, John Rowley in (INAUDIBLE). Thank you for joining us.
But is the point I`ve heard you make a million times. You`ve got to run to
win and Democrats have to actually challenge in the south instead of just
continuing to just give over all of those races.
So thank you to Susa del Percio and Zephyr Teachout. Dorian and Raul are
sticking around a little bit longer.
Still to come this morning, the first trial for the officers charged in the
death of Freddie Gray is about to begin.
And up next, we want to get you the latest on the suspected gunman in the
shooting in the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood.
HARRIS-PERRY: New details are emerging about what happened in the moments
following a deadly shooting of Colorado Planned Parenthood office. Three
people were killed Friday morning and police say 57-year-old Robert Dear
shot a police officer and two civilians whose names have not been released.
Dear was taken into custody after a five-hour standoff. Two law
enforcement sources with knowledge of the case tell NBC News when Dear was
taken into custody, his rantings included the words quote "no more baby
parts." Those sources say Dear said many things to law enforcement,
including references to President Obama and politics and that a motive has
not been determined. Dear is expected to appear in court tomorrow.
Joining me now from Colorado Springs, NBC News correspondent Leanne Gregg.
Leanne, what else do we know at this point about Dear`s background?
LEANNE GREGG, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Melissa, the picture emerging
is of a man who`s reclusive, who sought solitude in the Carolinas. Most
recently he lived in a very small town 65 miles west Of Colorado Springs in
a travel trailer with a woman with no electricity. Neighbors said he is a
mystery that he kept to himself, even in a small town. Very few people
actually say they know him.
His criminal past shows that he has several arrests, everything including
domestic violence against his then-wife. That was back in the `90s. Also
a peeping tom arrest in connection with looking at a neighbor.
Law enforcement described his statements following his arrests on Friday as
rantings. In addition to that comment about "no more body parts," he also
talked about President Obama, they said, and many other subjects and went
on and on.
And while police do continue to stress that it is too early to name a
motive, Planned Parenthood officials say that they believe he targeted the
facility because he opposes abortion. They say that because witnesses
comments that he made while he was in the facility.
Meanwhile across the city today, all across the congregations and churches,
people are offering prayers on this first Sunday after the attack for the
victims and for everyone involved in the violence on Friday. That as the
gunman remains in jail without bond. Again his first court appearance is
scheduled for tomorrow - Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: NBC`s Leanne Gregg in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Thank
And up next, will there be justice for Freddie Gray?
HARRIS-PERRY: Tomorrow the trial is set to begin for the first of six
officers charged in the April death of Freddie Gray.
Gray died from a critical neck injury that he sustained in police custody
after arresting officers placed him handcuffed and shackled but unsecured
in to the back of a police van. Officer William G. Porter is accused of
failing to seek medical attention for Gray`s injuries and is facing charges
of manslaughter, second degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless
The trial is scheduled to start tomorrow with jury selection. And a
Baltimore judge said he expects 75 to 80 jurors to appear for the first
round of selection process. Prosecutors and defense attorneys will face
the challenging task of picking 12 jurors to give a fair consideration to
the evidence and testimony amid a local and national climate of heightened
attention to cases involving police use of force.
With me now, Dorian Warren, MSNBC contributor and host of "Nerding Out" on
MSNBC Shift, Seema Iyer, MSNBC contributor and host of the MSNBC Shift
legal show "the Docket," and a criminal defense attorney who was formerly a
prosecutor in the Bronx district attorney`s office. And Raul Reyes,
attorney and a contributor to NBCNews.com.
So talk to me, Seema, what are attorneys going to be looking for as their
kind of pick this jury?
SEEMA IYER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: OK. The first thing is they are going to
ask the jurors in the jury poll have you been exposed to the riots. That`s
really important. And what side they fell on. The other big issue which
is always an issue I think when you are trying cases involving police
witnesses is their feelings towards law enforcement. And then finally, of
course, what do you know about the case and is that going to affect your
ability to be fair and impartial.
HARRIS-PERRY: There has been a lot of effort on the part of the defense
attorneys to move this out Baltimore and this judge keeps saying, no, we`re
going to do this here. What are your thoughts about that?
REYES: No, the judge is absolutely right. Because moving -- when you take
a trial and you move it to another venue, that`s really an extraordinary
thing and it is not to be taken lightly especially in this case. It has to
do with, for example, you know, the issues of bias, the issues of what
constitutes acceptable police behavior in a high-crime neighborhood and
when does police behavior possibly cross the line into criminality. These
are questions that people who have lived there, they have lived
experienced, they might know in a way people in the suburbs cannot.
And it also, it needs to be in Baltimore not only because the jury needs to
look like Baltimore, but because studies have shown -- even studies done in
Baltimore, for example, juries in the city in urban areas reach far
different verdicts than jurors in suburban neighbors. So it belongs there.
And if the jury pool does not represent Baltimore -- I think Baltimore is
about 60, 65 percent black. If -- the jury will not be seen as legitimate.
So it needs to stay there. He is absolutely right on that.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to come out a little bit from the actual trial. We
will go back to it in a second.
But Dorian, it feels like this is not just a trial around Freddie Gray`s
case. This is the first time in this kind of big arc of the Black Lives
Matter movement when an officer has been held accountable at trial for the
death of an unarmed African-American. How important is sort of the process
here for a sense that some level of justice is possible?
WARREN: It is the miner`s canary in terms of fairness in the criminal
justice system when it comes to race. The nation will be watching this
trial to really try to understand is the system, is the justice system
inevitably corrupt? Or is there any kind of transparency and justice that
black folks can actually win? So think about Ferguson and what happened
there. Think about Chicago last week in terms of taking --
HARRIS-PERRY: But when you frame it as black folks though, it is worth
pointing out that this officer is also African-American, that this -- lots
of things about Baltimore are different. Right? But like the speed with
which this case -- we don`t have charges in the Tamir Rice case, and yet
this one is already at trial.
IYER: I think what is funny is as we talk about this in court sometimes.
Just because your client is black doesn`t mean -- and the officer`s black
or the DA`s black doesn`t mean it is going to help you. It really doesn`t.
HARRIS-PERRY: Everybody`s black in this case!
IYER: So we can remove that issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: But we can`t really. Right? Like -- so on one hand
everybody`s black and yet it actually doesn`t then make race not an issue -
IYER: No, no, not at all. But at least in my experience, and I want to
hear what Raul has to say, I think the judge sometimes determines the
fairness of the proceeding and I am incredibly confident with this judge
that we will have a fair trial.
WARREN: And this is important, because this judge used to prosecute police
misconduct for the justice department previously.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sir, this is a real thing, right. This is a former DOJ
attorney who got convictions against police officers.
REYES: Yes. So he knows what to look for and he knows, you know, what
constitutes acceptable conduct. But when you talk about the larger
national issues, things like the movements around social justice, Black
Lives Matter, the thing that`s so important to keep in mind is just that in
these trials, all those things, and I`m going to preface this by saying I
think what was done to Freddie Gray was horrific, those things are
IYER: Everything is relevant!
REYES: No, because it all is going to turns on the case that the
prosecution makes. It is not going to turn on possible consequence. They
have a high bar to clear, you know, to proving beyond a reasonable doubt.
They have bar to clear --
IYER: Listen, there are going to be jurors who are going to get on that
jury because they have something to prove. They are politically motivated,
socially motivated --
HARRIS-PERRY: But potentially on both sides. Right?
HARRIS-PERRY: They either want something to prove on the BLM side and also
on the office officer`s side.
REYES: You want to exclude them because then they are trying to make a
IYER: They aren`t always forthcoming. That`s the problem.
WARREN: None of those jurors walk in with a blank slate. They have been
paying attention especially this issue is very salient in Baltimore. So
they have been paying interest to the news. They have experiences and
feelings about the police regardless of whether the prosecution or the
defense can squeeze that out.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. I`m going to try to get you to just hold some of this
until after the commercial break.
And when we come back, I`m going to bring in the attorney for the family of
Freddy Gray. Billy Murphy joins us next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Baltimore is among the growing list of American cities where
the death of an African-American while in police custody has prompted a
demand for police accountability. But Baltimore stands out among those
cities because seldom in these high-profile cases have we seen that demand
actually answered quite like this.
The justice system responded fairly quickly in Baltimore with Baltimore
city`s state attorneys Marilyn Mosby announcing charges against all six
officers involved with Freddie Gray`s arrest less than three weeks after
his death. And this week, almost seven months to the day since those
charges were announced, the first of six separate trials between now and
March for each of the accused officers.
Joining me now from Baltimore is Billy Murphy, attorney for the family of
Nice to have you, Mr. Murphy.
BILL MURPHY, ATTORNEY FOR FREDDIE GRAY`S FAMILY: Nice to be here. How are
HARRIS-PERRY: Pretty good. So we are talking here about this idea that on
the one hand, you know, in the kind of big movement around Black Lives
Matter, Baltimore is a space where justice looks as though it may be
possible. But I`m interested for the family of Freddie Gray what justice
MURPHY: The family is very unusual. They don`t have a particular result
in mind like most people do who are watching. They don`t want a guilty
verdict. They don`t want a not guilty verdict. They want whatever is
based on the evidence and the law in the fairest sense possible. They want
the jury to be open-minded. They want them to listen closely to both
sides. And then they want them to follow the law and come up with an
evidence law-based verdict, not preconceived notions. Because that`s
exactly what the problem is. People come in with biased attitudes in one
way or another. And people don`t get justice that way, so they want pure
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is a really interesting point. In part because you
have six officers, they`re going to be tried in separate trials and
apparently some of the information will come out in the first trials will
also be used as information in later trials. Talk to me a little bit about
MURPHY: Well with be in multiple trials where basically you are talking
about the same scenario over and over again. Of course, that`s going to
happen. People are going to understand better the second trial than they
will understand the first trial. Then believe it or not, there are going
to be some surprises in the first trial. And they are going to be
evidentiary approaches and theories that are sometimes counterintuitive.
But in any event, which won`t be expected by people who have been following
the case. And that`s because the one thing that`s been missing in this
dialogue is a factual discussion. That will happen before the second
trial. But this trial is going to be shrouded in mystery until the
evidence comes out. And that`s a good thing in many ways.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for me a second, Mr. Murphy.
Seema, I want you let on this. In part, because this idea - I mean, this
is very different language than what we have heard. What we want is for
the system to actually work. We want to see this thing that we think of as
the American system of justice where we presenting the facts to actually
play out. What`s your sense about the likelihood of that can actually
happen in this case?
IYER: I do think it could happen. First of all, the severance is based on
the defendants, each of the officers making these different statements.
And that things are going to come out in officer porter`s trial that could
be used against Officer Gordon and white, for instance. So I think that
lends itself to fairness on a purely evidentiary level. That`s number one.
Number two, I do think the judge -- Judge Billy, he may have more
experience with Judge Barry Williams so he would be able to tell us about
him, but I think we are in a position to have a fair judge.
And it is so important, Melissa, I think to have a fair judge because
that`s where you get your rulings. If I am trying to put in evidence my
prior relationship with Freddie Gray and the defense wants it in the
prosecution doesn`t, that`s up to the judge to say, wait a minute, this is
irrelevant, or it is relevant to the officer`s state of mind when dealing
with Freddie Gray.
HARRIS-PERRY: So what do you think, Mr. Murphy? Is this a judge who you
are confident is likely to make fair decisions in those kinds of cases?
MURPHY: Absolutely. I have known him since he was a baby prosecutor years
ago. And I followed his career all through its various stages and he`s
very thoughtful. He is very, very bright. And he is an extraordinarily
fair human being. But he`s no nonsense.
And so, you can expect that the trains will run on time and you can expect
that he won`t let the lawyers grandstand or do the things that many of us
are famous for. And he will make sure that it is a dignified proceeding
uninfluenced by outside events. I`m very confident in him. And to the
extent that judges set the tone for cases. He is the right tone setter.
HARRIS-PERRY: So you know, it is interesting you say, you know, unaffected
by things that are happening on the outside, and yet, Raul, this case, and
the fact that there are six of them will undoubtedly impact what happens in
the -- I mean Baltimore is now going to go through six separate trials.
And whatever is happening for the family, this will be undoubtedly
emotional for the city.
REYES: Right. And there is also two other factors that make this case
very unusual. One is that because you have police officers on trial.
Think about it. Normally, for example, if you are on the prosecution side,
you want people who self-identify as law and order type people. You want
people who tend to support the police. You want people who can`t imagine
themselves in the shoes of the defendant. This time, that`s what the
defense wants. I mean, it sort of flip that way.
And this case is also unusual because there is already been a civil
settlement with the Freddie Gray family. Usually that comes afterwards.
And now, some people say, well, that could possibly bias jurors that they
could say, well, it is some type of admission of guilt. But it could also
play the other way. Because if they`re on the fence, they could say the
family`s already gotten this in the form of justice, so let`s just, you
know, go not guilty. So these two factors also play in to this and I think
it`s going to be -- as we go through the trials, they will have a role. It
is very unusual.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have an unfair question to ask with such brief time. But
we keep hearing about the Ferguson effect as this chilling effect on the
ways in which officers are doing their work on the ground. I wonder if
finally seeing a Baltimore set of cases here will impact how police
officers are thinking potentially in ways that are good, that are pro
WARREN: There`s no Ferguson effect when you look at the data and evidence,
number one. Number two, this is a question about public accountability in
terms of those charged with enforcing public safety. And I hope every
officer in this country is watching this case very closely to understand
that not just in Baltimore but potentially in other places they will be
held accountable for any misconduct of crimes they commit against
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to ---
MURPHY: There`s actually more likelihood there will be a Chicago effect
given the premise and recently of those events. Very sad story in Chicago.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Well, and hopefully what that Chicago effect is with
being is if you have a tape, don`t wait a year to release it.
Thank you to judge Billy Murphy in Baltimore. And here in New York, thank
you to Dorian Warren, Seema Iyer and Raul Reyes.
Still to come this morning, if your kid is home but headed back to college
later today, you could let them sleep or you could go grab them and wake
them up because up next, race on campus. What our young people are facing
and how they`re handling it.
There is more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. This weekend
demonstrators in Chicago and Seattle took to the streets to protest the
killings of unarmed black people by police. They disrupted the typically
care-free early shopping days of the holiday season to draw attention to
inequities in policing, criminal justice and incarceration. Streets of
major American cities are not the only places where protests and calls for
racial justice have emerged. For more than a year many American campuses
have been sites of student organizing and direct action protests.
First we saw social media campaigns addressing macroaggressions. And then
in recent weeks campus protests have grown more urgent and widespread.
Nowhere more so than at the University of Missouri in Columbia just a short
drive from Ferguson, Missouri where the shooting death of Michael Brown and
the police action in response to citizen protests galvanized a national
Black Live Matter Movement. At Mizzou, students demands culminated on
November 9th, the resignation of the president of the university system,
After a group of Mizzou student activists called for Wolfe to resign after
what they say was his failure on multiple occasions to respond to their
ongoing attempts to bring us attention to issues of racial injustice at the
school. And on November 2nd, Jonathan Butler, a graduate student and
member of the group amplified their call with a hunger strike that he said
would continue until Wolfe left office. And then, on November 7th,
African-American members of Mizzou`s football team announced they would
boycott the season until Wolfe, quote, "resigns or is removed due to his
negligence towards marginalized student experiences."
Wolfe stepped down two days later. His resignation was just one of several
demands that were meet by university administrators. Now, that same day,
the UM system, board of curators announced plan for diversity and inclusion
training program, new support for the hiring and retention of more diverse
faculty and stuff, the additional support for people who`ve experienced
discrimination and disparate treatment on campus. The Mizzou protests have
been followed by actions at many of nation`s most elite universities.
Students at Yale -- California`s -- and Occidental College, Georgetown
University, Princeton University. And many others turned out en masse to
highlight their experiences of feeling marginalized on their campuses and
to call on administrators to meet their own list of demands.
This is not the first time that political protests in American cities have
been accompanied by movements on college campuses. College students were
among the vanguard of the civil rights leadership. Much of the anti-
Vietnam war movement was organized on college campuses. In the late 1960s
and the 1970s, students initiated movements that led to the emergence of
black studies departments. The following decades thousands of students`
activists called for the schools to divest from apartheid era South Africa.
Just last years, students joined with the Black Lives Matter Movement when
they begin to -- to protest a grand jury decision not to charge Darren
Wilson in the death of Michael Brown.
Today protests are focused on the experience students say they`re having on
their own campuses. In March, students at the Universities of Oklahoma
spoke out after a video emerged of showing members of the Sigma Alpha
Epsilon fraternity participating in a racially offensive chant. And also
in March, students at the University of Virginia described policing in
their college campus after UVA student Martese Johnson was violently
arrested by the ABC agents. Students insist that these incidents are
symptomatic of campus cultures that nominally value inclusion but fall
short of cultivating that inclusivity in meaningful ways. Some critics
even say it is little more than hurt feelings of the coddled millennials.
Others as the result of political correctness run amok.
For those of us who believe that colleges are laboratories for democracy,
there is much to herald and much to critique in current campus organizing
because college should be hard. Part of the college experience should be
encountering ideas and opinions both inside and outside of the classroom
that challenge everything you thought you knew or believed. It`s meeting
people you disagree with and who disagree with you. And who might
sometimes, ahah, hurt your feelings. But also disrupt your world view,
inspire you to think and to think again. In these ways college should be
hard. But college should also be safe.
Now safety doesn`t stifle debate or disagreement or even attempt to protect
you from discomfort. Safety actually allows for debate and disagreement by
ensuring that students can explore and engage without enduring the kind of
mental, physical or soul-deep assaults that can leave lasting scars.
Meaningful diversity helps to cultivate colleges that are both safe and
hard but the last decade has seen a trend towards more economically and
racially homogenous campuses. In 2009, 75 percent of freshman slots at the
country`s most elite colleges and universities were held by white students.
In 2013, 84 percent of full-time professors on campuses were white and the
vast majority of them white men.
In 2003, the Century Foundation found almost three-quarters of students
entering tier one colleges and universities come from the wealthiest
families but only three percent of students from the poorest families
attend those same top schools. College can`t be hard. It can`t push us to
think in new ways and encounter new ideas if it doesn`t give us the chance
to encounter those who are different from ourselves. And college can`t be
safe and create challenging spaces for exploration and experimentation
unless it nurtures tangible manifestations of substantive diversity.
Joining me now, Khalil Muhammad, director of the Schomburg Center for
Research and Black Culture. Professor Joshua Guild who is associate
professor of History and African American Studies at Princeton University.
Allyson Hobbs, associate professor of American History at Stanford
University and a contributing writer to the NewYorker.com. And Julian
Vasquez-Heilig, who is professor of Educational Leadership and Policy
Studies at California State Sacramento and the California NAACP education
chair. So nice to have you guys here.
JOSH GUILD, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Good to be here.
ALLYSON HOBBS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, STANFORD UNIVERSITY: Thank you for
HARRIS-PERRY: Like a college professor festival. Josh, I want to start
with you. Roxane Gay wrote of the student protests that often though the
kind of condescension in how we talked about it. These are just kinds of
hurt millennials but actually they`re not just college students. These are
college students who have identities. They don`t leave their identities at
GUILD: I mean, these are young people to my mind who are politicized in
the current moment. As we saw it in the opening. These are young people
who are coming out of Black Lives Matter Movement. This is the Trayvon
Martin generation. This is the Rekia Boyd generation. This is the Michael
Brown generation. So we can`t separate the outside world from the campus
world. These things are intimately related. These are also young people
who are thinkers. These are intellectuals and they`re mounting an
intellectual debate on our campuses and our society. I think that`s what
is so profound about this current moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I love the idea that that is true. But there are moments
in what I am seeing Khalil that I`m not certain that it feels like an
outgrowth of the Black Lives Matter Movement. And let me just say that for
me, one example is the extent to which many of these demands -- not all of
them and not at every campus, but on some campuses seem to lack some of the
institutional structural claims that they are often claims about
recognition. And I don`t, you know, wrote a whole book about recognition.
I don`t mean that it is irrelevant but that it doesn`t quite feel to me
like the claims happening in communities around structural change.
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, DIRECTOR, SCHOMBURG CENTER FOR RESEARCH: Well, I
think that it is moving in two directions and I think it is hard to pin
down. So, one of the things that anchors all of this for me is thinking
about they`ll back you in the dream defenders.
MUHAMMAD: This is an organization that is started in the wake of the
Zimmerman acquittal. They occupied Rick Scott`s office. It grows to
represent college students on nine different campuses. And at this very
moment, it is continuing to do that organizing work on those campuses and
even extending to secondary school which is to say that we can`t pick one
side of it or the other.
HARRIS-PERRY: But they occupy Rick Scott`s office in order to make a claim
about seeing their ground, about a public policy.
MUHAMMAD: Absolutely. But the point is, you can`t -- once the genie is
out of the bottle you can`t pan it down and say this is one thing and
that`s another, this is legitimate and that`s illegitimate. This is about
structure, this is about identity. Which is to say that the consciousness
of those students on those Florida campuses has fundamentally peaked and
therefore different and they`re going to see things now and going to speak
to those challenges in ways that they might not have before. I also think
it matters that Occupy Movement precedes even that movement and they
claimed some of their -- the dream defenders claimed some of their
organizing strategies inspired by the occupy movement which itself opened
up a genie of representation and tactics. Our white students treated
differently when they are organizing on campus the police show up, do they
say come on, guys, let`s go back to the classroom or are they subject to
the kind of brutal forms of oppression. So, those kinds of identity
politics that played out even in the organizing on campus.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. I will say that we saw -- we saw on some campuses. I
mean, there was the example, the occupied students. Most of the white
students were being pepper sprayed, right, so there were these moments that
said, so I hear you that you can`t say some are legitimate and others
aren`t. But I guess for me there are -- when I think about what a college
campus is, the relationship between students and administrators is one part
of it but there is -- also universities also contract. They contract with
food service workers and with janitorial workers. They have relationships
with the communities in which they find themselves. And some of these
student movements are very much addressing those and many of them in fact
also are not.
JULIAN VASQUEZ-HEILIG, PROFESSOR, CALIFORNIA STATE SACRAMENTO: I think
that`s a good point which is that our lives are connected. By lifting all
boats, I think it is very important that we look across these different
movements and we think about how these movements are conjoined. You know,
the faculty for example in California are protesting that the fact that
they haven`t had wage increases since 2006. But in those very same
protests, there were students shoulder to shoulder with the faculty in
VASQUEZ-HEILIG: And so, we have to understand with the food service
workers that are on our campuses, that the students, that the professors,
they were all in this same boat in terms of -- and we need to support these
movements as allies.
HARRIS-PERRY: But we`re not all -- okay. But we`re not all in the same
boat. I mean, it actually is a different thing to be a marginal food
service worker on a college campus who is fired every summer because of the
rules of how that university relates to that contract. Than it is to be a
student who goes home in this summer. Right? Like, those actually are
different experiences that I think require acknowledging in a meaningful
VASQUEZ-HEILIG: Well, you know, as faculty, I`m now in an administrative
role at California State where the folks run these universities and it is
incumbent upon us as faculty to make those decisions to do right by the
workers across the university, to do right by the students in terms of
diversity and inclusion. Because it is typically faculty that are running
these institutions of higher education. So, it is incumbent upon us to
make that social justice happened across our allies in these institutions.
HARRIS-PERRY: Allyson, I`ll let you way in.
HOBBS: Sure. I think that this is -- what`s so kind of fascinating and so
important about this moment is that it feels like this is a moment where
students are really grappling with what it means to be an active, engaged
HOBBS: And I think that students and the broader public are really
thinking about what does it mean to live in this a democratic society and
what does it mean to live in a democratic society in 2015 when demographics
are changing, when we`re seeing, you know, tremendous change in our society
and I think that the students who are involved in these movements are both
concerned about symbolism and about structure. And I think that those two
can go together but that we have to be very careful and very sure that in
order to really make the kind of thorough going change that the students
are calling for, that those structural changes, those curricular changes,
those changes in terms of adding more diverse faculty, that those are not
HARRIS-PERRY: Good. So, we`re going to ask a student when we come back
whether or not any of that is true.
HARRIS-PERRY: Protests by students at the University of Missouri this fall
forced the resignation of the university`s Assistant President Tim Wolfe.
Protests included teach-ins, rallies and an occupy like camp out in a
school quad. One graduate student launched a hunger strike. And then
members of the football team vowed not to play until Wolfe stepped down.
And so, Wolfe stepped down.
And joining us now, live from his hometown of Chicago is Payton Head,
president of the University of Missouri`s students association. Nice to
see you, Payton.
PAYTON HEAD, PRESIDENT, MISSOURI STUDENTS ASSOCIATION: Thanks for having
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. So, your Facebook post is part of what`s credited for
helping to galvanize this movement at Mizzou. Talk to me a little bit
about what it is that you and your fellow student activist saw as necessary
HEAD: Yes. I think for me this was the second incident that I had
endured, you know, where I had been called out on my name. I`d been called
the "n" word just walking through campus. And at that moment, you know,
these aren`t single isolated incidents. So I was over it, that`s why I
posed it to Facebook. And it wasn`t just about myself. You know, it is
about my friend who identifies as trans and walking down the street and
being spit on. You know, my friends who are Muslims, you know, who wear
hijabs who are called towel heads and terrorists, you know, as they`re
walking through campus. And it is a problem and I think that it is time
now that we address this as much as possible.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, talk to me about what addressing it looks like.
HARRIS-PERRY: What are the things that you want from the university, from
the administration, from the faculty to make this a different kind of place
HEAD: I think first and foremost our administrator need to be historians
of the institution as a whole. Students, we are very temporary. We have
four years, five years, you know, if we go on to grad school, maybe six or
seven years. But we`re very temporary. But, you know, we study, and then
rise to these leadership positions, then it is time for us to graduate once
we figure out how to operate the institution. So, I think that it is
important now more than ever that our administrators, they learn about the
institution as a whole, not just the good part and the good traditions but
also some of the things that we`ve done wrong in the past.
HEAD: Because that gets into that structural violence that exists on
campus and we have to be able to figure out what exactly is put in place
for students of different marginalized communities not to be able to be
successful on these college campuses.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think that`s such an interesting and important point about
we think of students as though they are this kind of permanent reality.
HARRIS-PERRY: Students are always there. But you`re cycling through
typically, right, much more swiftly than administration and faculty. Josh,
let me ask you a little bit about that. So, I mean, Julian, you were
saying faculty run the place. I think faculty run the place in some ways
and sometimes also not in others. So what then is the role for example of
faculty governance in engaging student protests?
GUILD: I think it varies from campus to campus and it is hard to kind of
make a general statement about that. I think faculty have to stand up and
speak out when they can, speak back to administration. But the faculty
also often wear two hats. So, they`re both administrators and faculty
members. And we also have to talk about contingent faculty members who are
or not temporary members of the faculty and have less institutional power
than say senior tenured members of the faculty.
HARRIS-PERRY: Payton, let me come back to you because, you know, I was at
Mizzou, I had an opportunity to meet you and so many of the other students
briefly. I just want to ask, how the work that you`re all doing on campus
is also related to the work in Ferguson and around the country.
HEAD: Yes. Many of the different student activists at Mizzou, they were
in Ferguson protesting. You know, we have a good number of students that
come from the Ferguson area in St. Louis. And a big majority of our
students are from the St. Louis Metropolitan area. So it is people who are
from this area who feel this pain. And I think one of the things that
started the movement on our university`s campus was when our university
decided to not acknowledge what was happening just two hours away in
Ferguson and the effects that it has on the students who are currently
attending the university.
HARRIS-PERRY: I remember so many of you saying that to me that you had the
sense of, look, I`m at college. It is happening down the road. We have an
expectation that our faculty, that our administration will provide a
learning context for this moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I want to say thank you to Payton Head from the
Missouri Student Association who is, however, home for the weekend in
Chicago. Thank you for joining us and thank you for your continued work.
HEAD: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, at Princeton University, students protest over the
racial climate. The media has largely been focused on one man. He`s been
dead for 90 years.
HARRIS-PERRY: Some black students at Princeton University are making their
own demand for mandatory cultural sensitivity training for faculty and for
dedicated black space on campus and they are also demanding that the
university remove President Woodrow Wilson`s name from its buildings. And
Wilson was president of Princeton before going on to become president of
the United States. He was also a die-hard segregationist who praised the
KKK and purged black workers from government jobs. After some student
activists organized the walk out and occupied the President, the current
president at Princeton`s office, the administration now says, it will
consider changing the name of the Woodrow Wilson`s school of public and
international affairs. So, Khalil, I mean, as a historian, where are you
on the purging of these names?
MUHAMMAD: If that wasn`t a loaded question.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I know, I`m sorry, you`re at my table.
MUHAMMAD: So, first I want to acknowledge that there was real damage done
by Woodrow Wilson.
MUHAMMAD: That is not in the abstraction. And the "Times" covered both in
an op-ed and editorial the significance of that told through the story of
John Davis who worked at the government printing office for 30 years. His
grandson, Gordon Davis, wrote about it. So, I want to put flesh on those
bones because it matters. It also matters what is the institutional speech
that we articulate to represent our values. Because I think at the end of
the day, each of these campuses, Princeton, Yale, Amherst, are going to
have to decide what their values on. And once they decide what their
values are based on the democratic process, based on buy-in and
socialization from lots of people. Then they have to decide what story are
we going to tell about ourselves?
Are we going to tell a story that acknowledges Woodrow Wilson in
Princeton`s case of the racism that he perpetuated? Are the alumni
promotional literature and the development officers going to speak to that,
when they try to organize to say that we want to both embrace this
president and recognize that we don`t want to perpetuate the values of
exclusion and the denigration of other people as part of our future? And I
just will say --
I haven`t said that we should or shouldn`t.
MUHAMMAD: But I said that that is the debate and that is the choice that
people at Princeton or Yale or Amherst have to engage in because in that
moment back to your young people, back to Payton Head, that`s where the
debate comes in. Because young people have to learn in college. How to
make an argument. They have to learn how to defend their ideas.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
MUHAMMAD: It`s not just that your ideas drop out out of your mouth into
the world and everyone like, oh my God, yes, that`s it. No. You have to
come back --
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
MUHAMMAD: -- and revise, and continue to make that case. And that`s how
you change the values of an institution.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, I`m with you. And yet, I will say Josh, if I go
right now to the Center for African-American Studies website at Princeton
Excuse me. I`m sorry. You all became departments -- okay, the Department
of African-American Studies at Princeton, if I go to their website, the
first thing on their website, on the left hand is a really nice seven-
minute piece by you talking about Wilson`s legacy of structural racism.
And so if Khalil`s point is universities have to address these questions,
it does appear --
GUILD: Well, that is all the function of the work that these students have
done. These students have kicked open the doors of this debate. I mean,
you were at Princeton for, you know, several years. Wilson`s name has on
been the international school for public affairs for almost 70 years. And
I`ve been at Princeton now for almost a decade myself -- about his history
segregation. And this is not as Khalil said, incidental racism, this is
not his personal views. These are his active views both as president of
Princeton where he discouraged black applicants, and then as president of
the United States, his viewing of people with African descent, people of
Asian descent as intellectually and inferior.
As you say, you know, helping to segregate the federal bureaucracy and so
and so forth. These students have made that a debate that`s even possible
for us to even have this conversation, that within a period of weeks that
the "New York Times" editorial board would print an editorial that said
"The Case against Woodrow Wilson." That is about an intellectual argument.
It is not about feelings.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Yes. And yet for me the argument though -- so, it
is an intellectual argument. And yet taking the names off for me is deeply
troubling. And maybe this is having grown up at the University of Virginia
and Mr. Jefferson`s university, right. So, for all of the things that
Wilson is, right? Jefferson is someone who holds his own children in
bondage, in the context of slavery, real harm done to real humans. And yet
we don`t throw out the declaration of independence. We don`t unnamed it in
part because you need those names there to tell the whole story. I don`t
want to sanitize it. Now, for me the argument is, so what are the untold
stories? What are the names that ought to be on buildings that aren`t?
VASQUEZ-HEILIG: I think if you read the other side`s conversation about
this, they say it is about political correctness but this is really about
who should be honored in our public and intellectual discourse. Does
Princeton not have enough Americans or other alumni or even donors that
deserve this public and intellectual recognition?
HARRIS-PERRY: Allyson, you got to an interesting point about the donors
though. Because that is a somewhat different question. Right? About the
capacity of folks to put their names on buildings that they themselves
build. Right? I mean, I think that`s different than what`s going on with
Wilson where it is a kind of honoring and honorific. Yes.
HOBBS: What I think is dangerous or what I think we have to be really
aware of is that the issue behind the symbolic names and the naming of
buildings is that there are so many segregationists, there are so many
slave owners, that we would really have to do a very thorough going
transformation of almost every college campus if we were to remove their
names. And perhaps that`s something that we should do and perhaps that`s
something that universities will decide this is part of the way we`re going
to change, the way we`re going to transform into a university of the 21st
Century. But I think it is wonderful that we learned so much more about
Woodrow Wilson in the past couple weeks. I think a lot of people thought
of him as being an internationalist, being the first person who had
envisioned the League of Nations.
But I think what I`d rather see on -- I definitely want to see the articles
about the black people who were hurt by Woodrow Wilson`s policies and who
were removed from the federal bureaucracy because of his policies. But I
also want to see the articles about the structural problems at the
HOBBS: I want to see the articles about the problems of tenure. I want to
see the articles about the decline in black applicants. I want to see the
articles about the curricular issues. I want to see the articles about the
lower numbers of faculty members at universities and I think the danger of
focusing on the symbols is that it gives us the sort of neat and tidy thing
that we can do and we can remove the name and then it is like, okay, we`re
HARRIS-PERRY: One more symbol to talk about. We`ll go to Harvard Law
School when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: In 1991, the first tenured black Harvard law school
professor took a voluntary unpaid leave of absence to protest the
possibility for tenured women professors. His name was Derrick Bell, and
he called it a leave of conscience which he vowed to maintain until the law
school granted tenure to at least one black woman professor. His
recognition helped to galvanize the discussion about the value of diversity
and scholarship on a campus where related tensions ran high. 1991 was also
the year the Harvard Law review had its first black president, a young man
named Barack Obama.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: One of the persons who spoke at
that orientation was Professor Bell. And I remember sauntering up to the
front and not giving us a lecture but engaging us in a conversation and
speaking the truth and telling us that (INAUDIBLE) to learn at this place
that I`ve carried with me ever since.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Professor Bell never returned to Harvard as his protests
ultimately led to his dismissal. He passed away in 2011 at the age of 80
but not before seeing the young man on whom he`s made such an impression as
first year orientation elected at president of the United States. A
reminder that what is learned from campus protests can sometimes be
translated into meaningful leadership. What then might be ahead for the
young law student currently demanding a revision of the Harvard Law School
seal? The current seal contains a crest of the Isaac Royall family whose
wealth founded Harvard Law School and was based in the enslavement and
trafficking of Africans in 18th century. The students call themselves
"World Must Fall."
Joining us now from Boston, Massachusetts is Derecka Purnell, the Harvard
Law student who took part in the protests in Ferguson, Missouri. So, nice
to have you with us.
DERECKA PURNELL, HARVARD LAW STUDENT: Thank you, Melissa for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I`m going to ask you a question that I asked the student
leader from Mizzou as well. Make for me a connection between the work that
you have done in communities and in community organizing and in the work
that you`ve been doing on campus.
PURNELL: Absolutely. So what`s interesting is that Harvard law, like is a
law school, and whenever there is a police shooting and black or brown
bodies are dropping to the ground, the society goes up in confusion as to
why prosecutors don`t bring charges against cops. And one reason I think
that is, is because we don`t have proper contextualization in legal
education. So my peers are not being pushed to think critically about the
spaces that they currently occupy. So, all the manifestations of anti-
blackness that reside within Harvard also reside within the real world. So
we`re not equipping my peers, my colleagues, my professors with the tools,
with the language to then graduate and then go on to become prosecutors,
they`re going to go on to become Supreme Court justices and, you know,
The President of the United States. And they`re going to go on to occupy
these roles and when they can`t even be pushed to be critical of law
school, how can we expect them to be critical of a criminal justice system
that fails black and brown bodies every day where pushing back against
students who call out the anti-blackness currently in the classroom. I
think it is a direct connection. We`re going to be future lawyers. We`re
going to be in this society and we can`t continue to silence marginalized
students at the university because ultimately we`re going to be
representing those type of people as lawyers.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the context of the movement you all have been engaged in
there was an act -- potentially an act of vandalism. I know that the
Harvard Law School investigating right now but of black tape put over the
faces of African-American professors from the law school. And Randall
Kennedy, a professor of the law school, wrote an op-ed for "The Washington
Post" in which he suggested that the work that you and your colleagues are
doing is -- the language he used is, it is a related tendency to indulge in
self-diminishment by displaying an excessive vulnerability to perceive an
actual slights and insults. What`s your response to Professor Kennedy`s
PURNELL: Well, you don`t have enough time for my full response. But I can
say, I can say the problem is that he`s reducing these events to black tape
or he`s reducing these events to a shield. But our fight has never been
about that. You know, our fight has never been reducible to a confederate
flag, nor a water fountain, nor a street boundary, nor a lunch counter. So
I find it almost laughable that we`re reduced these incidents to items,
right? And not to a culture that tolerates or breeds anti-blackness. So,
to say that -- I agree with your point that college is hard, but I think
Randall Kennedy is saying, yes, college is hard to black students but it
shouldn`t be hard to white students. It should be hard to all of us.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
PURNELL: So when there is a racist act on campus, black students should be
heard but my white colleagues and white peers and white professors and
Randall Kennedy should also be heard. And I diminish it or reduced it to
being vulnerable because of a symbol of a piece of tape.
HARRIS-PERRY: I so appreciate your point there that when I -- that`s my
whole point about college should be hard. Right? So for me, the language
that you just used about pushing intellectually in the classroom, that is
such a critical one for thinking about how those questions of justice play
out. Khalil, I know you wanted in on this.
MUHAMMAD: Well, I do. Because I think that this is a moment where we see
again the relationship of the streets to the campus or the community of
what we are seeing happening on campus. Both of your guests have described
both activism outside the campus and its relationship to inside the campus.
One of things that Black Lives Matters activists have pointed out time and
time again, this is not just about laws, this is about changing beliefs,
this is about changing values, this is about changing attitudes. And I
want to give credit to President Drew Faust at Harvard who has written in
an upcoming or current New York review books article where she talks about
we must insert history into our national discourse and our public policy.
It is not one or the other because the values that we uphold and how we
express them in our deep constructed crests and symbols and they get
extractions of the things and symbols that we put around us, including the
confederate flag which stood -- which hung over the confederate -- of the
state house of South Carolina, was an act of state speech in support
ultimately of a history of violence which could then perpetuate a present
and future of violence. And therefore these symbols matter. But they
matter both to how we think of ourselves collectively at Harvard at the Law
School and the public policies that we are engaged in. And your guests
have spoken brilliantly to those connections.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us. I want to say thank you to Derecka Purnell
in Boston. I promise I`m going to get everybody back in. And also, I`m
going to let in President Obama who`s going to weigh in on this question
when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So when I hear, for example, you know, folks on college campuses
saying we`re not going to allow somebody to speak on our campus -- because
we disagree with their ideas or because we feel threatened by their ideas.
You know, I think that`s a recipe for dogmatism and I think you`re not
going to be as effective.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama speaking with ABC`s George
Stephanopoulos on November 12th about protests at the University of
Missouri. Julian, I want to let you in on this.
VASQUEZ-HEILIG: You know, at first I think diversity, equity and inclusion
in these conversations is not happenstance. It has to be an institutional
priority and has to be priority for us in our classrooms, has to be a
priority for us in our hiring. That`s one of the first things to say. I
also think that our classrooms are our laboratories of our national
discussions of today and the future. We are training the future leaders of
our country. So, I think it`s a very weighty responsibility that we have
as faculty. It`s not just that we`re researchers, not just that we`re
teachers but we are training the leaders of our nation.
HARRIS-PERRY: And for me, I think this is part of the argument that I
heard Dereck Vicking (ph) from HLS, from Harvard Law School is, for me then
the value -- the reason I want you to read, the voice isn`t for cultural
competency, is because you shouldn`t graduate from college having not
encountered "The Voice." But similarly, I also want you to read
libertarian writers. This is part of the idea of being able to make these
discursive arguments. When you hear the President say, you got to listen
to everybody, for me it is less about the speakers on campus and more about
the syllabi on campus.
VASQUEZ-HEILIG: You know, a reason that they based on evidence, that is
the vibrancy of our democracy.
HARRIS-PERRY: If and when it happens.
HOBBS: And that also really deals with the issue of faculty diversity
because we know studies have shown that the more diverse faculty that we
have, the more diversity we have in terms of those syllabi, in terms of
which writers are represented and importantly in terms of teaching also
about the role of women, the role of gay and lesbian men and women, the
role of transgender people. I mean, you know, that it is really important
that we think about faculty diversity in very broad ways so that we`re
offering syllabi and we`re preparing students for a very diverse multi-
racial, multi-cultural society.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Joshua, how on the one hand do you hold intention like
this need to create future leaders who are capable of this kind of broad
discourse, without moving to a let`s get sensitivity training for all --
like I heard, you know, sensitivity training for all staff and faculty and
I thought -- like that gives me a little bit of angst to hear that
GUILD: Well, I think there is a way that students are experiencing all
kinds of incidents of marginalization, of alienation in their day to day.
Right? I mean, some can separate the classroom also from what`s happening
just, you know, in your interactions with the financial aid office or with
janitor or whomever. Right? I think there is a way that those folks
aren`t always getting the kinds of preparation to deal with diversity and
increasingly diverse in many instances, student population. So I think
that`s one thing to say.
But absolutely we need to use our classrooms as the space to introduce
these concepts. I mean, you know, what`s heartening to me about Princeton,
in my African-American history lecture course, African-American history,
every year I give this lecture on World War I and we talk about Woodrow
Wilson and invariably students come away after class, I did not know that
about Woodrow Wilson. Right? And then we see those same kids now engaging
in this protest. Right? The director --
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, it was you! And now we know. Thank you to Khalil
Muhammad and to Joshua Guild and to Allyson Hobbs and to Julian Heilig.
And up next, how much history do you know about African-American cookbooks?
Do you know why there are so few? The answer after this.
HARRIS-PERRY: This Thanksgiving, my husband and I, like many home cooks
throughout the country made and served dishes we learned to love and make
from the black men and women who raised and nurture and fed us. Now, my
specialties include mac and cheese and sweet potato pie and for James it`s
the unparalleled Perry Gumbo. In truth, African-Americans have helped
forge this country`s culinary tradition. But looking at the American
cookbook canon you might not know it. Of the 100,000 recipe collections
printed in the country, only 200 are credited to African-American authors.
But food writer Toni Tipton Martin is working to change all of that. She
spent decades collecting and preserving African-American cookbooks
showcasing the position and artistry of the African-American culinary
tradition. And now she`s sharing her collection with her new book "The
Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African-American Cookbooks."
And joining me now is Toni Tipton-Martin. Nice to have you.
TONI TIPTON-MARTIN, AUTHOR, "THE JEMIMA CODE": Nice to be here. Thank you
for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, talk about the title of this book. What are you
signaling with this?
MARTIN: Well, you know, what`s really interesting is, the beautiful way
that this title dovetails with everything that you`ve been talking about
already with your guests, and that is that we`ve had this symbol in the
United States that wraps together a bunch of characteristics for African-
American women to telegraph that they were intelligent, competent cooks in
the kitchen as long as their face was in the cover of a package, right, for
pancakes flour. But when it comes time to attribute those same kind of
proficiencies at the cookbook level, those voices and images were missing.
And so it started for me as a search from my grandmother on the pages of
southern cookbook history has evolved into a social justice project, right,
to be able to, as you were saying earlier, reclaim that symbol as one of
value and a woman and role model from which we can learn.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it also feels to me like part of "The Jemima Code"
is that cooking has to be done for a white family. Right? It`s not about
valuing the cooking that so many of our mothers and grandmothers and
fathers and grandfathers did for us in our household and then often passed
on right through oral tradition as opposed to by writing it down in
MARTIN: Yes. So I think one of the really important messages of this
cookbook, having these books all aggregated into one collection is that it
does show it demonstrates the foods that we were cooking when the resources
MARTIN: And within our community, we understand that there were many,
many, many families for whom the resources permitted. Right? So to cook a
really elaborate lovely brunch or to serve a banquet does not mean that
you`re only cooking for white people. It can be very much so what we`ve
cooked in our own homes and our communities and our restaurants and our
churches and our hotels. And so what I`d like to challenge people to think
about is the fact that we know very little about what today`s modern
celebrity chefs cook at home, right?
MARTIN: We honor them for the food that they cook at work, on the food
network shows. But when it comes to African-Americans, there`s this
tendency to segregate our cooking into the food of the cabin or survival
cooking. And I always really want to be really clear that we want to
retain and acknowledge and honor our ancestors for the ingenuity of cooking
with very limited resources. But that, you know, that doesn`t contain the
totality of our culinary experience. And so these books help us validate
their proficiencies in a ways that mainstream media nor oral history can
really justify to the broader community.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do cookbooks still matter in a world where people will
Google a recipe, you know, five minutes before dinner? Does that still
matter to collect recipes together as a whole?
MARTIN: I think so because again one of the things that we`re able to see
through these cookbooks is that cookbooks contain more than just
instructions for recipes and the list of ingredients one would use. Right?
This is a space where women, especially women who had fewer opportunities
for artistic expression could record the community activities. Many of
these books in particular have advertisements contained in them which show
us the economic opportunities that were precedent for African-Americans and
moving themselves into the middle class. So, the cookbook isn`t a genre
that records history and community as well as recipes.
HARRIS-PERRY: What was on your Thanksgiving table this week?
MARTIN: Oh, all of those traditional things that you described. Macaroni
and cheese, the turkey, collard greens. We do make some adjustments but we
also realize that that`s the one time of year that we`re going to eat that
MARTIN: So we`re largely vegetarian the rest of the time. We really knock
it out on Thanksgiving.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. You know, this year I started gardening for the first
time and so I actually went out on Thanksgiving morning, the day before
Thanksgiving morning and got my own collards and kale out of the garden.
And it was a really satisfying experience to actually do a garden to table
in my own yard.
So, I want to say thank you to Toni Tipton Martin in Austin, Texas. Don`t
forget to check out her book in stores now. "The Jemima Code: Two
Centuries of African-American Cookbooks." It`s a lovely, lovey text.
And that is our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll
see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Well, right now it`s time for
a preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Hi, Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT": Hello, thank you for not
busting me that I just sat down --
All of your desk as they`re leaving the studio going, great job. Anyway,
now I`m here anyway. We`re going to talk about this. The breaking news.
We have climate change protesters meeting with teargas in Paris just as the
President heads to that city for a meeting with world leaders. You`re
going to hear what it was like to get caught up in all that commotion.
Highways and airports getting crowded by the minute, but there`s one big
obstacle on the way today for millions of travelers.
And new still pictures from the scene of the Tamir Rice shooting in
Cleveland. What they reveal and what could be behind the timing of their
release. Don`t go anywhere. I`ll be right back.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
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