Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: December 7, 2014
Guest: Jacqueline Woodson, Tony Hogue, Zerlina Maxwell, Lisa Litt, Adam
Serwer, Chloe Angyal, Dave Zirin, Jonathan Metzl, Jacqui Lewis, Jamelle
Bouie, Serene Jones
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning my question, what causes
Plus, the tarnish on "the Cosby" star.
And how to move to healing in the midst of persistence of justice.
But first, the challenges posed by he said/she said.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Two years ago today a sexual assault was alleged to have been committed by
Florida state university quarterback and reigning Heisman Trophy winner
Jameis Winston against a female student at the university. Winston was
never arrested following the investigation of the allegation nor did he
face any criminal charges because a prosecutor for the state of Florida
found there was insufficient evidence.
According to an investigative report from FOX sports in October, that
criminal investigation was hampered when Florida state university officials
and Tallahassee police took steps to both hide and then hinder it. For the
adjudication of his innocence or guilt and the consideration of the claims
of his accuser were left in the hands of the university and specifically,
for the Florida of university student conduct process.
On Wednesday, the culmination of that process ended after a two-day hearing
in which Winston declined to answer questions about the alleged assault.
Instead, for the first time he spoke for himself telling his version of the
events that happened that night in a five-page statement that he read
during the hearing.
His accuser, identified him as the man who raped her one month after the
alleged assault, but in his statement, Winston claimed sexual acts between
himself and the woman happened with her full knowledge and consent. And he
ended it with the account with the told that he says the allegations have
taken on his life including rape is a vicious crime. The only thing as
vicious as rape is falsely accusing someone of rape.
The judge presiding over the hearing may now issue decision until as late
as January. But this week, a new development in another story which a
young woman alleges to have been raped by university classmates have
brought new attention to that equivalent between actually being raped and
being accused of rape.
Last Sunday on this program, I spoke with Sabrina Erdely, the writer of a
"Rolling Stone" article that told the story of a University of Virginia`s
student identified only as Jackie who said she had survived a horrific and
brutal rape at a fraternity party in 2012.
The article also indicted the university for its inability or unwillingness
to commit to securing justice for students who are survivors of sexual
assault. The article sparked national outrage casting UVA as the poster
child for the institutional failure to address the pervasive problem of
campus sexual assault. It prompted the university to hold an emergency
meeting to reviewing and revamping its policies to begin addressing the
shortcomings in handling the cases.
And then this week the story took a turn. It was called into question by
the journalistic organization that initially published it.
On Friday "Rolling Stone" released a note to readers saying, in the face of
new information, there now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie`s account,
and we have tom to the conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced. We
were trying to be sensitive to the unfair shame and humiliation many women
feel after a sexual assault and now regret the decision to not contact the
alleged assaulters to get their account.
"Rolling Stone`s retraction did not include details about the exact nature
of those new developments or discrepancies. But in "Washington Post"
investigation calls into question some key elements of Jackie`s story
reporters as told in "Rolling Stone."
"Post" reporters took the extra step of "Rolling Stone" decided against to
an interview that the man Jackie recently named to friends as her alleged
attacker. The man said he never met Jackie in person. And according to
"the Post" that student belongs to a different fraternity and no one by
that name has ever been a member of Phi Kappa Psi.
The Phi Kappa Psi fraternity also disputed some of the "the Rolling Stone."
The statement release Friday said no member of the fraternity worked in
2012 at the aquatic center where the story says Jackie met her attacker and
that there was no social event held at the fraternity`s UVA chapter the day
of the alleged assault.
Despite the inconsistencies identified since the publication of the
"Rolling Stone" article, Jackie who was interviewed several times by "the
Washington Post" stands by her account of what happened and gave details to
"the Post" that were very similar to the original story.
Whatever the details of the story that still remain in dispute, we need
look no further than what happened at Duke University in 2007 to understand
the consequences of allowing individual accusation to shift focus from the
all too credible and common claims of sex assault survivors. That year
after a 2006 rape accusation against the Duke Lacrosse team made national
headlines, the alleged victim was completely discredited by physical and
DNA evidence to clear the accused man of any sexual misconduct against her.
Michael Nifong, the district attorney in Durham resigned was just far and
spent the day in jail for criminal content. But the rightfully disproven
story of the accuser also undermined the credibility of the very legitimate
questions of race, of violence and vulnerability raised by members of the
Duke community would initially come to her defense. And what`s more, by
aligning themselves out of trust with an accuser who was not telling the
truth. It only exacerbated the shame that keeps so many survivors silent
about their stories.
In the Duke lacrosse case, justice for the wrongfully accused players came
at the expense of a dialogue that could have prompted meaningful
institutional changes to the larger problem of campus sexual assault. And
it was a reminder as we consider national policy approach that is responds
with the concerns of the survivor that is the reality of sexual assault is
much bigger than a single story.
Joining me now is Dave Zirin, sports editor for "the Nation" magazine and
author of "Brazil`s Dance with the devil, the world cup, the Olympic and
the fight for Democracy," Zerlina Maxwell is political analyst and
contributor to ebony.com, Jonathan Metzl, director of the program in
medicine`s health and society and professor of psychiatry in Vanderbilt
University, and also the author of "the protest psychosis," and Lisa Litt,
clinical psychologist and visiting scholar at the Teachers College at
Columbia University and co-author of "Trauma Services for women in
substance abuse treatment: an integrated approach."
I`m going to start with you, Dave, particularly on this Florida state story
because in the context of Florida state, in the context of Duke, there was
a discussion not only about the individual case but about sports culture.
In the case of UVA it was about fraternity culture. In what gets lost in a
he said/she said about the individual act, what gets lost in a larger
conversation about those cultures that are indicted?
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION MAGAZINE: Absolutely. I mean, what
gets lost -- sorry, in this case, is that Jameis Winston is a cash cow for
Tallahassee. And that`s the bizarre thing about this. Because the Jameis
Winston case brings together two streams of some of the ugliest annals of
American oppression and that`s why it spark so many emotions. This is
because it`s the historical idea that black men, particularly in the south,
are falsely accused of sexual assault and to the idea that women who bring
forward claims of sexual assault are slandered and destroyed for doing so.
It comes with the 21st century political economy twist. And that`s that
Jameis Winston is somebody who brings in $10 million every damn day. His
coach, Jimbo Fisher makes more money than public official in the state over
$4 million a year, and the police who are looking into the case are the
people who make money through the organization called the Seminole Boosters
to provide security on game day. And of course, Jameis Winston doesn`t
make a dime. What he is paid with is something that I refer to as the
gutter economy of the NCAA which means they look out for him in situations
And this a crazy thing in a moment where we are talking about the issue
that black lives matter. If you look at people like Eric Garner and
Michael Brown, people whose lives were deemed as disposable, and then you
will get Jameis Winston, someone who is in effect has a peculiar kind of
privilege in Tallahassee and that he finds himself to be protected. But
none of that excuses the insane misogamy of the letter that Jameis Winston
and his lawyers produced, which is beneath contempt. And actually it could
be in a show starring Viola Davis called "how to get away with rape"
because it checks every box in terms of how to shame survivors into
HARRIS-PERRY: OK. So on the one hand, all of those things can be true and
yet also don`t necessarily make, right? So he can be part of this better
economy, he can have a special kind of privilege protection as a result of
his athlete status. It can be true that he`s written a hardly misogamy
statement and he may, in fact, not be a rapist, right? Like that all of
those things can be true at the same time.
And I think that`s part of what is hard for me, Zerlina. When I read that
line, that the only thing that`s vicious is rape and being accused of rape,
so the survivor inside of me stood was like, no, that is wrong. And then
the African-American historian inside of me who knows about the black men`s
bodies that were in fact viciously attacked and destroyed behind the false
accusations of rape in another century, it was like, well -- and I just was
left with, so what do we do in this moment?
ZERLINA MAXWELL, CONTRIBUTOR, EBONY.COM: Well, I think in this moment,
it`s not the past. It is not a moment in which there are, you know, false
allegations that are just popping up every day. At this moment, the FBI
put that is percentage at two to eight percent, which is less than car
So I think that, you know, for the most part, statistics, 98 percent of the
allegations are going to turn out to be true. And I think that when people
come forward, we should default to, you know, compassion and empathy as
opposed to automatic skepticism.
HARRIS-PERRY: You wrote this for theWashingtonpost.com, we should believe,
as a matter of default, what an accuser says, ultimately the costs of
wrongly disbelieving a survivor for outweighing the costs of calling
someone a rapist. Even if Jackie fabricated her account, UVA should have
taken her word for it during the period while they endeavored to prove or
disapprove the accusation. This is not a legal argument. This is a moral
MAXWELL: Right. I think, you know, we only have to take ourselves out of
the court system because, you know, we are not judge and jury. And this is
not about due process because it`s not about innocent until proven guilty
when you are just sort of talking. If someone is coming forward to say,
I`ve been sexually assaulted, is your first default response skepticism?
Well, are you sure? Were you drinking? What were you wearing? Or are you
going to say are you OK? Do you need help? I can help support you. And
that`s the world that I want to live in and it`s not the current world we
live in right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me let you on this in, Jonathan.
JONATHAN METZL, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Well, couple of points. I think
these points are spot on. One is that it is an understandable journalistic
strategy that we use the individual narrative to make a point about the
larger hope. But the flip side of that, of course, you can personalize the
stories and it makes them more understandable, the flip side is if there
are problems with the individual narrative, then all of a sudden it gives
people a platform to default the bigger issue. And here, there`s such a
huge problem for sexual assault on campus, colleges are just starting to
address this. And so, in a way, the hard part is this journalistic point
of the individual standing in for the communal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Why do you think that we need the perfect victim? I mean,
it does seem to me that, you know, you made these -- you tie this into the
lovely threads of how we are thinking about this moment around race and
vulnerability for example in Ferguson or here in New York, along with this.
And they do seem to touch for me on this question, Dr. Litt, on this
question of the need for the perfect victim and what the UVA "Rolling
Stone" story initially was a kind perfect victimology story that now seems
like, OK, it may be more complicated as largely much sexual assault is.
LISA LITT, CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: Right, it always is much more
complicated. And the unfortunate thing is that there is this belief that
somehow if a victim was perfect, that it makes it easier to go forward with
the case. And the fact that everything is, in fact, much messier makes it
much more difficult also for survivors to come forward. So people ask --
HARRIS-PERRY: Because your own sense of being -- yes.
LITT: And there is if you have any questions at all, which every rape
survivor does, even in the most obvious cases where there`s been sexual
coercion and violation, you know, did I somehow do something wrong? What
did I do that somehow contribute to this? Should I have been doing
something differently? So all those things make it difficult for somebody
to come forward. And especially when there`s this belief that like I don`t
look like somebody, you know, who somebody else would believe.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are going to stay on this topic. Everybody is going to
stick around. Zerlina is going to be back in just a moment because I got
to bring in one more person because up next, "Rolling Stone," UVA and the
impact on all survivors.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last week when Sabrina Rubin Erdely joined me to talk about
her article in "Rolling Stone" I asked her about the choices she made in
deciding what details to include in the story. What I did not ask is what
she decided to omit.
"Rolling Stone" made an agreement with Jackie, the accuser in the story,
not to speak with her alleged attacker. As a result, the story is mostly a
one-sided account from the accuser`s point of view.
"Rolling Stone" managing editor Will Dana said on twitter of that choice,
we made a judgment, the kind of judgment reporters and editors make every
day. And in this case, our judgment was wrong. We should have either not
made this agreement with Jackie or worked harder to convince her that the
truth would have been better served by getting the other side of the story.
That failure is on us, not on her.
Joining my panel now is Chloe Angyal, senior columnist at Feministing.com
and opinion columnist at Reuters. And you were here with me at this table
last week and we were all kind of struggling through the story. Where are
you in this moment this week?
CHLOE ANGYAL, SENIOR COLUMNIST, FEMINISTING.COM: What I said last week was
that this article was a tremendous act of public service and that would
still be true if they had gotten this article right. And now what we know
is that this is actually a tremendous act of public disservice to survivors
of rape everywhere and to the people who care about them and love them,
support them and are doing everything we can to make sure this becomes a
culture in which we honor and believe survivors of rape.
HARRIS-PERRY: I kept thinking during this week, Dave, about the -- because
we cover issues of sexual assault on this show a lot. And what it means to
do it in a way that is ethical that does understand what rape culture is
for people who are survivors coming forward, and yet also maintains a level
of journalistic integrity?
ZIRIN: Sure. And let`s talk about journalistic integrity because that`s
what`s so important here. I`m enraged at Sabrina Erdely and I`m not
enraged because I feel like a frat was done wrong because they will be
doing a, hey, we are back party by the end of the semester. I`m not even
as enraged about the fact that this is clearly going to push a lot of
survivors back into the closet, as horrible as that is.
My real rage is for the fact that here`s this woman, Jackie, she clearly is
traumatized, she clearly has some form of PTSD and she clearly had serious
doubts about pushing this story forward. And as a journalist, that`s when
it should have ended.
These stories shouldn`t be about re-victimizing survivors. They should be
about empowering survivors and giving them agency. As soon as Jackie gave
any hint to the fact that she was not sure about this story going public,
that`s when it should have ended right then and there. It should not be
about re-victimizing people. It should be about empowering people when the
stories come forward.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Litt, so you know, I`m a survivor who did not tell for
many years and never had any kind of legal, you know, some sort of justice
or any of those things for a wide variety of reasons. But sort of came of
age in a time when we understood that somehow speaking to your story,
telling it, saying it over and over again, maybe not the details but simply
the identity of survivors, was it self-empowering, but it was also a world
before twitter. It was also a world before, you know, a level of social
media scrutiny. And I guess part of what I wonder now is a member of the
media is whether or not that story-telling is still empowering for
survivors, if they are not going to have a legal sense of justice.
LITT: Right. I mean, that`s an interesting question because there`s a lot
of ways in which coming to tell your story in some fashion, you know, can
be very therapeutic. Whether or not that story should shake place through
the social media or any kind of media, that is another question.
You know, certainly, a lot of people do try to push the memories away and
they try not to think about what happened, and that`s a way of kind of
getting through early on, but over time in treatment sometimes it`s very
important to actually make sense of your story by talking about it and
telling the details of the story.
HARRIS-PERRY: But aren`t there also implications for being a witness to
your own story based on the kind of psychological tricks that we practice?
I mean, even when we do segments on this, I always say, now we`re going to
do Melissa disassociating on television, right, because it`s going to be
helpful to me to be able to make it through this segment. And I guess part
of what I wonder is that does that make you almost less credible witness to
your own criminalization?
METZL: Well, I agree so much with all these points and think David
actually spot-on here. I think "Rolling Stone" dropped the ball in two
major ways here. And one is that people in general have a very hard time
with the particulars of memory. People have a hard time across the board
differentiating suggested memory from real memory. And that is
particularly the case on people with PTSD because PTSD is in part of
disorder of memory. And people have a very hard time remembering the
particulars of events. And so in that sense, placing this woman`s story as
the central narrative here opened her up to this exact kind of criticisms.
The second way that "Rolling Stone" dropped the ball is that in their
statement, you know, distancing themselves, they said our faith in her has
been misplaced which I thought --.
HARRIS-PERRY: They came back to change that, but it was -- it felt like
that kind of re-victimization.
HARRIS-PERRY: Chloe, I want to let you have the last word on this because
I know that you have been, all of us, I think, who stood by Sabrina`s story
here, because we trusted the work that had been done, are also now in a
position of needing to kind of have a say.
ANGYAL: I think a lot of things are up for dispute in this incident. What
is not up for dispute is what we know about false rape accusations which is
that between two and eight percent of accusations are false, between 92 and
98 percent of allegation are accurate. And what is also not up for dispute
is that this is going to have a chilling effect. This is going to make it
harder for every person who has been raped for the next thousands of people
who have been raped to come forward to tell their story and to be deemed
trustworthy when they do. What this incident is going to do is make it
easier for rapists to get away with rape.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And I think also a chilling effect, I keep thinking
about the Duke case against -- a chilling effect on the social movement to
emerge to support so infrequently, but then when they do, a chilling
Thank you to Chloe Angyal. Everyone else is coming back a little bit later
on the show.
Bu up next, new accusations against comedian Bill Cosby.
HARRIS-PERRY: As more women come forward with sexual assault allegations
against Bill Cosby, it is important to note the entertainer has not been
charged and then this previously denies wrongdoing. But there`s no
question his star power has been tarnished, figuratively and literally.
This past weekend in Los Angeles the world rapist was scrawled across Bill
Cosby`s star on the Hollywood walk of fame. The navy revoked his honorary
title of chief petty officer. Cosby spent four years in the navy. But the
secretary of the Navy said Cosby was being stripped of his title because
the allegations against him are in conflict with the Navy`s core values of
honor, courage and commitment.
On Monday Cosby resigned from the board of trustees at his alma mater,
Temple University saying he always wanted to do what was in the best
interest of the university and his students.
And while the battle in the court of public opinion continues, Cosby may
also be facing a new battle in the court of law.
Friday, Los Angeles police met with one of his accusers, Judy Huth, for
about 90 minutes. In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, Huth alleges she was
molested by Cosby in 1974 when she was just 15 years old. Cosby`s attorney
has filed court documents seeking to have the lawsuit dismissed. He calls
Huth`s allegations patently false and accused her of suing Cosby after a
failed extortion attempt.
In recent weeks, more than a dozen women have come forward accusing Cosby
of drugging and sexually assaulting them or attempting to. Now we`re
learning of one woman`s story from the man who says he had to come to her
aid and he joins me live when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: As we learn of more allegations of sexual assault against
Bill Cosby, we have heard from many of the women at the center of the
story. But now a man has come forward to talk about what he says happened
one evening who years ago.
In "the Daily Beast" article titled "I saved my friend from Bill Cosby,"
former model Tony Hogue recounts what he says happened after a woman,
friend of his, attended a dinner with Bill Cosby`s New York Brown Stone in
September of 1984. In the article Hogue says his friend, a booker with the
modeling agency, called him from Cosby`s home crying in hysterics and asked
him to come get her.
According to his story, the woman told him, Tony, I`ve been in this room
and I think on the second floor. And I`ve been here for a long time. I
don`t think I`m even in my own clothes. I`m almost numb, I can`t stand up,
I can`t see straight, my clothes are all disheveled. Because once he
arrived and confronted Cosby, he starts explained that his friend maybe had
too much drink and had a reaction. She wasn`t feeling well.
Tony tells "the Daily Beast" when he found his friend, she was in her
clothes, but she was a mess, she looked drugged and in a fog and she
couldn`t snap out of it. Later for "the Daily Beast" report, Tony`s friend
was one of the witnesses listed in the 2005 civil suit filed against Cosby.
The woman never testified in the case. It was settled before it went to
trial. "The Daily Beast" said it did contact Tony`s friend separately and
her recollection largely echoed his.
According to the article, she asked that her name be with held. We reached
out to Bill Cosby`s attorney for a statement on "the Daily Beast" article
but did not receive one. But Cosby once again has not been charged with
any crime and in the past has denied similar allegations.
Joining me now at the table, Tony Hogue whose story is featured in "the
Daily Beast," political analyst Zerlina Maxwell, national editor of
"BuzzFeed News" Adam Serwer and clinical psychologist Lisa Litt.
All right, Tony, let`s start. Are you speaking and telling the story on
behalf of your friend? Are you sort of the spokesperson for the two of
TONY HOGUE, FRIEND OF COSBY`S ACCUSER: No.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. So part of what I was struck by reading "the
Daily Beast" article was your own recollection that you had a hard time,
even in that moment, believing that it was true. That you had such a sense
of star power of Cosby that even you standing there seeing it felt like,
this has to be something other than what I`m seeing. Tell me about that.
HOGUE: I really didn`t see it having anything to do with that, quite
honestly. Because there was no reason to even assume that. The night
before we had dinner at Mr. Chow`s and his home, I didn`t care much for
him. You know, he was very controlling and shifting people around and
everything, but you know, I already had been in the business. I knew a lot
of people in Los Angeles. So I was not really that star-struck. I just
remember him as a kid. You know.
But that I didn`t -- it was like you were seeing somebody different on TV
and then someone different in person and you know, which happens. But so,
you know, basically that night when I got the call, I was not really
expecting anything. But my friend was not a drinker, so when she was
drinking as a representative from these agencies, so she was there more
professionally than anything. And not for an acting career or anything
else, but so she was called, the pitch, you know, she was terrified and she
was younger than I was. And so I was, you know, I guess, protective of
that. So, you know, just the fact that she felt in danger. I knew
something was different, something was wrong. It was just something out of
place. I couldn`t try to tie the two together for any reason.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So you just did yourself -- so let me ask this,
these allegations have existed for a while. Your friend as one of the jean
doe`s in that initial 2005 case that sort of went away.
HARRIS-PERRY: I guess part of what I`ve been wondering, if this reemerged
after a male comedian made remarks that then sort of blew up the Internet
basically to lead us to once again look at the credibility. And I wonder
in part if you as a male friend end up having more credibility than the
five, ten, 15, maybe now the 20 women who themselves are claiming to be
actual survivors. Because you`re not saying it happened to you, you`re
saying I witnessed what happened in this moment.
HOGUE: Correct. Well, it`s interesting you say that. Because even when I
heard the story about the girl from Temple University, I mean, my heart,
everything just sank because I was hearing the exact same story that from
her, you know, when I contacted her attorney, as I had felt that night.
And for all those years, it sort of has been suppressed, I supposed, but
you know, I never suspected anything. But then the other people came
forward and I said, wow, there`s really something going on. Because in my
gut I knew there was, but you can`t really assume anything.
In the `80s, you know, there was a party, I used to go out and party in
Denver and different parts of the country, I never knew of that kind of
stuff going on. I mean, I never heard of anybody being drugged or anything
and never would have assumed that. But when this came out, and then I did
get on the phone immediately to her because I thought, maybe my story will
be unlike when I have heard her going through. Because now it might be
somebody that says, OK, I may not have seen that exactly but I witnessed
something wrong going on and hopefully that would help. And then, it ever
went from there.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Adam, let me come to you on this in part, because we just
spent some time in the last blog talking about the reporting and
journalistic ethics around the university of Virginia story and who was not
asked and who the sources that weren`t talked about. And you know, we have
folks in the business, journalists, who we see as highly credible, who we
like and respect, whose work we read, who this information was out there in
the world and then so many of us were culpable in ignoring it.
And I guess part of what I`m wondering then is in what continues to be
ultimately not a criminal case, but still a he said/she said, what then are
the earth call claims to be made around stories like this?
ADAM SERWER, NATIONAL EDITOR, BUZZFEED NEWS: Well, I mean, I think with
Cosby it`s different because you have these legal documents that can used
as a basis. But I also think that a lot of --
HARRIS-PERRY: From the civil case.
SERWER: From the civil case, you know, you have women like Barbara Bowman
who are coming out and are, you know, writing op-eds. And you know, the
truth is that, you know, from a journalistic perspective, "Rolling Stone"
did Jackie no favors by not verifying her story. And that`s not to say her
story is not necessarily true, but they did not do her a favor by verifying
I think, you know, when you take on a story like this, you have to nail
down every detail you can nail down and then you have to be honest about
the detail that you can`t nail down. And then you tell people why you
couldn`t nail it down and what you did to try to nail it down. I mean, the
only way to do a story like this or really any story is to do literally
everything you can and then show your work.
Stick with us, because of all the claims that we have seen regarding Bill
Cosby, now there is one where age is a key factor. And that part of the
story is next.
HARRIS-PERRY: Earlier I mentioned the lawsuit filed Tuesday by Judith Huth
says the Bill Cosby molested her when she was just 15 years old. Many of
the allegations by other women are barred from criminal prosecution due to
statute of limitations. But Huth as opted to file a civil suits and is the
first in this week`s spade of allegations against Cosby to do so.
According to California law, Huth file suit because of her age at the time
of the alleged abuse and because she says she discovered the severe
emotional distress the assault caused her within the past three years.
Cosby`s attorneys have filed documents seeking to have this dismissed. He
calls the allegations patently false and accused her of distortion. Not
only is this the first sexual abuse lawsuit Cosby faced since 2005, is also
the first time a woman says she was a minor when the abuse happened.
So, and this is part of what I want to talk to you about, doctor is I think
for some people and certainly part of how the attorney for Mr. Cosby is
responding is why should we believe any of this given that it is two
decades, three decades and some cases even four decades passed. Why
wouldn`t someone say something right away, and particularly in the case of
someone who may who alleged had being 15, does that sound unusual or
surprising to you?
LITT: I mean, the tragedy is that it is difficult to report being sexually
assaulted at any age. And when you are so young, 15, which is below the
age of consent in any state, it`s so confusing to even know what has
happened to you that especially now with drugs or alcohol have been
involved, things are hazy, you know, very little understanding at that age
of what is going on sexually. Potentially, so there`s no context for
what`s happened. Is this normal? What is this? What did I do? So even
to make sense of the experience is very complicated.
HARRIS-PERRY: It also feels like it`s worth reminding people that as bad
as things may be for reporting now, that 30 years ago there was -- the
notion that law enforcement would have been somehow well prepared to manage
a young person coming forward and saying this. I think it`s even more
I guess part of what I wonder, Zerlina, is there at least a moment of
possibility open in all of the horror of these allegations for talking
about and creating new pathways for reporting? Because the like why don`t
you just go to the police? I keep thinking, yes, because everything we are
seeing about police these days makes you feel like that`s a really good
MAXWELL: And I think that`s a really key point because they think that we
need to demystify the process of what happens when you actually report a
sexual assault. For example, a rape kit is not a science experience that`s
sort of, you know, very sanitized and it is not invasive. It`s very
invasive and emotionally damaging process. And I think that people think
that you just go, you know, to the police and to the hospital willy-nilly
just because you feel revenge for whoever, Jameis Winston or an ex-
boyfriend, and then you will go through this process just to get revenge as
if the process itself is not re-traumatizing.
And I think demystifying the process of reporting and how the push-back at
every level, not just the police but the hospital. You know, I was told,
why did you wait so long? And I waited a day, right? I couldn`t, in my
own case, I waited a day because I didn`t understand what was happening to
me. And actually it was the detectives who were the ones who said, what
you have described is sexual assault. So even in my own case, someone who
right now I`m an advocate, I was not aware for the first day or so what
happened to me was sexual assault and that`s common.
Tony, did you and your friend, as you left, you go, you picked her up. Did
you consider going to the police? Did you say, I think we ought to go to
the hospital, any of those things?
HOGUE: No, no, I didn`t.
HARRIS-PERRY: It just wouldn`t have occurred to you at the time?
HOGUE: No. I`m one of ten kids. I`m very protective. You know, I`m the
second oldest, so any time there was something -- again, this is so
unusual. When I was in Denver, you know, I was around a lot of, you know,
true men, I guess, you know, football players and, you know, athletes of
all kinds and everything, so I was around a lot of different guys, but we
were very protective of our families and, you know, sisters and things and
brothers or whatever.
So when that happened, you know, I would never have thought that this was
something to even consider because, first of all, it was Bill Cosby, you
know. And second, she was just not herself. So I didn`t know what to
expect. But I really didn`t expect a confrontation per se, but I got my
game face I guess a little bit just to say, I just wanted her out of there,
you know, was all. That`s all.
HARRIS-PERRY: I am left with the challenge then of how we talk about -- in
this case, so maybe this case with the woman who alleges to have been
assaulted at 15 will go forward. There will be a trial. There will be
some kind of resolution. And then you can say, Mr. Cosby was found guilty
of some sort of criminal court. But it`s also completely possible that
will never happen and that we will be left in the end with allegations and
SERWER: Well, I just have to tell you, I mean, even, you know, there`s a
lot to be said about Hannibal versus role on this. But t o be honest, I
think one of the big factors in the way the allegations are being dealt
with now is the fact that feminists have spent the last 20 years, really
laid the groundwork for shifting people`s thinking about sexual assault.
And when you go back and you look at the way the assault allegations were
covered at the time, there`s a lot of like, I think she`s going for the
There`s a lot of really dismissive stuff in the way that, you know,
journalists and talking heads talked about it. And you`re seeing a lot
less about that now. People take this a lot more seriously and I think one
of the reasons why the Cosby allegations have sort of stuck here at this
time in a way they didn`t in 2005 is because of this work that feminists
have done really shifting the conversation about how we think about sexual
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, so now this time when it emerges into the public,
even if that line of discourse exists there, is a counter line.
Thank you to Tony Hogue, to Zerlina Maxwell and to Lisa Litt. Adam is back
with us in our next hour.
And we have much more to get to this morning, including the national
dialogue we are currently hearing on race in America.
But up next, I`m so pleased to welcome to Nerdland, the award-winning
Jacqueline Woodson, author of "Brown Girl Dreaming." If you have not read
it, go and get it.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the memoir, "Brown Girl Dreaming," Jacqueline Woodson
uses free bursts to share the stories of her childhood bursting forward
from the pages with that feeling and the ideas of a young African-American
woman growing up in the 1960s and 1970s.
Many of the poems recall moving. Woodson was born in Columbus, Ohio, then
spent many childhood years in Greenville, South Carolina, before her family
settled in Brooklyn, New York. In dreaming, Woodson explores race and
faith and sexual identity in such a beautiful way.
She received a national book award last month. Her newest honor adds to
her growing list of accolades. She`s received among others three Newbery
honor medals, the (INAUDIBLE) medal and the Margaret A. Edwards lifetime
I`m so pleased to welcome to the table, author and national award book
winner, Jacqueline Woodson.
JACQUELINE WOODSON, AUTHOR, BROWN GIRL DREAMING: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: What do black girls` dream of?
WOODSON: Everything. You know everything that we can possibly believe in
or even the dreaming of coming to believe in something. So for me it was
the dream of being a writer for so many of us it`s the dream of seeing
themselves on the page of growing up and being whole.
HARRIS-PERRY: You talk of dreaming of becoming a writer. I wept with the
poem "the beginning." It is -- It is you and your sister and your sister
is teaching you to write. I have come up here, I have to not cry, with her
hand over your hand. And so, you begin to dream about, you know, with my
sister`s hand over mine, making it do what I cannot yet do, how amazing the
words are that solely come to me. How wonderfully on and on they go. Will
the words end I asked whenever I remember to? No, my sister says. All of
5-year-old now and promising me infinity. And maybe because I`m the
youngest with three older sisters or because my own eldest daughter,
writing with my youngest daughter, but this just -- your sister giving you
infinity at three.
WOODSON: Yes. It`s amazing. I mean, I think that`s the thing about
siblings is they don`t know the gifts they are giving us. They are
torturing us and all this other stuff, but I have such a clear memory of
that loving moment of her putting her hand over mine to say, this is how
you make the letter "J." And then later on understanding that letters
become words and words become sentences and the power in that. So it was
HARRIS-PERRY: There is a line that I just -- one line, but all day I kept
thinking of it. Saturday night smells of biscuits and burning hair. And I
thought -- now there`s an insider sentence, right? When I hear that
sentence, biscuits and burning hair and that Saturday night smell, like I
can feel that, but I`m thinking, man, I know some folks have no idea what
that line is about. What does it mean to speak from a space of specifity
(ph) between universal?
WOODSON: It is such a great place in. It is so interesting because it`s
that moment of speaking to the really intimate people in your lives or in
your world, the people who get this. And then I think that specific moment
does become universal because for other people it might not be biscuits and
burning hair, it might be, you know, rice and a perm or something. But
there is that moment of intimacy that anyone can bring their own experience
to just by because it`s so specific.
HARRIS-PERRY: The memoir begins on the day of your birth, at the moment of
your birth, but most of the early pages are actually about your people, not
about you. Why do we have to tell the story of our people in order to tell
our own story?
WOODSON: Because we don`t get here by accident, you know. And I know I`m
here because I`m standing on the shoulders of ancestors and on the
shoulders of my mom and grandmother and father and all the people who came
before me. And I think it is really dangerous to forget that. To forget
that we are here because of what everyone else did to get us to this
moment. And so I had to start at that beginning to get to my beginning.
HARRIS-PERRY: And one of those ancestors is your grandfather who you call
daddy. There is a moment that reminds me of Ferguson these days. You
write, this is the way brown people have to fight, my grandfather says.
You can`t just put your fist up. You have to insist on something gently.
Walk toward a thing slowly. But be ready to die, my grandfather says, for
what is right.
WOODSON: And then I go on to say later on, we want -- we don`t want to
die, we want to keep fighting and live, you know. But it is, I mean, this
fight is not a new fight. And I think when people are surprised by
Ferguson and when people are surprised by Trayvon Martin or back in the
day, (INAUDIBLE) like any of these, it was not surprising to us.
This is the fight we`ve always been having. This is the conversation we`ve
always been having with our sons. You know I was watching the verdict come
down about Eric Garner, and I just started crying. I have a 6-year-old son
and he`s speckled and he is geeky and, you know, and he`s my brown son. So
it`s nothing new for us.
HARRIS-PERRY: This book saved my life this week. It was a tough week and
I needed some brown girl dreams. Thank you for this book. And thank you
to Jacqueline Woodson for being here.
The book again is "Brown Girl Dreaming."
Still to come, suddenly it seems that no matter where you look, everyone
and I mean, everyone seems to be talking about race.
Race talking Nerdland at the top of the hour at 11:00 on Sunday.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Have you noticed
that lately it seems like everyone is talking about race and justice? Now,
some of the voices are expected, like our government officials.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: All lives must be valued. All lives.
Mr. Garner`s death is one of several recent incidents across our great
country that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law
enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and to protect.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: People need to know that black
lives and brown lives matter as much as white lives. It`s what we still
have to aspire to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY Now we`ve also heard from less expected voices, like those of
sports stars and actors.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We have to look at ourselves in the mirror. The reason
they racially profile us at times. Sometimes it`s wrong, but sometimes
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: My stomach is twisted over this thing. I mean, me and
her have been talking about it, you know, I mean, we all kind of witness a
snuff film on television when you saw that video. And then when you come
back and you say no crime has been committed? It`s hard for people to
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: But it`s really, really time to start here and I know we
are promoting "Annie" but we just want to let everybody know, let`s heal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, there are also the kind of surreal, maybe we can even
describe it as hopeful moments, like when my colleague here on MSNBC Ari
Melber quoted FOX News Bill O`Reilly to make a point about the value of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Something that Bill O`Reilly said the other day,
of course people are protesting, Bill O`Reilly said, because that`s how you
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That doesn`t happen every day, but for decades there have
been calls for a national race and it seems like, well, we might be having
one, so we are all be thrilled, right? Well, actually, President Obama
weighed in with somewhat different viewpoint.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: This is an issue that we have been
dealing with for too long and it is time for us to make more progress than
we have made. And I`m not interested in talk, I`m interested in action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Action? Yes, but to get to action we do have to have some
kind of agreement about the cause of the problem and getting to that
agreement on the issue of race is tough. Now most people recognize that
American racial inequality isn`t empirical facts. There are racial
disparities in health, for example. Babies born to African-American women
have twice the infant mortality rate of white babies. And African-
Americans are more than twice as likely to die from diabetes. Black women
die from breast cancer at a much higher rate than white women. There are
also economic racial inequalities. Take the fact that white households
earn a median income of $57,000 in 2012 compared with $33,000 for black
households. Or that white families have a median net wealth of more than
ten times that of black families. There are inequities in the criminal
Black Americans make up 13 percent of the population but 28 percent of all
arrests. And African-American men are six times more likely to be
incarcerated than white men. And to receive sentences 20 percent longer
than white men for similar crimes. But the politics of racial
disagreements are rarely about those numbers, the statistics, the graphs,
the politics of race is about answering the question why. Why are black
people sicker, poorer, more likely to be arrested? Some point to active
ongoing conscious racism, that points to moments like revelations that now
former L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling told his girlfriend he did not
want her to bring back people to his games. For many, the persistence of
racial inequality is a direct result of the continued efforts on the part
of white people to ensure that black people have fewer opportunities,
resources and influence.
Others find inequality reproduced through implicit bias, existing
institutions, even when an individual or a group involved doesn`t actually
have explicitly racist intent. For example, the explicit racial bias in
home mortgage lending 50 years ago created patterns of residential
segregation that still mark American cities. Segregated communities affect
access to quality jobs, schools, even environmental quality. Even if no
one is actively seeking to shut out black communities. Then there`s
another explanation. One that looks to black communities themselves to
explain their continued inequality. This view holds an African-American`s
warped by centuries and slavery of subjugation live in families and
communities that devalue hard work and education while breathing violence
and crime. Inequality, they maintain is not in injustice, it`s about
misbehavior. Facts show that racial disparities exist. And these days
everybody is talking about race, but before we can answer the President`s
call to act, we are going to have to stop talking past each other and
actually figure it out, what it is that we think we are trying to solve.
Joining me now is Dave Zirin, sports editor at "The Nation Magazine" and
Jonathan Metzl, professor of psychiatry at Vanderbilt University. And it
is worth pointing out that you are both white men and then I really
purposely wanted specifically to have this conversation across this
particular divide because I think there`s a particular role for white
people in this conversation on race. And I guess I`m wondering in part,
Dave, how you would define what that role is.
ZIRIN: Well, first and foremost, let me say that it is I think obscene to
have a conversation about the problems in black culture when black people
are victims of state violence. That`s an obscene formulation when you see
people being choked to death on the streets on videotape. And part of this
discussion is about is the legal system broken. And that`s what they are
talking about right now on NBC and "Meet the Press." Is the system broken?
But is it? But the question shouldn`t be is the system broken, it should
be is the system operating the way it was actually set up to operate?
Which is about the violent policing of black and brown communities. The
only difference in 2014 than the last 350 years is that now we have
videotape and social media, so white people are now inconvenienced with the
images of what it means to be black and poor in America. And if I could
just say, people say what is the problem with black culture? I would
actually want to reframe it and say, what is the problem with white culture
that white people are acting inconvenienced about seeing deaths on their
television? Why does Joe Scarborough look annoyed to see the deaths on
television instead of saying what is wrong with this country where these
things happen once every 28 hour?
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay, so your point here. I`m going to put Joe Scarborough
to his side over here for a second, but your point about the videotape I
think is critically important because it`s one that I think is particularly
painful in this week, Jonathan. Despite the videotape of the death of Eric
Garner, the grand jury made a decision not to indict. And in a new
NBC/Maris poll just out this morning, 82 percent of African-Americans agree
with the statement that law enforcement applies different standards to
whites and blacks. Eighty percent actually strongly agree. But by
comparison, only 51 percent, excuse me, actually a majority, 51 percent of
whites disagree with the statement and only 39 percent agree with it. So,
even when we are look like -- we are looking at the same stimuli, 82
percent of black folks are like, that looks like a justice, 51 percent of
white folks like, no, not so much.
METZL: Well, you know, actually -- certainly Carmichael spoke to this
point beautifully in 1966 when people would ask him about individual
racism, they would say, why is it that people see these things very
differently and he said, if you want to address racism, don`t talk about
individual people`s attitudes or observations. If you want just racism,
change the school board, change the makeup of the police force. Change the
zoning laws. Structural factors that impact everybody because, you know,
his argument was racism is not individual. And it is individual, of
course. As much as it is structural. We are faced with a similar kind of
moment now which is that, I think if we come away from this really
incredible moment where people are not just talking about race, they are
talking about institutions, about the police, about the legal system.
About health as you mentioned. And I think what this moment calls for is
not a feel-good moment. We feel better, we have a better moment and we get
along. I mean, certainly that would be great. It`s more we have a moment
to change the structures. And I think what is important about this moment
is also to recognize that the structural factors that people were
protesting against in the `60s are ironically far more entrenched right now
this in this post-Citizens United --
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to play the President for a moment. He gave an
interview on BET to 106 in part. In which he makes a kind of -- let`s
listen to him for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: As painful as these incidents are, we can`t equate what is
happening now to what was happening 50 years ago. And if you talk to your
parents, grandparents, uncles, they will tell you that, you know, things
are better. Not good in some cases but better. And the reason it`s
important for us to understand progress has been made is that then gives us
hope that we can make even more progress.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So I think this is fascinating. Because I think what
happens when I talk to my father and to my uncles, they don`t say better
they say different. They say this thing is a different thing, but they in
fact never say better.
ZIRIN: You see it`s interesting because the ceiling is now higher for
African-Americans than it was 50 years ago without question. I mean, the
top cop is African-American. The president is African-American. But guess
what, the floor is lower. So there is more class stratification and there
is more brutality being thrown on the shoulders of the poorest of the poor.
And I think there is a profound disconnect between Barack Obama and what is
happening in the streets right now. And it reminds me so much of the words
of the late historian Howard Zinn who said it doesn`t matter who is sitting
in the White House, it matters who is sitting in. We are having this
national conversation on race right now not because Bill Clinton said let`s
have a discussion on race or Barack Obama said, I`m going to give a speech
right now and say that Trayvon looks like my son. We are having the
discussion on the terms of structural in justice where Melissa-Harris Perry
can have a white brother --
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right.
ZIRIN: We`re having that discussion precisely because masses of people are
in the streets demanding that discussion.
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay, sure. But I also -- I don`t want to miss that there
is something that also the reason President Obama sits in the White House
is because that movement existed, that movement exists, it propelled it
create some space possible for the election of the first black president.
I don`t want to miss that president that it mattered for me when my
president was able to say, Trayvon Martin could have been me. I could have
been Trayvon. That if we don`t acknowledge the ways in which it matters,
although it`s still deeply imperfect, I know I sound like him, but then we
just go to say, it doesn`t really matter if you ever have any black elected
officials, right? Because that ownership of that power of that ceiling
still matters even as that floor drops.
METZL: No, that`s absolutely right. Part of what people are protesting
now has everything on the road to do with the race of course, but there`s
also so much discontent about the structural forces that appeared to be
getting worse. People are more removed from the political system there,
tremendous wealth and balances, people feel like what it takes to get
elected now, it is harder to get people`s voices heard in a certain kind of
way. In so, in a way, what this moment calls for among other things, I
think the true lesson of the 1960s is new forms of coalitions. What kind
of coalitions will come out of this moment? They will let us have a
unified voice that will impact change.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, stick with us. We`re going to -- you too are going to
stay here. I`m going to bring a couple of more voices into the table. But
as we go on, I want to listen to Esaw Garner because she says something
very similar to what you just said, which is, that it may not just -- and
this is the widow of Eric Garner. She said something about this central
disconnection. We`ll listen to that as we go out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Your husband is now in the face of bias in our law
enforcement. How do you feel about that?
ESAW GARNER, WIDOW OF ERIC GARNER: I feel that he was murdered unjustly.
I feel like I don`t even feel like it`s a black and white thing, honestly.
You know, in my opinion, I really don`t feel like it`s a black and white
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL O`REILLY, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, in the New York City case, Mr. Garner
clearly a law level offender was not a threat. American police are held to
a very high standard because they have power. They have guns. They must
control inflammatory situations and not make them worse. There was a
police overreaction to Mr. Garner. And that should have been adjudicated
in a court of law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was FOX News` Bill O`Reilly on Thursday night
explaining why he believed the grand jury should have indicted the NYPD
officer who placed a fatal chokehold on Eric Garner.
Joining our conversation now is Adam Serwer, national editor at BuzzFeed
News and Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister at the Middle
Collegiate Church here in New York. So, Adam, I wanted to start with Mr.
O`Reilly here in part because, you know, we talk a little bit about perfect
victim conversation in the case of talking about sexual assault. In the
case of kind of Ferguson versus Garner, we have seen very, very different
responses from folks about the very imperfect victim that is Michael Brown
versus the family man/gentle giant of the discourse is been around Eric
Garner and I wonder about how bad is operating in this race talk.
SERWER: Well, I mean, I think there`s a space, there`s an ambiguity in the
situation between Michael Brown and Darren Wilson which is largely been
filled up by Wilson`s testimony in the grand jury. He spoke for several
hours to the grand jury and he told them a very colorful story about what
happened. And, you know, here in the Garner case, you know, the video
leaves very little room for interpretation. That doesn`t mean some people
aren`t still saying he shouldn`t have resisted arrest, whatever that means
looking at that video, but I think, you know, this is one of the things
about cameras, people say, you know, body cameras aren`t going to solve the
problem and that`s true, but you know, there would be no -- we wouldn`t see
this outrage across the political spectrum. You know, George W. Bush was
like, I don`t even understand how that grand jury --
SERWER: You know, this is not a left/right thing.
SERWER: Which is surprising because often these shootings do turn out to
be a left/right thing.
SERWER: But this is not precisely because it`s on video and it`s so plain
for everyone to see.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, I keep, so yes, and that feels right to me in some
sort of ethically balanced way, but it also seems wrong to me because it
does seem to continue to play in to that third thing that I talked about
last time, which is the possibility of black pathology being the reason
that racial inequality continues. I wanted to -- we went back all the way
back to October to look at something Charles Barkley said in the CBS Philly
radio interview. And he said we as black people are never going to be
successful, not because of you white people but because of other black
people. When you are black, you have to deal with so much crap in your
life from other black people. And that narrative that the primary driver
of racial inequality is black pathology. And so, you must be the perfect
victim caught on tape in order to garner sympathy.
REV. DR. JACQUI LEWIS, MIDDLE COLLEGIATE CHURCH: Yes. That black
pathology thing I think has two causes. One is institutionalized racism.
And we just have to admit that America was built on a fat line called
rapes. And that thing is cracking wide open, right? So, all of these are
symptoms of that. Some of them are that we internalize the narrative. And
I think the other thing Melissa, you were pointing to a little while ago is
the way that somehow it makes us feel like we have more power. If it`s our
stuff, we have more power to examine it and to fix it. But I think the
bottom-line is, is it at all about black pathology? Is it about racism in
America, which is in fact pathological? So wide gaps of income, wide gaps
of infant mortality, wide gaps in welfare and education, you know that?
Health care. All of that stuff I think leaves us black people behind.
HARRIS-PERRY: If indeed it gets really hard to have that conversation,
when you say it`s not about black pathology, it is about racism. It`s
about white supremacy, it`s about the history of institutional inequality.
When I have try to have that conversation across racial lines with good
people, but man the walls go up.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it is, hey, I`m not a racist.
HARRIS-PERRY: Help me to talk about how we do that.
ZIRIN: Well, it`s like a cartoon that`s out right now where there`s a
picture of a black person saying "I can`t breathe," and next to him is a
white person saying, I can`t hear, I can`t see. And it`s this idea of
affecting for yourself white blindness and kind of blissful ignorance about
what is happening in the world. And that`s what the video of the Eric
Garner case has imposed upon this conversation. Is that it is punctured,
that shield, that`s around. And that`s why a lot of these protests are
very multi-racial, which is I think something that should encourage people.
It`s in every 50 states now that there have been protests. There are
protests in France of white people saying black lives matter.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, the French love to protest, though.
ZIRIN: There are things being written on the walls of Gaza saying black
lives matter. And so it has a currency that I think is puncturing that
wall, thank goodness. But if I say this very quickly, I think it`s
fascinating that this discussion about like, let`s knock down
respectability politics once and for all. It`s happening with the backdrop
of the fall of Bill Cosby from grace. Because, remember one of the Bill
Cosby`s rhetorics from 2006 was if only black families did not name their
kids Shaniqua and Tacwon (ph), then they would be okay. And look at the
people who were just killed by police, it was Michael and Eric. Their
names did not protect them from police violence.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I think, you know, for me, the fall of multiple levels
of respectability Nia-Malika Henderson actually pointing out in a recent
column this week. That even President Obama`s language around black
respectability much less present in his conversations around Ferguson, much
less present in his rhetoric. We have more on this. In fact, we`ll talk a
little bit about being between Barack in a hard place, and how President
Obama is managing the challenge of race talk in America.
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama`s public responses to the recent grand jury
decisions in St. Louis in New York not earned a much support. Only 30
percent of Americans overall approve of how the President has reacted to
the decision. Forty six percent disapprove. And I wonder if some of this
disappointment is based on the belief arguably a mistaken belief that
President Obama should be particularly adopted managing this moment because
he himself is a black man. Which got me to thinking about the buzz worthy
question our next guest posed back in August. Will it take the next white
president to talk to white Americans about race?
Joining me now from Washington, D.C. is Slate.com staff writer Jamelle
Bouie. Nice to see you this morning, Jamelle. Talk to me about what you
mean when you ask this question of whether or not we`re going to need a
white president to have the race talk.
JAMELLE BOUIE, STAFF WRITER, SLATE: So, you know, my first thought when I
will ever ask that question was thinking back to Lyndon Johnson`s address
commencement address to Howard University in 1963. And I don`t think he
was president yet but that speech if you have never read it, I know you
have but to viewer who have never read it, it is probably one of the most
forthright statements in American race relations ever given by someone in
the oval office or in proximity to the oval office. It is the forthright
statement of white America`s responsibility in creating the conditions that
is so many of our people lived in at the time and still live in today. So
part of me looking forward and looking and looking at President Obama
thinks that, you know, President Obama can say a lot on race, he can do a
lot to I think to articulate the perspectives of black communities, but I`m
not sure that when it comes to getting white Americans to take racism
seriously as exists today, that he`s too equipped to do that. Too equipped
to do that. Well equipped to do that. Not because he lacks the analytical
ability or lacks the eloquence or because I think this is a conversation
white people may need to have amongst themselves.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I feel you. If I thought my next white president was
going to be LBJ, like I would be down. Right? I mean, I`m with you, but
given particularly democratic side, there`s a strong likelihood that the
next white president for example could be a Clinton, and when I look back
at the legacy of the last Clinton presidency, I don`t particularly see
either good race talk or good racial policy in the context of welfare
reform, criminal justice. Heck, we could go to DOMA, "Don`t ask, Don`t
tell," all of which claim under that democratic white Clinton presidency.
I guess I just wonder if in fact by needing it to be a white president or
black president, we just miss the responsibility of the office of the
presidency to do this work.
BOUIE: Right. I think that`s a really good point. Yes. I am not really
sure where Hillary Clinton is on these things. She`s said some frankly
quite good things about Ferguson in August, but she`s generally trying to
shy away from most controversy. But yes, I think that you`re right. That
when it comes to sort of the board picture, we need the office of the
presidency to speak on these things, to take actions on these things. To
treat, you know, racism as a national problem, because it is, and I think
that doesn`t just go for a democratic president or for a republican one
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold for me for a second. I want to play for you Jonathan
what I thought was a relatively extraordinary moment of a white elected
official this week and that was mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, making a
very personalized statement about race.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Chirlane and I have had to talk
to Dante for years about the dangers he may face. Good young man, law-
abiding down man who never would think to do anything wrong and yet because
of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face. We have
had to literally train him as families have all over this city for decades
in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police
officers who are there to protect him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
METZL: Well, you know, I think this is a terrific conversation. I think
getting back to the question of Obama and whether the identity of the
President matters. On one hand, I think the point is absolutely right,
Obama has paid a high price every time he`s talked overtly about race and
all of a sudden people say, wait, you`re black? Why? What is going on
here? That kind happened during the election for example. I think two
counter points that we might want to think about that. One is that Obama
has also had a terrific Justice Department that has reinstated itself as a
potential backup at moments when states fail and in that sense --
HARRIS-PERRY: Eric Holder, is he the black president you were waiting for?
METZL: Well, I`m just saying that, you know, I mean, I don`t think he`s --
and second is that, I think what we are learning from this is that the
nature of racism is very different from what it was in LBJ`s time in a
certain kind of way. Racism is, if you try that 1960s era of racism right
now, everybody it`s like the Donald Sterling moment. Racism is much more
embedded and structural and in a way, what we need is a government that`s
going to enact structural changes to address the way that --
HARRIS-PERRY: And Jamelle, let me come back to you for a second because I
guess part of what I wonder then, if we think about the white presidents
who have done race well, at least discursively, so there was some sort of
good racial performance that came from President Clinton, I think about LBJ
as you pointed out. And then what we see from de Blasio is an elected
leader although not a president, is when these are white leaders who shed
some of the typical white privilege who talk from actually a relatively
candid, personal narrative, which is part of how President Obama can speak
about race because he`s embodied in it. Right? But sort of the best white
speakers on range are often doing so by personally and purposely shedding
the ability to not have to talk about race.
BOUIE: Right. Right. That`s definitely what Bill de Blasio was doing.
One thing, I want to go back to -- I mentioned Hillary Clinton statement
about Ferguson. One thing that was interesting about that statement is,
you know, Hillary Clinton, I`m not sure can speak from that kind of
personal experience. But what she asked her audience, just mostly a white
audience, which to imagine how they would feel if it were their children or
their neighborhood or their community. I think that can be powerful
because I`m not entirely sure about anyone ever directly as white people to
imagine how would feel if it were them? If it were them facing sort of
routine police violence? If it were them facing, you know, authorities
that don`t care to hold police accountable for that kind of balance, if it
were them facing the kind of communities that were built by white
HARRIS-PERRY: Jamelle, I appreciate you joining us this morning. We are
going to continue to disagree on this one. I still think President Obama
is a better race talk leader than Hillary Clinton. That said, maybe we
BOUIE: I don`t think Hillary Clinton is better, I just think it is all
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, it is. There you go. It is Nerdland, it`s all Jamelle
is very interesting. We have much, much more on this topic when we come
back. My voices here at the table are getting back in.
Up next, what the news outlet Cleveland.com wrote about a slain 12-year-
old, Tamir Rice`s parents and why they did it when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tamir Rice was 12-years-old when he was shot and killed last
month by a police officer in Cleveland, Ohio. A few days after his death,
this story published by Cleveland.com, a new site ran by the Northeast Ohio
media group, an affiliate with the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Tamir Rice`s
father has a history of domestic violence. Well, the story did little
other than list information about the public record from the arrest of
Tamir Rice`s father including domestic violence arrest in which Tamir`s
mother was the victim. The story also listed arrest of Tamir`s mother.
The report did not interview Tamir`s parents or other family members or any
representatives of this family for the story. An executive with the
Northeast Ohio media group responded to criticism, some of it internal,
saying, quote, "We believe it may shed further light on why this 12-year-
old was waving a weapon around a public park." Of course, Tamir Rice was
playing with a pellet gun, not a weapon, when he was killed.
Now this is the same news organization, Adam, that broke that this officer
who shot him had basically been deemed unfit for duty. So, it`s been
uneven on this site, like it`s a site that`s been clearly against his
family or something, but just that impulse to need to explain why the 12-
year-old got shot?
SERWER: Well, you know, there`s a particular quote that I think in moments
like this, and it was Patrick Dorsman`s (ph) mother, Patrick Dorsman who
was killed by the NYPD. She said, you know, first they killed him and then
they killed him the other way with the mouth. And this is something that
you see constantly with, you know, black shooting victims with police is
this sort of weird attempt to retroactively justify the death by explaining
how this was not a perfect, wonderful person. And it goes back to the
whole imperfect victim. There`s like a really weird analogy here like a
short skirt theory of being shot by police where --
HARRIS-PERRY: At 12.
SERWER: Right. At 12. It`s like, what did you do to make that happen?
And I think, you know, in this case, people`s reaction was so strong
precisely because Rice is so young and, you know, it`s just like simply did
not have enough time on planet earth to do the kinds of things that, you
know, might have actually been successful at persuading people that he had
it coming, because it does happen.
HARRIS-PERRY: And as you point out, we have video in this case and we know
that these officers shot him within two seconds of making it to the scene.
SERWER: And there are misleading statements from the police before the
video came out about what Tamir Rice was doing, whether there were more
people there. You know, there`s a lot of things in this case that I think
have been pretty shocking. And I think, you know, the usual social media
cycle of assassinating character assassinating a dead person has not been -
- people have had a much different reaction to it than they have had in
ZIRIN: I`m going to secede the floor.
LEWIS: I just was going to say that I think we need to just get real about
how much we need to make the world safer for 12-year-olds everywhere.
Twelve-year-olds of color, 12-year-olds in every city. I mean, the
demography of all the ways that our children are just under siege because
of education. We need programs like the children`s defense fund of freedom
school to make safe places for kids so they can learn and grow and be safe.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when you say that, I just had this conversation with
some of my students on campus about the notion of crime and what our
response to it should be. And on so many college campuses, there`s a
regular crime. By crime I just mean breaking the law, and that crime is
under-aged drinking, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, 21 is the drinking age, most college students are
not 21 and the main response of most universities is, how do we make that
crime safe? How do we make it safe for students to commit that crime so
that they don`t harm themselves or others in the context? And quite
honestly, I think that`s sort of the right approach. I actually don`t
think we have to go round up all the 19-year-olds who are drinking, right?
But that`s not how we treat.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, let me be clear, Tamir Rice was not committing a crime,
but that`s not how we treat crime for those who aren`t sitting on the
ZIRIN: Exactly. And you`re going to talk about weed as well, a marijuana
arrest, college campus versus the corner.
METZL: Well, not just marijuana.
LEWIS: -- calling the kids here in the classroom, going to go to the
principal`s office or go to jail.
ZIRIN: I`m going to go to something like Adam said because he made a
reference to the short skirt theory. And to me, it is so striking whether
you`re talking about how a woman dresses in a sexual assault case, whether
you`re talking about -- whether or not a child in Gaza was throwing a rock.
There`s always the retroactive effort to say the person who in the power
relationship is on the bottom end, somehow deserved their grizzly fate.
And it feels sometimes so oppressive and so orchestrated that you just want
to raise your hands and holler. And I think what is interesting about this
moment is that I think you`re seeing a generational push, more than a
racial push but a generational push of young people saying, we`ve had
enough of this discourse and this narrative. We are going to re-seize it
and say, no, we are going to stop blaming the dead person for their murder.
LEWIS: I think this moment is so egregious. Excuse me, just something to
tell this really quick story. Two white women, I`m on a way to a protest
and there`s two white women talking to each other on the street. One with
a "we can`t breathe" sign and one with an American girl bag. And the
discourse right there from the woman with the sign was, this Christmas
season is all about justice and all about making a change. So I think it
is generational but I also think this is a seismic shift in the discourse
where even your average white lady on the street shopping understanding
that something egregious has happened and he needs to talk about it.
METZL: But at the same time, I still think it is important to remember
that there is a racial politics to how we report crime stories, which is
these stories are all horrible, horrible tragedies in the aftermath of
Newtown, the stories all about Adam Lanza`s brain, the individual white
pathology and the aftermath of the stories like this, we tell the black
cultural story. And I have a piece coming out next week that looks at the
statistics in the media about this. But I also think that that same
dynamic is at play in people`s interpretations. That there`s the
individual story that is often linked to whiteness and there`s the cultural
story that is part of our cultural narrative of how the --
HARRIS-PERRY: So, if a white bad actor is bad, then it`s just an
individual. But if there`s a bad black actor, then it`s the whole culture.
SERWER: I want to say something, about race. I mean, one of the striking
things about that shooting is that when it was called in, one of the police
officers said Rice was 20 years old. And this is like a documented fact.
I mean, you can see studies from the American Psychological Association on
the show of it like black children are consistently seen as older, as more
dangerous, less innocent and are far more likely to, if they get in
trouble, to be thought of as incorrigible or to even if they get in trouble
with police to be thought of or to be on the receiving end of, you know,
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s such an important reminder that whatever the outcome of
the race talk that we have been talking about this hour has got to be about
making the world safer for a 12-year-old. Thank you to Dave Zirin and to
Jonathan Metzl, also to Adam Sewer, Jackie Lewis, the reverend is sticking
around. Up next, where do we go from here?
HARRIS-PERRY: The year was 1967. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the
movement of which he was a key part had achieved nearly every piece of
landmark legislation we now celebrate as the greatest civil rights
achievements of our era. The 1954 Brown versus Board of Education, Supreme
Court decision ordered America schools desegregated. In 1964 in the civil
rights act ending segregation in public accommodations became law. In
1965, the voting rights act which ushered in full citizenship for black
Americans. It became law. But King did not enter 1967 with a sense of
inevitable progress and certain victory. Instead, the contemplative and
prophetic voice of the movement asked a question, where do we go from here?
Chaos or community? This is the title of his 1967 book and in it came --
out a vision for a movement focused on issues of economic justice, decent
housing and global peace.
The year now is 2014. And we have accomplished extraordinary things as a
nation, but the events of recent weeks and the injustice in alienation so
many in our country now experience draws us again to Doctor King`s
question, where do we go from here? Will we descend into chaos or are we
capable of building community? In 1967, King wrote, "Power at its best is
love implementing the demands of justice. Justice at its best is love
correcting everything that stands against love."
When we come back, I`m going to talk with two faith leaders about love and
justice and whether those two things are part of the answer of where we go
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s been a difficult few weeks. The grand jury decisions
in Missouri and New York not to indict officers involved in the deaths of
Michael Brown and Eric Garner were distressing for many. The protests and
confrontations between demonstrators and police are troubling, and nightly
news have been filled with this raw reminders of private laws and of public
pain and distress from around the country. But this is our country. And
we`re going to have to find a way to live here together in peace and with
justice. We need to begin thinking about the way forward.
Last week, union theological seminary president, the Reverend Serene Jones
told The Huffington Post, "Now is the time to build a sturdy and empowering
infrastructure for a social movement representing people of all faiths,
nationalities and ethnicities. The degradation and demeaning of black life
must stop. What the hell kind of country do we live in?" It`s the theme
that Reverend Jacqui Lewis echoed in her own Huffington Post blog entry.
Our nation is cracking wide open on the fault line of race. In order to
repair what is broken, we need each other. We need to heal, to connect,
and to be the change.
And so, to help heal and connect, Reverend Lewis is back at the table with
me and joining us is the Reverend Serene Jones. Author of "Trauma and
Grace: Theology in a Ruptured World." Serene, what is the value of faith
community in a moment like this?
REV. DR. SERENE JONES, UNION THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: Well, in a moment like
this, it`s a time for very critical self-reflection. In so many ways, our
religious communities are responsible for that deep bias, that prejudice,
that brutality. People learn those in many cases in their churches, but
also means it`s a moment for religious communities, for faith communities
to tell a different story. This mortgage morning, in every church in this
country, this should be the topic of discussion. And if it`s not, and what
the hell kind of church do we have?
JONES: Is the question I want to ask.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, for me, when you implicate, when you indict even to say,
our faith traditions impart in this, I can`t help but to think Reverend
Lewis, about Dr. King`s own admission that 11:00 on Sunday morning is the
most segregated hour in America. I know that the work that you do in your
church is impart trying to build interracial congregations, but man, how do
we even start talking about interracial political coalitions if we can`t
have interracial congregations within our faith communities.
LEWIS: It`s such an important piece of work to do, Melissa. And we do,
our church is multiracial, multicultural. We do a conference every April
for congregations like that. And the needle is tipping just a bit. About
five years ago, a book called united by faith said there were only five
percent of the congregations in America were multiracial. And now we`re up
to 12. Now 12 percent does not mean we`re desegregated. We still have a
long way to go. But I want to point to the hope of that. And I think
there are congregations who are having this conversation about race. Just
the memorial, riverside church, the middle church. There are congregations
in the city and around the country are beginning to get it that if we don`t
pull together and rehearse the reign of God in our congregations, we`re
going to get to the segregated heaven not. So, it`s not going to be like
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to come back in part to one of the places -- one
of the sets of lessons that are often learned in religious communities,
particularly Christian communities. And that is, if we go back to the
pathology argument we were talking about before that often times church
spends most of its time telling us how to individually fix ourselves,
right? And not that this is necessarily a bad idea. I mean, pulpits are -
- so we can get people personal advice. But that so much time gets spent
on the individual fixes for ourselves and for our families that far less
time goes into a collective or structural discourse and narrative.
JONES: Right. And that goes for even the concept of sin. We spend so
much time in our churches teaching individual people to stop doing
individual bad things. Usually it has to do with sex or something, and we
say nothing about the systemic collective sin of racism. For instance. I
mean, one of the things, I think in our churches, if we wanted to take this
on as we go into Christmas, and we think about the central story of
Christianity, it`s the story of a black body being executed by the most
powerful nation in the world. And that`s not complicated.
JONES: I mean, it`s a complicated thing, but that is the clear, pure
LEWIS: Amen, and it deserves to be echoed. Because the black body of
Jesus is not something we`re all talking about. But that`s a multiculti
black body being executed. And the story, the other narrative that`s so
important about this is, the concept of the light coming into the world.
That the incarnate God is the light coming in the world that the darkness
can overcome and we need that kind of light right now. And the sense is
that the light is in fleshed in us. In other words, all of us are the body
of Christ. So, these kinds of conversations, the way of multiracial,
multicultural coalition of clergy right now are gathering. Some of us were
praying on the phone the other day about a union student who`s still
incarcerated working together to do a big prayer action on Monday right at
St. Paul`s chapel down at Trinity Wall Street. This moment, Melissa, I
think is a moment where we`re all saying -- when one of us can`t breathe,
all of us can`t breathe. And when all of us can`t breathe, maybe even God
HARRIS-PERRY: Two thing just happened here that I don`t want to miss in
the TV of it all. One is, I think, Reverend Lewis, you were reminding us,
that even as we`re asking for the prophetic, that we talked about
structural sin, that people also still have a pastoral need. It is a hard
week and sometimes we need to feel better. And one of the places we can
sometimes feel better is in the refuge of faith, but I also don`t want to
miss what you did there, Serene, with the black body of Christ, because
there are some viewers who are going to say, the what? In part because of
the representations of the baby Jesus typically, particularly in this
country are not black. And that when you see black, you mean it, I presume
in part, not so much as African-American, because obviously not in America,
but rather that notion of connection with those who are the least of these.
What others might calling anthological business.
JONES: And when the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus looked at Jesus as a
Jewish man that was part of a country that was under imperial rule, they
saw a black body. The same way officers today see young men on the
streets. They see a demonized black body that makes you very vulnerable to
be killed. You know, the other story I think about in this regard in
advent in the Christian Church is the story of the slaughter of the
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Yes.
JONES: Jesus was born, Rome was threatened, so what did it do? It started
killing young men. Only young men. Young men.
HARRIS-PERRY: James Cone writes of "The Cross and the Lynching Tree" to
connect these two things. To the Reverend Jacqui Lewis and to the Reverend
Serene Jones, thank you for being here this morning.
That is our show today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`m going to
see you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Right now, it`s time for a
preview of "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT." Hi, Alex.
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, "WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT": Hi, Melissa, thanks so
much for that. We`re going to talk everyone about what went wrong in the
failed attempt to rescue a U.S. hostage in Yemen. How the incredible acts
of bravery fell short?
Longtime friend of Bill Cosby Hugh Hefner speaks out about the sexual
allegations against the comic.
The President`s mystery ailment explained. What he was told yesterday when
he went to see his doctor?
Plus -- how happy hour started so much earlier than anyone might have
thought. Don`t go anywhere. I`ll be right back.
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