Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 02/28/15
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my questions. Will there
be civil rights charges in Ferguson?
Plus, the similarities Governor Scott Walker sees between labor unions and
ISIS. And Arcat (ph), the Oscar and intersectionality. But first, what do
you see when you look at that dress?
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And let`s just be honest. There`s
one question that has consumed our attention for the past 48 hours. What
color is the dress? Now we paused the debate briefly on Thursday unified
by the compelling spectacle of lamas racing for freedom, but then we return
to the animating question of the week. Blue and black, white and gold?
Kim Kardashian and hubby Kanye West are hardly distinguishable from one
another in our pop cultural imaginations, but Kim revealed their
disagreement via Twitter. “What color is that dress? I see white and
gold. Kanye sees black and blue. Who is color blind?”
Some are content to enjoy the fascinating consequences of human variation.
Even in inconsequential matters. Others are determined to stake their
claim and join a team. By the way, I`m totally hashtag team blue and
black. Others want to find the one indisputable truth and berate others
with those facts. House Speaker John Boehner tweeting, “Facts, hashtag,
the dress is blue and black. Then adding, is that the Democrats who are
blocking security funding to protect president`s hashtag immigration
Well, there you have it. The dress is political. Now, President Obama may
be right that we are more than a collection of red and blue states, but
this week revealed in the words of an Ellen DeGeneres tweet from this day
on the world will be divided into two people, blue and black or white and
The color of the dress is a political question because in this sense facts
are actually less important than perception. Take this, for example. What
if I told you that after years of activists occupying the nation`s parks to
draw attention to economic inequality, after years of low wage workers
finding their voices, after so many have sounded the alarm, there`s now a
group of presidential hopefuls and political stars talking about how to
alleviate poverty. Would you be excited?
Now, what if I told you that they are all Republican? Did the dress just
change colors? Because poverty is on the agenda of the conservative
political action conference or CPAC this week in a big way. Here`s New
Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R) NEW JERSEY: Our vision for the United States is,
one, to make sure that, you know, as Republicans the way they will try to
tag us, Laura, is to say we`re the party of the rich. And I`ll tell you
something, I don`t mind rich people at all, but we don`t need to be
standing up as the party defending them all the time. What we need to do
is start fighting for the people who are trying to lift themselves up, who
haven`t had a wage increase adjusted for inflation in 15 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And then there was this from Utah congresswoman Mia Love.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MIA LOVE (R), UTAH: We must advance the conservative principles that
have lifted more people out of poverty, fuelled more freedom and driven
more dreams than any set of principles in the history of the world. So my
challenge to my colleagues in Congress is to not yield the moral high
ground to the left. To get out of the way and allow the American people to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Rise up was the theme for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH, FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: We need to give people a sense that if
we started growing our economy again, the middle would start having rising
income again. And what you would do to do that is offer compelling
alternatives to the failed tax policies, the failed regulation policies of
broken education system and making sure that people know that we`re on
their side to rise up.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s like watching a Democratic convention. I mean what
color is this dress exactly? Now, you may want to know a little bit about
the man many credit with inspiring the new GOP messaging. You`ve probably
never heard of him, because he`s not a politician and as far as we know
he`s not even thinking of running for president. But he may have been the
most influential speaker at CPAC this week. He`s a strong believer in the
free enterprise system, and yet he wants to make sure poverty is a central
issue in the presidential campaign.
A man who wants to, quote, “proactively declare peace on the safety net,
and yet wants to expand the earned income tax credit to single unemployed
men” calling them, quote, the most vulnerable in our society. Meet Arthur
Brooks, head of the powerful conservative think tank American Enterprise
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ARTHUR BROOKS, PRESIDENT AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: If you are your
brother`s keeper, if you love the poor, it`s good to give alms, and do it
more, but you also have to have a system that works while you sleep. That
system, those five forces together, you know what it`s called? Free
enterprise. That, my friends, is your gift to the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So does Mr. Brooks have what it takes to change the way we
see and hear Republicans? Or will we never quite trust those who see a
white and gold dress where we see a blue and black one? Joining me here at
the table are former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, also, Matt Welch, the
editor-in-chief of “Reason” magazine. And joining us from the conservative
political action conference in National Harbor, Maine, excuse me, Maryland,
NBC political journalist Leigh Ann Caldwell, who had a chance to sit down
with Arthur Brooks for an extensive interview. Leanna, I`m interested, how
did Mr. Brooks find himself the poverty guru of the right?
LEIGH ANN CALDWELL, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Mr. Brooks is someone who actually
has the power and the influence to convince Republicans to talk about this
issue. Not only is he passionate about it and energetic, he`s really
convincing. But also he`s head of one of the most influential conservative
think tanks in Washington, D.C., the American Enterprise Institute. And
not only that, in the five years he`s been there, he`s doubled their
fundraising from $20 million to $40 million based mostly on his belief that
poverty is an issue that the Republicans need to take up. In addition, he
has the ear of nearly every single potential Republican presidential
candidate and they are listening to him.
HARRIS-PERRY: So here`s part of what I want to know then. It sounds to
me, when I listen to Mr. Brooks, like he`s legitimately interested in this
question as a fundamental question of how the democracy and our economy
works. But I wonder if the candidates with whom he is in conversation are
really much more interested here in simply a political tool. So, this is
my like - looking through my perceptual lens, which tends to have a little
more suspicion when it comes to Republican candidates. I wanted to play,
Mr. Arthur, just for a moment so that we can listen to him and then get you
to respond to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKS: This is not about the money. It`s about the global brotherhood.
It`s about the morality. Next time somebody tells you that conservatives
only care about the rich, say that`s wrong. If it weren`t for conservative
values, the world would stay poor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So is this for the conservative candidates, is this just
politics or is this like in their heart the way it is for Mr. Brooks?
CALDWELL: Well, for Mr. Brooks, it`s in his heart. He travels to India,
he convinced the Dalai Lama to come to the United States and speak at his
organization. He meets with Hindu sages in India, he gets - he believes
that - he believes that getting people out of poverty is a path to
happiness. He thinks that this is a way of life, and he`s really doing
everything he can to convince Republicans about this. He`s part of this
group called reform conservatives. And it`s something that it`s a small
group, but it`s growing, especially among the younger generation of
conservatives. Actually, yesterday at CPAC, that`s how Jeb Bush defined
himself. As a reform conservative. It`s someone who thinks outside the
box about economic issues and comes about different ways of how to get
people out of poverty. Not by decimating the safety net, but by preserving
it, but also one major thing about this is that it`s still conservative
because it influences work. A work requirement is very central.
HARRIS-PERRY: So hold on real quick. Because I want to ask about this
now. You were also at CPAC. And I`m interested, what do you make of what
seems to be for Mr. Brooks more of an interest in the floor than in the
inequality? Right? So, what I`ve heard them say is, inequality is not the
big deal, it really is sort of what is the floor.
MATT WELCH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, REASON MAGAZINE: It`s the mobility, mobility.
WELCH: This is true of all free market types, libertarians, conservatives
and other words. It`s more about can you escape poverty. What is the way
that you can do that faster, rather than having some kind of outcome, in
which there`s a, you know, a perfect measure of equality there. Actually,
the things you would have to do, to produce that equality would, you know,
would put a ceiling on the floor in that position.
Also, I mean, part of this is the Tea Party. This might sound strange to
the ears of your listeners right now, but the leading reformer cons out
there are people like Marco Rubio, people like Mike Lee. There are people
who challenge the Republican orthodoxy and establishment, beat
establishment picked candidates, came into power in 2010 and they have been
talking about - the tax code to help the middle class. But to your point
also, there`s a huge political thing here which is if you ask the median
Republican what went wrong with Mitt Romney, they would come up with one
answer. It would be the 47 percent.
WELCH: They know they can`t do that. Jeb Bush at CPAC said, you know, I
need to send a message that I care. Like oh no, we`re doing Bush message I
care again. But they are - this is on their brain as well. So, it`s a
mixture of true belief and political expediency.
HARRIS-PERRY: Matt, stay with us for a second. Leigh Ann, thank you so
much for joining us this morning from CPAC and thank you for bringing to us
a little bit about the story of this man behind this new message. We`ll be
come back. I`m going to stay right on this topic because I do want to
bring in Nina Turner, who I suspect might see a dress of a different color
when we talk about this. And still to come this morning, the Attorney
General Eric Holder gives a very strong hint at what is to come in
Ferguson. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I always find it
curious that when a Democrat`s president, deficits go down. Republican is
president and then deficits are going up. And yet they try to take on the
matter of fiscal probity. None of this is an accident. It`s not an
accident that America is creating jobs faster than any time since the last
time a Democrat was president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama earlier this month at the
Democratic National Convention winter meeting. It feels to me, Nina, like
that is at least part of what`s happening politically here. The president
does have a good economic track record over the course of his six years.
It has gotten better, although not at all perfect. And so now we see the
Republicans trying to get to a narrative about what they can do
economically. And I just wonder, again, there`s a part of me just like
excited, but there`s another part of me that just sees the different color
of dress there.
FMR. STATE SEN. NINA TURNER (D) OHIO: I`m with you, professor, and God
bless Mr. Arthur Brooks for bringing this to the floor. Maybe he should
have run for president, but I see the color of the dress as the haves and
the have notes. And let us not forget that the potential Republican
candidates, most of them have held high office. Either as executives or
members of the Congress. So I`m going to listen to 10 percent of what they
say, but 90 percent of what they have and they do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. They have .
TURNER: Impact. So it`s one thing to whisper those sweet nothings, but
it`s another thing to act upon them. We`re not just talking about average
citizens orange - you know, as orange is the new black, talking about
antipoverty is the new political talking point. But what are you going to
do and what have you done?
WELCH: I mean and to that point, and we have seen this week what happens
when Republicans control both Houses of Congress. They can`t really do
anything. I mean there`s an incompetence there. We don`t do the 12
spending bills a year that we were supposed to do. And even under unified
control. So, there`s divisions within the Republican Party. So, we`re a
long way off from enacting some of these pretty ideas that your - and your
Marco Rubios have come up with.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I guess I`m wondering so what then - because it can`t be
just we`re going to run on what we are not Chris Christie or we are not,
you know, Jeb Bush. Particularly in a general election, it would be tough
for Democrats to run on we are not Jeb Bush, because a lot of Democrats
will like that person as a candidate. So do Democrats have something new
to say about poverty alleviation, particularly given that the economy has
improved but poverty hasn`t. Are there a new set of Democratic ideals if,
in fact, Republicans are going to now they can claim we have a new set of
TURNER: I mean we really need to dig. And this is the responsibility of
both Democrats and Republicans. You know, we toss out - you know, we`re
happy when people work in a bipartisan way. Well, no stuff. American
people deserve better than that. Working class folks and middle class
folks deserve more than just the talking point of we`re working in a
bipartisan way. We should be doing the things that are necessary to lift
people whatever that takes. And there has been an unwillingness. I mean
we are all excited and giddy about Walmart. You know, a multibillion
dollar corporation finally seeing the light. Hello, they should have seen
the light a long time ago. What about those families who have been
suffering under the pressure of the working poor are among us in this
country and we need to do something about it. We have the power and the
capacity, both parties have been complicit in this.
WELCH: The Americans have this problem, which is that the Obama recovery
has been very, very weak compared to other recoveries, particularly the
Reagan recovery. Reagan and Obama came into office in pretty similar
circumstances. And so Republicans at CPAC are making the point we need 4.5
percent growth. Not 2.3 percent growth.
WELCH: Which we`ve seen, and that makes a huge difference.
HARRIS-PERRY: But this is - but this is - it`s not like Republicans have
been out of power during that time.
WELCH: Right. That is true.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Republicans have been standing there in the legislature.
WELCH: It`s the biggest problem Republicans have, is that there`s a thing
called Bush Republicans, which no Republican wants to be.
WELCH: Bush economic record was lousy even before the great recession.
So, they have to figure out a way to talk about that stuff while seeming
credible because they were not credible when they were in power.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, the big decision and big news that came out of
Attorney General Eric Holder`s Department of Justice this week.
HARRIS-PERRY: On Tuesday almost three years to the day that George
Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin. The Department of Justice
announced it was closing the investigation into the case after deciding not
to file charges against Mr. Zimmerman because of insufficient evidence.
Previously a jury acquitted Mr. Zimmerman on all charges. The variety of
evidence reviewed by federal investigators included dozens of witness
interviews, crime scene materials, cell phone data, ballistic reports,
medical and autopsy reports. Even the opinion of a biomechanical expert
hired to assess George Zimmerman`s description of the struggle and the
shooting. But it was insufficient, it was not enough to stack up to the
high burden of proof required for the Feds to accuse someone of taking
another person`s life because of their race.
In determining whether Zimmerman violated federal laws, the DOJ had to
weigh its evidence against the high bar set by two federal hate crime
statutes. One, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime
Prevention Act of 2009. It was named for the two men whose murders, both
in 1998, drew national attention because of the brutality and nature of the
killings. Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student whose
assailants tortured him, tied him to a fence and left him to die. And
James Byrd, an African-American resident of Jasper, Texas who was beaten,
tied to a truck and dragged to his death for more than three miles by three
men, two of whom were known white supremacists.
The law expanded federal hate crime protections to include victims of
violent acts based on sexual orientation and it removed a previous
restriction for a hate crime charge that required that victims of racially
motivated violence be involved in a federally covered activity like voting
or going to school. But the law also said that in addition to proving the
bodily injury was cause to another person because of race that the evidence
was also prove that the injury was caused willfully, which meant the DOJ
would have had to show that George Zimmerman knew he was committing an
illegal act and that he was committing it in open defiance of the law.
The department also considered whether he would run afoul of a second hate
crime statute against using force to interfere with the person`s federally
protected housing rights on the basis of race. But that law also requires
proof of willful intent. In fact, this is the standard for all federal
civil rights crimes. The government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt
that a person acted intentionally and with specific intent to break the law
and it is one of the highest standards of intent in all of criminal law.
But in an exit interview with NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams,
Attorney General Eric Holder suggested that high bar may be more of a
barrier to justice.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think that we do need to change the
law. That I think the standard is too high. That there is a better way,
in which we can have federal involvement in these kinds of matters to allow
the federal government to be a better backstop in examining these cases.
So, I think you have - there probably needs to be a change with regard to
the required standard of proof.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Attorney General Holder went on to say that he has some
ideas of his own about exactly what those changes should be and he`ll be
sharing them with Congress and the American people as one of his last acts
of attorney general. Still with me, former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner
and Matt Welch from “Reason” magazine, and joining my panel now is Phillip
Atiba Goff, who is professor of social psychology at UCLA and president of
the Center for Policing Equity. Also joining us from Chicago, Illinois,
Eugene O`Donnell, professor of law and police studies at John Jay College
of Criminal Justice and a former NYPD officer.
So Phillip, I want to come to you first. Is the standard of proof for the
Feds too high or do we want a good robust high standard before our federal
government can bring charges against us?
PHILLIP ATIBA GOFF, ASSOCIATE PROF. UCLA: I don`t think that those -
that`s an either/or situation, right? So, you don`t want someone brought
up on hate crimes charges when they were considering just liking someone
individually. That would be ridiculous. And I think that was the sort of
scare tactic that was used to make sure that the high bar was put into
place. But the attorney general was right. These standards don`t fit with
the kind of race relations that we have right now. These are standards to
protect people who have been lynched. These are not standards to protect
people who are living in a current racial situation. And the best evidence
for that is that when you have a lower bar, a more reasonable bar like the
pattern and practice things that the division of civil rights gets to do
with whole departments, right, then you have a whole set of investigations
that yield collaborative agreements and consent decrees that the community
can get behind and you see way less outreach as the result of that.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, so explain to me what the patterns thing is, which is
different than this other high bar. Just the folks who aren`t legal
experts listening can understand, and if you could tie it in, because we
have talked a lot on this show about what could potentially be the end of
desperate impact at the Supreme Court. And I guess part of what I`m
wondering is, if - impact falls, do all civil rights claims end up looking
like this with this very high bar where you have to show willful intent?
GOFF: Right. And so, basically there`s a dichotomy in the way you can
think about how race sort of leads to disparity. You have the individual
intent someone meant to do this and they meant to do it explicitly because
of race. That rarely, rarely happens. And even when it does happen, it`s
very difficult to prove. The otherwise to say, there`s no way that these
disparities happen and it was anything other than negligence along the way.
So the pattern and practice investigations that DOJ gets to do is they go
into a police department and they say, hey, I don`t care about your intent.
I care about your behavior. And the outcomes here seem really to be too
far out of whack with what they should be. So let`s work together to make
this a different set of outcomes for your community.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, obviously, Mr. Zimmerman was not on a police
force. Right? And so, it ends up being a quite different circumstance in
that case. But I don`t want to go to on this question because, you know,
clearly Mr. Zimmerman was not on a police force. He was a private citizen
acting, but so much of this has ended up getting tied into our general
conversation about the ways, in which police and communities are operating
or even the notion of policing these black bodies. And part of the angst,
I think, for so many is the sense that Trayvon Martin was vulnerable
because we begin to approach and assume that a young black man out at night
is always up to no good. And I`m wondering about how we start to take that
EUGENE O`DONNELL, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: You know, I think
before you get to the issue of reforming laws and federal statutes,
probably that case, the Trayvon Martin case, should have been handled much
differently and much more seriously and with much more thrust immediately.
Immediately he should have been locked into a story and cross-examined by
the police on the scene. It`s vital before the person has time to reflect,
reconstruct, assemble, that you pin down what exactly they are saying
occurred. I believe there was not adequate investigation on the scene, so
we`re probably talking about a little bit about police training today.
There is an issue right there where if the police had done their job
robustly, and treated him - you have got somebody lying on the ground, a
young person dead, treat that as a serious, ultra-serious matter. I think
there could have been a different outcome, perhaps, in that case.
HARRIS-PERRY: Eugene that is such an important point. I`m sorry that even
in my coverage of this, I had forgotten, right, that clearly, the initial
issue, the initial thrust for activism was around the fact that Mr.
Zimmerman had not been arrested. And therefore, there was this kind of -
this long delay. So I want to come to you in part, Nina, because I do feel
like Trayvon Martin became and remains this kind of symbol of the question
of justice. The family of Trayvon Martin said in response to finding out
that the DOJ is not going to go forward here, “We remain poised to do
everything in our power to help eradicate senseless violence in our
communities, because we don`t want any other parent to experience the
unexplainable loss we have endured. We will never, ever forget what
happened to our son Trayvon and will honor his memory by working tirelessly
to make the world a better place.”
And I love these parents so much, but man, I want more than just the
parents to be doing this. I want that statement to be coming from my
TURNER: Absolutely, and hopefully this will spark. I mean it takes a lot
for that family to take all of this grief and say we`re going to actively
engage and use every effort in our son`s memory to make this world a better
place. We do need folks all across the country, especially in elected
space, to say that, to be engaged, but professor, your point about the
whole notion that if a young black male is out, he must be up to no good.
Again, when Ice Cube talked about my skin is my sin, the DNA of this
country and until we are willing to admit it that racist tendencies that we
are all socialized, whether we`re black, white, Hispanic, Asian, we are
socialized in these United States of America to see black males,
particularly young black males differently from how we see other folks.
This takes action. And more than just – we start with the conversation,
but we need the action. Now in Ohio, Governor Kasich did set up the Ohio
task force for community and police relations, which is a beautiful thing.
How do we take what folks have to say all across the state of Ohio and give
them a constructive outlet to talk about how they are feeling in
communities that are overpoliced based on race or class?
HARRIS-PERRY: And I want to come back on exactly these topics, simply come
back, because now that the little lynch has passed the committee hurdle in
the Senate, Attorney General Eric Holder is likely in his very last days in
office. He says it will be news on Ferguson before he leaves office and we
want to talk a little bit more about where that story is likely going,
next. And we`ll get next - on this question.
HARRIS-PERRY: The end of the investigation into the death of Trayvon
Martin still leaves another major civil rights investigation on the agenda
for the Attorney General`s final days in office. Shortly after the
shooting death of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Justice Department
announced two separate investigations. One, looking into the circumstances
of Brown`s death and whether or not Officer Darren Wilson violated his
civil rights when he shot and killed the unarmed teen. The other is
investigating the Ferguson police department and the allegations of
systemic police abuses and racially bias policing. Last week during a Q&A
at the national press club, Mr. Holder said that a resolution to both
investigations may be coming soon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: It is my intention to announce our
determination of the decision that we have made both with regard to the
individual officer`s conduct in the shooting of Michael Brown as well as
the pattern of practice investigation that we have done into the Ferguson
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Attorney General Holder didn`t give any indication of the
end result of those investigations, but the civil rights investigation into
Officer Wilson will face the same high legal bar as the recently concluded
George Zimmerman case. The question of whether or not Wilson willfully
took the life of Mike Brown. As you already know, a jury chose not to
indict Wilson on any criminal charges. And so, but I want to come to you,
because I know for many people who want to see some form of justice, the
federal government has been the kind of last resort of where to go get it
when states and localities haven`t provided that. What you were bringing
up in the break that it also raises concerns about double jeopardy
questions. But it doesn`t in the case of the whole police force, right?
It`s one thing .
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s one thing vis-…-vis Zimmerman or vis-…-vis Wilson, but
not vis-…-vis the whole .
WELCH: I think pattern and practice is the appropriate place for the
federal government to the civil rights division to approach these types of
things. I would also say this, you know, the Attorney General Holder gave
the speech about how we`re going to stop racial profiling and -(INAUDIBLE)
as a direct result of this kind of stuff and there`s talks of task forces
and discussions at the White House. We don`t need to talk about it really
anymore. There are so many tools including in the Ferguson case that are
wrong that lead to these injustices.
We have grand jury processes led by local prosecutor – grand jury was set
up in the Constitution to put a check on local prosecutorial power. It`s
instead become in a way to indict a ham sandwich, except if the ham
sandwich is a cop. This is the way that local power structures enforce
their own selves. So, we have 400 police shootings in this country, which
is about 400 more than countries like the Netherlands every year. About
seven of which ever get, you know, kind of wrongful death situation. This
is because we have all these incentives. Prosecutors have blanket immunity
in most cases. So if they have repeated examples of misbehavior, of lying,
of supporting perjury from people, police officers pretty much have blanket
immunity in this country. These are the ways, in which this kind of
structure, this kind of injustices happen. So, we need to address those.
We know what those are. We know that the forensics in this country are
just completely bogus junk science. We know that the drug war creates both
prohibition and tools by which you can get harassed in the streets of New
York. Go after those things for - and you`ll get a lot of lives saved.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you did - let me ask you about that. That sense that
there`s a blanket immunity for police officers, that they are sort of
allowed to behave on the city streets, on the country streets in any way
that they - Is that how officers experience themselves? Because, you know,
it certainly feels that way when you have these two high profile cases, but
I`m wondering sort of whether or not officers are operating in the world
with that sense of, we`re not going to be held accountable.
O`DONNELL: Police have a brought mandate, there`s no question about it.
We`re a nation of washing guns. The Netherlands are not. Police deal with
gun violence all the time. What the attorney general is doing, I think,
does have a value. He`s - there`s a deterrent effect to having this
conversation. But no question the police have a lot of power. It`s
difficult, though. This red state, blue state, this transcends politics.
Very different to micromanage, difficult to micromanage the police. And we
do keep expanding the rim (ph) every year. We`re asking them to do more.
And then the final thing, it`s really worth saying, we have to make sure
the public is included in this conversation. We can`t have an elite
conversation where we`re imposing on people what they want. If you go to
communities, they tend to want the police to be engaged. And so, this kind
of libertarian notion that the police are the enemy. That`s not true on
the ground, I don`t think.
HARRIS-PERRY: Phillip, does that resonate with you?
GOFF: Absolutely. It resonates that communities want active and engaged
law enforcement. But to the question of, our law enforcement feeling -
they`d got a brought mandate. I was talking with Commissioner Ramsey who
is the police commissioner from Philadelphia and the co-chair of the
presidential task force on 21 century policing. I was on a panel with him
a week or so ago. And he mentioned to me a story about a young officer who
was responding to a robbery in progress. And the officer ended up with a
deep graze mark right by his eye. Inches away from losing his life. But
when he arrived on the scene, he knew he had to - hold for his gun, in his
bed at the hospital what he said to the commissioner was, my first thought
was Ferguson. So, that`s not just about the discussion was out there like
that. That`s about I was worried about losing my job and I was worried
about how do I know when I`m doing the right thing. We need to not just
begin this conversation. . We need to find a way to settle it that`s in
the best interest of the communities and officer safety.
GOFF: Because they feel like they have got not just - well, I got
immunity, I might get - I might lose my job for doing my job given the
climate of the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, that`s - I think, stick with us. Much more about it,
because I want to talk a little bit about the police shooting of an unarmed
man in Pasco. You may or may not have heard of this one yet.
HARRIS-PERRY: The small city of Pasco, Washington has been the site of
ongoing protests for the last two weeks in response to this moment. A 35-
year-old Antonio Zambrano-Montes who was shot and killed by police in a
hail of bullets. Police said shots were fired after Zambrano-Montes threw
rocks at passing cars and at officers who responded to the scene. The
results of the police investigation announced this week that Zambrano-
Montes was hit by five or six bullets, none of them from behind. But a
second autopsy commissioned by an attorney for his family differed in a key
detail. These findings determined that he was shot as many as seven times,
including twice from behind. Ms. Turner, have we come to what will be sort
of the West Coast version of a Ferguson at this point?
TURNER: Yes, we have, and this is really sad. And even though we still
have to continue to have an open mind and allow the facts to play out, the
bottom line is this, was it necessary to shoot to kill? That happened to
him. What was his psychological state? What was going on at the time that
this happened? Yes, this is gut wrenching in many, many ways and we have
to definitely put a stop to this kind of behavior. It just makes no sense
that that day he would lose his life.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the little closer to home, I think the one that
continues to just break all of our hearts is a 12-year-old Tamir Rice, and
the Cleveland - yesterday said the city of Cleveland responds to the Tamir
Rice lawsuit by saying that the boy`s death was caused by his own actions.
I presume that you have former constituent`s friends, family who are just
appalled by this.
TURNER: Yeah, and being a former Cleveland City council member, I`m just
shaking my head. And again, it does not make sense. Less than two seconds
from when the police pulled on the scene this 12-year-old boy was shot and
killed. He didn`t even have an opportunity to kind of comply, if you will.
This does not make sense. Children should not be shot in the streets of
the United States of America. And I`m very disappointed.
HARRIS-PERRY: And this was on the playground.
TURNER: On the playground. And - pointed .
WELCH: But remember that the police lied about what happened and the video
showed that it was wrong. And then said well, you know, he looks big, he`s
kind of intimidating.
HARRIS-PERRY: A little .
WELCH: Black boys always look bigger than .
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Gene, let me come to you on this, because, you know,
this shooting in Pasco and then, again, community protests and the hands
up, we heard from Phillip before, you know, on the one hand you have
communities that are feeling kind of the way that this whole overlay is,
but also for the officers, is this making the world more dangerous, more
dangerous for officers, more dangerous for communities? Are we actually
undermining public safety by the actions of these officers?
O`DONNELL: Well, the NYPD right now is retraining all its officers. And
they were mocked - because they said that they are telling officers to
think, take a second, take a deep breath, think before you act and this
became sort of an issue of mockery. I ran into a hero officer this week
who said that`s the first commandment of policing.
O`DONNELL: And you see some of these events and you wonder why the people
are thinking before they act. Or they simply - we`re trying to get the
police to be reflective and action oriented together. And, you know,
mental health is, you know, we have had this conversation, don`t want to -
but giving the cops a little bit, just a little bit, not a lot, of mental
health knowledge allows them to think before they act. You take a deep
breath and say what am I dealing with here? Somebody`s throwing rocks at
my police car. What`s up with this?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah. Indeed, I think that point about that one second and
how it could actually save lives. And again, make the world a safer place
for all of our communities involved. Thank you to you, Gene O`Donnell in
Still to come this morning, our discussion on Patricia (INAUDIBLE), the
fallout from the Oscars, third way feminism. But first, flash bang
grenades. I`m telling you, you do not want to miss this conversation,
HARRIS-PERRY: An extensive report by independent investigative journalism
outlet ProPublica details the story of one night last May when a SWAT team
raided a home in a tiny town of Cornelia, Georgia looking for a suspected
meth dealer. Generally police are supposed to knock and announce
themselves before entering your home, but the SWAT team in Georgia had a
no-knock warrant, that is legal permission to burst in unannounced. No-
knock warrants are increasingly used in drug raids, ostensibly to prevent
suspects from destroying evidence when they hear police arrive. At around
2:00 a.m. that night in May, the SWAT team in Cornelia tried to force the
front door open with a battering ram, but something blocked the door from
opening all the way and allowing the SWAT team to see in. So, one of the
officers tossed in a flash bang grenade. It`s a device that temporarily
blinds and deafens anyone in the vicinity. Police use the flash bang
grenades to stunt suspects in drug raids or to break up crowds. Here`s
footage of the Portland, Oregon, police deploying flash bangs to clear
protesters in November.
HARRIS-PERRY: So that`s the type of device that a SWAT team in Cornelia,
Georgia tossed through the front door of a home in the middle of the night.
The officers didn`t know that there was a playpen just inside the door.
They didn`t know that a one-year-old boy was sleeping inside. The flash-
bang grenade landed on his pillow and according to numerous media reports,
the child known as Bubu was badly hurt. He was in the hospital for weeks
and underwent multiple surgeries. His family says they owe $1.6 million in
medical bills. The county sheriff has said that the officers acted
appropriately based on the information they had at the time that no
children were in the house. A state grand jury declined to indict any of
the deputies involved. For Bubu`s family, the ordeal is not over. Bubu`s
parents say he will need surgery at least every two years until he`s fully
grown. They say he often wakes up in the night screaming and shaking. It
almost seems like he`s remembering what happened, his mother Cho (ph) told
ProPublica. In a devastating report about flash bangs called “Hotter than
Joining our table now is the author, one of the authors of that report,
ProPublica senior reporter Julia Angwin. So, Julia, how common are these
flash-bangs and how common are legal actions against officers who use them
and end up harming children or other civilians?
JULIA ANGWIN, SENIOR REPORTER PROPUBLICA: So, what`s surprising to me
about what I learned about flash bangs was that they are used really
routinely. They are something that is really designed to disarm somebody
who is about to shoot you, but in fact, they are used for low-level drug
raids often. In Georgia, I found one jurisdiction used them on almost
every raid. But the injuries can be very severe because the temperature
inside that burning fireball when they throw it is actually hotter than
lava. That`s what we kind of - and so it`s severe burns that occur. And
we have never seen, we couldn`t find any police ever been indicted for
tossing one of these grenades and injuring someone or killing someone.
HARRIS-PERRY: Can you tell us the story of Sharon Kay Harris?
ANGWIN: Sharon Kay Harris is a woman, a 56 years old grandmother in Little
Rock who I found. And she had a little business selling food out of a food
truck, which actually is a trailer that she drove around. But on Sunday
she would sell it from home along with some beer, which was illegal, it`s a
misdemeanor offense, to sell liquor without a license from your home. So,
the police sent in an informant to buy food and beer from her, then they
sent a second time. And then for this $100 fine misdemeanor they raided
her home, threw in a flash bang, broke down her door and, you know, caught
her clothes on fire. She was fine, luckily, but it shows to the level of -
level of a crime, which these devices are being used for.
HARRIS-PERRY: Honestly? I can - are you serious? I mean I almost don`t
know what else to say except have we got on to a point where police forces
are - let me back up for a second. Because every time I hear one of these
stories, it just makes me so angry and I just think, OK, the police have
lost their entire minds, right? But then I think OK, but wait a minute.
Is it an empirical question whether or not things are getting better or
worse? Whether or not civilians are actually in circumstances where they
are more or less likely to be in these kinds of confrontations with police?
You an empiricist. What do we know? Is it getting better or worse?
GOFF: So, the short answer is we know way less than we should. In the big
cities, by all accounts and from all the data that I have ever reviewed,
the numbers of police involved use of forces, particularly the deadly
forces, are going down dramatically. But we have to remember 75 percent of
departments have people less than 25 officers on them. And we don`t know
almost anything about that. Right? So, if most three quarters of the
officers are in these really small departments where it`s, you know, ten
people, seven people, right? There`s not necessarily enough if you have
got one shooting in a year, two shootings in a year, you know, three flash
bangs, that`s not enough to see an uptick or downtick in the department,
but because we don`t collect national data, we would miss the larger
national trend and that`s hugely, hugely important.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me come back to you for a second, Julia. Because
Little Rock is not a small town, but it isn`t Chicago, it isn`t Detroit, it
isn`t what we often think of this kind of central policing moments
happening. I did want to read that the Little Rock Police Department did
have a response to this. They said, you may see a large number of flash
bang deployments, but what we see is a large service of warrants without
gunfire. That`s coming from the Little Rock department`s spokesman Sidney
Allen. The idea, right, that, well, we didn`t shoot anyone being the
standard still strikes me as surprising as a standard for police work.
ANGWIN: Right. And, well, the thing what they mean by that, actually is
not - is that they are concerned that all these people they are raiding are
going to shoot them.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or, that they will have.
ANGWIN: And so, the thing is that I don`t think it would have taken a lot
of police work to realize that Sharon Kay Harris who I met, who is about 5
feet tall grandmother, wasn`t going to shoot them, right? And so, the
question is .
HARRIS-PERRY: And we`re talking about a misdemeanor violation.
ANGWIN: And for a misdemeanor violation. So, the question is, like I
understand they want to have a risk-free policing environment, but I also
think that there doesn`t seem to be enough work going into who is actually
really a risk.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, where do the flash bangs come from? Because look, on
the one hand, I`m trying to breathe through the DOJ and then not having the
Zimmerman and whatever is going to happen in Ferguson. But as I`m trying
to breathe through on OK, the DOJ can only do so much, then I keep asking,
so where did these military style equipment come from?
WELCH: It started with SWAT in Los Angeles, California. Daryl Gates,
thank you very much, and the television show then also helped out and then
people got the idea that instead of SWAT it was supposed to be for bank
robberies. There is supposed .
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Very narrow.
WELCH: Right. And now what they are used for, I think more than 90
percent, the empiricists will correct me, but more than 90 percent of SWAT
raids or SWAT style raids are done to enforce drug warrants. So, we get
back to the idea of .
HARRIS-PERRY: Drug war.
WELCH: It`s drug war stuff here and again, there`s no consequences for
going on the wrong house, the wrong door, no-knock raids with the flash-
GOFF: So that`s right, but I would also add to it, I don`t know that you
want to put this all on Daryl Gates. There`s not a law, there`s not a
general agreement on a federal level state or municipal level that
proportionality needs to be a standard. It is in the U.K. So here it`s
about intent and did you follow the rules and that`s what officers are
trained to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Can we get - can we get one? Can we get a federal rule?
GOFF: Well, you would need some serious motivation, but if you don`t have
proportionality as one of the absolute rules, if they are not held
accountable to proportionality, then what they will say is, this was to the
standard and they are right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Nina and Matt are going to return in the next hour. Thank
you to Phillip Atiba Goff and to Julia Angwin. Thank you so much for that
reporting. We are just stunned by it here in Nerdland.
Still to come this morning, he says defeating labor unions proves that he`s
ready to take on ISIS and he`s the guy at the top of the Republican polls.
Plus, Oscars, (INAUDIBLE) and third wave feminism. You know that - top of
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
Today, conservative Republicans wrap up their annual massive party on the
Potomac. The Conservative Political Action Conference brings together the
party faithful, high profile GOP leaders, and this year, several presumed
presidential candidates. Some early polls already have Wisconsin Governor
Scott Walker leading that pack of candidates, none of whom have officially
announced their running, by the way.
Now, Walker`s CPAC speech brought the crowd to its feet. However, it is
what he said during the Q&A portion of his appearance that grabbed national
attention, the coded remarks about how he would deal with terrorist groups
like ISIS by saying this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. SCOTT WALKER (R), WISCONSIN: If I could take on 100,000 protesters, I
can do the same across the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, those protesters that he`s referring to were state
Just weeks after taking office in 2011, Walker succeeded in ending
collective bargaining rights for the state`s public sector unions. Now,
there are plenty of reasons that comparing that fight to ISIS is a bad
But it does highlight the importance that the governor places on his battle
against labor unions. After all, it`s the issue that first earned him
national political prominence. Walker went on to survive a recall election
in 2012, and to win reelection last year.
While many signs suggest that members of the Wisconsin working class are
worst off than four years later, Walker`s political star has continued to
rise. So, perhaps, it`s no wonder that he`s lashing out at labor unions
On Wednesday, the Wisconsin state Senate passed so-called right-to-work
legislation. Now, I know right-to-work sounds great, but it`s actually a
death knell for labor unions. The bill says that employees in the private
sector, think car manufacturers or hospitals, cannot be required to join a
union even if wages are negotiated bay union. Opponents say that right-to-
work laws ultimately weaken unions by drying up their funds. Supporters
say, having the laws on the books, attract companies and boost revenue.
Governor Walker, he says bring it on. If the bill makes it through the
state assembly and lands on his desk, he`s promised to sign it.
Now, a few states away, however, unions are giving another Republican
governor labor pains this week. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie first
won national Republican hearts when he enacted pension reform in New
Jersey. He bragged about his success during his speech at the Republican
National Convention in 2012.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: They said it was impossible to touch
the third rail of politics, to take on the public sector unions and to
reform a pension and health benefit system that was headed to bankruptcy.
But with bipartisan leadership, we saved taxpayers $132 billion over 30
years and saved retirees their pensions. We did it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Or not.
It turns out in New Jersey, like in many other states, public pensions are
severely underfunded and eating up a growing share of state budgets.
Christie negotiated a deal where both public employees and the government
pay more into the system. He was lauded by moderates everywhere. This
worked for a couple years, but when Christie found himself unable to the
balance a state budget last year, he opted to cut the government`s pension
Labor unions sued and on Monday, they won. A New Jersey judge said that
the governor broke his own law and was obligated to fully contribute to the
system. It remains to be seen how Christie will respond.
What is clear is that those very issues that helped Christie to gain
national prominence may now hurt his viability as a presidential candidate.
One issue, two governors, two very different political outcomes. What does
it mean for their political futures?
Joining me now, former State Senator Nina Turner, Matt Welch, editor-in-
chief of “Reason” magazine, and Fred Azcarate, executive director of U.S.
So, Fred, it looks like Mr. Walker is doing well among Republicans
hopefuls. It`s still quite early. Does that strike fear in the heart of
labor and of labor unions around the country?
FRED AZCARATE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, USACTION: Well, I mean, I think you see
both governors, right? They are so blinded by political ambition. They
will do anything. Chris Christie is willing to break the law. Scott
Walker is willing to enact policies that will bring down wages in his
state. And what he said this week at CPAC, it really actually – it`s
worse than we thought. He really has disdain for workers in Wisconsin,
right? And he hasn`t apologized. He hasn`t retracted his statement, and I
think he should. He should apologize to the hard working men and women of
MATT WELCH, REASON MAGAZINE: He did tiptoe it back. He didn`t say, I`m
sorry for saying –
HARRIS-PERRY: But what I will say and we have to put this at the feet of
voters. The man did survive a recall and he was reelected. So, I mean, I
feel you, but the nature of democracy is these people went out and they
were like, yep, that again.
NINA TURNER (D-OH), FORMER STATE SENATOR: I can hardly stand it. Governor
Walker compared the citizens of his state to terrorists for standing up –
HARRIS-PERRY: He said he`s strong. I`m not sure if he called them –
TURNER: No, listen, the governor said that he can handle ISIS because he
could handle the constituents in his state who were standing up for their
wages and how they pay their mortgage and how they put food on their table.
There`s something outrageous about this.
But you`re right, unfortunately, last year, only 36 percent of eligible
voters even dared to come out to vote. So, all paths lead back to the
But give me a break, the last time I checked, there were Republicans in
unions and Democrats and libertarians and everybody in between.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is an important point that feels like I want to go
all the way back, Matt, to the very first block when we were all sitting
here together and talking about Republicans have a new way of addressing
poverty, right? We really can look and see that all workers` wages rise
when unions exist. So, even if you yourself aren`t in a union, in states
where there are unionized workforces, wages rise. So, how can this hour be
the same as last hour, right?
WELCH: There`s two different conceptions. There are competing conception,
both of which are heartfelt. One is yours, that more unionization means,
better – broader more shared prosperity. There`s the general right-to-
work state conception, which is more Southern, which is that you bring more
jobs and that will create prosperity.
I think Scott Walker generally feels that. I think he went after unions in
the beginning because he, like a lot of people, and I would agree with him
here, have think we have made too many public sector union promises that we
can`t keep. Chris Christie actually can`t and won`t keep the promises that
they may and that needs reform. I think that is an attractive message.
I`m not sure on a nationwide basis whether the whole right-to-work battle
resonates as much because we have sifted into blue and red states on this
issue and they are competing notions of prosperity, again heartfelt –
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I feel you on pensions, right? In the sense of there
are real fiscal issues associated with pensions and some of that occurs as
a result of us not knowing how long it was that people are going to live,
right? The world actually shifted under our feet.
WELCH: And also, the difference between defined benefit and defined
contribution, which is a huge –
AZCARATE: It`s about choices.
HARRIS-PERRY: Wouldn`t unions be willing to talk about that? I guess part
of that –
AZCARATE: In New Jersey, they were. There was a deal and Chris Christie
went back on the deal. Workers paid more. They said we`re going to pay
more for our pensions.
Chris Christie, you have to do your share. He was unwilling to tax people
over $1 million more.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. And what happens with the context of Walker, it`s a
breaking of the ability to sit at the table at all, right? I mean, it`s
one thing to say, all right, we have a problem here. Everybody has got to
come to the table.
It`s another thing to say you don`t have a right to sit as an organized
union at the table.
AZCARATE: Right, when you eliminate collective bargaining, the ability to
sit at the table and have that conversation about how we can bargain our
wages and benefits, working conditions and do what`s best for our state or
TURNER: Most people when they know this, they will sit down at the table
and bargain. They will do the right thing. I mean, we saw that –
HARRIS-PERRY: Workers don`t want to bankrupt their state.
WELCH: But we are seeing cities go bankrupt. Let`s be clear about this.
In San Bernardino, California, in Vallejo, California, in lots of cities,
in Rhode Island, and elsewhere, the public sector pension problem is $4
trillion that`s basically an unfunded liability there. It is bankrupting
And that – those discussions sometimes don`t lead to results to avoid
those bankruptcies. So, there`s something worth dealing.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, let me ask a political question. The same
question around poverty – are any Democrats better positioned? Because
part of what I`m wondering, so if Republicans are going to be the anti-
unions, right, I don`t know if they are, but that`s going to be part of
their message, can Democrats after particularly what happened with
education unions and the kind of education reform discourse of the past few
terms, can they really say we`re on the side of unions?
TURNER: I mean, we – yes, Democrats are on the side of unions.
TURNER: But there is a however in all of this. I mean, we all have to
have what I want to call the coming to Jesus meeting and have that meeting
on a regular basis. But the way to address these things are not on the
backs of working folks. That is not the way to address this.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tina Turner with the black church tradition, at least you
don`t know about, the come to Jesus meeting, Twitter will explain to you
what a come to Jesus meeting is.
Up next, guess who is about to get paid more? Maybe you.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, the parent company of T.J.Maxx, Marshalls and
Home Goods, said it would begin paying workers $9 an hour starting in June.
Analysts seem to agree that the company, which employed 190,000 people, is
following the lead of Walmart. The nation`s largest private employer
announced last week that it would increase base pay for its workers to $9
by April and to $10 by next February.
Now, this news raises the possibility that more retailers will follow suit,
with 1 in 4 American workers being in the industry that has the potential
to help a lot of people.
Why the change at Walmart?
Now, it apparently had little to do with anything to do with pressure from
organized labor. Instead, CEO Doug McMillon told CNBC the move simply made
good business sense.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOUG MCMILLON, PRESIDENT/CEO, WALMART STORES, INC.: We just decided this
is a really good moment to be more bold in the changes that we`re making
and, again, it`s really aimed at just running a really good business.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, have American companies finally decided to respond to
years of mounting public pressure to raise wages or is this move more
symbolic than substantive? So, what do you think of this idea that it has
nothing to do with the protests?
AZCARATE: Well, of course, it did, let`s be honest. If there wasn`t the
protests and Our Walmart and UFCW, putting pressure on them, we never would
have changed the wage policy. And that`s a good thing that they have,
But, of course, that, the Fight for 15, all the moves around the country to
raise the minimum wage and raise the issue of wages, they are having an
impact and that`s great. It`s a good first step. It`s not enough. And I
think you`ll see some pressure continue.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Matt, you and I have had this debate on this show before
about minimum wage and what it does, right? Whether it is overall a good
thing for the economy or not. And here we have the Walmart CEO saying, oh,
it`s not the unions. We just think it`s good business sense.
Is this them kind of rolling back the idea that raising higher wages,
paying higher wages is bad?
WELCH: I think – I don`t think that anyone says that paying higher rates
is bad, right? Like the argument against the minimum wage is not an
argument against Walmart raising its minimum wage. I think people get
confused about that sometimes. I think Walmart, in the last six, seven
years, partly because it had the biggest target on its back for the longest
time, like for more than a decade, Walmart was the devil when it came to
organizing against a single corporation in this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it`s got a big footprint.
WELCH: It has – no, I mean, there`s a reason why they were chosen as
such. They started to play it nice. They started giving money to liberal
groups in Washington, D.C. We know this pretty well. They started
figuring out how to be more environmentally-friendly. They started
speaking with words – using words like sustainable.
They started figuring how to play ball, I think this is part of that. I
hope it`s purely economic thing and that it`s a sign that our economy is
starting to finally to spike up. I worry that it`s more of a political
HARRIS-PERRY: This is such an interesting and important point to me. So
many of the bad actors that have a target on their back either around civil
rights questions at some point or another, you know, we have seen other
major corporations that when they make their settlement or peace, you go to
the good organizations and they are sponsored by –
WELCH: Donald Trump got an NAACP award.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have feelings about that.
TURNER: As far as (INAUDIBLE) power can seize nothing without a struggle.
Never has, never will.
So, I certainly agree, it was from the pressure. But before we get too
excited, it is good. But I have to put a however on this point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, yes.
TURNER: Walmart is a $500 billion company. So it took them this long to
see the light? This is the morally right thing to do to make sure that
your work verse a wage that they can live on. Not just survive, but to
thrive. We have to take people in this country, working class people from
surviving to thriving.
HARRIS-PERRY: And morally right is one piece, but I just – I want to
point about the big target, right? It`s not just because they make a lot
of money, because it`s capitalism, we think people should make a lot of
But they actually double dip in the system, right? Because what happens is
if your wages are so low that your workers continue to be able to get
government subsidies particularly food subsidies and those food subsidies
are spent, where, at the one place you can buy cheap groceries which is
Walmart. You`re literally double like – your money is coming back around
to you in this way that I do think people find appalling.
This idea of paying people working full-time poverty wages, wages so low
that the federal government and taxpayers put the floor underneath them.
We are literally subsidizing them.
TURNER: Seventy percent of our economy is a consumer economy. We need
people to be viable in that economy. It should be – it`s unacceptable.
AZCARATE: We find it appalling because it is, right? And the fact is
we`re long overdue for a conversation about wages in this country. We have
had, you know, 30 years of wage stagnation, while productivity has been
going up, wages have stayed flat. And it`s time that, you know, we talk
about raising wages.
HARRIS-PERRY: And do Americans feel that? I mean, one of the things,
like, you know, if we are going to have a free market push towards
imagining we work hard and because we work hard we get to have homes and
make the American life. The idea that we literally are working harder and
not feeling it, I feel like Americans experience it in a way they can`t
even put their finger on.
WELCH: Yes, it`s been 15 years like this. This is in a Bush/Obama
phenomenon and, you know, irrespective of the Great Recession. So like
wages really haven`t grown in 15 years. Private sector employment has not
grown. It did not grow under Bush until 2007. There was a net loss in
private sector jobs. That is a long time for not very exciting economy
So, people have a sense of when Obama or anybody from the administration
tries to tout their economic record, I think people kind of get their nails
out a little bit. We don`t feel it. We don`t feel like that it`s really
experiencing it, especially when we have a labor participation rate lower
than anytime since 1978. That`s not a great moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: Matt Welch, you have been hanging out at CPAC and you coined
the phrase Bush/Obama phenomenon. I don`t know if I`m going to let you –
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t know if I`m going to let you get away with that one.
Nina and Matt are sticking around.
Thank you to Fred for being here.
And still to come, how Patricia Arquette set Twitter on fire this week.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, I want to bring in now from Madison, Wisconsin, Scot
Ross. He`s executive director of One Wisconsin Now.
Scot, I want to go back for a second to this idea of Scott Walker, the ways
in which he`s leading out there in front at CPAC and ask you what would it
mean for the Republican Party if Scott Walker ends up being the Republican
SCOT ROSS, ONE WISCONSIN NOW: Well, I`ll tell you, Melissa, you know,
Scott Walker is the most experienced post-baby boomers elected official in
America. This guy`s politics incarnate. And he operates in a way which is
definitive, decisive, divisive and disciplined. And he`s also kind of
And what that would mean for America is what you`ve seen in Wisconsin,
which is a state which has never been more divided. We see the biggest
cuts to public education in our state`s history. We see last in the
Midwest in job creation and the rights of workers, women and voters all
That`s what Scott Walker will bring to the United States. But what he also
brings is he`s a winner. And he`s got a big money machine behind him and
he is shameless and operates in a way which a lot of politicians don`t.
But he`s been a winner.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Scot, I want to play something for you. This was
sponsored by the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce. It`s kind of a pro-
right to work or anti-union piece. I want to play it because what you said
is you`re last in job creation, but this is the discourse about why right
to work should be creating jobs.
Let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we see in right to work states is higher wage
growth, higher job growth, greater economic opportunity, businesses
investing more. These are the kinds of things we want to bring to
Wisconsin. It`s why Wisconsin needs a right to work law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, adjudicate those claims to me. Is that happens? Higher
job growth. Higher wage growth and greater economic opportunity?
ROSS: It`s literally the opposite. I mean, right to work states have an
average of $5,000 less in household income. They spend $3,400 less per
people on education.
They have higher rates of u unemployment. They have higher rates of people
without insurance. They have higher rates of people of infant mortality
I mean, right to work is a disaster. It`s wrong for Wisconsin. It`s wrong
for America. But what it does do is rewards millionaires, billionaires and
corporate CEOs who finance things like Governor Walker`s campaigns. That`s
why they want to do it.
I mean, the right wing and corporations wouldn`t be spending zillions of
dollars to pass right to work if it wasn`t going to benefit corporations
and millionaires over the middle class. That`s what we have seen.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I know that you`re the executive director of One
Wisconsin Now, and you`re planning to rally today?
ROSS: Yes, there`s a rally at noon Central Time here in Wisconsin. People
standing up for workers` right rights. You know, that`s what we have had
to do here in Wisconsin because they have been under assault since Scott
Walker took office.
He promised to create 250,000 jobs. Well, what was the first thing he did?
He attacked the rights of 175,000 working Wisconsinites. People like
teachers, people like nurses, people who plow the streets, you know, the
people who he now refers to as being equated to ISIS because they disagree
And so, people are getting together. There`s going to be a rally today.
We continue to fight against right to work in the same way we have been
trying to fight his other attacks on the Wisconsin way of life.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, Scot Ross in Madison, Wisconsin, one thing that`s
certainly true is that this is a candidate who has survived a lot, who is,
as you point out, a winner, whether one agrees with his policies or not,
and that makes me bet that we`re going to see a lot more of you over this
course of the Republican primary season because what happens with Scott
Walker, we`ll want to keep drawing you back in and having a conversation
about him. So, thank you to Scot Ross in Madison, Wisconsin.
And up next, the Oscars, intersectionality and third way feminism. You
know it`s the Nerdland show.
HARRIS-PERRY: Last Sunday was the 87th Annual Academy Awards. Few
nominations went to people of color earning the Twitter derision and
hashtag, #oscarssowhite, when the nominees were announced back in January.
But host Neil Patrick Harris did recognize a few actors of color during the
program. Not everyone appreciated the way he did. Harris` longest running
bit of the night was with Octavia Butler. He asked Butler to help him
watch his list of carefully guarded Oscar predictions.
Of course, he explained the task required her diligence and undivided
attention. He stipulated one rule in particular, quote, “No snacks”.
Now the ongoing joke stirred up discomfort from many Twitter watching the
show and prompted responses like this one from MSNBC correspondent Janet
Mock. “Hey, #Oscars, #Octaviaspencer is not #thehelp. You can watch that
ballot box on your own.”
Or this from author and feminist thinker Roxane Gay, “Typical, Octavia
Spencer plays a maid, wins an Oscar and is expected to work at the
But nothing sparked social media quite like the statement Patricia Arquette
made in the backstage press room, elaborating on a rallying cry she made
for wage equality during her acceptance speech.
She said, “It`s inexcusable that we go around the world and we talk about
equal rights for women in other countries and we don`t. It`s time for all
the women in America and all the men who love women and all the gay people
and all the people of color that we`ve fought for to fight for us now.”
Arquette`s speech during the ceremony was heartfelt, but her pose showed
elaboration revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of a key feminist
concept, that marginal identities like gender or race, sexual orientation
and class, are not separate, they are fundamentally intersecting.
Nerdland friend David Zirin wrote, “What is so aggravating is that Ms.
Arquette`s comments could best be as, quote, `anti-intersectional`. It
states pretty clearly that you see your struggle as one of straight, white,
native-born women for equal pay, as if there aren`t masses of people who
live beneath the weight of multiple labels that benefit from such reforms.”
Well, never in my territory. Welcome to feminism 101. Ain`t I a woman?
Still with me, former Ohio state senator, Nina Turner. Matt Welch from
And joining me now, a double dose from Feministing.com executive director
Lori Adelman and senior columnist Chloe Angyal.
So, Lori, surely this was also the land of Feministing, what exactly was
wrong? What went wrong with Arquette`s speech and her subsequent comments?
LORI ADELMAN, FEMINISTING.COM: Well, unfortunately, this has been
difficult for people to understand through the years, but not all women are
white and straight. I know that this is difficult, you have to go back and
you named this segment “ain`t I a woman”, Sojourner Truth has been talking
to us about this since the 1800s. And then, so many amazing feminists have
been pointing this out. Hey, we exist, we are women of color, there are
queer women, there are trans women, and we need to be part of this movement
because feminism will not succeed unless it`s working for all women.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, when you do this thing that is – oh, you know, we
fought for the blacks, now fight for us. Hey, some of us are the blacks
and the women all at the same time.
So, part of the question then is so what difference does it make, right?
So, part of what I kept hearing from folks in response to us, OK, sure,
there are black women too and Arquette herself says, yes, they too would
benefit. That queer women would benefit, just as much as straight women
from this. So, it doesn`t make any difference if I`m intersectional in my
CHLOE ANGYAL, FEMINISTING.COM: Well, trickle down feminism works about as
well as trickle down economics. And it`s absolutely true that inequality
at the top, and when I say at the top, I mean straight white privileged
women like myself, we`re doing much, much better than most women and we`re
So, inequality at the top absolutely predicts inequality down the line, but
there are so many more people down the line that are focusing on the women
at the top isn`t going to cut it. It`s just not going to do it. We need
to think about the people who live at those most disadvantaged
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you just used the language of privilege. And I do want
to say, Arquette really took to Twitter afterwards. You really, I mean,
this is not sort of like a small mishap. She had a conversation that she
wanted to have.
She addressed the privileged question quite directly. I wanted to read one
of her tweets on the issue of privilege, where she says basically that I`m
not – you say I`m living with privilege, but I grew up poor, right? We`ll
see if we can get that tweet out.
She says, I grew up poor. There we go. “Don`t talk to me about privilege.
As a kid, I lived well below the poverty line. No matter where I am, I
won`t forget women`s struggle.”
So, is there something to be said?
TURNER: Well, I think that`s fair on her part. I mean, she was certainly
speaking from her heart. She thought she was saying the right thing. She
had no mal-intent.
That being said, to have a deeper and greater understanding about the
struggle of women who may or may not ever make it to where she has made it
in life, you know, it is totally unacceptable. I think her point about us
being a country that continues to fight for other folks which is a
beautiful thing, but yet, right here in the United States, we still have 77
cents on the dollar for white women.
If you are a women with some chocolate or bronze on you, you know, it`s
even less for chocolate. We need to deal with that because when women
suffer that way economically, we are penalizing their children,
communities, you know, states and nations. So, it behooves us economically
and morally. I`m going to continue to push the moral position.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I just want to ask this. This has been my sub tweet to
Nina Turner all day because she and I really only disagree on one
fundamental topic and that is the likely Democratic nominee in 2016.
And I have been pretty clear that I am not a big fan of Hillary Clinton,
right, running in 2016. But that said, let me suggest that there is an
actual empirical piece that`s part of that angst for me. And that is, I
get that she is like an embodiment of womanhood. There`s been discussion
about her running as a woman, gender and all of this.
But, like, when we look at the breakdowns, the intersectional reality is
that that gender gap is actually a race gap. It`s actually black women and
Latinos who have been supporters of President Obama`s initial election and
reelection. And I wonder whether or not Hillary Clinton ends up reading
like Patricia Arquette come 2016.
TURNER: I don`t think so. And she is there. I mean, we got to remember
the secretary came by way to the Democratic Party from hearing a speech
from the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.
I mean, people change along this journey. We have to continue to push
those folks in power, whether it is the secretary or governor or a mayor to
do the right thing in these spaces and in these places. So, I think it`s
not necessarily a fair assessment to lay totally all of this.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. More on this, I promise.
And up next, breaking Kelly Osbourne news, and we`re going to get Matt in
on it when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: It has become a cultural tradition in sort of various
magazines, fashion blog, the news outlets, to create best dressed looks
after actors debut their signature Oscar night looks. Now, which brings me
to Monday night`s episode of E Entertainment show “Fashion Police.” The
four hosts weighed in on the best and worst Academy Award ensembles.
When it came time for comments about the singer and Disney star Zendaya
Coleman`s red carpet look, “Fashion Police” co-host Giuliana Rancic
rendered this critique.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANA RANCIC, FASHION POLICE: I feel like she smells like oil. Or
weed. Maybe weed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Later that night, Coleman dropped some knowledge in an
Instagram open letter to Rancic. The 18-year-old wrote, “There`s a fine
line between what is funny and disrespectful. My wearing my hair in locks
on an Oscar red carpet was to showcase them in a positive light, to remind
people of color that our hair is good enough. To me, locks are a symbol of
strength and beauty, almost like a lion`s mane.”
In case the mike was not dropped hard enough, Solange Knowles whose hair
was once patted down by TSA backed Coleman on Twitter, saying, “Fashion
police has been bashing my fro for years, @intouchweekly, compared it to a
dog. You know what I say?”
Now, Rancic did apologize to Coleman on Tuesday after “Fashion Police” co-
host and friend of Coleman, Kelly Osbourne also complained on Twitter.
Earlier this week, Osbourne also threatened to leave the show of Rancic`s
remarks, and yesterday E! News announced that she had.
In light of all this, I`d like to take a moment to discuss the politics of
black hair – Matt.
WELCH: I`ll point out that a couple years ago, when I was telling you to
go full fro and I think you lacked the courage of you convictions back
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, it is true that right after the events in Ferguson, I
very much wanted to go full fro and my husband said, you might feel
differently on Saturday.
ADELMAN: You know what? That`s the problem. Everybody does have opinions
about how women of color need to be wearing their hair. It`s always
politicized. It`s always policed. There`s never an opportunity for us to
just wear our hair how we want to.
TURNER: It is our hair. Think about this deeply, the notion that the hair
you were born with is somehow substandard. The way that the Creator
created you is substandard. This culture has been pushing that in the
minds of African-American women in particular for generations.
I mean, go back to the days of slavery. There is something fundamentally
wrong with saying to somebody the way you were born is substandard and you
need to conform to be beautiful.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, and I think is precisely why want to come back to the
This idea, Chloe, is that, it – you know, we`re talking about in the
context of the Oscars so it ends up feeling like, oh, this is just some
sort of cultural moment, but it is at the core of everything from the
ability to work in certain fields, to the idea of what constitutes valuable
humanity when you`re in a black woman`s body or in a brown woman`s body or
a poor woman`s body.
And this is why the Arquette comments mean something.
ANGYAL: Right. pop culture seems frivolous, but pop culture is the stories
that we tell ourselves about ourselves and about people.
HARRIS-PERRY: What color is that dress?
ADELMAN: It`s blue.
WELCH: It`s blue and gold.
ANGYAL: OK. I think when we`re talking about the politics of black hair.
When we`re talking about the politics of light skin and dark skin, black
women, we`re actually talking about the intersection of gender and race and
class, because not only are we talking about making sure that we`re
policing women to make sure they look a certain way, that they conform to
feminine beauty standard, and to European beauty standard. And also, that
conformity is incredibly expensive, right? It`s time consuming.
And just as a demonstration, Lori spent three times as much time in the
hair chair and makeup chair as I did this morning. And we both spent more
time than any of the men.
TURNER: Psychologically and economically, expensive.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you pointed out colorism. I don`t want to miss
colorism. It is a real thing. And we just like, at all points, even when
I acknowledge disprivilege around race, it`s also important to acknowledge
privilege around light skin girls.
ANGYAL: To take Octavia Spencer as an example, and I think it`s telling
that we`re spending so much more time talking about Patricia Arquette than
we are about Octavia Spencer, by the way. To take her as an example, she`s
a dark-skinned black woman. She`s a large woman. She`s of size, and
around fat people, we attribute a lot of ideas about intelligence and class
and about your worth as a human being.
So, on her body, you see a whole bunch of intersectional, a whole of issues
intersect. And then you see the way she was treated at the Oscars.
ADELMAN: The thing I want to say when it comes to intersectionality is
this is not just about being politically correct. This is actually
tactical necessity for the feminist movement to move forward. Consider the
wage gap, which Patricia Arquette raised. Look at transgender people in
There are studies that show that transgender women after they transition in
the workplace face pay decreases and transgender men face pay increases and
increased respect and authority in the workplace. What could better lay
bear the ways that gender discrimination are coming into play in our
society so we need to make sure trans people are in this conversation, too.
ANGYAL: And it`s also important to note that both of those real people,
trans men and trans women, in many states can still be fired for
transitioning. So, even if you get a pay bump, when you transition, as a
trans man, you can still be fired for being who you are.
ADELMAN: Assuming they have even overcome the stigma and violence to get
to that workplace.
WELCH: You said this is not about political correction, real quickly, I
just want to say, though – during the Oscars, we all experienced watching
on Twitter, there`s a lot of people dissecting jokes that`s a level that`s
unhealthy and seeing things in some of the jokes – I mean, for me, if the
joke is funny and the hair joke wasn`t funny, that was the problem. The
Octavia Spencer joke, that wasn`t funny. The Oprah joke, which I think has
nothing to do with race, certainly wasn`t funny, didn`t even make any
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, but I do think –
ANGYAL: It doesn`t mean that the joke is funny means that it`s OK. And I
think dissecting jokes to a point that`s not healthy, jokes are like pop
cultures, the stories that we tell ourselves about ourselves. I think they
merit dissection in the same way that you know –
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, part of what makes something funny or not has to do
with the social constructed notions about what is true, right? So I like a
good bad joke, right? I mean, the jokes that touches on the things that
we`re not supposed to say, at some of my favorite stuff. And yet I also
feel like there are rules about how you can tell a joke.
OK, thank you to Nina Turner and Matt Welch. Thank you, Lori Adelman,
Chloe Angyal, and to Lorena who is screaming in my ear. I`m going to go
OK, seriously, we`re just going to be in a commercial. We`re going to be
on the commercial.
Up next, our foot soldier of the week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Next week on this show, I`ll be live in Selma, Alabama,
marking the 50th anniversary of the historic civil rights march from Selma
to Montgomery. A few months after the march, President L. Johnson signed
the voting rights act into law.
And yet 50 years later, the right to vote is still in jeopardy with
legislators across the country proposing laws to make it harder for people
to cast their ballots, which brings us to our foot soldier of the week, a
20-year-old Bronx native who wants to use her poetry to get New York City
youth involved in politics. Crystal Valentine has been writing poetry
since she was a fourth-grader and now is currently enrolled at NYU, where
she is studying child psychology.
Last October, Crystal won the NYC votes citywide youth poet laureate
program. It`s a competition with both. In her point, the voter engagement
and education run by the New York City Campaign Finance Board. And with
that title, she is traveling the five boroughs this year, speaking to young
people and spreading the word about civic engagement and voting.
Crystal Valentine is our foot soldier of the week and she joins us now.
So, Crystal, tell me what made you want to enter and become the poet
CRYSTAL VALENTINE, 2015 NYC YOUTH POET LAUREATE: I`m always wondering how
can I help my community, how can I as a black woman help other people of
color? And when this opportunity came to me, I was like, wow, let`s just
try it out. I`ll be able to go to schools, I`ll be able to go to community
centers and I`ll be able to really let my voice be heard. So, yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`ve been giving lectures this month and talking about the
importance of art and creativity in movement making. Why does poetry have
a role in a continuing civil rights movement?
VALENTINE: Because how do you move people? Poetry moves people. You can
sit there and lecture to, you know, individuals and say, this is what you
need to do or I can recite a beautiful poem for them and the poem is off of
real emotion. So, you can`t mistake real emotion. So that will move
people into action.
HARRIS-PERRY: Who are the poets that you read?
VALENTINE: Oh. Of course, Maya Angelou, Audre Lorde, my own mentor,
Mahogany Brown. Just people who get it, you know? Empowering people of
color who really make a stand.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, do you think young people are truly engaged in the
political world right now?
VALENTINE: Not so much. I feel like they can be more engaged, many young
people aren`t voting in the elections. And I think that we can power up on
that one. But I think that we just need the right communication to really
get it out to them, you know?
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me about the poem you wrote that helped you to win this
VALENTINE: OK. So, the poem I wrote is called “The Voters Problem”. And
basically in the poem, I`m trying to see what – how do the stakes have to
be, how high do the stakes have to be before we come together and solve our
problems, you know? Usually, people come together in a time of crisis.
And I`m saying, let`s forget about the crisis, let`s not have this crisis.
Let`s not have anyone being hurt or being disrespected. Let`s come
together and make a stand for ourselves.
HARRIS-PERRY: Would you be willing to perform for us?
VALENTINE: Yes, of course.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely, I`d love to have you do so.
VALENTINE: A voter`s problem.
Maybe we`re just waiting for the locusts to come. Maybe we`re waiting for
the whole world to set fire, for God to finally cleanse this melting pot
for pure human race to rise from the ashes.
Because obviously, the stakes aren`t high enough. Obviously, college debt
isn`t high enough, and high school dropout rates aren`t high enough, and
increased Metrocard fares aren`t high enough.
Obviously, President Obama`s signature on an $8.7 billion food stamp cut
isn`t enough, and America`s attempt to exile an entire continent isn`t
enough, and people being beheaded on national television isn`t enough.
Maybe we`re just waiting for something ridiculous to happen, like Miley
Cyrus becoming the first female president, like racism being diagnosed as a
mental illness, like police sirens becoming our new national anthem.
Obviously, we`re just waiting for something deadlier than rape culture and
police brutality to split this road in half. Maybe politics aren`t
Armageddon enough for us, aren`t spark enough for us, aren`t call to action
enough for us.
This is a call to action, to rally, to revolution.
And I know it`s hard living in a society where we attend more funerals than
birthday parties. And I know you think you`re just another flame in an
uncontainable inferno. And what does a flame know of voting anyway, and
what does a vote to a burning democracy?
And I think I just saw the rapture coming. And I know you think Obama is
just another god that has forsaken us, just know that calling any man a god
is the true Armageddon, just know that your refusal to vote is the true
So vote because when Armageddon does happen, it will look nothing like
HARRIS-PERRY: Crystal Valentine, that is an extraordinary piece and I
think captures so much of what your generation will undoubtedly have to
address. My college adviser was Dr. Maya Angelou. I have no doubt that
she would be and is right now smiling with pride about what you have just
done with poetry and with politics. Thank you.
VALENTINE: Thank you so much for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you for being with us today. I greatly appreciate it.
And that is our show for today. Thanks to you for watching. I`m going to
see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Tomorrow, you will not want to miss our segment on genius as a social
construct. I`m telling, I think we might have a genius right here. But
we`re going to talk specifically about genius as a social construct through
the prism of Harry Potter and Hermione Granger.
But right now, it`s time for a preview of “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT.”
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