Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 06/20/15
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question -What
country is this? Where nine black people are murdered in their church as
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. I want to begin this morning with
the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “They have something to say to us
in their death. They have something to say to every minister of the Gospel
who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained glass windows,
they have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents
the stale bread of hatred and spoiled meat of racism. They say to each of
us, black and white alike, that we must substitute courage for caution.”
These are the words of Dr. King offered to the grieving congregation
gathered together amid the blistering pain and the incomprehensible loss of
four little girls. Slaughtered in their Birmingham Sunday School by the
bomb of Southern white supremacists.
Today, the words are not for four, but for nine. Murdered as they gathered
together in the familiar ritual of Wednesday night bible study. Reverend
Clementa Pinckney, 41. Cynthia Herd, 54, Reverend Sharonda Coleman-
Singleton, 45. Tywanza Sanders, 26. Ethel Lance, 70. Suzie Jackson, 87.
Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49. Myra Thompson, 59. Reverend Daniel
Silva Senior, 74.
Like the four little girls martyred in their Sunday best 52 years ago these
nine men and women were murdered because they were black. And if you have
ever wonder just what the activists organizing cry “Black Lives Matter”
means, the answer was abundantly clear at Friday`s bond hearing in
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FELECIA SANDERS, MOTHER OF TYWANZA SANDERS: We welcomed you, Wednesday
night, in our bible study with open arms. You have killed some of the most
beautiful people that I know, every fiber in my body hurts, and I`ll never
be the same. As we said in the bible study, we enjoyed you, but may god
have mercy on you.
NADINE COLLIER, DAUGHTER OF ETHEL LANCE: I will never talk to her, never
again. I will never be able to hold her again. But I forgive you and have
mercy on your soul. You hurt me, you hurt a lot of people. But god
forgive you. And I forgive you.
ALANA SIMMONS, GRANDDAUGHTER OF DANIEL SIMMONS: Although my grandfather
and the other victims died at the hands of hate, this is proof everyone`s
plea for your soul is proof that they lived in live and their legacies will
live in love. So hate won`t win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Like those four little girls, these nine men and women were
killed in a place that is supposed to offer literal and figurative
sanctuary. Indeed, the African Methodist Episcopal Church is rooted in a
specific history of resistance to American racism. In 1787 church
officials of the St. George Methodist Episcopal Church in Philadelphia
pulled black worshippers off their knees and dragged them from the church
to enforce racial segregation of worship. In response, black men and women
led by Richard Allen and Epsilon Jones founded their own spiritual and
religious home in the AME church.
The AME church considers itself the oldest independent Christian
denomination founded by black people in the world. It is the living,
breathing institutional embodiment of the black church. Not as I was
reminded by one of my campus chaplains this week, the church for black
people, but the black church, the institutional structure committed to a
god of liberation, a definitive space for the worship of human freedom and
equality and welcome to all children of creation.
And Charleston`s Emanuel AME is the oldest in the South. To walk into the
womb of Mother Emanuel, to worship for an hour with her people, to take
their lives in calculating cold blood – is to strike at the very heart of
the black American struggle for freedom. To strike Mother Emanuel is to
strike the tap root of resistance and the birthplace of sacred autonomy.
It is an attack against the place where enslaved black people rejected the
biblical mandate to obey your masters and instead embraced a savior who
suffered as they did undeservedly at the hands of the powerful. This is
the place where black people sought to manifest a freedom they saw as
promise embedded in the story of Moses` demand to let my people go.
It is not inconsequential that this blow against freedom of black people is
struck in South Carolina. South Carolina, the first state to secede from
the union by a unanimous vote in 1860. Dissolving its tie to the United
States of America with a preference to vigorously and violently defend its
right to maintain intergenerational chattel bondage. South Carolina, which
still flies the battle flag of those traitorous troops on the state house
grounds, still at full mast. In the hours and days after nine innocent
South Carolinians were slaughtered. South Carolina, site of the first in
the South primaries, for both Republican and Democrat candidates, who will
seek to follow President Barack Obama in the White House.
That is what happened on Wednesday night in Charleston. Yes, a mass
killing. But not just that. Yes, a rampage, but not just that. Yes, a
tragedy, but not just that. Yes, a gun crime, but not just that. What
happened Wednesday night was an act of racial terror. As Dr. Martin Luther
King spoke over the bodies of four martyred girls, he insisted they say to
us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered them, but about
the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers.
They say to us that we must be concerned not merely about who murdered
them, but about the system, the way of life, and the philosophy which
produced the murderer. Joining me here in New York is Jonathan Metzl.
Director of the Center for Medicine Health and Society as well as the
professor psychiatry at Vanderbilt University. Yolanda Pierce, associate
professor of African-American religion and literature at Princeton
Theological Seminary. Isaiah Pickens, who is a New York City licensed
clinical psychologist and founder of Eye-Opening enterprises and Joe
Watkins, a Republican strategist and former White House aide to President
George H.W. Bush. But first, I want to go back to Charleston, South
Carolina to talk to Dot Scott, president of the Charleston branch of the
NAACP. Dot, you have actually talked with survivors of this horror. What
have they said to you?
DOT SCOTT, PRESIDENT CHARLESTON BRANCH NAACP: I have actually talked with
family members of the survivors. What are they saying? The family members
are – to be honest with you, Melissa, first, thank you for having me, it`s
they`re speechless, as to what has happened. The family members of those,
their concern at this time is whether or not the lives of loss is going to
make a difference in a state that we live in. You enter the conversation
you were having prior to my coming on, speaks to the truth of what we`re
dealing with here. Because it goes beyond this particular carnage. This
happened because we needed to have the nation and the world look at exactly
what are some of the things that African-Americans continue to deal with.
And in states such as South Carolina, where we`re still fighting issues of
integration for schools, and we`re still fighting the issues of policing in
our neighborhood. This would be the thing that I would hope that the lives
are not, they were not taken in vain and we will have some changes that`s
going to be monumental enough that the people of South Carolina, all people
of goodwill will begin to see that we have reason to be proud of the state
that we live in.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you, stay with us, I don`t want you to go. I do want
to turn to you for a moment, Yolanda. Because I think for me the most
stunning thing of this whole week was listening to the families offer
forgiveness so swiftly. And honestly, I`m not there yet. I mean maybe
someday, but right now I feel just mad and I`m wondering about the role of
this kind of forgiveness and this insistence on a love coming out of it.
We`re hearing from Dot something good to come from this.
YOLANDA PIERCE, ASSOC. PFOF. PRINCETON, THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY: So, I affirm
the right of these families to grieve and process this in any way that they
need to. Including if they need to offer statements of forgiveness.
Including if one of the things that they most want to talk about is an
ethic of love. But I also affirm the right to be angry. I am angry,
Melissa. I am in a state of rage. A sanctuary has been violated. A sense
of peace, a sense of comfort has been completely and utterly violated. So,
we can talk about forgiveness, but for there to be genuine forgiveness,
there has to be repentance, there has to be real, genuine repentance and
that has not happened yet. So we can simultaneously affirm that families
need to do whatever they need to do to heal but we can be angry. We can
call this a hate crime. We can call this an act of racial terror and that
we don`t have to mute it. I want to be allowed to grieve and this nation
needs to allow people space to grieve this horrible tragedy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dot, I want to come back to you on this idea of forgiveness
and repentance. I was trying to push us past simply this individual
shooter, Mr. Roof, to the idea of a collective repentance here. I`m going
to borrow Yolanda`s language. When you say something to change. Is there,
what is the thing that would feel like a repentance from the collective
that might give us space to forgive the society, the racism of the nation
in which we live that help to produce this moment?
SCOTT: I want to go back to the forgiveness thing. I happen to agree with
the speaker just prior to me now. First, you know, even Christ expects us
to ask for forgiveness. And I am here and I`m thinking, in order to for me
to be there, I would want to hear the perpetrator say, can you forgive me?
We haven`t heard that yet, so it`s, it`s good to have the feel-good feeling
going on. But I think in order for changes, there needs to be something
concrete that`s going to change, us having to breathe young people at age
21, that not feels the kind of hatred and the kind of need to do the
disastrous act as this that we`re still dealing with this in 2015. So, I
think that the first thing we can do as a state, to send a message that
black lives do really - do matter and it just not the young people black
lives, all black lives matter as with all people lives matter. So we need
to deal with removing the flag off top of our state house. That to me is a
message that resonate about people who are hateful and it`s a message that
resonate with us, people of color, who think that you continue to remind us
what you think of us by flying that flag.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Dot Scott in Charleston, South Carolina.
Up next, we are going to go back to Charleston for the latest on the ground
and still to come the legacy of Mother Emanuel. Nearly 200 years later,
the struggle continues.
HARRIS-PERRY: The memorial outside Mother Emanuel AME continues to grow.
And vigils are being held in churches across the nation. Last night inside
a Charleston arena, thousands of people gather for prayer, song and
solidarity with the families of the victims filling the front rows.
Joining me now from Charleston, South Carolina is MSNBC correspondent Adam
Reiss. Adam, who spoke last night and what was the central message?
ADAM REISS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: There were church leaders. There were
politicians, thousands gathered, they joined the family members of the
victims in song and prayer as you just mentioned, each one of them holding
up a rose, remembering all of the people that were lost in this senseless
HARRIS-PERRY: Adam, I`m struck as we look at the images, at how
REISS: Well, I can tell you the group here, black, white, they just set up
an impromptu service here. Priests, people speaking. Lots of emotion.
Lots of tears, lots of flowers. A lot of crying. Very raw emotion,
HARRIS-PERRY: But and maybe we`ll take a listen a bit to some of what we
heard last, some of what you heard last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR JOSEPH RILEY, CHARLESTON, NC: If that young man thought he was going
to divide this community or divide this country with his racial hatred, we
are here today and all across America, resoundingly say he immeasurably
HARRIS-PERRY: And I want to just point out again how interracial the
services were, that Mayor Joe was there and affirming that this will not
create an emphasis towards segregation, but instead one towards racial
healing. Is that what you`re hearing on the ground there?
REISS: Absolutely. Absolutely. This is all about unity, about coming
together. Groups just hugging each other, black, white, all races here
coming together and as the long-time mayor of Charleston, Joe Riley said,
all of our hearts, not just here in Charleston, but across the country, all
of our hearts are broken. Melissa?
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to MSNBC`s Adam Reiss in Charleston, South
We also know from witness accounts that Dylann Roof sat with the bible
study group for an hour before opening fire. Now, newly released police
affidavits reveal new details about what happened that night and the man
who remains behind bars this morning charged with nine counts of murder.
Joining me now from the Charleston County detention center in North
Charleston, South Carolina, is MSNBC national reporter Trymaine Lee.
Trymaine, what else have we learned from those police documents?
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Melissa, here is we learn from the
affidavits, around 8:06 p.m., Dylann Roof walked into Mother Emanuel church
with a fanny pack and a gun. He sat for about an hour, as you mentioned at
some point he opened fire on the group. Killing nine people. Now, here is
one addition that we didn`t know until yesterday when we read the affidavit
is that at some point, he stood over a witness and uttered some sort of
racially inflammatory statement. They didn`t say exactly what that was.
But there was something of a racially charged nature. He then exited,
looked both ways, hopped in his car. Now, police say that Dylann Roof`s
father confirmed that Dylan did own a .45-caliber handgun. On the scene
they found .45-caliber shell casings, and so they`ve matched the gun or at
least the shell casings to the type of gun used in the crime. So again,
here he is, in the detention center behind us, apparently he has a
neighboring cell to Michael Slager, the officer who killed Walter Scott
here in North Charleston. And while the state flag is not at half mast,
here outside of detention center, the American flag is at half-staff.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee in North Charleston, South
Carolina. We will be checking back in with you later.
And up next, a father and a son with deep roots in South Carolina`s civil
rights past and present.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The nature of
this attack in a place of worship where congregants invite in a stranger to
worship with them, only to be gunned down adds to the pain. The apparent
motivations of the shooter remind us that racism remains a blight that we
have to combat together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama on Friday, talking about the
massacre in Charleston. And joining me now for more on what`s next in the
city and its role in the fight against racism is Bakari Sellers, former
South Carolina state representative and his father, Cleveland Sellers,
president of Voorhees College. So nice to have you both with us tonight.
SELLERS: Thanks for having us.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I wanted to ask you both, because on Friday, Eric
Schultz indicated that President Obama believes “the Confederate flag
belongs in a museum.” And I`m wondering how much the flag issue has become
part of the kind of trauma of this experience.
BAKARI SELLERS, FMR. S.C. STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Well, Dr. Harris-Perry,
people are hurting right now. This community suffered unfathomable harm
Wednesday. And we stand here still crying, we stand here still screaming,
we stand here still in so much pain. Then when you go to our state capitol
and you see a banner that may not have pulled the trigger and killed
Clementa Pinckney and eight others, but it definitely did provide Mr. Roof
with some reason to do so. It provided him with some justification. And
that is what`s troublesome.
CLEVELAND SELLERS, PRESIDENT, VOORHEES COLLEGE: I want to – For me –
CLEVELAND SELLERS: Let me see if I can respond to that. Because when
Bakari called and told me what had happened on Wednesday night, I, it
brought back memories of another secret that South Carolina keeps. And
that`s the Orangeburg massacre.
CLEVELAND SELLERS: In which three students were actually shot by state
HARRIS-PERRY: And you yourself –
CLEVELAND SELLERS: On the campus at South Carolina State University.
HARRIS-PERRY: And you yourself were injured.
CLEVELAND SELLERS: Yes, I was injured. But I just want to make that
point. That we are still crying and screaming and carrying our dear to the
cemetery. And that we have to have something very specific done in South
Carolina. That begins with some kind of discussion and dialogue on race.
We also must find a way, in which we can have some kind of blue ribbon
committee. There was never an investigation of what happened in
Orangeburg. And that we have to go back and start at that point. And find
ways in which we can provide restitution. In terms of healing, you have to
heal from where you can actually target what has gone on. So, a lot of
times people talk about it in terms of the flag. But since that time,
we`ve had the Orangeburg massacre. 40 students were actually shot. Three
were killed, one was a 16-year-old high school student and it has gone
pretty much unnoticed and so when we`re talking about honest dialogue in
South Carolina, we have to talk about how we find ways in which we can
address that issue and have the state provide some white paper or some kind
of restitution to those who were injured. And we can`t just keep putting
it up under the rug. And I hope and pray that we don`t do this on this
HARRIS-PERRY: Mr. Sellers, I so appreciate you taking us back to that
moment. I know that you actually fairly rarely make public appearances and
talk about that Orangeburg massacre. And Bakari, I want to ask you
specifically about it. Because we were talking about Mother Emanuel as an
institutional space of black freedom. In addition to the black church,
often historically black colleges and universities are seen in this way.
And of course, South Carolina State University, the site of that Orangeburg
massacre in the late 1960s has been under attack in the sense of likely
closing, we know that there have been voting rights questions there in the
state. And so I`m wondering how these things that don`t seem to have
anything to do with it, are nonetheless part of this big institutional
structure around how race is understood in the state of South Carolina.
BAKARI SELLERS: I`m glad you asked the question, Dr. Harris-Perry.
Because in South Carolina we still have a corridor of shame where kids go
to school where their heating and air don`t work, where their
infrastructure is literally falling apart on their heads, we have counties
and communities where they really don`t have a hospital within 45 miles.
So if you have a heart attack, that`s a death sentence. We have some
serious issues to deal with here. And yes, it`s amazing that the two
massacres that Orangeburg, that South Carolina is now known for happened in
places of such reverence. One was on a college campus, the other was at a
church. And what aches my heart so much is that our state`s soil is
stained red with so much blood. And I`m only 30 and my father is 70, but
we shouldn`t be sharing the same experiences when it comes to burying our
loved ones, that`s traumatic, that has to change, we have to redirect
history. And it starts now. If not now, then when? And if not me and my
father, then who?
HARRIS-PERRY: Bakari, thank you so much. That point, that 40 years apart.
You should not be sharing the same experience of burying your beloved.
Thank you to Bakari and Cleveland Sellers in Charleston, South Carolina.
Up next, I`m finally going to get an opportunity to talk to my brilliant
panel here at the table. The shooter`s chilling message to survivors and
the question, is racism a mental health issue?
SYLVIA JOHNSON, COUSIN OF REV. PINCKNEY: I spoke with one of the survivors
and she said that he had loaded, reloaded five different times. He just
said, I have to do it. He said you rape our women, and you are taking over
our country. And you have to go.
That was Sylvia Johnson, a cousin of church shooting victim Pastor Clementa
Pinckney. Recounting what survivor told her about what happened inside the
church. And among the three survivors, is Felicia Sanders. Who told a
niece of one of the victims that she played dead during the shooting
massacre? lying on top of her granddaughter to protect her. Another
survivor says that the shooter told her she was going to live so she could
tell the story of what happened. And so Isaiah, I guess for me the
constant question this week is how is it that a 21-year-old ended up with a
150-year-old analysis of race in America. Like that narrative of – you
rape our women, like that is – that`s almost ancient and this is a young
person. And it makes me feel that I`ve missed something about what we are
teaching very carefully.
ISAIAH PICKENS, NYC LICENSED CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: So, I think this
really first of all the pain that these families have experienced is
tremendous, and we couldn`t even imagine it. But from looking at it from
mental health standpoint, and talking about how a young person came to that
perspective, there`s been research that again has looked at implicit bias
and how messages in our country can infiltrate and really build on some of
the dilutions that extreme racism may have. And so there`s been a number
of times that psychiatrists have fought to have racism considered a mental
health disorder within the DSM and really looking at this idea of how do
these beliefs become built through the messages that are implicitly put in
our society? Whether it`s a flag, whether it`s just what we do not stand
up for. And even when we talk about this concept of color blindness,
potentially building on these concepts, and so. You know, I think that
that`s something that`s truly important to be aware of in that process.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I`m of two minds, Jonathan, on this idea of racism as a
mental illness. There`s a part of me that appreciates defining it. Not as
an ideology, but as a sickness, an illness, a cancer, and this white
supremacy and racism. On the other hand, from a kind of judicial legal
standpoint it concerns me that defining this world view as a mental illness
allows for a lack of culpability for those who act on it.
DR. JONATHAN METZL, CTR. OF MEDICINE, HEALTH & SOCIETY VANDERBILT:
Absolutely. I think we have to be very adamant at this point about
refusing narratives that blame individual shooters for this kind of
violence. Even, I think we all agree that you have to be crazy and really
screwed up to go and shoot strangers, but I think that the narrative very
often with white shooters is that we limit it to their individual white
brains and I think what we`re seeing here in the calls for calling this
terrorism. It`s not just a random call. I think terrorism implies that
what`s happening here is part of a larger ideology. That it`s got a
politics, it`s got a history. It`s got all of these charges, and so I
think that in a way if we`re going to talk about racism as a mental
illness, we need to talk about the racism of a society that produces
shooters like this. We need to talk as we heard from the last segment
about the trauma that`s passed down. We need to talk about the symbols of
racism that are perpetuating not just shooters, but also ongoing wounds for
people who live in communities, communities of color who feel that they
themselves are traumatized. I think that this is a wakeup call for white
America in a way to suffer - not to locate the individual shooter`s
particular mental illness.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that feels to me like one of the distinctions between
this moment and 1963, when those four little girls are killed in that
church. Yes, there is a bomber. But we are very clear that it is the
collective evil of Jim Crow that gives birth to it. But somehow it`s as
though it is about this one person. I want to play for you, Yolanda, the
sound of the judge talking initially about the victims being not just the
nine, but the family of the shooter as well.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDGE JAMES GOSNELL, CHARLESTON COUNTY MAGISTRATE: We have victims, nine
of them. But we also have victims on the other side. There are victims on
this young man`s side of the family. Nobody would have ever thrown them
into the whirlwind of events that they have been thrown into.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PIERCE: That is so difficult for me to hear right now, and maybe there
will be a time in about 100 years where I would be able to process that.
The family of this shooter, they are alive. There are nine people who are
dead. Whose bodies have not even been buried? This is what I mean about
this being a country where African-Americans are not even allowed to
grieve. Even before these people have been able to claim the bodies of
their mothers, their grandmothers, their fathers, their relatives, they`re
being told, oh, by the way, the shooter has a family and those family
members are victims and he has a story. These nine men and women have a
story and we need to tell it.
JOE WATKINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: What kind of kid did their parents
raise? That boy walked into a church, sat in a bible study for an hour,
and then calmly killed nine people, he would have killed more, if he didn`t
know some of them were playing dead. And so, the question becomes is, who
did his parents raise and the other relatives? Who was this son that they
are missing? Did he learn it from them? Did he learn this hatred of
people because of the color of their skin, from his family?
HARRIS-PERRY: And, you know, I was asking my psychiatrist and psychologist
if racism is a mental illness. One of the questions I think I want to ask
you is, as a man of God is, is racism a sin?
WATKINS: Well, we all sin. We all sin. And the amazing thing about
belief in Christ and following Christ as we saw by what the families of the
people who were killed said, is that that you forgive. Jesus was crucified
on the cross, and as he was dying he forgave the people who were killing
him. It`s just unbelievable. I mean it`s just hard to comprehend. And to
hear the family members, the brothers and sisters and other family members
of the people killed say – I`m hurting, I`m angry, but I forgive you, is
exactly what they`re supposed to do as Christian people.
PIERCE: But racism is a sin and it`s an evil and it`s a shame and we have
to call it by its name. We will never, ever get to a point of any kind of
healing unless we call the evil by its name. It`s a sin.
PICKENS: I would argue that the forgiveness is less for the shooter, but
it`s for them. When we talk about the idea of trauma, we`re talking about
undermining psychological safety in this. The idea of can I take care of
myself or repair resources to take care of me and a trauma like this that
goes into the most sacred place that you feel safe, it undermines that
sense of feeling safe forever. And so, the forgiveness is about letting it
go so that you can connect with that higher power that restores that sense
of psychological safety.
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, we are going to come back as well. I want to talk
more about trauma because it`s not - the trauma is not just in this
moments. It`s the trauma that is about a whole series of the events that
all of us have been watching and experiencing for weeks and weeks and
months and months and years now.
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, MHP show regular professor Jelani Cobb wrote for
“The New Yorker” “The daisy chain of racial outrages that have been a
constant feature of American life since Trayvon Martin`s death three years
ago are not a copycat phenomenon soon to fade from our attention.” Joining
me now from Charleston, South Carolina, is Jelani Cobb, the associate
professor at the University of Connecticut and a staff writer at the “New
Yorker.” Jelani, what do you mean by the daisy chain of racial outrages?
JELANI COBB, STAFF WRITER, NEWYORKER.COM: So, what I think is that, you
know, beginning with the death of Trayvon Martin, three years ago, we`ve
had this kind of consistent you know low-grade fever sometimes spiking you
know of racial conflict you know we saw what happened with Jordan Davis, we
saw what happened in Ferguson. What`s happened with Eric Garner. What`s
happened in too many places, actually. And so, I think there`s been a kind
of perception that this is a spate of incidents. But in all actuality it`s
us paying attention to something that`s been the status quo anti-for a
really long time. And so we should be mindful that this is not something
that`s going to go away. That we`re just now becoming more aware, likely
because of social media and cell phone cameras and that sort of thing, we
paying more attention to something that`s been the reality for a very long
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask you one of the reports coming out of South
Carolina right now is that this perpetrator, Mr. Roof, is sharing space, is
right next to Officer Slager, whose shooting of an African-American man,
Walter Scott, was captured on tape in a way that has now become I think
part of that daisy chain, part of our experience of it. How is the trauma
of the Walter Scott killing been part of how this local community is
responding to this fresh trauma?
COBB: You know, I was talking with a gentleman last night and he, you
know, he said he saw this kind of thing, those two incidents endemic. But
he also pointed to the video which some people have seen, you know, of a
gentleman who was reaching for his license, and a police officer shot him.
And he was complying with the police officer`s commands. And was shot
nonetheless. And I guess he was trying to say like I say, that these,
like, you know, my earlier point, that these two incidences are very high-
profile and very outrageous. But this is something that people have been
familiar with for some time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stay with me, Jelani. I want to come out to you for a
second, Jonathan. Because obviously one of the major differences between a
police officer shooting and this case is the availability of a gun. We
would expect a police officer to be armed.
HARRIS-PERRY: What I`m wondering is if any of the kind of proposed gun
legislation that exists in our discourse of world, the things we talk
about, everyone can agree on this, would any of that have kept this young
man from being armed?
METZL: Well, it`s hard to know because we don`t know exactly how he got
his gun. There are reports that this was a gun that was passed down and
given to him, the money was given to him. I mean there`s a kind of family
trauma in a lot of these mass shooting narratives about parents giving
seemingly unstable children their guns. I think that there were warning
signs here. That background checks probably would have caught. There`s a
history of substance abuse, two arrests and the particular case. And so I
do think that I think that President Obama right now is very smart to be
pushing for some of this legislation. I also wanted to say just getting
back to Jelani`s piece in “The New Yorker” that I thought there were two
really, really nice points about that essay. And one was that, you know,
we started this week with this conversation about who gets to define who is
black and racial identity and really, I think his point beautifully made
the point that it`s not - it is a privilege to call yourself - to be able
to call yourself what you want. That in a way this is society telling you
who is black. And the other point was, it`s not just a boomerang of
history that we`re living right now. That in a way, this is our traumatic
present. We need to deal with this in the present moment, in order to
address it. And I think gun legislation is a very important piece.
Unfortunately, our politicians don`t seem to have the braveness right now
to address that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Jelani, let me come back to you in Charleston, South
Carolina, just for one second here. I know that the flag conversation is a
big part of what people on the ground there are talking about. Is gun
control legislation also a part of it?
COBB: I can`t say I`ve talked with people here and I haven`t gotten a
really good feel for exactly what people think will come out of this. You
know, I did, you know, have a conversation with a couple of people who have
been out in the crowd behind me as you can see. You know it`s already
pretty hot out here. And it`s maybe a couple of hundred people who are
braving the heat outside in front of the church and, you know, there was a
bit of cynicism about exactly what will come out of this. Whether or not
there will be action as a result of it. And so, it`s really kind of hard
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, that sense of cynicism is what feels like begins to
set in. And what Jonathan just called that traumatic present we`re living
with. Thank you to Jelani Cobb in Charleston, South Carolina.
COBB: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, from fighting against slavery to fighting for
voting rights: the history of Mother Emanuel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Mother Emanuel
is, in fact, more than a church. This is a place of worship that was
founded by African-Americans seeking liberty. This is a sacred place. In
the history of Charleston and in the history of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama on Thursday speaking about the
significance of Charleston`s Emanuel AME Church, Mother Emanuel. It has
roots in the 18th century and then in 1822, one of its founders, Denmark
Vesey, masterminded what would have been one of the largest revolts of
enslaved people in American history. The plot was exposed by another
member of the church. Vesey was convicted and executed. And in the
aftermath the church was burned down, South Carolina banned churches from
holding services without a white person in attendance. But the
congregation persevered, holding services underground and after the Civil
War they rebuilt the church just a half-mile from Fort Sumter where the
first shots of the Civil War were fired. When an earthquake destroyed the
building in 1886 they replayed it with a structure that stands there today.
And throughout its history the church was not only a place of faith, but
also of activism. But it`s working as part of the underground railroad or
advocating for voting rights. During the civil rights movement, leaders
like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave speeches from the Emanuel`s pulpit and
led marches from its steps.
Now Emanuel AME Church once again is showing its resilience in the face of
racial injustice, something black churches have been called on to do far
too often. From the 1963 church bombing that killed four young black
girls, for the rash of church burnings in the 1990s. They tell you to pray
in a moment like this, but praying is what was happening in that church
when these nine lives were taken, and so I have been left wondering what am
I supposed to pray?
We can pray with our eyes open and on our feet. When we think about the
history of African-American churches, they were actually birthed in secret.
They were not allowed enslaved men and women were often not allowed to
worship or if they were allowed to worship sometimes they had to sit at the
back of the church or they had to sit in the galleys or they had to sit in
the balcony. They sometimes could not even receive communion. And so to
be born out of that as a protest against segregation, against
dehumanization, African-American men and women in these historically black
churches have been praying this whole time. But they have been praying and
marching, they have been praying and protesting. They have been praying
and changing legislation. So, I believe in prayer. I believe in the power
of prayer, but what I`m saying on your feet with eyes open. I`m saying
that that prayer is connected to a history of advocacy, a history of
agitation, a history of making a way out of no way and that`s what the
institution of the African-American church represents.
And Isaiah, there is such strength that we can draw from that story. But
there`s also from me this sense of why must black churches be resilient
against burnings and bombings and death? I mean why can`t they be
sanctuaries of rest and of safety? And so there is on the one hand this
thing from which I draw strength, but also this sense of, when even the
safe place is not safe, what are we to do emotionally with that?
PECKINS: One of the first things we should do is be honest with ourselves
and be aware of what`s happening. When parents are talking with kids and
when families are talking together, don`t skirt around what this actually
was, that this was a racially motivated shooting. That it made us feel
unsafe and that this happens in our country from time to time, but it
doesn`t necessarily happen everywhere. And when we`re able to take it from
the unknown, because that`s what makes us really anxious, and feels very
afraid, and really make it concrete and say this is what we`re dealing with
and this is how we`re going to deal with it in terms of working towards our
healing and restoring that sense of psychological safety by connecting with
people that we love, by hoping to move for policies that protect us that
puts what this trauma is out of the realm of anything could happen to me at
any moment. So, this is what we can do about it, and it empowers the
church and the people around it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Joe, I feel like it would be hard for me to imagine there`s
any black Christian minister in the country who is not going to preach this
tomorrow morning in some way, drawing from some text.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m wondering whether or not white Christian ministers,
particularly in the South, will also take this as a moment. Do you believe
they will take this as a moment to also preach and to teach on this as a
WATKINS: I hope so. I mean I know that Dr. King wrote a letter from the
jail in Birmingham back in 1963, wondering why some of the white ministers
wanted him to leave. They didn`t agree with what he was doing, which was
in line with what the gospel tells us to do. I hope that ministers who
happen to be white will join with every other minister of the gospel.
Including African-American ministers of the gospel and call this what it is
and talk to their congregations about how we respond and what an
appropriate response is.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Isaiah Pickens and the rest of my panel is
going to return the next hour. And coming up next we are going to go back
to South Carolina for the latest. We also talk to the mother of Jordan
Davis about why she is in Charleston, South Carolina this morning. There`s
more MHP at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And across the country, people are paying tribute to the nine men and women
who were murdered Wednesday inside Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston,
Last night, thousands attended a vigil of prayer and solidarity at an arena
Also, yesterday, there were profound moments of grace, when one by one
family members of the Mother Emanuel victims stood in a courtroom and
offered forgiveness to the man charged with killing their loved ones. The
man police say confessed to the massacre remains behind bars this morning.
Joining me now from the Charleston County detention center in North
Charleston, South Carolina is MSNBC national reporter Trymaine Lee.
Trymaine, what is next for Mr. Roof?
LEE: This is the beginning of a long process again just the beginning.
Yesterday when a magistrate judge set a $1 million bond on the gun charge,
he said that he did not have the authority to issue – to set bail on the
nine murder charges he faces, that will be left to a state circuit court.
So, in the coming days or weeks, we`ll figure out what happened.
But also, as we learned from the affidavit last night, that he uttered some
sort of racially inflammatory statement before leaving the church. Now,
that may be fodder for a civil rights investigation by the Department of
Justice. They`ll be looking at this as a possible hate crime.
But for the time being, again, he`s behind us in this detention center.
Again, the beginning of a very long road.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, the Department of Justice indicating they`re
considering all avenues, including hate crime and domestic terror as
possibilities, of course, also in addition to the murder charges for these
Thank you to MSNBC`s Trymaine Lee in North Charleston, South Carolina.
Following Wednesday`s massacre at Emanuel AME in Charleston, South
Carolina, the devastation and sense of loss is palpable. The tragedy was
called an unspeakable act and a heartbreaking act. Headlines read “Loner
Held in Church Killings.”
On Friday, the Department of Justice discussed its investigation in stark
terms, and the spokesperson for the DOJ said, quote, the department is
looking at this crime from all angles, including as a hate crime and as an
act of domestic terrorism.
Hate crime, domestic terrorism – two terms to describe the massacre that
have eluded some GOP candidates with many of their initial statements and
comments failing to mention race at all.
When first asked if he believed the shooting was racially motivated, Jeb
Bush replied, “I don`t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man
who committed these atrocious crimes.”
Speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Senator Rand Paul believed
that he had the answer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What kind of person goes in
a church and shoots nine people? There`s a sickness in our country,
there`s something terribly wrong. But it isn`t going to be fixed by your
government. It`s people straying away, it`s people not understanding where
salvation comes from. And I think that if we understand that, we`ll
understand and have better expectations of what we get from our government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And, finally, Rick Santorum had this to say.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: You talked about the importance
of prayer at this time that we`re announcing assaults on religious liberty
that we`ve never seen before. So, it`s a time for real deeper reflection
even beyond this horrible situation.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: At the table, Dr. Jonathan Metzl, director for the Center
for Medicine, Health and Society, as well as professor of psychiatry at
Vanderbilt University. Yolanda Pierce is associate professor of African-
American religion and literature at the Princeton Theological Seminary.
Akhil Reed Amar, Sterling professor of law and political science at Yale
University and author of “The Law of the Land: The Grand Tour of Our
Constitutional Republic.” And Joe Watkins, a Republican strategist and
former White House aide to President George H.W. Bush.
I want to start with you, Joe, because there is no question every single
GOP candidate denounced this as a horrible crime, as something disgusting
and awful and tragic. It seems to me that where we – like how we
understand what a thing like this is, helps to convey something about sort
of what we think the problems are in American society. And we did not hear
a racial analysis at least initially from these candidates.
JOE WATKINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, we should have. I think they
should have called it what it was. The hate crime, a crime based on race
and the color of a person`s skin. They ought to speak plainly about it.
I`m a Republican, I worked for a Republican president and I also happen to
be an African-American. I`m somebody who has to deal with what other
African-American men have to deal with every single day. It was racial
hatred, and I think Republican candidates are much smarter if they talk
about it plainly and clearly to other Americans.
HARRIS-PERRY: I wondered if it was a little bit of the John McCain effect,
where, you know, GOP hopefuls may be recognizing that there`s an early
South Carolina primary that will occur. And that John McCain got himself
into trouble 15 years ago.
I thought it might be worth taking a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: But they fought to sever the union of our
great nation, a cause that would have terribly harm America perhaps
irreparably, and for a time perpetuated the grave injustice of slavery.
They fought on the wrong side of American history. That, my friends, is
how I personally feel about the Confederate battle flag. That is the
honest ever I ever gave to a fair question, I feared that if I answered
honestly, I could not win the South Carolina primary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: He was about saying it plain. He said, I didn`t, I didn`t
give the real answer. This is what I think about it.
WATKINS: And he`s right. He should have just told it the way it was.
People respect you if you`re true to yourself and if you speak the truth.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to go, Akhil, to this idea of the individual, loner,
shooter, somehow disconnected from a history of American race. Because I
asked you when you came in you`re wearing a tie that has Abraham Lincoln on
it, and you gave me a linkage and analysis that I thought might be useful
to share here.
AKHIL REED AMAR, YALE UNIVERSITY: So, we`re talking about the Republican
Party, the party of Lincoln, basically co-founded by Lincoln. And we`re
talking about South Carolina and the Confederacy and the history.
Lincoln was assassinated. He was killed by someone who was a narcissistic
murder. But was also politically motivated, was part of a larger ideology
of hate and hierarchy. Abraham Lincoln is killed by John Wilkes Booth four
days after Lincoln for the first time in the White House publicly says, “I,
Abraham Lincoln, think black people should vote”, and John Wilkes Booth was
in the audience when he heard that and he actually said according to
reliable reports, that`s the last speech he will ever give.
And that`s history, that`s context. And it`s complicated – it`s
complicated in all sorts of ways. But let`s understand the history and the
HARRIS-PERRY: That idea that there is not a mutually exclusive
relationship between a narcissistic murderer who is also imbued with a
system of racial supremacy, of white supremacy on this.
METZL: Well, this narrative of the loner again is something we hear in the
aftermath of pretty much every one of these shootings, perpetuated in some
way by the media but also the NRA says, this is a lone act. This is one
METZL: What that does is it doesn`t allow society to look at itself. I
feel that we go the wrong way when we tell that narrative, because these
are moments of about a national awakening about ourselves, about our own
values. This shooter clearly reflected larger ideologies. He clearly
resonated with larger symbols of racism.
I mean, I don`t think having a flag of Rhodesia was necessarily the best
approach, given the story, but I think that in a view, this is a reflection
of us, this is a shooting the pathology is us in a way at these moments,
and we really do a disservice when we individual it is.
YOLANDA PIERCE, PRINCETON SEMINARY: I was going to say, that`s wolf lone
narrative, the reason why others said of course, within, you know 12 or 24
hours they interviewed his friends, his neighbors, his family members. So,
he`s not a lone wolf. He`s situated in a community and a community is in
part connected to the heinous act.
We can`t dismiss this as an anomaly or an aberration. I even don`t like it
when we say it`s a senseless crime. Actually, it makes perfect sense.
Racism in this country is as ubiquitous as rain. And so, it actually makes
So, instead of saying this is a lone wolf or this is someone who we just
can`t imagine, he told us why he did what he did, and he told us who he
hated, and he told us why. And so, we have to take that seriously so we
stop thinking that this is just an individual and it won`t happen again.
It happens with great degree of regularity.
It`s broken. Our systems are broken. Our institutions and our structures
are racist. Until we address that, we`re going to continue to have these
AMAR: Here`s one thing that we`ve done historically, historically, when
these horrible things have happened. Americans amazingly have made
constitutional lemonade out of lemons.
Lincoln is martyred and we get the ratification of the 13th Amendment and
the 14th Amendment and the 15th Amendment and his memory of his vision, and
these four little girls are killed in a bomb in Birmingham, Alabama and we
get the Civil Rights Act. And President Kennedy is assassinated. In his
name, Lyndon Johnson says we must have civil rights and voting rights.
And Martin King is assassinated and the day after that I believe the
Supreme Court hears a landmark Fair Housing Act case Jones versus Alfred
Mayer and ringingly affirms the importance of fair housing in America.
So, we have in American history, taken these horrible moments, used them as
occasions to reflect on ourselves and actually make amends.
PIERCE: And that`s being done on the backs of black people.
PIERCE: That`s what we have to say. Those occasions certainly have
happened, but primarily on the backs of black people. Enough is enough.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me suggest that one place where we haven`t yet done it,
is in the question of the deaths, the martyrs` children at Sandy Hook. And
we have not made reasonable accommodations around the question of gun
And when we come back, I`m going to talk to Lucia McBath, the mother of
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Every country has violent
hateful or mentally unstable people. What`s different is not every country
is awash with easily accessible guns. And so, I refuse to act as if this
is the new normal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama on Friday, speaking out about the
attack by Dylann Roof on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston. The mass
shooting has galvanized supporters of gun control including those who have
lost loved ones to gun violence.
Joining me now from Charleston, South Carolina, is Lucia McBath, whose son,
Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in a dispute over loud music at a gas
station in 2012.
Lucy, I`m so happy to have you here. Why did you feel it was important to
be in South Carolina today?
LUCIA MCBATH, MOTHER OF JORDAN DAVIS: Thank you. Well, Melissa, first and
foremost as a black woman, as a black mother who lost her child to the same
kind of gun violence tragedy and as a woman of deep moral faith, I felt
compelled to be here, because I really believed it was so important for me
to be here and extend the same support and prayer and sense of community
that these very members of this church, I know extended to me and my family
in our darkest hours.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, on last week`s show, we discussed the documentary
about your son`s slaying. The three and a half minutes, ten bullets and
are you utterly disillusioned at this moment, having lost Jordan and then
standing there in the space of this loss? Or do you still have hope?
MCBATH: I would not be honest if I said oh, I`m not disillusioned, yes. I
mean, this hurts me to my core. I have spent just so many moments I mean
literally in tears over this very thing. For me, the last bastion of
safety and love and acceptance and forgiveness is in the church and now the
gun violence is extended beyond the realm of our communities into the
And you know, where do we go from here as a nation? But I do have hope,
Melissa, I really have to have hope, because there`s nothing left. And
what I see here today is a complete spiritual awakening in the community.
I see people coming together, the way in which god intended this country to
live, because beyond the shooting of these nine black victims this is the
same kind of violence that we see across the country. And I see people
here today for the first time truly standing together and committing
themselves to do something about the gun violence beyond what we`re going
to see and do here today.
HARRIS-PERRY: Lucy, hold on for me a moment. Yolanda, I want to bring you
in here. We were talking before the break about Akhil suggested to us that
we have this kind of redemptive possibility that exists in this country.
It`s part of the Christian narrative, too, that undeserved suffering can be
redemptive, that literally in blood, from that can come a resurrection in a
church space in my mind.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so I guess, again talking to Lucy McBath, you know, I
don`t know how –
PIERCE: I think there are a couple of pieces here. One is the piece about
thinking about suffering as inevitable, but not necessarily redemptive.
People suffer, bad things happen and we get that. But part of the language
that we`re often using is the way in which we equate salvation and violence
together and those two things don`t actually belong together.
A lot of as I was mentioning before, the break, a lot of the kinds of gains
that we`ve been talking about politically have come about because the blood
of black people is soaking this ground. And so, we have to think about
ways that we can talk about redemption, we can talk about reconciliation or
even talk about healing. But that isn`t always built upon violent acts
perpetuated upon black and brown bodies. There is another way.
And we also have to talk about not just salvation as something theological,
but we have to talk about what does it mean to be safe? Not saved, that`s
an interesting theological question. But what does it mean for black
people to feel safe in this country, if on a Wednesday night, we cannot go
into our own houses of worship?
HARRIS-PERRY: Lucy, I want to ask you that question. I want to give you
that question. What does it mean to feel safe in a country where you can`t
go to the gas station and play your music as a young person? Where you
can`t go on a Wednesday night to a church and have bible study?
MCBATH: I mean that`s a very difficult question to answer, because, yes,
where can you feel safe? If even now the church has become a platform for
I think it`s a matter of creating that safety. We don`t have that safety
at this time. So, we have to create those safe spaces. We have to be
willing to go beyond what we see here today.
And go to our community legislators and civic leaders and pound on their
doors, that you are accountable and responsible, a lot of which is
happening here in the country. Rest on your hands. And you have the power
and you have the authority to help us create safe places, safe spaces for
our communities and people. And if that if they are not going to be
accountable, we will make them accountable.
And so, what I implore is that we have to be the agents of change. We have
to create those safe spaces. But we have to push those that have the
authority to help us create those safe spaces.
We don`t have them now. But we have to move towards that. And you do that
legislatively, civically, academically, socially and most importantly,
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Lucy McBath in Charleston, South Carolina,
every time I talk to you, I draw strength from you, you are made of
extraordinary stuff. Thank you for being with us.
MCBATH: Thank you very much.
HARRIS-PERRY: And here in New York, thank you to Dr. Jonathan Metzl and
Dr. Yolanda Pierce. Akhil Amar and Joe Watkins are sticking around.
And up next, we`re going to switch gears and we`re gong to talk about some
other news, why the GOP is wary of an ACA win and what`s at stake for
millions of Americans caught in limbo?
HARRIS-PERRY: Any day the Supreme Court will decide on the future of the
Affordable Care Act – again. Like the court`s last big ACA decision in
June of 2012, this comes when the law is already fully in place and it
comes at a time when we know that the ACA is finally in many ways working.
Twenty-two million people have enrolled in Medicaid or private insurance
plans, on the ACA`s exchange. The number of uninsured Americans has
dropped by 12.1 million adults, the rate of uninsurance has dropped from 20
percent before the rollout to 13 percent today. If the 21 states that
haven`t expanded their Medicaid programs chose to do so, another 4 million
people, most of them in the South, can get health care.
Despite claims that Obamacare would force people into subpar insurance
claims. A recent commonwealth survey found that 81 percent of people with
exchange plans are satisfied with their insurance coverage and 89 percent
say they`re satisfied with the doctors covered in their plans.
Much of this is made possible by the federal subsidies that help people
afford their monthly premiums. And it is the fate of many of those
subsidies that is in the hands of the Supreme Court.
The justices could very well be on the verge of striking down subsidies in
34 states. The 34 states that failed to build their own insurance
exchanges and use the federal government`s exchange instead, subsidies that
go to 6.4 million Americans. Without the subsidies, the premium was jump
on average, nearly 300 percent.
MSNBC`s Irin Carmon reports on just two of the millions of people who could
be affected by the court`s impending decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LADONNA APPELBAUM, BOUGHT INSURANCE ON FEDERAL EXCHANGE FEMALE: I put my
wig on, which is always fun because I feel like I`m a rock star.
IRIN CARMON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Six months after Ladonna Appelbaum and
her husband, Tom, bought health insurance for the first time in four years,
they found out Ladonna has breast cancer.
L. APPELBAUM: I get a summary from my health insurance every month. For
the month of May, I would have had to pay $16,046.50, and because I have
insurance, I saved $15,803.18.
CARMON: So how much do you guys pay now?
L. APPELBAUM: Now, we`re paying about $185 a month.
CARMON: What are you getting for that?
TOM APPELBAUM, HUSBAND: Well, we`re getting our money`s worth to say the
least it saved us from bankruptcy is kind of an understatement, because
there`s no way that we could have afforded to pay any of these medical
bills that keep coming in every month.
CARMON: Like 7.7 million other Americans, the Appelbaum`s monthly premium
slower because they qualified for a subsidy under the Affordable Care Act.
But any day the Supreme Court may rule in King v. Burwell that the aid the
Appelbaums got is actually illegal. They live in Missouri, one of 34
states that did not set up its own insurance marketplace.
Conservative activists argue that according to the letter of the law,
specifically the words “established by the state”, only plans bought on a
state exchange qualify for the subsidy. If the Supreme Court agrees, 6.4
million people will lose the financial help they`re getting.
What role does the subsidy play in you guys being able to afford health
L. APPELBAUM: It`s a huge role. They cover over $600.
CARMON: The Appelbaums are Democrats who supported the Affordable Care
Act. But they say they never expected how much it would affect their own
L. APPELBAUM: Everyone has told me, Ladonna, you – you look great, you`re
doing great getting through this. I can`t believe you`ve had surgery. I
can`t believe you`re going to chemotherapy. And it`s – I honestly believe
that I was able to focus on my health and not our wealth.
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me panel is MSNBC reporter Irin Carmon, and joining
me from Washington, D.C. is Dr. Kavita Patel, a fellow at the Brookings
Institution, a primary care doctor for Johns Hopkins, a former aide to the
And I`m going to start with you, Doctor, can we say now that the law is a
DR. KAVITA PATEL, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: Yes, we can. Absolutely.
And, Melissa, I think that Irin and your comments have highlighted the
success. This was about getting affordable health care to Americans. As
we just saw, this is actually happening, it`s distressing to think that a
potential Supreme Court ruling could create more chaos in the meantime.
But let me get something clear, it wouldn`t undo the law. So, what we need
to concentrate on is how to move forward because the law is here to stay.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you say that, let me come to my Supreme Court expert
So, Akhil, it wouldn`t undo the law, but wouldn`t it sort of – a bit like
what happened with the Voting Rights Act, right? It didn`t end the Voting
Rights Act, but it took the teeth out of the ability to do it once Section
5 was gone.
AMAR: So, here`s another metaphor, it would throw a monkey wrench into the
machinery. But it may very well turn out that this will actually create
more chaos for Republican governors in Republican states because they would
be leaving a lot of federal money on the table if they didn`t in some way
figure out a way to join the system. Maybe they just joined the system by
saying we authorize the federal exchange to operate in our state.
It`s not just four words “established by the state.” It`s one word “by`.
Hw about for the state, established for the state.
So, they`re going to be pressured to do that, because doctors who are
Republican constituency in general want to get paid and hospitals and this
is a middle-class entitlement, more like Social Security rather than a poor
person`s entitlement, like welfare, aid to families with dependant
children, Medicaid and so on.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is not a small point. I mean, when we look at the
states that would be impacted, there are 34 states with federal exchange.
These are the ones that might be affected. As you might expect, most of
them have Republican governors, it`s why they didn`t set up state
exchanges. And then you see the whole solid south there.
If it goes down there may be an ideological win, but won`t there, I mean,
there`s a kind of rule of politics, you don`t take the benefit that your
constituents have and do a victory lap. You figure out how to make sure
your constituents continue to have this kind of benefit.
WATKINS: Oh, you make a great point, beauty is always, of course, in the
eye of the beholder. You know? I mean, from state to state, it depends on
what the challenge of constituents might be.
But I really don`t see at the end of the day whether I`m Republican or
Democrat, I don`t see how the court doesn`t support the president. I think
ultimately the court ends up upholding the president in this matter. It
would be inconsistent for them to do something otherwise based on the last
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this is an interesting point, the idea of the language
of the state, right? Sort of where they have been previously.
When I hear the state, I think the leviathan, the state in the broadest
sense, as opposed to the state. But I also want to point out that there
seems to be a discernible effect. When we look at the ten states with the
worst-ranked health, nine have the federal exchange which means they didn`t
set it up themselves. Six of them have not expanded Medicaid.
Again, we see a big representation of the south there. It just feels like
there is a kind of, I mean having a state with poor health is an economic
convention not only for that family, but for the state.
CARMON: You know, I have to say I`m not as optimistic as Akhil about if
the Supreme Court rules for plaintiffs in this case, will Republicans will
be blamed, there will be so much pressure on various governors, some of
whom are Democrats and various legislatures, in the case of Missouri,
that`s what would be required to set up an exchange. Because we heard the
same thing about the Medicaid expansion. We heard that hospitals, for
example, would be pushing and that would lead people to bring – to accept
the Medicaid money that the Supreme Court made optional.
Now, as Professor Amar pointed out, that`s the middle class that involves
poor people, this involves middle class people. But I do think,
ultimately, if the Supreme Court says the Obama administration screwed up
this law and people get their subsidies taken away, I think it`s at least
reasonable to think that people will be angry at Obama as the chaos ensues.
And even in states that would like to set up exchange, some of them just
chose to go to the federal exchange not out of hostility but that they just
didn`t want to deal with or they messed up their own attempts at exchanges.
There`s going to be a lag time. So, even absent any sort of ideological
hostility to the Affordable Care Act. It`s going to take months,
potentially years to set up an exchange, and in the meantime, there will be
And the last point that I really don`t want to miss here is that this was a
case that was cooked up by conservative activists to kill the act. This is
not – the people who have brought this case have been recruited by
libertarian and conservative activist who would like to take away health
care from these people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with us, we`re going to have more on the ACA. Plus,
the directors behind a new documentary on gun violence.
So, Dr. Patel, I`m coming back to you. I have a very specific question
when we get back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So, five years in, what we are talking about is no longer just a
law, it`s no longer just a theory. It isn`t even just about the Affordable
Care Act or Obamacare, it isn`t about myths or rumors that folks try to
sustain. There`s a reality that people on the ground, day to day, are
experiencing. Their lives are better.
This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another. This is
health care in America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama last week speaking to the Catholic
Health Association Conference about the Affordable Care Act, celebrating
its successes even as the Supreme Court considers gutting a major part of
the health care law.
So, Dr. Patel, I want to come back to you, I have a general rule I use when
I`m trying to figure out how something is likely to happen. And I just
sort of presume big money interests are going to win. Sometimes I`m wrong
about that, but an awful lot of time it turns out that that cynical rule of
In this case, aren`t insurance companies interested in the preservation of
this subsidy? Wouldn`t they be the ones who lose six million customers?
PATEL: Absolutely. And, Melissa, your rule is a pretty good one in
general in all sectors of the world by the way and you`re absolutely right.
In fact some of the people that are kind of standing the most nervously on
the edge here waiting for the ruling, any Monday now, are the insurance
companies. And if, if the reason I actually think this is different than
Medicaid is because the people who benefit from the exchange plans are very
different than the ones who benefit from Medicaid plans and they will
likely be even more outraged.
In a state like Florida with 1.5 million people and two presidential
Republican candidates and heavy insurance company involvement, you can bet
that that`s going to add up to activism for this effort.
HARRIS-PERRY: Akhil, have any of the major insurance companies actually
filed amicus briefs with the court on this?
AMAR: I actually haven`t seen all the amicus briefs, it`s complicate all
around. But just remember there are four rock-solid votes for the
administration`s position, the four Democratic appointees, the four
liberals. So, all they need is one more vote from any of the five on any
one of four different theories and so, one, I`ll give them case names, one
is McCulloch. McCulloch is about a case about the Constitution. It says
read holistically, it would say read the statute holistically.
And then there`s a case called Chevron. It says defer to the
administrative agency, the IRS, the HHS, to make this complicated statute
A third is the case called Ashwander. It says, you know, actually if you,
if you cut off money to the states that didn`t play ball, that didn`t say
we create our own exchange. That would be like a gun to the head of the
states and that might be violation of states rights. In order to avoid the
constitutional state`s rights objection, let`s construe the statute not to
put a gun to the heads of the states, whether they get the money, whether
they kind of signed on officially or not.
And, finally, a case called Pennhurst that says it`s not a very nice thing
to have all of these hidden strings in the statute when you`re dealing with
states. They should be treated nicely with dignity. They should be
treated well. And so, the statute itself if it`s going to impose all sorts
of conditions on states have to be clear about that up front, so that the
states in Congress know to fight those conditions if they have a problem.
So, any one of four theories –
HARRIS-PERRY: So, there`s a ton of room for those five conservative
justices, for one of them to pop over to the side.
AMAR: On one theory.
PATEL: It should –
HARRIS-PERRY: – maintaining a fundamental kind of conservative world view
vis-a-vis, the law.
AMAR: And just as an example. We mentioned briefly about Confederate
license plates, there was a Supreme Court case just this week on that. And
it was the four liberals joined by my friend Clarence Thomas.
HARRIS-PERRY: Clarence Thomas –
AMAR: It only took one and who would have thought perhaps. Some of us
might have. But only took one conservative on one theory in that one, in
the original Obamacare case, John Roberts crossed over. On same-sex
marriage, it might be Anthony Kennedy.
AMAR: So, it`s interesting.
CARMON: You know, President Obama said something about how this is woven
into the fabric of our lives now. You know, we introduced you to the
Appelbaums, they are people who have been having this insurance for a year.
He had hand surgery right after they bought insurance. She got cancer.
CARMON: $15,000 in a single month is the amount of money that they`re
saving. So, I do think there`s some aspect where the justices, they
stepped in the earliest possible moment. But they should be taken into
consideration that people are now getting used to and now have purchased
this health insurance with the assistance of the government. And what
would it mean to uproot it in actual people`s lives.
HARRIS-PERRY: I just want to point out particularly black and brown lives,
when we look at the reduction of the uninsured rate, by race in this
country, Latino uninsurance is down by 10 percentage points, African-
American insurance down by almost 8 percent points, white uninsurance down
by about 4 percentage points. So, it also had a disparate positive impact
on the communities who most need it.
Thank you to Dr. Kavita Patel in Washington, D.C.
Here in New York, thank you to Erin Carmon, and Joe Watkins and also to
Akhil Reed Amar.
Up next, a documentary that examines what it means to live in a country
where the number of guns nearly equals the number of citizens.
HARRIS-PERRY: Even as we learn more about the shooter, Dylann Roof and his
motives, we know what ultimately made the 21-year-old deadly was access to
a gun. But in a country where the number of guns is nearly equivalent to
the number of citizens, how can safety ever be assumed?
Sunday is the first official day of summer, and already, there have been an
estimated 5,800 deaths from gun violence this year. In the spring of 2014
alone, an estimated 8,000 people died from gunfire and while highly visible
incidents like Charleston temporarily capture the nation`s attention, the
pervasiveness of gun violence makes it difficult to give all of its victims
a public face or more importantly a story.
That is the goal of the new HBO documentary, “Requiem For the Dead:
American Spring 2014”, using a power mixture of social media, police
reports and home videos. The film tells the story of simple gun violence
victims who died that spring.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DISPATCHER: OK, what`s going on, ma`am?
CALLER: I accidently shot my daughter.
CALLER: Get an ambulance, please?
COURTNEY WIEN: Chris was like I can`t live without her. So nobody else
was going to. So he just took her from all of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now are Emmy Award-winning filmmakers behind the
documentary, Nick Doob and Shari Cookson.
I was saying before the break sometimes when I`m screening a film I`ll be
doing other things, because of how you put this together, you have to watch
the screen at every second. You have to see all the faces, you have to
I was stunned by how many young people, and I mean young, teenagers,
adolescents, young kids, is that a story we`re missing here?
SHARI COOKSON, REQUIEM FOR THE DEAD: Well, it`s true there`s so many, so
many children are killed, both in accidental shootings, or get in the line
of fire, something else going. Either one of the headlines I was reading,
a couple was having a fight and father took out a gun and shot it and hit
the kid and these kind of things are happening all of the time and
everybody can be shot, young, old, everybody.
And that`s what this movie just really – I think for us just, we didn`t
realize it until we started looking.
HARRIS-PERRY: At point you just made, it`s often not the kind of case
we`re looking at this week, of someone who plan it is, decides it and
intentionally goes and does it. Sometimes it is. But sometimes it is just
the availability of a gun in a moment when our passions and our heat and
our anger and our judgment is off kilter.
NICK DOOB, REQUIEM FOR THE DEAD: There`s 88 people die every day. It`s –
there`s a constant string of killing going on. And the, big, big stories,
the stories like Charleston, is less than 1 percent of the deaths that
happen every year. And these every day, there`s these gun fatalities that
you don`t hear about.
And that`s what we were trying to do in the film, is to bring those alive,
make them real.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to play one of them, a tough one, to watch about a
murder and suicide.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WIEN: Chris was like, I can`t live without her. And none of us took that
as to mean that he couldn`t live without her, so nobody else was going to.
And he just took her from all of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I think I`m also stunned how much social media there was
for you to use. How many people tweeted or Facebooked or said something
about either their intention. I guess I was, that is also a shocking
moment for me.
COOKSON: You know, one thing was, we started out, we had a lot of
headlines and maybe hundreds. And we didn`t – it`s almost just
overwhelming to see all of the headlines. So, sometimes I don`t even have
pictures of the person. So we would start to put a picture with the
headline and then you would think – that`s the person. You know. And
then we wondered what else might exist that would let us know a little bit
about this person.
And we would go into their Facebook page and we`d see how they were. Just
a little bit ago. Just alive and living every day lives. And in a way,
they sort of came alive for us, and then when you see the headline and you
realize that they were shot dead, it`s really incredibly moving so that was
the spirit we wanted to infuse into the film is make people show their
HARRIS-PERRY: And I really – I felt that and watching in the context of
nine people having been sitting there in their bible study group and then
gone, you have that sense of 88 times a day here. Thank you to Nick Doob
and to Shari Cookson.
After the break, more about the nine men and women who lost their lives on
Wednesday night in Charleston. Exactly that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Before we end the show, I want to thank you for watching.
We`ll be back tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. It`s the same time churches across
Charleston will ring their bells together in solidarity in mourning and in
remembrance of the nine people whose lives were cut violently short
Wednesday night at Mother Emanuel Church.
The Reverend Clementa Pinckney, 41 years old. The reverend was the senior
pastor at Emanuel AME and a father of two. He was also a South Carolina
state senator and was the youngest African-American elected to the state
legislature in 1993 at the age of 23.
Reverend Sharonda Coleman Singleton, 45 years old. She served as a pastor
at Emanuel AME and coached girls tracked and worked at a speech therapist
at Goose Creek High School.
Ethel Lance, 70 years old. Ethel worked at Emanuel Church for more than 30
years and was a retired employee of the Gaillard Center for Performance
Hall in Charleston.
Susie Jackson, 87 years old. Susie was Ethel Lance`s cousin, long-time
member of the church. A church mother of Mother Emanuel.
Tywanza Sanders, 26 years old. Tywanza recently graduated from the
historically black college Allen University with a degree in business
administration. He died trying to save his Aunt Susie Jackson from the
Cynthia Hurd, 54 years old. Cynthia was a librarian with the Charleston
County public library system for 31 years and managed one of its busiest
branches. She once explained her job by saying, quote, “Your whole reason
for being there is to help people.”
Myra Thompson, 59 years old. Myra was a church member and an active member
of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. Her husband is a reverend at the Holy
Trinity Reform Episcopal Church in Charleston.
And the reverend Daniel L. Simmons, Sr., 74 years old. Reverend Simmons,
like Reverend Clementa Pinckney and Tywanza Sanders graduated from Allen
University and was a retired pastor from friendship AME Church. He served
on the ministerial church at Mother Emanuel.
The Reverend DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49 years old. Reverend Middleton-
Doctor was the mother of four daughters, sang in the church choir and was
the admissions coordinators for South Wesleyan University`s Charleston
I do not know what verse they joined together to study on Wednesday night,
but on this day I can only stand to turn to the third chapter of
Lamentations where I find language for unspeakable grief.
“All our enemies have opened their mouths wide against us. We have
suffered terror and pitfalls, ruin and destruction, streams of tears flow
from my eyes because my people are destroyed.”
But also there among the words of sorrow is a promise of healing. “I
called on your name, Lord, from the depth of the pit and you heard my plea.
Do not close your ears from my cry for relief. You came near when I called
you and you said, `Do not fear`.”
Do not fear.
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