Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 06/21/15
HARRIS-PERRY: – nine of its members were brutally killed there, all
attending Wednesday night bible study. Churches across the city are about
to honor their memory by ringing their bells simultaneously.
The Charleston Area Visitors Bureau, “Charleston is often referred to as
the holy city, a place where church steeples, not skycrapers, dot the
skyline. This Sunday our bells will ring loudly and proudly proclaim our
You are hearing the bells that are ringing in Charleston, South Carolina
right now as an audio – as a way of saying, we are in unity, and standing
by outside Mother Emanuel is MSNBC correspondent, Adam Reese. Adam, tell
me what you`re experiencing there on the ground this morning.
ADAM REESE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Melissa. The healing
service here at Emanuel is under way. Outside here with me hundreds of
people lining the streets, but inside, the pews are also filled with black
and white, people of all races, a real multi-cultural event here as
Charleston mourns nine lives lost.
Inside, Melissa, in the front row is Governor Haley. You have Mayor Riley,
and Senator Jim Scott. And I should point out about 15 rows back,
presidential candidate, Rick Santorum is here. The priest said early on
the devil did enter our home, but prayer changes things, prayer changes us.
Our hearts are broken, tears are being shed.
Melissa, I want to point out that downstairs, the room where they had the
bible study Wednesday night, is also being used here as an overflow room
for people here who have come to pray and remember those nine lives lost.
There are a lot of tears shed as they remember those loved ones here at
Mother Emanuel – Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to MSNBC`s Adam Reese.
As we continue to watch the service there at Mother Emanuel in Charleston,
South Carolina and knowing that that service is happening. I still want to
take a moment and turn to a page in American history. In 1924, W.B. Dubois
published “The Gift of Black Folk, The Negros in the Making of America.”
The text demonstrates black people even amid their subjugation to racial
inequality and violence has been crucial to creating the wealth and power
of the United States.
More than 90 years ago, Dubois wrote, “The negro worked as farm hand and
peasant proprietor, as laborer, artisan and inventor and as servant in the
house, and without him, America as we know I would have been impossible.”
In 2006, Professor Cornell West offered a 21st Century update of Dubois
when delivered the inaugural Tony Morris (inaudible) at Princeton
Just five short years removed from the horror of 9/11, with America still
embroiled in foreign wars and wrestling with the contraction of civil
liberties here at home. West pointedly argued that black people bear
unique gifts for the nation in an age of terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROFESSOR CORNELL WEST: The 9/11, nothing new for people of African
descent if you understand it in terms of terrorism as a form of individual
group or state action that attempts to engage in the murdering or maiming
of innocent people and attempts to render them so intimidated and scared
that they walk around deferential to the powers that be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s an extraordinary lecture and in it, West goes on to
explain that as subjects of racial terror, black people in America are
intimately aware of what it means to feel unsafe, unprotected, subject to
random violence and hated for who they are.
Those same feelings that so many Americans experienced for the first time
in the days and weeks following the September 11th attacks. West also goes
on to argue that it is the way black people have so frequently responded to
this terror, this inequality, this undeserved suffering and this death that
gives a gift to the nation.
Think of South Carolina as Robert Smalls. Despite being born into slavery,
he fought for the union, and at the close of the civil war, chose to serve
his state and his nation as a congressman, refusing to be alienated from a
nation that repeatedly rejected and questioned him.
Small`s resilient critical patriotism is a gift of black people in the age
of terrorism. Think of Clairton County, South Carolina, where the families
that challenged school segregation formed the first group of plaintiffs for
Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court case that declared separate
They put themselves and their children on the line to ensure that public
education was available to all, a gift of black people in the age of
terrorism. Mobley`s stunning act of emotional bravery when she revealed
her broken son, Emett, to the world and launched a movement.
Think of the direct confrontation on the bridge in Selma, Alabama. Black
communities, institutions and movements have responded to terror with
courage, conviction and creative genius, and those actions have required
the nation to move toward a realization of the high ideals that articulated
at its founding.
This then is the gift of black folk in an age of terrorism, to meet the
terror with an unflinching commitment to equality, to freedom and to a
recognition of deep humanity.
When I look at the images in Charleston, when I listen to the declarations
of the families from voices still hoarse with grief, when I see the
straight back and stilly determination of mourners, when I hear them sing
the songs of freedom, I see again the gift of black folk in yet another
moment of terror.
Joining me now, the Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis, who is senior minister of
Middle Collegiate Church, Bob Herbert, distinguished senior fellow at
Demos, Susannah Heschel, professor of religion at Dartmouth College, whose
father marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and Marla Frederick who`s
professor of African and African-American Studies and Religion at Harvard
University. It`s so nice to have you all here.
So I wanted to bring back Cornell`s understanding of this idea of the gift
of black folk in this age, but not in order to say that, like, we are the
sacrificial lambs or something, Marla, but rather to get us to think about
that kind of critical or what Dr. West might say, socratic questioning that
this moment of suffering ought to call us to.
MARLA FREDERICK, PROFESSOR, AFRICAN AND AFRICAN-AMERICAN STUDIES, HARVARD:
Absolutely. And the illustrations that you give are the tangible outcomes
of the collective efforts of black people through their suffering to create
opportunities for others. One of the things that have troubled me even
about the reporting of the incidents is the kind of emphasis at times on
the immediate forgiveness of the shooter.
Because for me it harkens to some of the kinds of concerns that Curtis
Evans writes about in “The Burden of Black Religion.” It`s this thing
where African-Americans in the 1700s and the 1800s, African-American
religion was supposed to provide salvation and healing and liberation for
But at the same time for whites, it was supposed to provide solace and
forgiveness for harms done. And the way the abolitionists came to the
south, they came to the south promising slave owners that it`s OK to free
slaves because their religion teaches them to be forgiving and gracious.
And black folks in religious communities find this kind of double tension.
And somehow that kind of duality of intentions plays out in contemporary
circumstances, and it raises a question, is that too heavy a burden, this
burden of black religion? Is it too heavy a burden? Is it even a fair
burden for African-Americans to have?
HARRIS-PERRY: And with such immediacy within days of the slaughter of
nine. Jackie, I got an e-mail from Reverend Barber in North Carolina
responding in part to this, and I think this is probably what he`s likely
to preach on in the coming days when he says, the perpetrator has been
caught, but the killer is still at large.
By which he is forcing, right in this moment, he is suggesting to us that
if we focus solely on the shooter, that may be the perpetrator of this
crime, but again, the gift of black folk in this moment is to focus on the
killer, which is those broad structural realities.
REVEREND DR. JACQUI LEWIS, SENIOR MINISTER, MIDDLE COLLEGIATE CHURCH:
That`s exactly right. This man pointed a gun, but all of this culture,
this racist culture and the systemic racism that mars all of our lives, I
think, is the real murderer.
What I think about black faith is this. Black Christianity is honed out of
the Christianity of the Christ, and that Christianity was developed in a
time of terrorism. This is about a Roman occupation. This is about poor
people struggling. This is about the Jewish Palestinian folk in that time
being the black people.
We know about black faith and black religion, and we know we need to love,
pray, act. What I think is happening right now, even right now, is you`re
feeling the sense of how are we going to mobilize? What`s the next thing
How are we going to bury white supremacy from the black lives on the
ground? How are we going to take that flag down, that symbol of
oppression? Black faith loves, black faith grieves and mourns, black faith
cries the blues, but then it acts.
HARRIS-PERRY: We talked a bit about this even before the show, that even
this notion of redemptive suffering and forgiveness is being borne in a
moment of terrorism is one that maybe specific, but that there are other
faith traditions that teach us something about the nature of what it means
to talk about forgiveness here.
SUSANNAH HESCHEL, PROFESSOR OF RELIGION, DARTMOUTH COLLEGE: The focus has
been on forgiveness and the evocation has been about Christ on the cross,
for giving. What about the Romans, the crucifiers? What about their
repentance? And yet in Judaism, there is no repentance without
I would like to know if the white churches in this country are hanging
their heads in shame today. But you know, the shame isn`t enough because
they can`t repent without restitution.
When are we going to have reparation for slavery, for Jim Crow, for the new
Jim Crow, unless you give back, there is no forgiveness for you. The
repentance can`t even begin without the restitution.
HARRIS-PERRY: I worry about this idea that there is kind of an emotional
healing because everyone can agree in the horror of this moment, but
without legislative action, without not just the symbols – and we`ll talk
about the flag coming down, but with the substantive behavioural
I promise I`ll get everyone in. We`ll go back to Charleston where the
bells are still ringing across the city.
Up next, one thing that you can`t help but notice about mourners in
HARRIS-PERRY: The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King famously called at 11:00
Sunday morning the most segregated hour of America. But maybe not this
Sunday, you`re sitting there, we`re seeing right now images from the inside
of Charleston, South Carolina`s Mother Emanuel AME Church there.
And it is hard to miss among these worshippers and among the mourners who
have been present over recent days, the white faces. In fact, in these
days following the attack on Mother Emanuel, we see diverse groups uniting
hand in hand, singing and praying in solidarity.
In the aftermath, of a crime fuelled by racial hate, the decision to
embrace across the racial divide seems a deliberate act of resistance. The
question is whether emotional solidarity formed in trauma can last and
whether it can make lasting change. I guess that`s my question for you
BOB HERBERT, DISTINGUISHED SENIOR FELLOW, DEMOS: The answer is no. I
don`t think it`s going to last. I think time will go by. This is a
horrific tragedy. I believe that the expressions of emotion and grief are
genuine, but a few weeks or a couple months will go by and this will not be
the story anymore, and then there will be more racial terror in this
Black people have lived in a state of terror since black people were
brought to this country. As you were talking at the beginning of the show
about the gift of black people to this country, I was thinking about the
term entitlement, which is usually used in sort of a negative sense.
But black people should think of entitlement in a positive sense. We are
entitled to the bounty of this country, and we have been deprived of it
systemically by law and otherwise throughout history and right up to the
So I respect the feelings of the family and the expressions of forgiveness
and that sort of thing in this terrible time, but I am not so quick to
forgive. When I talk to black people who have not been among the family
members here, they are not so quick to forgive.
HARRIS-PERRY: But I want to be clear that for me, at least, the thing I`m
not forgiving of is white supremacy and racism, not white people. I feel
like we do such a poor job of racism in this country, that for me I like on
the one hand, I take real meaningful expressive joy in watching an
interracial moment behind us because I do see it as people saying we will
not be terrorized in this way.
HERBERT: I would take more joy in seeing it if there were actions that
follow up these expressions. I don`t see these actions. I see us going
backward. I see black men being imprisoned and many of those people should
not be in prison. I see murderers` acts, like we were just witnessing a
couple days ago.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that is the call, right? So here is Rick Santorum
sitting next to Delray, who is an activist in the black lives matter
movement, and I know this because he tweets all the time. He`s tweeting it
right now. There he is sitting next to Rick Santorum. That is a call,
right? It`s what we might call a conviction for the purpose of, are you
convicted to make change?
LEWIS: It`s a small symbol, Melissa, of a larger opportunity. Let me tell
a good news story. When I was there, I got in a car and drove to
Charleston in a car of white women and black women. We were compelled to
go. We stood outside the church and saw this huge crowd of whites and
blacks gathered together with a young black lives matter leader named,
Modine, leading us in sort of a mic check.
That`s a symbol. But I have a real story of a multi-racial congregation
working together in the black lives matter movement. So when Mike Brown
was killed, and our hands – we are part of a movement that is interracial
and that is interfaith, and I think we have to find ways to celebrate the
hope that`s happening, so just like when Oak Creek happened, right?
And you`ve had Valerie on the show. This movement gathered together to
gather prayers around those folks and to do action. Love-pray action to
make sure crimes are being trapped as never before. And I think there is a
little bit of movement afoot.
I totally agree with you about the horrendous ways that black lives don`t
matter. I will forever be haunted by that little girl in the bikini and
the cop on her, but there are signs of hope.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s go back to Emanuel church now and listen in to the
service as presiding elder, Dr. Norville Goff Sr. delivers the sermon. We
have to go to break.
We`re going to go to break, and when we come back, we will continue on this
HARRIS-PERRY: We`re watching the service under way at Emanuel AME Church,
the first since Wednesday`s shooting. Marla, I want to come to you on
this, because honestly, I have always hated representations of black church
on TV. I don`t really know how else to say it.
My experience with the black church is one of worship, is one of service,
and so frequently the images we see of black churches on TV or in movies
HARRIS-PERRY: Talk to me about, then, what this moment might mean.
FREDERICK: Well, this particular moment of prayer at the altar where
people lay their burdens down, it`s a moment of solace and healing. And I
think what entertainment television does is it forces us to think of that
which is ecstatic and emotive, and it doesn`t necessarily go to the heart
of true Christian faith.
So when we see a moment like this, we can see people praying and offering
up their pain to God and seeking healing from that trouble. And I think
it`s a really important moment, and this is not the kind of television that
So when you see television, religious television now, it has to be
something that`s a product, something that can be commodified, so it has
much more entertainment value. This has no entertainment value. It`s
HARRIS-PERRY: And painful.
FREDERICK: And painful.
HESCHEL: You know, can I also add to that that these people were killed as
they were praying, and there is something especially devastating about
that. And I think about what`s happened over the years, Archbishop Romero
murdered while he was saying mass or going into a mass where four men were
killed in prayer.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Teller in his church killed at Oak Creek.
HESCHEL: When you pray, you stand before God with all your vulnerability,
with your soul open. It`s a special moment in a human life. It`s a moment
when you`re transformed. It`s as if you`re going back to the moment of
creation. Imagine in Genesis God creates the world and someone comes and
murders everything. There is something especially horrific about that, a
kind of cruelty that`s unspeakable.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think that`s part of why I am 100 percent with you, Bob.
We have to move to a conversation about policy, about structural change,
but I also don`t want to miss the human value in the immediate moments
thereafter of a variety of different ways that we have to heal. I don`t
mean healing like, whoo, let`s get past that. I mean healing that requires
engaging that wound.
HERBERT: That is what I think should be taking place within the confines
of the church. The black church has always been a refuge for African-
Americans who have been living in, as I described it, this state of terror
from the very beginning.
But in being a place of refuge, no place else to turn, it has also been a
place where leadership has emerged, where tactics and strategies are
formed, and I think that within the church you can say, we can`t put up
with this anymore, we can`t have folks coming into our churches and killing
us. And it`s going to require more than an interfaith service or a group
of people getting together. It`s got to go beyond that.
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, what I want to do right now is to bring in from
Charleston, South Carolina Mr. David Mack. He is Democratic state senator
there in South Carolina, in order to talk specifically about this idea of
moving beyond it. Senator Mack, thank you for joining us this morning.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE DAVID MACK III (D), SOUTH CAROLINA: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: What are the next steps that move beyond this spiritual,
this soulful, this emotional connection? What are the public policies that
need to be next?
MACK: Well, you know, one of the expressions I love is having commitment.
Commitment is what you do after the emotion is gone. So when we get
through with this, we`re going to have to mobilize more as relates to
public policy. A lot has been talked about guns. We have to deal with
A lot has been talked about race. We have to deal with that. And we`re
going to need folks of all racial backgrounds, people of good will to move
forward and help us impact public policy so we can move forward from here.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to ask you about one public policy in particular. I
want to ask you about the confederate flag that flies on government ground
not far from the state house there in South Carolina. Is it time for that
flag to come down?
MACK: Absolutely. I remember being a little boy and somehow finding the
confederate hat and putting it on. This is in the late `50s, and the frown
that my father had on his face. I didn`t understand it, but I knew that it
was bad. Yes, the confederate flag, the whole confederacy represents a
culture of hate and hate toward basically African-Americans for the most
So, yes, I think what`s really interesting is that since this has happened,
there have been two colleagues that I serve with in the South Carolina
House that are white Republican males that are leading the efforts saying
they will pre-file a bill to take the flag down.
HARRIS-PERRY: We heard from a President Obama spokesman that President
Obama believed the confederate flag belongs in a museum. We have seen Mr.
Romney, former Governor Romney, actually tweeted about the flag and about
its need to come down.
For me, I guess, if an individual wants to wear it – Mr. Romney said, take
down the confederate flag at the South Carolina capitol. To many, it is a
symbol of racial hatred. Remove it now to honor the Charleston victims.
To me it`s a symbol of hate. What`s going to happen in South Carolina
around voting rights, in North Carolina around voting rights? What are we
going to do to make sure people are in positions to democratically exercise
the franchise in the South Carolina first in the south primaries?
MACK: That`s critical, and the voting issue has been broken down along
party lines. I personally have sponsored several bills as relates to early
voting and members of the Republican Party in the South Carolina House of
Representatives have been very steadfast in putting in legislation to cut
voting, to hurt voting in some way.
Again, that`s something that we are going to have to, as a state, as a
community, and as a country, we`re going to have to look at. Do we want
people to participate? Do we want everyone to feel as citizens in this
country? So that`s going to continue to be a fight, I know.
There is no reason in this country, there should not be 30-day early voting
for everyone no matter where they are with the numbers, and logistically
it`s too hard to do that to everyone anymore.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to State Representative David Mack III in
Charleston, South Carolina. We appreciate you joining us this morning.
We`ll have more on the church service underway in Charleston when we come
HARRIS-PERRY: We are watching the services under way at Emanuel AME Church
in Charleston, South Carolina, the first since Wednesday`s shooting. For
some this altar call is a familiar part of church service, and as you can
see, it has been going on for quite some time.
Many, many people streaming to the front of the church, taking turns to –
in fact, as was said a moment ago, to lay their burdens down, undoubtedly
many heavy burdens in Charleston, South Carolina this morning.
I want to come back to the table. I had the opportunity to talk to the
state rep about one of those burdens that I think many in the south carry.
It`s the burden of the confederate flag. So let me just begin by allowing
you all to weigh in on this question.
HESCHEL: My understanding is the confederate flag was put up in the state
house in South Carolina in the early 1960s as a gesture of contempt for the
civil rights movement. It doesn`t represent the soldiers who died fighting
the union and so forth.
The question is, is South Carolina want to be part of the United States and
what is this country stand for? Don`t put up a flag as a symbol of who we
are or what we are. Are you an American? What are you? It has to come
down, there is no question.
HARRIS-PERRY: For me, where you just went is so critical in this
conversation because the fight is about racism. As bizarre as that fight
seems to me because to talk about heritage of the south and slavery and the
civil war without talking about race is weird. But let`s go ahead and
pretend we could.
Whatever else it is, it is the battle flag of the troops who fought against
the United States of America. I`m trying to imagine circumstances under
which we would fly the flag of traitors.
These are people who left their country, said we don`t want to be part of
this country anymore, and when you look at the shooter, the perpetrator in
this case, Mr. Roof, who I don`t want to give shine to.
But the reality is what we saw yesterday is many, many images of Mr. Roof
waving the confederate flag, holding up the confederate flag, and other
images of Mr. Roof standing on, spitting on or burning the American flag.
It goes to the miseducation of young people.
FREDERICK: So you carry this mythological narrative down through history.
I`m from South Carolina, born and raised, and in the early `90s, graduated
and went with to girls` state. They had two girls from every state nation,
and my resolution for South Carolina was to take the confederate flag down.
When it passed, my co-senator came to my room and was visibly upset. I
mean, tears in her eyes, she had turned red. She was shaking. She
couldn`t believe that I had dishonored our history, our heritage, the south
the way that I had.
And it spoke volumes to me about the ultimate realities that we live in,
the way she`s been educated and the way I`ve been educated.
HARRIS-PERRY: Late `90s, two young women from the same state, both high
FREDERICK: Yes, and there is a sense that our teachers aren`t teaching the
history of race and racism, and its repercussion.
HARRIS-PERRY: We must be teaching something because Roof is 21 years old
and slaughtered people and used an analysis that is 150 years old about
rape and – how at 21 do you even have access to that unless someone is
LEWIS: You have it, Melissa, because we live in a nation that is teaching
that narrative. That`s what`s happened. The church is teaching that
narrative. When we don`t, as people of faith, speak against the narrative,
we bless the narrative.
I have to say, having been there, I have to say standing next to this young
man with the black lives matter shirt on and his mast turned backwards.
This flag is a symbol of all the black dead bodies in the ground.
We have to talk about from the church, white churches, Korean churches,
Latino churches, how important it is to make black lives matter at the core
of our theology and until black lives matter, no cores matter.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is a big, big difference between an individual owning,
wearing a hat and it being on the state house, or being on state grounds or
– I just want to be clear, you own and display in your own space whatever
you want. But when our government to which we pay taxes, including black
folks, just – it`s a different thing.
Stick with me. We`ve got more coming up on the show. We`re going to keep
our eye on what`s happening there in Charleston, South Carolina. Also I
don`t want to lose that there are some other really critical things
happening in the world, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Haiti and the Dominican Republic, two countries side by side
who share the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. They also share a troubled
at times brutal history of border that is porous and often bloody.
In 1937, under orders of dictator, Ralphael Trulio, Dominican soldiers
massacre thousands of Haitians living near that border and today deep anti-
Haitian animosity continues among some in the Dominican Republic.
In 2013, a Dominican constitutional court stripped the citizenship of
children born to Haitian immigrants in the DR as far back as 1929. This
denationalization is hundreds of international citizens. After an
international outcry, the government promised citizenship provided they had
Dominican government documents and were in the civil registry.
Those without documents could apply for legal residency and citizenship if
they could prove they were born in the Dominican Republic. The final
deadline to do that was Wednesday.
Only about 10,000 provided the required documents to enrol in the program,
and following the expiration date, the government said it would patrol
neighborhoods with high migrant populations. If they are not registered,
they will be repatriated.
Those include migrant workers, Dominicans of Haitian descent born in the
Dominican Republic decades ago. Those who have lived in the DR their
entire lives, those who do not speak Haitian creole, who have no family or
friends or job opportunities in Haiti even those who have never set foot in
Joining me now is Edward Paulina who is assistant professor of history at
John Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of “Dividing Hispaniola,
The Dominican Republic`s Border Campaign Against Haiti,” which comes out
And joining me from Washington, D.C. is France Francois who is spokesperson
for the Association of Haitian Professionals. France, let me start with
you here, what is this about?
FRANCE FRANCOIS, SPOKESPERSON, ASSOCIATION OF HAITIAN PROFESSIONALS: Well,
Melissa, thank you for the question. I think it`s about three things.
It`s about anti-black racism in the DR that goes back as far as you
mentioned, but also takes a form in the DR as anti-Haitian area. In the
DR, for example, you aren`t even considered African descent. You can only
be Indio in the DR.
You`ve seen this retroactively apply to Dominican-Haitian descent in terms
of being subject to abuse from the government and from the police force.
It`s also secondly a part of the political system in the Dominican Republic
instead of corrupt politicians being able to own up to their misguided
efforts. They blamed the Haitian bogeyman.
And thirdly, this is also a part of the U.S.`s war on terror where you see
aggressive immigration policies from the U.S. being transplanted into the
HARRIS-PERRY: So stick with me on this, I want to go to exactly that idea
that the U.S. is in fact implicated in this? Quite honestly, before the
murders in South Carolina, this was the story we were leading with this
weekend because I was just appalled at what is happening, as I think many
Americans were. And yet the more I learned, the more I learned that
actually American foreign policy is part of this story.
EDWARD PAULINO, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE: Yes. For years the
United States has an interesting relationship with the Dominican Republic.
It invaded twice the Dominican Republican and also Haiti. We need some
historical context here because this legacy of anti-Haitianism really has
crystallized in 20th Century on the dictator, Trulio.
And the seminal moment is the massacre, the genocide and massacre occurred
in 1937 with an estimate 15,000 Hatian men, women, and children, and
Dominican of Haitian descent, were murdered. As I like to argue, it was
the largest lynching of black people in the 20th Century in the Americas.
And so when that moment occurs, there is a – this historic, but diffused
anti-Haitianism is crystallized as the doctrine for the next 25 years until
the dictator is assassinated in 1961.
But although the dictatorship ends, the residue of that ideology remains,
and so there was never an institutional counter-campaign to see Haiti as an
HARRIS-PERRY: So, France, let me come back to you on this, because to hear
the institutionalism of anti-Haitianism, I also can`t help but to remember
what happens in this country around HIV crisis and an actual language of
our immigration policy that bans Haitian immigrants for a period of time.
It almost describes people of Haiti as though they are inherently part of
the HIV crisis and disease in the 1980s and 1990s, and this is this kind of
complicated ways in which our foreign policy has, in fact, helped to
buttress this relationship.
FRANCOIS: Yes, I think that because Haiti has established itself as the
black republic since 1804. There has been a pushback in racism against
Haiti for a long period of time.
You`re right, Haiti was part of the three H`s, and we`ve seen that as part
of the policy of wet foot, dry foot where Cuban refugees are welcomed into
the U.S. And Haitians are turned back to Guantanamo often times.
But in the DR, as my Dominican counterpart mentioned, this has been
institutionalized that goes so far back and has not been at all reconciled,
and this ruling in 2013 is just the latest iteration of what we call the
HARRIS-PERRY: This idea of we will go in and we will take people who
appear to be – I mean, that is just straight racial profiling. Please.
PAULINO: I was born and raised 50 blocks from here near ground zero. I
had a romanticized notion of Dominican identity because during the 1980s I
could visit my family`s farm in the Dominican Republic.
This connects to the whole Haitian thing, and I discovered that I had
rights and privileges in the Dominican Republic that dark-skinned
Dominicans of Haitian descents don`t have, and it`s a privilege I don`t
deserve. It`s clearly race and it`s also xenophobic and –
HARRIS-PERRY: I hate to do this, but they`re screaming at me that I have
to go. This is a critical issue, and unfortunately it`s a story that`s not
over. I hope you will come back and join us, same thing for you, France
Francois, in Washington, D.C. I hope you both will come back. It is an
appalling week when this is happening and yet there is also so much hate
As we go to break, we remind you that the church service is under way at
Emanuel AME Church this morning in honor of Wednesday`s shooting.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are watching the first services at Mother Emanuel since
the slaughter there earlier this week. A house of worship should be a safe
space to gather, to pray, and to be in communion with neighbors and with
This week on the same day that the massacre occurred in South Carolina,
they wrote the same belief that a church should be sanctuary. The church
in Tucson, Arizona worked to preserve that idea of sanctuary.
Last year we brought you the story of Daniel Luis who emigrated from Mexico
14 years ago without official documents. After being stopped by Highway
Patrol in Tucson, Arizona in his neighborhood in 2011, Ruiz faced a
deportation order in 2014.
Just as the threat of leaving behind family and community he calls home
neared, Tucson`s Southside Presbyterian Church offered sanctuary for Ruiz.
Reverend Alison Perington, the pastor of the church told us what inspired
the decision to offer sanctuary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`re responding to scriptures who call us to take
care of the widow and the orphan, and we`re saying we need to act sooner
than that and prevent our broken system from creating widows and/ orphans
all through our communities. So we are hoping other churches would step
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: On June 10th, 2014, United States Immigration and Customs
Enforcement granted Ruiz a stay on the deportation order. When the stakes
fired at another church answered the call, first Christian church in Tucson
offered Daniel sanctuary.
Thursday, ICE agreed to renew Ruiz`s stay of deportation for another year,
so he will not need to live in the church. But the actions of Southside
Presbyterian and First Christian Church remind us of the important a role
houses of worship can play when they`re allowed to be a place of sanctuary.
Coming up, we`re going to go back to Charleston where hundreds of mourners
worship inside mother Emanuel AME Church. There is more MHP show at the
top of the hour.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST, “MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY”: Welcome back.
I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And right now, we`re going to go back to Emanuel
AME Church and listen in to this morning service as presiding elder, Dr.
Norvel Goff, Sr. delivers the sermon.
REV. DR. NORVEL GOFF, SR., PRESIDING ELDER, MOTHER EMANUEL AME CHURCH: How
we as a group of people can come together and pray and work out things that
needs to be worked out to make our community and our state a better place.
Now, I`m reminded that there are other challenges that faces us. It does
not go unnoticed, it does not mean that we`re not aware of the problems
that many of us face not only in America but right here in South Carolina
and Charleston. But there is a time and place for everything. And now
it`s a time for us to focus on the nine families.
(CHEERS and APPLAUSE)
Oh, I know, I`m right. Because at this time, we need to be in solidarity
and praying for families and our communities around this state and
particularly in Charleston. So I want to say to the citizens of Charleston
and visitors, thank you for being whom God has called you to be. Thank you
for your flowers out front. Thank you for the cards and the e-mails and
all the acts of kindness. I want you to know that the offices and members
of Mother Emanuel want to say, “thank you.” Come on, you ought to know
Oh, yes. I know I`m right. Yes, I know I`m right. And I want to thank -
- you have to give credit where credit is due. And if you want to raise
hell, you have to know why you`re raising hell. Because hell is a specific
place for specific people. But when folk are working and doing what they
need to do as leaders in our community, in this moment in time, I want to
say thank you to Governor Haley for being on her job.
Day in and day out, working with those of us who are here trying to
comfort, and not only to comfort, but to make sure that the perpetrator,
who came here and committed that heinous act, that was pursued and captured
and brought back to South Carolina.
(CHEERS and APPLAUSE)
(INAUDIBLE) Oh, yes, it`s all right. I want to thank Mayor Riley for the
resources that he placed in and around us here at Mother Emanuel to make
sure that we had all the resources we needed and also starting a fund to
help the families and to help Mother Emanuel. I just want to say thank
And then finally I want to say thank you to law enforcement.
(CHEERS and APPLAUSE)
I got no problem in doing that. And I want to thank them. I want to thank
I want to thank – oh, yes. I want to thank law enforcement and I want to
thank the chief of police of the city of Charleston. And our neighboring
communities for working together to bring about a safer place not just for
some of us, but for all of us. I just want to say thank you to the FBI and
all the law enforcement, the chaplains.
As I get ready to go to my techs, I want to thank them because of the
respect that they`ve shown our people, not just black people but everybody
that resides, because respect gets respect. A lot of folk expected us to
do something strange and to break out in the riot. Well, they just don`t
They just don`t know us, because we are a people of faith. And we believe
that when we put our forces and our heads together, working for a common
good, there is nothing we cannot accomplish together in the name of Jesus.
So, let`s don`t get it twisted. We`re going to pursue justice, and we`re
going to be vigilant, and we are going to hold our elected officials and
others accountable to do the right thing.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
The blood of the Mother Emanuel nine requires us to work until not only
justice in this case, but for those who are still living in the margin of
life, those who are less fortunate than ourselves, that we stay on the
battlefield until there is no more fight to be fought. And for that we say
Now – let me hear somebody say now.
(Church members): Now.
GOFF: Now for the text. Somebody said, I thought we heard the text.
No, you just heard the pretext. Let me hasten on and draw your attention
to Psalm 46. And I won`t be before you long, but if I see somebody trying
to nod and sleep in this warm room, I promise you I will start with
Genesis. And I will read and I will read very slowly. And you think
they`re passing out water now, you just wait until I get you. Psalm 46,
the first seven verses, you will find these words recorded in the King
James Version of the Bible, Psalm 46.
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore
will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be
carried in to the midst of the sea. Though the waters thereof roar and be
troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. There is a
river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of god, the holy place
of the tabernacles of the most high. God is in the midst of her, she shall
not be moved. God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen
raged, the kingdoms were moved, he uttered his voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge.” Let us
Our father and our God, thank you for blessing the spiritual food for which
we are now about to eat. In the name of Jesus we pray. And the people of
god shall say, Amen. God is our refuge. Every now and then, you and I
must realize that we`ve had some difficult days. And some of us have been
in one kind of trouble or another. When we were young, we would run to our
parents when we got in trouble. And when we got a little older, we began
to confide in our friends, our spouses, and other co-workers. When we got
in trouble sometimes, we just couldn`t tell nobody. Wouldn`t happen. When
we got in trouble. Have you ever been in trouble?
Stayed up all night trying to figure out the solution only to have a
greater headache than you started out with. But when you and I realize
that there are some things we just can`t handle by ourselves. I wish I had
a witness. There are some problems and issues that we are unable to
provide answers to. But I want to suggest and recommend to you this
morning, if you find a problem or situation too hard for you, I want you to
know that it`s just right for God. We had a witness here.
When evil is in the world, you and I may not be able to control evildoers.
But I want you to know the day that I know a man who is able to handle all
of our problems, some of us are still trying to seek answers to what
happened last week Wednesday. Well, I been there, done that, spent the
night. And I`ve decided to turn it over.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
I`ve decided to turn it over to Jesus. You mean we are to forget what has
happened? No, don`t forget. But to remember that the God who created us
all is the God who will make a way out of nowhere. Yes, there are answers
that we are still waiting for, but the answers still, by leaving our hands
in the hand of God. I`m reminded by some news media persons that all nine
families all spoke of forgiveness and didn`t have malice in their heart.
Well, on this Father`s Day, you ought to know the nine families` dad.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
If you knew the nine families` dad, you would know how the children are
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
After all, our daddies said, we are to love our neighbors as we love
ourselves. If you knew our daddy, you would know that he said we`ve been
engulfed by life.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Yes, if you knew our daddy, you would know that some days are up and some
days are down. Almost level to the ground. But if you knew our daddy, you
would say when I look back over my life and see what the lord has done for
us, my soul – my soul – cries out hallelujah, thank God for saving me.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
God is our refuge. And strength. And the first point you have to remember
from this brief message is that we have to put our hope and trust in God.
Hey, yes, yes, yes. Stock markets may crash, friends may leave you, mom
and daddy may be called back home to God himself, but if you keep your hand
in God`s hand, turn to somebody and say he`ll make a way somehow. And the
second point I want you to remember from this sermon that God is our refuge
and strength is that praise for the great things for he has already done.
God has a track record. Turn to somebody and say, God has a track record.
Yes, yes, yes. I just want to share with you, I got a praise. How many of
you have a praise?
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
And I don`t go through a whole litany of things early in the morning. I
got five things I say, and sometimes it gets to 10. And here`s what I say.
The reason I praise him, he woke me up this morning.
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Can I get on with this?
(Church members): Yes.
GOFF: And the second reason I say, he woke me up this morning. And the
third reason I praise him, and I say, he woke me up this morning. And the
fourth reason I praise him, he woke me up this morning. And I get to the
fifth one. He woke me up this morning! And he started me on my way. Put
running in my feet, speed in my hands, gave me power to do his will. Say
yes! Sit down, y`all are worrying me now. The third reason I want you to
remember as I prepare to go to my seat, God is our refuge. He comforts us
with the knowledge that God, who has always protected us. That`s why I was
so pleased when the authorities made the phone call to us. To say, you can
go back into Mother Emanuel to worship.
Some folk might need some more time in order to walk in, but for those of
us who are here this morning, I want you to know because the doors of
Mother Emanuel is open on this Sunday. It sends a message to every demon
in hell and on earth.
No weapon! Somebody say, no weapon! No weapon! Shout! Prosper! No
(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)
Some order to divide the race, black and white and brown, but no weapon to
kill someone! Shout! All right, sit down now. I`m about to close out. I
want to thank you for listening to this message. But I don`t want you to
leave here without a life application to the message. When times of
trouble comes into our lives, how do we respond? Do we respond and resort
to fear? Do we respond by being afraid and result to fear? Do we respond
in faith? Well, as for me and my household – somebody say, for me. For
me it`s Sister Goff and our boys and their friends. As for me and my
household, we will serve the lord, because it`s by faith that we are
standing here and sitting here this morning.
Faith of our fathers, faith of our mothers, faith of the church in which
God has brought us into. Guests, you showed up this morning. We are
serving notice on every evildoer that just because you think you got the
victim, I got an e-mail that was turned into an e-mail that turned into a
message to you. “Remind them that I am still God. And beside me there is
no other.” And we have some difficult days ahead. But the only way evil
can triumph is for good folk to sit down and do nothing.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right.
GOFF: But if we are people of faith, we will join hands and begin to work
together to forge a new partnership, not them against us, but we are the
children of God who will be marching on to victory. The Psalm has said
when they were in trouble, they ran and found a place that was a refuge in
him. I`m talking about a refuge in God. Some of us when we get in trouble
we run from God, but those of us who are people of faith, we run to God.
That`s why we can`t have enough prayer vigil. We can`t have enough worship
and singing and praising, because all of that God inhabits our prayers.
God is our refuge. I`m going to close and go to my seat. God has been
mighty good to us. And some folk have called him many names. Some folk
have called him Mary`s baby. Some folk have called him the bright and
morning star. Some have called him my bridge over troubled waters. Some
have called him my alpha and my omega and my beginning and my end. Some
have called him the lily of the valley. I wish I had a witness. Some have
called him a leaning post. Some have called him a battle axe in a time of
war. Some have called him a leaning post. My mama called him a sure
foundation. My daddy called him – somebody say, hallelujah –
(Church members): Hallelujah.
GOFF: My daddy called him a way maker. A way maker. But I call him by
his name, and his name is above all names, and his name is the bright and
morning star, the living water, and I call him Jesus. I call him Jesus.
How many are calling Jesus? Because I get about 12 folks and stand up and
say, Jesus. God is my refuge and my strength. When I`m weak, he makes me
strong. When I`m tired, he makes me strong. When I`m weary, he makes me
strong. When evildoers come upon my tracks, he makes me strong. But I`m
so glad as I sit down at this time to him right and I put it this way, I`ve
seen the lightning flash. I`ve heard the thunder roll. I`ve felt sins
trying to conquer my soul. But I heard – somebody say I heard – I heard
the master boys to say fight on! Fight on! Because he promised –
somebody say he promised – never!
HARRIS-PERRY: That was presiding elder, Dr. Norvel Goff, Sr. delivering
the sermon at Emanuel AME Church which is holding its first service since
nine innocent African-American South Carolinians were murdered during their
bible study on Wednesday.
And before we go to Adam Reiss who is there on the ground, I just want to
say, I mentioned earlier, how uncomfortable – with representations of
black church on TV. But that was a teaching moment. It was a worship
moment for those of us in that tradition. We were having church in many
ways right here at this table. It was a teaching moment for those not
familiar with that tradition, so if you do not know why people would say
hallelujah, if you do not know why people would express gratitude in a
moment of such pain, you must understand, as we heard from Reverend Goff as
he preached Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon formed against us shall prosper.” It
is a moment when a people who are harmed, who are hurt, who are terrorized
take it back, refuse to be terrorized. And as we heard there from the
reverend, affirm that they are the people of God who will never, ever, ever
have to stand alone.
Joining me now outside the church, MSNBC correspondent Adam Reiss. Adam?
ADAM REISS, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Melissa, such a powerful sermon inside.
I want to just bring you for a moment outside, just to see this city of
Charleston coming together. Take a look behind me. A huge crowd on this
street, but it`s mostly white. I want to tell you a little of what was
said in the service today. It was really a healing service Melissa where
they used prayer and song and scripture to come together, get through this
very difficult time looking for answers. They`re really just trying to
make sense of what is really a senseless tragedy, remembering the fellow
parishioners. He said that they`re really called the Emanuel Nine, and
some expected us to break out and riot and that wasn`t going to happen.
We`re coming together here. He thanked law enforcement. There are a lot
of heavy hearts here, Melissa. They`re broken hearts. But they all say,
one, each one that they will get through this somehow – Melissa.
Adam Reiss in Charleston, South Carolina, thank you. When we come back, we
will have more on Charleston and the Emanuel Nine after the break.
GOFF: If you have a desire to be a member of this household of faith
called Mother Emanuel.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been watching the first sermon at AME Emanuel Church
in Charleston, South Carolina since a gunman entered their sanctuary
earlier this week and murdered nine men and women.
At my table here in New York, the Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis, senior
minister of Middle Collegiate Church. Bob Herbert, distinguished senior
fellow at Demos. Susannah Heschel, professor of religion at Dartmouth
College whose father marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And Marla
Frederick, professor of African and African American Studies and religion
at Harvard University.
First, I want to go to Dallas, Texas. To the Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie
who was the first woman elected to the office of bishop in the 200-year
history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Currently she serves in
the presiding tenth episcopal district to cover the state of Texas. Bishop
McKenzie also the national chaplain for Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
Bishop, good morning. What did you hear this morning?
BISHOP VASHTI MURPHY MCKENZIE, TENTH EPISCOPAL DISTRICT OF THE AME CHURCH:
This morning I heard – and thank you, Melissa, for having us this morning
engaging in meaningful conversation, as you always do. What I heard this
morning was a pastor comforting the people of God, not only those who are
gathered inside Mother Emanuel, but those all around the country. He
offered a comforting word, a word of gratitude, but he also offered a word
of determination that no matter how heartbroken we are, or how devastated
we are, we`re still determined to work and worship and to keep the doors of
the church open for everybody, anybody and all.
HARRIS-PERRY: And, bishop, in fact, the AME Church, it has a very
particular history within the American context of having to be resilient in
the face of horror.
MCKENZIE: Again and again and again, our faith has always been a source of
comfort as well as helping motivating us in our service, our ministry of
social justice and liberation. Since the very beginning, I would dare say
that the first civil rights movement was when Richard Allen and Absalom
Jones walked out of the church in Philadelphia and determined that we were
going to worship in dignity and with integrity under our own vine and fig
tree after being rejected, being pulled from your knees in the middle of
your prayer at St. George`s. And it has continued time and time again. We
know that on June 17th – actually, at midnight on June 16th, Denmark had
planned a revolt in the city of Charleston.
And it would be happening on June 17th. And then after that Mother Emanuel
was burned. So here we have a domestic terrorist walk into the church,
when, on June 17th. You have to suspect that he knew his history. But
even though the church was burned and by 1834 all black churches were
outlawed in Charleston, South Carolina, people of faith still worshipped.
That is our resilience. And so we have been on the front line of freedom
and liberation for more than 200 years. The foot soldiers for the civil
rights movement came from the black church. Our leadership, the first
person to serve in U.S. Congress after the civil war was an AME preacher,
Reverend Hiram Revels. Brown versus the board of education, Brown was
Reverend Brown in Kansas, an AME pastor. And so time after time after
time, the leadership, the foot soldiers, those who pushed the envelope for
liberation and freedom came out of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
HARRIS-PERRY: Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie, thank you for joining us and
thank you for bringing us a reminder of that history.
Jackie, I want to turn to you in this moment. What did you hear?
REV. DR. JACQUI LEWIS, SENIOR MINISTER, MIDDLE COLLEGIATE CHURCH: I heard
a preacher doing what is our call, to take the word and make it a living
word, a word for this moment in time, to remind all of us that God is with
us and God will not forsake us, but also to call us into a place of love.
And love isn`t wimpy. My Jesus` love isn`t wimpy. It turns over tables
and says, we won`t have this anymore. It feeds the hungry, it comforts the
poor, and it works against violence. I`m so excited to hear what the
bishop was saying about the AME Church, just thinking about the gifts to it
not only to black Americans but to all Americans. There is something about
the liberation of freedom that excites me, and I hope right now that people
will pray – pray for Charleston, #PrayForCharleston.
BOB HERBERT, DEMOS.ORG: I think that sermon showed of quintessential
example of the importance of the black church. So, here in this time of
crisis, you have a message being sent to the relatives and friends of the
victims and then to a wider community that, you know, we`re wounded, our
hearts are heavy, but we are not defeated. You know, so there is no reason
for despair. We will move on.
SUSANNAH HESCHEL, DARTMOUTH COLLEGE: First of all, I wish I had a rabbi
like Reverend Goff. My father was a Jewish – Abraham Joshua Heschel. And
he used to say, if there is any hope for the future of Judaism and America,
it lies with the black church. And he meant the pathetic tradition. The
piety, the ability to pray and the political resistance. I found this
tremendously moving, I found it extraordinary that it calls for vengeance,
for anger for violence. This is a lesson for all of us. And I think there
it is also a gift that restarted the program, the gifts of black folks.
And with that gift we need to respond, we have an obligation, so what are
we going to do now as white people?
MARLA FREDERICK, PROFESSOR, AFRICAN AND AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES: And it
was a reminder of just how African-American churches throughout history
have preached and talked about the need to have hope and trust in God, and
that in the end, we can look back over history if we look through the
children of Israel. There is always a reminder that God brought the
children of Israel out of Egypt. And so in the midst of a tendency,
tendency towards hopelessness or nihilism that there is hope, there is
possibility for redemption out of great tragedy, and you see that in the
story that Bishop Vashti McKenzie talked about with Absalom Jones and
Richard Allen. That is the story of African Methodist Episcopal Church.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the refusal to define forgiveness, to define love, to
define resistance that nonetheless encompasses as weak, an absolutely
refusal to define those. And I think I`ll never forget racist. If you
understood on this Father`s Day who their father is, who their daddy is,
that sends of drawing political, and social and organizing messages from a
theological commitment to full humanity.
Thank you to Reverend Dr. Jacqui Lewis, to Bob Herbert, to Susannah Heschel
and to Marla Frederick. We will be right back.
HARRIS-PERRY: This morning we`ve been listening to church services at
Charleston`s Emanuel AME Church, the first service held there since nine
people were killed during Bible study on Wednesday night.
Joining me now outside the church is MSNBC correspondent Trymaine Lee.
TRYMAINE LEE, MSNBC NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I tell you, what, this was a
moving service for many reasons, but it wasn`t lost on anyone that just a
floor below that sanctuary. Nine members of this family – nine members of
this church family were gunned down in cold blood. But one thing that was
striking is that time and time again you hear about faith. And the
preacher said that, you know, at times of trouble, many want to run away
from God, but the faithful run to it. And that evil attempt to close these
doors, but the evildoers around the world are put on notice with a show of
faith and resilience and that these doors will not close.
And there are still hundreds of people outside of the church. Many are
streaming from inside the sanctuary. But again, a moving service, the
first one since that terrible tragedy struck this church family. But if
any community, I`ve been around to many, and to hear them respond and the
preacher say that some folks might have thought we would have done
something strange like riot, but they must not know us. Striking and
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. From the moment that we knew that ten of the church
bells were going to ring, and I guess when I started to hear that they
weren`t just ringing, they were pealing, they weren`t tolling, they were
pealing, and when you hear church bells peal is usually celebratory. And
that`s why I understood in that moment, we weren`t going to do the black
church tradition of giving out gratitude and praise in the midst of pain as
a way of pushing back, and I heard that throughout the service this
LEE: Oh, and that`s right. When you think about the way we do our
funerals, it`s not a time necessarily to mourn and be bogged down in grief,
it`s a home going celebration. And so, you know that, I was talking to a
preacher yesterday who said, “Life isn`t necessarily a reward, and death
isn`t necessarily a punishment. Especially when you are of faith.” But in
that black tradition, and you hear the call and response, you feel the
energy, you feel the applause that there was a community coming together in
the wake of this tragedy, and again, you saw that on display. And as we`ve
all known and many people have said time and time again, the black
community, you know, the experiences of terror and trauma and great sadness
and grief are nothing new. And so many times in our history we turn to the
church, you turn to your faith, you turn to men and women of God to seek
that solace, and these folks in this community are doing that today.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Trymaine, that call and respond, that I knew the
second line of every first line is such a comfort because it reminds you
that you were part of a living family.
Trymaine Lee in Charleston, South Carolina, thank you.
We`re going to be right back with some other news making headlines this
week. Still on this issue, a key housing case before the Supreme Court.
They are connected, I promise, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: With less than two weeks before the Supreme Court breaks for
the summer, there is a lot to wrap up. Same-sex marriage, health care
subsidies. And among the major cases is one that could devastate civil
rights law. It concerns the question of how to define and demonstrate
discrimination. Discriminatory policies and practices can seem to be
neutral but still re-devastating effects on one group. For example, when a
practice cause substantially different effects for one group, even if there
is no particular evidence of intent to create that inequality, we think of
it as desperate impact, and desperate impact currently a standard legal
argument and housing and education and employment, and other forms of
discrimination law. Take a Texas housing agency that just happened to
perpetuate racial segregation in Dallas by keeping low-income housing
incentives for landlords out of wealthy white neighborhoods.
Texas argued that it should not be judged by desperate impact standard in
its policy but simply by the purity of its intention. In fact, they have
argued that because the Fair Housing Act of 1968 makes no direct mention of
desperate impact, it cannot be legally factor it into housing
discrimination cases. Now it`s time for the courts to decide. And if the
courts decides in favor of the Texas agency, the effects can be sweeping.
As many of the more controversial decisions by the Supreme Court, this one
is expected to be split five to four. And guess who might be the crucial
Justice Scalia. Yes. The court – conservatives surprised many during the
hearing in January when he seemed to maybe make an argument that because
Congress passed disparate impact exemptions to the Fair Housing Act in
1988, they acknowledged its existence. Justice Scalia went on to tell
Texas Solicitor General that, “You have to look at the whole law, and when
all the parts are read together, there is such a thing as disparate
impact.” But I wouldn`t be count them in just yet. He went on to say the
fact that the NFL is largely black players is not discrimination.
Discrimination requires intentionally excluding people to a certain race.
Okay, so the NFL analogy is a little bit questionable at best. But it
shows that Justice Scalia may not be contempt with desperate impact as
proof. But if the data of inequality and the number is in the map show how
pervasive segregation until is in this country is not enough to prove
discrimination, what is?
Joining me now, Janai Nelson who is Associate Director-Counsel to the NAACP
Legal Defense Fund. Adam Benforado who is associate professor of Law at
Drexel University and author of the upcoming book, “Unfair: The New Science
of Criminal Injustice.” Nikole Hannah-Jones, staff writer at “The New York
Times” magazine. And Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of the
All right. What is about to happen here? Do we know?
JANAI NELSON, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR-COUNSEL, NAACP LEGAL DEFENSE FUND: Well,
we hope that the Supreme Court is going to uphold the standard that has led
this country into integrated communities, more inclusive communities since
1968. A standard that, as you said, pervades many areas of civil rights
law, and it allows us to move fast, this focus on the intentional
discrimination and recognized that there`s structural racist – their
structural discrimination that is equally pernicious, equally harmful and
that tends to concentrate minorities into pockets of poverty, and does not
allow them to fulfill their dreams and their successes, as well they
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask this. As you talk about the ways in which
disparate impact was meant to have been used, to generate integrated
communities. Nikole, I feel like not only, you know, being married to a
housing lawyer for all these years, but in the work and the reading that I
do, it doesn`t really seem like its worth. I mean, it`s just a separate
question about whether or not – stand in this case. But I do wonder if
the goals of the `68, they`re Housing Act have in fact led to integrated
NIKOLE HANNAH-JONES, STAFF WRITER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: I mean, largely,
they haven`t. Part of it is, you can have a strong fair housing law but
you have to have a strong enforcement. And we know that for the entire
time, really except for the first five years of the first Fair Housing Act
being passed, there was very little enforcement. With that said, disparate
impact is really one of the only systemic tools that we have left.
Otherwise, we are largely going to have to rely on someone knowing they`ve
been discriminated against, which is often impossible, and then actually
going to an agency and seeking redress.
HARRIS-PERRY: And am I right then, the other piece is that we have to be
able to peer inside the mind of the discriminator and say that there was
ADAM BENFORADO, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF LAW, DREXEL UNIVERSITY: Yes. And I
think that`s what really worries me. I tend to think that five justices on
the Supreme Court believe that racial bias equates with racial animus. And
I think the available psychology suggests that that`s only half of the
story, right? When we see these tragedies as we just saw in South
Carolina, that`s part of what we`re thinking about when we`re talking about
racism in this country. But there`s a whole another story out there that
involves well-intentioned people who believe they`re egalitarian, making
decisions and acting in a way that creates terrible harm to members of the
African-American community. And that`s in housing, that`s in health care,
and that`s in criminal law. And so I worry that the Supreme Court thinks,
well, you know, we cross out racism from our laws. And then we`re all set.
And that`s simply not true.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, it`s that point that there`s a way that this –
these murderers in Charleston, rather than revealing more clearly the
continued nature of racism in America, might actually help to obscure it,
because if your racism doesn`t show up in the church with a gun, then it`s
not racist – if it just shows up in a map of Dallas, Texas, where people
live in totally different neighborhoods, then we don`t think of it anymore
as racial bias.
JUAN CARTAGENA, PRESIDENT AND GENERAL COUNSEL, LATINOJUSTICE PRLDEF: And
that`s so true. And, you know, from the perspective of the communities
that are marginalized excluded, who cares?
CARTAGENA: Who cares?
HARRIS-PERRY: Who cares if you meant to do it or not.
CARTAGENA: You still exclude it. You still don`t have an adequate housing
opportunities. And the way this dovetails, where this school segregation
is so key. I mean, housing segregation is the main cause of school
segregation because of neighborhood school, and patterns and where –
zones. We`re talking about the ramifications across many sectors here.
Should the Supreme Court –
HARRIS-PERRY: And so housing segregation leading to school segregation,
but also environmental impacts, health impacts, employment, transportation,
all of those pieces.
HANNAH-JONES: I mean, there is a reason why this was the last civil rights
law that will be passed. Because this is the civil rights. So, that is
the root of really every other racial injustice. If you want to find the
racial injustice, it can be lead to where you live. And I think it`s also
important to acknowledge, it`s like the Donald Sterling effect. Donald
Sterling was running housing where he was discriminating against Black and
Latino renters for years. And we, the media knew this but –
HARRIS-PERRY: The smoking gun tape, right?
HANNAH-JONES: Right. We cared when he called some other prominent Black
folks names. But we didn`t care for all of the years where his policies
were actually keeping black folks out of housing.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, connect that then to legal strategy, if the worst thing
happens, in that disparate impact goes down. Is it just housing? And I
don`t mean just, given that, you know, we`ve just talked about how housing
is connected to all these other things, but what other aspects of civil
rights laws are vulnerable here?
NELSON: Okay. So, should the Supreme Court decide to depart from what 11
circuits have opined on this issue and decided is a lawful standard, should
the Supreme Court decide to give this very abhorrent thing, then we will be
faced with the challenge of seeking legislation to try to rehabilitate the
Fair Housing Act. We also can rely on a lot of state laws. A lot of
states are far more progressive in their housing, their fair housing laws
than we see at the federal level.
HARRIS-PERRY: All the progressive states has not been my life experience.
NELSON: But there are about 40 states in fact that have fair housing laws.
And it`s up to us to ensure that they are being enforced. It`s up to us to
seek new federal legislation and it`s up to us to protect the other civil
rights standards that rely on this crucial disparate impact concept and
make sure that they don`t get eroded as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we only have about 30 seconds. But can you explain to
me how science might help this. I mean, we actually know some things that
if the court understood them might help them on this.
BENFORADO: I think it`s about bringing the case, explaining why we need
disparate impact theory at all. I think that a wide sector of the American
public thinks that having Barack Obama elected as president means the end
of racism in our country. And yet if you look across all areas, we know
black men get higher bails, we know they`re more likely to be abused by
police officers, they`re more likely to get the death penalty. We know in
terms of housing, there are disparate impacts. We know in healthcare,
there are desperate impacts. And so, we need some evidence of why that
happens. I think the science offers that. And that`s implicit racial
bias. Good people with good intentions can act in ways based on
stereotypes which are pervasive in our culture.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to say thank you to Nikole Hannah-Jones, and to Juan
Cartagena and to Janai Nelson and to Adam Benforado whose book upcoming is
“Unfair: “Unfair: The New Science of Criminal Injustice.” I know we got,
it just feels like no time yet with this panel. That said, that is our
show for today.
I want to say thank you to those at home for watching. I`m going to see
you next Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
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