Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 06/27/15
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question – how will
Gracely Boggs celebrate her 100th birthday? Plus, weddings! Now everybody
is planning them. And President Obama`s big win at the Supreme Court. But
first, “Amazing Grace in Charleston, South Carolina.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And we have a lot of stories to
get to today. But first, an update on the fugitives on the run in upstate
New York. 21 days after escaping from New York`s Clinton`s correctional
facility, inmate Richard Matt was shot dead by federal agents Friday
afternoon. The whereabouts of Matt`s co-escapee, David Sweat are unknown
at this hour. Matt was shot just more than 30 miles away from the maximum
security prison near the town of Malone. Joining me now from Malone, New
York, is NBC News correspondent Chris Palone. Chris, what`s the latest?
CHRIS PALONE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Melissa. In just the last few
minutes, I saw a search team checking a house and its property just beyond
the checkpoint you see behind me here on the banks of the Salmon River,
south of Malone, New York. Police say they have surrounded a 22-square-
mile area where they are actively searching for David Sweat. And over -
ever since the sun has come up, we`ve seen many, many state police cars,
forestry cars, border patrol, going in and out of this search perimeter as
well as crews on foot, also a helicopter circling overhead as authorities
try to track down that last remaining escapee, David Sweat.
Authorities believe that Sweat and Matt were traveling together. As of
last Saturday they discovered both of their DNA in a hunting cabin in this
general area. Yesterday afternoon a driver coming through this area heard
a noise, thought he might have gotten a flat in the camper he was driving.
He stopped the little ways down the road and discovered a bullet hole in
that camper. He called police. Police responded to the area where he
thought he got that gunshot into the camper, and they found a hunting cabin
that apparently had been broken into. They smelled the fresh gunpowder, as
if a gun had gone off and, moments later, they say that they spotted
Richard Matt. They ordered him to put his hands up. When he refused, they
say that`s when police shot him. He was discovered with a .20-gauge
shotgun. Now, police say they believe the pair was traveling together, but
they have no evidence of that. Nobody has seen David Sweat to confirm that
they were traveling together. But police are pretty sure that they have
not split up, and that`s why they are still in this area. The words that
law enforcement are using to NBC News, hot on the trail, things of that
nature. So 22 days after this prison escape some 20 to 30 miles away from
here, police believe that they are bringing this to a close, but David
Sweat continues - yeah, David Sweat continues to elude police at this time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Chris Palone in Malone, New York.
We turn now to news this week in South Carolina. This week began the first
of a long line of home going services for the nine members of Charleston`s
Emanuel AME church who are murdered in a massacre last week during a
Wednesday night bible study. On Thursday the family, friends, and fellow
parishioners of 72-year old Ethel Lance and 45-year old Sharonda Coleman-
Singleton were joined by political leaders and their remembrance of these
women as devoted to family and dedicated to the church they loved.
And yesterday Emanuel`s congregation came together once again with more
than 5,500 mourners at Charleston`s T.D. arena to honor and bid farewell to
their beloved pastor and South Carolina state senator Reverend Clementa
Pinckney. Grieving alongside them was President Obama who traveled to
Charleston along with first lady Obama, Vice President Biden, and Dr. Jill
Biden to deliver the eulogy for Reverend Pinckney. In a rousing
remembrance, but at times had him sounding as much as a pastor as a
president, President Obama talked of Pinckney`s devotion to the dual
callings of his public life in the church and an elected office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Clem was often
asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public server. But the person who
asked probably didn`t know the history of the AME church, as our brothers
and sisters in the AME Church know, we don`t make those distinctions. Our
calling, Clem once said, is not just within the walls of the congregation,
but the life and community, in which our congregation resides.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama uses opportunity to give a lesson on the
institution of the black church as a safe haven for those who have often
only been able to find freedom within its sphere.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Over the course of centuries, black churches served as hush harbors
where slaves could worship in safety. Praise houses where their free
descendants could gather and shout hallelujah. They have been and continue
to be community centers where we organize for jobs and justice …
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That`s right.
OBAMA: Places of scholarship and network, places where children are loved
and fed and kept out of harm`s way. And told that they are beautiful and
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes!
OBAMA: … and taught that they matter.
OBAMA: That`s what happens in church.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And reflecting upon the response to the horror that happened
at Emanuel AME last week, the president noted the remarkable moments of
grace borne of this tragedy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: This whole week I`ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. The
grace of the families who lost loved ones.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
OBAMA: The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in the sermons.
The nation out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us.
For he has allowed us to see where we`ve been blind.
OBAMA: He has given us the chance where we`ve been lost to find our best
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And in a speech that echoed the twin passions of Reverend
Pinckney`s own life in politics and the pulpit, President Obama knit
together his role as both commander and eulogizer in chief by invoking our
moral obligation to a policy response worthy of God`s grace.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and
tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system and lead us to
make sure that that system is not affected with bias, that we embrace
changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust
between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer
and more secure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And as I listened to the president talk about the meaning we
have made from the deaths of the fallen, I also pause to consider the ways
in which each of those precious black lives mattered. Simply because they
lived. And I was reminded of another moment of lyrically rendered “Amazing
Grace” in one of the most powerful moments from her Pulitzer Prize winning
novel “Beloved.” Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison brings us Baby Suggs Halle
sermon in the clearing. Gathering together, the black community in an open
space among the tree, she preaches to them these words, urging them to find
salvation not in their deaths after their deaths in the kingdom of heaven,
but here and now in their very own black skin. She tells them, in this
here place, we flesh, flesh that weeps, flesh that lasts. Flesh that
dances on bare feet and grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not
love your flesh. They despise it. No more do they love the skin on your
back. Yonder, they flay it. And oh, my people they do not love your
hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love
your hands. Love them. Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with
them. Pat them together. Stroke them on your face because they don`t love
that either. You`ve got to love it. You. And so even as we bear witness
to the transformative grace we have found after the deaths of Mother
Emanuel`s sons and daughters I don`t want us to miss the Baby Sugg Halle
teaches her congregation that to be beloved of black life is still in and
of itself a radical act.
Joining me now is Robert Traynham, MSNBC contributor and Vice President of
Communications for the Bipartisan Equality Center. Kelly Brown Douglas,
professor of religion at Goucher College and author of “Stand Your Ground:
Black Bodies and the Justice of God.” Julian Zelizer, a professor of
history and public affairs at Princeton University and author of “The
Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson and Congress and the Battle for the
Great Society.” And Kai Wright, feature editor for “The Nation.” Kelly, I
wanted to start with you because I felt the president was doing a lot of
this work around redemption, but also black lives matter, which is an awful
lot of what your text is doing.
KELLY BROWN DOUGLAS, PROFESSOR, GOUCHER COLLEGE: That`s right, he was.
President Obama showed a deep appreciation and understanding for the black
faith tradition and the black church tradition. Of course, these are his
roots. And in so doing, he revealed that the black church has indeed
always been a place as you have said where black people knew that they were
free. And they knew this in several ways. One, because the black church
provided a free space. It was a sanctuary. It was a respite from a world
that always contested their freedom. The black church also provided
services that were typically denied black people in the wider world, but it
also affirmed the fact that black people were, indeed, sacred beings
created to be free. So, that they were created in the image of a god that
was free and so it affirmed the freedom of God and in so doing it affirmed
the freedom of black people. And so, the black faith tradition has always
been in tradition that has affirmed that black lives matter.
HARRIS-PERRY: And in that I just want to take – there was this one moment
that the Internet quickly began to say was the blackest moment in American
history. And that is simply this moment of President Obama beginning to
sing “Amazing Grace” and allowing everyone to join along. Let`s just
remind ourselves of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (singing):
Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And here comes the organ behind it. In something so
familiar and yet Kai, I`m thinking what this president did in this moment
was to give not only 5,500 people in that room, but all Americans an
opportunity to sing “Amazing Grace” with their president. That is quite an
extraordinary healing gift in that moment.
KAI WRIGHT, FEATURES EDITOR, THE NATION: You can kind of see the organist
off camera running to get in place.
WRIGHT: Wait a minute, wait a minute. You know, I think what`s been
interesting this week, too, is watching how we as black people have
wrestled with the black church and its history in our lives.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because it has its problems, too.
WRIGHT: Wright. And so, we`ve seen a lot of debate and some really
powerful discussion about grace and forgiveness and what role it does and
doesn`t play for folks and I have wrestled with that myself in the course
of the week. And I have to say, one of the things that was powerful about
the president`s speech for me is it helped me land in the right place by
reminding me of my own black church roots and particularly that line about
this is where you go to be told that you are smart and beautiful and that
your life matters. And it is hard for me to imagine arriving where I am
today as an adult having not been raised in the black church.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I wanted to also – for me there was an LBJ-like moment
as one aspect of this and that just - that invitation to “Amazing Grace”
felt not unlike President Johnson`s “We Shall Overcome.” That it`s
somewhat different, because Johnson is standing in a position of whiteness
and using the language of the civil rights movement, but for President
Obama to use “Amazing Grace” in that way also felt like an invitation to
the collective movement in a way that felt not unlike the “We Shall
WRIGHT: I think that`s a good point. I mean that was in the voting
rights speech in 1965. He comes to Congress. He says we need this bill
and he ends it by saying we shall overcome. And he ended the barrier
separating Washington from the movement. And here what the president was
doing was connecting the church to himself, to everyone watching how we get
through this moment, and the speech did have policy in there. And I think
that`s important. He`s talking about criminal justice reform, he`s talking
about inequality in there, and that`s been the theme of the week from the
podcast where he started through that speech, where we have to get to these
policy issues if we`re going to deal with the root causes of racism.
HARRIS-PERRY: And not an easy thing to do, to both sort of affirm this
theological point that Kelly is making, but also a very clear policy point
where he`s like, look, we`re going to have to have some voting rights and
we`re going to have to address in a very clear way gun control and all the
ROBERT TRAYNHAM, FMR. BUSH-CHENEY SR. ADVISOR: Absolutely. What`s very
interesting about this, Melissa is, oftentimes presidential speeches are
scripted. There`s a teleprompter, there`s a presidential seal. You know
when the president is going to give a policy moment. What we saw yesterday
was a president that was president, but also that was black and the
blackness was first and foremost – he was speaking unscripted, if you
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean really know - I mean, apparently the black president
we have been waiting for was showing up the last year.
TRAYNHAM: Well, that`s (INAUDIBLE) because I don`t think Barack Obama
could have done that in 2010 or 2011. And what you see here, and I`ll
probably get in trouble for saying this, but I do believe this, is that the
president can be black now. He can be himself, authentically himself. And
I`m not sure running for re-election going up to 2012 you would have seen
Barack Obama do that. He`s very comfortable with who he is now.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s an interesting question, we talk about the freedom
constituted in the space of the black church. There is also a freedom
experienced in this moment by this president for a whole many reasons,
which we will continue to talk about, because much more on this and on what
is happening today in South Carolina. There is news and video about a
Confederate flag coming down this morning in South Carolina, and that`s
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Removing the flag from this state`s capitol would not be an act of
political correctness. It would not be an insult to the valor of
confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause
for which they fought, the cause of slavery, was wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama delivering the eulogy for Reverend
Clementa Pinckney and calling for the removal of the Confederate flag. And
just the simple statement that the cause of slavery was wrong. This
morning, the flag did come down briefly at the South Carolina state house
in Columbia. Joining me now from Charleston, South Carolina, is NBC News
correspondent Sarah Dallof. Sarah, can you tell us about the removal of
the flag and who removed it?
SARAH DALLOF, NBC NEWS: Yes, of course, Melissa. Now, earlier today, the
Department of Public Safety noticed a woman going up the flagpole. When
they walked over, she was in climbing gear. They asked her to stop. But
instead she continued to the top of the flagpole and removed that
Confederate flag. She`s been identified as Brittany Newsom (ph). She was
arrested by authorities. A man who had gone inside the fence surrounding
the base of the flagpole, James Tyson, he was also taken into custody.
Both have been charged with defacing monuments. I had the opportunity to
speak to Reverend Jesse Jackson, get his reaction to the developments this
morning. He says not only was he not surprised this happened, he was
actually delighted and said that activists have a way of pushing the
HARRIS-PERRY: Indeed. That is a nonviolent direct action of a very clear
kind. Extraordinary video there of the activists doing that work. Sarah,
I also want to just check in, because in the midst of the activism, there
is also still mourning. There are more funerals scheduled today. What can
DALLOF: We have two more funerals scheduled for three people today. The
first begins in just under an hour. It is for Cynthia Lund (sic), she was
the manager of one of the busiest library branches here in Charleston
County. All of the branches will be shut down today, so her colleagues can
attend her funeral. In fact, they`re going to name the library branch
where she worked after her.
After that, later this afternoon we will have the funerals for 87-year-old
Susie Jackson and her nephew, Tywanza Sanders. He was a recent graduate of
Allen College. And according to witnesses, Sanders tried to talk to the
gunman, to reason with him. When he realized that was not going to happen,
he tried to shield the body of his aunt with his own body. Back to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: One of the most poignant stories to come out of this
tragedy. Thanks to NBC`s Sarah Dallof in Charleston, South Carolina.
There is still to come this morning the historic week of rulings from the
Supreme Court. But first President Obama`s call for justice is next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For too long, we`ve been blind to the way past injustices continue
to shape the present.
Perhaps we see that now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For too long we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag
stirred in too many of our citizens. By taking down that flag, we express
God`s grace. But I don`t think God wants us to stop there. For too long
we`ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.
Perhaps we see that now. Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was, of course, President Obama yesterday eulogizing
the Reverend Pinckney in Charleston, South Carolina. Joining us now from
Charleston is Dr. Ronnie Randolph, president of the South Carolina
Conference of the NAACP. Dr. Randolph, you and I were together yesterday
there in Charleston. What do you hope that South Carolina political
leaders see now if their eyes are, in fact, open as the president says?
LONNIE RANDOLPH, S.C. STATE CONFERENCE PRESIDENT, NAACP: Well, first of
all, good morning to you and your listeners. And I thought the president
gave on yesterday one of his best speeches in the past six years, not
because it was about race but because it was about truth, justice and
equality of all people. I give him very high – I give him very high marks
for his comments on yesterday, but we`re beyond the commentary now. Let`s
get to some action.
Again, I mentioned to one of the reporters on yesterday, for 239 years
we`ve been celebrating Fourth of July, Frederick Douglass addressed that
issue. What does Fourth of July mean to me? That`s been the attitude I`ve
had for the last 65 years with Fourth of July. It`s time for us now to
move from the verbiage and move to some work. We have educational issues
in South Carolina that have not been addressed. We have a plethora of
issues that we need to address, education, the criminal injustice system
that is improving, but we still need to put it on a fast track and
overdrive, and health care disparities.
I want to thank the Supreme Court for moving away from their conservative
views to a more humane view on this past week in helping citizens to know
that there is some help on way.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Randolph, stick with us. But let me come to exactly
this topic around policy and even around the court. We saw this week
another important decision on disparate impact. The court let stand the
disparate impact standard. I just wanted to listen to what I swear was
President Obama referencing that in the eulogy yesterday. Let`s take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we
don`t realize it. So that we`re guarding against not just racial slurs,
but we`re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for
a job interview but not Jamal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not about these murders, because this wasn`t an
implicit bias. He was name checking something else.
ZELIZER: The fair housing decision, which was a huge one, overshadowed by
the other two. The court argued that it`s not simply about intent. It`s
about effect. And so that opens up a whole host of issues about racial
policy that I think are quite important. He`s clearly referring to that,
and it even goes beyond, I think, in some ways how the law was originally
envisioned. So if implemented, it could be very effective and powerful.
We`ll see what happens. It`s about implementation.
WRIGHT: And it speaks to the core debate about race and policy over my
lifetime of this difference between whether we are concerned about intent
or impact. And a conversation and a policy making frame that switches us
to we`re concerned about the impact would be a radical change for how we
deal with race and public policy.
TRAYNHAM: Besides policy geeks reading the Supreme Court and legal
rulings, what the president did yesterday was break it down in layman`s
terms, that Johnny is going to get the call-back after the job interview,
but Jamal probably is not. And Jamal probably is going to get the job
interview, but he won`t get the job. So in other words, people that look
like you and I probably have a steeper hill to climb. And again, this goes
back to a president that feels liberated to help connect these dots and
say, look, America, look inside the mirror here. What type of country do
we want to be and are we on the road to that more perfect union? I think
we are. But we`re not there yet.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Randolph, I want to come back to you for just a moment,
because you also said to me yesterday as we were talking about these big
policies, you said to me, yes, all of these important big policies, but
also it is important to take down that confederate battle flag. What you
said to me yesterday is I want to be respected as a citizen. Is that
what`s at stake with that flag?
RANDOLPH: That`s the issue. At the end of the day, at the end of the day,
all of the citizens of the state regardless of their ethnic background,
their religious philosophy, they want to be respected as human beings, and,
unfortunately – unfortunately – in most circumstances and most
situations, the laws passed in this state thus far have been more
confederate oriented laws than we`ve adopted. Our love for the confederacy
we`ve seen in every aspect of government in this state. And it`s time for
that to end. And I`m sorry that it had to take the loss of nine lives, but
also it took pointing the finger at this state from all over the world.
Everybody on planet earth now knows about South Carolina and that South
Carolina has some work to do. We don`t want – we want South Carolina to
be a part of the union. We want South Carolina to disengage itself from
that secessionist mentality that it`s held since 1860.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dr. Lonnie Randolph in Charleston, South Carolina. Up next
we come back, I`ll do a little theological work with one of my guests on
exactly this idea about the position of death as a way of calling us to
attention when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: God continues to shed his grace on the United States of America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama yesterday wrapping up his eulogy in
Charleston, South Carolina. And Kelly, I want to come to you on this. He
emphasizes very specifically the United States of America. And I just –
my little theological moment here. From a Christian tradition, we think of
that most important moment in the story of Jesus, who is the Christ, that
is the death and resurrection. We get very focused on the idea of bloody
sacrifice. But part of what President Obama did was to call us back to an
African-American tradition that has said, yes, that matters critically, but
the other part of it was the life of Jesus of Nazareth, which was about
taking sides with the poor and sitting with the dispossessed, and being an
actual in life policy maker that affected and changed people in the moment
of life. And I just thought there was something important theologically
about that move that he does.
DOUGLAS: That`s exactly right. First of all, the black faith tradition of
course affirms and what`s central is the crucifix and the resurrection.
And so what President Obama was doing was suggesting that the meaning of
what`s going on here is not simply found in the crucifying deaths of these
people. That`s not going to define them. It`s not going to define who
they are and who we should be as a nation. The meaning is found in the
resurrected realities of new life, a new life in this nation that points us
away from the crucifying realities of injustice, to the resurrecting
realities of justice and equality, et cetera.
I think one of the things that President Obama was doing in this eulogy is
stepping into the legacy of President Lincoln`s second inaugural address,
John F. Kennedy`s civil rights speech on June 11, 1963, and calling the
nation to a point of where it has to make a decision. Is the nation going
to be a slave nation or is it going to be a free nation? And so that`s what
President Obama is doing. And theologically if I`m going to follow through
on your train of thought, then theologically President Obama is saying, are
we going to be stuck in the crucifying realities of injustice, or are we
going to move forward in the resurrecting realities?
HARRIS-PERRY: Are we staying on Friday or are we going to Sunday morning?
DOUGLAS: Exactly right.
HARRIS-PERRY: Part of what feels important to me as we do that is to
remember and to affirm like the relevance of living black people in that
process, that it`s not our only contribution to this isn`t to die a
horrible death, right? That there`s actual value in the work we`re doing in
DOUGLAS: And he continued to point to the work of the people, of Reverend
Pinckney and all of the others, and he suggested that we have to find
meaning in the work they did.
ZELIZER: I mean, but the other lesson from Kennedy is he couldn`t do it.
So Kennedy did get a civil rights plan.
HARRIS-PERRY: It was in fact his death that finally did it.
ZELIZER: It was, but the deaths in the civil rights era struggle were
turned by a movement into an incredible push for legislation, and I think
that`s a lesson today that`s important.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we see that happening, right? We see these deaths and
then we see free Bree scaling the flagpole and bringing it down. At the
same time, we also see some proactive bringing it down. You end up with
some interesting allies and bedfellows.
TRAYNHAM: Robert Bentley, who is a Republican in Alabama of all places,
who proactively said this has to come down. You have Nikki Haley, who was
out in front, even before people started to call for it, she proactively
said this has to come down.
HARRIS-PERRY: But it`s because that flag is bad for business, right? I
think it`s both saying but it`s also like, when Walmart is like, all right,
we ain`t selling it, then the governor of South Carolina, says, well, I
can`t really have Walmart pissed at us.
TRAYNHAM: Yes, there is a business aspect to this, but there`s also a
WRIGHT: All of that is true, but it is also because we have spent the past
year with a movement that changed this debate. On Saturday morning
somebody was going to climb that pole and take that flag down.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. And somebody was going to get it on video and
we were going to be able to then – connect it.
WRIGHT: That is what is changing and what is important. I think we need
to keep –
HARRIS-PERRY: The movement matters in the context. Up next President
Obama calls for an end to the unique mayhem of America`s gun violence.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: For too long we`ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun
violence inflicts upon this nation. Sporadically our eyes are opened.
When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement,
12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school. But I hope we also see
the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was President Obama yesterday making a familiar plea
that we as a country must do something to limit access to guns and stop
this unique mayhem of violence. Just so you know, that number that he was
talking about, that 30, is about the murders, but I also don`t want us to
miss 55 daily suicides by firearms, 55 daily suicides in this country by
firearms, two accidents, one by police intervention, and often where one we
don`t often know what it is. 89. Nearly 90 deaths a day in this country
by guns. Is there any possibility this might be part of the policy
conversation going forward?
TRAYNHAM: I think the president`s on record as saying there`s no policy
avenue for this number to go down. The Congress says – there`s no
appetite for the Congress to bring this up. The Congress has no – the
natural constituency of the Congress, when I say the Congress I mean the
Republican majority, there`s no pressure from their constituency to put
this up on Capitol Hill. What you saw is the vast silence of the members
of Congress in terms of issuing statements and so forth after the gun
violence, and what we also saw from presidential candidates, the silence as
HARRIS-PERRY: Everybody could denounce the racism, but people were not
prepared to denounce –
ZELIZER: It`s not the pressure for, it`s the pressure against. In this
podcast with Marc Maron early in the week, he talked about this in a
visceral moment, where the comedian asked him what`s going to happen. And
he says nothing, because the NRA has control over many members. The
actuality is that gun sales will probably spike now.
TRAYNHAM: They often do.
ZELIZER: No, no, he says that. He`s aware–
HARRIS-PERRY: People are thinking to themselves if I`d been in that Bible
study armed, then I could have been –
ZELIZER: As the NRA will say. He`s aware of a kind of a broader change
needed if there`s ever going to be a policy response to this.
WRIGHT: The NRA continues to hold enough threat against you as an elected
official where even if this isn`t your core issue –
ZELIZER: In both parties.
WRIGHT: It`s not worth – it`s just not worth the price you`re going to
have to pay to fight them, and that`s a tragedy and a shame. And they are
literally holding our country hostage.
HARRIS-PERRY: But maybe this, more than any other moment then, is the
“Amazing Grace” moment for our president. He knows that. He has eulogized
these moments. And yet he was still like, all right, one more time, in a
week when the ACA stands, in a week when marriage equality becomes the law
of the land, I`m not just going to throw up my hands and say it can`t
happen. I`m going to say not only in this moment but every single day
nearly 90 Americans dying from these – more than half of them at their own
WRIGHT: Now as I have said, how weak and powerless our president is, is a
thing I do struggle with. That said, if he would bring the kind of energy
he brought on TPP, for instance, on the Trans Pacific Partnership, to gun
violence, perhaps we would see some openings.
TRAYNHAM: It`s interesting. One can make the argument that the president
– not just President Obama –
HARRIS-PERRY: A president.
TRAYNHAM: Have not led on this issue. In other words, get out in front of
this issue and use the bully pulpit to educate the American people. Look,
the NRA has a strong hold around your member of Congress, but there`s
something you can do about this. Let`s have a national conversation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you know whose job that is right now, though? Let me
just say whose job that is right now, is the candidates. If this is going
to be a national conversation, then it would be a national conversation in
the context of an election. And so maybe if you had a Democratic candidate
or a Republican candidate who wanted to run on this, then that could
happen. I want to say thank you to Kelly Brown Douglas for coming in and
doing a little work with me this morning. The rest of the panel is sticking
around. Up next, one way to honor the work of Reverend Pinckney, protect
HARRIS-PERRY: The mass shooting at Emanuel AME church in Charleston has
reignited the debate over whether to remove the Confederate flag from
public buildings. That is a critically important but also in many ways a
largely symbolic gesture. But as Ari Berman wrote in “The Nation” this
week, so much of the political discussion following the massacre in
Charleston is focusing on the hateful symbol of the Confederate flag, but
racism and race-based efforts to control the political process go much
deeper than symbolism. Take, for example, voter suppression. Even after
passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, many African-Americans were still
unable to vote, because states and local municipalities continued to use
tactics, such as poll taxes, literacy tests, and intimidation to stop
people from casting their ballots. And the Voting Rights Act of 1965
signed by President Lyndon Johnson put an end to those discriminatory
practices and appointed federal examiners to oversee voter registration in
areas where voting rights were endangered. It was a law that many died for
and fought for and marched for. A crown jewel of the civil rights legacy
that President Obama mentioned yesterday in his eulogy in Charleston, South
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful. A family of
preachers who spread God`s word, a family of protesters who so changed to
expand voting rights and desegregate the South.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In 2013, part of that civil rights legacy was put at risk
when the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the VRA. In a 5-4 ruling
the court invalidated a section of the act that required certain
jurisdictions with a history of racial discrimination to submit any changes
to their election systems to the Department of Justice for preclearance.
This Wednesday congressional Democrats introduced legislation to restore
what was lost in that 2013 ruling. It`s called the Voting Rights
Advancement Act of 2015. Joining me now is Ari Berman, contributing writer
for “The Nation” magazine and author of “Give us the Ballot: the modern
struggle for voting rights in America.” Talk to me about it, Ari.
ARI BERMAN, THE NATION: Hey, Melissa, thank you for having me and thank
you for blurbing my book.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a great book.
BERMAN: Now it`s official. The bill this week is very significant,
because it does two major things. Number one, it forces those states with
a history of voting discrimination over the last 25 years to approve their
voting changes with the federal government to prevent future
discrimination, so that includes 13 states, not just the states of the Deep
South but also places like New York and California, where there`s more
recent voting discrimination.
The second thing it does is it looks at those practices that lead to voter
suppression or voter dilution nationwide, and it says if you have a new
voter ID law or a new proof of citizenship law or a redistricting or an
annexation or a moving of a polling place, that affects minority voters,
you have to get federal approval for that, too. So it`s doing two very
interesting things. Number one, it`s using the historic protections of the
Voting Rights Act to stop discrimination, and it is using a more innovative
way, looking at the new forms of discrimination and trying to prevent that,
too. So those two parts of the bill I think if it passes - and that`s a
huge if – would be very powerful.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is my favorite part of the local color yesterday was
when they stepped off Air Force One, John Boehner was holding an envelope
that usually people have when they`ve ridden on Air Force One or flown on
Air Force One for the first time under a given president, suggesting that
maybe this was the first time Boehner flew Air Force One with the
president. And I`m just wondering if, in fact, in this moment we might
finally get to a point where, for example, a new VRA section 4 is possible
because this tragedy brought together two people that apparently hadn`t
been together before.
ZELIZER: It might. But the Boehner/Obama alliance on free trade is much
different than asking for an alliance on voting rights, where the
Republican Party has been dug in against this kind of legislation. You`ve
had the court go after the bill. That`s where it started. Then you`ve had
in the states as Ari has written, a real reversal, an effort to impose new
restrictions on voting rights. So I think it will take a big haul. It
will take more than a little schmooze on Air Force One to get the
Republicans onboard with this very important bill.
HARRIS-PERRY: So we`re talking about if gun control is going to become an
issue, it`s got to be the next election, but this election will be the
first time under a full lack of section 4, section 5 provisions,
protections. How much might that actually impact 2016?
BERMAN: I think it will have a huge impact. You`re talking about states
like Texas and North Carolina, where thousands of voters have already been
turned away from the polls in midterm elections. The turnout will be much
higher in 2016. There will be many battleground states in the South and
elsewhere. And voters really need that protection. I think it`s time for
the Republican Party to step up. Robert and I were in Selma together. We
were with all these Republicans who went to Selma. It was a very powerful
moment to see them there. I think we have to give them a lot of credit for
recognizing the history. But we also have to tell them, the fight is not
over. It didn`t end in 1965. The fight is still ongoing today, and if you
want to honor Selma, if you want to honor Charleston, you have to honor the
work for voting rights today, and that is protecting the Voting Rights Act
and protecting voting rights writ large.
TRAYNHAM: The bill Ari just mentioned a few moments ago, that`s kind of in
limbo, if you will, that is not the bill that will pass the Congress. I do
think a bill is going to pass. It`s probably going to be watered down.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s not going to be that aggressive.
TRAYNHAM: It will be a watered down version. And the reason why is, based
on the previous segment, Republicans are feeling the heat right now
politically but also emotionally. You can`t live in this political reality
without passing some type of a bill. But I don`t think it will be as tough
or as stringent as what you said, Ari. It`s not.
BERMAN: No, it`s not. But the thing is, the reason they introduced this
new bill is because the last bill wasn`t going anywhere, either. Senator
Leahy told me –
HARRIS-PERRY: Can they name it after Pinckney? Could you name that–
BERMAN: I don`t think you want to do that. Yes, you can, legislatively.
I don`t think Republicans would feel comfortable with that, but I think
behind the scenes, they`ll say look, we watch television, too, we`ve seen
Ferguson, we`ve seen Charleston, we`ve seen Baltimore. And so thus in the
process, let`s not politicize this by putting a name on it. Let`s just say
what it is. This is a voting rights advancement act for all Americans.
And again, I think by putting a name on it, unfortunately, I think a lot of
Republicans will probably shy away from that. Because again, just
philosophically, by politicizing this, if you will, I just think that`s not
a good strategy for President Obama or for the White House.
ZELIZER: You can politicize it with self-interest. There were many
Republicans in `65 who understood that if they didn`t come out for this, it
wasn`t simply a moral issue. They were going to lose support and the
Democrats would rack up a lot of votes for doing this. That could work,
partisan competition can work in the favor –
HARRIS-PERRY: The fight here is for white voters. It`s not just about
where black voters are going to go or where Latino voters are going to go.
It`s a question of whether those white Americans who walked in the
thousands yesterday into that arena, who are feeling in this moment, do
they want to be a part of a party that would stand in the way of voting
WRIGHT: But the problem is that structurally, in state by state, and Ari
can speak to this, this is working. The voter suppression is a successful
electoral strategy for the Republican Party, thus far, and there`s not a
lot of reason to fix what works.
TRAYNHAM: I know you have to go, really quickly, I think voting rights is
probably the wrong terminology to use from a PR standpoint. I would take
my cues from the LGBT movement. Voting equality is probably something that
rhetorically sounds better, and that`s a process that probably would get
much more support.
HARRIS-PERRY: (inaudible) not only doing political strategy here, but also
moving us into the next hour. Thank you to Ari Berman. The rest of my
panel will be back in the next hour. In fact, we have much more to come
this morning. The latest in the manhunt in upstate New York and the
historic week that was at the U.S. Supreme Court. There were some wins
this week. Maybe that`s how we`ll get this one (ph). Also the American
revolutionary celebrating her 100TH birthday today. There is so much more
Nerdland at the top of the hour.
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-
We begin this hour with the latest on the manhunt for a prison
escapee in New York. Twenty-one days after escaping from Upstate New
York`s Clinton correctional facility inmate Richard Matt was shot dead by
federal agents on Friday afternoon.
The other escaped killer, David Sweat, is still on the run. Matt was
shot dead just more than 30 miles away from the maximum security prison
near the town of Malone.
Joining me now from Malone, New York, is NBC News correspondent Chris
Chris, what`s the latest on the church?
CHRIS POLLONE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Melissa, much the same
as in the last hour. We continue to see groups of state troopers and other
federal and state agents moving along this area alongside the Salmon River
just south of Malone, New York. They`ve set up this perimeter around 22
square miles of forest land bordering this river that blockades started
last night after Richard Matt was shot and killed by a federal agent.
What led police to this scene, they were searching in the area when a
driver who had a camper reported that his camper had been shot. It had a
bullet hole in it. Police came to the area where he thought that he got
that gunshot into the camper. They found a cabin that had been broken
into. There was evidence that the prisoners might have been in that area
recently. When they went outside they heard a noise and they saw Richard
They ordered him to stop, put his hands in the air. They said he
wouldn`t comply. And that`s when they shot and killed him. They recovered
a .20-gauge shotgun from him.
Police believe Matt and Sweat were traveling together. Their DNA was
found in a hunting cabin near here about a week ago, although police admit
they have not seen Sweat with their own eyes. They have to assume he`s in
this 22-square-mile area, but they do not have proof of that just yet.
The search continues, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Chris Pollone in Malone, New York.
I want to bring in my next guest, from Washington, D.C., Matthew
Fogg, retired chief deputy for the U.S. Marshal Service.
Help me to understand, do you think that Matt and Sweat were still
together or had separated before the one suspect was shot?
MATTHEW FOGG, FORMER U.S. MARSHAL SERVICE CHIEF DEPUTY: Melissa,
it`s been my theory all along that I thought they had separated early on.
Maybe when they got to the cabin when they first got out that was their
contingency plan to get there, to hunker down for a while, I believe they
HARRIS-PERRY: So, help me understand, this is very close to the
Canadian border. I actually was quite surprised to discover they were
still – that at least Matt was still in New York. Is there any reason to
think that Sweat could have crossed that border into Canada?
FOGG: We just don`t know. I mean, that`s a possibility because of
the fact that right now if you think about the shoot-out that they had and
the police were able to move into that area and actually kill Matt – I
mean, the bottom line is the other guy would have been nearby, close by,
the dogs would have picked up his scent. They would have to me, it seems
they would have had more evidence that they were together.
They don`t have that right now. They`ve got some footprints that
they can`t even be sure of those. I would say that there`s a possibility
he could have made it to the border.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s kind of a breathlessness in our reporting.
We`re being told from people they`re hot on the trail, and yet it`s
stunning how long this has gone on. Based on your experience where do you
think they ought to be looking for Sweat right now?
Well, I mean, they`re in the right spot, but I think they just going
to have to pan out even broader. But right now, what they`re doing is
they`re saying with all the information, they have right now we have one of
them here. We just have to believe that maybe the other one is in this
location or somewhere in this brush. But, again, they`re sort of like they
have their planes up, you know, the radar, the infrared going at nighttime
but they just don`t have anything else.
So, I would say having done so many of these things and been on the
hunt, I would say you have to pan out at some point, start widening your
perimeter, but in the meantime, continue to crunch until you cover every
area of that location where Matt was killed.
HARRIS-PERRY: Matthew Fogg in Washington, D.C., thank you for
joining us and wearing a tie that matches the set.
FOGG: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
Friday morning, the Supreme Court delivered a landmark ruling in
Obergefell v. Hodges, the Constitution guarantees same-sex couples the
right to marry. The state specifically require the court to address a
state`s rights ban same sex marriage and whether a state must recognize
marriages made legal in another state.
By ruling 5-4 that states cannot ban and must recognize those unions,
the court made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, delivering a huge
victory in the hard fought battle for equal rights.
Writing the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy said this of same-sex
couples seeking marriage licenses, “Their hope is not to be condemned to
live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilizations oldest institutions.
They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants
them that right.
There was celebration in front of the Supreme Court as the news of
the ruling spread. And President Obama, who publicly endorsed same sex
marriage in 2012 spoke from the White House Rose Garden.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What an extraordinary
achievement, what a vindication of the belief that ordinary people can do
They should be very proud. America should be very proud.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Before Friday, 37 states and the District of Columbia
had already made same-sex marriage legal. And an April 2015 poll shows
more than 60 percent of the nation supports same-sex marriage. And while
the court decision does not align with popular opinion, the justices –
does align with popular opinion, the justices did split 5-4, showing that
division still exists.
One probate judge in Alabama even stopped issuing marriage licenses
altogether since the state legalized same-sex marriage. Responding to the
Supreme Court ruling, Judge Wes Allen said, “My office discontinued in
February and I have no plans to put Pike County back into the marriage
business. The policy of my office regarding marriage is no different today
than it was yesterday.”
So, while Friday`s ruling represents a meaningful victory, it`s clear
the struggle continues.
Joining me now, Kenji Yoshino, Chief Justice Earl Warren professor of
constitutional law at NYU School of Law, and author of “Speak Now: Marriage
Equality on Trial.”
Man, I`m glad you took time off and finished that book before this
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell me a little bit about Justice Kennedy`s decision.
What did you read there?
KENJI YOSHINO, NYU SCHOOL OF LAW: I really read Loving versus
Virginia redux, so I think he tipped his hand when he said an oral argument
which I attended in April 28 that this case of Obergefell, they are the
same relationship (INAUDIBLE) with Brown v. Board of the gay rights
movement which struck down sodomy statute, as Loving did to Brown.
So, he explicitly compared this case before us today to Loving versus
Virginia, the 1967 case, the right to engage in an interracial marriage
which was legal across the land, you know, I think 16 states at the time
when it was decided. So, very, very analogous in terms of the numbers to
what happened today.
But I think more importantly, Melissa, like you said, this is not
only about liberty. It`s also about equality and the two things
interlocked and the key thing about Chief Justice Warren`s opinion in
Loving was that he said this is not only about the freedom to marry, it`s
not only the right of equality for African-Americans, it`s about all
minorities, it`s everybody. He made the two things come together.
And I think that this opinion wasn`t as explicitly patterned on
Loving versus Virginia as other opinions have been, but it really had that
kind of soaring rhetoric in it.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels sometimes like the universe is purposely
trying to keep us from being too reductive in our analysis that arc of
history moving towards justice, the idea that we were burying in
Charleston, South Carolina, the victim of a racial hate crime, at the same
time that we have this enormous and meaningful decision occurring in the
courts, and I am wondering about the ways in which not only the courts but
sort of the movement sits at that intersection of successes and failures
all at the same time.
YOSHINO: Yes. So I love your line which I know comes from your dad
about how the struggle continues. I mean, Kevin Cathcart of Lambda Legal
was once said there have been many civil rights movements that have begun
but no civil rights movement has ever ended, right? And as Mike Signorelli
said in his great new book, it`s not over. There`s a lot of running room
or progress that still needs to be made in the gay rights realm itself
right? So, I actually think this will still continue with regard to the 29
states that still have – still lack employment discrimination protections
for gay rights. We were talking about whether you could eat at Chick-fil-
HARRIS-PERRY: I did. I said, I really want my waffle fries back.
And you`re like, no, sorry.
YOSHINO: Or that Religious Liberties Act. So, the 200 nations
around the world that still lack marriage equality, the 17 nations that
still ban sodomy, the eight of those countries make that sodomy punishable
by death. So, it`s a really long road there as well.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is there anything in the decision that might give some
idea of what the successes of those continuing struggles within the
question of rights for gay, lesbians and transgender people might look like
as the movement moves in that direction?
YOSHINO: Yes, that`s a wonderful question. Thank you for asking it.
So, a couple of things. One is that with regard to the religious
liberties defenses, Chief Justice Roberts in his dissent pointed out that
Justice Kennedy didn`t leave much running room for people of religious
objections to same-sex marriages. So, I think that`s a really important
protection for gay rights, although there`s no religious right to
Second, you noted that the strategy of like closing the swimming pool
rather than integrating it, so like I`m not going to grant marriages to
anybody because I don`t want to grant them to gay people, that strategy, I
think, was defeated by a very clever move in Justice Kennedy`s opinion
where he talks about liberty rather equality, because if you`re just
talking about equality, let`s think about this for a second.
HARRIS-PERRY: No public pools for anybody, no marriage.
YOSHINO: Exactly. You can level down as well as level up. But once
you say there`s a fundamental right, you can`t level down anymore. So,
there`s no fundamental right to use a public pool. This is actually, as
you know, your viewers may not know, an actual case where Jackson,
Mississippi, said we`d rather close our public swimming pools and to
integrate them. That was upheld by the United States Supreme Court, as
totally come porting with the equal protection clause because they`re
treating everybody equality.
But there`s no right to use a public recreational facility but there
is a right to marry for same-sex couples. You can`t level down the way
that Alabama County is seeking to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a big win. Kenji, stay with us.
We`re going to add more voices because there is more to talk on this
and so much more when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM OBERGEFELL, PLAINTIFF, SAME SEX MARRIAGE CASE: Today`s ruling
from the Supreme Court affirms what millions across this country already
know to be true in our hearts. Our love is equal.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Both the lead plaintiff in the landmark same-sex
marriage case that the Supreme Court ruled on yesterday.
Kenji Yoshino is still with us. And joining this table now, Robert
Traynham, MSNBC contributor and former Bush/Cheney advisor and vice
president of communications for the Bipartisan Policy Center. Susan
Sommer, director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, and Kai
Wright, features editor for “The Nation.”
So, I want to come to you on what happens next. I don`t know that
people always understand precisely how. So, here the court has made a
decision and now what. Having lived in Louisiana for many years, I was not
surprised to see the Louisiana AG, attorney general, writes there`s not yet
a legal requirement for officials to issue marriage licenses or perform
marriages for same sex couples in Louisiana. The attorney general`s office
will be watching for the court to issue a mandate or order to making
today`s decision final and effectively.
So, you still can`t get married in New Orleans just yet.
SUSAN SOMMER, DIR. OF CONSTITUTIONAL LITIGATION, LAMBDA LEGAL:
Marriages are starting in lots of places all around the country. Lots of
government officials are not waiting for the last “I” to be dotted and the
last “T” to be crossed. It is absolutely within the rights of every
government around this country to be issuing those marriage licenses and we
expect it`s just a matter of very short matter of time before everybody can
marry anywhere they want in the United States and delay would start to
incur personal liability on the part of recalcitrant officials and people
should not be forgetting.
HARRIS-PERRY: What do you mean by delay might incur these kinds of -
SOMMER: The Supreme Court has spoken very clearly with the law of
the land requires. So, refusing to issue marriage licenses is going to
mean that you are in violation of the U.S. Constitution and you know it
because the Supreme Court has told you so. So, if there is undue delay
beyond what is, you know, a few days what is reasonable just to get – gear
up your administrative processes, that could run the risk of personal
HARRIS-PERRY: Robert, there was tons of enthusiasm about this.
There was also dissent, there`s dissent even within the court. Chief
Justice Roberts dissenting, “Many people will rejoice but I begrudge none
of the celebrations. But for those who believe in the government of laws,
not of men, the majority approach is deeply disheartening.”
And Scalia writing for us, whoever thought that intimacy and
spirituality, whatever that means, were freedoms. Intimacy is one would
think freedom is a bridge rather than expanded by marriage ask the nearest
So, there were other words being spoken yesterday.
ROBERT TRAYNHAM, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I mean, look, I don`t know
what that means.
HARRIS-PERRY: I don`t even know where the nearest hippy is. I would
ask them if I could find them.
TRAYNHAM: It doesn`t matter. I think what matters here, the true
justice here, the Supreme Court justice, is Justice Kennedy. He clearly
was the one who was the swing vote on this but actually fairly predictable
here. I mean, he`s been fairly libertarian when it comes to privacy, when
it comes to the Second Amendment here.
It was also very interesting is that because he was – had the
seniority, he actually chose himself to write the majority opinion here
which is very, very important. He wanted to control the narrative here.
There`s a reason he did this, we think, from what I read, why he did this
on a Friday because this is the anniversary of two other Supreme Court
cases on gay rights, Windsor in 2013 and also another one in 1988.
So, this was a very deliberate attempt for the majority to send a
message to the country.
HARRIS-PERRY: Kenji, is there anything in this decision that we
should – or in the dissent that we should see as kind of a crux, you know,
basis for – I guess for me what does marriage mean? I mean, we`re going
to continue to talk about this. What does marriage mean in terms of
establishing some set of citizen-based rights, if that makes sense?
YOSHINO: Yes, I mean, Susan can help me out here, too, but I think
that Kennedy`s opinion really lays out in the beginning of the opinion the
four different rights that go under the bucket of rights, of the freedom to
So, first, you said it was the right to make decisions about one`s
intimate life. Second, he says it`s about the right to engage in a couple
relationship. Third, the rights of the children, something that he`s
really hammered again and again in oral argument and his writings on the
marriage issue. And finally says it`s a responsibility right. It bears
responsibility to the state.
I think that`s why this appeals to the conservatives that it appeals
to and rightly should appeal to that the this is not just free to do
whatever I want. When I marry, I actually incur obligations as well as
HARRIS-PERRY: And, in fact, Kai, I wonder if that is the only little
kind of small not so happy lining of the whole thing, is part of what
political movements gave was to all of American politics was a pushing back
against convention and I am thrilled by this and this feels like the right
decision for freedom and equality and all of that.
But I also wonder if we lose a little something about how valuable
queer political movements have been to say the way we order society is not
the only way we can order it.
KAI WRIGHT, THE NATION: Yes, we don`t lose that in yesterday`s
opinion. We lost that over the course of 20 years of politics around this.
I would urge all of us to use the word and more and I think this is a
And I think it is both true that as a queer movement, as my own
politics, that we want to be in a place we`re challenging society to think
about the ways we arrange ourselves differently and it is also true that if
we are going to bestow a certain set of rights based on being married,
everybody ought to have access to those rights. Both things can be true.
And I hope we have a movement that is robust and big enough to hold both of
these concepts at the same time.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, because I want marriage to be a right but also
not a requirement, right, that one can cover one`s beloved under one`s
health insurance without marriage being the one and only relationship that
we think of as valuable.
WRIGHT: Exactly. And that we understand gay politics and queer
politics as more than a question about how we put together sexuality in
this society in general. How we protect transpeople as human people.
TRAYNHAM: Right, dignity under the law that is guaranteed under the
Constitution. That`s critical.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me say thank you to Susan Sommer who I didn`t
realize was leaving. I would have come back. Who knew?
But thank you, Susan Sommer, you have to come back again. Please,
the rest of the panel is sticking around. Up next, it was a week of wins
for President Obama but this may have been the biggest.
HARRIS-PERRY: The day before the Supreme Court made marriage
equality the law of the land, the high court helped solidify health care in
America by rejecting a challenge to the Affordable Care Act that would have
up-ended the health care law and jeopardize coverage for millions of
In a 6-3 decision the court ruled that consumers qualify for a
subsidy that lowers the cost of premiums regardless of whether they buy
through federal or state exchanges. Plaintiffs in King v. Burwell had
argued that because the law technically says exchanges must be established
by the state, that 6.4 million people who bought insurance on federal
exchanges should not receive subsidies.
The court`s ruling was the second time in three years that the
justices had upheld the president`s signature legislation but this time,
the ruling was more robust.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the court`s majority opinion,
Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets
not to destroy them. After the ruling was announced, the president
celebrated the historic win.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Five years ago, after nearly a century of talk, decades of
trying, a year of bipartisan debate, we finally declared that in America,
health care is not a privilege for a few but a right for all. The
Affordable Care Act is here to stay.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But some 2016 presidential hopefuls spoke out against
the decision, seemingly in agreement with Justice Scalia who in his dissent
called the court`s opinion interpretive jiggery pokery.
Presidential candidate, Senator Rand Paul, responded to the ruling
saying, quote, “This decision turns both the rule of law and common sense
on its head. Obamacare raises taxes, harms patients and doctors and is the
wrong fit for America`s health care system.”
And Texas Senator Ted Cruz offered this.
SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: For the second time in a few years, a
handful of unelected judges has rewritten the text of Obamacare. In order
to impose that failed law upon millions of Americans.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, while the Supreme Court`s decision virtually
insures that the Affordable Care Act will survive after President Obama
leaves office, it`s also clear the political battle over the law will
Back with me now, Julian Zelizer, professor of history and public
affairs at Princeton University and fellow at the New America Foundation.
And when I said the president celebrated, he celebrated. I mean,
there was like chest bumping and elbow bumping and all kinds of enthusiasm
and excitement. Yes, we won.
I sort of thought, and this at least helps to re-establish this for
me, Julian, that once you establish a bureaucracy that provides people with
the good, you just really can`t take it back. Like that`s kind of part of
how our history works, isn`t it?
JULIAN ZELIZER, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: Usually. I mean, usually once
a program of this size is in place, it`s not dismantled. There are
examples, there are big ones like reconstruction.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right, that one. Yes.
ZELIZER: And small ones, smaller ones like the Medicare catastrophic
program which was repealed. But, generally, it does become harder and now
the court has given it a kind of legitimacy with this ruling that will make
it very difficult for Republicans to make a compelling case. They will do
it. I think a lot of it now is purely symbolic. It`s purely an effort to
attack what the Democrats are about.
But as more people are gaining these benefits, even if they say in
polls I don`t love it, I think they`re going to want it.
WRIGHT: They`re saying they don`t love it because they don`t
understand it, and because it has problems.
WRIGHT: What I am thrilled about is that we arrive at a moment we
can stop debating the existence of the Affordable Care Act and stop making
it work out.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Making it even better. I mean, critic from
the left probably as opposed from the right.
WRIGHT: And that`s been one of the tragedies of the last five years.
There`s plenty of stuff we need to be focused on how this law is
implemented to make it fair and equitable and an effective reform and we
have not had an opportunity to talk about any of that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because we`re just holding the line on its existence.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So it`s time to turn that page.
TRAYNHAM: But moving on the 2016, though, this will be a rallying
call for the Republicans.
TRAYNHAM: But here is why. This is in the same category as Roe
versus Wade. What you hear over and over again, leading up to a
presidential election on Republican election or Republican sectors, elect
me and I`ll get conservatives, I`ll appoint Supreme Court justices that`s
going to overturn Roe versus Wade. We know it`s not going to happen.
But what does happen is contributions go up, the rallying call goes
up. And the applause gets even louder. So, when you hear is a lot of
Republicans on the campaign trail who say elect me and I`ll appoint some
conservatives. Remember, we have three Supreme Court justices that are
towards the end of their life, and so then the question becomes –
HARRIS-PERRY: I hope you`re not counting Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I`m
sure she has another 25, 30 years, sir.
TRAYNHAM: They had more yesterdays than tomorrows, OK? And so,
therefore, there`s a very good –
HARRIS-PERRY: Except for Ruth.
TRAYNHAM: – there`s a very good likelihood that the next Republican
or Democratic president will probably appoint up to three Supreme Court
HARRIS-PERRY: But that said the Supreme Court stands even if there
are new justices. Is there any realistic reason to believe that even new
justices would undo this ruling?
YOSHINO: No. I think the difference between this and Roe versus
Wade it`s statutory interpretation. The important thing, also, about this
ruling which I think has flown under some radars, they also did something
known as Chevron deference and they said we`re not going to defer to
interpretations of the statute according to a 1984 landmark decision called
Chevron. Instead, we are going to interpret this ourselves because this is
sufficient political and economic import and the IRS doesn`t have
particular expertise in the area.
That means that its interpretation will not only stand but it will be
preserved from subsequent administrations. So, if the Republicans win and
they want the IRS to issue new rulings, they`re not going to be able to
reinterpret the statue.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s critical but weakens Chevron deference in and
of itself, right? It just says that there`s a separate –
YOSHINO: It may. I mean, I think one of the things about both of
the decisions, the gay marriage decision and this decision is that they
both strengthen the power of the judiciary vis-a-vis the states –
HARRIS-PERRY: That helps me understand how this Alice down the
rabbit hole even happened this week. Thank you to Kenji Yoshino and to
Robert Traynham also to Julian Zelizer and to Kai Wright. Still to come
this morning, now that everybody can get married, how much money is there
to be made? We`re talking about weddings when we come back.
It`s June, what do you want?
HARRIS-PERRY: Friday`s Supreme Court decision guaranteeing the right
to same-sex marriage was not only a victory for the LBGTQ community, but
also for the wedding industry.
Yes, it seems policies can offer economic advantages. It all boils
down to this, weddings tend to cost a lot. And according to the 2014
American wedding study conducted by “Brides” magazine, the average wedding
costs, a little more than $28,000. Not a multi-platform wedding resource,
also raises spending habits in terms of real weddings in the U.S. They`re
figures are higher, $31,000 is the average wedding.
Of course, that figure can more than double depending on the setting
ones nuptial. The big apple costs more than $75,000 and that amounts to
well more than a year`s salary for basically everybody, and a year in
housing or the cost of college tuition. So, what high price tags, and what
compels us to pay?
Some point to the so-called wedding industrial complex, a $51 billion
industry, comprise of dress makers, venues, caterers, a lot of other
things. At this, to the influence of TV, more than $2 billion people tune
in to watch the which wedding of Britain`s Prince William to Kate
Middleton. Back in 2011, Kim Kardashian`s wedding to Kris Humphries ran to
a two-part special called Kim`s fairy tale wedding. And later, when she
married Kanye West, their wedding photo broke Instagram.
Television has shaped and magnify our idea of the big day, since
Prince Charles wed Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. The wedding industry keeps
Now, it is about to cash in even more. In the first three years of
nationwide marriage equality, spending on same sex weddings could add
almost $200 million in tax revenue and 13,000 jobs to state economies
according to a report from the UCLA`s School of Law Williams Institute.
In 2012, one year after New York state legalized marriage equality,
same sex marriage generated an extra $259 million in spending within New
York City alone. But the question remains for all the couples, why do we
invest so much in one big day?
Joining me now, Jennifer Pozner, executive director of Women in Media
News, Salamishah Tillet, associate professor at the University of
Pennsylvania, Jamie Kilstein, co-host of Citizen Ray Radio, and Keija
Minor, editor in chief of “Brides” magazine.
OK, can I just say, I have loved weddings since 1981, when I woke up
early to watch Lady Di and Princess Charles. I am a little obsessed with
them in the sense that I really like – I get why they are this fun – I
like all the different ones, I like the Las Vegas weddings, I like the big,
fancy ones, and I wonder why? What is it about them that is so compelling
to so many of us?
KEIJA MINOR, EDITOR IN CHIEF, BRIDES: I think it`s one of the few
times in life you really know that you`re starting a new chapter, it`s such
a milestone and it`s really a celebration of two people who have found each
other and decided they`re going to spend the rest of their lives together,
build a life, and they want to spend it and celebrate it with all their
friends and family who arguably probably had a lot to do with getting them
where they are and in shaping who they are.
It`s always been a celebration to some extent and it`s always been a
cornerstone of our society.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s a part of me that thinks, yes, yes, yes. Two
people I really love, yes, and the ones I have gone to where I`m like, yo,
this is creepy town. There is this much debt being accumulated for folks
who are still at an early part of their lives and struggling to find
SALAMISHA TILLET, UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA: I guess one of the
things that we can learn from yesterday`s decision is that there`s a
difference between the legal institution of marriage and the public
performance of a wedding, right? So, what is it we`re investing in the
public – I didn`t grow up with the same sense. I mean, weddings are
wonderful and beautiful to attend, I didn`t grow up thinking that was the
ultimate goal or even that was something I need.
So, I have a different take on it, I suppose. I do think both the
financial debt that people get into and the big issue of the fairy tale
romance is embedded – particularly for girls – that`s why weddings for
the most part has been seen as the bride`s decisions, the bride`s day.
I think that gender imbalance that`s part of a wedding performance.
It would be interesting to see how it changes as, you know, gay couples and
lesbian couples can get married, whether it`s the same spectacle or not.
But I do think it`s deeply embedded in a patriarchal understanding of
HARRIS-PERRY: So, my understanding is that you came here from your
JAMIE KILSTEIN, CITIZEN RADIO: I came here from my brother`s
wedding. My brother got married yesterday.
HARRIS-PERRY: Had a wedding. Had a public performance.
KILSTEIN: Yes, but then as a progressive, it`s not a gay wedding
KILSTEIN: And according to Rick Santorum, he`s probably going to get
divorced and marry a dog in the upcoming weeks. It was cool to hang out
with friends and family. There definitely is that kind of archaic, creepy,
father hands the bride over to the groom, but then I`m also there`s free
food, so that`s cool.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I get it. I get why that ritual can be archaic
and creepy. I also get there was a certain thing about my parents, both my
mother and my father, standing there to witness when I married James,
So, here is my family of origin standing there, hey, me and James,
there we are. And there`s my kid, Parker, who you can see was highly
enthusiastic about this moment.
KILSTEIN: So cool. Our family has been through so much. I like it
as a celebration of sort of like all of us, coming together to get them
where they were.
But like you were saying, I was just reading a great passage she was
talking about, Rebecca, the author was talking about how Republicans are so
afraid of same-sex marriage because the institution of heterosexual
marriage is also very like this is the role of the woman –
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Jen, jump in.
JENNIFER POZNER, WOMEN IN MEDIA NEWS: First of all, so fantastic
that the Supreme Court did the right thing and everybody who wants to can
get married now. Marriage can be wonderful. The weddings themselves, the
performative nature as Salamishah was saying, are incredibly hyper
consumptive right now. And the idea that we spent as of, when I was
writing “Reality Bites Back”, I did research and found that as of 2010, we
were spending $80 billion annually on the wedding industrial complex,
everything from registering furniture to destination weddings to rings and
dresses and all of this.
You can spend $100,000 to get married in the Cinderella princess
pavilion at Disneyworld and also rent dancing princesses and princes and
getting a wedding dress that`s a Jasmine wedding dress or an Ariel wedding
dress or another Disney Princess wedding dress.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, stick on that because I want to come back
to that. Particular the Ariel and the princess, and particularly the idea
of the kind of virginal adolescent girl as bride. Also have some
resonances for other questions. All of that when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: There`s one part of the entertainment industry in
particular that feeds and feeds off of our obsession with weddings, reality
TV. A successful example is the “Bachelor”/”Bachelorette” franchise that
promises a proposal and a walk off into the sunset to boot. So, between
all of the impossibly romantic dates, declarations of love and talk of
forever, where does sex fit in?
According to the formula of the show, it`s in the final (ph) episode
when sex is sanctioned, though rarely explicitly discuss in the
specifically designed fantasy suite. But current “Bachelorette” Kaitlyn
Bristowe isn`t playing by the rules. The most recent episode she deemed
herself a make out bandit and slept with one of the contestants a few weeks
ahead of schedule. A lot of people had a lot to say about it.
Many in the Twitter-verse were quick to call her a whore or gross,
embarrassing, while others praise Bristowe`s modern approach to
relationships. After being confronted, by one of the contestants for her
make out banditry, but she gave her perspective.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLI)
KAITLYN BRISTOWE, BACHELORETTE: To me, intimacy is an important part
of a relationship and I`m not afraid to say that. I don`t care what people
say or think. Like, to me, that`s important. It may not be that important
to other people, but this is forever and this is a marriage and part of
that is intimacy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: She isn`t the first woman to be shamed for her
sexuality. She surely won`t be the last.
In this day and age, why are we still attached to the myth behind the
big white dress? Jen?
POZNER: Well, I sadly have had to transcribe and watch every episode
of the “Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” from 2002 to 2010 and I watched this
So, I can tell you, this is not actually the first time that this
franchise has slut shamed women, not only on “The Bachelor”, but has slut
shamed its star from the first season of “The Bachelorette”, they literally
had Chris Harrison sit down and have Trista explained to the audience why
she`s not a whore, I`m sorry, I just need people to know that I`m not a
tramp just because I kissed a lot of guys who I may marry every season.
It`s structurally built into the show to – while on “The Bachelor”, the
implicit and sometimes explicit encouragement is that they should bone as
many bachelorettes as they can.
HARRIS-PERRY: I`m actually all for spend what you can afford to do
whatever you want to do. I`ve been spending a lot on my garden in my
backyard, lately, right? So, I don`t have any spending shaming for people
on their weddings. But I do worry about the ways that there is this kind
of, like, presumptive – not just being a princess but the virginal
princess which is the requirement for having not just the big wedding with
the big wide dress, but ultimately for having this happy marriage.
TILLET: Yes. I guess it`s ironic and full of illusions at this
point so the fact had a she had sex with one of the men on the show as part
of her courting is basically how so many of us have probably engaged in
many relationships. It`s so normal and natural at this point so the fact
that it`s still part of a discourse of slut shaming or she has to justify
it in any way, in this week in particular where we`re having such important
definitions of what gender roles can be I think is ludicrous and offensive
to women across –
POZNER: And it`s part of the regressive nature of what reality TV
tells us that romance is and what gender roles are supposed to be.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, can we have weddings? My mother was married in an
orange mohair dress at the hitching post. I think of it as a really
lovely, romantic story. It is like high-fiving at the courthouse.
But I do worry about the way – my daughter is 13 and she really
loves your magazine. She looks at the pictures and, you know – I try to
encourage her to think about it as an industry not a personal industry. If
you love weddings, go work in it rather than think about how you can get
But I do worry about what that might be doing to her little baby
fledgling feminist brain. I both want her to be able to enjoy and love all
the beauty and love and excitement and romance but also to have a critique.
Is there a way to hold them together?
MINOR: Yes. I think it`s important to remember that long gone are
the days where the bride`s parents paid for the whole wedding or passing
their daughter from their house to their husband`s house. It`s much
different now. More than 40 percent of couples pay for their wedding
themselves and it`s really about two people coming together and deciding
that they want to spend the rest of their lives together.
I also think when we talk about it as this industry, it is not a
faceless corporation out there. Nine times out of ten when you`re dealing
with someone in the wedding industry, and we`re talking 800,000 people who
work in this industry in this country, a lot of jobs, and most of those
people are sole proprietors, they`re small business owners. They`re
HARRIS-PERRY: If I go to a florist and say I need a dozen roses,
they won`t charge me if I say I need it for my wedding. Like that`s one of
the things we`ve demonstrated that key word wedding will jack up a little
bit of the price.
MINOR: It does trigger something with some vendors.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, not every single one, obviously.
MINOR: There`s a lot more that goes into it. It`s a celebration and
they are dealing with a client, with a bride and groom for months, it`s not
that they`re just buying for Valentine`s Day and you`ll never see them
again. You`re going to be dealing with them for a long time and there`s a
cost with that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I want to say thank you, we have only just begun
this conversation. I could go on all day. I have so many feelings about
this. One of my favorite books, “White Wedding”, thinking about race,
gender, all that, but anyway, it`s June. It`s wedding season.
That to be said, thanks to Jen Pozner and to Salamishah Tillet, Jamie
Kilstein and Keija Minor. Lots to think about here.
But up next, the American revolutionary born on this day 100 years
ago. Amazing grace, indeed.
HARRIS-PERRY: On this day in 1915, a revolutionary was born. For
seven decades, Grace Lee Boggs, philosopher, writer and activist has been
engaged with some of the most impactful U.S. social movements of the last
century – workers rights, civil rights, black power, women`s right,
environmental justice. Where there is inequality, where there are people
struggling to have their voices heard, you will find Grace Lee Boggs. The
daughter of Chinese immigrants earned a PhD in philosophy in 1940 and made
defining our common humanity her life`s work.
One of her earliest influences was labor leader A. Philip Randolph
who in 1941 helped win hiring practices for African-American workers at
defense plans as the U.S. is preparing to enter World War II. In 1953,
after marrying black power advocate and labor activist James Boggs, Grace
moved to Detroit, the city she called home for more than 50 years and the
place where she continues to have the biggest impact.
She and her husband helped to secure rights for African-American
autoworkers during the turbulent 1960s, prompting some critics to accuse
them of instigating the 1967 riot in Detroit. When crime ravaged the city
in the 1980s and 1990s, Grace organized rallies against drug dealers.
She`s written books, been the subject of documentaries like the film
“American Revolutionary” and inspired generations of activists.
Along the way, she keeps pushing us all to rethink what we mean by
“revolution.” Just as she did when she visited here in Nerdland in 2013.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GRACE LEE BOGGS, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: People think of revolution
only in terms of 1917 and taking power and all that hostility and it isn`t.
It`s a very healing solutionary process.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, age may have slowed her down just a bit, but
grace is still very much a revolutionary at work. Today in her honor, the
Grace Lee Boggs Center is taking part in an anti-violence march in Detroit
and the organizers are urging those who can`t make it to Detroit to donate
100 minutes plus one to community building. A fitting 100th birthday
present for the eternal activist, the amazing grace, born on this day, June
And that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching.
I`m going to see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
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