Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 06/28/15
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC: This morning, my question: Was that the
president`s best week ever?
Plus the world`s biggest pride celebration after a historic victory.
And the human rights crisis right in our own backyard. But first,
the flag did come down, if only for a brief time.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And today the congregation
of Charleston`s Emanuel AME Church continues to memorialize the nine
members who died when they were gunned down last week during a Wednesday
night bible study.
Later this afternoon, the church community will gather for the
seventh time in less than a week to say last goodbyes to one of those
victims, the Reverend Depayne Middleton-Doctor, whose funeral will be held
at Emanuel later today.
We have word this morning that Vice President Joe Biden is in
attendance. As the loved ones of the victims continue to endure their
unimaginable grief, the nation continues to grapple with the big questions
that have consumed us in the wake of these deaths, where do we go from
How do we emerge from this moment better than we were, and who will
be the agents of that change? The most immediate answers have centered on
the symbol embraced by the man who has confessed to the massacre.
The confederate flag was first flown atop the South Carolina state
house in 1961 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the start of the
civil war, and maybe also in as a way of responding to the civil rights
There it remained until 2000 when a compromise with activists pushed
for its removal. The confederate flag was moved from the top of the
capitol dome to a less prominent space on the courthouse grounds, and in
days since the shooting the meaning of the flag long contested as either a
symbol of heritage or of hate has crystallized into an (inaudible) to the
memory of the victims and the signifier of the racist ideology of the man
who took their lives.
Calls for a complete removal of the flag have intensified as its
presence on taxpayer-funded state grounds has become untenable. In a
watershed moment in South Carolina populist politics, some of the earliest
concessions to those demands to remove the flag have come from some of the
elected officials who previously opposed them.
On Monday, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley who had resisted
pressure to remove the flag since she`s been in office had a change of
heart and added her voice to those saying it`s time for the flag to go.
The next day, her announcement was followed by the South Carolina
legislature, who originally voted to raise the flag now voted
overwhelmingly to open the debate for it once and for all to come down.
Friday in his eulogy for Emanuel`s pastor and South Carolina State
Senator, Clementa Pinckney, President Obama praised this progress, but he
also suggested that this symbolic blow to racism, though, significant, must
be followed by concrete policy efforts to dismantle racial inequality in
all its structural forms.
President Obama`s eulogy advanced the national conversation in
response to those questions, what must we do and who will do it? But the
responses we heard this week from all of our elected officials were still
Yesterday another group of people responded with action. Early
Saturday morning, the confederate flag on the state house grounds did come
down, not by executive order or legislative process, but at the hands of
one woman in a remarkable display of courage, conviction and upper body
That is activist Brie Newsome, scaling the flag pole and
accomplishing the work of more than five decades in a few minutes. After
removing the flag, she and fellow activist James Ian Tyson were arrested
and charged with defacing a monument.
But two of them were not acting alone. The dramatic moment was the
end result of a planned non-violent direct action, an organized strategy
from a group of activists who said in a statement, “We took this task in
our own hands because our president, governor, mayors, legislators, and
councilmen had a moral duty to remove the flag but failed to act.
We could not sit by and watch the victims of the Charleston massacre
be laid to rest while the inspiration for their deaths continues to fly
above their caskets. There wasn`t just one activist standing by Brie
Newsome while she was on that pole, she had the support of a movement.
A movement that understands what Barbara Ransby reminded us of the
lessons taught by Ella Baker when she wrote recently in “Color Lines,”
while some forms of resistance might be reflexive and simple, that is, when
pushed too hard, most of us push back, even if we don`t have a plan or
hope of winning-organizing a movement is different.
It is not organic, instinct active or ever easy. If we think we can
all get free through individual or uncoordinated small group resistance, we
are kidding ourselves. So as we wait to witness what change may come of
this tragedy, the struggle of the movement working to provoke that change
Joining me now, Paul Frymer, associate professor in the Department
of Politics at Princeton University, Cristina Beltran, associated professor
of social and cultural analyst at New York University, Khalil Gibran
Muhammad who is the director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black
Culture, and Beth Fouhy, senior editor of msnbc.com.
First I want to go to Columbia, South Carolina to talk with Tamika
Lewis, a grassroots organizer with The Tribe, the North Carolina-based
activist group behind the removal of the confederate flag yesterday.
Tamika, thank you for joining us. Can you tell me about the
planning or organizing or choices that went into this decision?
TAMIKA LEWIS, ACTIVIST, THE TRIBE: Well, good morning. So behind the
plan, it just started as a couple activists going into a room
serendipitously and having a conversation about what`s going on today in
It was decided, this is not right. This is not OK, and our
legislators and the people who are supposed to be defending us as
countrymen are not doing their job.
So we realized let`s really go back and look into the past in recent
history and see if our judicial system and systems that are in place
actually really go for and support minority decisions and voices in this
country. We realized it did not, so we acted accordingly.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tamika, you know, right now what we are seeing as we look at
you is that flag flying just over your shoulder, and I think there are a
few things about why this flag is troubling while watching it flutter in
the breeze behind you. Talk to me about what this symbol means for
activists like you and others clearly working on policy but also seem to
still care about this.
LEWIS: This is a constant reminder of the slavement of the people. It`s a
sign of intimidation and overall white supremacy. It kind of
decriminalizes white racist Americans when they commit hate crimes against
people of color, especially blacks in this country. It was a side of
intimidation where you come out. This is not a symbol that represents true
American values, if we want to talk about that.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tamika, don`t leave. Stick with us for a second. I want to
come out to the table for a moment. Stan, I want to ask you to weigh in on
the same question of what this means as a symbol in part because as I`ve
talked particularly with young people about this, I`ve heard two different
One, this must come down, this is critical, it must come down. On
the other hand, what difference could it possibly make, a flag coming down,
but that`s not a real policy issue?
CRISTINA BELTRAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: I think it`s
important to think about the importance of the symbol and the day to day
(inaudible) – and you know, Tamika, just sort of captured this, the idea
that this is a symbol of white supremacy and racial intimidation that you
see every single day.
And what does it mean to experience – we talk about policy, but we
need to talk about the sort of objects that circulate in our lives and
impact us so the objects that demean you on a daily basis. I think that`s
one of the really critical things.
I think the other thing she really points to is that people have
been talking about how quickly this all happened. It didn`t happen
quickly. This has been the work of activists – in some ways Brie sort of
symbolizes the years of people who tried to climb that pole and take it
down. We see that today.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels fast, but it`s, in fact, not. It`s been decades.
Kahlil, I wanted to come to you on this as well, because it was so
important to me that there is a movement that allows this moment to happen.
It`s easy in the land of social media to think, there is the massacre,
there is the president saying words, there is one woman on a flagpole
taking it down. How do we make sure what we`re doing here is recognizing
there is a movement happening?
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, DIRECTOR, SCHOMBURG CENTER: We continue to give
voice to the people who are actually doing work on the ground. So in every
community from Missouri to Oakland to pockets of Alabama and South Carolina
all the way to the movement in North Carolina, people are working.
They`re strategizing. They are meeting. They are studying. I had
the pleasure of meeting with Barbara Randsby in Chicago a few weeks ago and
she talked at length about the BYP 100 Project. She showed me an
exhibition that looked at the lives lost of Mexican students in that crisis
there along with the Black Lives Matter movement.
So those of us who are in a position to lift up that work and
connect those dots and make sure people have a sense that they`re part of a
larger movement by coalition building is exactly what helps that movement
HARRIS-PERRY: Tamika, let me come back to you on this, because obviously
the internet is now introducing us to Brie Newsome as well as introducing
us to you and to The Tribe. But Newsome is herself a long-time activist.
Both of you North Carolinians like I now am, and I wonder about the ways
this connects to not only black lives matter but also to the Moral Mondays
LEWIS: Can you repeat that? I`m sorry.
HARRIS-PERRY: How is the work of The Tribe connected to not only Black
Lives Matter, this kind of national movement often of youth, but also back
to the North Carolina-based Moral Mondays Movement?
LEWIS: Well, in North Carolina, The Tribe, we organize to bill collectives
of small grassroots organizations and non-profit organizations who do the
same work just separately. At a time we stop working individually and come
together as a larger collective, as a larger entity, to move black lives,
poor people, people of color forward in our communities.
That`s the work we do and that`s how it connects. It`s the movement
of the grand, large people, not just the single activist who feels they can
change the world. It`s a collective effort.
HARRIS-PERRY: Paul, let me come to you on this idea of the collective and
of the grassroots and of non-profits as opposed to the one charismatic
leader, which is part of (inaudible) what she`s pushing back against, she
is trying to say Ella Baker didn`t say no leaders, she`s saying no single
charismatic world view here.
PAUL FRYMER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: That`s the tricky
piece is how do you – on the one hand, you want a movement and you need a
movement that has organizers and has some amount of leadership that is able
to sustain things, and at the same time you can`t have that captured.
This is Barbara Ramsey, I think, captures it really well saying
there is a tyranny of hierarchy and a lack of hierarchy. How do you keep
that tension together? To turn up Barbara Ramsby, she says we need to keep
our eye on the bigger picture which is systematic and social
discrimination. How do we piece these together, take the flag, take black
lives matter, and put this in a sustained goal.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tamika, let me come back for one moment because I have to
ask, I know Brie`s bail was posted last night. Do you know anything? Is
she well, is she safe?
LEWIS: She`s doing well, she`s safe. We got her out of South Carolina,
but she`s doing well. She`s taking it easy. She`s like, really getting
into seeing the support that she`s had. She`s just taking the time to cope
and process everything. She did make a great leap of faith here and did an
amazing thing yesterday.
HARRIS-PERRY: She did. She did an absolutely extraordinary thing.
Thank you so much for joining us, Tamika Lewis from Columbia,
South Carolina. It makes a difference that you were here to pass on Brie
LEWIS: Thank for having me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you. What cannot be missed in all of this is the
politics that plays out in South Carolina. For that we`re going to bring
in Katon Dawson, the former chair of the state`s Republican Party, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The truth of the matter, if it
had not been for the shooting, that flag would still be flying. Don`t let
anybody tell you otherwise. The people of Charleston, the AME Church,
Mother Emanuel Church, basically pulled at our soul.
And how do you go back in that church and say, in spite of your
desires, we`re going to leave your flag flying when you represented our
state far better than anyone could ever hope to do? So it`s a reaction to
this shooting, and if it weren`t for this shooting, nobody would be talking
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was South Carolina senator and Republican presidential
candidate, Lindsey Graham, who supported calls for the removal of the
confederate flag at the South Carolina state house less than a week after
his initial comments of, quote, “it works here.”
Now, it`s possible that what could be interpreted as a flip-flop on
the flag may come back to haunt Senator Graham in the primaries next year,
but the South Carolina Republican who may have made the biggest impact on
her political prospects for 2016 with her statement on the confederate flag
isn`t someone who is even in the running for president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR NIKKI HALEY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: For those who wish to show their
respect for the flag on their private property, no one will stand in your
way. But the state house is different. And the events of this past week
call upon us to look at this in a different way. Today we are here in a
moment of unity in our state without ill will to say it`s time to remove
the flag from the capitol grounds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now from Columbia, South Carolina is National
Republican consultant and former South Carolina Republican party chair,
Katon Dawson. Katon, why is that flag still flying?
KATON DAWSON, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN CONSULTANT: Melissa, I don`t think it
will be flying long. This is a stand-alone event. The pain you see in the
hearts of South Carolinians, and I watched you and Craig Melvin do a
tremendous job reporting, because I do think you get it when you saw our
communities come together and really, I can`t underestimate the amount of
pain and emotions behind this.
It`s now a stand-alone issue. There is nothing in there confusing
what South Carolinians want and are getting ready to do, and I think early
next week, as late as two weeks from now, because of the process of moving
the laws out of the way to take this down.
A flag moved from the state house grounds to the top of the dome
from Ernest Fritz who was governor, a flag that was given to John F.
Kennedy as a gift in 1962 that took when he was running for president, just
now gone up and down and South Carolinians have had enough.
Melissa, the politics of it is there is nothing confused about what
this is about now. There is no other industries that funded to keep it up
to defeat a Republican governor, so I think the right thing will happen and
it could happen as early as this week.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stick with Katon, don`t go away. Beth, I want to come to
you on this, because it does feel like if not a swift, certainly a seismic
shift has occurred, such that Republicans running for president, and one
who I think is running for vice president in Governor Haley, have now
called for the flag to come down.
BETH FOUHY, SENIOR EDITOR, MSNBC.COM: It is a seismic shift. It`s a
wonderful thing to see this be completely bipartisan. To many people
unfamiliar with this issue until this week, to see it led by Republicans,
frankly, Nikki Haley standing there with Lindsey Graham, with other leading
Republicans in her state.
If you were just coming from Mars now, that this is Republican-led
issue and if that`s the case that`s great, it`s wonderful to see both
parties coming together and be so unified.
My concern is it is a bit of a shiny object. It`s something
everybody is having a very easy time getting behind. Where is the policy
change? I want to see Republicans.
I want to Katon Dawson and other Republicans talk about how to make
it easier for African-Americans and other minorities to vote. Why are
there so many restrictions on voting rights in so many states including in
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So this is a key one. Katon, there was a pro-flag
rally also yesterday. I don`t want people to think everybody is behind
this. I want to show you this for a moment and ask you about what we hear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I`m here to support what I believe needs to stay here
is my southern flag. If they`re going to take that away, what are they
going to put in place of it? If they need to take away the one thing they
claim brings back slavery memories? That memorial is there because this
flag has nothing to do with anything other than our right to have our
solitude. It`s pure and simple.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t know what`s going on, I just know I`m not going
to allow it to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So I want to ask you about the language that you`ve heard
from one person there, which is about our sovereignty. I have long made
the claim as a southerner that the issue here is not about race, as
important and painful as race is, that the issue is about the civil war in
which the confederacy was defeated.
And that we simply do not fly the flag of traitors over taxpayers`
government grounds. I`m concerned in part that the sovereignty language is
state rifling, which never gets challenged if it becomes only about a
question of open acts of race, Katon?
DAWSON: Melissa, I think that it was easy to take the picture of those
people, a handful of folks up in front of the monument. I don`t think
that`s reflective of the movement or reflective of the hearts and minds of
people in South Carolina.
HARRIS-PERRY: You don`t think the state`s rights is reflective of the
people – that the belief that the state is sovereign over and above the
federal government, or at least next to it, is not a fundamental question
generating conflict in our country?
I`m not talking about the race piece per se or separate and apart,
but the sense that states can make their own decisions, no unification
language. That seems to me what we`ve been talking about for six years.
DAWSON: Let`s separate the two issues and maybe that`s hard for people to
do, but certainly South Carolina has never been affectionate to the federal
government any way I`ve ever remembered. I think you would agree that
North Carolina and Louisiana come down the pike, but not with the federal
government telling us to do anything.
Then you put state rights into it, and the whole dichotomy that
comes into that – I`m still trying to focus on the flag coming down and
there`s other work to do. State rights are an issue, but I have it
separated in my mind today focused on the one issue of removing the flag,
the pain it caused in remembering the senator and the eight other families
that will be impacted forever from this event.
HARRIS-PERRY: Katon Dawson, I always appreciate when you join us. You and
I have long-term respectful disagreements, and on this I have to say I want
to see it come down, too, but I want it to come down in recognition that
the south lost the civil war, that they are not sovereign, and the federal
government was established as what the United States of America is back in
I worry if we don`t manage that that some of what Beth talked about
here in terms of voting rights and other things don`t get addressed around
that shiny object. Katon Dawson from South Carolina, thank you for joining
us this morning.
Still to come this morning, the latest on the manhunt in upstate New
York, the organist who played swell under President Obama during Friday`s
eulogy and the biggest pride celebration in the world. Stay with us.
HARRIS-PERRY: Although the confederate flag at the South Carolina state
house was raised again within an hour after activists brought it down, the
political will for its removal may mean it flies for only a short time
longer. However, as President Obama reminded us Friday, to make a truly
meaningful legacy of this tragedy will require more of our politics than a
piece of printed cloth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Once the eulogies
have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as
usual. That`s what we so often do. To avoid uncomfortable truths about
the prejudice that still infects our society. To settle for symbolic
gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change,
that`s how we lose our way again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I just want to point out as the president is talking there
about losing our way again with the symbolic piece, arsonists have struck
black churches in the past seven days. We are very focused, as we should
be, on this massacre.
But throughout the south, black churches once again are being burned
or at least attempts to burn them. I mean, this feels, you know, I guess,
Khalil, if you know history, this feels scary at this moment.
MUHAMMAD: It does. But before we move to the madness that is being
unleashed because this is the reaction to the reaction. I do want to key
on a word that President Obama just mentioned, business as usual. Because
I think part of the context we have to lift up in siloing the conversation
about the flag is also about the economic situation of the south, and the
resurgence of the south as an economic leader in this nation.
The fact that Boeing is there is no accident with regard to
Governor Haley`s own sense of the future, keeping in mind that Boeing left
Seattle as a result of living wage claims to increase the economic mobility
of working class people.
I think it`s also important that Governor Bentley of Alabama, who is
welcoming Google to the state, said that I`m not going to let a flag get in
the way of a job. So the business of America has always been business, and
business can be agnostic in these moments to help the politicians move in
certain directions but lie over the fundamental questions of policy and
HARRIS-PERRY: I feel you, and I guess I always think two things about
that, like the main color`s green issue, is that we know from America`s
history of segregation that there is a willingness to actually pay to
So my colleague and friend, Blair Kelly, writing about the turn of
the century movements, people saying I`ll just shut the whole streetcar and
lie down. It isn`t that business absolutely overwhelms. I get that it
changes the context.
But I worry it doesn`t get us to – like Boeing may want the flag
down, Google might want the flag down, but they don`t necessarily want
living wages – I`m not saying they don`t, but that`s not the same kind of
campaign that`s occurring.
FOUHY: You also saw that around religious liberty, these efforts to allow
people to opt out of performing gay marriages or helping gay couples with
their weddings because it would impinge on their religious freedom. Huge
push-back in Indiana, companies all over the country saying, nope, we`re
not doing this in Indiana anymore, we`re leaving.
States are terrified and they will make changes based on those
businesses making those choices, which is wonderful. That`s all great, but
again, it`s one thing that kind of goes away once people stop talking about
In fact, other states have gone ahead and got some religious freedom
legislation themselves. That didn`t draw the same sort of adjunctiva that
Indiana did. If the policy doesn`t change, those exciting issues don`t
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s interesting that Instagram and Twitter and other social
media – it`s not just the cameras because the cameras are not controlled
anymore. Up here in New York you have the “Washington Post” reporting
about the challenge of the burning the confederate flag as part of what`s
going on in viral media, and by the way, burning the confederate flag is
We saw activists burning the confederate flag in a Lincoln Park in
Chicago, in New Orleans at Lee`s Circle, so there is also this symbolic
work that doesn`t have to be tied to an activist community.
BELTRAN: What`s really interesting is when you think about – we were
talking on the break about the monuments and all the names of streets named
after confederate generals and there is a kind of infrastructure of white
supremacy, racial violence that people can now speak to and respond to in
kind of interesting ways because of social media.
It gives them ways of sort of placing themselves and intervening on
those debates. But the other point about income and about Google and being
there, I feel like one of the things that`s business as usual is we need
to connect neoliberal policies of today with the history of white supremacy
and racial violence.
And I think one of the issues of the south, and I think activists
are trying to make this connection all the time, is that the labor laws
today there reflect the generations of stolen labor, stolen slave labor.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is a reason why there are so few unions in south.
BELTRAN: The story of theft and wealth and the theft of labor for
generations that created the wealth that has created the South`s economy,
that needs to get continually connected to this debate so that when we talk
about the current issues for a livable wage that there is a story about
that livable wage that`s about labor theft, generations of labor theft.
HARRIS-PERRY: Everybody who is on my panel right now is going to be back a
little later in the program, but before we go to break, I do want to just
note that the funerals are continuing for the victims of the church
massacre, and Vice President Joe Biden is among the mourners attending the
funeral for Depayne Middleton-Doctor at the Emanuel Ame Church this
morning. Much loss in the Biden household recently, so you can imagine why
he is there.
When we come back, the latest on the lone remaining escaped convict
in upstate New York, we`ll bring you that next.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have an update on the manhunt in upstate New York where
convicted killer and prisoner escapee David Sweat remains at large. Fellow
escapee Richard Matt was shot and killed by federal agents on Friday after
nearly three weeks on the run.
Matt was shot just 30 miles from the Clinton Correctional Facility
near the town of Malone. Joining me now from Malone, New York is NBC news
correspondent, Chris Pollone. Chris, do police seem to believe that they
are closing in on David Sweat at this point?
CHRIS POLLONE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Melissa, there is no official
word how police are feeling this morning, but you have to imagine as we
near the 48-hour mark since they killed Richard Matt on Friday, when they
really believed that they were hot on the trail of David Sweat that now
they must be a little bit discouraged that they haven`t located him in the
two days since.
This perimeter that we`re standing at the northern edge of is some
2200 square miles of New York, and they`re using a thousand officers trying
to keep this area under containment. They said they had reason to believe
that Sweat and Matt were traveling together, so when they killed Matt, they
thought they would find Sweat nearby, but in the past two days there just
hasn`t been any sign of him.
This morning, the latest activity we`re seeing, and granted we`re
only seeing a very small part of the picture, but we`re starting to see
more officers go a little north towards Malone and do some searches here
just north of the perimeter. You have to imagine that police are starting
to wonder where Sweat is at this point.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely, thank you to NBC`s Chris Pollone in Malone, New
In less than 90 minutes, what is expected to be the largest pride
celebration in the world gets underway right here in New York City. The
annual march down 5th Avenue in Manhattan begin at noon Eastern and given
Friday`s Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality participants maybe in a
particularly celebratory mood.
MSNBC reporter, Emma Margolin is along the parade route. Emma, what
is expected there today?
EMMA MARGOLIN, MSNBC REPORTER: Hi, Melissa. We are standing here on this
rainy Sunday morning along Fifth Avenue for New York City`s Annual Gay
Pride Parade where in just a couple hours millions of people will gather to
celebrate LGBT equality.
This parade has been going on for 45 years to commemorate the
stonewall riots that took place in 1969, but obviously this year`s parade
will be especially historic because it comes just two days after the
Supreme Court`s historic ruling legalizing marriage equality across the
Organizers are expecting 22,000 marchers, 344 groups and over
2 million spectators. Here with me now are three recent high school
graduates who traversed the Hudson River at 7:50 a.m. just to get a good
spot on the route. Rosie Mina, tell me about what Friday`s decision meant
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was amazing, just having that support from
everyone, it makes today even more special. It definitely was not a shock
because in this era we have a lot more advocates than people protesting it,
but it was amazing. I`m definitely happy about it.
MARGOLIN: And Brandon Maddox, how do you feel about being here today? What
are you looking forward to about the parade?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m happy to be here. I`m looking forward to seeing
all the floats and the happy people watching the parade, and I can`t wait
to go to the street fair and hang out with my friends, and it`s going to be
MARGOLIN: This is known as the Gay Pride Parade, but it is officially the
Gay Pride March, Melissa, because there is still work to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: Absolutely. Obviously this year that little reminder by the
Supreme Court of moving toward first class citizenship makes it a
celebration as well as an act of the continuing struggle. Thanks to Emma
and we`ll check back with you later in the program.
But before we go to break, big sports news, the U.S. women`s soccer
team is headed for the semi-finals of the World Cup. The team advanced
after Carly Lloyd scored the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over China on
Friday. The victory also put Hope Solo in the record books as the
winningest goal keeper in U.S. women`s history.
Team USA has conceited only one goal the entire tournament. The
American women have reached the semi-finals of every World Cup since they
began in 1991 and they are just two victories away from their first World
Cup title since 1999.
Their next game is Tuesday against Germany and this time will be the
fourth time the two teams have met in the World Cup. The winner of the
previous three match-ups went on to win the final so game on.
Still to come this morning, the organist who gave us that
extraordinary swell up underneath President Obama during Friday`s singing
of “Amazing Grace.”
But up next, the humanitarian crisis in our own backyard. Don`t
HARRIS-PERRY: Last week we brought you the story developing in the
Dominican Republic where hundreds of Haitian migrants and Dominicans of
Haitian descent are now crossing into Haiti each day from the DR fearing
In the past week, more than 10,000 Haitian migrants have crossed the
border into Haiti in packed busses or on foot. In this surge in border
crossings is a result of a 2013 Dominican constitutional court decision
that stripped the citizenship of children born to Haitian immigrants in the
Dominican Republic as far back as 1929.
After an international outcry, the government softened the law and
promised citizenship to children born to foreign parents provided they had
Dominican government identification documents and were in the civil
Those without documents could apply for legal residency and
eventually citizenship if they could prove they were born in the Dominican
Republic. The final deadline to do that was June 17. Only about 10,000
people met the deadline to provide the required documents.
Dominican officials say those unable to register and who do not have
identity documents can be deported. Haiti and the Dominican Republic share
the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, and they have often shared a troubled
and brutal history.
In 1937, under the orders of the dictator, Rafael Trulio, Dominican
soldiers massacred tens of thousands of Haitians living near the border.
That troubled history still hangs over the current deportation crisis,
which has sparked protests by Haitians in the Dominican Republic as well as
right here in the United States, in Miami.
Those who risk deportation include Haitian migrant workers,
Dominicans of Haitian descent born in the Dominican Republic decades ago,
and those who have lived in the DR their entire lives. Why is this
happening and what can be done about it? That`s next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They`ve never had this in the first place, it`s
impossible for them to prove they were born in the country as far back as
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m here as the Dominican of conscience to speak up
against this law which is against Dominican Republic rights.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Those were some of the protesters who took to the streets of
South Florida`s Haitian community Thursday to speak out against the threat
of deportation facing scores of Haitians – Dominicans of Haitian descent
in the Dominican Republic.
The DR imposed a June 17 deadline for hundreds of thousands of
Haitians or Dominicans of Haitian descent to register with immigration
authorities and many are interpreting this move as the first step towards
Back with me Khalil Muhammad and Beth Fouhy, and also joining me now
is France Francois, spokesperson for the Association of Haitian
Professionals, and Edward Polina, assistant professor of history at John
Jay College of Criminal Justice and author of “Dividing Hispaniola,” which
comes out this fall.
France, let me start with you. So far what we`ve seen are – I hate
to use this word, self-deportations, people fleeing the country as opposed
to what we thought would be these round-ups. What do you think is going on
FRANCE FRANCOIS, SPOKESPERSON, ASSOCIATION OF HAITIAN PROFESSIONALS: I
think the Dominican government has been very strategic. They know that
international media attention is on them so they won`t do widespread
deportations. What you`re seeing is clandestine deportations at night,
people being coerced to leave and threatened taking their license away. In
reality, these people have no other option.
HARRIS-PERRY: So help me here to understand the role that international
media might play. On the one hand you`re saying there is a strategy on the
part of the DR. I`m wondering if U.S. media or general national media are
playing into that strategy.
EDWARD PAULINO, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE: Well, international
pressure has been very helpful. Now, I don`t know if you know that this
week the Dominican government just issued – said that 55,000 of those that
were stripped of their papers would receive the papers to become citizens,
just this week, 55,000. But it remains to be seen if that`s going to be
implemented. But we know the international pressure is helping to shed
light on this issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think part – Khalil, that`s important to me is to try to
think about how much of this is specific to these nations and how much of
it is about an anti-blackness that may be invisible to us as Americans
looking on to Hispaniola as an entire island. How much of this is about
the Dominican Republic and Haiti and how much of it is about race, and
maybe that`s the wrong way to think about it.
MUHAMMAD: I think some would reject the framework slightly. Haiti, no
question, is arguably the blackest independent nation in the western
hemisphere in terms of its historical significance and has definitely
shaped for the last 150 years in this country ideas about what black people
are capable of in self-government.
It shot what the empire means in the western context. I think you
have to acknowledge that and accept it, therefore, people are always
responding to the idea of Haiti. I think that`s more important.
But particularly I think globalization is stirring up trouble all
over the world, and people are moving in terms of being – in search of
economic asylum in places, whether it`s western Europe relative to the
Middle East, whether to North Africa or the Caribbean nations.
In that sense it may transcend anti-blackness in a way that we think
of it as a U.S. binary.
HARRIS-PERRY: I think it`s important that you bring up this question of
sort of Haiti, even the imagined Haiti, in part because it actually is even
related to what`s happening in South Carolina. The idea of Denmark Vesse`s
attempts to spark a rebellion, the way that was received in the United
States is connected to a Haitian revolution.
But I`m not sure people on a day-to-day basis in this country
understand our connection to Haiti and the DR and the ways in which
American politics and American economic influence is related here.
FRANCOIS: Yes. I think one of the things that is really important to
understand is that the U.S. actually colonized Haiti and the DR for a
period of time. However, what we`re seeing here is the U.S. has exported
this migration issue and military policing abroad.
So the Dominican border control has actually received millions of
dollars` worth of training, equipment and drones from the U.S. government.
But the anti-black binary that you`re speaking of doesn`t necessarily apply
to Latin America, because a lot of people don`t view themselves as black as
we define it here.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet there is this question that feels to me not unlike
the papers please aspect of Arizona law where you can go in and see people
who are Haitian and ask them, and what does that mean if it doesn`t mean
some sort of racial profiling?
PAULINO: Absolutely. I would not be deported or targeted in the Dominican
Republic. I have lighter skin. I have that privilege there. So it is, at
some level, about blackness and targeting black bodies. But I also want to
kind of pull back in terms of to connect what`s happening in South Carolina
and the United States aperture.
It`s the cradle of blackness in the Americas, the first time
Africans became liberated, right? And they have a long history of
collaboration with Haiti, right? Most of the history has been
So why is it now that the world sees this history solely as kind of
an adversary relationship and the self-evident truth? They used to say
there is no self-evident truth, but the self-evident truth is Dominicans
have always hated Haitians which exists at a timeless notion.
HARRIS-PERRY: As opposed to connected to some set of more recent history.
FRANCOIS: Anti-Haitianism is very deeply rooted in the DR and it`s a
political tool. What we haven`t noticed is that it`s election season in
the DR and the easiest way to drum up your base in the Dominican Republic
is anti-immigrant, therefore anti-Haitian sentiment.
HARRIS-PERRY: France, thank you for taking us there, because that idea
there is electoral incentive, there are political incentives associated.
Thank you, France Francois and Edward Paulino.
Coming up, the president`s big historic but indeed complicated week,
and behind the scenes of the president`s “Amazing Grace” moment. We`ll
talk to the organist who took us church on Friday. More nerdland at the
top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. And it has been
quite a week for President Obama. If you believe all the things out there
on social media, you might say this has been the president`s terrific, all-
good, very good week.
And yes, it was a big one, but as always, President Obama and his
legacy are always a bit more complicated than surface appearances might
convey. On Friday President Obama delivered a eulogy that was heralded as
one of the most impactful public speeches he`s ever delivered.
As he remembered the Reverend Clementa Pinckney before a crowd of
thousands in Charleston, South Carolina, he used the moment to reckon
America racist`s history and to start talking by taking down the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: It would be one step in an
honest accounting of America`s history. A modest but meaningful balm for
so many unhealed wounds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But before you think he`s found the secret formula for
effective dialogue across the racial divide, it`s worth remembering that at
the start of the week, the President tried to talk in complex ways about
race but found that no one could hear past the one particular word he used.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And it`s not just a matter of it not being polite to say
(bleep) in public, that`s not a measure of whether racism still exists or
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: This week, President Obama stood in the Rose Garden to
lob the Supreme Court`s decision, making marriage equality the law of the
land. Just four weeks after his own department just stopped defending the
Defensive Marriage Act, they even lit up the White House in rainbow colors
to celebrate. But it`s worth remembering that the President`s personal
evolution on marriage equality and the fact that his Vice President Joe
Biden all but forced him to publicly support marriage by coming out in
favor of equality, first.
This week, President Obama also won over Congress on his package of
trade legislation which will allow the President to fast track trade bills
including this year`s Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP for the years after
his time in office ends. But the win came at a cost. The President
angered many in his own party from progressives to House Democratic Leader
Nancy Pelosi who vigorously opposed the trade deal. But the biggest win of
the week seems undeniable. The Supreme Court upheld again president
Obama`s largest, most important domestic policy achievement. The
Affordable Care Act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: And today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or
weaken this law, after a presidential election based in part on preserving
or repealing this law, after multiple challenges to this law before the
Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay. This was a good
day for America. Let`s get back to work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Still, as uncomplicated as that victory may seem, the
reality is that republican policymakers are still vowing to repeal
ObamaCare the second that he waves farewell from the south lawn on January
20th, 2017. And in the meantime, four million people who could be covered
under the ACA are still without health insurance, because 22 states have
refused to expand Medicaid. Something the same Supreme Court gave them
formation to do back in 2012. A lot of people are calling it President
Obama`s best week ever. But it`s more complicated. It`s more difficult
than that. His presidency was historic from the very beginning. And this
week added to his legacy in substantive and meaningful ways. But there is
no one history, no one legacy, no one story of any president, maybe
especially for President Obama.
Joining me now, Paul Frymer, associate professor of Politics at
Princeton University. Christina Beltran, associate professor of Social and
Cultural analysis at NYU. Khalil Gibran Muhammad who is director of the
Schomburg Center for Research and Black Culture. And Beth Fouhy, senior
editor for MSNBC.com.
And Beth, I want to start with you on this. Because this is a little
bit of pure politics in the sense of the heralding of a president as doing
– having this great week, but man, still at some cost.
BETH FOUHY, MSNBC.COM SENIOR EDITOR: Yes, I think this week we saw
the President that his most ardent supporters wanted to see in every
conceivable way. From his statements around the confederate flag, to the
Affordable Care Act being preserved, to his forthright statements on the
Supreme Court`s decision on same-sex marriage to his beautiful eulogy in
South Carolina. There is no question this was a fantastic week. But as
you say, it`s still complicated for him.
We had the same president when he came out the week before this past
week to talk about the Charleston shootings, basically says, there is
nothing I can do about gun control. The politics of this are out of my
hands. He all but threw up his hands about something that he acknowledges,
one of the most challenging things this nation faces. You mentioned the
fact that so many republican governors are still blocking the major
provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and people who deserve and need this
care that they cannot get it because republican governors are blocking it.
So, there are significant limitations to his power. And we were reminded
of this several times over the course of what was arguably a fantastic week
but not perfect.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, I like the idea Paul impart that this is
the President Obama that so many have been waiting for. There was a little
bit of a swagger we saw there with Joe Biden behind him. You almost, you
know, expected him to say that this is a really f-ing, this is even better
really big f-ing deal, or whatever it was that he said about the ACA
initially. Right? Like you could see that happening. But at the same
time I wonder if, in our desire to see presidential swagger, we miss that
there is still – he is still in a constrained office.
PAUL FRYMER, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY: No.
Absolutely. I mean, as you said, this is much bigger than Obama himself.
And I think that actually will be the legacy of his administration, is
bigger than himself. But I would add one other interesting complexity to
him. You know, another big moment for him this week was when he said, not
in my house, to the heckler.
HARRIS-PERRY: Okay. I`d like to play that because I have a very
different take on that. But let`s play the “Not in my house” for a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Hey. Yes. Listen. You`re in my house. You don`t start –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: You heard the cheers from the crowd there, but I do
want to remind folks that the President was calling out a transgender,
undocumented woman of color and that it actually isn`t his house. I mean,
like I appreciate it, I get people – again this is the point about like
the President – but it`s my house. It`s our house. Like, this is a
little bit like the – it`s actually the people`s house, and I`m down for
talking tough, but I don`t know to the most marginalized person in the room
how tough that feels to me.
FRYMER: That`s right. And that`s going to be, you know, as part of
Obama`s legacy is this incredible complexity. But on the one hand,
greatness. Add to that greatness thrust upon him that he`s able to do
something with, and on the other hand, you know, first he`s the president
of a multi-international, corporate, military, you know, empire and he has
moments like this which show great insensitivity and, you know, an
inability to kind of see certain intersections that we would hope he might
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, it`s odd that in just days now following
that Friday eulogy to think of the President as insensitive where he showed
such great empathy, such a capacity to do the rhetorical work of tying us
together as a United States. But that moment was one – and again, less,
again some about him, but also more about the cheer that goes up from the
crowd, our enthusiasm about seeing this president who has been so embattled
fight back, but I`m thinking, that`s not the person I want you fighting
CHRISTINA BELTRAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF SOCIAL AND CULTURAL
ANALYSIS, NYU: Wrong target.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, wrong target here.
BELTRAN: And I mean, I think what`s so interesting about Obama and
what so, I always, you know, watching him this week, I was having these
moments of saying, wow, and he`s gone. I`m going to really want to miss
this. I`m going to miss that there is an African-American man in the White
House, an African-American family in the White House. And yet, I also am a
conflicted, you know, person on the left who feels frustrated by as I
always think about drones, deportation, horrible history with
whistleblowers. You know, it`s a really complex legacy and I think one of
the things that makes it so hard is, he is such a clearly intellectual
thoughtful person, and there`s a way in which the kind of ideological, you
know, to someone like George W. Bush or Reagan, where you`d kind of, you
weren`t sure what they were tracking.
But with Obama you know the depth of what he is thinking and the
quality of his mind. And so when there is a failure, it hurts in a
particular way, and it`s been harder as a progressive to wrestle with that
than it was with other presidents. Or like Clinton where it was like a bad
boyfriend. You kept getting sucked in, but you`re like, darn it.
HARRIS-PERRY: And like those other boyfriends, he won`t really leave.
But, you know, it`s interesting that you make this point about the
President as the intellectual, because I will undoubtedly miss, you know,
having the black family, but I will also deeply miss – although, we may
have an intellectual president next time, it`s hard to say how this will
all going to work out. But, you know, there is some kind of purpose aspect
to him. But I see him sometimes tap into like in the moment in Selma. He
has access to a history, to a literature, to kind of signed post of it that
make the good moments really soaring.
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, DIRECTOR, SCHOMBURG CENTER: Well, I want to
say yes, and I also want to say that we saw the ghost of Joe Wilson, the
South Carolina congressman, and Jeremiah Wright this week. And by that I
mean we see the President speaking back in a way he didn`t six and a half
years ago –
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. So, he`s yelling at her but he`s really saying
– that`s what we wanted to do. Joe, shut up!
MUHAMMAD: That`s right. That`s right. And in the way that he
delivered the Pinckney eulogy was really Jeremiah Wright arriving into the
fullness of his grandeur because –
HARRIS-PERRY: We wanted him to say it about –
MUHAMMAD: We`re not going to let him get away with diminishing that
what he channeled in that moment was what he learned in Trinity Church.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, that`s right. Because as much as he talked about
the black church as a space where children learn these things, he did not
as a child. First Lady Obama, yes, that`s her story. But where he learned
that, where he figured that out, you`re right, is under the tutelage of
HARRIS-PERRY: Kahlil, you cause so much trouble as a Nerdland table!
I want to say thank you to Beth Fouhy. The rest panel is sticking
around because up next, we`re going to ask this question. What`s the rule
of white people when fighting for racial justice in America?
HARRIS-PERRY: Early yesterday morning a 30-year-old community
organizer from Charlotte, North Carolina scaled a flagpole outside the
South Carolina statehouse in Colombia and took down the confederate flag.
This was not a gorilla mission conducted under the cover of night. It was
in broad daylight, out in the open, direct action non-violent protest by an
activist who fully understood that her actions would be sanctioned. By her
own words, Bree Newsome would remove the flag, quote, “In the name of God.”
Then she surrendered to arrest. #FreeBree began trending nationally by
mid-morning on Saturday.
Now, let`s take a look at that video a bit more. You see, like your
eyes drop a bit below Ms. Newsome`s awesome climb to see the man standing
at the foot of the flagpole there in the vest. Do you see him? Because
when Bree Newsome scaled the four-foot fence to get the flag, she was not
alone. When she began her 40-foot climb, she was not alone. Someone went
with her every step of the way, spotting her, helping to ensure her safety,
waiting below when she descended with a temporarily captured flag of hate.
That someone also submitted to arrest right along with Bree.
And his name is James Ian Tyson. In a week, when so many white
Americans have recoiled in disgust at the violence done in their names,
when so many white people has stood in solidarity and shared grief with
black communities. There is an open question many are asking. What do
white folks do to dismantle racism? Well, James Ian Tyson – in how to be
a co-worker for justice.
Joining me on my panel now is Whitney Dow, director and producer of
the Whiteness Project. So, we were all loving Mr. James Ian and his
spotting of the black woman as she led this action, but I thought, hey –
by the way, he`s an ongoing activist himself. I wonder if there is
something to be learned there?
WHITNEY DOW, DIRECTOR AND PRODUCER, WHITENESS PROJECT: I think there
absolutely is, and it`s funny, you know, I just did a bunch of things in
Texas for teenagers, for the Whiteness Project last week. And one of the
things that keeps coming up with people that I speak to, is that people
that care about social justice, people that care about the things, white
people don`t know what to do. They really don`t know how to take action.
And I think it`s – I think that it`s this real question of feeling
powerless. They feel powerless when they see this, and feel powerless.
And so he gave a good example of what you can do as an individual
action, but I think it`s also recognized that you don`t have to go to the
base of a flagpole and take down the confederate flag to take action. You
can, one of the things about recognizing the structural white supremacy and
structural races with this country is once you kind of see the matrix that
exists, it`s kind of empowering because you realize that you can take steps
every moment of every day. Every interaction that you take with people
allows you to actually impact the system.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you know, it`s tough for me to hear, and Paul, I
want to come to you on this, the idea that white folks feel powerless about
dismantling racism. Like that, in other words, I hear you honestly
reporting that, right? And so, it`s not a push-back against you on that,
but it is a – like, you know, in order to kind of get the wounds open here
a little bit, like I hear that and I think, well, who would be empowered
FRYMER: Well, I mean, obviously, who has power is really complicated.
You know, but certainly as white people, we have – you know, we have more
privilege within power, and whether we can use that, I think, I think we
can use that privilege to help, you know, eradicate power and fight it.
You know, whether we have our finger on it is harder, you know, to figure
out, but I think – it`s a complicated situation to figure out. I mean,
certainly throughout the civil rights movement whether it`s freedom riders
or what happened in Mississippi. There have been important white activists
and these have been cross-racial movements. But at the same time, you
know, it`s a very complicated part of the process because we are part of
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, I keep thinking about our friend James Ian
Newsome here who is wearing, you know, the safety-colored vest and the hard
hat, and I missed him the first couple of times that I watched it because I
thought he was an official. And I kept thinking, I wonder if that`s
strategic. I wonder if, in fact, by standing there like that he gives her
time to go up impart because it looks like, oh, we`re officials over here
in a way that only whiteness could convey.
BELTRAN: Right. Right. And I think it`s fascinating in the way that
he can then – I mean, my friends who are committed to these issues, we
know a lot of people at this table. You know, people talk about the fact
that it`s sometimes white listeners can hear a racist act and can say,
that`s not cool. Right? Or you can be somebody straight who hears
something homophobic or transphobic and you can intervene on that
conversation. So, those types of privilege where you can hear or say, what
people think is a safe space to that kind of prejudice, you know, you can
be a voice inside and I think that`s –
HARRIS-PERRY: But that`s not being too individual. I guess, again,
part of why we were playing around with the Newsome guy is he`s an actual
activist, right? And I just, I`m worried when we ask that question, the
what can we do, what should white folks be doing? Yes, but it becomes what
people do in their individual world as opposed to, well, white lawmakers,
you could, you know, end voters suppression.
MUHAMMAD: Exactly. So, I think that`s a great point, because it is
the policies that ultimately undergird the racial inequality and
disparities that exist in our country. So, if white voters are not
motivated to listen to black people talk about their experiences in ways
that are informed by policy choices that they are co-signing on, then all
of the kind of tolerance training in the world is not going to change the
day-to-day reality. I want to lift up Nicholas Kristof`s work about a year
ago in the wake of Ferguson where he wrote repeatedly in the “New York
Times” that whites just don`t get it, which was kind of the sort of
infrastructure of white mythology –
HARRIS-PERRY: But then he just did not get it when he told us that
Mike Brown was an insufficient person behind whom to build a movement
because he wasn`t a clean perfect victim and that we should have done it
behind Tamir Rice.
MUHAMMAD: So, if we can`t agree about the utility of Kristof, how are
white people going to get it?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Right. Right. Because I`m like, what?
Stick with us. Me and Khalil are going to fight about Nick Kristof on
the break and we`ll talk more about this when we come back.
STATE SEN. PAUL THURMOND (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It is time to
acknowledge our past, atone for our sins and work towards a better future.
That future must be built on symbols of peace, love and unity. That future
cannot be built on symbols of war, hate and divisiveness.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was South Carolina state senator republican Paul
Thurmond calling for the confederate battle flag to come down. And don`t
miss it. Paul is the son of the famous segregationist Strom Thurmond who
fight against civil rights protections and ran for president in 1940. He`s
a state rights candidate. There is an interesting piece, Whitney, and
Salon immediately after the Charleston shootings that suggest that part of
what happens is we just don`t talk about white violence in the same way,
and suggesting, well, there are some questions we could ask. What if we
said, is there something wrong with the white family? What if we ask, what
should law enforcement, white politicians do about white crime? What if we
asked, when will white leadership set up and step up and stop right wing
white domestic terrorism? This is just aren`t – this aren`t even used
discourse like that, and that sometimes it is just the naming of whiteness
itself that is part of what must happen.
DOW: That`s part of this whole thing as I kind of believe is that,
you know, the organizing principle of the world is the denial of what you
know to be true, right? And that`s kind of like the reality, especially
when it comes to issues of race. And I think language is really, really
important. And symbols, we were talking at the break rule about the
symbolism of taking down the flag versus the idea of like a symbolic act
versus like actually attacking structural racism, and the idea that this
event by this individual, a lot of what people wanted to say, this is a
lone wolf, is not connected to anything. And I would say, yes, I agree
that there is a difference between what happened in McKinney, Texas or what
happens in Ferguson or what happens in Charleston, but how you talk about
it is really important.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think that that idea of the lone wolf unconnected
is an important distinction in how we talk about, for example, if someone
who is Muslim commits an act of terrorism and violence like this, we don`t
immediately say, oh, that has nothing to do – in fact, we immediately work
to connect it to a global set of realities as opposed to what happened in
this moment. I don`t think that this one individual should indict all of
white people. I do think that it should indict white supremacy, right?
And like being able to connect whiteness, which obviously in part of your
project is from white people I think is part of what becomes difficult in
FRYMER: Yes. And white supremacy is something that we participate in
even if we are not individually guilty of, and that`s what we need to
recognize, there is a responsibility that comes with privilege. And that`s
true of all forms of privilege but especially is being light. That is the
responsibility, you know, I have, that we as whites have, that is to
understand, to be aware. Is also, you know, the Kristof for example, that
came up earlier, I think there is a tendency to try to create awareness but
that also not to listen. And there is a responsibility to listen, to be
humble, to be wrong, to learn. Instead you sometimes see whites – and
this is where I think there is a problem with activism, is they come in and
they want to take over. And that`s the delicate balance.
HARRIS-PERRY: I thought there was real value in a piece Chloe Angyal
wrote this week, saying, “It was, and remains, necessary for white women to
decry the violence that is done in our name. It is on us to dismantle
racism with just as much commitment as we dismantle sexism, for one cannot
happen without the other.” And, you know, it is important that although,
it`s primarily, elderly black woman who is massacred in that church. But
the language of the shooter used was, you rape our women, and Chloe Angyal
saying, at least part of what we have to do is, stand up and say, nope, you
will not do this, you will not do this violence in my name.
Thank you to Paul Frymer and Christina Beltran, to Khalil Gibran
Muhammad who then brought up - distraught and trouble at the table. And to
Whitney Dow today.
Up next, a mother imprisoned struggling to protect her child and
HARRIS-PERRY: This is Nan-Hui Jo, a South Korean citizen with her
U.S.-born daughter. Since last July, they`ve been separated because Nan-
Hui has been detained in two different jails in California. According to
the state, she is a child abductor. But according to Nan-Hui, she had no
choice. Nan-Hui says, she came to the United States on a student visa in
2002. Then she entered a relationship with Jesse Charlton who is her
child`s father. New report site that Jesse testified in court that he is
an Iraq war veteran who suffers from PTSD.
In 2009, Nan-Hui left the U.S. and returned to South Korea, taking her
daughter with her. According to court transcripts provided by Dean
Johannsson who is Nan-Hui`s trial attorney, Nan-Hui left the U.S. because
her visa had expired. She took her child with her, because, quote, “Jesse
was not safe for my baby.” For five years, Nancy says, she and her
daughter lived in South Korea. According to court testimony, Jesse did not
know where his child was. When Nan-Hui landed in Hawaii last July, she was
arrested on child abduction charges. And in March, she was convicted of
felony child abduction.
A judge reduced her conviction to a misdemeanor. But right after her
released, she was taken into custody by Immigration and Customs
Enforcement, or ICE. Nan-Hui is still detained and faces possible
deportation. Her current attorney told us this. We contacted ICE and a
spokesperson declined comment citing pending litigation. In the transcript
of Jesse Charleston`s testimony, from the first trial also provided by Dean
Johannsson. Jesse admitted this, quote, “I grabbed her by the throat, by
the right hand and I threw her up against the wall. And she`s a lot
smaller than me.” Despite the incident, Jesse was awarded full custody of
their daughter. He offered us this statement via his family law attorney.
Quote, “I have no intention of separating our daughter from her
mother. I know my daughter loves her mom very much and I hold that bond as
sacred. I`m concerned about the story Miss Jo has told at trial and the
story her supporters continue to tell. She told the court under oath that
she was a victim and I was an abuser. Not true at all. I vehemently deny
Joining me now from San Francisco, California is Hyejin Shim who is
the spokesperson for the Korean American Coalition to End Domestic
Violence. And joining me from Washington, D.C. – oh, excuse me. And also
right there, clearly together, is Zach Nightingale, who is her attorney for
Nan-Hui. Thank you for joining us.
ZACHARY NIGHTINGALE, ATTORNEY FOR NAN-HUI JO: Thank you.
HYEJIN SHIM, KOREAN AMERICAN COALITION TO END DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:
Thank you so much for having us, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Hyejin, was Nan-hue abused by her child`s father?
Is there any way for us to sort this out?
SHIM: I think that`s a really good question. Sometime in domestic
violence cases, it can feel like he said, she said type of thing. But in
this case, I do believe that there was domestic violence as evidence by the
testimony. And Nan-hui did call the police on two different occasions
because she feared the violence that was happening, but unfortunately in
neither times, the police took reports.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask a bit of a legal question then. Because
we all watch as the fight over VOWA, and the re-authorization of VOWA
occurred. Wouldn`t Nan-Hui be protected under violence against women
protections if, in fact, she is a survivor of domestic abuse and assault?
NIGHTINGALE: So she is actually in the process of trying to benefit
from the existing domestic violence laws that are meant to protect
immigrants, both men and women, who are the survivors of domestic violence
at this time. One of the problems she`s facing is because she continues to
be detained by ICE, it`s particularly difficult to process those cases.
She`s trying to do so, ISIS is making it particularly difficult.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, when you say that, ICE is making it particularly
difficult, and we heard at least via this statement by the child`s father
that he is not interested in keeping this mother and this daughter apart,
and yet they`re apart. Is this about the sort of relationship, or is this
about public policy that is keeping this mother from this child?
NIGHTINGALE: Unfortunately, it appears that ICE, when they make their
custody determinations, at least in this case, is not concerned at all
about the well-being of the child. They are – they do not take into
consideration the fact that there is a mother and father here and the
child`s best interests, I think everyone can agree, would be to have a
relationship with both of those parents. Instead ICE has detained her with
no bail, sort of treating her as the worst of the worst for, as you said,
going on a year in two different locations, first in the criminal case and
now in the immigration case, when really, we think they should be
considering, what`s the best interests of the child? And that`s absent.
So immigration detention is not supposed to be punitive, and so it seems
like what`s basically happening is it`s acting like a deterrent in this
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I want to – this point about the best interests of
the child, earlier this month, apparently, Nan-Hui was able to exchange
letters with her daughter for the first time. In one of them we have her
daughter writing, I love you, mom. When I sleep, I dream about you. Part
of the reason we wanted to shed some light on this story is just the very
human costs here of our very broken immigration system.
NIGHTINGALE: Unfortunately, the human cost, the financial cost, all
of those seem to be the lowest priority for ICE when they make these
determinations. I mean, clearly from a pragmatic perspective on taxpayer
dollars, it makes no sense, and as you just indicated from a human
standpoint, it makes a little sense that they`re separating a mother and
daughter, U.S. citizen daughter, a mother who clearly wants to be a part of
her life isn`t going to go anywhere, wouldn`t be a flight risk. And so,
really, it`s irrational and absurd.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hyejin, let me ask. What is next now for Nan-Hui?
SHIM: Well, she has multiple cases open right now. She is appealing
her criminal conviction, she is awaiting an immigration hearing in August
and she does have an ongoing family case. And has – coming up for that as
well. So, her main priority right now is getting to stay so that she can
reinitiate consistent contact with her daughter. They have not seen each
other at all for almost a year. It`s approaching a year, anniversary on
July 29th. So, while they have resumed phone calls and Nan-Hui is really
hopeful that she can continue to increase contact with her daughter who she
loves and misses a lot.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to both Hyejin and to Zach for helping us to
understand this complicated story, we promise to keep on our attention on
NIGHTINGALE: Thanks for covering it.
SHIM: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you.
Still to come this morning, the organist who took us to church right
along with President Obama at Friday`s eulogy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Two weeks ago on this program, we brought you the
heartbreaking story of Kalief Browder, a 22-year residence of The Bronx who
spent more than three years in jail at New York`s City`s Rikers Island
without ever being convicted of a crime. Browder entered Rikers at the age
of 16 accused of stealing a backpack, a charge he denied. His family
couldn`t make bail and court backlogs and delays by attorneys kept him
waiting and waiting for a trial. According to Browder, his time in Rikers
was marked by violence at the hand of prison guards as well as fellow
inmates. He spent about two years in solitary confinement.
His charges were eventually dismissed and he was released. That was
two years ago. But life after Rikers was never the same. In an interview
with the New Yorker, Browder said he felt like he had been robbed of his
happiness. Two weeks ago, Browder committed suicide. And Browder`s story
focused attention on the jail complex at Rikers which holds about 11,000
prisoners on any given day, most of them awaiting trial. That number
includes hundreds of 16 and 17-year-olds who are tried as adults under New
York state law. Last year a federal civil rights investigation found that
adolescent male inmates at Rikers undergo a deep-seated cultural violence.
Now, finally some reforms are coming to Rikers. This week, Mayor Bill
de Blasio and federal prosecutors announced an agreement to implement
several reforms at Rikers. Among them, new limits on the types of force,
correction officers could use. A pilot program to test body cameras for
corrections officers, computer system to track use of force by officers,
and to flag those who may be using force excessively. Thousands more
security cameras particularly infections where adolescents are held. And a
federal monitor to oversee the reforms. The agreement also requires a city
to make an effort to move teenage inmates out of Rikers altogether.
Joining me once again is prison reform advocate, Glenn Martin,
president and founder of JustLeadershipUSA. Is this a success? Is this a
GLENN MARTIN, JUSTLEADERSHIPUSA: Definitely a step in the right
direction. However, someone who spent the year on Rikers 20 years ago and
experienced exactly what we saw in that DOJ report, I would argue that it`s
not enough. The thing about Rikers is, what it doesn`t turn out in public
safety it turns out in human carnage. And it`s really about the culture,
it`s about the facility itself. We`re urging the mayor at
JustLeadershipUSA to decentralize the jail, to put people back in their
communities, to shut down the plant, hold officers accountable, bring in
treatment, mental health services, other sorts of treatment and essentially
realize that this sort of culture is so engrained and so pervasive not as
just said by me but the former correction commissioners said the same thing
on his way out that there is no fixing Rikers. There is no reforming
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you were here two weeks ago and you made the point
very strongly at that time that, you know, we`re seeing federal monitors
and that sort of thing here, but this is a mayoral issue, that de Blasio
could, with sort of autonomy, make some real choices that might even
include shutting down Rikers.
MARTIN: So, first of all, Rikers does not stand in a vacuum, right?
There are many jails around the country that have very similar problems.
In this case, the mayor can quickly take the young people in particular off
Rikers, move them into the empty OCFS facilities to keep them away from
harm and then have a longer-term plan for closing down Rikers. So, I`m not
suggesting that the mayor`s politics is not in the right place on this
issue. I think they are, but the city council, the mayor, and other people
have direct responsibility for making these decisions, and we`re spending
$167,000 per person per year, so it`s not about money. We`re already
spending the money.
HARRIS-PERRY: We have talked a lot in the past week and a half about
how the murders in South Carolina create martyrs that actually allow us to
potentially talk about meaningful, social, political reform. It feels to
me like Kalief Browder could do the same thing. Justice Kennedy actually
talked in a recent opinion about Browder specifically. Is there a moment,
is there an opening here for solitary confinement reform, for Rikers
reform, for a broader set of reforms when we`re looking at this suicide
that clearly was brought on by the trauma of the experience of Rikers?
MARTIN: You know, 65 million Americans have a criminal record on
file. We have a criminal justice system that is out of control. And what
Kalief Browder`s story does is to humanize it for Americans, and I do think
that it creates a moment for Americans to stand up and realize that this
sort of criminal justice system can no longer exist in our name. And
what`s particularly useful about the response to what happened in South
Carolina is the fact that the victims themselves are not calling for the
death of this young man but instead are essentially being much more nuanced
in their thoughts about what should happen to him, and for too long America
has become addicted to punishment and we should really care about what
victims want. Right? That`s what should partially drive our criminal
justice system. What do victims want? Now, current criminal justice
system doesn`t respond to that, because I would argue that what victims
really want besides just punishment is for the people to never do it again,
and places like Rikers ensure that he will do it again.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And I mean, again, the thing that we are talking
about, the context of Kalief Browder, the victim would have been, what, a
backpack? I mean, part of what`s so appalling is, not only that he never
faced trial, was never convicted, but that even if he had been, it was
about stealing a backpack! Just –
MARTIN: The punishment is in the process, right? So even if he would
have been found guilty, not guilty, whatever, like, you have to ask
yourself, is three years on Rikers, a place that is so full of danger for
young people, the right sort of punishment for taking a backpack?
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, three years anywhere. Like I`m sorry, like –
but that, I mean, why would the deprivation of liberty be a reasonable
response to something like that?
MARTIN: – in and of itself.
MARTIN: So it is 10,000 people on Rikers Island, over 80 percent of
them are just like Kalief. They`re not convicted of anything. They are
detainees. We need bail reform, we need it now, because that`s a big part
of why these young folks are there. For young poor people, you can make
that bill 500 or five million, it`s the same thing.
HARRIS-PERRY: And that intersection of poverty and race, and
vulnerability in this country. And we see it in his story. Let`s hope
that step in the right direction keeps moving. Thank you to Glenn Martin.
Up next, pride here in New York City. And that man behind President
Obama in Charleston on Friday.
HARRIS-PERRY: Minutes from now, just down the street from where we
are here in the Nerdland studios in New York City is set to begin the
annual pride march, build to be the biggest pride celebration in the world.
Given the news out of the Supreme Court on Friday, and the five to four
ruling making marriage equality the law of the land, today`s turnout is
expected to be particularly big and jovial.
Along the parade route for us this morning is MSNBC reporter Emma
Margolin. Emma, where are your people?
EMMA MARGOLIN, MSNBC REPORTER: Where are my people?
MARGOLIN: Hi, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Where are our people?
MARGOLIN: Where are our people? Yes. We are here. We are minutes
away from the start of this year`s pride parade. And people are filling
up, I guess you can`t really see them in my shot, but I can see them.
They`re ling Fifth Avenue anxious to start this year`s celebration. And
this parade has been around for a while, but this year`s will be especially
historic because it comes just two days after that Supreme Court decision
legalizing marriage equality nationwide. Organizers are expecting over two
million people to come this year.
And joining me now are two of those people, you have Kathleen
Fitzgerald and Alicia Mickenberg, they`ve been together for 19 years and
married for ten years. Congratulations! And they drove down from
Provincetown, Massachusetts to join the celebration. So, Alicia, what was
your reaction to the ruling on Friday and how does it feel to be here
ALICIA MICKENBERG: Oh, we`re so excited. We love Provincetown but we
want to be back in native New York to celebrate. We had to come back just
MARGOLIN: And Kathleen, when you got married ten years ago, you know,
did you think that we would be here today ten years later celebrating
nationwide marriage equality?
KATHLEEN FITZGERALD: I couldn`t have even imagined that. I didn`t
know how long it was going to take to get to this moment but I think we`re
all standing a little bit taller and celebrating with all of our brothers
and sisters around the country who can now have all the federal benefits
that my straight brothers and sisters have in their marriages. And I think
we stand on the shoulders of all of the proud, brave, LGBT activists and
plaintiffs and lawyers. Thank you, Mary Bonauto. Thank you, plaintiffs.
They brought us to this day and I couldn`t feel more proud and happy. I
think it`s a brand-new day and hopefully all of the people across the
country will get the rights that they deserve, including the people touched
by South Carolina. That`s part of this whole thing. I just feel like it`s
the arc of justice is bending towards freedom for more people in America.
I couldn`t be more prouder today.
MARGOLIN: There you have it. A lot of pride along Fifth Avenue today
and anxiously awaiting the start of this parade.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I greatly, greatly appreciate that connection there
that was made with South Carolina, with the continuing realities of needs
for civil rights for all people, say thank you to your guests there and
thanks for being out there, Emma.
MARGOLIN: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, there`s one more thing I want us to get to this
Sunday morning before we go. That`s something particular that happened
Friday afternoon in Charleston, South Carolina. During President Obama`s
eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney. By now, I can`t imagine anyone
watching this program does not know that the President broke into song
during the eulogy, but just in case here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Amazing grace. Amazing grace.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me –
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And the person I want to bring in next is the organist
who was at the service who`s playing that service. You just heard in there
coming in, as the President was singing to help create what had to be one
of the most extraordinarily moving moments from any of us who have seen in
a long, long time.
Charles Miller joins me now from Charleston, South Carolina. I
understand, Mr. Miller that you just played another service?
CHARLES A. MILLER, JR., ORGANIST WHO PLAYED DURING PRES. OBAMA`S
EULOGY: Yes, Melissa, let me say it`s a blessing to be on with you here
today in the midst of what`s going on. Yes. I was playing that service
HARRIS-PERRY: I also understand that you personally lost a family
member in the massacre at Mother Emanuel.
MILLER: Yes, the Reverend Daniel Simmons was my cousin. So, you
know, it`s been a very trying time for the family.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, that moment of having an opportunity for all
of us to along with our president sing the words of Amazing Grace was made
possible in so many ways by your role there on the organ. At what point
did you realize the President was in fact not just going to speak but had
been moved by the spirit to actually sing?
MILLER: Melissa, it was a very chaotic moment. I was up there
talking with several of the other musicians at the time and we were just
trying to figure out, you know, what we should do. And so I just, you
know, trusted on God and said I just a prayer and just let the spirit lead
me at that moment.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is a tradition and one that was so familiar, I think
to so many of us who have worshipped in black churches, that moment of that
organ swell and yet I wonder, were you at all reticent given that that was
the President whom you were going to be accompanying there?
MILLER: I guess it was all very unorthodox, something that hasn`t
been done before. But, you know, Proverbs, the third chapter and fifth
verse tells us to trust in the lord with all your heart and lean not to
your own understanding, to just acknowledge and he would direct your path.
And so, he directed my path. Along with the other musicians as well
because I wasn`t by myself. And I just thank God that we were able to just
be a blessing at this time of need in the city.
HARRIS-PERRY: Your ability to take that path that the spirit led you
on on Friday is in part because you are a trained musician. Can you tell
us a little bit about how you became an organist?
MILLER: Yes. I`ve been playing since the age of five. I`m 33 now.
And so my family is filled with musicians and ministers in the AME Church.
And so, music has always been a vital part of our lives. My mother also
plays as well. And so, never a day goes by that music and singing praise
unto the lord was never – was not a part of our daily worship or daily
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you have an opportunity to actually meet the
MILLER: I`m sorry –
HARRIS-PERRY: Did you have an opportunity to actually meet the
MILLER: No, ma`am, I really didn`t. Just kind of in the moment, in
you know, doing that`s what musicians, that`s what we do, we`re just there
to accompany on the service. You know, the moment kind of came and went
and we kind of went into doing other things in the service.
HARRIS-PERRY: Charles Miller in Charleston, South Carolina, let me
say, thank you for joining us this morning but more importantly, thank you
for sharing your gift. It was a healing gift. It was a balming gilead on
Friday and we appreciate that you were there for that.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed,
transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written
permission of Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark,
copyright or other notice from copies of the content.>