Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 09/06/15
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: Plus, backlash to black lives matter.
And a horrible, no-good pre-season for Roger Goodell.
But first, the future of work means never having to say “you`re hired.”
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris Perry.
And today many of you are likely enjoying all the reasons we`ve come to
look forward to Labor Day. You know, discount shopping, barbecues, three-
day weekend. But for more than a century since the first observance of the
holiday created by the labor movement, it`s also a moment to remember the
hard-won rights we`ve come to enjoy in the marketplace, things like a
minimum wage, paid vacation, sick leave and a 40-hour work week.
All right, so we`ve begun to take for granted this part of the relations
according to the law between employer and employee. It`s a relationship
set up to be mutually beneficial for all parties involved with the employer
reaping the benefits of the employee`s work and the employer sharing in the
employee`s success. And the year since the economy began recovering from
the recession, it`s clear the employers have gotten the better end of the
During that time, corporate profits reached and maintained pre-recession
levels, and yet despite a jobless rate that at 5.1 percent as of Friday is
lowest since the recover began, there is little indication that workers
have reaped the rewards of those profits. Because even as an employment
has continued to decline, wager growth remains stagnant. And taking into
account cost of living increases, it`s even declined since the recession
That uneven recovery is driven in part by increasingly uneven relationships
between the worker and the boss, a relationship that has become less
mutually beneficial and a lot more like friends with benefits. In his book
“the fissured workplace,” economist David Weil describes the (INAUDIBLE)
20th century economy which large companies employed many workers to a
moderate economy and which employees reaped all the rewards of that
relationship with as few responsibilities to workers as they could manage.
More and more corporations are moving away from the business and he risks
of employing people and outsourcing those tasks to someone else.
In the new labor environment, people aren`t employees who are employed by
the business are working for, they`re independent contractors or temps or
freelancers who work for third party agencies or franchise owners or
vendors. It`s a business strategy that we argue has allowed companies to
keep costs down, profits up, and the reputation of the brands untainted.
It`s left some workers with little recourse in the face of shrinking
paychecks, eroding benefits and unsafe workplaces.
According to a 2014 report from the national employment law project,
evidence suggests that the ambiguous legal status of many workers in
contracted jobs is one of the central factors driving lower wages and poor
working conditions in our economy today.
Conflicts arising from these employment arrangements that played out in the
headlines as workers have pushed to clarify that ambiguity and secure
rights and protections for their labor. That sued workers calling on
parent companies and not franchise owners to be accountable for their
demands for fair wage. Ride sharing drivers claiming they are not
independent contractors but employees who are entitled to reimbursement of
Hotel employees who were fired when they were replaced by lower pay
outsourced workers and last week, all of those workers got a boost from the
national labor relations board decision that redefined the employer-
employee relationship. The board ruled a 3-2 majority, by a 3-2 majority
that a waste management company qualifies as a joint employer, along with
the contractor it hired to manage staffing. So now a union representing
those workers can bargain directly with the company, a change which could
have direct implications for companies that insulate themselves from labor
disputes behind a franchise model. And indirectly, could force employers
to face up to the responsibilities of what it really means to be a boss.
Joining me now are Dorian Warren, Roosevelt institute, fellow and MSNBC
contributor and also host of “Nerding Out” on MSNBC Shift. Bryce Covert,
economic policy editor for Think Progress and contributor to “the Nation”
magazine. And Kevin Hassett, the state farm, James Q. Wilson chair in
American politics and culture at the American Enterprise Institute.
Thank you all for being here on this Labor Day weekend.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dorian, I sort of feel like I just want to be like go,
right? I mean, how much are these new realities reflective of a workplace
shift that we may not even quite have our hands on yet in terms of what it
will mean a decade, two decades from now?
DORIAN WARREN, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: You`re started off by saying we`re
talking about the future of work, but the future is here now. This has
been a development long in the making over the past 20, 30 years. And in
fact that national labor relations board rule you mentioned is a rule,
essentially overturning a Reagan error national labor of relation forth
rule that stopped the joint employer status, meaning that the parent
company like McDonald`s was off the hook since the `80s for any of the
working conditions at any of its franchisees, and one might wonder well,
what role should McDonald`s play in terms of the work conditions? Is it
really just the franchise franchisees that has the power but you have
McDonald`s dictates everything else, every Big Mac, every fry, every
napkin, every shake, it is determined by McDonald`s. But yet, when it
comes to just this little spear of the employment relationship, McDonald`s
used to say, we have nothing to do with that. But we have everything to do
with everything else.
So this is the new norm in the American economy of legal distance put
between a powerful employer which does control working conditions, safety
conditions at the workplace from people who used to be called employees
that are now being called a range of other things like independent
HARRIS-PERRY: So it is just the franchisee model is one, particularly, you
know, when you describe McDonald`s is a multi-million-dollar international
corporation, people immediately go, oh, I see why that`s a problem. But I
do feel like the libertarian narrative is one that says well, look, we have
driven unemployment down to 5.1 percent and that is in part because we do a
lot more freedom in the wave that people can hire. And while we may look
at McDonald`s and say that is clearly seems troubling, right, I think
again, many people might see that as troubling. If you talk about an
independent contractor for an employer who has five or six employees, you
understand why they don`t want to have all the rest of it.
So maybe, give me a little bit of the other side on this.
KEVIN HASSETT, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: Right. Yes. Thanks. And I
guess you are going to tell me to go, but it may have a different meaning.
The fact is that I think there are kind of two levels of things that we can
address. The first is the franchise model, if you think about it, it is a
model that one of the benefits from the point of view of the investors is
that it`s very hard to organize unions in a franchise type model because
you`ve got 10 million McDonald`s, each one owned by a different guy, and
you have to organize them one by one under the old law. And so there is
that kind of thing.
And then there is also you hire a plumber and the plumber is unionized, but
you`re a firm that isn`t unionized, then you know, how do you deal with
that? And I think the former one, it`s pretty clear that this ruling is
going to make it easier for labor to organize places like McDonald`s. I
think, you know, assuming that the law goes the way you think it is.
But for the latter one, I think that it could have actually negative
effects in the sense that to the extent those relationships are influenced
by collective bargaining, then it might mean that, you know, people start
hiring if their businesses start hiring non-unionized plumbers. I don`t
know if that`s going to be possible in New York City.
HARRIS-PERRY: The plumbers have this worked out. But it is interesting,
this question in part of organized labor. And I`m wondering if part of
what we`re seeing in Congress, you know, this teacher workplace which we
exist in already is already related to a weekend labor union. I mean, so
if we looked just at public opinion polls, you know, back in the early
1950s, we have sort of the height of 75 percent of Americans supporting
labor unions, dipping down below 50 percent in 2010-2011. Although it`s up
a little bit, were still just only about half of Americans are even
thinking they`re a good idea.
BRYCE COVERT, ECONOMIC POLICY EDITOR, THINK PROGRESS: Well, and so few
Americans are actually in a labor union. I mean, maybe plumbers are pretty
unionized, but like most of us are not, right? Most people have no contact
with the labor movement. I think it`s worth going back and remembering how
we got here in the first place.
Temp workers were an idea that was introduced at the height of labor power
to sort of get around it. It was sold as jobs for, like, Kelly girls and
women in the home making pin money who didn`t need the protections that the
men at work needed. And then I think corporations sort of got hold of it
and they were like, well, look, we can get around all these protections by
having this contingent labor force, we can size up, we can size down as
much as we need, and that`s becoming more and more the norm.
But it`s breaking that relationship we have between you go to work, you
have one employer, they give you benefits, that`s sort of how it works to
you go to work, and you don`t get any benefits from them, maybe you get
them somewhere else, maybe don`t get any benefits. You know, we`ve sort of
come into this model where it`s not necessarily guaranteed the way it must
HARRIS-PERRY: But Bryce, we talked about benefits and Dorian, I guess this
is part, because I am not completely without some interest from the
employer perspective on this, right, that you have a limited pot of money,
you want to make some hires and then you have to look at that fringe on
top, right, some of which is about taxes, but sometimes and often if you`re
trying to be a good employer, is about benefits.
What if instead of employer-provided health care, there was just health
care that was provided that walked around with us because we were citizens?
And it seems like that would make hiring cheaper, and yet so much of the
private industry actually oppose the kind of health care reform that might
move it that direction.
WARREN: That`s absolutely right, and the interesting thing about our
system of benefits that are tied to the employment status is it was an
accident of history in many ways. It happened at a particular political
juncture in the `50s when unions actually really cut – it was during the
World War II era, post-World War II era where unions couldn`t negotiate
over wages necessarily, so they decided to negotiate over benefits,
pensions, health care, and then it became the norm, and we then became the
only industrialized democracy with this system where you got your health
care benefits or any kind of social provisions through the workplace, not
through the state.
So that system is essentially eroding. But there is another aspect.
You`re right to point out, if you`re classified as an independent
contractor, you don`t have access to those benefits. You also don`t have
access to employment protections. Anti-discrimination laws don`t apply to
you. So that you can actually be discriminated against much more often
with no legal recourse if you`re classified simply as an independent
contractor versus an employee. We see this, for example, with the
difference between a FedEx driver and a UPS driver. A UPS drivers are
employees. They have benefits but they also have the legal protection at
the workplace. FedEx, until recently, they just settle the case yet, they
were classified as independent contractors.
So no workplace protections whatsoever, no minimum wage, no overtime, no
anti-discrimination laws. There is something unfair about that especially
when it`s an arbitrary decision made by an employer to just decides, you`re
an independent contractor, you`re not an employee.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we get back, we`re going to be really clear about what
exactly would mean by this. In fact, I`m going to say we are going to get
over clear about it because when we come back, we are talking to the lawyer
who is taking over Uber in what could be a defining class-action lawsuit.
HARRIS-PERRY: OK, when you request a ride from Uber, is the person who
comes to pick you up an employee of the company or an independent
contractor who uses the Uber app as a tool to work for themselves? That`s
the question at the heart of a lawsuit brought by three California Uber
drivers who say that they are employees and entitled to reimbursement from
the company for their expenses.
Now, on Tuesday a federal judge granted class action status to the lawsuit,
extending it to a limited class of drivers who contracted directly to Uber
and have not driven since May of 2014. Uber plans to appeal the decision,
and in a statement released this week, a spokesperson for the company said,
while we are not surprised by this court`s ruling. We are pleased it has
decided to certify only a tiny fraction of the class the plaintiffs were
seeking. Indeed, one of the three named plaintiffs will not qualify. That
said, we`ll most likely appeal the decision as partners use Uber on their
own terms, and there really is no typical driver – the question at issue.
Joining me from Vermont is Shannon Liss-Rioidan, the attorney representing
the Uber drivers. It`s nice to have you.
SHANNON LISS-RIOIDAN, UBER DRIVERS` ATTORNEY: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So help us understand a little bit more what this lawsuit is
LISS-RIOIDAN: Well, we have challenged Uber`s classification of drivers as
independent contractors, and in doing that, Uber gets to avoid all the
costs and responsibilities of being an employer, making sure that the
drivers have just basic protections under the wage laws, access to workers`
comp if they get injured, unemployment if they lose their jobs, the right
to join together and bargain collectively if they want to form a union.
HARRIS-PERRY: So part of how Uber responds to this is saying, and did a
survey where they say, look, our drivers want the independent contractor
model, they prefer it. That 87 percent say, in fact, the major reason they
drive on the Uber platform is to be their own boss and set their own
schedule. How do you respond to that?
LISS-RIOIDAN: Well, there are a couple of problems with that argument.
First of all, the fact they set their own schedule doesn`t make them
independent contractors. There have been lots of cases where workers who
can set their own scheduled have been determined to be employees. We know
that people like the flexibility. That`s the big reason that a lot of
people have been taking on Uber as a way to make some money, but that
doesn`t make them independent contractors.
Uber could have them have that flexibility as employees. And so, that`s
just really a false argument Uber is making, that if they become employees
they have to work on some rigid schedule.
The other problem with Uber arguing, people like to be independent
contractors, is that the law doesn`t look at frankly what people like, you
know. There may be some people, migrant farm workers, who would like to be
employed and be paid less than minimum wage, but the law puts basic
protections in place and doesn`t allow employers to get around the laws by
saying people like this.
And also, when we talked to a lot of those drivers who signed statements
for Uber saying that they liked the system, and we asked them, would you
like to be reimbursed for your expenses and have these protections? They
said, oh, yes, yes, we would. They didn`t understand that`s what the
lawsuit was about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sure. Shannon, stay with us.
I want to come with you on this, Kevin. So, you know, Uber obviously
become even a bit of a political flashpoint on this. But when you think
about it from a kind of clear labor market perspective, is Uber the great
example of where kind of American companies are going and we should want to
see it flourish or is it the great evil thing that is breaking this good
relationship between employer and employee?
HASSETT: Well, I think as from the point of view of labor markets, then,
one of the biggest powers you have over your boss is the threat to leave
threat. So, if your boss knows you`re not going to leave, they can be
abusive and then you end up with Roger Goodell as your boss. But if you
have a threat to leave, if it is easy to leave, it is easy to move on to
another job, at search to costs are minimized, then that`s really good for
the labor market generally. And so, the idea –
HARRIS-PERRY: Isn`t it the idea if there is a tight labor market? In
other words, if the employer believes it can replace you swiftly, easily
and with low transaction costs, that threat to leave is less powerful.
HASSETT: If they haven`t made a big investment in you, too. So - but most
employers want to keep their employees. Search cost are big deal for
employers. They want to minimize them. It is the things Uber as an
abstract principle are really great because they give workers more power,
they can sort of see that it`s easy to get a job over there. I would guess
that in the fullness of time, we`ll see, for example, that long term on
employee people re-attached that labor market through things like Uber a
lot easier than they do traditional employment, and the reason that happens
is there is not a lot of fixed cost. But there is not as big lump of cost
that the employer, Uber, faces when they bring a person on.
And so, the thing that I`m concerned about with litigation like this, and I
don`t know the law (INAUDIBLE), but the thing as an economist that concerns
me, is that if you just increase the fixed costs of bringing somebody on to
Uber, then Uber is going to look more like a traditional job and all the
benefits that Uber presents for workers where it`s easy to move over there,
it`s easy to stop doing it, could be reduced.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Bryce, let me weigh you on this.
COVERT: Well, I think what you are saying is a little bit of
contradictory. If it is so easy to bring people, then I think, like you`re
saying, it`s a little bit easy to say, well, if you want to go, fine, go,
then, we`ll just replace you. And I do think we are in an economy still,
the unemployment rate is still very low but there is still a lot of slack
in our labor market. There is still a lot of people who will beat down the
door to come into these jobs. And I think that`s driving a lot of people
into these jobs, you know.
I think a lot of people are going into part-time, temporary work who would
rather have a full-time job. And I think there are a lot of people in Uber
labor market who are feeling the same way. So this is like a more
contingent force rather than, you know, voluntarily picking up a couple
hours here and there.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Shannon, I want to come to you on this in a second,
because you talk about the law as well as about worker preferences.
Obviously, the main alternative to Uber are taxis which also have a kind of
troubling history around sort of shutting out folks in the labor market as
well as, we know, for example, in places like New York, long histories
around the question, for example, of racial profiling when actually
providing their service. So I guess I`m of two minds on the Uber of it
LISS-RIOIDAN: Well, taxis raise – that`s sort of a whole different ball
of wax. Taxi drivers are also working under very difficult circumstances,
and I frankly disagree with the independent contractor classification for
taxi drivers, too. But I think what we can recognize a big difference
between Uber and taxis is that Uber has a lot of control over its drivers
that the taxi companies simply don`t have or don`t want to have because
they don`t want to be found to be employers.
Uber has, among other things, a rating system where after every ride a
customer is given an option to rate their driver, and I don`t know how many
people realize that unless drivers keep it very close to a 5.0 rating, a
lot of places 4.6, 4.7, they can be dropped from the system, terminated,
essentially. That keeps a lot of control over the drivers on a minute by
minute basis. They`re being evaluated, they`re being controlled. If they
do anything that Uber management is not happy with, Uber can fire them at
will. And that`s a big portion of the control. That`s a difference
between Uber drivers and taxi drivers.
HARRIS-PERRY: Which may be a great customer service practice but also
makes blase the idea that they are independent contractors.
Thank you, Miss Shannon Liss-Rioidan in Burlington, Vermont. Here in New
York, I want to say thank you to Kevin Hassett. Dorian and Bryce are going
to stick around a little longer.
Because when we come back, we`re going to talk about the unsung heroes of
the labor movement, and we hardly even know their story.
HARRIS-PERRY: Since 1974, an amendment to the fair labor standards act
excluded home care workers hired by third party agencies from the basic
employment rights of minimum wage and overtime pay. That all changed last
month when an appeals court delivered a win to President Obama, reviving a
labor department regulation to extend the minimum wage and overtime pay to
most home health workers. A reversal of a trial course decision against
the regulation earlier this year.
It`s just the latest victory in a decades-long fight to secure rights,
respect and recognition for the labor force composed primarily of women who
performed domestic work. In a new book entitled “household workers unite,”
author Premilla Nadasen makes the case for why the organizing efforts of
African-American women played a key role in that struggle.
Nadasen writes that these women that they quote “engaged in overt,
collective and public forms of opposition. They were vibrant middle-aged
or elderly black women, very often mothers and grandmothers, who took
multiple risks, made enormous personal sacrifices and offered powerful
critiques of the status quo.
And Premilla Nadasen joins me at the table now. I loved the book. This is
for me, part of that sort of tradition of revising what we mean by labor.
What happens if we tell the history of the labor movement beginning here
instead of, how we so often as we tell it?
PREMILLA NADASEN, AUTHOR, HOUSEHOLD WORKERS UNITE: The models of the labor
movement have been premised on a large-scale manufacturing sector, male-
defined work, and very often have we seen historically is the ways in which
women`s work, whether it`s domestic work, service work. The women work
have done has really been excluded from those models.
The labor movement itself historically has not organized domestic workers.
They were not considered part of the labor movement. But when you actually
look at the history, and you look at the history of these African-American
women in the 1960s and `70s who organized, they developed a national
movement of 25,000 women across the country who demanded a transformation
in the occupation of domestic work, and who were ultimately successful in
bringing domestic work under federal minimum wage protections in 1974.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I want to ask a little bit about this in connection to
the conversation we`ve been having about employers and independent
contractors. Because so much domestic work happens in private households
and the employers are individual families as opposed to corporations, how
does that shift what happens when we start talking about the ideas of
rights and responsibilities of employers and employees?
NADASEN: Absolutely. It`s a very important connection there, because
domestic workers for the most part have been considered independent
contractors, right? They`ve been considered women who choose to work jobs
when they want to, and the argument is that they`re independent contractors
and they don`t fall under the federal minimum wage protections. But, in
fact, what this movement has done is it has developed models of organizing
that brings together workers who are employed by different employers,
right? So one worker, in fact, could have five different employers, or
they might be working part-time. And their model has been one that`s
premised on state-based benefits as opposed to employer-based benefits.
And so, for example, the federal minimum wage law, it doesn`t matter which
employer you`re working for, you`re still entitled to those rights. And
we`ve seen, even in the contemporary moment, there is a vibrant domestic
worker rights movement that exists right now, and they`ve been advocating
the same sort of thing, state bills of rights that are offering protections
for workers regardless of who you`re working for and regardless of whether
or not you`re a member of that organization, regardless of whether or not
you`re a member of the union. And so, the idea is all workers ought to be
HARRIS-PERRY: I am reminded, Bryce, of this point that there is a current
domestic workers kind of activism in part because Alicia Gardner, one of
the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement also works for the
organization for domestic workers alliance, right? So that reminder that
what we - that this kind of work is connected, you know, are broad movement
at the moment.
COVERT: Yes. I mean, this work force is overwhelmingly women, its
majority people of color, and it`s providing the kinds of work that we are
increasingly in need of. You know, mothers are going into the work force
and they need somebody to care for their children. Our parents are ageing
and it is a big population. We need a lot of care in the home to help them
age with dignity. And we are seeing this demand is going to outstrip
supply. And part of that I think is because these jobs have been so
devalued, underpaid, low benefits.
These movements could change that dynamic. They`re pushing to make this be
considered work and to be work that at least is given dignity and, you
know, minimum wage.
HARRIS-PERRY: Dorian is sticking around. Thank you to Bryce Covert and
Premilla Nadasen. And thank you for the book, “Household Workers Unite.”
Up next, we turn to politics. The brand new NBC News Marist poll out this
morning shows a major shift in the crucial early state of Iowa.
HARRIS-PERRY: A new NBC poll out this morning this morning shows
Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders gaining ground in the
state of Iowa. In this new NBC News Marist poll, 38 percent support
Hillary Clinton, 27 percent support Sanders, and vice president Joe Biden,
who has not decided whether to enter the race or not, received 20 percent
in a hypothetical Democratic caucus. Compare that to Clinton`s 49 percent
and Sanders` 25 percent in July, and Clinton`s lead in Iowa has dropped by
13 percentage points. The poll released this morning also shows Sanders
with a nine-point lead over Clinton in New Hampshire.
Joining me now from Iowa, NBC news correspondent Kristin Welker.
Kristin, Secretary Clinton has several campaign events in Iowa today. How
is the campaign responding to this Sanders surge?
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Melissa. Well,
good morning to you.
Look. The campaign has consistently said that it expects a competitive
primary. Having said that, there is no doubt this email controversy is
starting to take a toll, and part of the problem is this drip-drip-drip
factor. Secretary Clinton gave an extensive interview to our own Andrea
Mitchell, of course, on Friday. And then just a day later, we learned that
Secretary Clinton acknowledged that she paid one of her state department a
staffer, Brian Pagliano to set up and maintain her private email server.
Now, he is the same staffer who said that he was going to plea the fifth
and refused to speak to a congressional committee this past week. So, it
is that type of drip-drip-drip that really makes it difficult for her to
try to turn the page, but that is exactly what she`s going to try to do
over this Labor Day weekend. She`s going to courting the labor
constituency. She is going to be talking about the economy and jobs in an
effort to really move beyond this email issue.
Now, just looking forward, Melissa, it is going to be a very busy 48 hours.
We expect that a lot of candidates are going to be out on the campaign
trail over this holiday weekend, and there will be a lot of eyes on vice
president Joe Biden who you also mentioned is doing quite well in that
poll, even though he hasn`t announced yet, he is going to be marking Labor
Day in the battleground state of Pennsylvania. There is a big Labor Day
parade there, and of course, he is still considering a run of his own -
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to NBC`s Kristin Welker in Newton, Iowa.
WELKER: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Funeral services were held Saturday for a pivotal leader in
the civil rights movement, Amelia Boynton Robinson. She was one of the
organizers of the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 to demand voting
rights. And she was among the protesters WHO HAD beaten unconscious on
what became known as bloody Sunday.
The photograph of her taken after the attack appeared in newspapers around
the world and helped galvanize the movement, eventually setting the stage
for the passage of the voting rights act. Fifty years later, Robinson is
back on the Edmond Pettit Bridge alongside President Obama and other civil
rights giant to mark the anniversary of that pivotal march. Amelia Boynton
Robinson, a life-long civil rights activist, died last week at the age of
104. Among the hundreds of people attending Boynton`s funeral yesterday,
Congressman John Lewis and the attorney general Loretta Lynch, who paid
tribute to Boynton`s legacy saying quote “even as she faced opposition and
oppression, hatred and brutality, she waged a steadfast campaign of
inclusion and hope that culminated in a voting rights act, one of the most
important and impactful pieces of civil rights legislation in American
history. And one that as an attorney general, an attorney general who
would not be in this role today but for her efforts, I am honored to
protect and enforce.”
Up next, how Will Smith up ended Roger Goodell`s summer.
HARRIS-PERRY: The pro football season kicks off this season with the
Pittsburgh Steelers taking on the New England Patriots. And with the NFL
pre-season wrapped weekend point to some clear winners and losers. One of
the winners of the season was Buffalo Bills` player Tyrad Taylor who
shocked everybody by beating out everybody E.J. Emmanuel and (INAUDIBLE)
for the starting quarterback position. While RG3 had a terrible pre-
season, moving his position and facing rumors he might be cut from the
The individual who may have had the worst pre-season of all, the league`s
leader, Roger Goodell. On Thursday, Goodell was rendered practically
powerless when a judge ruled in favor of Tom Brady, overturning his four-
game suspension over deflate-gate. It was the first time it was overturned
in court leading to the obvious question of whether the commissioner has
any real authority over the league players. But perhaps, even more
travelling for Roger Goodell is that that biggest pre-season buzz wasn`t
about the action on the field, it`s about Will Smith.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I found a disease that no one has ever seen.
Repetitive head trauma chokes the brain.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The NFL does not want to talk to you. You turned on
the lights and gave their business boogeyman a name.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re going to war with a corporation that owns a day
of the week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No proof was presented today because there simply isn`t
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have to listen to us. This is bigger than they
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The film is titled “Concussion.” And while it doesn`t hit
theaters until its Christmas, the trailer for the film based on actual
events released last week has already been viewed millions of times online.
Will Smith plays Bennett Amalu, medical examiner and professor who
performed CTE after performing an autopsy on former Pittsburg stealer, Mike
Webster. Now, CTE is the generative brain disease found in people who have
suffered repetitive head trauma including concussions. And while CTE is
still being studied, it is believed to cause memory loss, confusion,
impaired judgment, aggression, depression and dementia.
The head injury issue has been dogging the NFL for years, and a few years
back, more than 5,000 former players sued the league claiming the NFL
actively hid the danger of head injuries. Settlement was reached earlier
this year. And recently, some of the players, including Chris Boreland,
one of 2015 top rookies have quit the league citing concern over their
This film, “Concussion,” is poised to become another Will Smith blockbuster
debuting in theaters right around the time of NFL playoffs.
Still with me in the studio, MSNBC contributor Dorian Warren. Joining us
are Anthony Alessi who is associate clinical professor of neurology and
orthopedics at UConn. From Las Vegas, Harry Carson, a former linebacker of
the New York Giants, and from Washington D.C., Demaurice Smith who is
executive director of NFL Players Association.
I actually want to start here with a statement from the NFL, and they say
here, we are encouraged by the ongoing focus on the critical issue of
player health and safety. We have no higher priority. We all know more
about this issue than we did 10 or 20 years ago. And as we continue to
learn more, we applied those learnings to make our game and players safer.
So Demaurice, let me begin with you. Is the game and are the players now
safer, based on what we know?
DEMAURICE SMITH, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NFL PLAYERS ASSOCIATION: Good
morning. I do believe that the players are safer. It doesn`t mean that
the work of the players union or the work of the national football league
is done. But have we taken steps, basically, by this union to try to make
the game safer? The answer is yes.
I`m happy to see Tony Alessi. I asked Tony to be on our mac white
committee. He`s one of the doctors that advises the union on what course
we should take to make the game safer. And I think when we do take steps,
the game does become safer, but we`re not there yet.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask you then, doctor. What are the sort of
legitimate things that actually make playing football in this case safer?
DR. ANTHONY ALESSI, SPORT NEUROLOGIST: Well, it`s kind of interesting.
You know, it really starts, ironically, throughout medical school and all
my residency training in the `80s, I don`t think I heard the word
concussion five times. And now you can`t even open a magazine or turn on
the TV without hearing it.
HARRIS-PERRY: You can`t sign your kid up for eighth grade girls` field
hockey without signing a form about it.
ALESSI: Exactly. I think what`s made the game safer has been D. Smith and
the NFL PA. That collective bargaining agreement when Dee called me to
work with them, was really a seminal event in changing football. And the
accountability and care committee that I serve on with the NFL PA is really
responsible for putting neuro-trauma specialists on the sideline for every
game. These are hard-fought battles. Isn`t it amazing that we`re talking
about safety in the workplace at this time? I mean, really. It`s just
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Dorian, I mean -
ALESSI: It`s been crazy.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. I mean, I think this, for me, it`s such an interesting
connection in part because we think of labor unions so often being about
wages. And so, people think why do millionaires need a union? But this
feels like the answer to that question.
WARREN: Right. Because unions are much more than just about wages. This
is literally life and death. This goes to a quality of life question for
the players and retired players after they finish their careers. And but
for the union, if we just said, the NFL will look out for the players, this
would not even be on the table. We wouldn`t be talking about this. There
wouldn`t be a game-changing movie coming out, so to speak, in December with
Will Smith, as you mentioned, that will shed even more light on this long-
But yes, if you think of the role of unions in particular and professional
sports unions, we don`t have a problem with those folks, usually, right?
Baseball, NBA, football –
ALESSI: Because they`re getting a big check.
WARREN: That`s right.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Henry, let me come to you on this. I mean, the way that
Dorian just framed this is – I`m sorry, Harry - let me come to you on
this. The way Dorian just framed this is this idea of life or death. If
this is a life or death question, should we even be playing, for example,
little league football? Should kids be engaged in this kind of game?
HARRY CARSON, FORMER LINEBACKER, THE NEW YORK GIANTS: Well, I think the
significance of this movie on Dr. Bennett Amalu, and he is the one who
probably is the hero here because he is the one who dug deep enough within
the soul of Mike Webster to find out what was ailing him. And he gave it a
name, and he was banished, he was demoralized by the national football
league as to what he found. I think with this information that he has
brought to the forefront, I think everybody can see now that there are
ramifications that come with playing the game. If you get dinged, if you
get concussed, those things don`t necessarily go away, and they can affect
you at the present time, but definitely down the road as you get older.
I`ve seen so many former players who are dealing with traumatic brain
injury and the effects of concussions that, you know, it`s a commonplace
thing now, but all these players who are now dealing with these issues, you
know, we play through them because nobody told us we were at risk of
neurological damage. We knew that we could get hurt physically. We knew
we might need to have a knee replaced or hip replaced or whatever. But in
terms of the brain, you only got one. And once you damage your brain, you
may never be the same person again.
HARRIS-PERRY: So Demaurice, let me come back to you on that, because I
remember very well when sort of idea was that the knees were the big
question, and you know, as you got older, that these were gentlemen who
were going to have potential mobility problems and it was sort to have to
make that tradeoff. But what we now know about brain injuries and the
likelihood of them and the extent of them, is it – are NFL players getting
the kind of, both in this moment, are they cutting the right deal given
that risk. And in the long term, are they cared for in a way, given how
wealthy people are becoming from their labor who never have to worry about
whether or not their minds and bodies will be sound in 20 or 30 years?
SMITH: Well, and that`s a great question, Melissa. And our job as a
union, and I`m glad to be on a show that recognizes the power of labor
unions, is to make sure that our men and their families understand the
risk. That`s number one. Second, having a guy like Tony and other doctors
who have been on our Maki white committee, make sure we allow the science
in the medicine to make the decision about what players should do, how we
practice and how we play.
And then lastly, knowing that there will be injuries, we`ve changed the
collective bargaining agreement to make it easier for players to get
compensated for their injuries and easier for them to get long-term
benefits if they do have the injuries.
But I think the key thing here is, we pride ourselves on being a labor
union that cares just as much about health and safety as we do about wages.
Our job is to make sure that the signs of the health care dictate the day.
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. I want everybody to stick with me. I`m going to
have a few more words on this topic when we come back, because I do think
for many of us who genuinely love football, who may even spent last weekend
drafting a fantasy team, we have to think about what this all means for our
role, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Friday, a 16-year-old high school football player in
Louisiana died after suffering an injury during the team`s season opener.
His name, Tyrell Cameron, and the actual cause of death from that injury is
still under investigation.
But everybody is kind of talking about it this morning, doctor, and it`s
this reminder again that for young people, and I think for all of us who
love the sport, it`s not just the NFL but it`s all these levels before it.
Are there some more practical things we ought to be doing?
ALESSI: Absolutely. Melissa, when we think of it, there are only 1800
players in the NFL, but there are three million youth and middle school
players building up to high school. We know that the brain is not fully
mature at that level. And our best guess is really that it matures really
around the age of 14, when they get to high school, where there is better
medical attention and things such as that. So we really should be focusing
on youth players and trying to find out how to make that game safer.
HARRIS-PERRY: Should it be touch until high school?
ALESSI: I think you need to do something like that, but you need to build
skills. The most successful players in the NFL didn`t play youth football.
You know, the Mannings, they never played youth football, because people
think youth football, this is the key to an NFL career. Often it`s the end
of an NFL career.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let me come to you on this, Harry. I`m interested in this
idea of the choices that we make as people who are watching the game, who
love the game, who want to see the game be played safely and well over and
against issues of suicide, violence against intimate partners, depression,
all the things that impact the very players who, in our fantasy leagues, we
CARSON: You know, the issue here is you can talk about making the game
safer. Football is a contact sport, and you`re going to have injuries.
And you cannot make the game safer from the standpoint of protecting the
brain. The helmet protects the skull, it does not protect the brain. The
brain is encased in fluid inside of the skull. And when you sustain those
injuries, you don`t know how that`s going to manifest itself as you move
forward. As a result, you get guys who have mood swings, guys who do
erratic things in terms of their behavior. And you have guys who really
literally think they are going crazy because they`re no longer the
individuals that they were. That`s the reason why you have a Dave Doerson
(INAUDIBLE) put a gun to their chest and pull the trigger as oppose to
putting gun to their head. They know that something is going on.
And this is something that is new. About, you know, 20 years ago nobody
talked about concussions, but it really is a hot button topic now because
it`s there for everybody to see, and that really is the importance of this
movie and Dr. Bennett Amalu. We need to not necessarily focus on trying to
make the game safer. Yes, I like football, too, but my grandson is not
going to play football. He`s five years old. He knows he`s not going to
play football. I didn`t want my sons to play. But I wanted it to be their
Given what I know now, and I`ve said this over and over, if I had to do it
all over again, given for what I know now, I would not have played the
game. Because I`ve seen the damage that has been created by playing this
game, and you can sugarcoat this thing all you want. It`s a game,
everybody is going to go out and watch.
If you got the information as a parent and you want your kid to play, fine.
God Bless you. Let your kid play. But I think if you really want to
protect your kid, you would think differently.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you in Las Vegas to Harry Carson. Also thank you to
Demaurice Smith in D.C. I didn`t get a chance to ask you my question about
whether or not it`s time for Goodell to go, but maybe I can get that during
the commercial break.
SMITH: You probably know what I would say.
HARRIS-PERRY: And here in New York, Dorian Warren and Dr. Anthony Alessi.
Coming up next, political backlash from the Black Panther to the Black
Lives Matter movement. There`s more Nerdland at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Eleven thousand
people, including law enforcement officers from around the country, were in
Houston Friday for the funeral of slain Harris County sheriff`s Deputy
Darren Goforth. The funeral came exactly one week after Goforth was shot
to death for simply pumping gas. This man Shannon Miles is charged of
capital murder in Deputy Goforth`s slain. Miles is accused of walking up
to Goforth and shooting him in the back of his head in cold blood and then
continuing to shoot him at least 15 times. Deputy Goforth is white, and
Miles is black. Miles also has a history of arrest and weapons charges.
He was declared mentally incompetent by the state of Texas back in 2012 and
spent some time in north Texas State hospital. But as the law enforcement
and the community of Harris County grieved the loss of Deputy Goforth, the
public conversation about his death has become a moment of political
commentary. Not about mental healthcare accessibility but the ready
availability of guns, but about this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF RON HICKMAN, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: So at any point where the
rhetoric ramps up to the point where calculated, cold-blooded assassination
of police officers happen, this rhetoric has gotten out of control. We`ve
heard black lives matter, all lives matter, well, well, cops` lives matter,
too. So, why don`t we just drop the qualifier and just say, lives matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, others have gone further than Sheriff Hickman directly
laying a responsibility for this crime at the feet of Black Lives Matter.
Listen to Elisabeth Hasselbeck of “FOX & Friends” who asked this of her
guest on Monday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELISABETH HASSELBECK, FOX NEWS HOST: Why has the Black Lives Matter
movement not been classified yet as a hate group? I mean, how much has to
go in this direction before someone actually labels it as such?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, Hasselbeck and other media professionals have bore the
brunt of displeasure at security by those outraged by the suggestion that
Black Lives Matter is a hate group, some blaming implicit or explicit
racial bias for this characterization of the movement. Allow me to offer a
slightly different theory. German Sociologist Max Weber defined the state
as the entity with the monopoly on the legitimate use of violence force and
coercion. All right. That`s hard. Let me make a little bit clear. If I
jump out of my car and handcuff you and put you on a cell, it`s called
kidnapping. If the state does it, we call it arrest.
And the distinction is not just semantic, it`s substantive. Even the
Godmother of teeny tiny government libertarianism, believes that government
must have this monopoly on violence and force. She writes, quote, “The
only proper function of a government or the police to protect you from
criminals, the army to protect you from foreign invaders, and the courts to
protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others.” The
police and the army, violence, force, coercion. What makes a government a
government and makes it strong and stable are when the people that are
governed by it believe that the government`s use of violence is legitimate.
So, when the people instead declare that the state power, especially as
embodied in its police, is no longer a legitimate, that its use of violent
force and coercion is biased and should be questioned, well, it sets up an
existential dilemma. Because if those citizens succeed in convincing
others that the state`s violence is illegitimate, then the state can lose
its power to govern. Just more than 50 years ago, the non-violent action
of voting rights activist provoked brutal violence from southern
authorities, and when Americans saw the unprovoked viciousness of these
police, it changed the country`s opinion about the legitimacy of southern
police, eventually resulting in the destruction of the Jim Crow and voting
The tips did for nearly 100 years. Undoubtedly, this is why king and
others were monitored, harassed and threatened by the FBI. Tactics
deployed by the FBI to even greater effect later in the 1960s against the
Black Panther Party. The 10-point platform of the Black Panther Party even
more forthrightly described the use of force in black communities as
illegitimate. And unlike the Black Lives Matter Movement, the Panthers
engaged in actual shootouts with police. Law enforcement, including the
FBI, sought to delegitimize and destroy the panthers. Now, this impulse
thwart backlash against those who challenge even symbolically the state`s
monopoly on legitimate violence is even a driving plot elements of the
number one movie in the country right now, “Straight Outta Compton,” which
highlights police and FBI harassment of the hip-hop groups NWA in response
to their rappers declaring, F the police. It is not surprising to see the
current effort to frame black lives matter as dangerous and illegitimate.
Recall what happened to New York Mayor Bill de Blasio at the end of 2014.
Black Lives Matter protests gripped the city after a Staten Island grand
jury declined to indict the officer`s involved in the chokehold death of
Eric Garner. Now, having witnessed militarized response to protesters in
Ferguson earlier in the years. De Blasio struck a decidedly different
tone, invoking his own experiences of raising a black son.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK: I couldn`t help but immediately think
what it would mean to me to lose Donte. Life could never be the same
thereafter. No family should have to go through what the Garner family
went through. Chirlane and I have had to talk to Danto for years about the
dangers he may face. It`s a phrase that should never have to be said, it
should be self-evident. But our history, sadly, requires us to say that
Black Lives Matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Many officers were furious as the mayor appeared to
challenge the legitimacy of their actions, and then two officers were
murdered while sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn. And the gunman who
took his own life had made social media comments threatening to kill
officers in retaliation for the non-indictment decisions in the Eric Garner
and Michael Brown cases. So, when Mayor de Blasio arrived at the hospital
to see the officers` families and when he spoke at their funeral, some in
the NYPD turned their backs on him. The mayor, their boss. This is a
struggle that spans American history. A people challenging the legitimacy
of the state used of violence when policing their communities and then a
backlash as the state seeks to discredit those who challenge it. What
happens in that struggle determines who we become.
Joining me now, Monica Dennis, regional coordinator for Black Lives Matter,
New York City. And Nyle Fort, ordained minister and community organizer.
Thank you folks for being with us.
MONICA DENNIS, REGIONAL COORDINATOR, BLACK LIVES MATTER, NYC: Thank you
for having us.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we know at this point that Black Lives Matter has been
called or suggested to be a hate group, and I just want to suggest that
maybe the most struggling part of that is it is a group. Right? Black
Lives Matter is a movement. So, can you just help me to think about what
the response within Black Lives Matter has been to to this discourse?
DENNIS: Absolutely so. The first thing that we think it`s important to
highlight is that Black Lives Matter, the movement started in direct
response to violence, so we are not a hate group, we are not about
violence, we are actually taking a stand against the violence that`s
inflicted upon our communities. And as you laid out, it`s important to
kind of put this in a proper context that any time that black people and
black communities decide to be self-determining and to resist the violence
that is inflicted against us, we are cited as agitators, as hyper violent,
and so if the state sees itself as the entity that is responsible of
protecting American citizenry, then we also have to look at who the state
defines as hyper violent, hyper criminal, hyper immoral and that`s often
HARRIS-PERRY: And this idea about both the state and some any others is
kind of defining black bodies, maybe even particularly black youth as hyper
violent and criminal, easily delegitimized? I`m worried that this
discourse is now, because it`s available, now has the ability of
undermining the movement.
NYLE FORT, ORDAINED MINISTER: Right, and to piggyback off what Monica
said, I think what`s important is getting the narrative right, and the
narrative from the movement has always been that we`re not anti-police, but
we`re anti-police brutality. Right? And so, we are not a movement about
harming police, we are a movement about holding police accountable, because
police as an institution systemically and disproportionately harm
communities of color, particularly black communities across the country.
So I think giving that narrative is important.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, clearly part of what happened in a narrative moment like
that. Especially in the of television and radio and where little segments
and pieces can be pulled out, is if there is someone at a Black Lives
Matter rally who is using words like pig or talking about violence against
police, or if an individual, in fact, does shoot and kill police officers
and then in any way indicates a connection back, even just through social
media, it suddenly has this wide impact on the movement.
DENNIS: Absolutely, so. I think the focus should be, is why are the
actions of individual black people then become the representation and the
responsibility of all black people. So when we see Dylann Roof or Jeffrey
Dahmer, anybody committing crime against people of color particularly black
people, white people are not held accountable in math for those actions or
held responsible. So, we really want to refocus on not the individual
actions but what is actually happening to black communities that we find
ourselves historically and currently under this state of constant hostility
and duress by a law enforcement.
HARRIS-PERRY: I can remember when the officers were killed in New York, I
thought to myself, well, now Black Lives Matter will be over because it
can`t sustain through kind of the death of officers. It`s too much of a –
but then it wasn`t over and it`s kind of managed to maintain. But I do
wonder within the movement itself if there are conversations about sort of
strategic changes or sort of ways to respond in moments like this.
FORT: Well, absolutely. I think what`s really important is to highlight
the work that`s being done. So rhetoric is very important, and then
narratives are important, but even when we talk about the Black Panther
Party, one of the things that really solidified the community was the
programs that they had, right? That`s what they called survival programs
and they called it survival pending resolution. Right? And so it`s
important to talk about rhetoric, but it`s also important to talk about the
everyday work that`s being done in these communities, that no matter what
FOX is saying, no matter what the right wing community media is saying, we
have people in communities that are meeting people`s everyday needs and
connecting to a largest struggle transforming that to communities, and
that`s what people want to see and that`s what people are trying to –
HARRIS-PERRY: And just to put that in the clearest terms, those programs
were things like breakfast programs for hungry children, health clinics,
right? That`s what the panthers were doing. So, what does that look like
in the Black Lives Matter Movement? What are those survival programs are a
part of that?
DENNIS: Absolutely. We definitely runs a books and breakfast program and
there`s quite a few numbers of those books and breakfast programs across
the country. It looks like teachings, it looks like public community
engagement, it looks like safe beyond policing. It looks like a lot of
organization that is happening locally and that is also happening
nationally. So, that`s part of it. And also I think it`s important for us
to highlight the impact this actually has, this rhetoric, which is more
than rhetoric, I would like to suggest, because it is backed by the force
of politicians, media and law enforcement. What does it mean when the
majority of the labor leadership of this movement is coming from black
women and girls, cis and tran. And so, when we are saying that these
people need to be surveilled more and we`re citing violence, they were
actually targeting black women and girls very, very specifically, very,
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you so much for taking the time to come. I think
you`re right, this isn`t just about rhetoric. This is substantively a
turning point moment that has to be addressed. And so, I appreciate you
being here to do some of that addressing. Thank you to Monica Dennis and
Nyle Fort. But we are not over with this conversation. Because when we
come back, race talk, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and President Obama
on the police.
HARRIS-PERRY: In July of 2009, Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates was
arrested at his Cambridge Massachusetts home by a local police officer
responding to a report of a robbery. The day after the charges against
Professor Gates were dropped, President Obama assessed the situation at the
end of a live nationally televised news conference about healthcare.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRES. BARACK OBAMA (D), UNITED STATES: Number one, any of us would be
pretty angry. Number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in
arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own
home. And number three, what I think we know, separate and apart from this
incident, is that there is a long history in this country of African-
Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Law enforcement organizations and officials objected, to say
the least, to President Obama`s public criticism igniting backlash that
concluded in a beer summit with the president, Vice President Biden, Gates
and the arresting officer Sergeant James Crowley. It was the first racial
controversy of President Obama`s presidency, and it was also a rare moment,
the President of the United States challenging the decisions of a local
Fast-forward when six years later and race and policing are still key
issues facing the Obama administration. Wednesday, Wisconsin Governor and
the GOP presidential contender Scott Walker, in an op-ed for hot air wrote,
quote, “In the last six years under President Obama, we`ve seen a rise in
anti-police rhetoric.” This inflammatory and disgusting rhetoric has real
consequences for the safety of officers who put their lives on the line.
Joining me now are Khalil Gibran Muhammad who is director of the Schomburg
Center for Research in Black Culture. Rinku Sen who is publisher for
Colorlines.com. Matt Welch, editor-in-chief of Reason Magazine. And
joining us from Columbia, South Carolina, Marquez Claxton, director of the
Black Law Enforcement Alliance and a retired NYPD director. I want to
start – excuse me detective, I want to start with you. What do you make
of this statement that President Obama, you know, and again, realizing this
goes back all the way to 2009, that he and sort in sort of the six years of
he`s been president has made the world more dangerous for police officers?
MARQUEZ CLAXTON, DIR., BLACK LAW ENFORCEMENT ALLIANCE: It`s a ridiculous
absurd assertion. The op-ed itself is obtuse, I mean, because I think what
Scott Walker does is to diminish and ignore historical context and reality,
and in doing so, in an attempt to lionize law enforcement, which is a
danger and it`s been going on by several individuals in an attempt to
lionize law enforcement, he then places the victims, those people who have
been oppressed and for a long period of time, he places them responsible
and he blames the President for a trend of resistance against oppression.
I really think that the piece is way off base, and without a factual
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you make an interesting point here that Kahlil I want to
come to you on. This idea that lionizing police officers is in fact or the
police institution can be troubling for democracy. And I think it`s worth
kind of posing on that. And asking, what does it mean to be a nation of
laws, to be a democracy where we`re meant to hold all our government
agencies accountable to the people?
KHALIL GIBRAN MUHAMMAD, THE SCHOMBURG CENTER: Well, the problem is that
historically policing has been the lightning rod of civil rights activism
since the end of slavery. So when police have been the blunt instrument of
social control as directed against people trying to actually lives equal
lives in a country built on inequality, you have to allow room for
democracy to take hold for people to have dissent against an institution
that isn`t working for them. And that rub, that conundrum is as old as the
very struggle for freedom in this country. I think when I listen to Scott
Walker in that op-ed, I`m hearing sort of echoes of the red baiting of
black activists in the south who were so-called communists precisely
because they had an economic critique of the very inequality that they
struggled under. So, we have to be smart about this, we have to promote
historical letters to run these issues in order to counter what essentially
passes as an A historical treatment of the problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, this idea of dissent, Matt, let me come to you on this.
Because this does feel like the place where there is a space to challenge,
but it also is very difficult in a kind of political world where to
criticize the police or other sort of institutions, even if one is the
President, suddenly is off – you know, kind of off the table and allowed
to do that.
MATT WELCH, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, REASON MAGAZINE: It`s strange. Everyone`s
impressions of Barack Obama`s interventions into local policing is just
wildly off the map from one another. A lot of conservatives, you know, say
he`s micromanaging constantly, he`s really like rationalized and
radicalized. It`s not the impression that I have had. I don`t think it`s
necessarily an impression that you have had. I think since, Charleston was
really the first time that he kind of gave a sustained discussion, I think
he`s been getting into the sort of civil rights and criminal justice reform
belatedly in his presidency and he`s tuning that kind of now.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, you know, maybe impart because of that 2009 moment.
Right? I mean, it`s worth pointing out that, when he spoke on Gates, he
was there trying to talk about health care. No one remembers what that
whole speech was, just that last question.
WELCH: It`s important to realize, and Scott Walker doesn`t. He has this
asinine line, this is not the country that I grew up in. In 1971, in New
York City alone, there were 12 cops shot, some of them assassination style,
racially motivated, saying, you know, we`re going to wipe out the pigs.
You know, we`ve had fewer than that number of NYPD cop shot in the last 15
years. We don`t have the levels of crime, we don`t have cops on the
individual crime or you know, shootings and the levels that all that we had
in 1971. In 2007, in Obama, there were 67 cops shot and killed in the line
of duty in this country. This year there will probably be about 45, which
is 45 too many, but it`s less than 2007. There is no war on cops. People
who are pretending that there is right now I think are playing very cynical
politics, which is Scott Walker`s specialty in this campaign.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so your point about politics in going to country like
this, because there really is, I mean, part of why this rhetoric is, you
know, ramping up is because here we are in the midst of a 2016 hard-fought
RINKU SEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RACE FORWARD: Yes, I think, really, every
politician who is going to be running next year needs to understand that
Black Lives Matter, the movement against police brutality for police
accountability, it is gaining momentum and it is going to keep gaining
momentum. So, this isn`t 1954, the earliest days of the civil rights
movement, it`s more like 1963 when the movement is really taking off, lots
of decentralized, spontaneous, supportive activity. I think to Matt`s
point, Scott Walker, in 1959, the numbers of police officers who died in
the line of duty by 2013, the 2013 figures were the lowest since 1959. So,
when Scott Walker was growing up, life was actually much more dangerous for
police officers. Every death caused by violence is tragic. But to use the
deaths of police officers in the line of duty to discredit a movement for
accountability, it`s just really crass and pretty transparent, and the
numbers do not support it.
HARRIS-PERRY: Stop with me right there because we`ve got to stay, we`ve
got much more, but I want to stop right on that idea about what the numbers
support. Because when we come back, I`m going to dig into some more
numbers, the latest crime statistics and the one number that the government
can`t give you. But we can.
HARRIS-PERRY: After years of decline, we have seen an uptake in the murder
rates in some large U.S. cities. On Monday, the “New York Times” reported
that in Milwaukee, 104 people have been killed this year after 86 homicides
in all of 2014. Milwaukee saw a 79 percent increase in murders this year,
and at least 35 cities in the U.S. reported increases in murders, violent
crimes or both. Why? The Justice Department told us that they will
convene at a summit in Detroit this month in order to address that very
question. And while gangs, drugs, access to guns are cited as likely
factors, some speculate as the times put it, quote, “Intense national
scrutiny of the use of force by police has made officers less aggressive
and emboldened criminals.” A theory known as the Ferguson effect.
Joining my panel now from San Francisco is Sam Sinyangwe. He is the data
scientist and policy enlist behind the website MappingPoliceViolence.org.
Nice to have you here, Sam.
SAMUEL SINYANGWE, RESEARCHER, MAPPINGPOLICEVIOLENCE.ORG: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, we have crime stats, murder stats, we have stats about
how many police officers are killed in the line of duty. What we don`t
have is stats about police shooting of civilians, and I`m wondering how
that has a tendency to hamper our conversations on this issue.
SINYANGWE: It absolutely does. And so, you know, fortunately we`ve been
able to collect fairly comprehensive statistics of the number killed by
police every year, and what we`ve actually been able to find is at least
815 people have been killed by police so far this year which is an increase
over last year and the year before.
HARRIS-PERRY: Now, compare that to what we know about the number of
SINYANGWE: So for officers, for example, we know that 24 officers have
been shot and killed in the line of duty so far this year.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I think – you know, I understand the reasonable
pushback when we`re talking about humans who are losing their lives,
particularly losing their lives in gun violence, that counting feels like a
cold way to do it or somehow can`t tell us something. But it does feel to
me like these data tell us something about what this relationship is
between police officers and their communities.
SINYANGWE: Absolutely. I mean, at the very least what it tells us is that
what some are claiming around police being less aggressive is, in fact, not
played out by the numbers. These numbers suggest that police have not
adopted the kind of hands-off approach that some have claimed.
HARRIS-PERRY: Sam, stick with us. Don`t go away. I want to come to you
on this Kahlil because I think the other question for me is, why do we
suddenly now presume that aggressive policing reduces violent crime when I
felt like we had just kind of turned the corner on that conversation and we
were beginning to talk about decriminalization and actually less aggressive
MUHAMMAD: Right. So, one of the problems with the critique of Black Lives
Matter is it collapses all of the good work that has happened around
disconnecting the prison policy initiatives known as mass incarceration
from crime rates.
MUHAMMAD: So, the National Academy of Sciences issued a report last year.
We`ve got bipartisan research coming out of the Koch Brothers Institute all
pointing to policy drivers being disconnected from crime rates. And one of
the pillars of that is that policing has never shown definitive proof of
being attached to lower crime rates or violence rates.
MUHAMMAD: So we see diversity across the board in various communities with
regard to whether policing worked or didn`t work.
MUHAMMAD: It`s indecisive. We simply don`t know with any certainty. This
critique of Black Lives Matter collapses all of that and puts us right back
in the same space we were in the 1980s or the 1990s with Clinton`s crime
bill which put 100,000 people, a new police officers across the nation.
Built the biggest prison system and one other things I think is really
important in this moment about Black Lives Matter is, we have to remember
that it`s not just about the 800 unarmed civilians or I`m sorry, people
killed by the police or how many police officers were killed, it`s also
about the hundreds of thousands of micro aggressive abuses that the
Ferguson DOJ report pointed to. Or the Philadelphia DOP report pointed
too. Or the consent decree in Newark.
MUHAMMAD: We have a scale of evidence now in the last two years that
really highlights what`s happening to people who don`t end up being shot
but are completely demoralized or abused in these communities.
HARRIS-PERRY: Officer Clarke, I want to come to you on this because what I
don`t want to miss is that policing is in fact actually hard work, and
there are things that make policing a more dangerous or less dangerous job.
And I guess, part of what I`m interested in is, what those sort of facts
are, what actually makes it harder or more dangerous to be a police
CLAXTON: Well, first off, you know, I agree with you with my experience in
a different assignments that I`ve had. I understand and recognize the
dangers of law enforcement of policing itself. But let`s be honest about
something. We`re talking about volunteers, not victims here. We`re
talking about individuals who should be prepared and well aware of the
dangers, the inherent dangers, of policing. It is a reality that we must
face as law enforcement professionals that there exists the possibility –
not the probability but the possibility – that your life will be
sacrificed at some point. That`s the reality, that`s part of the danger.
That`s why not everyone can be a police officer.
So I kind of shudder when I hear people say about the dangers of policing.
That`s the nature of policing itself, and that`s why you needed a
particular type of person to engage in this profession. Additionally,
let`s look at what aggressive is. You know, for policing to now have
devolved into the point where you quantify based on aggression rates is
quite disturbing. What happened to the service model and where are our
priorities as a nation? Is police work more enforcement based, more
militarized or is it more about providing service? We need to answer that
question and decide where we`re moving forward to in the future.
But let`s not behave as if these are poor victims who are set upon here to
sacrifice their lives and who have been sacrificed and far too many have
been killed. Let`s be honest about that. I`m real about that. But let`s
be honest also about the fact that these are individuals who have made a
choice to protect and to serve, and they should be focused on service model
and less on aggression, and that`s so much what the Black Lives Movement
and other individuals who are calling for various forms of reform are
HARRIS-PERRY: One last question. Actually, you know what, let`s take a
quick break. Everybody stay with me including Sam, because I want to ask
you about campaign zero when we come back. I also want to say that still
to come this morning, award-winning filmmaker Stanley Nelson is here to
preview his new documentary, “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the
Revolution.” Don`t go anywhere, anybody.
HARRIS-PERRY: Wednesday, former Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony
Batts had this to say about the spike in crime in his city earlier this
year following the death of Freddie Gray.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANTHONY BATTS, FORMER BALTIMORE POLICE COMMISSIONER: I think part of the
crime rate that`s happening in Baltimore is that the police officer at some
point took a knee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: All right. I want to come back to you, Sam in San
Francisco. Because, you know this is this theory that officers took a
knee. And I guess I`m just sort wondering if what you know against from
the empirical evidence would suggest that that is at all an accurate way of
thinking about why you end up with higher crime.
SINYANGWE: I don`t think that`s true at all. I mean, we`ve seen cities
that have high crime rates where a police have been effective in reducing
crime rates along with other social service providers without killing
people. Newark is an example of that. And by contrast, we`ve seen places
where police have been incredibly violent towards people and have not have
played, made an impact on crime rates. And so, I think really crimes does
not depend on policing, crime really depends on the provision of social
services, access to opportunity, as well as people feeling like they are
part of the community and are not being threatened by outside forces.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s get to Campaign Zero which one of the things that
you`re part of. What are goals there? And how were you moving towards
SINYANGWE: Campaign Zero is a comprehensive platform of policy solutions
to end police violence in America. It`s informed by many voices in the
movement as well as researchers and folks on the President`s 21st Century
task force that really proposes a blue print for how we can get to a place
where police are not killing people and where people are not being
brutalized in their communities by other people who they entrust to protect
and serve them.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, Rinku, I want to come to you on exactly that. I
sort of had a bit of a rapid whole around all of kind of – kids for social
action. The data base work that Campaign Zero is doing and the Black Lives
Matter is doing. And I`m interested in what is sort of, what gives laws if
we start doing, there are hate group, they`re bad, they`re awful, we
shouldn`t be engage with them. How much do we lose in actual active work?
SEN: Uh-mm. You know, politicians are invoking the deaths of police
officers to deflect real attention to death cause by police officers. And
what we lose when we have that kind of twisting of data and stories, is the
chance to actually make policing better. What I`d love to see all
politicians call for is a racial equity impact assessment of every police
department, every single one of their practices. How they hire, how they
train, how they enter neighborhoods, how they use force, how they deal with
the immigrant communities, really that entire range of activities that
police departments have to engage in, to ensure that we can in fact employ
a kind of service model of the sort that our earlier guest was talking
about. So, really we can`t allow the deflection of what we know is a
historic and current problem. There are 815 people who have been killed by
the police this year. Twenty four police officers killed in the line of
duty. The lowest numbers of police officers killed in the line of duty in
the 150s. So, where are tension goes in policing really has to be on the
racial impact of police practices.
HARRIS-PERRY: Matt, let me come to you on this one.
WELCH: I think one thing to point out is that even though we don`t have
great – or good or any on nationwide data. I`m restarting to get some
things to sort of aggress its separates here. I have no doubt that police,
violence in police killing of civilians is way down than it used to be too.
I think that gets lost. I think our awareness of police abused is off the
charts because of social media and because of a lot of different factors
and that`s a great thing. But I think sometimes people have the impression
that the police are uniquely more venal today than they were yesterday and
the day before. And I mean, again, New York City 1971, cops killed 93
people in New York. In 2013, eight.
WELCH: So, you can`t tell me. The cops are more violent. I mean, we`re
just less crime field. Another thing about the take the knee thing. I
think that probably did happen in Baltimore. Came from the Baltimore
person. You`ve heard anecdotal discussion among people who were cops in
the law enforcement in Baltimore. But that`s a problem not just for
criminal justice reformers. That`s a problem for the people who are
against criminal justice reform. Because you got cops who are not
enforcing the law. You`ve got a very, very serious problem. If they`re
going to be doing engaging sit-down strikes, that is a huge, huge problem,
a huge problem.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Sam in San Francisco and also to Marquez in
Columbia, South Carolina. Here in New York, thank you to Khalil, Rinku and
And up next, you might say they were the original Black Lives Matter
Movement. The incredible new film by Stanley Nelson.
HARRIS-PERRY: Panther Party was the definitive organizational expression
of Black Nationalism in America. And it remains a powerful symbol of black
self-determination. The group`s Oakland, California-born aesthetic of
black sunglasses and leather jackets and black glove fist is instantly
recognizable. But the depth of its legacy is less known. The legacy is
the subject of Emmy Award winner Stanley Nelson`s new documentary. “The
Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nations between police and Negroes throughout the
country are getting worse. One of the city`s most troubled by animosity
between police and Negroes is Oakland, California.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: People always talked about freedom and what that means.
During that time period, being black in America, meant that you didn`t walk
down the street with the same sense of safety. And the same sense of
privilege as a white person.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was absolutely no difference in the way the
police treated us in Mississippi than they did in California. They may not
have called you (bleep) every day, but they treated you the same way they
did in Mississippi.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Police jump on you, beat you up, put the gun at your
head. This is what we were going through on a daily basis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I first met them, they were in the process of
forming an organization. For primarily self-defense. We didn`t plan to
have a nationwide organization or anything like that. We were organizing,
dealing with the problems in Oakland.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We use the Black Panther as our symbol because the
nature of the panther doesn`t strike anyone. But when he`s assailed upon,
he`ll back up first. But if the aggressor continues, then he`ll strike
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hewitt had studied the law. In Oakland at that
particular time, anyone could carry a firearm who did not have a felony
conviction at the time. The firearm could not be concealed. It had to be
in the open.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The California penal code section 20020 through 12027.
And also the second amendment of the constitution guarantees the citizen
the right to bear arms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, filmmaker Stanley Nelson.
HARRIS-PERRY: Documentary filmmaker Stanley Nelson is a MacArthur Genius
Fellow, three-time Emmy award winner and at the behest of President Obama,
a recipient of the 2013 national humanities medal. First and foremost
though, Nelson is a filmmaker whose works have never shied away from the
beauty and brutality of the black experience in America. Recently Nelson
turned his eye to one of the most often malign and the historically
misunderstood players in the long struggle for racial justice in America.
The Black Panther Party for self-defense. His latest film, “The Black
Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution,” which opened in New York City this
week is a kinetic viral retelling of the Panther story from many of the
voices that led the group from its meteoric rise to its fractious fall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is within the community that we`re not going to
continue to turn the other cheek.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re going to follow the police, we`re going to
maintain a legal distance, ready to throw down if necessary.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The way they talked and dressed, we were phenomenon.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The FBI wanted to destroy the panthers.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don`t hate anyone because of their color. We hate
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We referred to ourselves as the vanguard. We wanted
the entire community to follow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: And we`re very happy to have returning to Nerdland,
filmmaker, educator, and the incomparable Stanley Nelson.
STANLEY NELSON, “THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION”: Thank
HARRIS-PERRY: You capture in this film that the eminent sense that
revolution was possible. And I guess I`m wondering if you think it was
ever actually possible the panthers could have changed the trajectory of
American economic and social life.
NELSON: Yes, I think they could. I think one of things that we really
wanted to show in the film was that someone says, this was a revolutionary
time. That revolution was in the air. That it wasn`t just the panthers.
That so many – especially young people – felt that there was going to be
this incredible change in this country. That probably never came, or at
least didn`t come politically. It may be came culturally but not
HARRIS-PERRY: So culturally, the Panthers are, I mean, they remain
extraordinarily important. We see them in hip-hop. People will kind of
reproduce the aesthetic of them. But maybe in the aesthetic we also miss -
- it`s very gendered and we might miss the gendered reality. So, I want to
play a little piece from the film where you talked about women as panthers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NELSON: One of the ironies of the Black Panther Party is that the images,
the black male with the jacket and the gun, but the reality is, the
majority of the rank and file by the end of the `60s are women.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Black Panther Party certainly had a chauvinist
tone, and so we tried to change some of the clear gender roles so that
women had guns, and men cooked breakfast for children. Did we overcome it?
Of course we didn`t. As I like to say, we didn`t get these brothers from
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Great line. Tell me what difference these kind of gender
politics made within the Panthers.
NELSON: Well, I think, you know, the Panthers looked at this revolution
that they felt was coming, you know, that it needed men and women to be,
you know, soldiers in the revolution. So, as they say in the film, women
were a huge part of the panther movement. Women were spokespeople for the
Panthers. Women and men worked side by side. And I think it`s one of the
kind of falsehoods that we have. You know, we don`t think of women when we
think of the Black Panthers.
HARRIS-PERRY: Probably the most painful part of the film is watching the
role of the FBI in creating what they call a culture of paranoia, using co
and tell pro and actually engaging in violent action against them with the
Panthers. Does that tell us anything about the moment we`re in now?
NELSON: Well, I think it`s a cautionary tale. I think you have to
understand that. And I think it`s for all young people who are involved in
the movement now, they need to take a look at the film and understand, you
know, what happened to the Panthers. You know, I think the other thing to
remember, is the Panthers were so young. I mean, they were teenagers. You
know, and the FBI was, you know, using everything that they had to destroy
the Panthers. And one of the things I think is startling in the film is
the FBI published this in documents. I mean, it was in documents. Do
everything you can to destroy the Panthers. You know, so it`s chilling.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, this is not conspiracy theory, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, this is just reading J. Edgar Hoover`s documents.
You talked about how young they were. One of the most young and
extraordinary voices within the movement was Fred Hampton. Let`s take a
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NELSON: Fred Hampton here in Chicago was the main voice for racial unity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stood up to say we don`t kill – we don`t fight
violence with violence. (INAUDIBLE) We fight for solidarity.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The coalition in Chicago represented the Latinos, the
poor whites and poor blacks. But also because he had been in NAACP, he had
linkages with focus who were in congregations, church folks and working
class folks. So, Fred was building a broad base coalition in Chicago and
that was the threat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So much of a threat that in the film you tell the story
ultimately that – or the film tells the story that Fred Hampton is killed
in his own home while sleeping by the Chicago police, ultimately his family
winning an award against the police for that death. How, I mean, it`s a
historical factual. What difference would it have made if Hampton had
NELSON: Well, you know, I think Fred Hampton was special. I mean, you
know, we called him the one in the editing room. You know, he was really
special. Because he was so young, he was 21, I think, when he was killed.
But he had also come out of that, you know, NAACP movement. He was really
trying to build coalitions in Chicago. And so he was – it was a little
bit different from, you know, Huey and Bobby and the people who first
formed in the movement in Oakland with guns. He was a little bit
different. It`s just tragic that he was murdered.
HARRIS-PERRY: Tell us because people are going to want to see it. How do
people see it?
NELSON: So, we`re in New York right now. And we opened last week. And
we`re here for another two weeks. And then we go to 21 cities across the
country. The best way to figure it out is to go to TheBlackPanthers.com.
And that tells where, you know, which city we`re going to at different
dates. But one of the great things we`re doing is having guests at
screenings all over the country, you know, panthers, other people involved,
lawyers. So, you know, hopefully create events everywhere we go.
HARRIS-PERRY: Chilling film. I watched it last night and could not sleep.
Thank you to Stanley Nelson. The film once again, “The Black Panthers:
Vanguard of the Revolution.” For upcoming screenings, again go to
TheBlackPanthers.com. That`s our show for today.
Thanks to you at home for watching. We`re going to see you next Saturday
at 10:00 a.m. Eastern. Right now, “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT.”
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