Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 11/08/15
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC HOST: This morning, my question – should we
consider growing up in Compton a disability?
Plus, the Marco Rubio moment.
And (INAUDIBLE), all come to Nerdland.
But first, how California has become the place for progressives.
Good morning, I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And today Nerdland is coming to you from the west side. I`m here on the
NBC bureau on the NBC universal lot in warm, sunny Los Angeles, California,
so we are going to begin today with a closer look at how the Golden State`s
push on progressive policy sets a shining example for the nation.
Last weekend from Friday to Monday more than 6,000 inmates were released
from federal prison. And now, the prisoners were mostly African-American
and Latino men, all of them convicted on drug charges and more than half of
them convicted in the south.
Many had already begun transitioning back to their communities by living
first at half-way houses or under home confinement. And the release comes
a year after the U.S. sentencing commission reduced federal sentences for
drug trafficking, then decided to apply the new guidelines retroactively
for people already incarcerated.
According to the “Washington Post,” it is the first time a group of federal
prisoners this large has been released all at once. But it is not the
first time that broad prison reforms led to freedom for people with lengthy
sentences because California had already been there and done that.
California prisons have for years been so packed with people that in 2011
the Supreme Court ruled the state in violation of the constitution`s
prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. It ordered the reduction
of its prison population.
Further litigation in the federal courts gave the state a February 2016
deadline to get numbers down. And then last year California finally being
making inroads towards unpacking its prisons thanks to an assist from
In 2014 California voters approved proposition 47, a measure that
reclassified low-level drug and theft offenses as misdemeanors rather than
felonies. And allowed low-level offenders to apply to be resentenced. The
proposition has since been a driving force behind the reduction in
California`s prison population to levels unseen since 1994. And what`s
more, as people have continued to be released from California`s prisons and
jails, according to the Brennan center, there`s been little significant
change in the overall crime rate in the state.
So sentencing reform isn`t the only issue on which California has taken
lead on pushing progressive policy. During the Democratic debate,
Secretary Hillary Clinton praised the state for making moves on another
policy where the federal government is still dragging its feet.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Carly Fiorina, the first
female CEO of a fortune 50 company argues if the government requires paid
leave it will force small businesses to quote “hire fewer people and create
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, I`m surprised she says
that because California`s had a paid leave program for a number of years
and on a state level, a state as big and many countries in the world. And
it has not had the ill effects from the Republicans are always saying it
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: In fact, over the summer, Clinton added to her presidential
agenda a plan that would go where California has already gone when she
called for federal legislation that would automatically register Americans
to vote when they turn 18.
And just a few weeks ago, California showed everyone how the automatic
voter deed is done when Governor Jerry Brown signed a new law that will,
unless you opt out, add your name to the voter rolls when you go to the DMV
for a California license. And that was just one of the latest in a series
of “Ws” that Brown put on the board progressives in the state.
In the last month alone, California`s newest laws have included a measure
the made it the first state in the country to provide sex reassignment
survey portrayed gender prisoners. One of the nation`s toughest policies
on addressing gender gap in salaries. A racial profiling law that will
require police to collect public data on reason, results and race of people
when they make stops, a highly controversial right to die law, and gradual
attack of climate change that would require half the state`s electricity to
come from renewable resources by year 2030.
With a record like that you might be able to quibble with what some parts
of California claim that the west side is the best side. There is no
denying California`s leadership are leaning all the way to the left side.
Joining me now is Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez. Also former Los
Angeles mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, and Andre-Marie Hancock, associate
professor of political science and gender studies at the University of
Thanks to all of you for being here for my L.A. debut of Nerdland.
So talk to me a little bit, mayor, what is it about California that allows
it to be kind of a laboratory for these kinds of policies, not always
progressive but recently quite progressive?
ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA (D), FORMER LOS ANGELES MAYOR: Well, first of all, it
is not a new phenomenon. This has been happening for a long time. And
particularly in the `90s when we had a Democratic majority and a Democratic
governor. Toughest assault weapons ban, I was the author. You know,
healthy families. Health care for children, 750,000 children had health
We were focused on many issues – poverty, women`s rights, civil rights.
These are issues that California`s been grappling with and leading the way
on for a very, very long time. Now clearly, with an even greater majority,
you`re seeing that we`re starting to lead the nation again across the board
as was mentioned just a few minutes ago.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, like even as I was talking and doing my little
progressive chant over here, I could kind of see Leslie out of the corner
of my eye, and she was like writing notes down. And I thought, yes, that`s
right. It sort of the way that, you know, the one will read where this
state is when standing on the left may feel quite different. So I`m
interested in sort of what you take away from that narrative I just told
LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: You know, I`m going to have a
different perspective only because a recent transplant to this part. And
I`ve had the opportunity to see – one, you cannot deny the culture, the
climate, the innovation here in California, especially southern California
is just remarkable. The diversity is extremely rich. These are all the
very robust positives.
The problem is if you want to have a business in California, you are in for
a lot of headaches. It is still very antibusiness because of high
regulation, high taxes, bloated public sector that makes it really
difficult to spur this entrepreneurship that so much wants to grow in this
state. I think there is some policies, though, when you are talking about
the jail release program, innovative, by bipartisan support. You have a
lot of Republicans, you have faith-based leaders who are very much getting
involved in that.
So there is a lot of area for compromise. The bottom line comes to what is
it going to cost. And you can say these idea. And I do think some of
these other policies are actually very interesting and other states can
look at them, but what are the long-term ramifications, the devil in the
details. And even when you look at things like education reform in this
state that`s still ranking very much in the bottom of 42 - number 42 out of
all 50 states, there needs to be a better record on those kinds of reforms.
HARRIS-PERRY: So it is interesting, when you start talking about like
bipartisanship, for example, in the prisoner release discussion because now
it seems that`s part what`s going on nationally, and yet to me, what`s
interesting is that it is not bipartisanship in the way that we typically
would think of it where people who are elected to office who represent
those parties are therefore hashing out in terms of legislation, you all
vote on everything. Like there is a sort of proposition culture. So that
when I`m saying, you know, this made this happen and this made this happen,
it was actually a ballot measure. And I wonder how that then influences
the way politics is done here.
ANDRE-MARIE HANCOCK, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN
CALIFORNIA: I think it is a really interesting kind of thing to think of
the way that California actually operates. We do have a very robust kind
of direct democracy thing, our proposition system. Now, as the mayor
mentioned, our proposition system doesn`t always work in the progressive
direction. Sometimes we need to, you know, make sure we –
HANCOCK: But we do have as the result of that direct democracy setup is a
set of organizations around the state of California who really engage
voters. And one of the areas of can innovation that we have had great
success with here in California is called integrated voter engagement where
we talk about engaging with voters, not just in the six months before every
single election, but really working on the ground, both to kind of talk
about the issues they care about, which is why something like prison
reform, why reforming school discipline so that, you know, out of school
suspensions for young black and Latino males have dropped by 50, 60 percent
in some of the largest districts here in California. Why that`s happened
is because that integrated voter engagement really is a different strategy.
HARRIS-PERRY: So I love that because - I mean, I love the idea that that`s
how you engage voters in this kind of deeper way. I love the idea of the
automatic voter registration. But the reality is when you look at your
voter turnout, it was appallingly low in – I mean it was a low across the
country, but surprisingly low given this. And I`m wondering, so given how
directly people can influence like if there is one place you feel like your
vote would make a difference seems like it would be in California. And yet
folks not turning out in recent mid-term elections.
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, disproportionately those folks are Latino. I mean –
well, first of all, we`re 36th in the OECD rankings in terms of
participation in voting as a country. So all of us aren`t voting in the
numbers we should. But disproportionately, young people don`t vote. Poor
people don`t vote and undereducated people don`t vote. So what you have
seen is Latinos are voting, you know, sometimes 30 and 40 percent less than
whites and African-Americans.
And so, we are going to have to focus on the kind of voter engagement and
voter education. And not just for elections but in between as well because
I have often said that this issue of education which you spoke to and the
issue of education equity is critical because people not voting is
connected to people being – not being educated.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. When we come back we are going to talk a little bit
more about some of what you are suggesting to us about some of what the
make-up of California is, the one thing that California has right now that
the rest of the country can know for sure it`s getting soon.
HARRIS-PERRY: California is not only an example of what a future of
national progressive politics can be, but is also a state where the future
of national demographics has already arrived. Take a look at this graph
from the “Los Angeles Times.” It is based on data released this summer
from the census bureau confirming demographic predictions that the number
of Latinos would surpass the number of white people as the largest group in
the state of California.
And as of July 1, 2014, it is a difference of about 70,000 were Latino in
Californians and is the same demographic shift the census bureau has said
we can expect to see nationwide by the year 2016 when according to the
predictions, the Latino will be about double what it is today.
So this for me is one of the critical aspects of what California might be
able to teach particularly around the question of coalition politics. When
there`s no longer one majority racial or ethnic – you have to form a
coalition. Leslie, that`s that look like here?
SANCHEZ: You know, I think it is really interesting, people say what is
the United States going to look at in ten or 15 years. I`m like you have
to look at California, you have to look at southern California and, really,
the challenges it`s faced. There are a lot of opportunities, but there is
a lot of opportunities than you are seeing a lot cross pollination
especially when it comes to identity. It is no longer Latino (INAUDIBLE).
It really is just kind of a blending of what the new America looks like.
I told this to reporters all the time. We are missing the boat if you are
not looking at the way coalitions are forming, it is different of the way
that they are thinking of themselves as independents. They don`t like
party labels. Millennials have a big part of that. You add the
convergence of technology, but you really get the forefront of it here.
And it is a different conversation that I think many of us on the East
Coast having been there forever, we miss that conversation and we will miss
that wave. This even presidential election has a lot to do with what`s
happening in the mountainous west and in the west and it is important to
HARRIS-PERRY: It is interesting because, you know, so I hear you. Right?
And that feels like sort of the ideal even of what we would want to imagine
to happen that kind of racial lines fall away. And yet, Andre, I`m
thinking about your research that suggests that the other possibility is
that they actually become more salient, the people become more desirous of
protecting their authentic identities, protecting their spaces and
protecting their kind of political power spaces.
HANCOCK: Well, I think what we have in California and what many states are
now facing is what we call the kind of the cultural generation gap. But we
have the voters who actually turn out who are older and whiter. And then
we have the younger demographics who are those millennials, or even some
gen-xers and I count as in that category.
HANCOCK: Seriously, you know, in talking about that you really have this
kind of anxiety about some of these racial demographic changes. And what
Los Angeles and San Francisco and other places have really been able to do
and even places in the central coast in central part of California like
Fresno is to build these cross-racial coalitions of young people who are
coming together to talk about the issues that matter most to them and then
getting the training and the leadership development, that`s the other part
of that five strategy that then allow them to talk to Sacramento, that
allows them to talk to their mayors and even their federal government.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, you want to talk about anxiety producing, that stack
that I read at the beginning literally freaks some people out. And when
you look out - yes, I just want to look because this is meant has
California has led on immigration, right. So in-state tuition, driver`s
licenses, new rules that limit deportations. A gesture of symbolism by
removing that kind of alien language in order to talk about people who are
undocumented. I mean California is way ahead of most of the country. But
right now the national discourse is about a lot of anxiety about those
VILLARAIGOSA: It is about walls and –
VILLARAIGOSA: And the deportation of 11 million people and –
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
VILLARAIGOSA: The birthers –
HARRIS-PERRY: Anchor babies. 14th amendments.
SANCHEZ: It is about all of that. But I want to get back to that graphic
you had. What does it mean if Latinos today, 39 percent of the population,
about 80 percent of them graduating from high school. About 12 percent
going on to four-year colleges. 2025 we`re going to be down a million
college graduates and another million people with specialized skills. So
what it should mean to all of us is that we have got to make investments in
their education. We`ve got to make investments in training them. You
know, you talked about the innovation economy in silicon beach which I
helped to bring to Los Angeles. Let`s be clear, there won`t be an
innovation economy if people can`t read and write, an economy that`s
predicated on knowledge.
HARRIS-PERRY: This feels so important, this idea that the racial
inequality gaps, the ethnic inequality gaps are inequality gaps around
those who are in the country without documentation. Once those populations
become who we are, then our underinvestment also becomes who we are. I
want to thank my panel that`s going to actually be back in the next hour.
And still to come this morning, suing the school system as a way to try to
make it better.
HARRIS-PERRY: We are thrilled to be able to bring you this show live from
Los Angeles, California this morning. And special thanks to the folks
right here at NBC`s L.A. bureau for helping to make that happen.
Now it is going to be 74 degrees and sunny here today making clear there`s
just something about L.A. in November. But my excitement this morning
isn`t just about the weather.
Coming up I will be joined live by three of the biggest names in film and
television, true artists who are pushing boundaries and rewriting the rules
for African-American entertainers. Actor Amanda Stenberg has starred in
blockbuster films like “the Hunger Games” and is already one of Hollywood`s
hottest young stars. But her passions extend far beyond film and TV. She
will be here to talk with us about her social media activism, her new comic
book series, “Niobe, she is life.” Catch up with television mega producer
Kenya Barriss about the second season of his Emmy-nominated NBC sitcom,
“Blackish.” And returning to Nerdland, the director of the Oscar nominated
“Selma” and one of the most revolutionary independent filmmakers today,
(INAUDIBLE). All that and more when we return. Because “nerd land” has
come to Hollywood.
HARRIS-PERRY: Just about ten miles from where we are right now in Los
Angeles in the city of Compton, a provocative lawsuit is playing out over
just what constitutes a disability and who is responsible for treating it.
Its outcome could have implications nationwide. Some of the strongest
legislation born out of the civil rights movement expanded employment,
housing and transportation protections for people with quote “mental and
In 1973, section 504 of the rehabilitation act prohibited federally funded
services from discriminating against people with disabilities. And in 1990
the Americans with disability act went even further mandating that people
with disabilities have access to all public services. Together these laws
provide the foundation for equal access to education, for children with
disabilities, requiring schools to remove any barriers to learning.
Now, a new lawsuit could expand these protections even further
fundamentally changing the way the system deals with common behavior and
academic issues. In Compton, California five students and three teachers
filed a class action suit against the city`s school district insisting that
complex trauma be recognized under federal law as a disability that the
district provide the necessary accommodations for.
Complex trauma for the lawsuit is the repeated or prolonged exposure to
violence, abuse or neglect and research shows that it does not only have
the capacity to affect a child`s emotional wellbeing, but also their
ability to learn.
According to one national institute of health study, youth exposure to
violence have decreased IQ and reading ability, lower grade point average,
more days of school absence and decreased rates of high school graduation.
And complex trauma which disproportionately affects students of color and
from low-income backgrounds could be very common among Compton`s student
population. The plaintiffs claim that about a quarter of all students in
Compton district have experienced to two or more instances of severe trauma
in their lifetimes. And while the case has not been deciding the federal
judge presiding over it acknowledges that the allegations of exposure to
traumatic events might cause physical and mental impairments that could
cause – that could be cognizable as disability under the rehabilitation
act or the ADA.
If the plaintiffs win, the complex trauma is classified as a disability
under federal law. We could see sweeping changes in how schools address
student behavior in Compton and beyond. And in a few moments we are going
to hear from the president of the Compton Unified school district board.
But first, joining me now, Kathryn Eidmann who is staff attorney for the
pro-bono firm public counsel. Pedro Noguera who is distinguished professor
of education in UCLA. And Dr. Robert Ross, president and CEO of the
Thank you all for being here.
Let me start with you. Should we think of growing up in Compton as
DR. ROBERT ROSS, PRESIDENT/CEO, THE CALIFORNIA ENDOWMENT: Well, certainly,
the science and data on this issue have become pretty clear. Number one,
time does not heal all wounds. That adage is not true, the science does
not support that. Secondly, exposure to trauma and toxic stress, adversity
is bad for your health, not just in the immediate but in the long term as
And so, one of the things that we need to do is make sure that this issue,
whether the lawsuit wins or not, it is an important policy conversation
within the school setting with about making sure we put our arms around
these young people, not suspending them out of school for their behavior,
that their willful defiance, missing a lot of school, their academic
failure may be the very first symptom that they`ve been trauma exposed and
HARRIS-PERRY: My husband is a civil rights lawyer. Mostly does housing
work but he came in and saw sitting on my desk just the title, you know,
should growing up in Compton be a disability. And like as soon as he saw
that, he goes, man, that`s brilliant. And he meant it like as a legal
strategy, this idea that the ADA is a powerful potential tool here.
Talk a little bit about what it would mean to make accommodations if, in
fact, complex trauma is understood as potentially disabling?
KATHRYN EIDMANN, ATTORNEY, PUBLIC COUNCIL: Absolutely. So as Dr. Ross
discussed, we know that trauma affects the brain and trauma affects the
ability to learn. And schools have been successfully starting to implement
strategies to address this trauma in Massachusetts and San Francisco in
Washington State. And what experts have found are that whole school trauma
sensitive strategies training all school site staff, replacing (INAUDIBLE)
of discipline with restore professes. And providing adequate mental health
support have been fantastically successful in assisting students in
restoring the ability to learn and also in addressing behavior and
HARRIS-PERRY: So Pedro, I have to say, this suit coming on the back end of
that viral video that we saw of the young girl being flipped out by the
school resource officer. And then the very first thing that I learned
about that young woman was that her mother had recently died and that she
was in foster care. I said, wait a minute. How in the world did the
school not know that and not, you know, that this student is someone who we
shouldn`t at all points recognize that there is likely trauma. Is this
litigation kind of a way to start moving us towards thinking about students
in a different way?
PEDRO NOGUERA, DISTINGUISHED PROFESSOR OF EDUCATION, UCLA: I hope so. I
hope so. We know that trauma can be assessed. So there is no need to
worry that some of this has become an excuse for any kind of acting out
behavior. You can identify it, you can assess it, the science behind, it
is very strong. We know that many communities have higher rates of trauma
even than our returning veterans. And we recognize trauma amongst veterans
for a long time as a disabling condition. So the idea that schools should
do more than simply punish these children I think is really important.
HARRIS-PERRY: And so, here`s my worry. Because I mean, it is part of what
I`ve always seen in your work and research, and that is if – we, for
example, interviewed the young woman mayor of Compton. She talked about
Compton. This is quite some time ago. She talked about Compton, really,
from a kind of asset-based model of understanding. I know that you have
talked about young people that way. And I guess part of what I worry about
is that it becomes stigmatizing. We already know that zip codes determine
life outcomes in all of these ways. Does this kind of discourse then
further stigmatize young people?
NOGUERA: Well, I don`t think it is to blame Compton for Compton`s
problems. It is an American problem. It is an American problem that we
have so many communities. There are so many communities just like it
across the country where you see the same kinds of issues and concerns. We
focus on poverty but we ignore the social effects of poverty. The violence
that accompanies it, the hunger, the instability in children`s lives.
Those are the larger issues. And the simple truth is schools can`t solve
those by themselves.
HARRIS-PERRY: So then, why not join together with the school system and
sue some other entity rather than suing the school system?
EIDMANN: Well, you know, civil rights litigation is a tool that`s a
catalyst for change and has been successful in these very types of problems
where there have been long standing intractable problems and change has
been slow to come. The practices in schools have not caught up with the
science behind what we know, the reason that we know are affecting the
children. And we hope that this lawsuit can be part of the national
movement for change and changing how we address trauma in schools.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, on one hand I hear you about sort of rethinking the
young people, but I also want to think a little bit about the realities of
the classrooms themselves and how an imposition of addressing this in our
public schools that are under resourced that are trying to race to the top
or not leave any kids behind or test them all in five minutes. Like what
are the realistic possibilities of an implementation of a kind of a wrap-
around strategy in what public schools looks like today?
ROSS: You know, there are two points to make. Number one, as Kathryn
mentioned, there are school districts who are on top of this. There are
principals in schools that are beginning to implement restorative dresses
practices, social emotional health and wellbeing, being assessed and
supported. Even a district school in San Francisco that`s using
(INAUDIBLE) medication and quiet time to make sure the kids and the
teachers had the kind of resiliency support they need.
HARRIS-PERRY: Is that a well-resourced school or is it a school operating
ROSS: It is a public school district in San Francisco. It is not Beverly
Hills. It may not be Compton. It is probably somewhere in the middle, but
it does work. But also, back to Pedro`s point, this is profoundly
structural. This is not an accident, right, and it is not just about
Compton. You talked about justice reform. We had the crack cocaine
epidemic. We had three strikes and you are out. We had zero tolerance in
So, zero tolerance in schools which was allegedly zero tolerance for the
behavior has fundamentally turned out to be for black and brown kids and
especially boys as Pedro knows. Zero tolerance for the child. And these
are – this is where the track record begins. The portal to the school to
When schools suspend these kids, when they push these kids away, when kids
gets disengaged, when they drop out of school, black boy in California who
drops out of high school has an 80 percent chance of going to jail. And
so, we have got to stop it with a prevention strategy, not a punishment
strategy. And we think that`s what the lawsuit is going to at least raise
the conversation level about.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Let me just day. I`m down with the boys. I also
don`t want us to miss the girls on this because I think sometimes the
trauma questions that we ask, we recognize them in boys, we talk about the
violence they might see, but don`t often for example talk about sexual
assault and violence that young girls may experience and now we have the
new data about the sexual assault in the prison pipeline.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Kathryn Eidmann and to Dr. Robert Ross. Pedro
is going to stick around because up next, we are going to bring in the
other side of this. The president of the Compton school board of trustees.
HARRIS-PERRY: In Compton, California, a group of five students and three
teachers are suing the city`s school district for better accommodations for
students who have experienced severe trauma potentially impairing their
ability to learn. Despite the cost it would take to satisfy those
accommodations, plaintiffs argue that expanding services for students
suffering from trauma could end up saving the district money in the long
run. The district has said it already works to deal with the impact of
childhood trauma on a daily basis. If successful the suit would force the
district to provide staff training and to broaden mental health services.
Not to mention legal fees incurred by the case. That`s a very strong
mandate and it needs to be funded, the district`s attorney David Huff told
Joining me now is president of the Compton Unified school district, board
of trustees Micah Ali. Nice to have you here.
MICAH ALI, PRESIDENT, COMPTON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: Pleasure.
HARRIS-PERRY: So what is the school district`s perspective on this case?
ALI: So the school district`s perspective is very clear. We believe that
the lawsuit is moot because we have been working diligently providing many
of these services. Let`s talk about the wraparound services. School-based
health centers which has – or which afford mental health capacity. Let`s
talk about the investment with respect to early childhood education. Talk
about the audits and ways in which we have worked to overhaul a special
education. This lawsuit is a billion dollar claim, a billion dollar claim.
How did we find out about the lawsuit? By way of a press release. The
fact of the matter is why Compton? Why not sue the federal government?
Why not look at ways in which to fully fund the IDEA act in 1975?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that`s actually the question I asked the plaintiffs and
so I will ask you as well, why not actually join up with the plaintiffs?
Because I presume you are not saying we got a handle in the schools, we
have plenty of resources, no worries. So I guess part of what you wonder
is why not join with plaintiffs, with students and teachers and say, I
don`t know, sue the gun manufacturers, young people are seeing trauma
because of gun violence or the federal government for sufficient resources.
Like why not think of another defendant out there?
ALI: Well, perhaps you`re absolutely correct. Why not look at suing the
state of California. Again back to the federal government. The
individuals with disabilities act. If in fact we`re going to classify
trauma as a disability, then would it fall within the IDEA act of 1975.
But then, here is another interesting point. At the time when school
districts throughout the country are trying to reduce young African-
American and Latino males` engagement and participation in special
education by way of something called disproportionality, here, we want to
put more children of color into the education system. So then again, that
is really look at what are we really trying to accomplish here by way of
HARRIS-PERRY: So this is really important. And goes back a little bit to
the stigma question I was asking for, though it is a little more structural
institutional than that. You know, for a long time the behavioral
responses to trauma of young people living in difficult circumstances have
been labeled as learning disabilities as opposed to reasonable human
responses to trauma. And yet the ADA does provide very real protections
that make the strategy a smart one legally.
NOGUERA: I think it is a smart one. I think to me it is a little bit like
targeting Topeka, Kansas for the Brown decision, right. Topeka wasn`t the
only one discriminating on the basis of race but set the precedent ending
racial discrimination throughout the country. Compton`s been picked on but
they could have picked on (INAUDIBLE), they could have picked Oakland, they
could have picked on many, many other places that have the same issues. So
I think –
HARRIS-PERRY: New Orleans.
NOGUERA: Micah is right that, you know, why pick on Compton. At the same
time Compton has the issues. And I don`t think it is a stigma to address
the needs of children. Respond to the needs appropriately is not to
HARRIS-PERRY: So talk to me about how all of this – Compton, New Orleans
– all of them are existing in a federal space. What has the past decade
of education policy done to either improve or worsen these circumstances?
NOGUERA: Well, it hasn`t helped. We focus so narrowly on achievement. We
have completely ignored the inequities outside of school. We`ve pretended
children of Compton can do as well on the same test as the children in
Beverly Hills. We know the children in Beverly Hills have so much more
invested in them by their families and by their schools. This inequity has
perpetuated the gap in achievement that we claim to be so concerned about.
And I blame this administration and most state governments for pretending
that by focusing on achievement you can get better outcomes when in fact
you are ignoring the very needs of the children.
HARRIS-PERRY: So what then does work? What – if you could wave the wand
to address your students and other across the country, what would it look
ALI: It would look like what Compton is currently doing. We are infusing
positive behavior and eventually solutions throughout. We are looking at
response to intervention. Support services throughout the school district.
We are appropriating a tremendous amount of resources to hire counselors
and behavior science specialists. All of this has been going on far before
the lawsuit was ever filed.
HARRIS-PERRY: Are you still out of school suspending?
ALI: We have reduced expulsions and suspensions – you would not believe
the amount of reductions.
HARRIS-PERRY: Because I know Miami-Dade, one of the things that they are
doing to try to address this is to end – say there`s never any time when
it makes sense, unless the child`s a threat to other children. Right?
That just doesn`t make sense to throw children out of school. Right? And
we know, again, that that expulsion piece is so connected to the school to
NOGUERA: No, it is a huge problem. And it is a problem that we`ve not
paid sufficient attention to because we always target the most
disadvantaged children. That`s who is being suspended. But I would say,
California has under resourced schools and that`s the bottom line. I mean,
Compton should be say something, yes, bring us some more psychologists.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, right. We`ll take some more.
NOGUERA: So we can respond. Because California has gone to being one of
the states with the lowest per people spending in the country. And
districts like Compton suffer because of this.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is going to be fascinating to much with a how this plays
out and undoubtedly the impact it will have all across the country.
I want to say thank you to Micah Ali and to Pedro Noguera.
Coming up, many know her best as “Roo” from “the Hunger Games.” But that`s
not even half of it. Amandla Stenberg joins me live next. \
HARRIS-PERRY: It was in the first entry of the popular “Hunger Games”
series when we first were introduced to the courageous and vulnerable child
named Roo. Now “Hunger Games” is by design a story dominated by the death
of young people. But the tragic death of the strategic, lovely and loving
Roo is especially heart wrenching. Roo`s death is actually the definitive
turning point for the protagonist, for the story line and indeed for the
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you blow up the food?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every bit of it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good. You have to win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It was a man (INAUDIBLE) who brought Roo and her tragic end
to the screen. But some moviegoers who apparently skipped the part of the
“Hunger Games” novel where Roo`s described with thick brown hair, dark
satiny brown skin and golden eyes, they were confused. They were
distressed to find and African-American actress had been cast to play the
fragile but fearless character.
Fast toward to 2015, Amandla Stenberg now a teenager on the rise in
Hollywood has become a model of social media activism speaking out on
behalf of young people of color on topics ranging from police brutality to
diversifying stem fields to black girl magic.
Her advocacy has some calling her the voice of a generation. And just last
month she was named one of “Time” magazine`s 30 most influential teens of
2015, four days after her 17th birthday. Amandla continues to forge new
paths and working with Los Angeles-based stranger comets debuted the comic
series, “Niobe.” She is live last week.
Along with being the physical model for the series heroin, she co-wrote the
series about a warrior tasked with saving her world. About the series she
said, I was drawn to give voice to “Niobe” and co-write her story because
her journey is my journey. I connect to her mixed racial background and
quest to discover her innate powers and strengths, to learn who she truly
is. And we need nor bad ass girls.
So joining me now is actor, activist and all-around bad ass, Amandla
Stenberg. It is so nice to have you here.
AMANDLA STENBERG, ACTOR: I`m so excited to be here.
HARRIS-PERRY: So talk to me first, about “Niobe,” about this comic
STENBERG: Yes. So “Niobe” actually first appeared in a series called “the
Untamed” by Sebastian Jones. And I thought she was really awesome
initially because she`s this black girl elf. And I`m a huge nerd and a fan
of fantasy. And so, to see a character that represented me was really
amazing. And so I met Sebastian actually at a festival and we started
talking it more and more. And we realized it would be a really great idea
to expand her story more and make her the lead.
HARRIS-PERRY: There is something about that rendering in the super hero
comic format that is kind of extraordinary. It is like you have this
little thing inside of yourself that becomes real on the page.
STENBERG: Yes, exactly. When I was always growing up I always wanted more
black female super heroes, black female super role models. You know? And
so, I hopefully can kind of provide that for younger black girls through
HARRIS-PERRY: So, one of the spaces where we find you, where we hear your
voice so frequently is on social media. Yet social media can also be a
really fraught location for women especially women and girls of color.
Just this past week an Australian teen who had hundreds of thousands of
followers opted out because she said you constant will I have to present
this self that isn`t who you are. Talk to me about that.
STENBERG: Right. I mean, I definitely think that side of social media
does exist. But I also do think that it is a really powerful tool for
social activism and a really powerful tool for people who feel like they
don`t have enough representation. I mean, it used to be you could only
find your role models through, you know, celebrities, through the people
who are the top singers and the top actors. And now it is like you can log
on to Instagram and see someone who looks like you and feel like you`re
represented and feel like your identity is validated.
So I think that even though that really gross surface level part of social
media does exist, it is also a really awesome way to connect to people and
HARRIS-PERRY: You talk about representation a lot and the ways in which
race representation connect. You were voting a friend and you reflected
saying it is revolutionary in itself to be a young African-American person,
to just be yourself.
HARRIS-PERRY: What are the challenges to being an authentic self when you
are a young woman of color?
STENBERG: Yes. I mean I think that there are a lot of subliminal messages
that you receive that tell you that it`s not necessarily OK to be yourself.
I mean I remember being younger and feeling like I was embarrassed of my
hair or I didn`t want to be too loud or too in the way. And through
“Niobe” we are kind of trying to share the message that black girls
shouldn`t be afraid to be too loud or to have too strong of an opinion.
And you know, and I was like recently went natural with my hair.
STENBERG: Yes! And it`s been kind of this process, this journey of self-
love and everything.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, in that there`s also not just one authentic way to be a
black girl. There are all of these many different ways. You just met my
13-year-old daughter who – both of them, 13-year-old black girls. And
yet, even they express black girlhood differently.
And so, I`m wondering also about how many role models and images and
representations we need.
STENBERG: Yes. That`s why I`m so excited about social media in a lot of
ways because you can find those nuanced ways. I think we are kind of
opening up to what the definition of blackness can be and it`s not just
this one mentality, this one way of being. There are so many different
kinds of awesome black girl nerds and black girls who don`t maybe wear
their hair natural, black girls who have their hair in braids. Black girls
who likes a certain kind of music. I think we`re really seeing how
beautiful the spectrum that there is and that`s really exciting.
HARRIS-PERRY: Let`s listen from Comicon to somebody talk about just what
an awesome model of all this you are.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEBASTIAN JONES, STRANGE COMIC: “Niobe`s” first book “she is life” I wrote
with Amandla Stenberg who played Roo in “the Hunger Games” who has known as
sleepy hallow. She`s now become this wonderful cultural activist and
blossoming into an amazing young lady. I`m very honored and lucky just to,
you know, part of her squad. You know, when I met Amandla, I felt like I
would, you know, hit the jackpot. I was very, very blessed to write with
her and she`s such a great, positive force.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Very nice to hear someone you work with say nice things.
STENBERG: Yes! Yes. That`s so nice. My heart is so full.
HARRIS-PERRY: You`re more than a cultural activist. Being a black girl
nerd, I`m sure black girl nerds is tweeting their hearts out just using
that term. Is in part about the cultural piece but you are also a Stem
advocate. Tell me about that.
STENBERG: Yes. I mean, I did this event to basically support girls in
STEM. I think that along with a lot of other subliminal messages girls get
told that they aren`t good at math and science. And that`s just not true.
There`s no innate thing in us that prohibits us from being good in those
fields. It is just that they`re dominated by men a lot of the time.
And so, I did this event that was just to empower girls by actually
building race cars out of fridges. It was really cool. Just empower them
to follow their dreams and their passions.
HARRIS-PERRY: This was my dad who used - I mean, there are four daughters.
And everybody had to learn to change the oil. Right? Just because there`s
nothing innate in you that makes it impossible for you to do so.
I want to say thank you, Amandla, for joining me. And thank you just for
all of the work that you`ve been doing.
STENBERG: Thank you so much.
HARRIS-PERRY: Still to come this morning, creative of the hit sitcom
“Blackish.” Kenya Barriss.
And also, writer, producer and director Ava Duvernier.
And of course, 2016 politics.
There is more Nerdland news at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry live this morning in
Los Angeles, California.
And coming up this hour, Kenya Barris, creator of the hit ABC sitcom
“Black-ish” and Ava DuVernay, director of the Oscar nominated film “Selma.”
Yes, it is something of a “Nerdland” goes to Hollywood edition for us.
But we begin this hour with the man having his moment, namely Florida
Senator Marco Rubio. Following his strong performance in the most recent
Republican debate shutting down Jeb Bush, giving a jab at Hillary Clinton,
Marco Rubio has emerged from the crowded field as one of the most serious
contenders for his party`s nomination. Polls have Senator Rubio in third
place nationally and in Iowa and in New Hampshire. But increasingly the
freshman senator is being seen as number one by the establishment and
political conventional wisdom. The blog FiveThirtyEight has been keeping a
handy leaderboard of Republican endorsements.
And they point out that while Jeb Bush still sits at the top the majority
of his endorsements came months ago. Rubio, on the other hand, has surged
since September. In the past nine days Mr. Rubio gained endorsements from
three U.S. senators, two members of the House, and billionaire GOP fund-
raiser Paul Singer. So yes, when it comes to the GOP establishment,
rallying around a consensus candidate, you could say there is an undeniable
amount of Marcomentum. At the same time Senator Rubio is assuring up his
right flank making clear his conservative bona fides on all the important
campaign issues, particularly the issue of immigration.
Born to Cuban immigrants, Rubio has long split with his party on
immigration. In 2013 he was one of the gang of eight, the bipartisan group
of senators who wrote the comprehensive immigration reform bill. He has
since moved away from his own bill and here`s what he had to say when asked
about deferred action for childhood arrivals or DACA on this past
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARCO RUBIO (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: DACA is going to end. And the
ideal way for it to end is that it is replaced by a reform system that
creates an alternative. But if it doesn`t it will end. It cannot be the
permanent policy of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: So, the obvious question is, from a crowded field of 15, are
we now seeing the one voice that might emerge to unite them all!
Here to help me answer that question, Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez,
author of “You`ve Come A Long Way Maybe.” And former Los Angeles Mayor
Antonio Villaraigosa. Also Ange-Marie Hancock, associate professor of
Political Science at the University of Southern California and author of
“Solidarity Politics for Millennials.” So, Leslie, it is going to be
SANCHEZ: Lot of people hope so. There`s a lot of excitement about him,
you can`t deny it. We`re still early in the process. There`s so many
exciting things about him as a candidate. He`s charismatic, you know, kind
of an engagement of the base which a lot of people were being looking for,
an energy that we desperately need. I think you point to some really
interesting things. This flip-flop on immigration is going to be a
challenge. Nobody is going to let him walk away from that. It doesn`t
matter who you are, Republicans have faced difficulty. Anybody that Eric
Cantor, I mean, anybody that flip-flops on that immigration reform is going
to have a problem. Hillary Clinton, too.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it`s not just immigration reform. I mean, that is part
of it, but the other piece of it is, I mean, we were talking about the
demographics that are going to change in the country. It certainly makes
sense to me that we`re going to see increasing Latino candidates in both
parties, right? Increasingly taking this kind of leadership role. On the
other hand, there are meaningful differences between Cuban and Chicano or
Mexican-American populations in terms of how they understand issues around
immigration, partisan politics, all of that. And so, I`m wondering how you
think Rubio might play in the broader population.
VILLARAIGOSA: Well, it remains to be seen how he`s going to play in the
broader population but if you`re talking about –
HARRIS-PERRY: Broader population of Latinos. Yes.
VILLARAIGOSA: In the Latino population, I don`t think he`s going to play
nearly as well as some might think. They`re not just going to vote for him
because his last name is Rubio.
VILLARAIGOSA: Any more than African-Americans are going to vote for Carson
because he`s African-American.
HARRIS-PERRY: Amen sir, say that again. Yes.
VILLARAIGOSA: And the fact is, they`re going to vote for him based on the
issues, based on his experience. I mean, this is a guy who spends a lot of
time criticizing President Obama for his lack of experience, and he`s had
four years in the United States Senate. He was a part-time legislator
before that. The fact that he`s flip-flopped on immigration I think is
going to hurt him with Latinos particularly because initially he was for
comprehensive immigration reform. Now he`s just for, you know, closing the
borders. And obviously we all agree that the system is broken. He`s no
longer – he`s also said with respect to DACA that he would immediately end
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, that feels like a way to organize your opposition.
ANGE-MARIE HANCOCK, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA:
Pretty much. I mean, I think, not only is it a way to organize your
opposition, what we have to know about the undocumented population in the
country is that 80 percent of them are Latino. And so it alienates Latino
voters because these are members of their families.
HANCOCK: So we`re not just talking about this in kind of the abstract.
We`re talking actually about people`s mothers, sisters brothers, fathers.
And I think that`s the first thing. But I think the other thing that`s
really important is the most organized segment of the undocumented
population are the dreamers. Who have already – are willing to occupy
their own party candidates` office. Occupy the Obama, you know, campaign
offices. What`s to say they`re not going to do the same thing on the other
side if he`s even more hostile than Obama is?
HARRIS-PERRY: Well, and I get primary politics. Right? This is true, you
know, you move to the right, you move to the left to win that primary. But
that said, the like clarity of DACA is going to end? It just feels like,
oh, oh, some people are organizing right now.
SANCHEZ: Right. But let`s look at it, it`s never been a permanent
solution. It was always something that need a permanent reform solution.
It takes leadership to come up and say we need to address this, there`s a
sense of urgency around it. I don`t think a lot of Republicans certainly
supported what the President was doing. But a lot in the Latino and the
immigrant community did and that gave a lot of momentum. And now looking
forward, what is the long-term real solution for this? I think Rubio will
address that. That`s the distinct difference.
And though you see this evolving of a position on immigration I think that
will eventually evolve back to comprehensive immigration reform as we get
to a general. The truth is, it is tough to get out of this republican
primary but he does have – he`s increasingly with the bona fides, he`s
increasingly talking about important issues and matters but more
importantly he is relatable. That is what the distinct difference. A lot
of people don`t see that undercurrent.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is a fascinating moment for me. Like, in part because
you and I used to do a lot of TBD together. Like during the 2007, `08
cycle. But that said, like you know, this notion about him as, you know,
he`s going to stand next to Hillary Clinton and seem like a child in
comparison to her expertise. The idea that he is, you know, exciting and
energizing, a person of color – I mean it really does sound like we`re
talking about President Obama in 2007. I don`t mean to make comparisons
about them substantively but like the media discourse around it. And it`s
– I don`t know – it makes me feel like I can`t quite get my fingers on
whether or not I think he is a serious contender here.
SANCHEZ: Oh, no. I think he`s definitely serious. Don`t forget that
election was a generational election, people divided on that age over 44
years old, before and after that. And I don`t think people want to see a
repeat of the Clintons. That`s very much a challenge. Before having with
the Bushes. It is kind of like Bush fatigue is still there. They`re very
legitimate, very strong candidate, it is going to have to shake out in
HARRIS-PERRY: So, hold on. I want to talk a little bit about my Bush
fatigue – oh no, not mine, just other people`s.
Okay. When we come back, the GOP front-runner PAC making their case and
HARRIS-PERRY: Marco Rubio is climbing in the polls but he is still lagging
behind the two surprisingly durable GOP leaders, Ben Carson and Donald
Trump. Rubio may have his struggles with messy finances and his past
support for immigration reform, but the lead candidates are not without
their own issues. Donald Trump has defied conventional wisdom by remaining
a consistent front-runner but Trump still has a serious challenge when it
comes to attracting crucial Latino votes. Just by hosting NBC`s “Saturday
Night Live” last night Mr. Trump inspired a sizable protest outside 30
Rockefeller Plaza in New York City which is where our show normally is. My
producer kept telling me about it.
And Dr. Ben Carson had quite a week with many questions being raised about
his past culminating in headlines like this one. Quote, “Ben Carson
defends himself against allegations that he never attempted to murder a
child.” Okay. What`s that? I mean, as a political scientist, Ange-Marie,
I mean, this is a fascinating moment for me. You know, we saw Carson and
Trump early on, I thought, well, this is the silly season. But it isn`t.
Actually there does seem to be something somewhat different happening here.
And when you attach it also to the bit of a crisis around the House Speaker
that occurred it does feel like the party is not quite sure what kind of
party it is right at this moment.
HANCOCK: I think there is very much a crisis in the Republican Party about
which direction they want to go in and how they`re really are going to
grapple with those demographic changes that we see coming down the pike. I
think the other thing though that`s going on is there is this kind of
rampant populism in the country that`s on both sides.
HARRIS-PERRY: – But it`s a bad thing.
HANCOCK: No. I am a populist but the thing that populism does is that it
opens up these spaces for kind of, you know, what would you like to call
it? You know, the crazy town? Crazy house, you know, the folks to come
in. And really just and that`s actually one reason why it is good to have
a long vetting past this, right? That we have a long primary season. All
states have to vote and kind of weigh in to make sure that we actually get
the right two candidates.
VILLARAIGOSA: Yes. I`m not sure that there is a crisis in the party in
the sense that they don`t know which way they want to go. Virtually all of
the candidates have gone farther to the right than the last election or the
election before that. None of them would fit in to Reagan`s party when you
look at the positions they`re taking. And so, from my vantage point, the
party`s going clearly to the right. So whoever the nominee is, they`re
going to have a really tough time with the center of the country. Look,
what`s absolutely clear is the country`s evenly divided. And so, you know,
big swath of votes are in the middle. I don`t know how they go back from
self-deporting 11 million people, how they go back from so many of the
issues that they`ve just gone so far to the right on.
HARRIS-PERRY: So the country`s evenly divided in some ways – except that
the Republican Party has basically run the board in terms of actual
governor`s offices and state legislatures. So, it is evenly divided maybe
among kind of this population that will choose a president, but like it is
bizarre to me I guess, Leslie that he question I keep having is, so 35
states, I mean, governors and now even majority in the Senate and you look
at it and you say, well, these are the people who we would normally elect
to be president, our governors, senators, vice presidents. And instead it
is like a business guy and a doctor who have never held elected office
SANCHEZ: Right. But you know, you could argue that both parties are very
much lacking a back bench. I mean, there should be more governors running.
There should be more bona fides like Hillary Clinton.
HARRIS-PERRY: And there should be more Democrats of any kind.
SANCHEZ: Of any kind. You know, I don`t buy the argument that we`ve run
so far to the right. The Dems that run so far to the Left. Look at Bernie
Sanders and feel the burn. And you know, Kennedy wouldn`t even recognize
his own party now. So, I think that the challenges are, it all looks like
a telenovela. Like it`s all a little too much. A lot a hair throwing, a
lot of crying, a lot of flamboyance. And we need to reel it all back in.
I like the long vetting process. And we`ve seen when you`ve had, you know,
go to Latin America if you want to know what big populist, you know,
exciting candidates look like and what a disaster it turns out to be.
HARRIS-PERRY: But you don`t want to reel it too far back in. I mean, one
might argue that Jeb Bush is like the most dialed back, you know, candidate
that one could imagine it. And then that also doesn`t sort of bring folks
SANCHEZ: And governor Kasich as well. And we were talking about. Is very
strong, sensible leadership. I think people want an establishment
candidate who is a reformer, who can come in from the outside and shake
things up in Washington. People are disgusted with Washington. But the
type of tone that you`ve seen from Donald Trump and Dr. Carson – Dr.
Carson`s vulnerability now is that he was always this truthful candidate,
called it like it was, even tempered.
HARRIS-PERRY: And now he`s – it`s all into question.
SANCHEZ: It`s all into question. So, it`s a big vulnerability.
VILLARAIGOSA: – They`ve gone so far to the right. You got Kasich and Jeb
Bush both very conservative governors on their track records, and they`re
not to the right enough.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. When John Kasich is too liberal for you, you
are on the right indeed.
Still to come this morning, the director in demand able to bring me live in
But up next, Speaker Paul Ryan says he`s all about getting things done. So
why is there one thing he`s already told us he is not even going to try to
do for the in the next 14 months?
HARRIS-PERRY: New House Speaker Paul Ryan won – or took – it`s hard to
say exactly what happened there – but he won his leadership position by
promising to make changes and to get things done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: We need to move from an opposition
party to being a proposition party. Because we think the nation is on the
wrong path, we have a duty to show the right one. Our next speaker has to
be a visionary one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But in his first order of business, Speaker Ryan declared
that he will not allow a vote on comprehensive immigration reform bill as
long as President Barack Obama is in office. I`m not exaggerating or
extrapolating or inferring. In his own words in an op-ed last week for
“USA Today,” Speaker Ryan said, quote, “The House of Representatives will
not vote on comprehensive immigration legislation as long as President
Obama`s in office.” So Speaker Ryan has shut down any movement on
immigration reform simply because of who is president. Now, this is quite
a shift from the Paul Ryan who when he was first sworn in to his new
position talked in grand terms about vision, democracy, taking on tough
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: We will not duck the tough issues. We will take them head-on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Or the Paul Ryan who called out his own party saying that
they`d lost their vision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: We are not going to have a House that looked like it looked the last
two years. We are going to move forward. We are going to unify. Our
party has lost its vision and we`re going to replace it with a vision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Or even the Paul Ryan about ten days ago who talked about
wiping the slate clean.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RYAN: The House is broken. We`re not solving problems. We`re adding to
them. And I am not interested in laying blame. We are not settling
scores. We are wiping the slate`s clean.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Yep, yep, he`s going to get right on that just as soon as
Barack Obama`s no longer president. Come on.
VILLARAIGOSA: This goes to my point. I mean, Boehner is a conservative
Republican. He`s a conservative Republican. And yet the Freedom Caucus is
going to constrain them and not allow them to kind of lead. I used to be
speaker of the California State Assembly. And I tell you, your job is to
protect the institution, too. And you`re the speaker for everyone not just
your own party. Obviously, you know, you`re in the majority and so you`re
going to push your issues but you have to work across the aisle. I just
don`t see this Freedom Caucus giving him the freedom to be the leader that
he needs to be if they`re going to be a proposition party not an opposition
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I so appreciate that framework, because there will be
disagreements in a big diverse democracy, but it does feel like the
institutions of how we work together matter. And I worry the problem isn`t
how Left or Right but just the idea that government shouldn`t exist, that
it shouldn`t be doing this work, that government is itself inherently a
problem. So, you have 40 members of the Freedom Caucus, not a majority
either of the House or even of the party at large, who can hold hostage the
HANCOCK: You have a set of ideologues who literally want to shrink the
government to the size that they can drown it in a bathtub.
HANCOCK: I mean, we heard this. That they literally want to – that`s how
small they want to get it. And they are holding the rest of the country
hostage. And because they come from districts that are completely safe so
they are not going to be kind of turned out by any kind of popular
election, we really have this struggle and this crisis. But I think, one
of the questions that`s worth asking is whether or not Paul Ryan will be
able to hold on to this all the way through the election if somebody like
Rubio becomes the candidate because part of how he gets Latino voters is to
say, DACA might go away but DACA goes away and we have comprehensive
immigration reform in place. So is it day one of that presidency or is it
before that because Rubio needs to be on Clinton/Julian Castro ticket.
SANCHEZ: Right. I don`t buy the gloom and doom of this whole deal. I
mean, let`s review. I think he is a bit of a realist, he has a fractured
caucus. And every major immigration reform that`s happened in Congress is
because of a Republican president. I think that`s the fear. Barack Obama
talked about this for a long time, did not put the political chops around
his own coalition to make this happen and I think he realizes the political
reality. A Republican president comes in, moves these reforms, you can
work together with the Democrats and come up with something and really
build a broader bipartisan coalition that can get this done. It is foolish
to move forward on this right now as just the political issues –
HARRIS-PERRY: It is an interesting issue. It`s an interesting point.
VILLARAIGOSA: What is he going to move forward on?
HARRIS-PERRY: I have to say. It is an interesting point because it is
empirically accurate that in fact the big immigration reform policies, not
all of them but many of them came out of Republican presidents, but it is
in part because of exactly this sort of massive resistance strategy that
we`re talking about. It is not because democratic presidents haven`t put
them forward. It`s because, I mean, it`s a bit like the ACA where, you
know, for example President Obama actually put forward for a long time been
a Republican healthcare reform plan and then got massive resistance to a
thing that had initially been introduced by Republicans.
VILLARAIGOSA: It`s not just that. They`d like to shut down the government
and Planned Parenthood. I mean, the fact of the matter is, this people
have gone. And I`m, look, I`m not being a partisan right now. I was mayor
of a big city. You have to lead oftentimes working with everyone. But at
the end of the day they`ve gone so far to the right on so many things, I
just don`t see how they`re going to let Ryan be the speaker of, as he said,
a proposition party. Because that means that they`re going to have to be
compromise on some of these issues and I just don`t see them doing that
HARRIS-PERRY: Interesting to watch what happens both in the context of the
presidential election year and with this new speaker.
Thank you to Leslie Sanchez, Antonio Villaraigosa and Ange-Marie Hancock.
And up next, the creator of the ABC hit sitcom “Black-ish” Kenya Barris
joins us live. “Nerdland” is in Hollywood.
HARRIS-PERRY: The Emmy nominated and NAACP image award winning hit sitcom
“Black-ish” is now in its second season on ABC. The show is about an
accomplished, wealthy African-American family living in an affluent
California neighborhood is a fan favorite with Anthony Anderson and Tracee
Ellis Ross leading the talented cast. And “Black-ish” started this season
with a bang. The season premier was all about the “n” word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(Singing): I ain`t saying she a gold digger, ah, but she ain`t missing
with the (bleep), ah, and I ain`t saying she a gold digger, ah, she ain`t
messing with no (bleep) –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay. No!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Told you it was a doozy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The episode revolved around the question of who exactly can
or should use the word. And brought not only complexity and nuance but had
me dying cracking up the entire show.
The brains behind this phenomenal sitcom is our next guest, “Black-ish”
showrunner, writer and executive producer Kenya Barris. I can`t tell you
how excited I am.
KENYA BARRIS, CREATOR, “BLACK-ISH”: I`m excited.
HARRIS-PERRY: This show, we are a little obsessed with it in my household
in part because I find myself, you know, raising children in circumstances
that are much more privileged than I was raised in, much more integrated
circumstances that I was raised in. And this feels like it is going right
to the heart of those questions.
BARRIS: I feel like that was so many people that I knew when we talked
that was our experience. And now it is like this new generation and it is
like how – the question came in, you are taught to give your kids more
than you had but in doing that what do they lose?
BARRIS: You know, I`m not what sort of a balancing act between, you know,
Andre who`s – character as kids. And Laurence Fishburne who is the father
added – layer to that generational aspect. And I think in some aspects
every generation has that question. I think now more than ever it is a
different question with, you know, Barack and things like that.
BARRIS: And you, I think that there`s so many – there`s a different look
for us and it is, you know, what is the – how do you sort of navigate that
as a parent?
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, the first human ever to make a sentence, it was
like, oh, you know, President Obama – and you. So I appreciate that!
I am down for that! Let me say though, the “n” word episode and the gun
episode which I`m pretty sure might have actually happened in my own house,
they were a little edgy. And they`re not, you don`t come to some easy
conclusion at the end of those episodes. And it feels a little different
than the first season. Are you getting braver in this space?
BARRIS: I think that we`re kind of seeing what the show is differently. I
can only feel like in a lot of ways I`m derivative of what like Norman Leer
was, growing up in some of those things that he would do shows – my agent
was telling me they just screened the “All In The Family” pilot. They were
like that show would never come on today.
BARRIS: You know? And to me that`s counterintuitive when we live in a
supposedly more evolved society, why aren`t we talking about issues and
talking about things and using comedy to do it?
HARRIS-PERRY: And that part, the comedy. Because I can remember my father
who is an activist and deeply concerned with questions of racial equity, I
can remember him just like – you pull up his chair and watch “All In The
Family” with such intensity and find it hilarious. And I`m wondering if
there is ways that comedy allows us to do work around race that a drama
wouldn`t allow us to do?
BARRIS: I mean, I think that was the challenge for us on ABC has become
very, very supportive. You know, normally dramas were the things that
people were allowed to sort of have issues with. At least in contemporary
society. You know, Norman Leer dealt with it with comedy. But I
personally believe like comedy is one of the better things to sort of talk
about issues because you can laugh and not realize that you`re just sort of
talking about something and letting your kids take it in. And so, for us
that was the challenge. Norman, you know, has this thing where he says
it`s – it`s hard to do my boss is coming over and my wife burned the pot
roast. But when you are doing comedy about issues, that`s our challenge
and that`s what we`re trying to continue to do.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to play a little conference room scene from the “n”
word episode that was just – let`s play that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know what word I miss? Colored.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my God!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What`s up? What`s up?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I just –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay. Mr. Stevens, that word is offensive and
reminiscent of a not-so-great time in American history. So, let`s all just
take it down the notch. Maybe – firearm, Charles?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In that case maybe someone should tell that to the
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, that group been sending mixed messages for a
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It is a great – well, I mean, nothing is more fraught in
this moment than the question of black male violence, anger, threat.
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, that is the thing that we are discussing in the
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet you can take it and play with it and invert it in
that way that just makes it feel like, aw, man, yes.
BARRIS: I mean, I really credit, like we have an amazing group of writers.
It is a very mixed group. And we have Jonathan Groff, who is my partner
and Larry Wilmore who I you know, did the pilot with and who was my mentor
and you know brother, he balanced some of the stuffs. And just, you know,
we have like a crazy mixed group of people. And one of my favorite
episodes of Corey Nickerson (ph) what was about spanking. And that sort of
became the platform of how we break our stories.
BARRIS: We polled the room and we said, how many of us were spanked as
BARRIS: And literally, I think 12 of the 13 writers raised a hand. And
then we said how many of us spank. None of us raised our hand and we
couldn`t answer why.
BARRIS: We pulled to the room and we said, how many of us were spanked us
BARRIS: And literally I think 12 over the 13 writers raised their hands.
And then we said, how many of us spanked? None of us raised our hands.
BARRIS: And we couldn`t answer why.
BARRIS: And so that became the question like, we didn`t think we became
BARRIS: What was the thing going on? And so, that`s how we sort of felt
like that`s an interesting story.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, ABC just seems to be doing the damn thing around this
question. What is it? What has made space to allow “Black-ish” to allow
what happens on Thursday night to be happening on the network?
BARRIS: I do really think that it is having people who sort of speak to
everyone without not speaking to who they are. You know, like that`s some
of the things I love about your show. You know, it was one of the things I
always credit Barack about is that he`s a black man and he does not run
from that. But at the same time he speaks to everyone. And I think that
that was a different look for most of America to say like that was
something that, you know, you had to sort of seem like you were leaning to
one side to appeal to everyone. And that was, in previous pilots what I
had done, and that was the big difference between what we wanted to do on
“The Cosby Show.” “The Cosby Show” was about a family that, you know,
happened to be black.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Just incidental. Right. Uh-hm.
BARRIS: And that was amazing for the time. But we want to do a show about
a family that was absolutely black. And at the same time, the specificity
of that spoke much more universally to the audience.
HARRIS-PERRY: It is so interesting, the idea about – speaking to the
universal. It is the lesson Tony Morrison teaches us that we will say over
and over again, you tell that story to tell the big story. When you see
Tracy Ellis Ross, please tell her that we worship her a little bit and –
– that we love her very, very much. She seems like everything. Thank you
to Kenya Barris.
BARRIS: Thank you.
HARRIS-PERRY: Up next, Ava`s here.
HARRIS-PERRY: Golden Globe nominated filmmaker Ava DuVernay made an
indelible impact on the Hollywood scene in 2014 as the director of “Selma.”
The epic historical drama about the campaign for voting rights in 1965
Alabama. Now, it was a heady assignment. “Selma” is an iconic water-shed
of the modern civil rights movement meaning that there are plenty of
opinions about how the story should be told. So, when she took on the task
of making Hollywood`s first big screen film about Dr. Martin Luther King,
she knew that she would be making history literally interpreting and
representing who we are as a nation. Ava is making history in another way,
by stepping boldly into the role of America`s foremost black woman
filmmaker in an industry that is notoriously difficult for women and people
But DuVernay was ready. No newcomer to Hollywood, in 2012, she became the
first African-American woman to win the dramatic directing award at
Sundance for her acclaimed feature “Middle of Nowhere” and her first
narrative feature “I Will Follow” which she wrote, financed, produced and
directed was hailed by critic Roger Ebert as, quote, “One of the best films
I`ve seen about the loss of a loved one.” Now she is the first black woman
ever nominated for best director Golden Globe. And now is one of the most
influential voices in all of Hollywood. DuVernay is lending her voice and
credibility to a new project. The African-American film festival releasing
movements known as a firm which DuVernay founded in 2010. It has been
relaunched as Array with an expanded focuses on filmmakers of color and
winning the filmmakers globally.
I am just so pleased to be joined now by Ava DuVernay.
AVA DUVERNAY, DIRECTOR, “SELMA”: Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: So happy we`re in the same room together.
DUVERNAY: Absolutely. How are you?
HARRIS-PERRY: The last time we talked was like right after the release of
HARRIS-PERRY: So, how much has changed?
DUVERNAY: You know when the last time we talked? It was Golden Globes
were the next day because you were asking me about my dress.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right! That`s right. What are you going to wear!
DUVERNAY: Yes. Yes. Yes. I was like, don`t ask me! Yes. Yes. No, it
was a good time.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what has changed? How different is the human that is
Ava in this space now?
DUVERNAY: It hasn`t been even a year.
DUVERNAY: You know, it hasn`t even been a year. A lot more to see, a lot
more people to talk to, a lot more to think about. You know, it`s just
kind of expanded my world personally. So, when I think about what`s
changed I don`t think about professional. I think about, you know, I just
got back from Mumbai two days ago. That`s an opportunity that wouldn`t
have come to me without “Selma” which kind of put my filmmaking on a
worldwide platform. And when I was there I couldn`t help to think about of
all the people of color and women filmmakers who don`t get those
opportunities to take their work abroad to get that feeling. Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: This is the most fascinating part than it what you have done
with this moment to me. So, I want you to talk to me about Array and what
Array is going to be doing starting November 13th. But this very idea that
in a moment when there is an opening for you to walk through because of
your art, because of your work, that your first impulse is come on,
everybody and let`s go, the door is open. Why that? Why in this moment
decide to be pushing, amplifying so many other voices?
DUVERNAY: Who wants to be in the room by their self? I mean, that`s the
plan. I think part of –
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, the answer is – some people. But I`m with you,
DUVERNAY: I think for me, I was trained as a publicist. I was a publicist
for 12 years. So, part of my job every day was thinking about how to
amplify other people. And I also got to see a lot of mistakes that people
made when they had a small opening or it was their moment or it was their
15 minutes how they just – they shrunk instead of enlarged.
DUVERNAY: And so, and it was because it was just trying to hang on to
everything that they had. So ferociously and so fiercely that they, you
know, they forgot to open up and, A, experience what was going on with them
and, B, to know that no party`s fun alone.
DUVERNAY: And so, yes, I think that`s just the way I think.
HARRIS-PERRY: So what`s Array up to? Tell us about it.
DUVERNAY: Oh my gosh! Well, you know, firm was something I started in
2010 just simply as a selfish function of I am making this film and no
one`s going to want it. And so in order for it to reach an audience I have
to create that pipeline. And so, in doing that, I said, okay, if I have
created it, then other filmmakers like me, black filmmakers who are having
the same challenge can come to Array, a firm. So, with the last five
years, we`ve released ten films. But someone on a way I think it was real
because of “Selma.” Traveling the world. Meeting all kinds of different
filmmakers. And so, wow, we think black filmmakers have it bad? When was
the last time you saw a native American filmmaker woman filmmaker, Native
American man? Latino. North African Middle Eastern filmmakers. Asian-
Pacific Islanders. I mean, it is rough out there for everyone.
DUVERNAY: And so the idea is, you know, together we are strong. Why not
put all of the folks that are having difficulty being kind of shut out of a
system that really only thinks and looks a certain way.
DUVERNAY: And why not create an alternatives or allow other kinds of folk
to be in our alternative. And so in August we relaunched from African-
American film festival releasing movement to array.
DUVERNAY: And on November 13th we put out our first two films. One by a
South African, woman filmmaker, white woman filmmaker out of South Africa,
this is a beautiful film called “Ayanda” about this, you know, this
gorgeous – this black woman, young black woman who inherits and takes over
her father`s car mechanic shop in South Africa and they just got this hair
and these colors and she`s falling in love and she`s grappling with loss
and life. And it is really, really gorgeous. And you`re not going to see
it in theaters except through our collective that`s powered by regular
people who just love film. And then the other one is “Out of My Hand”
which is a really interesting film by this Japanese-born filmmaker who
lives in either Brooklyn or Harlem right now. Somewhere in New York.
DUVERNAY: And you know, it is all the same to me.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. You`re like, somewhere over there on the other side.
DUVERNAY: But anyway, you make this gorgeous film about this Liberian
immigrant. And you see him in Liberia when he`s working on a rubber
plantation all the way to him being a cab driver. So, it is kind of like
I`m always in a cab in New York or even an uber, and you wonder, who is
that guy? What`s his story? This is that. It takes you all the way back.
And so, anyway these are the kinds of stories that are completely
marginalized out of the box in terms of what Hollywood wants. And we say
Hollywood doesn`t determine what we want, we determine what we want. This
is what we want to see. More vary voices so we got to put that there.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ll going to take a break, when we come back, I have a
pitch for you. I have a story I want you to make. So, when we come back.
HARRIS-PERRY: Ever since her 2014 film “Selma” was nominated for a best
picture Oscar, Ava DuVernay has been one of the most sought after
filmmakers in Hollywood. She`s certainly has a (INAUDIBLE). She shared on
Twitter this week that she`s in post-production on one project casting
another and writing another. And that new work soon. Her rebranded
company Array has two films set for release week. Ayanda which you just
heard about becoming of age story about a woman struggling to save her
father`s car repair shop.
And “Out of My Hand,” a film about a Liberian rubber plantation worker`s
new life as a cab driver in New York. DuVernay was also courted by Marvel
to direct its Black Panther movie but declined telling Essence, quote, “We
had different ideas about what the story would be.” And elaborating during
her – address at the blog during her conference in July that quote, “What
my name is on means something to me.” It really wasn`t going to be an Ava
Still with me is Ava DuVernay. So, I want to talk about an idea I had,
it`s because it randomly occurred to me. I was looking at “Essence” had
this spread of all the African-American women who are working in the White
House, the Obama administration right now. And I thought, oh my God! We
have to tell that story. So, I was thinking about how part of what you did
with “Selma” was to bring forward all of those historical women who got
lost behind King.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I was thinking, we can`t let them get lost. I want
those stories. So, maybe not this week or maybe not next week, but
someday, I want a story of those women. Yes. Just since you have a lot of
projects by the way.
DUVERNAY: Yes. Yes. Okay. Good idea. Good idea.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, that`s my pitch for you.
DUVERNAY: Yes. Yes.
HARRIS-PERRY: You know, in thinking about King, which undoubtedly did a
lot in the context of “Selma.” One of my favorite aspects of King is he
talks about creative maladjustment, the necessity of the being creatively
maladjusted to oppression. But that also means we have to have tools of
creativity. And I guess part of what I`m wondering is, where you think
kind of next generation of young women of color filmmakers, where that will
be for them, what we`re doing to nurture their capacity to make art.
DUVERNAY: Well, I mean, the interesting thing is it`s access, really. I
mean, that`s the unfortunately, you know, when we`re talking about black
people making film, our conversation is not as mature as it should be
because – and not because the work isn`t mature or the filmmakers are not
because that`s definitely there. But in terms of when you talk about
tools. Very much been a limited amount of people who have had access to
the tools up until now.
DUVERNAY: The tools used to be, 35 millimeter film, which was hard to get
and expensive. He has had a 35 millimeter camera. But then when you shot
it, you had to take it to a lab and you had to get out of the lab and you
had to project it in a certain – all these barriers to creativity existed.
And now those are no more. I mean, literally if we went to make a film
right now with your iPhone and mine. I could do a two shots – I could
like the swing down on this swivel chair, we could do this and put it up on
YouTube tonight and tell a story if we wanted to. And so, everything has
changed, and that is sparking and trigger a new creativity, a new way of
storytelling that I think is tremendously exciting. I feel blessed to be
alive right now.
HARRIS-PERRY: You`ve actually become quite promiscuous in the places where
your work will appear. I mean, there was a time when and not just your
personal work but the work that you`re pushing out that this platform like
Netflix and, you know, television and like it`s just – it`s different now.
It doesn`t have to necessarily be on that big screen in the movie theater.
DUVERNAY: Sure. Sure. A lot of talk in Hollywood about what is a film
now. Anyway, there was a film called “Beasts of No Nation” that a
filmmaker that people really like. That he had previously made feature
films in television and now he`s making this film that`s on Netflix but
it`s not really television, but is it? It`s also in theaters? All the
lines are blurred in terms of what is a film. And so, you know, it`s not
about the forum anymore. You know what I mean? And it`s also not about
the destination anymore. It`s really truly now just about the story.
We`re watching stories on web series. We`re watching a stories, you know,
a story I told for Apple in 30 seconds with Kerry, Tiraji and Mary. We`re
watching along form stories. We`ve been watching stories.
DUVERNAY: Eight hours people are sitting down.
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, yes.
DUVERNAY: It`s all new.
HARRIS-PERRY: My favorite thing is watching you watch stories. So, I love
watching you tweet about Straight Outta Compton and the kind of like, in
Real-time reviewing that was going on. One of my favorites being, you`re
talking about being a woman who loved hip-hop at that time. Was about
being in love with your abuser because it was ours and yet it was also
against us in these important ways. And if feels like that`s always this
challenge that we exist in as women of color. Maybe particularly as black
women. Both loving this blackness that is ours but also recognizing the
violence it can sometimes do to our very femininity to our womanhood.
DUVERNAY: Yes. I mean, absolutely. That`s everywhere. And, you know,
it`s been, you know, I think it`s so important when we think about all of
this to not think about this problem, the challenge in the present moment.
That was part of what “Selma” really got me thinking about is just the
continuum that we`re on.
DUVERNAY: And so, this is an age-old issue. This is something that
sisters before us have had to grapple with. They`ve dealt with
successfully. And so I think part of the remedy, part of the solution is
to look back. What did they do? What did everybody else do? What did I
do? What did Harriet do? What is, you know, what is Michelle doing? What
is Melissa doing?
You know, what is – doing?
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. Exactly.
DUVERNAY: You know, the next generation as well? And so, it`s exciting.
It`s all here for us for the taking. I feel positive about it. Maybe just
today. I don`t know. Maybe tomorrow.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do Black Lives Matter to Hollywood?
DUVERNAY: You`re making me laugh.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. That`s an interesting reaction.
DUVERNAY: Sometimes. Sometimes. But not often enough. You know, very
sporadically. And, you know, but there are black lives who live here 24/7,
and we have to matter to ourselves more than what the outside world thinks
of us. And I think in Hollywood, that is a problem. It speaks to your
first question about being perfectly fine to be the only person in the
room. Not even fine to have two in a room. You know what I mean? It`s
not enough. So, yes, hopefully that idea infects us out here a little bit
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Ava DuVernay. Once again, “Ayanda” and “Out of
My Hand” released this weekend on Friday.
DUVERNAY: Support these filmmakers.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right. Support the filmmakers. Before we go this
morning, we have an announcement. A wedding announcement that is. MSNBC`s
own and Nerdland favorite, not to mention an occasional guest host of this
program, Janet Mock, was married Friday to photographer and filmmaker Aaron
Tredwell. The couple wed in Janet`s hometown in Hawaii looking both
ridiculously spectacular and happy. Our most heartfelt congratulations to
Janet and Aaron. Everyone in Nerdland, we wish you much love, joy and
great adventure in your lives ahead.
And that`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. I`ll
see you next Saturday, 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
But right now it`s time for preview of “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT.” Hi,
ALEX WITT, MSNBC HOST, “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT”: This is so fun watching
you from L.A. What great interviews.
And could Janet look more beautiful than she did in that wedding picture?
HARRIS-PERRY: Oh, man! She would be great.
WITT: Okay. And check your e-mail. You have recommendations for dinner
and restaurants. Okay. Let`s get to the news. Have a good one, Melissa.
And thank you.
For all of you, new information in the crash of that Russian airliner. Why
one lawmaker is calling the disaster a wake-up call to both the U.S. and
The outrage in Colorado after nude photos turned out on the phones of at
least 100 students. How teenagers used technology to keep it all a secret.
Plus, everything you wanted to know about the White House rejection of the
Keystone Pipeline but were afraid to ask. Don`t go anywhere. I`ll be
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