Melissa Harris-Perry, Transcript 12/12/2015
Show: MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY
Date: December 12, 2015
Guest: Malcolm Nance, Linda Sarsour, Thomas Sugrue, Sabrina Saddiqui,
Vishavjit Singh, Cristina Beltran, Mustafa Tameez, Michelle Old, Barbara
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY, MSNBC ANCHOR: This morning, my question, did
BuzzFeed get it right? Plus, slavery after the 13th Amendment. And the
peril of see something, say something. But first, fear and radicalization.
Good morning. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry. Over the last week, Miriam
Webster noticed a spike in lookups for a word that appeared in headlines
about a new development in the investigation into the San Bernardino
shooters. It`s a word that has been a focus for investigators as they
looked into key questions about when and how Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik
became motivated to carry out the attack. And whether or not they were
directed by forces outside the United States. FBI director Jim Comey used
the word on Wednesday when he announced the bureau`s latest discovery about
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JIM COMEY, FBI DIRECTOR: San Bernardino involved two killers who were
radicalized for quite a long time before their attack. In fact, our
investigation to date, which I can only say so much about at this point,
indicates that they were actually radicalized before they started courting
or dating each other online, and online as late as, as early as the end of
2013, they were talking to each other about jihad and martyrdom before they
became engaged and then married and lived together in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: By Friday, the word had reached the top of Miriam Webster`s
list of trends as everyone as seemed wanted to know what does it mean to be
radicalized? Now, the FBI defines it as the process, by which individuals
come to believe their engagement in or facilitation of non-state violence
to achieve social and political change is necessary and justified.
The FBI`s definition of radicalization as a transformation that is likely
to result in violence underscores the urgency of finding answers to that
question. As it relates to the attackers in San Bernardino, if we can
learn the whens and whys and hows of their radicalization, then maybe we
can reduce the likelihood of that kind of violence happening again. But I
want to offer a slightly broader definition. Because we know that a strong
conviction in the need for extreme action to bring about social and
political change does not always push people to behave violently. It was
unquestionably a radical act for protesters in the civil rights movement to
expose racial injustice by putting their own bodies directly in the line of
fire. But that act was also fundamentally nonviolent. It`s also worth
considering as Miriam Webster reminds us that we tend to think of the word
radicalize with regard to religious ideology, but that has more to do with
the news cycle than the word itself.
Radicalized goes back to early 1800s, and has been used of everyone from
abolitionists to Vietnam protesters.
A definition that encompasses all those ideologies suggests that
radicalization is what happens when first, people reject commonly held
beliefs in what is rational and reasonable, then in favor of a position at
the extreme fringes of those same beliefs. And second, it`s what happens
when those beliefs compel an extreme course of action against mainstream.
Now, due to that - it`s clear that the definition describes one particular
emerging strain of American ideological thought. One Philadelphia Mayor
Michael Nader observed this week when he said, quote, “Donald Trump is
literally trying to radicalize our fellow Americans against our American
Muslim and international Muslim brothers and sisters. We have also heard
these beliefs in what our fellow Americans have to say for themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Trump is absolutely right. President Obama
actually under the 1954 act has the right to shut down the doors, which he
is refusing to do. We have a problem. There`s a – there`re beliefs
coming into this country that do not coincide with our constitutional
rights, our amendments, our bill of rights. And if they cannot if their
beliefs are complete opposite of what we believe in, and how we function in
this country, then it does not belong in this country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think in 1939 and 1940, it was not exactly easy for
someone from Germany, Japan or Italy to get into the United States.
Sometimes you have to look at solutions that, you know, in a slightly
calmer time you wouldn`t, but I think it can still be valid in a more
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a belief and a course of action that may most recently
have been amplified by Donald Trump, but was already part of our public
discourse long before he ever announced his candidacy for president. We
have seen it in the efforts by state legislators around the country to ban
the system of Islamic laws known as sharia. Despite the fact that as
“Mother Jones” noted in 2011 it`s virtually nonexistent in the United
States. We`ve seen it in the NYPD`s use of religious profiling and
suspicion list surveillance against Muslims in New York. We have seen it
in the persistent skepticism about President Obama`s birthplace and
religious identity. And we see it today when a party`s top candidate for
president is boosted by a belief and a course of action that is in
opposition to one of our country`s most foundational principles. This,
too, is what it means to become radicalized.
Joining me now is Malcolm Nance, counterterrorism and terrorism
intelligence consultant to the U.S. government and executive director of
the terror Asymmetrics project. And Linda Sarsour, executive director of
the Arab-American Association of New York and co-founder of Power of
Change, a grassroots movement that works towards building political power
in the American Muslim community. Thank you both for being here.
So Malcolm, I have talked with you before about wanting to define terrorism
more broadly or in ways that encompass more actions that we see in the
world. Is it also reasonable to try to expand this definition of
MALCOLM NANCE, EXEC. DIR. TERROR ASYMMETRICS PROJECT: You know, I find it
fascinating that this is the most looked up word in the dictionary. It
should be patently obvious what it means to radicalize. However, but I
think that the FBI may even be making a terminological mistake here. What
they should be saying is terror radicalization. You have to put it in
context. I mean we come from a nation of protests. Just today, I was
looking at a photograph of Woody Guthrie who has - who always kept on his
guitar the sticker that says “This machine kills fascists.” I mean back in
the `50s and the `60s, a form of visual protest. Anyone can be a radical.
You know, it`s as we call it, it`s an asymmetrical way of confronting the
environment by using sort of, you know, a form of judo to get your protest
However, we`re talking about crossing a line from your belief that there
must be change and there should be an allowance within all law enforcement
and all intelligence communities to understand that political protest is a
fundamental right of America and is what we fight to defend. But
understanding that, when you transition from protests to terror that is a
cognizant decision. It is something which requires concrete actions. And,
of course, it has its own profile. And I think that if we`re not looking
at that, as opposed to the transitional points along the radicalization
path, then we may be misusing this term.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think part of what`s important to me in the points
that you`ve just made - and this is actually not just about language. I
mean, language matters. My college adviser, Dr. Angelo (ph) used to say
words are things, right. So language matters. But specifically this idea
that if we call it radicalization and then radical means thinking outside
of the box and pushing against the mainstream, then in order to sort of
save or protect the nation against violence, you see a clamping down on
protests. A clamping down on public discourse, right? Because if we think
of them as all part of the same kind of bad thing, think only in the
mainstream. And so I guess I`m wondering then, for you, how do we preserve
the value of a counter narrative while at the same time saying but not
LINDA SARSOUR, EXEC., DIR. ARAB AMERCAN ASSOC. OF NY: Absolutely. I mean
radical is being now used towards black protesters in Black Lives Matter.
The New York Police Department created a new unit called the strategic
response group. And in the mission of that new unit, they say this is –
this student is tasked with mass protest and counterterrorism. How do mass
peaceful protests and counterterrorism go hand-in-hand? Like that makes
absolutely no sense to me. And for me the word radical .
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, that`s been the history, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s the history in the civil rights movement.
HARRIS-PERRY: In the Black Panther movement. With those things put - put
together in that.
SARSOUR: And I mean I`ve been called the radical. Why? Because I can
challenge the state. Because I can stand up for my rights. Because I`m a
defender of the Constitution. And it looks like that term radical or
radicalized is only being used for certain groups. And right now, for me,
it`s being used against Muslims and against black people.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, the place where I fear violence is that once we
have identified an entire group as enemies of the American story, enemies
of the American project, and we believe that we can identify them visually,
we know in our history that that has often led to violence.
NANCE: You know, you`re absolutely right. You know, as a counterterrorism
practitioner, this offends me deeply. No, really.
NANCE: I have really important things to do. People in the
counterterrorism community should have other important things to do which
is running down the intelligence and the leads that we have on known or
suspected threats. When we transition away from counterterrorism to
predicting that protests such as Black Lives Matter, or whatever, other
civil discourses and liberties, which are absolutely allowed under the
Constitution, you`re wasting resources. Now, if it was one of my staff, I
would be hammering them for wasting my time. But we really need to
understand that people here have rights. And there is a way to go out and
do fundamental counterterrorism and intelligence collection without
violating those rights and again, wasting people`s time or violating their
HARRIS-PERRY: I also want to point out that it feels like there`s been a
lot of critique, obviously, of Mr. Trump. And I think that critique is
rightfully placed in that space, but that it also allows us a kind of
cleansing of the national self as though this didn`t come from somewhere.
I have to say, I`m not that huge of a Hillary Clinton fan, but I do love
her quiz who said it, Donald Trump or not Donald Trump that went up on
their site this week. Just pointing out that this is discourse we have
seen a lot in the U.S.
SARSOUR: It is not just discourse, Melissa, this is policies that are
being implemented against our communities. Unwarranted surveillance.
Putting a suspicion on entire faith communities or criminalizing entire
racial communities like black communities, Latino communities. So, I don`t
really care about the words, it is the policies that continue to target our
communities. And if we`re going to talk about radical radicalization and
getting from radical to terror, let`s talk about white men that go and
shoot, you know, white supremacist groups. Why is no one saying how did
Richard Dear get radicalized before he went and shot up a Planned
Parenthood office or how did Roof get radicalized as he went and shot up
nine black worshipers? The fact that we only apply these terms to certain
groups is absolutely problematic.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I might claim, we are going to take a break. And I`ll
promise we`ll come back up, but my claim is actually we did ask that
question with Roof and when we asked it, went and took the Confederate flag
down in South Carolina. Part of the question was, how in the world did he
end up doing that? There was evidence that - was about that flag. And so,
it would lead us potentially to make different kinds of decisions if we did
ask that, right, about white supremacy. Stay with me, more voices to come
after the break. We`ll also take a look at the story of what`s being
called the Trump bump for white supremacist groups.
HARRIS-PERRY: Earlier this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center which
tracks hate groups in the United States, found a 17 percent decline in the
number of those groups between 2013 and 2014. It was actually the lowest
since 2005. You see, the SPLC found that activity among the radical right
was depressed following the president`s re-election and the failure of
Congress to enact gun legislation and comprehensive immigration reform.
But this week, Politico is reporting that hate groups have found a new
reason for hope. The leader of one of those groups, which is upgrading its
website servers partly because of increased traffic, told Politico, quote,
“Demoralization has been the greatest enemy, and Trump is changing all of
that.” Politico reports of white supremacist groups that, quote, “Its
leaders consistently say that Trump`s read rhetoric about minority groups
has successfully tapped into simmering racial resentments long ignored by
mainstream politicians. And that he has brought more attention to their
agenda than any American political figure in years. It is a development
many of them see as a golden opportunity.
Joining the panel now is Cristina Beltran, who is associate professor of
social and cultural analysis at NYU and also from NYU is Thomas Sugrue
professor, a social and cultural analysis in history. They were talking
departmental politics in the green room. So, Cristina, for me, this week
has been fascinating in part because the kind of moral ethical discursive
backlash against Mr. Trump feels maybe six months late in that so much of
what he`s saying is not all that different from what we heard him say about
Latinos and about Mexican immigrants for months now.
CRISTINA BELTRAN, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, NYU: No, you`re exactly right. It
started with Mexicans. It`s gone to Muslims. And I mean I think your
earlier discussion, talking about sort of the way radicalism expands the
terrain of the sayable, right? And it can do that in really productive
ways, in really damaging ways, right? And I think that one of the things
that`s so striking to me now is the fact that it`s really turned into a
deeply ethnic cleansing kind of logic, right? It was, first, it was this
mass deportations of 11 million people in the U.S. Then it was a
discussion of now we`re not going to let Muslims into the country. And so,
and but the other thing that really strikes me is the fact that he`s
invoking this by invoking presidential laws. So, he`s bringing up
Eisenhower and `54 and Operation Wetback. And he`s bringing up executive
orders and presidential orders.
HARRIS-PERRY: The interments.
BELTRAN: So, it`s an interesting moment to see how he`s actually invoking
a story that even liberals and Republicans don`t always like to talk about,
which is the fact that this is also a really dark part of our history, but
he`s actually turning us back to thinking about it in a positive way, which
is incredibly dangerous. But I think it`s very interesting that he`s
actually reminding us that that, too, is American history.
HARRIS-PERRY: And I think this - I think this also strikes - It strikes me
as important, I keep hearing legislators say, oh, man, this is so anti-
American. I`m like, well, anti-American values maybe, but American history
actually is replete with examples of this. And, in fact, even contemporary
American politics, as - also saying that all these candidates who are
denouncing Trump are also planning to attend an anti-Muslim event next week
with Mr. Gaffney who says things, you know, that are very similar to what
Mr. Trump has been saying.
So I`m wondering if there is a way to go back and rethink about that
history in ways that allow us to recognize that actually is a part of
America, while preserving some space to condemn both the explicit
discourse, but also all of it going on when it`s not explicit.
HARRIS-PERRY: Right, right.
THOMAS SUGRUE, PROFESSOR, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: That`s one of the hardest
challenges we face. America has two political traditions, at least. One
of them is xenophobia, fear of foreigners and outsiders, nativism. The
other cosmopolitanism, openness, welcoming. And even in contest at every
key moment of transition in American society. The 1840s and 1850s when
Irish were coming over from the potato famine and anti-Catholic riots
devastated catholic communities in cities around the country. Several
churches were burned in Philadelphia in 1840s. Of the sentiment against
Chinese immigration to California that led to one of the most draconian
restrictions on entry to the United States later in the century. Or the
fear of Italian, Eastern European and Jewish socialists and anarchists who
were perceived to be fundamentally un-American and our democracy was at
threat if we didn`t think about some way of putting up the barriers, which,
of course, leads to the racial exclusions and ethnic exclusions in 1921 and
HARRIS-PERRY: So, as you sort of walk us through that history, I have to
say, I keep wondering if there are a couple of other aspects of even just,
you know, so Politico saying it seems to be this one guy and his campaign
that is helping to drive this. But Malcolm, let me just ask, there are two
other things that seem very real as possibilities as causal for a right
radicalization going on right now. One is just two days ago we see the
reports that the middle class is now a minority among Americans. That, in
fact, now, unlike in the 1970s, fewer than 50 percent of Americans are
identifiably in the middle class. So, I`m wondering if economic insecurity
is part of it. The other piece I keep wondering about is Rwanda. Which is
to say I wonder about the role of media and the way that we shrugged and
called what was happening on Rwandan radio from 1990 to 1994, silly and
ridiculous, and then the next thing, we know it is the soundtrack for
genocide. And if what we`ve done here is to keep playing about Mr. Trump`s
words in public sphere until suddenly they become the sayable thing.
NANCE: You know, that`s very interesting. Back when I was a baby
operator, I worked on the Rwanda mission for a while during the genocide.
And we have a term of art for that. It`s called eliminationist rhetoric.
And this is terminology which steps up, through the media, as you recall
radio of Mille Collines in Rwanda, which stepped up the terms to turn your
neighbor from an enemy to a cockroach, from a cockroach to an object which
must be killed. That has - and we have certainly not reached that level of
rhetoric here. But since I returned back from the Middle East to the
United States, I see this ramping up of terminology which endangers all of
us. I just recently went to a ceremony at the CIA. And I had the honor to
put my hand on the wall of stars of people who I knew personally who were
killed in the defense of this nation. And the other day when I hear this
terminology, these phrases of, we will get rid of Muslims, you know, that
impacts the defense of this nation. We are defending. Our soldiers are
fighting in Muslim lands. Alongside of Muslim brothers. I have
intelligence officers in the field who are now looking with asking of, do
you believe that man`s rhetoric? We cannot allow that to endanger our
nation. And we certainly can`t allow it to endanger our children and my
HARRIS-PERRY: Linda, just a final thought on this before we go to break.
SARSOUR: I mean the Trump`s words and those that are like him are
translating into action against Muslims, you know, firebombing of mosques,
you know, shooting that woman in Florida, throwing rocks at the house of a
president of an Islamic organization in Plano, Texas, girls being harassed
and actually kicked on a bus stop right here in Brooklyn. I mean, this is
not just words. They`re actions against innocent people and we can`t have
that in this country.
HARRIS-PERRY: And we are going to talk much more about that. Thank you,
Linda. Still to come this morning, why the 13th Amendment did not entirely
end slavery in America. But up next, there is a little bit of history
being made today in the world and we`re going to bring that story to you.
HARRIS-PERRY: History`s being made today in Saudi Arabia. For the first
time, women in that country are voting and running in a national election.
Of the 6900 candidates running for municipal council seats nearly 1,000 are
women. NBC`s Kelly Cobiella joins us now from London with the details on
today`s historic election in Saudi Arabia. So, what`s been the reaction so
KELLY COBIELLA, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Melissa, where you can see a lot of the
reaction on Twitter, actually, women posting pictures of themselves voting
and saying, I just voted for the first time historic. About 131,000 women
registered to vote. So it`s a small number out of a population of 40
million in Saudi Arabia. About 1.3 million men registered to vote in this
election. But many of the women who did vote today hailed it as historic.
One woman saying we feel we are part of society that we contribute. But
this was a very small step toward change and toward women`s rights in Saudi
Arabia. Female candidates were not allowed to campaign in front of men.
They had to speak from behind a screen or have a male relative campaign for
them. And they had to be driven to the polls. Saudi Arabia, still the
only country in the world where women are not allowed to drive. They can`t
marry, travel abroad or go to university without the permission of a male
relative. And these elections won`t change any of that. These are for
local councils which oversee community issues like maintaining parks and
public spaces. And not many women, if any at all, are actually expected to
win seats. They`re up against nearly 6,000 male candidates. They have no
experience in running for office. But winning isn`t necessarily the goal
for many of them, Melissa. One activist told “The Guardian” newspaper,
we`re looking at this as an opportunity to exercise our right and push for
more rights, Melissa, an historic day for women in Saudi Arabia. But
again, a very, very small change toward getting more rights.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I mean, worth pointing out, that this is always a long
path. Women in the United States have had the right to vote for less than
100 years, continue to earn only 77 cents on the dollar. And, of course,
there`s never been a woman president and, in fact, also if we look at
statewide elections, very few women holding those offices. So it is
undoubtedly just to put it in global context, even true here in the U.S.
Thank you to NBC`s Kelly Cobiella in London. And up next, this week we
celebrated the anniversary of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. This
morning, we`re going to read it carefully.
HARRIS-PERRY: President Obama marked an extraordinary milestone in our
national story this week. He joined members of the House and Senate to
mark the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which
altered our Constitution to ensure the permanent abolition of legalized
slavery and involuntary servitude.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At its heart, the question
of slavery was never simply about civil rights. It was about the meaning
of America. The kind of country we wanted to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: The president also signaled his understanding that the
question of what kind of country America wants to be is still being debated
in current reactions to Republican presidential candidate`s Donald Trump`s
proposal for a total ban on Muslims from entering the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: To remember that our freedom is bound up with the freedom of
others. Regardless of what they look like or where they come from or what
their last name is or what faith they practice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: But while we trumpet ratification of a 13th Amendment, let`s
also take a moment to read it carefully. “Neither slavery, nor involuntary
servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have
been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place
subject to their jurisdiction.” Notice that, except as a punishment for
crime. Yes, this often forgotten clause in the amendment that ended
slavery. That little carve out for continued slavery and involuntary
servitude so long as it is in response to conviction for a crime. Chattel
slavery fell in the aftermath of passage of the 13th Amendment. But the
modern incarceration state was born in those same years. It began with a
convict lease system that returned many newly emancipated black men to the
very plantations where they had labored and slaved and were now forced to
work unpaid. This time, their bodies owned by the state instead of by
individual land holders.
Historian Douglas Blackman describes this brutal system that lasted until
World War II as slavery by another name.
Today, our modern jails continue to subject a disproportionate share of
black bodies to involuntary servitude. African-American men are ensnared
by the system at six times the rate of white men. The president has made
important strides by banning the box for the formally incarcerated in
federal jobs. But many men and women who have served time in jail find
that they continue to serve time on the outside as they search for paid
work that proves elusive. 60 to 75 percent of formerly incarcerated
persons have trouble finding a job for more than a year after release. The
president is right to call us, to commemorate ratification of the 13th
Amendment. He is right to ask us to think about what kind of country we
truly want to be.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We would do a disservice to those warriors of justice, Tubman and
Douglass, and Lincoln, and King, were we to deny that the scars of our
nation`s original sin are still with us today. We condemn ourselves to
shackles once more. If we fail to answer those who wonder if they`re truly
equals in their communities or in their justice systems or in a job
interview, we betray the efforts of the past if we fail to push back
against bigotry in all its forms.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: We tend to discuss terrorism in America as if it is a fear
that first gripped our nation on September 11, 2001. But the shadow of
terrorist violence has been cast across the American landscape much longer.
Between 1882 and 1964, almost 4,000 people were lynched, often brutally and
publicly, without trial or conviction. Because of who they were, not
because of what they had done. And their spectacular deaths sent a message
to black communities not to challenge white supremacy or to seek social,
economic or political equality. During that same time period, the U.S.
House of Representatives repeatedly passed bills that would have given the
federal government authority to investigate, prosecute and punish
lynchings. Each time, the U.S. Senate filibustered these legislative
actions. It is a legacy so shameful that in June 2005, the U.S. Senate
formerly apologized for failing to intercede on behalf of black Americans
as they were profiled, pursued and killed for decades. During the apology,
then senator from Louisiana Mary Landrieu told the gruesome story of the
1934 lynching of Claude Neal in Florida and offered this stark reminder of
just how many were complicit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARY LANDRIEU (D) LOUSIANA: One might ask, how do we know all the
grizzly details of Claude Neal`s death? It`s very simple. The newspapers
in Florida had given advanced notice and they recorded it, one horrible
moment after another. One of the members of the lynch mob proudly relayed
all the details that reporters had missed seeing it in person. Yet even
with the public notice, 7,000 people in attendance and people bragging
about the activity, federal authorities were impotent to stop this murder.
State authorities seemed to condone it. And the Senate of the United
States refused to act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now from London is Megan Ming Francis. He is
assistant professor at the University of Washington and author of “Civil
Rights and the Making of the Modern American State.” Nice to see you this
MEGAN MING FRANCIS, ASSISTANT PROF., UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON: Good to see
you too, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, what can we learn about this moment and our
understandings of terrorism in America from the history of lynching?
FRANCIS: I think there`s a lot that you can learn from the history of
lynching and from this - So, in this book, I talk about the NAACP`s
campaign against racial violence. And one of the chapters documents their
work in Congress, in trying to get Congress to pass an anti-lynching bill
and to get federal protection for black lives. And - kind - in this
amazing moment in 1922, the House of Representatives passes this bill, but
then, of course, the filibuster. The Senate then filibusters it. In terms
of what we can learn from this moment, and oftentimes not kind of just this
moment, but a number of other times in history, that oftentimes racism is
used in the service to kind of - to stoke racial fears against a
marginalized group. And so, that I think is one kind of the big things
that comes up, that we continue to see again and again in American history.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, I kept feeling – I looked back at 1922, at some of
“The New York Times” coverage. And there is Senator Overman saying that
ignorant Negroes of the South would interpret the bill, this would be the
anti-lynching bill, as a federal license to commit the foulest of outrages.
The good Negroes of the South do not want the legislation because they
don`t need it. So, again, this language of sort of the good and the bad.
Discourse not unlike we hear, about, for example, good Muslims and bad
Muslims and we need to have these policies because this category is so
dangerous to us as a country.
FRANCIS: Yes, yes, yes, yes. There`s a way, in which I think that the
language used – that the language has been used in the `20s around
lynching and used now to otherwise a particular group of people, right?
And so, a lot of the rhetoric that protected lynching in the Senate, in the
broader public, was that lynchings were done because there were these bad
African-Americans who raped white women, right, so therefore we should
condone lynching and we should look the other way in terms of all the
terrorization that African-Americans faced. So, there`s a way, in which
that kind of - that we tell these stories and we focus on kind of who the
bad people are in a particular group. We did this of course around
Japanese interment. And talking about kind of - who are the bad Japanese
Americans. And we see that again today.
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold on for me just a second. I want to come out to you,
Linda. Because so, I just read that language from 1922. Let`s listen. I
almost hate to play it, but I think it`s worth listening to Jerry Falwell
Jr. at Liberty University talking. So let`s take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JERRY FALWELL JR., LIBERTY UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT: I`ve always thought if
more and more good people had concealed carry permits, that we could end
those Muslims before they - before they walk in - So I just want to take
this opportunity to encourage all of you to get your permit. We offer a
free course. And let`s – let`s teach them a lesson if they ever show up
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: I mean, I can`t listen to that and not hear Senator Overman
1922. I cannot, Linda, hear that without hearing a certain kind of terror.
SARSOUR: I mean it puts terror in my body. Like I get goose bumps
listening to that. If he was saying that against any other religious group
in this country right now, he would be out of a job before he stepped off
that stage. And the fact that we`re expanding the sayable. Like this is
acceptable. What he`s saying is cool. And this cheering that happens in
that room, this is our next generation, these are young students in that
university. This is not some 70-80- year-old grandparent. These are kids
that are going to be the future leaders, the future senators of our -
future military leaders. And just imagine just young Muslims listening to
that. You know, hearing a guy saying, let`s just get the rid of the Muslim
- If I would have walked in that room just out of interest maybe, I was a
guest, what does that mean, if a kid had a gun, they should turn around and
shoot me? That gets absolutely outrageous.
HARRIS-PERRY: And it feels, Megan, not unconnected to this part of our
HARRIS-PERRY: And, again, I just want to point out that, you know, there
is Mary Landrieu in 2005 actually apologizing for it, right?
HARRIS-PERRY: So we get to a point where it becomes so shameful that
institutionally we feel we have to apologize but it`s also worth noting, it
is part of the long history of who we are.
FRANCIS: It is part of the very long history of who we are. I mean, kind
of that discourse - it also reminded me, there`s this Thomas Sisson, he`s a
Democratic from Mississippi in 1922, and he stands up, on the House floor,
and he argues in this very kind of – this crazy rhetoric about these black
prudes who are raping white women. And then there`s like this huge
applause from other members of Congress. And part of I think what is so
dangerous about this rhetoric is that it helps to I think lead to a
particular type of violence against people. It did this during the kind of
error of American lynchings. And it`s doing that right now. Around
Muslims and other groups of people.
HARRIS-PERRY: Thank you to Megan Ming Francis in London. I appreciate you
being there from London to chat with us. Very nice to see you this
morning. And coming up .
FRANCIS: Good to see you too, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Coming up, a news organization says that it is perfectly
fine to call Donald Trump racist.
HARRIS-PERRY: Much media coverage of Donald Trump has been characterized
by questions about his increasingly inflammatory campaign rhetoric. Too
far, question mark. Islamophobic, question mark. Unconstitutional,
question mark. But this week, one media organization has given the green
light for its employees to describe Trump with what it says is simply a
statement of fact. Racist. Period. In a memo first leaked to “The Blaze”
and later tweeted by “BuzzFeed” editor in chief Ben Smith, Smith gave this
response to staff members wondering about how to talk about Trump on social
media. It is, for instance, entirely fair to call him a mendacious racist.
He`s out there saying things that are false and running an overtly anti-
Muslim campaign. BuzzFeed`s news reporting is rooted in facts, not
opinion. These are facts. Joining the panel now is Sabrina Siddiqui who
is political reporter for “The Guardian.” So, what do you think, did
BuzzFeed get it right in this case?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITICAL REPORTER THE GUARDIAN: I do think so. I think
that one of the issues that we all deal with, especially, you know,
reporting nowadays is how do we use our voice on Twitter? And when you are
covering these campaigns, it is really difficult in the face of some of
this unprecedented rhetoric to not feel like you should be using more of a
voice, more of a responsibility to call someone out for what it is. And I
think that, you know, the only slippery slope here has been how to
differentiate between some of the other candidates who might be using
milder versions of the same rhetoric.
HARRIS-PERRY: That`s right.
SIDDIQUI: But are not explicitly running anti-Muslim campaign or anti-
immigrant campaign. But I think that what we`ve seen from Donald Trump,
again, has gone so far beyond the pale. That at least the message that Ben
is trying to send to his staff, it`s OK if you say this on Twitter, it`s
okay if you use this on social media to call him racist, you will not face,
you know, any kind of - you won`t be penalized for that.
HARRIS-PERRY: It was such a fascinating moment for me, though. It brought
up another dawn moment. And for me, this was the dawn sterling moment.
Because it was the first time I`ve seen news organizations immediately and
easily, almost casually use the word racist to describe someone. Because
typically we do kind of push back from that a little bit. And I thought,
OK, sure, but you know that he did have one of the largest settlements ever
in housing history against him for racially discriminatory practices in
housing and nobody used the word racist, but as soon as there was language
that appeared on a tape, then it can be racist. It makes me wonder what we
think racism is.
BELTRAN: Right. And my worry about it is, I mean on the one hand, I`m
pleased that this sort of false equivalency of saying well, you know, well,
Democrats say things too. And so Trump is sort of equal. False
equivalence of - everybody says crazy things out there on the campaign
trail. No, like, really drawing a line. But I agree with you. I think
one of the real dangers here is that by talking about racism only as these
sort of hyper extreme moments, then we`re not able to talk about. Jeb Bush
suggesting that only Christian Syrians come into the country. Or just the
whole level of appalling rhetoric that`s moved to the right here. And I
think - I think we just need to figure out a way to really have that sort
of conversation. And I mean I think the other thing that`s sort of
interesting here is I think the media`s finally really intervening in a
really critical way, but on the other hand, there`s a fundamental fact here
that Trump is not operating on a discourse of truth. This isn`t about
truth. This is about, so there`s like all this fact-checking which is
fantastic, but the fact of the matter is, him and his followers don`t
really believe in fact as information, it`s fact as affect. Things that
feel true are true. And so, they are just really driven by that logic, and
I don`t think the media has been able to quite intervene in that, in that
problem that`s going on with all of these.
HARRIS-PERRY: And not only not intervene, but partly for me, I guess, part
of the question is, is racism the biggest part of the problem here?
HARRIS-PERRY: So, for example, we can think about the context of American
enslavement. And I suppose slavery was racist. But that seems like the
least important part of it, right, it was evil because it kept people`s
freedom and the human liberty from them. And if it was based on race, then
that was one aspect of it. And I guess part of what worries me here is
that what you have said now repeatedly on the show, which is this is
discourse that literally makes us less safe nationally. And that we almost
want to say that about presidential candidate, more than he`s racist.
NANCE: Right. This is a - this is the cast call for commander in chief of
the United States of America. And all the armed forces and potential
weapons systems including, you know, weapons of mass destruction that we
have under our control. We need to understand that the president of the
United States, whoever is elected, needs to be a person who must speak with
deliberation and must understand that the words that he says matters.
HARRIS-PERRY: Or she says.
NANCE: Or she says matters. And that`s very important here. The lives of
our family members depend on this. I come from a family, we fought in
every war in the United States since the Civil War. We have over 100 years
of military service on today`s Army/Navy Day, Navy will win, but .
NANCE: It is most important to understand that we all have a higher
calling. Every person, Muslim, Christian, whatever. And that you must
live up to the values of the United States. You can`t harness a false
political equivalency in order to demonize a segment of the United States.
It is un-American. As simple as that.
SIDDIQUI: Yeah, and I just want to say, to me what`s more important in
terms of media responsibility is to get this right. When we`re actually
talking about Islam, when we`re actually talking about Muslims and what
constitutes this religion. Given that we`ve been now, you know, in this
so-called war on terror for over a decade, and given people have been
reporting on, you know, radicalism from a certain region for so long, it`s
remarkable how little reporters in the media actually know about Islam.
And so, what I think is a lot more important is for people to be able to
fact check when there are misrepresentations of an entire religion that you
are seeing kind of built into how the media covers this particular debate.
HARRIS-PERRY: I have one more media question for you, Sabrina. And I
wonder if patting ourselves on the back about being brave enough to call
out Mr. Trump`s rhetoric as racist is also a way, again, of kind of
cleansing ourselves as innocent in a space where every time Mr. Trump says
words like this, he dominates the news cycle, right? And so, there is a
clear tradeoff to this kind of behavior with more media minutes.
SIDDIQUI: There`s no question that he`s being given this microphone in a
significant way by the media. You see a lot of times where, you know, he
gives an interview and then that`s all that is talked about for the course
of the day and it`s all that`s written about, and then it`s dissected. And
so we`re kind of allowing that conversation to flow into the mainstream,
even if we might be sitting here talking about it critically. Not everyone
who`s reading or watching is interpreting it that way.
HARRIS-PERRY: And almost talking about it critically also even gives it
more respect than it deserves.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, more like oh, could it possibly be true? No. No, in
fact, it could not. Move on. Next topic.
BELTRAN: No, and I think that there`s a way in which - there`s sort of - I
think right now we have a political divide that`s also kind of a historical
and factual divide. Like just a conversation you are having about
lynching. Like Americans don`t know the context for our history. So we
don`t know the background of what Trump signifies and what the actual facts
on the ground were, what constitutes structural racism, institutional
racism. And so, there`s a lot of speech out in the media, but not a lot of
conversation. You know, discussions like about these really fundamental
facts. As opposed to just sort of repetition. The politics of repetition
where we just repeat back and force what Trump says. And then it becomes
increasingly. And I think that`s right, there`s a kind of innocence of
saying I`m so good because I think he`s so bad, right? And that logic
doesn`t help us get at the real problems of structural inequality in this
SARSOUR: I mean I understand people`s right to be racist and bigots.
SARSOUR: The issue with Donald Trump is that he`s not engaging in just
racism, he`s engaging in hateful inciteful speech. We have got to call it
what it is. It`s hate speech. We should not be giving airways to people
who are radicalizing others. Who are then engaging in violence against
innocent people? And this is what we need to be calling out. So, racism,
you want to be a racist, a bigot – but speech, godless America. It`s not
- it`s hate speech.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, but there`s hate speech with Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush, and
Thank you to Malcolm Nance who is apparently going to go root for Navy.
The rest of my panel is going to be back a little bit later in the program.
Coming up next, the real world consequences of our climate of fear and
intolerance. Also, some good news as one of our foot soldiers gets a major
boost from Congress. More “Nerdland” at the top of the hour.
HARRIS-PERRY: Welcome back. I`m Melissa Harris-Perry.
And we`ve been talking this morning about a growing climate of fear in
America. But we should always remember that this is not just rhetoric.
Fear can easily lead to violence.
Both the Council on American Islamic Relations and the Anti-Defamation
League say there`s been an increase of crimes against Muslims and those
perceived to be Muslim in recent weeks. They say this most recent increase
in anti-Muslim sentiment, but yet after the terrorist attacks in Paris by
And they say this climate is being sustained in the wake of the mass
shooting in San Bernardino and politicians use those attacks to call for
blocking Syrian refugees – or in Donald Trump`s case, all people who
practice Islam from entering the United States.
Of course, we cannot and are not saying that any particular politician or
public figure is directly responsible for any of these alleged crimes. But
we are saying there are real-world consequences to a climate of fear built
in part on this rhetoric.
According to police, the owner of a store in Queens, New York, was beaten
last Saturday by a man who said he wanted to, quote, “kill Muslims”.
Police are investigating the alleged assault as a hate crime.
Philadelphia police have stepped up patrols outside a mosque after someone
left a severed pig`s head on the building`s doorstep on Sunday night.
A cab driver in Pittsburgh was shot and wounded on Thanksgiving by a man he
says ranted about ISIS and mocked the Prophet Muhammad before shooting.
Police in California say a fire was intentionally set at a mosque there
yesterday. And the local sheriff`s office is investigating the fire as a
hate crime. Luckily, no one was hurt. Mosques in Florida, Texas,
Connecticut and Oregon have been vandalized, shot at or threatened.
Individuals have been reported being harassed or receiving death threats.
Sikh Americans who are not Muslim, but are often mistaken as such, have
also experienced hostility and suspicion.
Award-winning filmmaker and activist Valarie Kaur, a friend of MHP show,
was boarding a plane recently when a fellow passenger became angry she`d
taken the luggage take off her carry-on, prompting a gate agent to demand
that she check the bag. Now, Valarie was only allowed to board after she
showed the agent and her fellow passengers the breast pump she needed to
bring on the plane.
To Valarie, this was an all too familiar incident of discrimination. She
wrote about how often Muslim people, Sikh people and brown people in
general are lumped together facing similar suspicion. She said the
incident left her angry, shaken and sad.
But not all is bleak. In many cases, these incidents also trigger a wave
of support in community. Representatives for Delta, the Airline that
Valarie was flying, contacted her to apologize and promised, quote, “We
will be better for this. And Valarie said she was overwhelmed by the
messages of love and support she received.
At the store in Queens, neighbors have gathered in support of the store`s
owner and inundated him with cards and flowers.
After a mosque in Texas was vandalized, a 7-year-old boy donated the entire
contents of his piggy bank to the mosque members.
There`s been a rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Sikh sentiment recently but we
shouldn`t forget such hatred has long been simmering and at times has
turned deadly. In the days after 9/11, a Sikh man was murdered by a gunman
who said he wanted to kill a Muslim in retaliation for attacks. In 2012,
six people were killed at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, by a white
This February, three Muslim students at the University of North Carolina
were killed by a neighbor in an incident that federal authorities are still
investigating as a possible hate crime.
At the table, Cristina Beltran, a professor of social and cultural analysis
at NYU and director of the Latino Studies program, Thomas Sugrue, who`s a
civil rights historian and professor of social and cultural analysis at
NYU, Vishavjit Singh, a cartoonist and creator of sikhtoons.com. You may
also remember him as the Sikh Captain America. And Linda Sarsour,
executive director of the Arab-American Association of New York.
Thank you so much all for being here.
So I feel like we`re now in a moment where we`re seeing the embodied
realities of this discourse. Talk to me a bit about, Vishavjit, about the
ways that this moment is being received and understood within communities
that are vulnerable.
VISHAVJIT SINGH, CARTOONISH & CREATOR, SKIHTOONS.COM: To me, the first
thought that comes to mind, just as my experience, this reminds me of 9/11.
That`s the intensity I`m feeling. I`ve been at the forefront of basically
people`s fear and anxiety since 9/11. Turban and beard, that`s the first
thing people just – it`s one of those things that unfortunately most
Americans just don`t know the roots of variety of turban and beard from
many different traditions.
So, yes, it`s a reminder that we have made progress but we`ve taken steps
back as well since 9/11. And I think all too often, the narrative is still
defined by news media, political pundits, cable news network pundits, which
is fine. But what we`re not getting is really stories of people on the
ground. That`s really what`s missing. That`s what I try to do with my
But it`s a challenge because most Americans and generally good people at
times, you know, now they`re openly saying, look, I`m not a racist, I don`t
have problems with Muslims, but I have these feelings of – you know,
feeling fear and anxiety. And that`s something we have to meditate upon
and figure out how to solve that issue.
HARRIS-PERRY: It feels to me like, Thomas, we are faced with a particular
challenge around this question of misidentification of Muslim identity.
Because on the one hand, the goal is not to say, no, no, I am not Muslim, I
am Sikh. Or, you know, the president having to constantly talk about his
religious and national origin identity – simultaneously saying, I am not
that, but also not affirming, which can happen. But if I were, it would be
OK for me to then be the target of violence. Does that make sense?
SUGRUE: It does. One of the real challenges we face is that Americans are
ill-educated about world religions, about different cultures, which allows
many to make sweeping generalizations.
But there`s something even more poisonous at core of this fear that we have
right now, which is an entire group, you know, or one person then becomes
kind of a stand-in for an entire group, right, in ways that don`t recognize
the incredible diversity of the communities that we`re talking about. And
the fact that one person seldom speaks for an entire community, even if we
want to give them that nominal voice.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet this is a thing that only happens to folks on the
margins, right? So, the idea of one person as a representative of the
group in an idea that creates high stakes is almost the very definition of
being part of a marginal group, right?
So, Dylann Roof doesn`t come to represent all white men for example, right?
And I guess – nor do we want him to, right? We also want to be able to
continue to recognize the humanity in people who are straight, white, men
who earn high incomes, right, that does not necessarily make those folks
enemies of equality, or of the American project.
BELTRAN: There are going to be troubled people in lots of different
communities. But you`re totally right, the way whiteness has a way of
individuating subjects in a particular way. And I do think that this is a
really scary, awful, alarming moment in our politics.
But I think the one possibly useful thing here is perhaps we can expand the
logic of terrorism and talk about white racial terrorism. And talk about
the way white fear has garnered racial violence historically from anti-
immigrant riots, to anti-black riots, to lynch mobs. Like, find a way to
talk about that that doesn`t just demonize all white people. That`s not
the conversation. But to talk about when fear and hysteria happens, that
there has been racial terror in this country, and that whiteness has been
allied with racial terror.
And we need to have a conversation about that, to help people maybe saying
to themselves who are like, you know, frightened in those communities to
realize, oh, that`s the history here, I don`t – I don`t want to be lumped
in with that either. I want to think about how to individuate people and
not treat them as just a group logic.
HARRIS-PERRY: And yet, Linda, usually, the race is also a weird, right?
So, we as Americans go to that because that is the space in our history
where we understood marginalized identities. But precisely notion that the
identity Muslim becomes a racialized identity, right, it`s one that is like
a post-9/11 moment.
And, you know, part of what I love about your organizing and your work is
you will talk about sort of all of these. Yet there is a weirdness, right,
to describing this moment as a race moment.
SARSOUR: Muslims have been racialized and what people have to understand
about Islam is that we represent every racial ethnic group, every
geography. I mean, we have black Muslims. A third of our community are
And trying to keep it together here a little bit. Just listening to the
listing of these attacks on individuals and on mosques and understanding
the trauma that we`re causing communities and we talk about terror and
terrorism, of what we`re doing, is we`re engaging in terrorism against the
innocent community that has nothing to do with this. I mean, a young girl,
middle school, beat up in her school in her recess, and asking questions,
and our kids asking questions about, like, is Muslim the right choice?
Can`t we be Muslims?
We can`t change who we are. This is how we look. We can integrate and
assimilate. We can`t hide and not leave our homes. We`re going to look
like this when we walk out to the streets of our cities when we`re
traveling in this country.
And this fear is real. And I`m not a person that`s usually afraid. I`m a
Brooklynite. I`m a New Yorker and this is who I am. But genuinely, 15
years almost after 9/11, it`s the first time ever, Melissa, that I have
ever feared for my life, walking in the streets of my very city.
HARRIS-PERRY: And the idea that the fear in Muslim communities, in Sikh
communities, in misperceived Muslim communities, should be on the table at
a time when we keep talking about, oh, this is a time of fear, so you have
to just kind of forgive Americans for behaving badly, rather than saying,
no, no, no, who is actually in a tangible way and ought to be afraid.
When we come back, up next, the Muslim community is called on to police
HARRIS-PERRY: When President Obama addressed the nation this week from the
Oval Office, he took a moment to speak specifically about Muslim
communities in America and around the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If we`re to succeed in
defeating terrorism, we must enlist Muslim communities as some of our
strongest allies, rather than push them away through suspicion and hate.
That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread
within some Muslim communities. That`s a real problem that Muslims must
confront without excuse.
Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us
to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups
like ISIL and al Qaeda promote.
To speak out against not just acts of violence but also those in
interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious
tolerance, mutual respect and human dignity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: Joining me now from Houston, Texas, is Mustafa Tameez, who`s
a political strategist and former security consultant for the Department of
Homeland Security, who now helps local law enforcement agencies to do
outreach to the Muslim community.
So, I have to say, I was a little confused about this aspect of the
president`s speech, because it`s not clear to me why Muslim-Americans would
know something about ISIS.
MUSTAFA TAMEEZ, SECURITY EXPERT: Well, I think more than knowing something
about it, what Muslim-Americans really need is a partnership with law
enforcement to educate them on how to fight and push back against ISIL
because the kids are being radicalized and recruited over the Internet.
So, Melissa, if you – what we`re not doing is looking at this problem the
right way. ISIL recruiters, al Qaeda recruiters, are kind of like sexual
predators. They troll the Internet looking for disenfranchised youth and
they try to build a relationship with them and then get them to take an
illicit action, try to create a rendezvous.
So, we have to look at this problem the right way, which is how we partner
with the community to educate them, to push back against radicals that are
trying to recruit our kids over the Internet.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, let me ask about that, because this is a really
interesting framework. So, if the goal is a kind of Internet-based effort
to find young people who feel marginalized, pushed out, then wouldn`t the
key counterterrorism tool be not so much within Muslim communities but a
call to those outside communities not to marginalize and shun Muslim youth?
In other words, to have a sense of empathy, collectivity, you know, sort of
all in it together, so that people aren`t open for that kind of
TAMEEZ: Well, absolutely. I think that the current rhetoric makes
security analysts around the country very nervous because there`s two parts
to this. There`s one part which is recruiters and how do we target them.
We took out Anwar al Awlaki through a drone strike, so there`s a way of
going after the recruiters.
But on the other side is what do you do to really make the climate better
for young Muslim Americans so they don`t feel isolated and marginalized?
And this current rhetoric is not helping. It`s making security analysts
HARRIS-PERRY: Hold on. Stick with me for a minute.
Vishavjit, I want to come back to you for a second because there was –
there`s something that happened in San Diego with a group of young men,
four young men, Sikh men, also in turbans and beards, who were initially
kept from entering a stadium to go watch a football game. I kept thinking,
I have to say, why would people be radicalized? Well, because we are
profiling them in these ways.
SINGH: That`s true. I think there was somebody who reported them. They
were in their car, putting some box away. They knew they were not going to
be able to take it in. And police were called in, sniffer dogs.
I mean, this happened after 9/11 as well. Here is a dangerous component
here is that citizens feel they can actually police everybody else, right,
especially somebody – exactly. That, of course, seeing brown bodies or
head coverings. And that`s what`s been happening a lot.
And it goes down to, again, we just don`t have narratives on the ground
here where people at least can relate to. That`s, you know, the big push
we have to make, figure out for our Muslims, for Sikhs and everybody else,
even Latinos, and blacks. We have to figure out ways to get our narratives
out there, because right now, most of the introduction people have to Sikhs
and Muslims is, you know, through news reports.
And I know there are a lot of people doing groundwork. This is like a
wake-up call. We have a lot of work to be done.
HARRIS-PERRY: Mustafa, let me come back to you, because it does feel, in
part, the question is why would Muslim communities and what I`m going to
call for this moment perceived Muslim communities trust law enforcement? I
mean, typically, surveillance doesn`t make people like you.
And so, I think about the Black Lives Matter movement happening. And that
this is a kind of – it`s a cousin or a brother or a sister to that
movement in the sense that actually those bonds of trust have been frayed
in part by the see something, say something discourse. Because we know
people aren`t very good at see something say something, because what they
see are these stereotypes.
TAMEEZ: Yes, absolutely. Part of I think that what needs to occur is a –
more of a partnership with the communities and teaching and educating them
on how to push back against this type of recruiting. I think one of the
things I talk about is that if you look at ISIL as a gang, if we went into
the Chinese-American community, Vietnamese American community, we don`t go
into those communities and say, you have a cultural problem and that`s why
gangs are being developed. You go into the community and say, look,
there`s a gang problem and we`re worried about your kids and we don`t want
your kids to be recruited by the gangs and here`s what you need to know and
here`s what you need to do.
That kind of a partnership is critical at this point, between law
enforcement, both local and federal, and the Muslim-American community.
And I agree that this current climate and this rhetoric doesn`t help, and
there`s a lot of people leading that rhetoric.
But also on the other side, Americans are afraid. They`re seeing things on
their television of bombing attacks and it makes them very nervous and
jittery and there needs to be a little bit more coming together. And so,
the pope spoke out very eloquently. The president has spoken out. George
Bush, President Bush, spoke out right after 9/11.
And we need more of those voices out there.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes. And to keep reminding people when we say they`re
afraid, that Muslim-Americans and Sikh Americans are Americans who are
Thank you to Mustafa Tameez in Houston, Texas, also to Vishavjit Singh.
The rest of the panel is sticking around.
And up next, the very bizarre fake shooting exercise scheduled for a few
hours from now right here at Texas College.
HARRIS-PERRY: Gun rights activists are planning a march and a mock
shooting rampage near the University of Texas at Austin today. They say no
real weapons will be used in this mock shooting. Instead, participants
will use card board cutout guns. But the planned demonstration has already
sparked plenty of controversy.
NBC`s Charles Hadlock joining us now from Austin, Texas.
Charles, what in the entire hell?
CHARLES HADLOCK, NBC NEWS: Hi, Melissa.
Yes, the organization is going to – that is in favor of campus carry
legislation is organizing a protest that will end here just on the west
mall of the U.T. campus. The campus itself will not allow the protesters
on. They`re going to stay on the sidewalk and use cardboard cutout guns,
noise makers and fake blood to demonstrate what a mass shooting looks like.
Well, we`ve already seen what it looks like. So what`s this all about?
Well, earlier this year, the Texas legislature passed a campus carry law,
basically allowing college campuses in Texas to allow people with concealed
handgun permits the right to carry their guns on campus.
Now, the University of Texas along with other colleges have some leeway
about where the guns can be kept and where they can be used on a person.
That will – those types of things are still being discussed. This group
wants to make it clear that they want the guns to be available to permitted
holders anywhere on campus, including the classroom.
This university of course was the site of one of the worse mass shootings
in U.S. history. Sixteen people were killed by a sniper who climbed to the
top of the U.T. tower in 1966, so people are saying this is in bad taste
they`re doing this.
But here`s what the organizers had to say about the event today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURDOCH PIZGATTI, EVENT ORGANIZER: We started planning this about a month
ago, long before the California shooting, but incidents like that shooting
that happened recently are the reason that this point needs to get out
there and people need to realize the reasons that they`re happening in
these places and the gun-free zone is the epidemic that is happening in
this country. The government politicians are providing shooting galleries
for these people that want to do harm.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HADLOCK: This group is expecting about 80 protesters to take part in this
event today. They say they could get more with all the publicity that`s
been going on for several days here in town.
But there`s one caveat, it`s beginning to rain here, just as the event is
getting under way – Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: Do you know if there`s an expectation that counter
protesters will also be there?
HADLOCK: There will be a counterprotest. They`re keeping it colorful,
using other types of noise makers. I`ll just leave it that.
They`re planning a protest. They claim to have larger numbers than the
people here in favor of the campus carry law.
HARRIS-PERRY: Yes, I know that the students there at Texas-Austin have
been using fake male sex organs as counters to the guns as a way talking
about kind of the ridiculousness of this policy. Might end up being some
really interesting video later today.
Thank you to NBC –
HADLOCK: Well, you know, one of slogans of Austin is “Keep Austin weird”.
Well, they`re living up to the name today, Melissa.
HARRIS-PERRY: There you go.
Thank you to NBC`s Charles Hadlock in Austin, Texas.
And up next, a new poll that shows Americans are more afraid than ever.
HARRIS-PERRY: More Americans now believe United States is likely to see a
terror attack in the coming months than they have been at any time since
the week immediately following 9/11. Seventy-nine percent say they believe
it is either very likely or somewhat likely there will be a terrorist
attack within the U.S. within the next few months. That is having a mighty
impact on the 2016 presidential contest.
Joining us now from Austin, Texas, is Bethany Albertson, assistant
professor of government at the University of Texas-Austin and co-author of
the book “Anxious Politics: Democratic Citizenship in a Threatening World.”
And also back with my panel is Sabrina Siddiqui, who is political reporter
for “The Guardian”.
Bethany, let me just ask you this question, I think many people believed
that after the Paris attacks, it would – we`d see a decline in Mr. Trump`s
approval ratings, in the sense that now that the world was threatening and
scary, people would really want someone with expertise, seriousness, a kind
of grown-up response, and that has not been what`s happened? Do you know
BETHANY ALBERTSON, ASST. PROF. UNIV. OF TEXAS: I have some ideas. One
thing we think about when we think about anxiety and its relationship to
politics is that when we`re anxious, this is an argument Shane and I make,
we want protection and we want protective policies. As you suggest, we
hope this squares with – or this is my own personal opinion – we hope
that this squares with, you know, more establishment or perhaps experienced
politics in a way.
One suspicion I have is that we`re not really – as much as we like to
speculate about who`s ahead and who`s behind, we`re not really in the
business of picking our next president yet. We`re in the business of
polling, right? And we know these early polls have really weak predictive
power in terms of who actually wins.
So, that`s part of what I`m thinking about, is that the – it`s still too
early. It`s still too early in a way.
The other thing is that we know anxiety is going to have us seek out
protective policies. But what counts as protective is going to interact
with partisan politics in a way. And there`s been a longstanding
Republican advantage when it comes to foreign policy. And so, when we`re
anxious and we`re anxious about things related to foreign policy,
historically, that`s advantage Republicans.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, I`m with you, Bethany, I keep holding on to the kind of,
like, classic political scientist. That it`s just too early, these are
just polls. Nobody has actually cast a vote yet.
When we see numbers like 40 percent this is not a poll of Americans, right,
this is a poll usually of likely Republican voters and often likely
Republican voters in these very early relatively non-representative states.
So, I guess part of what I`m wondering is when you say in a moment of
anxiety, we look for protection, if we expanded who the “we” is, would we
actually see something quite different in preferences?
ALBERTSON: Yes. I think we need to think broadly about who the “we” is.
And here`s something that gives me some hope. The fact that we`re in an
election season, I think we can also think broadly about who`s offering up
So, Trump has his set. And they may be popular among a subset of the
population, right, but we`re getting a different message from President
Obama and we`re getting a different message from Hillary Clinton. We`re
getting a different message out of Connecticut right now. I think that`s
Post-9/11, you have one dominant elite message in terms of what we need to
do to keep ourselves safe. Perhaps we`re lucky to in an election season
right now where we have contestation over what`s most appropriate to keep
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Sabrina, let me ask about that that then. We`re talking
earlier about the idea that every time that Trump says something
outrageous, we mostly just cover that. I wonder if the other responses to
keep looking at what the contestation is, to ask, OK, so what are other
candidates, for example on the Democratic side, or even within in the
Republican Party, saying in these moments.
SIDDIQUI: Well, I think that this is interesting. What`s fascinating is
that Donald Trump has used these outrageous proposals to come out on top of
polls of who would be the toughest when it comes to combating terrorism.
Even though, you know, the attacks we`ve seen sort of play into the hands
of candidates like Chris Christie and Marco Rubio, who have talked up
national security law on the campaign trail, and yet they`re still
struggling to break through as the most prepared commander in chief because
Donald Trump is saying what they can`t say.
So, you saw the overwhelming response to Paris among the Republican
candidates was we can`t take in any more Syrian refugees.
Some candidates like Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush proposed it was a religious
test. Some didn`t. But then, Donald Trump comes one step further after
this attack in California and says, no more Muslims in this country period,
because he is at the end of the day, looking at the polls of likely
Republican voters and really playing into their deepest fears and
embracing, again what other candidates are proposing milder forms of, but
couldn`t actually say, because they know longer-term implications of it.
HARRIS-PERRY: So, Bethany, let me ask you the question here then, from
your research, have you seen the point when the curve bends? Basically,
can one fearmonger too far? Is there a space where after you`ve played too
far, people actually pushed back?
ALBERTSON: Sure. We`ve seen this in immigration studies. When people are
anxious and the anxiety comes from something like a news source in our
experimental work, we see widespread effects.
When the source of the anxiety is a political ad, when it`s a politician
trying to inspire fear, the effects are conditional, right? When it`s
political ad trying to make us anxious, you can think of this as analogous
of what Trump`s doing, you know, we have our racial predispositions, our
political predispositions. We have all sorts of things to help us insulate
us from the fearmongering politician.
HARRIS-PERRY: I want to say thank you to Professor Bethany Albertson in
Austin, Texas. Be careful, I know there`s a lot of interesting things
happening on your campus.
ALBERTSON: It is interesting.
HARRIS-PERRY: When we come back, the message from NBC`s Tom Brokaw.
(BEGIN VIODEO CLIP)
TOM BROKAW, NBC NEWS SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Kareem Khan, a Muslim,
responded to a different kind of recruiting, 9/11. An American citizen, he
joined the American Army to show that not all Muslims are fanatics. He was
killed in Iraq in 2007 by an IED, just 20 years old.
Mr. Trump cannot exclude him from America. He has a permanent home here in
Section 60 at Arlington National Cemetery.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS-PERRY: That was NBC News special correspondent Tom Brokaw with a
closing commentary on NBC`s “Nightly News”, making me proud to be a part of
the American media this week when I sometimes have not felt like that in
the context of our coverage.
And, Thomas, part of what I thought about in that moment is, oh, there`s
always other possibility when there`s fear politics, always a possibility
for kind of hope politics.
SUGRUE: Yes, I think one of the best examples is Franklin Delano
Roosevelt, facing the country in its direst economic situation ever, facing
the rise of Nazism and the challenges to the United States, to freedom and
peace in the world everywhere.
And rather than playing the fear card and trying to rile up the American
public, he did sometimes, but he also talked about the four freedoms. He
talked about the necessity for security at home and abroad coming from
freedom from want, right?
So there is an attempt to balance the fearmongering. Of course, Roosevelt
was also responsible, as Trump has reminded in the last few days, for the
interment of Japanese Americans.
But the vision, the alternative vision of bringing opportunity, freedom to
the world, as a way of providing greater security in the long run was I
think one of his enduring legacies.
HARRIS-PERRY: It`s a harder claim for politicians to make, right? Because
in some ways, the American project is a really hard one. It is claiming
that in the long run, we are a safer, better people when we are freeing.
But at every point, we have fallen short of actually substantiating that in
our policy. And yet, it`s striving towards the ideal, rather then the
shrinking from it, that are our best selves.
BELTRAN: There are choices between freedom and security. And the fact
that freedom is tough, is hard food to digest, that freedom is difficult,
right? Freedom is a challenge, freedom is work, right?
But I think the other thing that`s so interesting is that Trump has been
performing, people say he`s been performing toughness, but he`s been
performing hysteria. He`s been performing hysteria over and over again.
In part what`s so interesting about FDR is these were moments of real
crisis where we were really in need of a serious, calm person to help us
perform resilience. And it`s so interesting that we actually need
leadership that helps us perform resilience and there`s kind a demand –
and sometimes from the media to like perform hysteria, perform fear,
because somehow that`s going to show you`re representative of your
When really we need a resilience and language that says, statistically,
you`re fine. And we live in a world of uncertainty, and that`s OK. We
live through it every day.
HARRIS-PERRY: And let me suggest that the communities which we will find
those best examples to follow around resilience are actually from precisely
the communities that we often think of as – this is where the fear is.
So, you were saying in an earlier block, I support freedom of speech, I
support the right of people to be racist, and we`re look at your Twitter
feed in the break and the kind of horror that is being sent to you 140
characters at a time.
And I`m thinking, and yet you sit on air, always with a kind of striving
towards the American way of saying freedom, freedom of speech, of thought.
And I just keep thinking, we are so confused about where we can find the
models of actually how to push back against terror, because you are sitting
here being terrorized by the Internet and showing, right, this model. But
people are unwilling to see it because you are Muslim.
SARSOUR: I`m an American. That`s why I`m an activist.
One of the things that – I commend our men and women in service both in
police departments as well as in the military, who – some of whom are
But the fact we have to be, like, we served in the Army. We`re also police
officers. But we`re also doctors. We`re also teachers. We`re also
taxicab drivers and workers.
And I`m a social worker. I run an organization that provides direct social
services to people in need. Do I have to, you know, alleviate your fears
or have to show you how patriotic of an American I am because I have to
tell you that Muslims have served in the military?
That is not how I want to be defined as a community. We are part of every
facet of society. Until I walk down the street and you look at me saying,
just another American, going about her day, that if we`re not able to ever
do that, we`re not going to be ever in a safe place for all of us.
SIDDIQUI: And this is what was missing from the Republican response of
Donald Trump and his comments. You can look at all those statements they
gave distancing themselves from his proposal.
But no one did what, for example, President Bush did one week after 9/11.
No one spoke about Islam as a religion of peace. No one stood up for
Muslims in America.
Paul Ryan actually did, the House speaker, in his own statement on this.
But, you know, he so widely condemned the president in his own nationwide
address for speaking about how Muslim-Americans are an integral part of the
society and what roles they play, just like your neighbors. And none of
the candidates were willing to do that. That really speaks to where they
are as a party and what they`re catering to in terms of their base.
HARRIS-PERRY: I found myself in the weird place of yearning for President
George W. Bush.
HARRIS-PERRY: An indication of where we are.
Thank you to Cristina Beltran and Thomas Sugrue, and to Sabrina Siddiqui
and to Linda Sarsour.
And up next, a big update on one of my favorite foot soldiers.
HARRIS-PERRY: We`ve been discussing the effects of fear, fear of
terrorism, fear of random violence, but I want you to imagine how scary it
must be to be a parent who cannot afford basic necessities for your child.
Fear of having to choose, day to day, between food and diapers. This fear
is a reality for 1 in 3 families in our country. Safety net programs like
WIC and the federal food assistant programs do not cover the cost of
That`s part of the reason why one of our favorite foot soldiers is a woman
we featured two years ago. She`s been working to make this terrifying
choice between food and diapers or medicine and diapers a little less
urgent by helping families in her community.
Michelle Old was the mom of a new infant who had a medical condition
requiring dozens of changes daily, thinking of how awful it would be to be
unable to afford clean diapers for her son, she loaded up her car with
diapers and distributed them to families in need.
In January 2013, she formed the Diaper Bank of North Carolina, and it began
as a one-woman operation, and it has grown to 150 volunteers across the
state of North Carolina who have now distributed more than 750,000 diapers.
And now, Michelle and groups like the Diaper Bank of North Carolina might
get some more help. A group of congressional Democrats are advancing
legislation to provide diaper assistance to families in need.
The Hygiene Assistance for Families, Infants and Toddlers Act of 2015 was
introduced last month by Minnesota Democrat, Congressman Keith Ellison and
cosponsored by 19 members of the House of Representatives. One of those
co-sponsors is Representative Barbara Lee, a Democrat from California who
joins me now from Berkeley.
And back with us in Nerdland from Raleigh, North Carolina, is Michelle Old,
founder of the Diaper Bank of North Carolina.
Representative Lee, I want to start with you. Tell me what this bill would
do if it passes?
REP. BARBARA LEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Thank you very much, Melissa.
Let me just congratulate Michelle and just thank you because this is an
example of how the democracy works. We`re inspired by what Michelle has
done and we want this to be part of policy that HR-4055 would put into
What we want to do, Congressman Ellison, Congresswoman DeLauro, myself and
others, is toe require states to develop a demonstration project, or at
least allow states to do that and provide grants for those who need diaper
assistance. When you are looking at the fact that women and men spend $70
a month on diaper needs, yet a large percentage of the families either
reuse the diapers or delay the changing of diapers, that`s because they
don`t have the resources to purchase the adequate amount of diapers.
And so, we believe that the funds that could be allocated for a variety of
reasons could be allocated for diaper assistance, and we want to give
states the authority to develop these demonstration projects throughout the
HARRIS-PERRY: This is – I just have to say, I was so excited to hear
this, and, Michelle, because I have become, I think as many people who have
heard you speak, I just become a diaper advocate since the first time I
heard you talk about it.
So, help us to understand why diapers are so important, why are they a
health issue, and why are they such a big deal?
MICHELLE OLD, EXEC. DIRECTOR DIAPER BANK OF NC: And everyday work is about
diaper diapers, but it is much more than that. It is about connecting
families to resources that help them to become self-sustaining.
For example, we use diapers as a gateway to other services. So, we see
increased home visits that deter child abuse, we see increased
immunizations, we see families that are able to provide for their children,
take the diapers they need to the child care centers so they can go to work
and that they can buy the things they need for the family.
So, it is much more than a simple diaper. It has a huge impact on our
community, on the families that live in them, and on the children, because
HARRIS-PERRY: This is such a – I will never forget you making this point,
Michelle, that many child care centers require you the bring diaper, and
so, if you don`t have diapers, you can not drop the child off at child care
which means obviously, you can`t go the work.
And so, Representative Lee, you are the one congressional representative
who has come repeatedly on the show to talk with regular folks living their
lives dealing with the set of problems. You had that experience with
Tianna Gaines Turner. I am when you said this is how democracy is supposed
to work, I keep feeling, Representative Lee, like, exactly, we`re supposed
to look at the problems that exist in our community and then help
government is supposed to help us to fix them, make them better for people
who are trying to do better for themselves.
Tell me how likely you think that it is that this will pass the Congress
that we know is so split?
LEE: Well, thank you, Melissa. First of all, let me just say once again
to Michelle, and all of those who really are inspiring this effort. I
formerly was on at one point in public assistance, and food stamps. And
so, many don`t understand what this really means and how young women,
especially young women, have to really struggle just to make ends meet each
and every day.
And so, as chair of the task force on income inequality, poverty and
opportunity, we`re looking at innovative ways to help lift people out of
poverty. This is a very creative and innovative strategy to use.
And so, we are going to be fight and we`re going to make sure that this
legislation is going to get cosponsors. And, Michelle, I know that the
people around the country are going to support this, the more cosponsors we
can get and the more public awareness that is made in terms of educating
the public about the very important health aspects of this, what Michelle
said in terms of the comprehensive nature of the strategies to lift people
out of poverty. The more people learn about this, the more co-sponsorship
we can build, and then the more members of Congress will listen.
So, we just got to fight the good fight and we`re going to win sooner or
later. I had this long term struggle. It`s a marathon, but I`m really
confident that when people learn about what Michelle and others are going
through and what this movement is about, we`ll pass this legislation.
HARRIS-PERRY: Michelle, what is the one thing that you want people to
really know about the work that your diaper bank and others do across the
OLD: Well, we recently did a study through UNC Greensboro, and what is
really important to point out about that study is that the majority of
families that seek assistance with diapers are working families, over 75
percent of them in our study alone. They are working one to two jobs, and
they can still not afford the basic needs to keep their children healthy
and keep food on the table.
And we get calls all of the time from teacher, from military families that
cannot make ends meet. And so, we are really talk about working poor
struggling to provide the basic needs for their children and their
HARRIS-PERRY: I have said it to everybody in my life, all of my friends
and family, I have every single thing that I need and all I want for
Christmas is a donation to your local diaper bank.
Thank you to Representative Barbara Lee in Berkeley, California. Also,
thank you to Michelle Old in Raleigh, North Carolina.
That`s our show for today. Thanks to you at home for watching. And I`ll
see you tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern.
Tomorrow, on the show for all of the true nerds out there – race, gender,
and “Star Wars”.
Now, it`s time for the preview of “WEEKENDS WITH ALEX WITT”.
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