Politics Nation, Transcript 8/6/2017
Show: POLITICS NATION
Date: August 6, 2017
Guest: Jason Johnson, Elise Jordan, Tara Dowdell, K.W. Tullos, Jonah
Pesner, April Reign, Rebecca Theodore-Vachon, Michael Eric Dyson
AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning and welcome to “PoliticsNation.”
Lots to talk about this morning on the state of our civil rights under
President Trump as we`re just three weeks away from our march for justice
in Washington, D.C. marking the 54th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther
King`s “I have a Dream” speech.
This week, the Trump administration has taken more steps against
immigration, affirmative action and police accountability. More on that,
though, in a moment.
Also, tensions were already high between the black community and police in
Detroit on a hot summer night in 1967. We`ll take a look at a new
historical thriller out this week telling that story, it`s called
But we start with the latest in the investigation into Russia`s involvement
in the 2016 elections. Joining me now is Jason Johnson, political editor
of “The Root” and professor at Morgan State University.
Jason, a lot of talk this week about leaks, the attorney general going very
high profile and aggressive in announcing we are going after the leaks,
that this is, quote, a culture of leaks and they won`t tolerate it, even
suggesting that they wanted to look again at how and what they can do to
media people or people in the press that talk to people that provide them
with leaks. I mean, what are we looking at here this week and where are we
in this investigation?
JASON JOHNSON, POLITICAL EDITOR, THE ROOT: Well, we`re looking at the
continuing march forward of an attempted authoritarian regime.
You know, rev, the only thing that we can be comfortable with as Americans
is the shear incompetence of this administration that they haven`t been
more effective in implementing the sort of bit by bit destruction of
democracy that people like Steve Bannon are seeking and people like Jeff
Sessions are complaisant in attempting to create.
The leaks, as to what or how that information got out about President Trump
and his conversations. We have absolutely no idea. And the administration
has every right to be curious about those things.
But they`re so hypocritical when it comes to leaks that it`s hard to take
their threats, it`s hard to take their concerns as anything other than a
shadow attempt to suppress the press.
When leaks help the Trump campaign in 2016, he had no problem with it.
When leaks now reveal the cracks within his administration and their
inability to handle even the most basic of tasks, suddenly they`re a
It`s those very same leaks that might lead us to one day understand what
role, if any, Russia had in implementing this administration and helping it
SHARPTON: Those are the two things that cause the most concern to me.
One, of course, the hypocrisy because they had no problem with leaks as you
clearly stated when it benefited their particular politics and agenda.
But secondly, what is being leaked they`re not addressing? We are talking
about undermining voting in this country and voters with misinformation.
And rather than seeming to be concerned that people are being unfairly and
in many ways duped with misinformation, which should be an outrage to all
of us, they`re more worried about who told than what is being told and what
may have transpired.
JOHNSON: And, rev, I`ll add to that. You know, part of what makes this
problematic and Russia and then sort of the behavior of this administration
in some respects are two different things.
Look, Mueller put together a grand jury because obviously they think that
something wrong has happened, whether it has to do with President Trump
himself or it has to do with his children or has to do with associates.
This investigation has been going on since 2015, so that`s going to
But this notion of leaks and how they want to connect that to Russia, the
issue is we already know that the Trump administration itself has attempted
to leak information, false information in the past, and attempt to trap the
So it`s extremely troubling that we have an administration that is so
incapable of doing the basic running of the government that they`re
concerned with beating up the press, putting out some sort of false
narrative rather than pushing forth the agenda that the minority of the
country that put them into office claims that they want.
SHARPTON: Well, pardon me, maybe I`m mistaken, but isn`t this also where
there were meetings with people that told them on e-mails to Donald Trump
junior we will give you information from Russians themselves about Hillary
I mean, and you`re going to cry about leaks when you were seeking to meet
with people from the adversarial country that promised you information?
But why clutter the issue with facts? Thank you, Jason Johnson.
To continue this discussion, I want to bring in MSNBC political analyst
Elise Jordan, a former adviser to Senator Rand Paul`s campaign and
columnist for “Time.” And of course Tara Dowdell a democratic strategist
and former “Apprentice” contestant.
Elise, how do we really get all hyped up and all out of ourselves with
concern when we`re being told by people who on the record sought
information by leaks from people from Russia, whatever other means, that
now all of a sudden they want to come down on the culture of leaks?
I mean, can we really understand why a lot of American people are saying,
well, wait a minute now, you can`t have it both ways?
ELISE JORDAN, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it`s incredibly hypocritical,
but are we really surprised? This was – the president asked in a press
conference last summer, he said, please, give me Russia, give me Hillary
Clinton`s missing e-mails. So really the behavior isn`t a surprise at all.
What I`m most interested in was the Friday report from “The New York Times”
saying that Mueller was looking into former national security adviser
shortest tenure in 24 days, Mike Flynn`s financial dealings with the
That is really a significant development that they are actually getting
documents from the White House and looking into specific wrongdoing.
And this investigation is going to go on for a while, but it certainly
seems like there is something there given the team that Mueller has
SHARPTON: Now, Tara, the politics of this, clearly we don`t know where the
investigation will go, you can have long investigations that go nowhere,
you can have long investigations that go somewhere. We`ll see.
But the politics of this, we see the president went to west Virginia, we
see his base being rallied to support him, and a lot of what the Attorney
General Sessions says is really more toward the politics of the base than
really having any legal bearing because I don`t know what they would do
more about trying to find out who the leaks are and how far they could
really go in trying to stifle the press in reality.
Is this more about just trying to galvanize your base and keep them intact
because there`s been some erosion in the polls with some of the white male
vote that was with President Trump.
TARA DOWDELL, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, there are a few things going
on. Number one, to your point, Jeff Sessions is playing politics and one
of the main reasons is because he had fallen out of Donald Trump`s good
So he saw this sort of rhetoric around I`m going to crack down on these
leaks as a mechanism or a means to get back into the good graces –
SHARPTON: An audience of one, Donald Trump.
DOWDELL: Exactly. An audience of one, Donald Trump. Because what he
doesn`t want is for Donald Trump to keep taking shots at him on Twitter and
diminishing him publicly, which Donald Trump was doing.
So as you can see when he announced this sort of crackdown on leaks, when
he announced the affirmative action he`s going to pursue cases of
discrimination against white people, when he announced those things Trump
responded positively to those.
Secondarily to your point, the base. The base wants to hear these things
because Donald Trump has done an amazing job of playing into this sort of
victim mentality that many in the base have, that they are the true victims
and they are aggrieved and they need to be made whole. So that`s number
The other piece of that is the base really, really – you know, responded
to anything that was geared towards attacking minorities. So for some in
the base, a big part of it is just pure racism, right?
SHARPTON: Well, that`s what he ran on.
SHARPTON: Elise, he ran with dog whistles. You are not doing what you
could be doing. You are not living at the level that you could. Your
dreams could come true if it wasn`t for them. They`re taking your jobs,
they`re coming across the border dealing with the things you should have.
It was the birth of whole politics that he emerged from. That is Donald
Trump`s political mantra is them, they, they, they, those over there, and
that`s what they played this week.
JORDAN: Well, rev, I mean, you certainly know as well as anyone this is
not new territory for Donald Trump.
JORDAN: You look at the 1980s and he took out a full page ad in “The New
York Times” of accusing five young men of murder and saying that they
should be executed.
I mean, this is not someone who has any moral high ground when it comes to
just basic issues of human decency.
SHARPTON: I had marches on his office about that.
I think people don`t understand, Elise, what you just said, and Tara, he
comes out of a lot of the racial tone of New York. You`ve got to study the
`80s and`90s in New York to understand the tone that he nationalized.
People think the movement was just in the `60s. New York and the northern
movement is where you got Donald Trump from learning how to play dog
I`ve got to go. Thank you both. Elise Jordan and Tara Dowdell.
Coming up, marching for justice in our nation`s capital, this time,
religious leaders of all faiths are talking and taking the lead. Some of
them join me next, right here on “PoliticsNation.”
SHARPTON: Welcome back. On August 28th, just three weeks away, I`ll be
marching in Washington, D.C. with several other ministers in a march for
justice marking the 54th anniversary of Dr. King`s “I Have a Dream” speech,
and taking the Trump administration to task for endangering that dream.
To register, visit nationalactionnetwork.net, sign up and stand up.
Among those thousand ministers marching joining me now is the Reverend K.W.
Tullos, pastor of the Weller Street Missionary Baptist Church in Los
Angeles. And Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center
of Reform Judaism.
Let me go to you first, Rabbi. One of the striking things about 54 years
ago when Dr. King and others marched is it was interdenominational, it was
interracial. You and I talked by phone.
I remember as a kid, I was too young to go to the march, I was about nine
years old. But as a kid when I did become involved in the movement at 13,
I met Rabbi Abraham Heschel who marched with Dr. King in Selma.
So when we have this march today raising issues about maintaining the dream
across the board, it`s very important as we do that across denominational,
religious and even ethnic lines as you and others are coming on board
saying the dream has nothing to do with how one practices their faith, it`s
the moral code that we need to emphasize for the whole country.
JONAH PESNER, DIRECTOR, RELIGIOUS ACTION CENTER OF REFORM JUDAISM: That`s
right, Reverend Al. Thanks so much for having me. I`m going to be honored
to be marching with you to commemorate the “I Have a Dream speech.
What Rabbi Heschel said when he came back from Selma with Dr. King was that
it was as if he was praying with his legs.
So, Reverend Sharpton, you and I and the other ministers and the imams and
the rabbis, we will be marching and praying with our legs. Because this is
not a nostalgia march, right? We are marching to protect, to defend the
dream which for too many dream has become a nightmare with mass
incarceration, with voter suppression, with people afraid of losing their
health care benefits.
So it`s important that we march, but that we march for the dream, getting
protected for the future, not just nostalgia for the past.
SHARPTON: Reverend Tullos, it is not a nostalgia march because we saw when
President Trump came in office, President Obama had put the bust of Dr.
King in the oval office, President Trump said I`m going to keep the bust
in, but I`m adding Winston Churchill, but did he put the dream out?
Because in the dream of Dr. King, he talked about voting rights, which is
now under siege. He talked about poverty which we are really clearly
dealing with as the rabbi just referred to, rather. And he talked about
criminal justice reform. He talked about the idea of health care.
Dr. King said that in the speech. All of this is in danger right now, so
this thousand ministers march is to say, wait a minute, you can`t
commemorate the dreamer and kill the dream.
K.W. TULLOS, PASTOR, WELLER STREET MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH: You`re so
Again, August 28th countless ministers are coming beyond the walls of the
church to really, really focus on the needs of our community.
These last seven months has been dismal. Many of our – many of the
policies that are being proposed are aimed at cutting the – cutting down
on the backs of our members.
And it`s very important, again, for us as religious leaders to reach out
beyond the walls and the press and to make this administration know that
our members are at stake. This is why we`re here. We`re there
representing our people. We are there to let the folks know that we are
there with them and we want this administration to take notice that, hey,
this is important.
You are messing with people`s lives and we recognize that everything is at
stake and that`s what we plan to do August 28th.
SHARPTON: You know, rabbi, when I look at the fact that you referred to
mass incarceration, when I look at when we see the continued cases of
police brutality that all of us support good policing, but that we are not
dealing with the bad police as well as the fact that this attorney general
has said I`m even questioning consent decrees.
I look at our colleagues in the NAACP this week talking about a travel
warning for the state of Missouri because of any number of situations with
black motorists in the state of Missouri. And yet in the midst of all of
this, I look one morning and ministers are in the oval office laying hands
on President Trump and praying and saying God bless him and strengthen him
in what he`s doing without questioning what he`s doing.
That`s why I think some other faith leaders need to come and say we`re not
here to condemn the president, but we`re here to uplift justice and
fairness while y`all are blessing this – is going on.
PESNER: That`s right. And I would say first of all, as you know, I`m a
proud board member of the NAACP, which is the oldest and the largest civil
rights organization in America, and with a long history of Jewish
And we all ought to be concerned when the NAACP state conference in
Missouri issues a travel warning. This is a state where 75 percent more
likely to be pulled over by law enforcement if you`re black than if you`re
And, you know, we need to be concerned. We need to be concerned that we
have 2.3 million souls incarcerated in America, more than any other country
in the world. And if you are a black man, you have a one in three chance of
going to prison, whereas if you are a white man you have a one in seventeen
chance. That is an inequality and an enduring racism that must be
So when we march on August 28th, we`re going to be truly marching for that
dream and to hold our elected officials accountable, as you said.
By the way, I have great hope because we proved over the last few weeks
with health care access, when folks across lines of difference, people of
faith, Muslims, Christians, Jews, civil rights advocates, health care
advocates, when we mobilized and organized across the country in all 50
states and put pressure on the United States senate, we protected and
defended health care access for millions of Americans. So we can do this,
SHARPTON: Reverend Tullos, you`ve been on the front line with me and
others from Staten Island with Eric Garner case to Ferguson to voting
rights, in Selma commemorating that and fighting these voter ID laws, you
worked with what I call the coming new guard of National Action Network and
other legacy organizations.
At this point, the critical issues have not really been tackled by the
faith community, the faith leaders and we`ve seen it appear that the
evangelicals who are more to the right have spoken for the church.
Will August 28th begin to change that and really raise the profile of those
in the faith community that a more progressive and more in line with the
teachings of a Dr. Martin Luther King or Dr. Ralph Abernathy.
TULLOS: I really believe, rev, this march on August 28th will in deed do
Again, when we talk about many of the civil rights challenges of our time
from health care to income equality to poverty, again, who are speaking for
And it`s up to us as faith religious leaders to continue to press and to
continue to stress the importance of the community.
Again, it seemed like so many of the policies that are being implemented
and proposed is not of our community. And again, who better to speak to
these issues than us as faith and community leaders. And we`re looking to
do that August the 28th.
SHARPTON: Rabbi, I think also what`s important there is beyond the
politics, because we made this clear this is not partisan, is the morality.
When we`re talking about a health care proposal, which was proposed in the
senate, that would cost up to 34 million people their health insurance,
you`re talking about people watching me right now with preexisting
conditions, talking about people right now that need their medicine, it is
immoral to play with people`s health care and lives.
You`re talking about people sitting in jail that did nothing wrong, some
that did a minor offense that will lose their many years of their lives.
That`s immoral. I mean, I think that we have taken the morality out and
the sensitivity out of a lot of the issues and just looked at what side
we`re on rather than what do we stand for as a nation.
PESNER: That`s right, Reverend Al. I think the faith community, the
ministers, the rabbis, the imams, and other faith leaders, we have a unique
role to play in proclaiming that prophetic voice.
What God calls us to do is to pursue justice to love mercy and walk humbly
with God, so we will be walking humbly but marching proudly on August 28th
and we`ll be lifting up that moral voice.
I`m very proud that it was in the offices of the Religious Action Center of
Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C. that the voting rights act of 1965 was
drafted and the civil rights act of `64.
But those acts are under siege now. The voting rights act, as you know,
was eviscerated in a Supreme Court case in Shelby in 2012.
As you referenced a moment ago, we have voter suppression laws all across
the country, one in North Carolina that was called racist with surgical
precision by a federal appeals court when it got thrown out. So we need to
lift the moral voice but we also need to organize and mobilize at the
grassroots level as you`re doing on August 28th.
SHARPTON: Well, I thank you both very much, Reverend K.W. Tullos and Rabbi
Up next, could smoking marijuana lead to the destruction of this country?
SHARPTON: And now for this week`s gotcha.
It may still surprise some of you that as a minister I am an avid proponent
for the legalization of marijuana. No, I still don`t light up myself,
minus a cigar or two, but I`m still for all the reasonable drug policies
that doesn`t treat marijuana like heroin and non-violent users like cartel
While I don`t endorse cannabis use in every instance, say, behind the
wheel, driving, I also acknowledge that some of the smartest people in
modern history have admitted to smoking weed.
We`ll get to that in a minute. Because one of the dumbest things a
conservative outside of Washington said this week came courtesy of
professional provocateur Ann Coulter.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANN COULTER, POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No one gets arrested and tried for a
possession of marijuana. Marijuana makes people retarded. Especially when
they`re young. We`ve got enough busboys, we`re bringing in busboys by the
million through our immigration policy. We do not need a country of
busboys. We`re destroying the country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: I apologize, folks. I meant the dumbest and meanest. Let`s
start with the meanness. First, because in 2016 retarded when used in this
manner is widely considered to be hate speech that belong in the past with
the “N” word and other outdated insults.
Maybe that`s why on behalf of a mentally disabled girl seen here President
Obama signed a law removing the term from federal language. Oh, and no one
gets arrested for pot? Tell that to the more than seven million people
arrested on weed charges for 2001 to 2010.
They weren`t all busboys. But here is a little exercise for you, Ms.
Coulter, a game called guess who`s smoked weed and is smarter than you.
From the top, human economy, Bill Gates. Late inventor of everything,
Steve Jobs. And queen of all things, Oprah Winfrey. And of course
President Barack Obama who you famously referred to as a retard in 2012.
All of them have admitted to smoking pot and none of them have destroyed
the country. Quite the opposite. And believe me when I say that. I`d
rather hold my breath to hang with any of them than take a single deep
breath of your hot air.
Ms. Coulter, take a page from the `60s and mellow out. But remember this
when you come down, I gotcha.
SHARPTON: Minority filmgoers account for nearly half of Hollywood`s box
office receipts, despite the documented absence of faces of color on screen
and in leadership roles behind the scenes. It`s not complicated.
Fans of color support content that speaks to them, regardless of the
complexions depicted. Case in point, HBO`s mega hit series “Game of
Thrones” while it centers on a fictionalized myth in Europe, black viewers
have embraced the show`s mix of high fantasy and high drama as their own.
And so naturally black social media was inflamed by the news that the
show`s main producers in choosing the premise for their next HBO project
had decided on an alternative history, an alternate history, in which the
confederacy won the civil war and African-Americans remained enslaved into
the present day.
It even has an easy to remember name, “confederate.”
The fallout has had HBO doing damage control for the last week and a new
campaign from the woman behind the #Oscarsowhite has been picking up
traction from television.
Also in answer mega producer Will Packer and master satirist Aaron McGruder
announced this week that their Amazon studios project in which freed slaves
created a thriving nation in the Postwar South is in, quote, very, very
I think my guests and I can relate a bit more to the title of this
collaboration, the duo is called “Black America.”
Joining me now from Washington is April Reign, creator of the No
Confederate and #Oscarsowhite campaign hashtags on social media, and here
in New York, we have filmmaker Rebecca Theodore -Vachon, co-host of the
Cinema In Noir radio show. Thank you both for being with me.
APRIL REIGN, CREATOR, NO CONFEDERATE: Thank you for having us.
SHARPTON: April, let me go to you. You have been out there really active
on social media, Oscars so white which many of us were in the streets
complimenting what you had done with hashtag, now you are I can`t say
beating the drums, let me say hitting your laptop and putting the pressure
on around the confederate. Why – what is your fear, what is your warning
REIGN: Our concern here is that the commodification of black pain for
others enjoyment must stop. This can`t be an alternate history when we
have people like Dylann Roof who is a confederate flag waver, walking into
a house of peace and killing nine black people in cold blood.
When we have the textbooks in the state of Texas literally rewriting
history so that Africans and African-Americans were no longer enslaved
people in this country but merely servants as if they were just waiting for
a better job on LinkedIn.
HBO can do a much better job than this particular show and we would like to
see them open this up to other opportunities for marginalized communities
to have their stories told.
SHARPTON: Now, let me ask you, Rebecca, we have on one side the
confederate that we don`t know when it will show, I understand they haven`t
even started writing but it`s certainly slated, and you have on the other
side “Black America” on the Amazon series which is going to show blacks
controlling their own country.
Are we seeing flipsides of the same kinds of things or are we seeing again
because of the domination of whites behind the cameras in an executive
positions that there`s an unfair depiction of blacks and every once in a
while something like “Black America” has put in to try to calm the waters
in terms of the broader media world?
REBECCA THEODORE-VACHON, RADIO HOST: Right. I think we need to look at
and interrogate where these stories are coming from. As far as “Black
America” these are black creators, this is Aaron McGruder, this is Will
On the other hand, we have the two white creators of “Game of Thrones” who
– if you watch “Game of Thrones” in the past seven seasons, their
depiction of people of color are usually slaves or they`re under the order
of a white woman, the Daenerys character. I think people really need to
To what I understand, the two creators of “Game of Thrones” have never
chimed in on the current state of black America.
Yes, they have signed Michelle and Malcom`s filming who are the two black
executive producers and writers, you know. They`ve gone on NPR and said
that they are not the patsies, they`re not –they are fully partners in
this creation, but that doesn`t alleviate my fear because, you know,
they`re saying that they`re equal partners which means that they`re equally
complicit, which means that they didn`t challenge the two white creators on
“Game of Thrones” on what their premise was.
The premise is it`s an alt history. It`s not alt history. As Bree Newsome
said, how can you create an alt history when people don`t even know the
SHARPTON: April, you know, one of the things that you alluded to was given
opportunities to others in terms of people of color because there has been
a shutout of a lot of creative, talented people being able to get access to
a lot of the airwaves, a lot of the projects that should be financed and
So we`re talking about a community that provides half of the moviegoers,
half of a lot of the viewership, but nowhere near that in terms of getting
a lot of their talent and a lot of their creative work out there.
And when people like my group, National Action Network or others come and
raise that, oh, you all are shaking us down, when, in fact, they`re shaking
down the consumers by enjoying their support, getting advertising dollars
from it, but not letting those same communities creative artists have
access to be able to expose and give the public the benefit of their
REIGN: That`s exactly right, Reverend Al. What I have always said with
Oscar so white is that the moviegoers, the people who pay their hard-earned
money every day to sit in that darkened theater should be able to see
themselves on screen.
And that`s regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, ability or
disability or first nation status. So what Benioff and Weiss, the
producers of “Game of Thrones” could have done and can still do is to use
their significant leverage with HBO and open up the process to
traditionally underrepresented communities, to allow other stories could be
told rather than this alt history of their own.
One in fact wonders when this show was green lit how many people of color,
how many people of the marginalized communities were in the room? Because
We need to start from the script stage, from the pitch idea stage all the
way to what is seen onscreen.
SHARPTON: Who is making the decisions, Rebecca, is part of the problem.
We went through this with Sony a few years ago with Amy Pascal.
Who is in the room making the decisions April`s raising which I have to say
is something we all have agreed to and have for some time.
THEODORE-VACHON: Right. If you look at “Game of Thrones” track record –
and this is the thing, everybody is saying that they want to give this show
a chance. But again, we have to go back to “Game of Thrones,” right?
Which is their first and most successful show.
To my knowledge, not one black director has ever directed an episode of
“Game of Thrones.” And in front of the camera and behind the camera as
well. Are there any black writers of “Game of Thrones?” It seems to me
that it`s very interesting that the onetime that Benioff and Weiss have
actually reached out to black creators is when they want to do a show that
shows a alt history of black people still being oppressed in present day,
which is really an insult to our culture and also to our talent.
SHARPTON: Well, I`ve got to leave it there. Thank you both. Always good
to talk to you, April Reign and Rebecca Theodore-Vachon. Glad to have you
Up next, shedding light on the rioting and civil unrest in the Motor City
50 years ago. Based on a new historic thriller film “Detroit.” We`ll be
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hit the deck.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who`s shooting?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It just starts racism.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Detroit is setting a war, the violence continues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get on the floor.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whatever we can do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m just going to assume you`re all criminals.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don`t talk about this to anyone ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: Within the many touchstones of the civil rights era are
countless stories that the wider public does not know and does not hear.
In late July of 1967 in the middle of the long hot summer that saw dozens
of race riots and rebellions erupt nationwide, the city of Detroit was
rocked by four days of domestic unrest unmatched since the civil war.
In the midst of the chaos was the tragedy at the Algiers Motel in which
several black occupants and two young white women were beaten, tortured and
killed by law enforcement.
It was this untold story that Oscar-winning filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow
brings to pulse pounding life in her feature “Detroit.”
Joining me now is a native of Detroit, the one and only Dr. Michael Eric
Dyson. He`s a professor at Georgetown University and author of the book
“Tears We Cannot Atop, A Sermon to White America.”
Thank you for being with me, Dr. Dyson.
MICHAEL ERIC DYSON, PROFESSOR, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY: Thank you, Reverend
SHARPTON: When I watched this the other night, I hosted one of the
screenings. I thought of you because you`re from Detroit.
SHARPTON: You more than anyone in academia have interpreted this problem
of policing today. Looking back 50 years when you were a kid, I was a kid.
SHARPTON: But I remember I was maybe 12, I remember the riots in Detroit
but this is the first time we`ve seen in a thriller the story told, the
viciousness and the context of why people erupted in the violence. Martin
Luther King used to say that the riots are the voice of the unheard.
DYSON: That`s right. No, that`s a brilliant summary and you`re absolutely
right that this film, for the first time, shows a spotlight not only on the
urban rebellion in `67, but a specifically tragic incident where three
black teens lost their lives at the hand of vicious police.
Now, we know that these police weren`t extraordinary that is to say that
the system itself produced the kind of pathology that demonized black
people that led to their deaths.
But the reality is that we`ve rarely seen, as you said a movie, a thriller,
a non-fiction – a fictional attempt here to come to grips with the truth
of that went on here and I think Kathryn Bigelow trains her powerful lens
on this incident to show us that if you think what`s gone on 50 years ago
has gone away, we know Philando Castile was here, we know Eric Garner is
still here, we know Sandra Bland is still here and Tamir Rice and time and
again we see this repeated.
The reality is that it makes us feel that we`re not crazy because it can`t
be black people`s fault if it happened 50 years ago and is still happening
50 years later, there must be something about the police department itself,
the police culture that really produces this kind of stigma on young, black
I think this film is such a powerful avocation to that. As you said, I was
eight years old. I remember the trailer smoke in the sky and asking my
mother what this was and she told me something about a blind pig. I didn`t
know what a blind pig was. I said, what does a sightless mammal have to do
with his – right, but I found out later that this after hours` club is
what sparked off the whole thing.
And, again, two returning soldiers from Vietnam who were being celebrated
and the police coming in to really devastate us. That`s the story that you
have helped put on the front pages, as well.
SHARPTON: Well, here`s it could have illustrating how the Detroit police
approached the investigation after the incident.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we have these conversations, we do them in stages.
OK. Stage one, witnesses. Stage two, suspects.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What stage are we in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don`t know what stage we`re in?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, could you specify it for me?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, we`re in stage two. You`re a suspect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SHARPTON: You know, I was reading your op-ed in this morning`s “New York
Times.” One of the things you talk about is you not only talk about this
is still happening and why and why people like me get involved.
You talk about how Bigelow put a human face on it. Because I think
sometimes people just see the issues. Those of us that are public figures
and don`t realize these are human beings. When you see the fear and terror
that these ordinary people in this motel was two white girls people start
saying, wait a minute, maybe they, as you stated clearly, are not crazy.
DYSON: That`s it. That`s a very powerful point.
I think one of the advantages that Bigelow gives to us and one of the
advantage she`s working within is to humanize these people and even to the
degree that is possible to humanize the opposition, though she shows that
it grows out of not only personal hatred, but a systemic and institutional
problem that really is perpetuated regardless of what these people think.
But you`re so right in terms of humanizing them and giving them a face and
a voice. Looking at the family and the aftermath. Somebody`s family is
hurt and pained and grieved. After their child goes down and after their
daughter dies, there is something of the human toll. The psychic toll that
black and other people endure.
We see in Minnesota when the white woman dies, the police chief resigns.
When the black man Philando Castile dies, there`s only handwringing and
nothing else going on.
So sometimes, a white body on a black problem illuminates the human depth
of it and what Kathryn Bigelow has done is brought her female privileges as
a female director to bare. I know some black people are saying, well,
she`s a white director.
Look, we demand that white people wrestle with and grapple with the problem
of race themselves. Don`t just leave it to black and brown people. What
she has bravely and courageously done here is attacked this problem head on
and looked at it with stilly determination to say what happened here was
wrong and evil and problematic and it must never happen again. This film
reminds us of the human toll that that particular tragedy –
SHARPTON: Well, some of us still finding it right now and I`m very glad
she put it on the screens so people could see why.
Thank you, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. Always honored to have you with us.
We`ll be right back.
SHARPTON: Once again, I`ll be marching in Washington, D.C. on August 28
with several others and the 1,000 ministers march for justice marking the
54th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King`s “I Have a Dream” speech. To
register, visit nationalactionnetwork.net. Sign up, stand up. Keep the
That does it for me. Thanks for watching and to keep the conversation
going, like us at facebook.com/politicsnation. And follow us on Twitter
I`ll see you back here next Sunday.
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