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The April 6 'MHP' Syllabus

What really causes African American poverty? We'll dig into the Coates-Chait debate, DeSean Jackson and "gang ties," and mark 50 years of the Civil Rights Act.
DeSean Jackson
Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson #10 carried the ball during the NFL game between the Detroit Lions and the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday,...

Over the past few weeks, we’ve read along as two highly intelligent writers engaged in a weighty written debate on race, culture, and poverty.

Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine and Ta-Nehisi Coates of The Atlantic both explored the crux of what Rep. Paul Ryan meant when he suggested recently that there is a cultural problem in inner cities when it comes to valuing work. Coates’ argument addressed the issue of pathologizing poor black people, asking why liberals were so upset by Rep. Ryan’s words when they themselves, President Obama included, had often done the same. Chait, on the other hand, defended the notion that culture is complicit, to a degree, in the continuation of African American poverty.

On Sunday’s Melissa Harris-Perry, Coates and an all-star panel will join us to help us dissect both sides of this debate and discuss the vital importance of perspective when it comes to understanding race in America. 

Speaking of all-stars, we'll also continue the cultural conversation that has erupted from a bold move made recently by the NFL's Philadelphia Eagles: their surprising release of Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson. According to a spokesperson for the team, the decision was made because Jackson’s behavior did not fit with head coach Chip Kelly’s expectations. But speculation has arisen in the press that Jackson has a gang affiliation that factored into his removal.

It's been 50 years since President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. On its face, that act was vitally important because it ended practices of segregation. Finally, African Americans were able to reap the benefits of public services, the same services that their taxes had helped to fund for decades. However, in the years since the Civil Rights Act was signed, the political climate began to shift towards disinvestment in those services.

In the rapidly expanding world of social media, one outlet has arguably risen above the others as an effective method of personal, professional, and political communication. In a mere 140-characters or less, Twitter has become a vehicle to create political dissent, for activists to spread a message, and in some instances, for individuals to rally for or against other individuals. Take for example the recent Twitter campaign that called for yanking political satirist Stephen Colbert off the air. (Oh, and did you hear about Cuban Twitter?)

The American classic Gone with the Wind is adding a new chapter to the story. In October, the Margaret Mitchell estate will release a prequel to the novel that features "Mammy" as the protagonist. As you might imagine, our host has quite a few things to say about the role of "Mammy" in American culture.

Be sure to read what we’ve linked above, and watch Melissa Harris-Perry Saturday at 10 a.m. EST on msnbc! Also, don’t forget to join us on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #nerdland.