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 Lee
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 the couple.
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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.
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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.
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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 dangerous time.
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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 radicalization?
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 heard.
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 terrorism?
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 civil liberties.
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 1924 legislation.
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 peers.
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 far, Kelly?
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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 morning, Megan.
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.
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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 here.
(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 history.
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 country.
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 Marco Rubio.
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 ISIS extremists.
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 supremacist.
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 work.
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 black Muslims.
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 itself.
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 recruitment?
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 very nervous.
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 afraid.
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 why?
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 protective policies.
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 interesting, right?
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 us safe.
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 Republican.
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 Muslim.
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 diapers.
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 place.
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 country.
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 they`re healthier.
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 country?
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 families.
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".
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END