Thursday, February 4, 2016

Melissa Harris Perry in Iowa

While MSNBC news anchor and Wake Forest University professor Melissa Harris Perry was in Iowa earlier this week, reporting on the Iowa Caucus and mentoring a class of journalism students who were there for the real world instruction, an unsettling thing happened. As she was standing in the lobby of her Des Moines hotel, watching the returns, a man came up to her, pressing so close she could feel his breath.

How did you get credentialed to be here, he wanted to know. His tone was ugly.

She didn't know if he was there to kill her, but she felt his malevolence, and knew at once it was a possibility. She says things became a blur, a response to being violated that she'd learned in high school when an adult neighbor held her down and raped her. Now, in that hotel lobby in Iowa, she heard the man say the words "Nazi Germany" and she heard him say, "I just want you to know why I'm doing this." She knew whatever this was, it wouldn't be good, but she stood there, frozen in that helpless stupor that had overtaken her as a young teen.

It was only the sight of her students some feet away that rocked her back to the moment, that made her think that whatever this man intended, she didn't want her students to witness it, and so she jumped away from him, moved to the other side of the table at the same moment that her friend, who was almost surely white, stepped between her and the man. Now everyone's attention was on the man, who turned and ran out of the hotel, got into a waiting car, and drove off.

What the holy fuck.

That man was basically saying that as a black woman, she had no right to be there, in his part of the country, doing her job.

Some people tweeted that Melissa Harris Perry is just being dramatic, that this was no attack. Those people are tripping. I don't have a hair of doubt that she knew the true nature of what was going down. But why on earth should this hardworking journalist not be as free as her white peers to go where the news is happening and report on it? Why should she be more in jeopardy simply because her skin is a darker hue?

I blame Trump. I blame Cruz. I blame the hate speech of every right wing Tea Party or GOP candidate who's been out there, encouraging bigots to victimize and do violence to others based on nothing more than their difference from them.

Someone told me this morning that Clinton was just a Trump or a Cruz in disguise. Well, even if she is, at least she's not out there telling people it's okay to give in to their basest instincts. She's not out there stirring up the forces of hate. There are no perfect candidates in this presidential race, but some are intensely more dangerous than others.

Melissa Harris Perry wrote about the incident here.


  1. This was a potentially deadly assault and an example of the extreme racism that is rampant in this country. She has every right to go when and where she wants as a citizen. This is being played down because the media is corporately owned and controlled...I am just glad she came to no harm. Often now, I feel shame, anger, despair in what I see and read about in this country.

    1. e, anger I understand, but i would argue there is no call for shame as you are not part of the problem. you have awareness, and that is key. as for despair, well, i suppose that would mean no hope for improvement, and so let's not go there yet, dear friend.

    2. You know, I think shame is a natural reaction for a number of reasons. First of all, this idiot would probably assume (until proven otherwise) that any white person at the scene would be in agreement with him. He also thinks he is representing white people, and a few African Americans will think the same - and I wouldn't blame them. For that, I would be ashamed to be the same species let alone color as him.
      The irony in all of this is that the whites who spout this stuff are usually the lowest of the low in the first place.

  2. Oh god. It's all so true. And also- the fact that she is a woman. Not just a woman of a darker hue. But a woman. I don't know a woman in the world who has not had similar things happen to her but of course, add in the "Nazi Germany" thing and it's an even more sinister and evil situation. It has become absolutely unbelievable, the way our culture is so quickly enveloping this sinister evil. It is NOT acceptable, the things that are coming out of these politicians' mouths. Where is this going to end? And how? Because it simply must.
    I am in despair. I never in my life thought I would see and hear such things being accepted by the American people. Not only accepted, but cheered on.

  3. How completely terrifying. I keep saying that Trump is just one idiot but what scares me is that he is leading the poles. Nazi Germany, indeed! The Holocaust didn't happen overnight but after years of instilling hate and fear into it's people. God, what is our world going to be like for our children and their children? Is there any hope? I will leave you with a poem that I left on Ms. Moon's blog a few days ago.

    It's 3:23 in the morning, and I'm awake

    because my great, great, grandchildren won't let me sleep.

    My great, great, grandchildren ask me in dreams

    what did you do, while the planet was plundered?

    what did you do, when the earth was unraveling?

    surely you did something when the seasons started failing

    as the mammals, reptiles, and birds were all dying?

    did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?

    what did you do




    -Drew Dellinger - 2003

  4. Wow. 'What the holy fuck' indeed.

  5. I feel despair in reading this. Really I do.

  6. Very scary, and so VERY wrong. I don't understand how people can do this to other people.

  7. How is Clinton a Trump or Cruz in disguise?! I would be interested in hearing the thinking behind THAT statement.

    As for this incident, I hadn't heard about it -- but my take is the same as yours. People like Trump and Cruz (and Rush Limbaugh) are to blame for creating the conditions that make people think it's OK to say and do things like this. Outrageous. Really.

  8. That is very scary. I've been very scared at which way this world is going. Over here as well, instead of simply helping refugees, "right wing" parties are scaring people and telling them horror stories of people who just happen to look different. The "right wing" parties in power are making it worse by stationing soldiers in public places, heightening the fear. It all makes me feel hopeless.