Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry is a national treasure. The braids-wearing professor, writer, and MSNBC television host is one of black America’s ultimate homegirls. There are many reasons why black women love MHP. She’s the Presidential Endowed Professor in Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University where teaches important courses about race, gender, motherhood, and hip-hop. She also brings the noise on her self-titled MSNBC weekend morning show.
Most importantly, the NAACP Image Award nominee can read with the best of them. She dresses guests down with an unparalleled intellectual grace. MHP also aims her canon at a new target with her weekly letters. As soon as she utters, “It’s me, Melissa,” viewers know to prepare for a read full of undisputable facts.
It’s gratifying to watch a black woman refuse to be silenced. Get in the action by watching seven of MHP’s best reads.
That time MHP called out a guest for saying it is risky to be wealthy
In a particularly contentious episode of MHP, panelists were debating if it’s riskier to be rich or poor. When business author Monica Mehta claimed that job creators, like then presidential candidate Mitt Romney, take risks, MHP quickly interjected with a fiery read.
“What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously! What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America? I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. I live in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kid into school because maybe it will be a good school and maybe it won’t. I am sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No. There is a huge safety net that whenever you fail will catch you and catch you and catch you. Being poor is what is risky. We have to create a safety net for poor people. And when we won’t, because they happen to look different from us, it is the pervasive ugliness.”
Tell ‘em girl!
That time MHP chided the New York Times for calling Shonda Rhimes an angry Black woman
The New York Times’ former television critic, Alessandra Stanley, wrote a scathing review of ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder that referred to Shonda Rhimes as an “angry Black woman.” Like so many black women, Harris-Perry was taken aback by the use of this historical stereotype to disrespect and degrade the important work Rhimes does at ABC. So, in true MHP fashion, the stylish host flipped the script. She made her audience imagine the New York Times writing a similar article about Aaron Sorkin, an acclaimed television writer responsible for “The Newsroom” and “The West Wing.”
“When Aaron Sorkin writes his autobiography, it should be called “How to Get Away With Being an Angry White Man,” MHP said. “This week, HBO announced that Mr. Sorkin’s “The Newsroom” will return for its third and final season on November 9.”
“It is yet another series from Sorkin that showcases a powerful, intimidating white man. This one is Will McAvoy, a blustering, monologue-prone, workplace bully played by Jeff Daniels, who won an Emmy for the role in 2013. And that clinches it: Mr. Sorkin, who wrought Dan Rydell on “Sports Night” and Toby Ziegler on “The West Wing” has done more to reset the image of white men on television than anyone since… Dr Phil.”
That time MHP called Star Wars racist
Star Wars: The Force Awakens is a global phenomenon. The movie’s made more than $765 million at the box office, according to Variety. MHP isn’t buying into the hype. While discussing the film on her show, MHP put her critical-thinking skills to use to make sure every Star Wars fan is woke.
“I know why I have feelings — good, bad and otherwise — about Star Wars,” Harris-Perry explained. “…I spent the whole day talking about the Darth Vader situation.”
“The part where he was totally a black guy, whose name was basically James Earl Jones,” she said. “While he was black he was terrible and bad, awful and used to cut off white men’s hand, and didn’t actually claim his son. But as soon as he claims his son, goes over to the good, takes off his mask and he is white — yes, I have many feelings about that.”
That time MHP told Chris Christie to pump his breaks on a presidential run
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, seemed like a shoo-in for the Republican nomination for president. His poll numbers were through the roof and he garnered support from the Republican base. However, MHP wasn’t convinced, so told him to slow his roll in an epic open letter.
“I’m going to need you to pump your brakes,” she said. “Your ability to lead people through the aftermath of a disaster does not qualify you to be president of the United States. Just ask Rudy Giuliani.”
“Oh, that Time Magazine cover line certainly had it right–you are the master of disaster. It’s just that the disaster struck long before Hurricane Sandy came ashore. Let’s hope you do a better job presiding over the state’s storm recovery than you’ve done presiding over New Jersey’s economic recovery. Because New Jersey’s economic performance ranked 47th in the nation in 2011. And right now, the [New Jersey] unemployment rate is 9.6%–surpassing the national rate by almost 2%.”
Tell it like it is!
That time MHP called out a writer for saying FLOTUS is a “feminist nightmare”
MHP wasn’t having it when Politico Magazine called Michelle Obama a “feminist nightmare” for saying that being a “mom-in-chief” is her most important job. She called the article’s writer, Michelle Cottle, out for having a “simplistic piece” that ignored history.
“When she calls herself mom-in-chief, she is rejecting a different stereotype–the role of Mammy. She is saying that her daughters–her vulnerable, brilliant, beautiful black daughters–are the most important thing to her. The first lady is saying, ‘You, Miss Ann, will have to clean your own house, because I will be caring for my own.’ Instead of agreeing that the public sphere is more important than Sasha and Malia, she buried Mammy and embraced being a mom on her own terms. So that can be your feminist nightmare, but it is my black motherhood dream.”
That time MHP gave a crash course about black women’s hair
Black women’s hair is a political conversation that seems never ending. Our motives are always questioned, no matter how we wear our tresses. MHP, for one, is tired of explaining basic black hair techniques to white folks, so she broke it down as only she can. Oh, and don’t ask her about Good Hair. That conversation won’t end well.
That time MHP told an activist to “have a seat”
Elaine Donnelly is the president of the Center for Military Readiness, an organization that promotes “high standards and sound priorities for our military men and women.” Yet, Donnelly has spent more than 20 years attempting to exclude LGBTQ Americans from military service. She’s spewed hatred about members of the LGBTQ community in order to evoke fear in homophobic and transphobic people.
MHP read her for filth in one of her weekly open letters.
“More than 20 years after you began your small-minded campaign, it might be time for you to have a seat,” Harris-Perry said. “Transgender Americans serve at double the rate of the general population and their service is part of what we, the American people, will celebrate on Monday. Because the American people overwhelmingly support equal treatment for LGBT Americans in the workplace. And so do I, especially when their workplace is the battlefield.”
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