Melissa Harris-Perry Calls BS

Melissa Harris-PerryFew political commentators can call bullshit as well as Melissa Harris-Perry. In the clip below from yesterday’s show, she is talking about the Tennessee bill that would cut welfare funding from families who have children who are not performing well in school. I don’t have much to add to what she says, although I think I would go further. These lawmakers are not interested in improving how well students do in school. This is the same issue that we see elsewhere with conservatives trying to tie welfare benefits to clean drug tests. It is, in fact, the same thing that makes applying for food stamps a bureaucratic nightmare requiring 40 pages of documents while billion dollar bailouts of banks require just two.

It is no longer acceptable to say, “Get the blacks!” or “Get the Mexicans!” But given that conservatives think that all welfare recipients are black or brown, the “Get the shiftless poor person” has been a good substitute for their need to express their latent racist fury. I know that Harris-Perry feels the need to make nice. She is on national television, after all. And I’m sure she (rightly) thinks that calling out these racist shenanigans would be counterproductive.

I am under no such constraints. Anyway, I’m waging a longer-term battle here. It is one where we don’t wait for racist euphemisms to be retired before we call them out. From the passion that she shows on these issues, I know that Melissa Harris-Perry is a fellow (and far more successful) warrior. What this clip. It is a thing of joy.


Of course, I don’t want to leave the impression it is all about race. These people also hate the poor as poor. Did I focus on race because it was Tennessee? Maybe. But it doesn’t really matter. In the conservative mind there are two kinds of people: us and them. That’s why Rob Portman suddenly became pro-gay rights. He learned that part of “them” was in fact “us.” But that mentality defines conservatism.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

0 thoughts on “Melissa Harris-Perry Calls BS

  1. Every single friend I have is a teacher. All of them. And the first things teachers will tell you is that rich kids don’t do better in school because they’re smarter, but because their parents push them to do their homework. The only reason I did my homework is my mom forced me to. (She was not wealthy.)

    Poverty in this country is so damaging that being poor deranges people, and makes them less capable of routine parenting chores like getting kids to do their homework. Ms. Harris-Perry is right that the proposed Tennessee legislation would make life worse for poor kids. What she misses is the very real degree to which most poor people are, essentially, mentally disturbed, and no penalizing them further for being so is going to help.

    I don’t say this as a privileged snob. I say it as someone who has observed how fighting with my landlord has nuked my brain and turned it into oatmeal. If every waking minute of every day is spent fighting off the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, you just don’t have the wherewithal to focus on stuff like bugging your kids to do homework. Yeah, some amazingly devoted parents still do that, even after figuring out how to put food on the table. But those are insanely gifted and dedicated people. I’m not one of them, and I’m still capable of breeding.

    Most people are not particularly gifted parents. I realize that’s anathema, in a country where every TV show congratulates viewers for making babies, yet it’s the truth. If you want parents to be more attendant to the needs of their children, you have to make the parents’ lives less ooky and stressful.

    And this IS about race. Republicans can say Black kids are poor because their parents don’t bother to care, and there’s a remote degree of truth to it. If you say that white parents with the same level of stress are equally incapable of caring, you’re stepping on the third rail. You’re poking at the only self-satisfaction, the only sense of pride, most poor Americans have. Tell them that deranging their children with convoluted religious-based sexual hangups makes them noble, and you’ll be a country-music star. Tell them they’re rather crummy parents, and they;ll put you in the stockade.

    This is rambling nonsense but I think you get the gist of it. There’s a reason kids in Scandinavian countries do better than ours at everything, and it isn’t because we’re genetically inferior to Finns. It’s because Finns can have kids and not be tormented by everyday poverty, which allows them the mental capability to nag kids into doing their homework.

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