"Oh – there is a this. He is going to do a this. To me."
February 3, 2016 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Melissa Harris-Perry recounts her terrifying experience in Iowa on Monday night, on a #WaketheVote trip with her political science students.
posted by roomthreeseventeen (51 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
People will minimize this incident, because nothing violent happened and no one saw a weapon. But this is what the good timeline looks like, for her.

Thank God all she will have to deal with is some bitching and muttering about her being "dramatic." I wish I'd had the nerve to be more "dramatic" about some things in my day.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:32 AM on February 3, 2016 [26 favorites]


This feels like half a story - in what context had she been on MSNBC? What had she said? How could the man håbe known where she'd be? Not that any answers would or could justify the events that transpired that night, but there are so many threads left entirely hanging in this, and it's super frustrating...
posted by Dysk at 8:32 AM on February 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Interesting in that, sometimes, a long piece of writing can be shrugged off in a moment, and a short piece like this will result in days of pondering.

Thanks for the post.
posted by HuronBob at 8:33 AM on February 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


She has a show on MSNBC, and it makes some people very, very angry, because she's a youngish, attractive black woman with a PhD and a platform.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:34 AM on February 3, 2016 [67 favorites]


I don't actually think it's a thread left hanging really, but she hosts a show on MSNBC. She's on every weekend.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:34 AM on February 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


She's also a regular fill-in host for MSNBC's biggest nighttime host Rachel Maddow. She's kind of one of the faces of MSNBC.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:36 AM on February 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


Did she get pushed over or did she faint?
posted by fraxil at 8:36 AM on February 3, 2016


Thanks - that sort of context would have been nice to have in the post.
posted by Dysk at 8:37 AM on February 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


The first link (attached to her name) contains: @WakeForest Professor, Director @AJCCenter, Executive Director @phiwfu, Host of @MHPShow, contributor to @TheNation & @EssenceMag, Director @WakeTheVote.
posted by czytm at 8:45 AM on February 3, 2016 [24 favorites]


I thought this piece was really interesting, thanks! Parts of it really resonated with me; I'm a former teacher and I definitely reacted differently when I was thinking of myself as a teacher than I would have in my personal life. There's stuff I tolerate all the time and don't even really think about that I would not stand for in front of my kids because wanted to model appropriate reactions and self-respect, plus I wanted to shelter them.

I I wonder how much of this is female socialization -- it's not okay to stand up for yourself but if you are protecting people in your care, it becomes noble. I'm glad I was able to support my kids, but I wish I were able to be brave because I feel like I deserve it, not because I want to protect someone else.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:50 AM on February 3, 2016 [32 favorites]


The world is full of loons. Put yourself in the public eye and, inevitably, one or more loons will fixate upon you. Especially if you push as many loon buttons as she apparently does. She was fortunate this time to be in the midst of a sympathetic crowd. May there be no next time...
posted by jim in austin at 8:56 AM on February 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


for those who read the comments first, this might be triggering for survivors of sexual assault. i am grateful she talked so clearly about the "the trance of survivor submission". it can be so hard to explain to people who haven't been in that spot.
posted by nadawi at 8:57 AM on February 3, 2016 [22 favorites]


and it makes some people very, very angry, because she's a youngish, attractive black woman with a PhD and a platform.

Yeah, the way some racist people rate other people that could be as many as four strikes against her. It partially reminds me of the time some radio jackass (Don Imus, I think) called Gwen Ifill of PBS a cleaning lady. When the person MHP wrote about questioned how she got credentialed, I interpret that as him suggesting that he thinks she's not qualified.

It was wrong for him to get that much in her face. It sounded like he was at least going to tell her off or threaten her or spit on her. If he's in his right mind, I think he'd wait for more privacy to physically attack her with a weapon.)

As a passionate Maddow fan I watch some MSNBC, but I wouldn't expect someone who dislikes the MSNBC point of view to watch it much at all. This makes me wonder if one of her segments was picked up and criticized by Fox or another network.

He would maybe know where to find her if she had done some kind of on site reporting from in front of the hotel, or (yikes) if he had followed her from a previous appearance.
posted by puddledork at 9:04 AM on February 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't have thought to put in a lot of context if I had made this post either, but Dysk isn't from or in the US, and I could see how this could be confusing to people who aren't exposed to the US media landscape.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 9:05 AM on February 3, 2016 [11 favorites]


Did she get pushed over or did she faint?

I read the article again of her recount to try and understand your question, and as I understand it, neither of those things happened. The attacker got in her face and was possibly up to more, even Ms. Harris-Perry isn't sure what his intentions were. But then one of her students caught her eye and she moved a table between the two of them. It was a chilling account. The statement he made, "I just want you to know why I am doing this," chills me now, and I'm not even in the room with Ms. Harris-Perry. A very powerful story and I am so glad the ending is with her finding strength in being a teacher. I, too, worry about a next time. Ms. Harris-Perry is a voice that I hope is encouraged. I enjoy her work, on MSNBC and elsewhere.
posted by dawg-proud at 9:05 AM on February 3, 2016 [20 favorites]


The first link was briefly broken, which could explain some confusion for early readers of the post. It's been fixed now. We can probably move on.
posted by rewil at 9:06 AM on February 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


The fact that he jumped in his car and sped away when her colleague came to her support tells me his intentions weren't just for a polite debate.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:10 AM on February 3, 2016 [34 favorites]


Ridiculous though it may be, my dominant fear was that if this man maimed or killed me my students would fail to achieve the learning outcome of the Wake the Vote program, which is charged with helping them hone tools of democratic deliberation, perspective-taking, conflict resolution, and civic engagement in diverse settings. It was the fear of a ruined lesson plan that propelled me out of my seat and away from the potential attacker.

As a professor, this really resonated with me -- I'm glad that her dedication to her teaching gave her impetus to take action to protect herself. She wasn't neglecting herself to protect her students, I think; her dedication to her teaching gave her room to react.
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:14 AM on February 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


As a professor, this really resonated with me -- I'm glad that her dedication to her teaching gave her impetus to take action to protect herself. She wasn't neglecting herself to protect her students, I think; her dedication to her teaching gave her room to react.

I totally agree with this AND I think it's a shame that, in order to have room to react, she needs to look to her dedication to her teaching instead of her right as a person not to have this man attack her.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 9:17 AM on February 3, 2016 [14 favorites]


Chilling. I'm glad she's ok.
posted by DrLickies at 9:17 AM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Not that it's uncommon for a political campaign to posit a return to a better time (typically Republican), but you have to wonder if the ideology of "Make America Great Again" doesn't immediately have the added clause of "(and take it back from those people)". I was listening to an NPR piece that interviewed Trump supporters, and one of them said that she felt betrayed by the GOP when they acquiesced to general public pressure to take the Confederate flag away from the front of the SC state building. She went on to talk about how America needed a "benevolent dictator" and "strong man" who would be willing to take America back to past greatness. In this case it's not hard to imagine that the past greatness is one where people like Harris-Perry didn't have a legitimate voice.

Cruz and Trump, and certainly Rubio and Jeb to a certain extent, goad their supporters to fight for a return to American greatness - it's something I've picked out of all of their speeches. It's not surprising that some would take it literally, especially those who feel that self defense invariably comes out of the muzzle of a gun.

I agree that the way he fled the scene indicates that, at the very least, he was planning minor physical assault, and possibly much worse. This rhetoric of an imaginary, previously great America, and the urging to fight for past greatness is really, really worrisome this time around.
posted by codacorolla at 9:25 AM on February 3, 2016 [14 favorites]


), but you have to wonder if the ideology of "Make America Great Again" doesn't immediately have the added clause of "(and take it back from those people)".

No, you don't have to wonder. That implies speculation and uncertainty; you can in fact be damn sure that's what it means.
posted by stevis23 at 9:29 AM on February 3, 2016 [38 favorites]


Trump literally encouraged the assault of protesters and offered to pay the legal bills of anyone who did. While we're politely waiting for an Iowa prosecutor to do a god damn thing about that, I think it's very wise for prominent liberals to have a strong flight response.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:31 AM on February 3, 2016 [52 favorites]


In light of Trump's actions as outlined in Countess Elena's link, is really the comparisons with the rise of fascism in the 1930s hyperbole anymore?
posted by Harald74 at 9:46 AM on February 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


Not to derail, but I might note that as I'm not a member of the Iowa bar, I cannot, on further review, say for certain that this would be a good charge of disorderly conduct to bring against Trump. But I'm an attorney (if inactive) and it makes me itch.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:54 AM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


In light of Trump's actions as outlined in Countess Elena's link, is really the comparisons with the rise of fascism in the 1930s hyperbole anymore?

There are still many, many people who doggedly hold onto the semi-religious belief that the American political and capitalist system is an infallible bulwark against fascism. Sinclair Lewis wrote an entire novel about it way back in 1935.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:58 AM on February 3, 2016 [7 favorites]


In light of Trump's actions as outlined in Countess Elena's link, is really the comparisons with the rise of fascism in the 1930s hyperbole anymore?

We-ell, we do still have a democratic election system and the Republican Party does try to maintain the veneer of supporting democratic government.
posted by listen, lady at 9:58 AM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


We-ell, we do still have a democratic election system and the Republican Party does try to maintain the veneer of supporting democratic government.

"The last vestiges of the Old Republic have been swept away forever. The regional governors now have direct control over their territories."
posted by nubs at 10:06 AM on February 3, 2016 [12 favorites]


"trance of survivor submission" may be what happened but it is also highly likely she was in a frozen fright response that is altogether common in high-ambiguity extreme-stress situations. I've experienced and witnessed it a few times and it is a deeply strange thing to go through.

You often get a lot keyboard warriors talking big about "what they would do" in situations but you really don't know how you will respond until you are in that situation in that moment. Her teacher role snapped her out of it probably because she has training for those situations or has at least thought about it (the sorry situation that it is where teachers have to mentally prep for potential classroom assaults) and has a clear sense of duty. That's largely how the military does it too.
posted by srboisvert at 10:07 AM on February 3, 2016 [9 favorites]


The Trumps and the Limbaughs and the Hannitys of this country are addicted to the rush of raising a mob. I wonder if they're operating under the illusion that a mob, once unleashed, can be controlled for more than the briefest period.
posted by duffell at 10:23 AM on February 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


i trust her telling of her own emotional response. even though it's a thing that happens to non-survivors, when it happens to survivors, we experience it through that lens.
posted by nadawi at 10:23 AM on February 3, 2016 [20 favorites]


Did she get pushed over or did she faint?

Neither, what the author of the piece was experiencing was a trance of survivor submission. Instead of immediately backing away or taking other "normal" action when confronted, she froze and essentially submitted to her attacker, a (non)reaction that was triggered by childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her neighbor. While I've never experienced any of those things (thanks be), I imagine that it can subjectively feel like falling or being unable to move under your own power, which seems terrifying.

I'm glad she made it out ok, and also that she shared her story. May it shine a light on this sort of hatred and violence that troubles the US political sphere.
posted by carsonb at 11:10 AM on February 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


The regional governors now have direct control over their territories.
Only in Michigan.
posted by adamrice at 11:32 AM on February 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


That was chilling.
posted by GrapeApiary at 11:43 AM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Very scary. Find that guy.
posted by pracowity at 12:05 PM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


The fact that he jumped in his car and sped away when her colleague came to her support tells me his intentions weren't just for a polite debate.

Maybe. There's this flavor of crank who is really opportunistic about this sort of thing, who might see her through the window and just slam his car into park and go harangue/harass/assault someone. I don't think you can really presume it's a question of having been set up as an easy getaway.
posted by phearlez at 12:09 PM on February 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


> Maybe. There's this flavor of crank who is really opportunistic about this sort of thing, who might see her through the window and just slam his car into park and go harangue/harass/assault someone. I don't think you can really presume it's a question of having been set up as an easy getaway.

“Presume” is probably the wrong word for a situation like this, because it implies that there’s a default conclusion we should make about this incident until presented with countervailing evidence. It's more like a fractal of possibility, where some percentage of outcomes will involve a gun, and some percentage will just be a guy trying to shove some literature in her hand and skulk out, and then maybe in 0.000000000001% of outcomes he's just trying to pitch her Amway and slipped in an ill-advised reference to the Nazi party as some sort of sales tactic.

Your thing is certainly possible, though if he wanted to harass her I doubt he'd just give up on it as soon as she moved a few feet away. But, yes, these sorts of things confound our attempts to analyze them after the fact because it's impossible to know which sort of crazy person was involved.
posted by savetheclocktower at 12:55 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Sorry, I'm sort of monday morning quarterbacking a small piece of this here as if it's not someone's life and not a way of life for anyone who dares to be female in public. I was only addressing the "this clearly indicates he had violent intentions" aspect of the car being there. I meant to say I don't think it indicates it one way or the other, not that it should be reassuring or an indication of safety.

Personally I think the fact that these loons will pivot on the their heel and stop everything else they're doing to harass women makes it all the more frightening. Someone not knowing where you are ahead of time isn't even enough to protect the Harris-Perrys of the world, they have to cope with the fact that the moment of recognition might be accompanied by a flash of this kooky anger and turn into a dangerous incident.
posted by phearlez at 2:47 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


"Not in front of my students!" brought tears to my eyes.

I definitely know the internal voice that would say this rather than forcing one to flee for "merely" one's own safety. I have no idea why this resonates so strongly with me, but I do wonder if it's a gender thing.

I am not a teacher.
posted by blurker at 3:20 PM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Trump literally encouraged the assault of protesters and offered to pay the legal bills of anyone who did.

Trump, hah. Like Reagan without the brains.
posted by Twang at 4:20 PM on February 3, 2016


In the interest of celebrating the lives of women who are victims of racism and sexism, not just react to their being threatened - some of my favorite Perry writings:

"In this moment, I too feel the need for someone to want the Black babies to live. To want Black mothers to celebrate, not grieve. To want Black women to be brides, not widows. To want Black men to thrive, not die. To want Black youth to play, not cower. Many share this need for someone to want the Black babies to live. They march. They lie down as though dead." from Where do we go from here?

"Part of why our hair is such a big deal is just that: because it’s such a big deal! The reactions our hair gets from others, particularly for black women, are so overwhelmingly definitive of our experience of our public selves and our beauty. Black hair might not always be that way, but within the current U.S. context, it is such a defining aspect of the lives of black girls and black women." from I Remember Every Hairdo I’ve Had in 40 Years

Perry and Bel Hooks discuss just about everything. (Long video)
posted by Deoridhe at 4:42 PM on February 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


This is not the first woman who has been targeted by this dude. Police should be looking for surveillance video or something.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 5:19 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering if there's any truth at all to his claim that his wife is a communications professor. Because if there is, then someone is going to figure out who he is. He's going to be "so-and-so's creepy soon-to-be-ex who always said weird, awkward things at the holiday party" or "doesn't that weird guy who rants about MHP on Facebook have a wife who sometimes adjuncts at the community college?" Iowa is not that big, and this is being widely circulated among academic types.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:27 PM on February 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Trump literally encouraged the assault of protesters and offered to pay the legal bills of anyone who did.

Incitement or accessory to murder?
posted by BlueHorse at 6:12 PM on February 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Incitement or accessory to murder?

Wouldn't that require a murder to have happened?
posted by Dysk at 6:36 PM on February 3, 2016


Wondering if he would be culpable if some idiot took him up on his offer to commit assault and a death resulted.
posted by BlueHorse at 7:08 PM on February 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


As a teacher, what I read here is that it's all about the students.
posted by kozad at 8:26 PM on February 3, 2016


In the interest of celebrating the lives of women who are victims of racism and sexism, not just react to their being threatened - some of my favorite Perry writings:

i love this. thank you.
posted by nadawi at 8:29 PM on February 3, 2016


fraxil - Did she get pushed over or did she faint?

I read the article again of her recount to try and understand your question, and as I understand it, neither of those things happened.

Neither, what the author of the piece was experiencing was a trance of survivor submission.

IMHO you are misreading fraxil's comment. The reason it seems a bit of a non sequitur is that it is not referring to anything that physically takes place in the story as it is represented in the article. The comment is riff on the 'did he fall or was he pushed?' aphorism, suggesting that people will always find a way to impose their own prejudices on a narrative. I read it as a continuation of this thought from Countess Emma:
People will minimize this incident, because nothing violent happened and no one saw a weapon. But this is what the good timeline looks like, for her.

Thank God all she will have to deal with is some bitching and muttering about her being "dramatic." I wish I'd had the nerve to be more "dramatic" about some things in my day.
However, fraxil is the only person who can explain what they were thinking.
posted by asok at 2:36 AM on February 4, 2016




After Tense Weeks, Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC Show Is Canceled

WTF. I wish Melissa Harris-Perry, Michel Martin, and Gwen Ifill all owned their own news channel so they'd never again have to put up with this kind of bullshit.
posted by thetortoise at 7:05 PM on February 29, 2016 [1 favorite]


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