MSNBC's Harris-Perry Frets Obama 'Carrying the Burden of Race,' Sees Parallels with 1870s Ex-Confederates

As MSNBC's Melissa Harris-Perry made multiple appearances on Friday's MSNBC evening shows to discuss President Obama's surprise statement on the George Zimmerman acquittal, the MSNBC host declared that, after Obama became President, "every move that he made became where he ended up carrying the burden of race," during her appearance on All in with Chris Hayes.

A couple of hours earlier, as she appeared on PoliticsNation, Harris-Perry drew a parallel to the views of former confederates in the 1870s and those in modern times who dismiss liberal preocupation with racial issues. Harris-Perry:

Part of what you hear is, well, it's been so long, I mean, things are so different. Why are you still talking about this? But because I was preparing to start thinking about this for the show this week, I was going back and reading things that former confederates said in the 1870s, the 1870s, that had the same language of, well, why are you still talking about slavery? And we're talking about something that in 1870, of course, we were much less than a decade away from.

Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, July 19, PoliticsNation, followed by the same day's All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC:

#From the Friday, July 19, PoliticsNation on MSNBC:

AL SHARPTON: I think also, Melissa, that we've got to really reflect on the whole difference in how we not only express that, but think. I mean, it is controversial when we even raise the question of racial equality. And everyone else in society can say and do whatever about their issues, whether it is any other community. And it's understandable even if it's disagreed. But we become agitators, arsonists and all just because we're saying we don't want to be marginalized and treated differently.

MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: You know, and part of what is, part of what you hear is, well, it's been so long, I mean, things are so different. Why are you still talking about this? But because I was preparing to start thinking about this for the show this week, I was going back and reading things that former confederates said in the 1870s, the 1870s, that had the same language of, well, why are you still talking about slavery? And we're talking about something that in 1870, of course, we were much less than a decade away from.

I want to emphasize also that as much as the President was speaking from a personal place, as much as he was putting himself fully embodied in the experience of Trayvon Martin and giving us such a critical witness to the experience of black men in this country, he was also speaking, and I just don't want to ever forget this, just as Joe Madison just was, that this is actually documented.

We have decades of research in American public opinion. We have decades of research in social science and social psychology. It's not just that we sort of think maybe we see things differently. We really do. And sort of the failure to even just acknowledge that empirical evidence is part of what's at the heart of this.

#From the Friday, July 19, All In with Chris Hayes on MSNBC:

EZRA KLEIN: So, Melissa, what I think you've seen in that speech from 2008, that famed Philadelphia race speech, is part of the premise of that speech is that, if we have the right political leadership and the country at this point is ready to move forward, have more adult conversations about race and to actually heal some of these wounds.

And, then today President Obama comes out in this much more toned down, no sort of high-flying rhetoric, no fancy teleprompter, and says, actually, if politicians lead this discussion, it's going to go awry. And the difference between the sort of theory of the discussion on race in 2008 and in 2013, I think is really telling about the experience he has had as President.

HARRIS-PERRY: Yeah, that was President Obama before someone asked for his birth certificate. That was, right, that was-

JAMES PETERSON, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Before he told him, you lie.

HARRIS-PERRY: Right. Right, before he said, you lied. That was President Obama before every move that he made became where he ended up carrying the burden of race. But, what I will say is President Obama or Senator Obama in 2008 and President Obama 2013 do share a kind of optimism about the American project, which is actually infused within the history of African-American philosophy and writing and political action.

You know, I have been quoting and reading and thinking a lot about DuBois. And it is DuBois who said it was impossible to pull together the blackness and the Americanness, that it was a struggle that would render that dark body apart. And, you see the President always hopeful, always optimistic, and yet that kind of sadness that I think has overcome so many of us who are optimistic about the American project of self-government in a multi-racial society, nonetheless felt this week.

Brad Wilmouth
Brad Wilmouth is a contributing blogger to NewsBusters