MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Asks If Black Americans Are ‘Under Siege'; WaPo’s Capehart Confirms

In a discussion about the recent unresolved shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, MSNBC’s Ronan Farrow Daily touted the idea that there is a war on black men in America.

Host Ronan Farrow cited a piece from Jonathan Capehart in the Washington Post that discussed the circumstances surrounding the deaths of African-Americans, specifically Trayvon Martin, Renisha McBride, and Michael Brown. The article hinted that black people – and particularly black males – are under attack in America. Farrow brought Capehart onto the program to ask the question himself, wondering: “Are black Americans, as you put it, under siege?” Capehart responded without hesitation: [MP3 audio here; video below]

Yes, and I wrote this in response to the conversation that's been happening because of Congressman Mo Brooks who said that the Democratic Party has – that there's a war on whites. And the shooting of Michael Brown, the shooting of Renisha McBride. The shooting of Trayvon Martin. You go on and on down the list, it just highlights the – what African-Americans and African-American men in particular have to go through just to ensure their own safety.

While (virtually) everyone can agree that Congressman Brooks’s comments were inappropriate and inaccurate, Capehart used this as a jumping off point for his own cause: the undue burden supposedly placed on black Americans. He continued:

I carry my driver's license and insurance card and my business card with my partner's cell phone number on it just in case something happens. When Trayvon Martin was killed, I wrote a piece, reprised in this piece today, the lessons that my mother taught me – don't run in public. Don't run with anything in your hands. Keep a discreet distance away from white women, lest you get accused of any number of things.

One would guess that carrying a driver’s license, insurance information, a business card, and emergency contacts is not exactly exclusive to the wallets and purses of black Americans. Capehart nevertheless reasserted that “if anyone is under siege, I would say it would be African-Americans and African-American men in particular.


Farrow claimed he could empathize with Capehart because of his adopted black brother. He maintained that his mother held his brother to a different standard, bizarrely stating: “People talk about this term black motheritis. Black mothers fearing exactly what you are talking about. My white mother had black motheritis.

Capehart concluded by arguing that protests across the country by black Americans are in response to the feeling by some that “it seems like black life and black male life isn't worth anything.”

The relevant portion of the transcript is below.

MSNBC
Ronan Farrow Daily
August 11, 2014
1:04 p.m. Eastern

RONAN FARROW, host: Jonathan, you wrote, really, an incredible piece for the Washington Post this morning about the burden of being a black male in America right now. Listen to this quote everybody: To this day, whether I'm going on a run or just running out to get something from my car nearby, I never step out of my home without my driver's license, insurance card and my Washington Post business card with my partner's cell phone number written on it. You are going through your stuff there, you really do. You have it on you all the time. You know, are black Americans, as you put it, under siege?

JONATHAN CAPEHART, Washington Post: Yes, and I wrote this in response to the conversation that's been happening because of Congressman Mo Brooks who said that the Democratic Party has – that there's a war on whites. And the shooting of Michael Brown, the shooting of Renisha McBride. The shooting of Trayvon Martin. You go on and on down the list it just highlights the – what African-Americans and African-American men in particular have to go through just to ensure their own safety. As I wrote, I carry my driver's license and insurance card and my business card with my partner's cell phone number on it just in case something happens. When Trayvon Martin was killed, I wrote a piece, reprised in this piece today, the lessons that my mother taught me – don't run in public. Don't run with anything in your hands. Keep a discreet distance away from white women, lest you get accused of any number of things. So these are the – if anyone is under siege, I would say it would be African-Americans and African-American men in particular.

FARROW: You know, it resonates so much for me on a personal level because I grew up with a black brother and people talk about this term black motheritis. Black mothers fearing exactly what you are talking about. My white mother had black motheritis. I heard the speech so many times. My brother was a big black guy and he'd run in the supermarket as a young teenager. And she would say you can't do that. You know, and that he had to dress in a different way from me because there were all these fears about maybe violence against him if he went across the street in a hoodie, if he went across the street looking a certain way.

CAPEHART: Right. I mean these are the sorts of things that, you know, while it's painful for me to have to write about these things, about the limitations that I have to put on myself or that my mom put on me, it's helpful, though, that people know this and understand this. That the folks who are – the lawfully protesting people there in Ferguson, Missouri or in Sanford, Florida, or in New York City, this is what they are protesting. They are protesting the fact it seems like black life and black male life isn't worth anything.

Connor Williams
Connor Williams
Connor Williams is a contributing writer for NewsBusters.