A deeper dive into Melissa Harris-Perry’s ‘apology’

Hughey Newsome Advisory Council, Project 21

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry seeks forgiveness.

On a recent program, she participated in discussion poking fun at Mitt Romney’s Christmas card, which featured him holding his new adopted African-American black grandchild. The race of the newest Romney was key focus of the jokes.

Days later, and after a firestorm of criticism, Harris-Perry tweeted an apology for the insensitive remarks. A tearful on-air apology followed.

Fine, but the problem is that Harris-Perry didn’t apologize for the worst offense.

Melissa Harris-Perry’s career is rooted in discussing, writing about, and advocating for African-American issues. Someone claiming such expertise should not only have known better, but instinctively realized at the time that such comments are offensive. Instead, she participated in the offense.

Just as a Newtown, Connecticut parent shouldn’t be expected to abide a tasteless joke about Sandy Hook, an authentic advocate for African-American issues should not tolerate — much less moderate — a discussion essentially demeaning mixed-race adoption. While not as tragic as Sandy Hook, the discrepancy of adoption rates for black foster children face deserves more coverage than making light of a successful adoption by the family of a prominent Republican.

According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services figures, about one in 100 black children in America’s foster care system awaits adoption — more than double the rate for white children. Additionally, the average foster care stay for black kids is 29 months, versus 18.3 months for white youth. These discrepancies are wide, but reportedly improving.

While Harris-Perry could use her soapbox to laud the Romney family for their decision, she chose otherwise.

Harris-Perry’s lack of judgment is secondary to a disturbing pattern she and so many other liberal commentators exhibit.

Liberal pundits have seemingly exchanged altruistic concerns for hyper-partisanship. In this case, Harris-Perry later apologized for using “poor judgment” in targeting an adopted black child to attack those with whom she disagrees politically.

But Harris-Perry also recently compared the term “Obamacare” — a term embraced by some supporters of the president’s health care takeover, and the president himself — to other “code words” meant to stoke racist animosity. Idioms based on presidential names — Hoovervilles and Reaganomics, to name a few — appear throughout history. Rather than pointing this out, she introduces race into the discussion.

Denouncing the term Obamacare as racist and defending President Obama — who is likely very popular with her viewers — might increase ratings. But I do not see good faith in comparing the pain my grandparents and great-grandparents went through to typical critiques of a program Obama heartily embraces. I do not see how prostituting the pain of the past to protect the president helps our inner cities or our needy.

Along the same line of callousness, Harris-Perry compared incarcerating suspected terrorists in Guantanamo Bay to slavery. President Obama is the commander-in-chief and can, but has not, closed the prison. Does that make him a slaveholder? That criticism has yet to be made, and her support of Obama likely has something to do with it.

Challenges facing the African-American community are real and should not be exploited. Unfortunately, Harris-Perry’s words indicate a pattern.

Prostituting the black experience in America for the protection of the certain politicians (especially those who claim to care but fail to act effectively) is troubling and offensive.

And they lay it on thick at MSNBC. Whether it’s Harris-Perry’s favorite race joke panel discussion from last February, Toure’s use of the n-word or Chris Matthew’s assertion that he “forgot President Obama was black” in praising a speech, MSNBC’s commentators indicate that their concern for racial issues only applies when it can support progressive programs or Democratic politicians.

Harris-Perry even hashtagged her own Twitter apology!

The desire for ratings somewhat explains the behavior, but the manipulation of issues facing African-Americans is still reprehensible.

It’s sad when commentators use their airtime to lodge partisan attacks, focus on gaffes by non-liberals, dismiss all opposing arguments (legitimate and otherwise) as being represented by those gaffes and thereby restrict a constructive debate.

This behaviour cannot help to improve the lives of African-Americans. Viewers should realize this.