Kristin Braswell, Writer, Producer, Traveler
Posted on December 24, 2013 by K. Braswell on Interviews

5 Questions with Melissa Harris-Perry on Her New MSNBC Talk Show (ESSENCE)

Melissa Harris-Perry

Turn your television to a major news network, and you’d be hard pressed to find a woman of color with her own show. But, with MSNBC’s recent announcement of political analyst Melissa Harris-Perry’s to their weekend lineup, things are changing.

Harris-Perry, a well-known political analyst, is also a political science professor at Tulane University, columnist for The Nation, and regular contributor to Rev. Al Sharpton’s “PoliticsNation,” “The Rachel Maddow Show” and “The Last Word.” She is the author of “Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.” spoke with Harris-Perry about her new show, book, and how Black woman can use their voices as powerful vehicle in politics. What are some topics that you hope to delve into right away on your new show?
MELISSA HARRIS-PERRY: The show is still very much in development and creation. I have a vision for it, but one aspect is that it will be collaborative. It will be a political show whose primary interest is disseminating smart information about the political world. When I say political world I don’t mean New York and Washington D.C. We will certainly talk about those places, but my vision is to broaden our political world so that we are thinking about arts and culture and we are thinking about people living west of the Mississippi River and South of the Mason Dixon line. I see politics in barber shops and I see politics in novels written by smart Haitian women, and I see politics in Beyonce videos. All of that is going to be part of this show. You’ve also recently written a book called “Sister Citizen,” which talks about the harmful stereotypes of African-American women that influence our participation in politics. How do you think we can empower ourselves to become more active in the political arena so that our voices are heard?
HARRIS-PERRY: I try to emphasize in the book that the negative, nasty, ugly stereotypes of Black women persist no matter what we do. The mammy stereotype doesn’t exist because we are a bunch of mammies, it exists because it’s a useful tool to reinforce racial and gender inequality. We don’t make the stereotypes go away by being better and smarter. We already are smart and beautiful. The issue is how do we prove to ourselves that we aren’t those stereotypes? That are authentic self is good enough? That requires both a lot of personal work and a tremendous amount of political work; proving to ourselves that we are worthy ends up being a huge part of our journey as citizens.

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