The ever brilliant Melissa Harris-Perry recently visited New York Public Radio’s The Brian Lehrer Show to promote her new book Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America.  The professor and frequent MSNBC contributor discussed the relationship of African-American women to politics and how the stereotypes about Black women tend to discourage us from civic engagement. A few highlights:

LEHRER: “We talked earlier in the hour, in both our previous segments, about the Wall Street protests going on in New York and, to some degree, in other cities over the weekend.  One of our guests said that he felt that one of the reasons he felt that there haven’t been more street protests in America over Wall Street and the economy, like there have been in London, et cetera, is that African Americans who might, in most cases, be core to such protests, because of economic conditions, are laying back because Obama is President and they think he’s taken so much guff.  Do you think there’s anything to that?”

HARRIS-PERRY: “I don’t. This is a tough one, and obviously I can spend a great deal of time on this.  I will say simply this: ten percent unemployment, which is just under what the nation is now experiencing, although obviously horrifying for the rest of the nation, would represent an enormous accomplishment in black communities.  We are pretty used to experiencing, as we have for more than 30 years now, more than double the rate of unemployment of white communities…”

LEHRER: “Complacent? Defeated, hopeless?”

HARRIS-PERRY: “No, I don’t think it’s ‘complacent’ at all. Tremendous pragmatism on the part of African Americans who will not see their suffering suddenly used against a Democratic president and it’s NOT because he’s black, by the way, they were also pretty unwilling to use strategies against a Democrat in the context of Bill Clinton, because the recognition, on the part of pragmatic African Americans, is that there is no great racial progressive savior about to show up.”

You can listen to the interview in it’s entirety here. To learn more about Sister Citizen, visit the official site for the book.


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