MSNBC, Melissa Harris-Perry, & the Death of #Nerdland

If you are planning to watch the Melissa Harris-Perry Show on MSNBC this morning, you may be sorely disappointed. On yesterday Harris-Perry announced that after MSNBC has for weeks seemingly attempted to sideline and silence her voice by pre-empting her show with election coverage and not even featuring her on the network at all, she would no longer be doing the show until MSNBC offered her some explanation, clarification, and assurances.

In doing so she wrote, “I will not be used as a tool for their purposes…I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head. I am not owned by Lack [MSNBC News chairman], Griffin [MSNBC president] or MSNBC.”

For a while now, I have been scratching my head and wondering why a so-called “progressive network” like MSNBC claims to be would give so much on airtime to Donald Trump. Between the extended Trump “interviews” in the morning, and the extended coverage of Trump rallies at night, it is almost as if MSNBC has suddenly become the de facto Donald Trump media headquarters.

And now this.

melissa-harris-perryAlthough I do not always agree with Melissa Harris-Perry, and many of the other Black intellectuals MSNBC employs as contributors and trot out mainly when someone is needed to comment on matters of race but who also almost assuredly will not rustle any feathers, I considered her show an important media space wherein, despite its shortcomings, issues of race and social justice could be discussed with some degree of frankness, especially given the paucity of such spaces among the mainstream media outlets.

Furthermore, it strikes me as particularly odd that during a political season in which race is playing an ever increasing role as the Republican Party seems to be going out of its way to alienate black and brown voters, and the Democratic Party’s two candidates seem engaged in a protracted scorched earth, leave no black voter behind, negro reclamation campaign meant to mollify black and brown rage stemming from past racial transgressions by democratic leaders, reengage the disengaged, and encourage black and brown voters to get to the polls, and no viable third party candidate has emerged in yet another election cycle, the decision makers at MSNBC would sideline and stifle the voices of its most well-known black and brown talent.

The choices made by the leadership at MSNBC make very little sense and are tantamount to a slap in the face to not only its black and brown viewership but also any individual actively and sincerely pursuing equality and social justice. And I applaud Melissa Harris-Perry for making a principled stand.

Yet, I get it. I really do. Foolishness sells. Lies sell. Not only that, but perhaps most importantly, most Americans like their storylines simple, easy to follow, and above all non-threatening. And with a billionaire trailer trash madman like Trump raging about the countryside, apt to do or say anything, and given the delectably anticipatory intrigue of a bunch of yet to be seen emails of a scandal-plagued ex-first lady/senator/secretary of state, why clutter up the airways and risk unsettling the sensibilities of the complacent and politically gullible with thoughtful, unfettered discussion about racial and economic equality, social justice, and the myriad other issues this country faces, even during an important election year.

It is, after all, a business, so go ahead and get those ratings up and get that ad revenue, social responsibility be damned.

What does worry me, however, is the effect of this and similar incidents, as well as the general malaise enveloping this election cycle, on the morale of those fighting faithfully and ardently for political and social change.

But most of all, I am concerned by the guaranteed proliferation of a plethora of negative other voices that gain prominence and credibility in the vacuum caused by the absence of positive voices to counter the alluring promise of truth as suggested by their zealous presentation of half-truths, unsophisticated thought, and overwrought, badly flawed logic. If it is indeed true, though, that a man or woman is known by his or her works, then you will be able to recognize these voices by their masturbatory, self-aggrandizing works.

Negative voices do nothing but tear down, while positive voices seek to build up, to lift even as they climb. Negative voices seem to display a keen knack for only seeking out and presenting problems and more problems, while positive voices actively seek out and present problems so that they might devise and propose solutions.

Negative voices will, without ceasing, find infinite fault in the works of others, while producing nothing credible of their own. These negative voices will try to convince you of the futility of it all and the inefficacy of your efforts because unlike them in their enlightened states, you could never possibly know what they have known all along.

But, in stark contrast, the positive voices will embrace you without judgment and endeavor to convince you that now is not the time to give up and give in. On the contrary, the positive voices will tell you that now, more than any other, is the time to stand up and find your voice. Then he or she will patiently help you do so. And once he or she has completed this task, he or she will encourage you to do the same for another, who will hopefully do the same for another, ad infinitum, until all are truly woke and ready to get to work.

Harris-Perry’s situation at MSNBC is truly unfortunate and comes at a very inopportune time. But in the vacuum of this negative social and political climate caused by the dearth of counter voices, take the time to find your unique voice. Fill the silence of the absence of this one voice with a cacophony of new voices.

Your voice is sorely needed. There is a place for you. Find your voice. Force your way in. Take your place. Do the work.

#getwoke #staywoke #gettowork