Harris-Perry’s Apology May Be Too Smart for Right-Wing Zealots - Higher Education


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Harris-Perry’s Apology May Be Too Smart for Right-Wing Zealots

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I saw Melissa Harris-Perry’s apology on MSNBC the other day, and hope it was enough to kill the fake outrage over a joke made on her program about Mitt Romney’s adoptive Black grandchild. (I posted a link to the apology on my website: www.amok.com).

As a broadcaster and journalist, I normally bristle when I see non-broadcaster/journalists helm news talk programs. It’s sort of like the star athlete becoming the TV commentator. Sure they know the game, but can they communicate as well as they audible at the line of scrimmage? Can they connect with the people?

When they do, we all win.

In the non-sports realm of cable talk shows, it’s not the star quarterback that gets lured to the spotlight, it’s the opinionated academic plucked from the ivory tower.

For the most part, that’s MHP on MSNBC.

Unlike a broadcaster, Harris-Perry didn’t cut her teeth in small market TV and climb her way to the top.

From her Wikipedia entry: “Harris-Perry graduated from Wake Forest University with a bachelor’s degree in English and received a Ph.D. in political science from Duke University. She also received an honorary doctorate from Meadville Lombard Theological School and studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York.

Harris-Perry was associate professor at the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University and left in 2011 after being denied a full professorship because of ‘questions about her work and an assessment of where she is’ in her career. Currently she is a professor of Political Science at Tulane University. MSNBC announced on January 5, 2012 that Harris-Perry would host her own weekend show, which began airing on February 18, 2012.”

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Media bosses love a resume like that when they want instant diversity. A young Ph.D.? Can he/she talk? Are they “telegenic?” Harris-Perry was worth a risk.

And she had a built-in fallback position.

When I’ve caught the show, I’ve found her to be attractive, feisty and intelligent.

Really, hosting a show isn’t all that much different from chairing a department tenure meeting. After a Ph.D., what passes for discourse on TV is tiddlywinks.

But after nearly two years, she’s still discovering what it’s like when people who really don’t like you get a hold of a fake issue and don’t let up.

Especially when the story has something to do about race. That’s what the Romney Black grandbaby is about.

I didn’t even think an apology was needed.

The woman could be Dean Harris-Perry. She’s not Paula Deen.

But she gave one anyway. The apology sure wasn’t one of those infamous non-apologies that people who aren’t really sorry tend to make. Nor was it to go way back, a fake Nixon “Checkers” speech to save her career.

Instead, Harris Perry showed real courage standing up to the heat. Facing the camera, she delivered a heart-felt, emotional and sincere apology.

It’s the kind of apology that makes you like the person more, not less, mostly because she took responsibility for everything. She didn’t deflect, try to blame guests, producers, etc. She put it all on her shoulders. You’d think that would earn her some brownie points from her critics. But she continues to be bashed on conservative sites for her “crocodile tears.”

The woman’s from New Orleans, but those weren’t crocodile tears.

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One of the buzz phrases of modern conservatism these days is “taking responsibility.”

MHP did that last weekend in a big way. That ought to be worth something to the right who should call off their attack dogs.

Emil Guillermo writes on issues of race for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (www.aaldef.org/blog)  Like him at www.facebook.com/emilguillermo.media ; twitter@emilamok

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