(George Curry Media) – Twitter “blew up” Friday night with the hashtag #Nerdland after word got around that Melissa Harris-Perry was being “dogged out” by MSNBC, the network that tries to position itself as the antidote to Fox News.
In an email to her staff at the MHP show that afternoon, the talented scholar described the abusive snubbing she received and how her abilities and value were being disrespected by a gang of “good ol’ boys” in the top echelons of the network.
Harris-Perry, who is eminently qualified to comment on the American political scene, has been sidelined by MSNBC during the coverage of the presidential primaries to make room for less qualified pundits and some who are arguably less truthful in their presentation of the facts. Her show aired on weekend mornings from 10 to 12, but for the past few weeks, it has been pre-empted by other hosts covering the primaries.
Many of Harris-Perry’s fans are puzzled by MSNBC’s bizarre move to quiet a voice so compelling that it raises large numbers of viewers from their beds on weekend mornings. But it did not take long to realize what is going on.
As an African American intellectual, Harris-Perry is scary. Or, at least, she scares some people. She is a woman of color who is intelligent, articulate and intellectually and politically courageous. Her very existence shatters so many stereotypes about women of color – and Black women in particular – that hubristic White men find themselves disoriented and adrift in profound and unknown waters. Their safe harbors of White male entitlement, grounded in fictitious White male meritocracy, are nowhere in sight when she leads discussions about race and gender that are thoughtfully balanced and factually accurate.
She is feared by people who do not know what she is talking about. Her very language – with words like “intersectionality” and “changing definitions of womanhood and women’s identity” – terrify and anger them. No one at the network thought that she would allow herself to be portrayed as a Jezebel, a Mammy or a Sapphire. But what they did not understand was that she would never allow them to portray any woman of color in such a way. And, she was not going to be a token or little brown bobble-head either, as she explained to the nerdland crew in her scathing reproach to MSNBC.
In that message, she said:
“… I have been shut out from coverage. I have a PhD in political science and have taught American voting and elections at some of the nation’s top universities for nearly two decades, yet I have been deemed less worthy to weigh in than relative novices and certified liars.”
The later reference is directed at Brian Williams of MSNBC, who was discovered to have publicly lied about accompanying Seal Team 6 on a mission into Baghdad.
It is clear that MSNBC’s leadership was frightened by Harris-Perry. They could not hear what she tried to tell them. They did not want to hear what she has to say. They wanted to find a way to quiet her. But their efforts have backfired. And now they are facing a furious fan base that is tweeting #BoycottMSNBC. Maybe they can hear that.
Oscar H. Blayton is a former Marine Corps combat pilot and human rights activist who practices law in Virginia.