It’s nearly 2013, and with that, on Sunday MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry took a quick lightning-round look at the year (embedded) and asked the guests on her TV show to help her answer the question: “Was that racist?”
Her guests were Elon James White, of This Week in Blackness, Jamie Kilstein, co-host of Citizen Radio, comedian Maysoon Zayid, and comedian Molly Knefel.
The first example was a famous photo from January, when Arizona governor Jan Brewer met U.S. president Barack Obama on the tarmack, and was showing sticking her finger in his face aggressively and seeming to shout at him angrily. She said she felt “threatened.”
“I was surprised she didn’t bring in Sheriff Joe [Arpaio] to truck him away,” said Kilstein.
“And it’s racist only because of the idea that she said had to go off because she felt threatened. You felt threatened by the most visible negro in the world right now?” White said.
“I just heard Jan Brewer and slowly put up my card,” Kilstein said.
“I put it up for Arizona,” Zayid, who attended Arizona State University, said.
In January, Newt Gingrich said that if one school janitor were replaced with 30 kids for the same pay, “those 30 kids would be a lot less likely to drop out, they would actually have money in their pocket, they’d learn to show up for work.”
Kilstein said “he [Gingrich] probably meant it as racist, but he probably just hates poor people.”
Knefel called it “intersectionally oppressive” of low-income people and minorities.
Zayid called it racist because Gingrich said “Palestinians don’t exist.”
Meanwhile, White said “I didn’t call racism on this, I called a-hole.”
In August, Mitt Romney said to a crowd of supporters, “I love being home in this place Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. No one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate, they know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”
Zayid called it not racist, just “utter stupidity” and a “complete disconnect with the fact that that’s the most inappropriate thing he could have ever said,” adding that it was an “old, played-out joke.”
White said, “If you want to argue that it plays into racist tones, yes, I’d argue yes, he did that. But do I think that Mitt Romney that day was racist? No, again, that was a douche move. For you to get up there, the thing is, you could see he was feeling it.
“Because when he said it, he literally stopped as if he was The Rock and smelled the air around him as he made this joke and everyone clapped. Now if you asked me is that audience racist, I don’t know.”
Kilstein disagreed, saying it was racist because he wouldn’t have said that about Joe Biden and Romney was “clearly otherizing.”
In the most recent example, just this week, John McCain had his picture taken with a person in a giant Oreo costume at college football bowl game.
“It’s just weird,” White said. “Unless he tweeted out the picture and said, ‘Me and Obama.’”
The panel didn’t really delve further than that, but Harris-Perry did discuss fried Oreos (delicious). Watch it.