Melissa Harris-Perry is the Presidential Endowed Chair in Politics and International Affairs at Wake Forest University. There she is the Executive Director of the Pro Humanitate Institute and founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Center on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South. She is the host of Melissa Harris-Perry, which broadcasts live on MSNBC on Saturdays and Sundays from 10AM to Noon. She is the author of the award-winning Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and Black Political Thought, and Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America. Harris-Perry received her B.A. degree in English from Wake Forest University in 1994 and her Ph.D. degree in political science from Duke University in 1999. She also studied theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Harris-Perry previously served on the faculty of the University of Chicago, Princeton University, and Tulane University.
We must immediately end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy and allow gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the armed forces. We must do this because the existing policy sanctions, maintains, and enforces second-class citizenship that is incommensurate with the ideals of American democracy.
Watching Barack Obama become President of the United States made me proud and hopeful, but I also found the experience somewhat amusing. I think many of us who were his Hyde Park neighbors and Illinois state senate constituents feel the same way. We may have always believed he was extraordinary, but because he was familiar it is sometimes hard to believe that he is now, as president, the purveyor of such power and the object of such scorn.
A contemporary State of the Union address is less an assessment of our national circumstances than it is a collective Rorschach test: an inkblot given meaning by the viewer more than by the subject. The televised pageantry of applause and ovations has little to do with the President's articulation of a policy agenda and far more to do with how his partisan allies and opponents read the electoral viability of his phrases.
All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem. –Martin Luther King, Jr.
Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination for the presidency on the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's historic "I have a dream" speech. He was inaugurated the day after our national holiday celebrating the life and accomplishments of Dr. King. Many asked if Obama's presidency was the realization of King's dream. Cultural products, from t-shirts to YouTube videos, linked Obama's election to King's legacy.
Joe Biden once remarked that Barack Obama was "clean" and "articulate." He is now Vice President. During the Democratic primaries Hillary Clinton invoked Robert Kennedy in a way that implied Barack Obama's assassination was imminent. She is now the Secretary of State. It is foolish to suggest Senator Harry Reid should step down as Senate majority leader because of his 2008 assessment that Barack Obama's election was more likely because he is "light-skinned" and free from "Negro dialect."
Madness was a recurring theme in American politics last year. I received daily calls, emails, texts, and tweets from folks on the Left declaring "these Republicans are crazy," "the GOP has gone mad," or simply, "this county is nuts." "Wingnuts" became a common way to describe vehement, political opponents on the Right.
Americans have an interesting history of conflating our political disagreements with diagnosis of mental illness. In a terrific new book, psychiatrist and historian Jonathan Metzl tells one of these fascinating stories. Metzl's book, The Protest Psychosis: How Schizophrenia Became a Black Disease is exceptional and unexpected.