Opinion: Dear 'White Allies', Stop Saying That You 'Don't See Color'

I'm going to do my best to keep this brief. 

We live in a different day. While many wanted to believe that we live in a society beyond racism - which… that's a whole other think-piece - we now have a president-elect that many view as overtly racist. We have white supremacists cheering him on. We have racial and religious hate crimes happening all over the country, every single day. 

We live in a different time. Just eight years ago we couldn't have known how a Black family moving into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue would impact our national discourse on race. 

Many of us have righteous concerns when we hear rhetoric about "taking our country back." Who is represented in the "our" there? More importantly, who isn't? And when you say "back," when exactly… does that mean? 

The time ahead of us could prove more difficult for all marginalized peoples of this country and the world, it may be high time that we revisit effective, thoughtful communication between and about races. 

If I may, I'd like to start using the title of Justin Simien's hit film and new Netflix series to offer an open letter, Dear White People...

The Hollywood Reporter: MSNBC's Lawrence O’Donnell on the Biggest Misconception About Pundits and the Challenges of Live TV (Q&A)


This is the latest in an ongoing series of one-on-ones with the political pundits who have been at the forefront of the cable-news conversations this election season. The interview was edited down for brevity, but you can hear the entire 35-minute conversation here.

The host of MSNBC’s The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell is preparing to leave for Malawi, as part of his mission with The KIND Fund. Through support of his viewers, Lawrence has raised more than $10 million to provide jobs, desks and scholarships for students in Malawi.

Beyond his charity work in Africa, O’Donnell has a storied professional past, having studied economics at Harvard College, worked in the Senate (that brought about a “complete accident” of actually using his degree), and even writing on one of television’s biggest political dramas, The West Wing.

Age: Mid-60s ("I stopped observing birthdays a long time ago").
Current Residence: I’m not sure. I live in L.A., but I work in New York City. I consider myself to live in Los Angeles; I might be the only person who thinks that about me.
Education: I went to Harvard College, grew up in Boston, and went to high school in Boston. I majored in economics in college. Certain things were just out, like chemistry or biology, or science or math, that was just out of the question. That’s just an aptitude impossibility, I couldn’t have done it.
Network: MSNBC


You (and Rachel Maddow) tend to take what I call “the scenic route,” often offering historical context to getting into the story of the day. I’m curious about the process for preparing for The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell

I still consider my job to be “writer,” and the show I’m writing now isn’t fictional, but it’s this news show every night. I have the most painful deadlines I’ve ever had, which are: live TV.

There's a wonderful line from Lorne Michaels that he said to me in the elevator at 30 Rock about SNL: “We don’t do it because we’re ready, we do it because it’s 11:30.” He said that to me a few years ago when I was complaining about how difficult it was to go on at 10 p.m. when I’m not ready.

I have those words in my head all the time. I used to approach panic at 9:30 p.m., thinking “this can’t be done. I don’t know what the words are!” [Outside of the discussion and questions] anything that should be scripted, in my mind, must be scripted. There’s no option to that. It’d be inconceivable for an actor on The West Wing to just invent a line about the debt ceiling. You can’t do that. So it’s been very hard for me to not think in those terms, but now I know that Lorne’s right, and at 10 o'clock it’s not that I’m ready, but it’s 10 o’clock.

Every once in a while when there’s a blank spot in the script, I’ll say to the control room “don’t worry, I’ll think of something.” I couldn’t have possibly said that for the first three years of the show.


What is a common misconception about being a pundit?

One of the things that I see on Twitter is that people think they know what you think abut things you haven’t discussed. Because they think if you are pro-choice, for example, then there are a bunch of other positions that you must hold, like you are for higher taxes for the rich are something. In my case, both of those things are true, but there’s all sorts of things on the show that I’ve never discussed because they’ve never fit the sort of subject heading of what we’re doing that night.


We have to ask about the election. What do you think the polls got so wrong this electorate? 

The truth is the polls didn’t get a lot wrong. They said that it was going to be a three-point race, the margin of error is three points, so when you have a three point race, that’s a tie. And so it can go either way. Polling has become increasingly hard, every year polling gets harder because fewer and fewer people are accessible to be polled. And fewer and fewer people respond or they hang up on you. So it’s becoming a less reliable exercise. And let’s not forget, Hillary Clinton did get the most votes, which is what the polls said was going to happen. So this is a complicated one. 


What concerns do you have about a president who is so vocal and critical of the media?

The First Amendment protects the news media and the news media knows how to use it. Donald Trump doesn’t understand it, he’s never going to understand it. The concern that is real is that in the world of corporate media, how comfortable can corporations be in some kind of freedom of criticism of the Trump presidency.

For example, Fox News had nothing to worry about attacking the Obama presidency every single day because responsible, decent people work in the Obama [administration]. It would never occur to anyone to take some kind of regulatory retaliation to the Fox Corporation. It would probably occur to most people in a Trump administration, including Donald Trump, to take some sort of regulatory retaliation to any large corporate media entity that has any branch of it that’s in criticism of the Trump administration. That is a new condition that the modern corporate media has never ever had to deal with.

Donald Trump brags about being litigious. The older backbones of the American news media like The New York Times and The Washington Post are going to continue to do their jobs without any fear of doing their jobs. 


What is The KIND Fund?

The KIND Fund is Kids In Need of Desks. [This] week I’m going to Africa, to Malawi, to deliver desks to schools there. We have factories in Malawi now that are making these desks. So first of all it’s a job program for people in Malawi to work in these factories making desks, desperately needed jobs.

Then we deliver desks to schools where they’ve never seen desks. Most schools in Malawi don’t have desks, that’s very common in for the poor African countries. I’ve been doing this for six years now, and it’s really changed dramatically the entire economic atmosphere in the schools that we’ve been able to supply with desks.

Lawrence in Malawi, for The KIND Fund (Courtesy NBCUniversal)

Lawrence in Malawi, for The KIND Fund (Courtesy NBCUniversal)

It sounds like The KIND Fund is something you kind of stumbled upon. What were your expectations for it as opposed to what it’s become today?

I did stumble upon it, because a friend of mine was returning from Malawi, and she’s a public school teacher so she goes to schools and had asked the schools what they’d needed. They told her chairs (or desks).

A couple of months later, I had a week where I had no obligations, and I decided to go to Malawi and see if I could get desks for the schools. After a couple of days I thought I was going to be able to do nothing, there are no school supply stores, there were no desk factories, nothing. But I did find one hardware store where there was a guy who made a school desk as a way to show what his tools could do to try and sell tools, and hope at some point the Ministry of Education might turn somewhere to try to get more desks in schools and he would be ready to make some.

I found him. He told me could make a classroom full of desks and deliver them by the Friday of that week, and that was the first delivery we ever did. It completely changed that classroom instantly. It was really exciting.

I told that story on the air, in the hope that the audience would willing to help out and maybe we’d get $50,000, which would be huge! In that first month of me talking about it, the audience contributed $2 million and we were off and running.



The Hollywood Reporter: MSNBC's Joy Reid on Election Day Predictions, Donald Trump's Scar on the GOP

Joy-Ann Reid (Getty)

Joy-Ann Reid (Getty)

If you’ve ever tuned into weekend mornings on MSNBC, you know the ever-appropriately named Joy Ann Reid, host of AM Joy. But if Saturday and Sunday mornings aren’t your jam, that’s ok, because MSNBC is getting its money’s worth out of Reid, with appearances on nearly every show they have at one point or another. 

In her profile, I described Nicolle Wallace as “delightfully Republican,” Reid, in a lot of ways, may just be her liberal counterpart with her trademark smile and infectious laugh.

Getting her start in local news in Miami, and with a Harvard education, Reid is one of the brightest bulbs in the bunch, providing analysis on the biggest stories of the day, alongside some of the heavy-hitters in news, day in and day out. 

Reid is an author; her first book is called Fracture: Barack Obama, The Clintons, and the Racial Divide. She’s also a self-proclaimed policy wonk; she’s got the important, useful ability to break down complex issues in a way that makes them digestible and accessible, priding herself on her show’s unique ability to talk to politicos who love the daily grind of K-street and also to people who’d rather not get into the weeds.

I talked to Reid on a rare day off, while she was home with her dog. 

To listen to the full audio, and some of the funny moments and candid stories that didn’t make the interview with Joy, click here.  Below is the edited version of the discussion. Enjoy.

Age: 47
Current residence: Brooklyn, NY
Education: Harvard University, Digital Environmental Study
Political persuasion: Democrat, a Liberal

Political experience: I was raised a lifelong Democrat, always really interested in news and politics. Growing up my mother was very politically active as a Democrat, my father was actually a Republican but he wasn’t an American citizen so he couldn’t vote. My mother was an immigrant but she became a citizen. After college I worked in media and journalism, worked at an NBC and a Fox affiliate in Miami. I actually got out of news in 2003 because I was personally opposed to the Iraq war and wanted to do something other than the way the media was covering and rooting for it, in a lot of ways. So I went to work for America Coming Together, which was a 527 organization that tried to help unseat George W. Bush — we failed to do that — but it was great campaign experience that I was able to put to work as a talk radio host, where I covered a lot of politics on the radio after that campaign, and in 2008 working on the end of the Barack Obama campaign. I sort of veered between news, being a columnist and commentator and politics.


Which shows do you appear on primarily?

I do Hardball [with Chris Matthews] regularly, All In with Chris HayesThe Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell. I’ve done Meet The Press a great deal, and recently have been doing Rachel Maddow’s show a lot, which has been fun. And I’ve filled in as a host for most of the shows. And on the weekends, of course, I host my show, AM Joy which is Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon ET.


How do you prep for appearances as a guest, as opposed to as an anchor?

I think the only difference either way is that it’s a lot of reading and research — but it’s not really work for me, it’s what I do anyway. I spend a lot of time poring over The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast and Newsweek. When you’re a guest, you’re told what topic you’re going to be talking about, I make sure that I’m conversant on whatever issues we’re talking about, that I’ve watched whatever speech, read up on whatever issue, and I really do the same thing as a host — the only difference is I also have to read and edit scripts.


Are there any shows you can’t or won’t go on?

We can’t go on the competition obviously, but I have a book out, so it’s a little bit of an issue that I can only go on NBC properties, obviously. In general, I’ve done everything from NewsMax TV to CNBC, which both are conservative all the way to the most liberal shows. I used to the Kudlow show as a commentator, I don’t really shy away from any ideological venue, as long as it’s a place where we can have a real conversation.


What is a common misconception about being a pundit?

Hmm, that’s a good question. I guess people assume that everyone that does punditry for a living is just sort of a thoughtless partisan, and there are some people who are thoughtless partisans, quite frankly. They’re just there to read whatever talking points get handed to them, or are so ideological there’s no way you could ever persuade them that their idea or reality is wrong. There are some of us who are open to ideas, who are friendly with the other side. I think one misconception is that pundits on the left and right despise each other, and I don’t think that’s true at all. Most of us have friendships across the ideological aisle, we have people that we’re able to debate with in a friendly way, and normally when we walk away from the table, whether it’s my show or I’m a guest on another show, we don’t walk away angry. Most of us are passionate about our beliefs, but we don’t dislike people on the other side. 


What are the most valuable appearances for you / which are the spots you really want to do?

I really miss talking about policy, I think the most valuable discussions are when we can explain the background to a policy argument. Or explain the why of something that is meaningful in a policy-sense to the American people. I think we spend a lot of time, and maybe too much time, on optics and tactics and I think that distracts people from the underlying, really important issues at stake. For instance, in elections I wish we could spend more time talking about what’s really at stake in elections, rather than just optics, tactics, and the horse race. 


It definitely seems that this election is a lot more of that than usual, right?

It’s not that it’s more, we always have an optics/tactics primacy, that’s just unfortunately the way the 24-hour news cycle works. The thing that’s most immediate is the “who’s on top, who’s ahead? Who’s behind? What does person X have to do to get ahead or to stay ahead,” rather than “what would it mean if this person were president?” 

I think that question gets lost every time. We get caught of the personality or the tactical schemes of each campaign rather than “what would happen if this person were president?”


What was your most memorable appearance so far? Any notable/memorable moments that got especially heated, went viral? 

When I was a fan of MSNBC, I always wanted to be on Hardball, so being on Hardball the first time is still very memorable to me. The first time I went on with Chris I said something, I think the questions was about John F. Kennedy versus Bill Clinton and he said to me, “You know, you’re so right!” I was so stunned because I was afraid that he would come for me, because Chris is tough! If you’re not on your game, your answers aren’t smart, and you’re not ready for him, he can be really, really tough. So I was bracing myself for it. 

It’s funny because I was in Miami for the interview and I got to the venue late because the driver couldn’t find it, so by the time I got there my makeup was terrible, we really didn’t have time to do makeup and hair, so I was looking a hot mess, and was nervous … but it’s still one of my more memorable interviews because it was on my bucket list to be on this show, with this person that I watched every night on Chris Matthews, I still really remember that. And Chris is a great person, he’s a friend, and he’s been really helpful to me. His support has meant a lot.


What are you expecting Nov. 9, and going forward from there?

My Republican friends are all pretty unanimous that there’s going to be a huge reckoning for the Republicans. Because essentially, where my book starts is in 1964, at that time it was Democrats that had custody of this small, but very vocal racial-revanchist faction in American life that didn’t like the idea of demographic and cultural change, that really resisted it. 

They lived in the Democratic party and were part of the party for more than 40 years, from The New Deal all the way through The Civil Rights Era and it was this weird coalition of Southern white segregationists and African-Americans and northern ethnic whites. That coalition was broken by The Civil Rights Era, when the Civil Rights Act passed, that faction passed from the Democratic Party into the GOP. And the Republicans have not quite figured out what to do with them. They’ve sort of made peace with them, by offering all of these other cultural tropes: support for the religious right’s ideas about imposing religion on American life, like school prayer, rolling back abortion rights, etc. Donald Trump has broken that coalition, and exposed the fact that much of the base of the Republican Party isn’t really that interested in tax cuts for the rich, and changing the capital gains tax. That’s all been sort of patched together, but not real. 

So, I think after Nov. 9, Republicans are going to have to decide what kind of party they want to be. Do they want to be a Trumpist party or do they want to be a Romneyite/Bush type of party? Because the two are not holding together anymore. So I think they’ll have a reckoning. They also have to decide whether or not they want to be a white party, because right now that’s what they are. It’s not going to be easy to survive as a party without real depth in terms of ethnic diversity.

For Democrats, I think it’s going to be a question of can they win back some of that white working class that they’ve lost over the last 40 years. 


After the election, where would you like to see yourself next?

Well, one off my big goals is to use my documentary film degree! I keep getting distracted by political coverage, writing columns and things but the next big project I’m putting my nose to the grindstone on is completing our first documentary, my husband and I have a production company. We’re working on a documentary about race and boxing. Prize fighting has always been this interesting kind of ethnic bubble where black and white men could get in a ring together, and both walk out alive, and not have something like lynching take place. That project and some others, I really want to get into that documentary space, I think it’s a great time to be making documentary films. And that is one of the things I want to focus on outside of the news realm.

And also of course, continuing to host AM Joy. I love this show, we have a great time.


Prediction for Election Night?

I think Hillary Clinton will win, I think we’re looking at Clinton winning most of the states that Barack Obama won in 2012 with a possible exception of Ohio, and maybe the exception of Florida. I think she may actually win some states that are unexpected like North Carolina, I think Nevada will probably go to her, so I think you’re going to see a slight re-alignment of the map, but the fundamentals are still the fundamentals. 

I think Hillary Clinton wins, but I think politics is not going to be drained of its ugliness by that outcome. I think having a woman become president is going to be as convulsive as having a black man become president. For different reasons, but it’s the same thing: it’s fundamental, demographic change, and not everyone likes that.

I think she’ll get north of 300 electoral votes; I think Barack Obama got about 324 last time. I could see her getting in the 320 range, in terms of the Electoral College. And I think Democrats don't take back the House. I think the Senate is a toss-up; they need seven Senate seats to take over. I think seven is going to be a little tougher, it’s 50/50 whether or not Democrats get the Senate back.



We Need To Talk About What The GOP Has Been Missing (For Years Now)

In an election where the GOP has welcomed its most unwelcome of candidates, it’s time to autopsy the autopsy, and check out some facts.

We need to talk about America. More specifically American politics. Even more specifically American political messaging.

I just read a Politico article about the GOP’s plan for Hillary’s “wake-up call” slated to take place on Nov. 9th. The “wake-up call” is primarily this: GOP voters that are endorsing Clinton now and say they will vote for her, won’t work with her after the Election Day. They say they’ll fight her, seemingly at every turn and the honeymoon will be over before she could put her hand on the Bible and the Obamas board the helicopter home.

It’s basically a strategy for being the obstructionist party under a President Clinton 45, which is... you know... something... new... they’re planning.

Except it’s not new at all seeing as it’s what they’ve been doing since they met shortly after President Obama’s election to plan blockading him at every opportunity to make him a one-term president. And we’ve all seen how that plane has landed.

Read More At The Huffington Post

23 Hours After Orlando, LA Pride May’ve Been The Scene Of My First Panic Attack

Sunday I spent the majority of the day in bed, watching the continuous coverage of the massacre that just took place in Orlando. I heard the stories of mothers searching for their missing sons, Pulse patrons unsure if their beloved were dead, alive, or injured. I watched reports evolve from “mass casualty” to “50 people are dead.”

I spent... the day glued to the coverage, wanting to turn it off just as much as I needed to watch. I felt that LA Pride, which was happening not far away, would be colored a lot differently now that a gunman had unloaded untold ammunition into a gay bar because of how he felt about two men kissing. Then, to literally bring it closer to home, to read that a man had just been arrested on his way to LA Pride with explosives and ammunition — all the feelings around being #proud were a veritable soup of conflicting thoughts and emotions.

Read more on The Huffington Post.