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Melissa Harris-Perry Angrily Goes Off On the Risks of Poverty

MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry briefly lost her usual professional cool on Saturday morning when a guest on her show suggested that entrepreneurs who start new business are not afraid of taking big risks in their lives, compared to the poor people who never succeed.

Harris-Perry, a political science professor at Tulane, had been sparring all morning during her show, “Melissa Harris-Perry,” with a Republican finance expert, Monica Mehta, who had some ideas about why some people stay poor and others become big winners in the U.S. economy. Mehta suggested it was because the entrepreneurs are willing to take risks.

Finally, Harris-Perry had had enough.

“What is riskier than living poor in America?” she said angrily. “Seriously? What in the world is riskier than being a poor person in America. I live in a neighborhood where people are shot on my street corner. I love in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kids into a school because maybe it’ll be a good school and maybe it won’t.”

Harris-Perry, who lives in New Orleans, pounded the desk on the MSNBC set.

“I am sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky,” she said. “No! There is a huge safety net that whenever you fail will catch you and catch and catch you. Being poor is what is risky! We have to create a safety net for poor people and when we won’t because they happen to look different from us, it is the pervasive ugliness. We cannot do that!”

Mehta appeared taken aback by the unusual outburst and grinned sheepishly.

The debate was centered around the line in President Obama’s speech when he implied that entrepreneurs relied on government funds to create the infrastructure that allowed their businesses to succeed. The president said “You didn’t build that!” during the speech, which Republicans pounced on to attack the president for alleging that entrepreneurs didn’t build their business. The Obama campaign said the president merely meant that entrepreneurs didn’t build the roads that they use.

Harris-Perry, the founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South at Tulane, has quickly become a darling of the progressive left for her willingness to use her show to delve into thorny matters of race, gender and politics. But with her quick wit and formidable intellect, she has managed to keep the weighty debates on her show—which he calls “nerd headquarters”—entertaining and thought-provoking.


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4 thoughts on “Melissa Harris-Perry Angrily Goes Off On the Risks of Poverty

  1. Hmmm. How about poor in Mexico. Poor in Haiti. I think MH-P should probably send in more tax money since she obviously isn't doing enough to help her fellow man. Hypocrite!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Aaron You're a jerk. This woman is doing more than enough to remove the blinders from the eyes of people like you. Unfortunately, you wont take the time to realize that you can't see passed your own biased opinion. Who says MH-P doesn't acknowledge poverty on an international level? Who says MH-P isn't doing enough to help her fellow man? Grow Up Dude!

  3. Go Melissa! You are not only a "formidable intellect," you are heart & soul to me & all these faculties were truly expanded with your amazing outburst last Saturday!

  4. By the way, that also means that people like you and I should also be doing what we can in our own little communities to help people we claim to want to help. It's not government's responsibility. If all we do is cry about what government is not doing and we ourselves…you (reading this) and me…to help "poor people" then we need to do some serious thinking about where we really stand.

    You would be surprised how the smallest things can help. Give praise to a struggle single mom. Support your local Boyz and Girlz Club. Distribute flyers to neighborhoods about services that might be useful to help people improve their lives.

    Volunteer in the hood. Write short notes of wisdom and leave it behind in places that eyes of those who might benefit may chance across.

    Many ways to give back that won't cost too much or take much time and all little contributions to spreading knowledge and positivity will just keep adding up to motivation, inspiration and hope.

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