Melissa Harris-Perry: ‘What is riskier than living poor in America?’

By Arturo Garcia
Saturday, September 1, 2012 17:20 EDT
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A discussion on the racialized political rhetoric surrounding welfare took a turn close to home for Melissa Harris-Perry on her show Saturday morning, as she offered author and BusinessWeek columnist Monica Mehta a glimpse at the kind of places in which people who need of social-assistance programs often live.

Harris-Perry’s animated remarks were a response to Mehta’s opinion that President Barack Obama’s much-twisted “You didn’t build that” speech missed an emphasis on risk-taking, something she suggested enabled class mobility in America.

“What is riskier than living poor in America? Seriously!,” she said, slamming her hand on her desk. “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 live in a neighborhood where people have to figure out how to get their kid into school because maybe it will be a good school and maybe it won’t. I am sick of the idea that being wealthy is risky. No. There is a huge safety net that whenever you fail will catch you and catch you 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”

Mehta attempted to clarify her remarks by saying risk-taking is what separates entrepreneurs from other smart, hard-working people, all of whom use the same government-provided roads.

“Some of us go to Dairy Queen, and some of us start businesses,” Mehta said.

Harris-Perry later apologized for her actions during the segment. Her emphatic response to Mehta starts at the 8:15 mark of this video, posted by MSNBC on Saturday.

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Arturo Garcia
Arturo Garcia
Arturo R. García is the managing editor at Racialicious.com. He is based in San Diego, California and has written for both print and broadcast media, including contributions to GlobalComment.com, The Root and Comment Is Free. Follow him on Twitter at @ABoyNamedArt
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