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Q&A with Mellissa Harris-Perry, the new face on MSNBC

Amity Paye AmNews Web Manager | 11/1/2012, 11:53 a.m.
This weekend, there will be a new woman on the block-or at least you'll get...
Q&A with Mellissa Harris-Perry, the new face on MSNBC

AmNews: Do you know what the subject of the first show will be?

MHP: I don't know, in part because it will happen as a result of the news cycle. There are a few things on the board that are placeholders, but if Syria goes crazy over the next two weeks, if Rick Santorum says something crazy-all kinds of things could happen-if the president decides to go back on his birth control decision, any of those things could end up being the lead story for us.

AmNews: Is there anything you're more excited about covering? I'm sure the elections are going to be big for you, but is there anything else?

MHP: I've got to tell you, part of the reason I said yes to never having another Saturday morning where I can just hang out and ride bikes, part of the reason I said yes to a job that makes it impossible for me to attend my church-while it's a huge opportunity, on the other hand there are certain kinds of personal sacrifices associated with it-the reason I said yes is because I consider it truly an enormous, enormous honor to have the chance to be a part of the public conversation when we are either going to re-elect the first African-American president or not re-elect the first African-American president and have the first Black president be a one-term president. That, for me, is a fascinating, historic political moment.

I felt during 2008 like one of the luckiest people in the world to have the chance to weigh in these little two- or three-minute segments about the election, when we had women running first for the presidential nomination and then for vice president, when we had a Black man running. We were really changing what was possible in the electoral system.

The idea now that I have a show is we're going to talk about the role of religion in politics, we're going to talk about whether or not abortion is going to stay safe and legal, we're going to discuss whether or not we're going to have marriage equality and move forward in expanding civil rights or whether we're going to restrict them. In the next year or two, we're going to determine whether or not the Voting Rights Act of 1965 is going to stand or whether it's going to be abolished in its current form.

When I think about the idea of having the ability to host a show where we can have smart conversations about all that and engage the American public, I'm a little overwhelmed by it-but it's also really exciting.

AmNews: Do you see yourself as a different type of role model on TV or as a contrast to the Black women who portray some more stereotypical roles on TV?

MHP: I am not a prude about the things we like to watch on TV. On the one hand, obviously, "Sister Citizen" is in part about these negative stereotypes that exist about Black women, but I want to be careful. I don't think TV produces them. Quite the opposite; I think they are very old, I think they go way back. In fact, if they didn't exist, if those negative stereotypes weren't part of our social discourse, then "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" actually wouldn't be a problem, it would be just entertaining and wouldn't have an impact on the lives of Black women. We would have problems but they wouldn't be political, racial and gender-based.