In a special segment devoted to how parents of African American children can explain why a man who killed an unarmed 17-year-old black boy was found not guilty, Harris-Perry said that during her pregnancy she hoped for a girl because she feared the adversity her son would face growing up black in America.
“I will never forget the relief I felt — I’m a sexual assault survivor — and yet the relief I felt at my 20-week ultrasound when they told me it was a girl,” she said. “And last night I thought, I live in a country that makes me wish my sons away, makes me wish that they don’t exist because it’s not safe.”
Joy-Ann Reid, an MSNBC contributor, added that she too is afraid for her teenage African American sons “because everywhere they go, everything they are wearing, their demeanor, the way they walk, are they looking at you funny, everything about them is supposed to be suspicious.
“As soon as they are out of my custody, out of their dad and my care they are waiting suspects. Waiting to be arrested by police, followed around a store, made to feel uncomfortable in a store like they are not shopping, they are stealing, questioned about where they are, why are they there,” she said. “You always have to teach them these horrible lessons in 2013 that you need to be really careful about who is around you.”
These fears are justified by national statistics. A 2007 study by the Department of Justice found that African Americans and Hispanics were three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop. Blacks are also twice as likely to be arrested and nearly four times as likely to experience the threat or use of force during interactions with the police. Moreover, In 2011, the New York Police Department stopped more young black men than the entire population of young black men in New York City, even though stops of these minorities are half as likely to garner weapons, compared to stops of white people.