Melissa Harris-Perry, Panelists Explore Economic and Racial Justice During DNC

By Sameer Rao Jul 26, 2016

Besides being a nexus of Democratic Party planning and leftist organizing activity, the Democratic National Convention (DNC) also draws leading public personalities for conversations about American society. Journalist and scholar Melissa Harris-Perry moderated one such conversation during a panel staged by Rock the Vote’s Truth to Power event series. 

The video above, streamed live this afternoon via our Facebook page, depicts part of "Are We Lifting All Boats? Economy and Race." Scholar and writer Jelani Cobb ("The New Yorker"), actress Rosie Pérez ("Do The Right Thing") and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) vice president Gerry Hudson joined Harris-Perry for the panel, which unpacked the complex relationship between racial and economic justice.

Most of the conversation focused on capitalism’s historic connection with racial oppression. "The system that crashed in ’07 and ’08 was based on subprime loans given to Black and Brown families," Hudson said of the 2008 financial crisis. Relevant to the location, Cobb discussed W.E.B. DuBois’ "The Philadelphia Negro," noting how the end of slavery decimated the South’s planter economy and (alongside racist terrorism and Jim Crow)  compelled The Great Migration. Perez broke down how successive generations of immigrants received privileges and social standing that pitted them against African Americans.

The panel later addressed ways to empower the "hustle" many Black people have to conduct in informal economies to make money, mentioning on how police shot Alton Sterling while he sold CDs. Cobb also touched on the hypocrisy that emerges when many free market principles are applied to Black commerce. 

"People will say, ‘Oh, we believe in the free market.’ Then you get Negroes in the NBA, and you all of a sudden want a salary cap?" Cobb said, garnering appreciative murmurs from the packed audience. "When you apply that logic to healthcare costs, then you’re a socialist?"

The panel was part of Truth to Power, an event series and pop-up exhibition operating in Philadelphia during the DNC. Presented by voter enrichment organization Rock the Vote, Truth to Power also features an art exhibit with original socially confrontational works by artists including Shepard Fairey and Banksy.

Anything cool going on during the DNC that we should cover? Let us know in the comments.