Why Joy Reid Will Be Real About Race and Politics

MSNBC’s newest host has never held back when it comes to honest analysis of the issues that make America squirm.

Joy Reid
Joy Reid Seher Sikandar/The Root

As she takes her seat on a television-show set that’s right at the center of any given day’s most contentious political and cultural debates, the vitriolic attacks against Joy Reid from faceless Twitter followers are guaranteed to increase.

And it’s safe to say that critics on the right would cheer if her commentary were to “lean forward” just a little too far, making her the latest MSNBC personality forced to apologize or step down. But Reid, the cable news network’s newly appointed host (and the fourth who identifies as black, if you’re counting), doesn’t plan to let the pressures of the new platform temper her expression of the kinds of opinions that have fueled her nearly 15-year career in media.

“You can’t do this job with a fear of what might happen,” she says. “I don’t think I could go in from a point of view of fear.”

Her new show, The Reid Report—its name is borrowed from her blog and personal Twitter handle—will launch on Feb. 24 at 2 p.m. The program is slated to be what Reid—who’s already a regular MSNBC contributor and frequent guest host, in addition to her roles as managing editor of The Grio and Miami Herald columnist—calls a “table-setter for prime time” that includes “a lot of policy and politics, as well as things happening in the culture right then and there.

“Everyone at MSNBC has a different, unique perspective,” she says. So, how will her personality and priority color her daily hour? One thing’s clear: The veteran journalist delights in the opportunity to weigh in on the messy places where race rears it head amid political and cultural headlines. 

Her background suggests that when this happens, she’s going to do just what seems to have always come naturally to her: Give it to America straight.

Reid is no stranger to looking at current events through the lens of the African-American experience. On any given day at The Grio, she says, “our goal is to find what the broadest spectrum of black readers care about.” She doesn’t drop that perspective entirely at the door of the MSNBC set, either. While the demographics are different, she insists, “It’s crucial that the African-American voice and perspective isn’t drowned out.”

Not far from her mind as she curates news and interviews guests on The Reid Report will be the book she’s working on, which unpacks the racial and cultural history of the Democratic Party. And it’s worth noting that when it comes to her ethnicity and political party, she sees the former as a more reliable lens through which to filter current events.

“It’s hard not to view things as a black person. For African Americans, your racial identity is something that affects the way your life is lived out,” she explains. “The Democrats used to be the Republicans, and if they were to go back, I wouldn’t be there with them. The Democratic Party in this iteration is more welcoming ideologically to me, but these parties change.”

A first-generation American with a father from the Congo and mother from Guyana, Reid says she was raised in a family that was not only hyper-engaged politically (“My mom taught us the importance of voting every time, from city council to the dog catcher,” she recalls), but also tended to see America from an outsider’s perspective. “My mother’s critique was very much an immigrant critique of the country—she viewed America in sort of an idyllic way, and then didn’t find it to be that way,” she says. Along with that critical take on politics and culture, she says her mom bestowed upon her something even more valuable for a pundit-in-the-making: plenty of encouragement to express herself. And that, she did.