Melissa Harris-Perry Just Showed What It Means To Give No Fucks About What White People Think

MSNBC screenshot
MSNBC screenshot

Before we get into what it means to give no fucks about what White People™ think, we must first establish what it doesn't mean. Because existing in this fuck-less space is complicated, and it's easy to conflate and confuse existing there with other things that exist independent of its existence.


Basically, it doesn't mean you harbor consistent antipathy for White People™. You can actually give no fucks about what White People think and have White friends. Close White friends. White significant others. Even White people in charge of the potato salad. It also doesn't mean you don't care about the opinions of individual people who happen to be White. You can not care about what White People™ think, and care greatly about what your White co-worker thinks about your annual reports or whether she's bothered by the hot sauce aroma emanating from your cubicle whenever you eat celery. Because your Black-ass puts hot sauce on celery.

What it does mean is that you value yourself, your voice, and your status — specifically, the integrity of your self, your voice, and your status — more than you value how White People™ feel about you, your voice, and your status. You recognize that the "White Gaze" exists, but it doesn't factor much into the thoughts you have and the decisions you make.

For those unsure of how that looks, pay attention to what Melissa Harris-Perry did this week. Specifically, what she did yesterday.

From Melissa Harris-Perry rejects MSNBC Deal in scathing farewell:

On Tuesday, the outgoing MSNBC host said that her exit negotiations with the network fell through after she refused to accept the terms of a non-disparagement clause that she described as "a gag order."

"They wanted me to sign a non-disparagement clause, and we had a deep disagreement over what constituted the non-disparagement clause," Harris-Perry told CNNMoney on Tuesday. "They wanted me not to speak about MSNBC. I said no."

James Perry, Harris-Perry's husband and the one who led the negotiations with MSNBC, said that MSNBC's non-disparagement clause would have restricted his wife to speaking about MSNBC only when it was "positive or in her academic work."

"I'll never get another penny from MSNBC," Harris-Perry said.

Oh, and these happened too:


Throughout this ordeal, which began last week and feels like it will continue for weeks to come, there's been a consistent strain of criticism about how she has handled all of this, even from people who support her. They believe she's unnecessarily burning bridges. And while that's likely true — I'm sure there are network executives who've pledged to never work with her again after this — it's also spoken from a perspective of giving a fuck about what White People™ think; of suppressing your very valid thoughts and feelings and words because it might affect how you're regarded by them.

Obviously, Melissa Harris-Perry has the status, the resume, and (presumably) the bank account to exist in this fuck-less space in a way that many of us can't. But that doesn't negate the value of her existing there. Because there are many Black people with greater statuses, more impressive resumes, and bigger bank accounts who don't. And never will.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)


miss t-lee

Hey…if you're in a position to go full scorched earth, you take that opportunity.
I ain't mad at her.

Towards the end of 2014 I started a new job. Within the first two hours of starting I knew that it wasn't gonna work. I stayed there about 6 weeks before I gave them a two day notice and peaced out. I worked for a lady who could best be described as Satan's minion, so best believe she got cussed out six ways from Sunday before I quit.
'Twas glorious.
20 years from now I'll remember making that woman cry and I'll smile. Good for you MHP.