In an essay published at the website of Wake Forest University’s Anna Julia Cooper Center, MSNBC host Melissa Harris-Perry describes a disturbing incident in Iowa Monday night, when a man approached her in a hotel lobby.
“What I want to know is how you got credentialed to be on MSNBC,” the man said to her, stepping closer. “The hairs on my arms stood on end,” she writes.
Harris-Perry, in Iowa to watch the caucuses with 22 Wake Forest undergraduate students, says the man’s tone and words began to ring alarm bells:
“I just want you to know why I am doing this.”
Oh – there is a this. He is going to do a this. To me. And he is going to tell me why.
I freeze. Not even me – the girl in me. The one who was held down by an adult neighbor and as he raped her. The one who listened as he explained why he was doing this. She freezes.
I freeze. He speaks. And moves closer. Is there a knife under the coat? A gun? Worse?
And I can’t hear all the words. But I catch “Nazi Germany” and I catch “rise to power.” But I can’t move. I am lulled by a familiar powerlessness, muteness, that comes powerfully and unexpectedly. It grips me. Everything is falling away. Until in my peripheral vision I catch sight of a ponytail, the movement of an arm, the sound of familiar young voices and I remember… my students.
Some of Harris-Perry’s students, returning from observing a caucus, stepped in, joining her and raising their voices at the man, who ran out of the hotel and drove away. “It is not an exaggeration to say my students may have saved my life.”