Black professor on how she saved broken white boy Sam Nunberg from himself

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Maya Wiley may have had a little Princess Shuri in her heart when she chose to save a broken white boy from sinking further into the depths of political darkness after former Trump aide Sam Nunberg continued to melt down on live TV.

Wiley was a guest on MSNBC’s Ari Melber’s show and so was Nunberg, again making his rounds on TV, spewing his “his arrogant, privileged contempt for our legal process,” in racially charged language, she said. Nunberg’s erratic behavior was on full display and on a previous show he had already admitted he was taking anti-depression meds.

Nunberg was speaking out to explain his frustration with the ongoing Russia investigation by Robert Mueller. Nunberg was subpoenaed by the special counsel and was instructed to turnover all email correspondences with several White House officials, including Steve Bannon and Roger Stone to Mueller’s team.

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But instead of going in on Nunberg, Maya Wiley, a Henry Cohen Professor of Urban Policy and Management at The New School in New York City, took sympathy on Nunberg and instead helped him to understand the gravity of the charges coming against him if he refuses to cooperate.

Maya Wiley wrote a commentary on Buzzfeed.com explaining her reasoning for trying to help Nunberg.

  1. She sympathized with his ignorance: Melber asked Nunberg if his lawyer thought his refusal to comply with a subpoena was a good idea. He’d clearly not spoken with his attorney about it, but added, “I definitely know my father doesn’t like it.” Wiley said her immediate response was, “I think your family wants you home for Thanksgiving, and I hope you will testify.”This seemed to be an “ah-ha” moment for Nunberg who obviously hadn’t thought through his defiance. The conversation didn’t end there. Nunberg didn’t seem to believe federal investigators would ask a court to hold him in contempt and put him in jail. He didn’t want to spend “80 hours” looking for subpoenaed emails. At that point, Wiley said she looked him in the eye and said slowly, “You’d rather spend possibly a year in jail rather than 80 hours going through your emails?” It appeared to finally dawn on him that jail was a possibility. Wiley said the real magic was that she shifted from a cold analyst, coming for blood, to real talk. Keeping it real is what black people are known to do, especially to clueless colonizers.

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  2. A Cool and Calm Conversation: Maya Wiley said Ari set the tone of the show for a calm and caring conversation, and even asked Nunberg if he was okay, rather than asking if he was drunk. Another guest, former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade, also clearly and simply laid out both the opportunity to negotiate with Mueller’s team and the consequences of defiance, she said.
  3. Seizing an Opportunity to be an Activist: Maya Wiley said Nunberg was like a chatty, childlike adversary, blustery and arrogant and utterly outmatched. “Listening through my earpiece as he scoffed at concern about his history of racially offensive words—and undermined any sense of sincerity in his previous apologies—was a gut punch,” she said.Still, she admits, “I don’t know exactly when I shifted, but I believe it was when Nunberg mentioned his father’s concern for him. I watched my father die when I was nine years old. I revered him. A civil rights and economic justice organizer, he was funny and friendly and warm and laughed even in the middle of a fight. One of my mother’s favorite stories about him was how he, a college student earning his way through the Army ROTC, would have to drive through the segregated South to get to the base. He would insist on stopping at “whites only” restaurants and ask to be served. It was the 1950s. He would enter, smile, sit, and chat. He never got served, my mother said. And yet, white Southern segregationists were kind to him in return and felt bad about refusing him. She used to joke that he could befriend a Klansman if he wanted to Hyperbole? Sure. But the point was clear. We can be outspoken activists and be kind. In fact, we must be kind, human, who we truly are.”

    Maya Wiley said in that moment, she saw Nunberg as a son, not a son of a bitch. “I started talking to him as if he was sitting in my kitchen. What I wouldn’t give to have my father here to be concerned for my wellbeing; to guide me in racially charged and divisive times, when our country has lost so much of the ground that he fought for.”

  4. Making a Human Connection: One thing that’s lacking in the Trump administration is compassion and empathy for people. Wiley said while she feel sorry for Nunberg, she did feel some compassion towards him. But even more she says it was “real human connection.”“Yes, it was that,” she admits. “And I am reinvigorated by it — by the privilege of being on TV to create a conversation around what matters.”
  5. Her background: Wiley said she is a lawyer by profession and an academic by vocation and a racial justice crusader by mission. While she was ready to do some damage to Nunberg, she instead used the platform as a teaching opportunity. Since then Wiley said an outpouring of emails and messages from strangers from all over the country has been a humbling and inspiring experience. 

    “In an age of anger and arrogance, we seek compassion and humanity. I have been wrapped up in the warm embrace of my fellow “small d” democrats, who yearn for a nation of people who stand up to ignorance and hate by climbing to higher ground. The soul of our nation is our people and we must find a way to each other or be lost. Viewers showed me that we aren’t completely lost. Not yet.”

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