April 7th, 2008
05:15 PM ET

White conservative talkers should have been in Memphis


During the controversy surrounding the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, I saw many conservative talk show hosts, all white, reference the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as they model for what a black pastor should be. Several kept uttering his words taken from the "I Have A Dream" speech from the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

And as I looked at all the African American talk shows hosts in Memphis, I had to ask, "Where are the conservative talk show hosts?"

I wasn't scared to say it. Dr. King was a figure who went beyond black America. He inspired and led many whites, and folks like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Lars Larson, Michael Savage, Laura Ingraham, Neal Boortz, Michael Medved should have been there to give their listeners a front row view of the day's events. They could have talked to many of the same leaders who were on the front lines during the 1960s.

I always get a kick out of these talkers who sit behind their microphones and talk about being true patriots and lovers of America. Well, guess what? There were few events over the last 40 years that were as patriotic as the Civil Rights Movement, where America was forced to accept that the U.S. Constitution was also meant for African Americans.

This was one of those events where they could have come out from hiding behind their microphones and interface with many of the folks they are always criticizing. We touted a “Conversation with Black America” on CNN, but imagine had these talkers showed up and we were able to show a “Conversation with White America”? That for me, is always the problem. When we talk about King, it’s always a talk among blacks, but to move a conversation forward about race in America, talking and hearing from white America is also important.

If you listen to their shows, be sure to ask them their thoughts. Where were they on April 4?

– Roland S. Martin, CNN Contributor

Comments to the 360° blog are moderated. What does that mean?

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. carla

    I'm sick and tierd of hearing about the whole race issue ,didn't we get pass this with my generation.Sure there is always going to be ignorant people of all colors who are racist,but the majority of us got passed it a long tome ago.Women have been looked down on and had to fight to get the right to vote.And still are paid less then men,but
    you dont hear us crying about things.When we got the right to vote,we never looked back.

    April 8, 2008 at 11:05 pm |
  2. Lanette in CA

    Jim...YOU'VE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Its unfortunate that folk like you still think like this in 2008. Why can't an educated, self-respecting, God Fearing, American born and raised, entreprenuer, family man, African American man be President of the United States?

    Did you forget that it was blacks that also built this country? When did America become home of just one race and who christened the white house only for anglo's? I think by electing Barack Obama as the first African American President, it will open doors for many different nationalities to come-How about a Hispanic or Asian President, does that scare you too? The world is changing. Change with it or it will change around you and you will be stuck in Alabama in the same mental state that you are in now. Did you not understand the change in George Wallace in his latter days-he saw the light-why can't you?

    Truth be told, Reverend Wright's sermons are no different than those of Martin Luther King's. Truth hurts doesn't it? What God puts together let no man put asunder. That's not meant only for marriage. No matter what the pundits, bloggers or so-called patriotic conservative talk show host spew in poisonous word venom, If its time, its time. Stop hating and start congratulating!

    Who sanctioned Sean Hannity as the American spokesperson for Patriotism and Christianity anyway? I have an answer for what he espouses: BLANK ENGLISH VERNACULAR: TALKING A LOT, BUT REALLY SAYING NOTHING.

    April 8, 2008 at 7:52 pm |
  3. Mike in NYC

    Good post Jim!

    Martin wrote:

    "When we talk about King, it’s always a talk among blacks, but to move a conversation forward about race in America, talking and hearing from white America is also important."

    White America is only permitted to speak when they genuflect before the altar of multiculturalism. Even "right-wing" media types rarely depart from the accepted script in any meaningful way.

    How do you think Jim would be received if he expressed his sentiments at a televised town meeting? And how many whites do you think would have the stones to back him up?

    April 8, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  4. Mel

    I suspect the conservative hosts would have been uncomfortable surrounded by the audience at that memorial. I listen to them(to the extent that I can) to hear what the other side is thinking/saying. It is amazing to me that they are guilty of the same hypocrisy of which they accuse "liberals".

    Conservative pundits like to reference Dr. King when it is convenient to take his words out of context for their purposes. They will quote the celestial oratory of the "I have a dream" portion of the speech, but will ignore the more challenging "...a check marked insufficient funds..." portion. They are comfortable with the conciliatory Dr. King, but will not embrace the radical prophet that spoke truth to power regarding Vietnam and poverty.

    Perhaps when they incorporate a "we" in their philosophy, as opposed to a "me", they may be able to truly understand Dr. King, and even appreciate the remarkable and historic campaign of Sen. Obama. But I won't hold my breath.

    April 8, 2008 at 3:47 pm |
  5. Mischelle from Illinois

    You ask where they were? Perhaps they ("conservative talkers") as you call them, do not hold the Panel of "Black talk show hosts" in the same regard as you do. Perhaps they do not consider a single one of them on the same level as a Dr. Martin Luther King. Perhaps they actually think of them as more of the likes of Rev. Wright, and therfore did not CHOOSE to sit through the "UNABASHEDLY" Black speak because they felt that the "black talkers" would ONLY dilute what Dr. King acomplished. Perhaps that is EXACTLY why Barak Obama, (and others like Oprah and Mr. Cosby) realize that they MUST denounce and seperate themselves from the "black nationalism" movement that you are defending. It is WRONG, it has no purpose except divisiveness and you really should QUIT WHILE YOU ARE AHEAD!

    April 8, 2008 at 10:40 am |
  6. Taj

    Martin Luther King is 'The Mahatma Gandhi of America". Irrespective of color & national origin, this nation & people around the world should love & honor him.

    April 8, 2008 at 10:34 am |
  7. Sharon

    Where was Obama?????????????????????

    April 8, 2008 at 9:37 am |
  8. jan

    I very much respect your opinions Mr Wright.(non-biased) It is a refreshing change from most of CNN sites. However, as a "typical white person", I can understand why whites are afraid to speak out re black issues. Only blacks are allowed to talk about race. Any comments by whites are mostly construed as "racist" by the media. Note the Reverend Wright controversy-if Clinton had said one word, (Obama was allowed hours of free air time) she would have been castigated by the cnn people. This is in spite of working tirelessly for both black and white disadvantaged people for most of her adult life. Dr King was not the only civil rights leader–just the best orator.

    April 8, 2008 at 9:36 am |
  9. erika

    How could they Roland? Dr. King stood for something, stood with the cross and treated the flag as it should have been treated. They cannot have that as they treat the flag as God. They would rather be shrouded in it than in the word.
    For Jim, Blacks have had to endure every holiday that white's told us was worth celebrating so why not honor a man who fought and died for his beliefs. Also it's called "White flight", they ran out of the city and took the tax base with them. Whites also signed NAFTA and sent the jobs out too. So, If you want to know what it's all about Jim try reading before you speak out on someone you have no real understanding of.

    April 8, 2008 at 9:25 am |
  10. donna

    Dr. king was for many people, he would be ashamed the way his memory is being used as a crouch for people to use when they are to lazy to stand up for there self. He was for all people who got treated bad and pushed around. not just black americans. People seem to forget this and us his name and memorie for there own person gain. Get over it and let the past rest in peace and start your own way. cnn and all the other news stations are just helping this mess go on. Stop crying about your color in america and stand up and help change the rules, laws and peoples minds by doing what is right. Get a ecucation or start a rally for all low income people and all who are treated this way. because it not only the afican americans who get this treatment. So like Dr. king stand up for all not one.

    April 8, 2008 at 9:15 am |
  11. Edith

    Mr. Martin,

    These are NOT the men that truly wish for racially equality and harmony.

    These men enjoy their positions "of power" and they use those positions to undermine Dr. King's positive influences on this nation.
    Men like this, truly believe in their divisive messages.

    This Nation has improved. I look into the eyes of my children...that have played hand in hand with children of many ethnicities and I know that this Nation will be all that it can be...

    I am glad they did not attend because they would have soiled the moment with their disingenuous words and appearance.

    I wanted to take a moment to comment to JIM: Sir, if you tired of hearing about Martin Luther King, you must also be tired of hearing about Lincoln, Reagan and Kennedy...these, sir, are also icons of this Nations. You may not be pleased with the policies that came from the civil rights movement (...you are entitled to that opinion, as an American.) but please be mindful of your broad generalizations and understand that this Nation is GREAT because of our efforts and our differences...even when they fall short of what each of us would call perfection.

    Be at peace in all you do...

    April 8, 2008 at 8:12 am |
  12. robert

    Other than him being a national hero and his efforts culminating in a day of National celebration (for which these same conservatives get the day off) and being remembered 40 years after his death, there is no reason why they should be there at all, its a black issue and obviously doesnt affect them.
    Which is the same reason that large parts of white america wont even contemplate engaging in the larger debate involving prejudices and race.
    because they think its a black issue and their obviously happy with the present situation and glad to let things remain as they are. Which is probably the reason that people like Jim@ 7.48 ET will never change his opinion on anything regardless of how much facts and information are presented to him.

    April 8, 2008 at 5:37 am |
  13. Robert McCall

    I appreciate your approach to reflecting on the rememberances and salutes to the legacy of Dr King and those that contributed to the great social, political, economic, and spiritual development of our nation in its most recent 50 years.

    Obviously there still are (as evidenced even by the commentary listed here above), and have always been, very strongly held belief systems around race and ethnicity in America that drive us apart.

    Archealogical findings confirm that for some 97% of human existence on this earth, human social structures and systems have been characterized by high degrees of interdependent cooperative relationships...in other words no WAR. War and tribalism are a recent pheneomenon that seems to occur more often and with greater ferocity as we see "progress" and misunderstand its fruits for and invitation to social independence.

    We are confronted with great challenges as a nation right now with issues of economic competitiveness, legal justice, attacks against our constitutional rights, education system development, health and food supply, our political standing among the international community, and the sustainability of our physical environment.

    We have every opportunity to solve these and other challenges but are kept from the terrific resevoir of real and tangible progress in these areas due to simple divide and conquer tactics by a powerful few.

    Racism is concocted, so is sexism, and every other such cancerous socialogical phychosis by the power elite composed of many hues/races.

    The white conservatives you mention are pawns, bit players in a game that are used with great skill to "posture the board" such that advantage is gained and maintained by the power elite.

    If all working class, as well as poor and rich, but especially the vast middle were to realize that they all need and desire the same things, and that they could continue to be provided with ease by themselves when a "coming together" way of life becomes the norm (as it was for millenia of our existence to this point), we would all be celebrating Dr King.

    I am a capitalist and I am of the opinion that Dr King was an American patriot of the highest form and anyone with integrity in their arguement would be representative of this themselves in their words and actions.

    April 8, 2008 at 4:23 am |
  14. V. J. Kincey II

    Once again a politician seemed as though they just do not get it. This week Sen. McCain went to Memphis, Tenn. To remember the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. until recently Sen . McCain opposed having a holiday to remember Dr. King in his home state of Arizona. Yes we all can have a change of heart however, this is just another of Sen. Mcain has seen things in a different way. The most important to me is his new found tolerance of the Agents of Intolerance. No, do not believe that we should be able to change our minds. We should be rexamine position abour subjects or people, no matter how large the issue may be. I do not know about the conservatives but Sen. McCain has not appeased this African American voter. We are left again to choose the best of the worse.

    April 8, 2008 at 4:02 am |
  15. Larry

    You are absolutely correct if you are implying they should have been in Memphis, but then you have excused Senator Obama's absence, so why not a blanket pardon.

    For some reason Roland, you have unconsciously/consciously established a double standard that applies across the board when it comes to Mr. Obama.

    You crucify any and all that are critical of Senator Obama, for whatever the measure/issue maybe. But then on the other hand you excuse him. You as well as most of the media are setting the Senator up for a big fall in the eyes of the world. Think about it!

    April 8, 2008 at 3:32 am |
  16. JohnA


    a) believes everything he hears on right wing talk radio.

    b) is a hate filled, ignorant white male.

    c) blames blacks for his own failures in life and his inability to achieve the "American Dream".

    d) doesn't have any factual information to back up his statements.

    e) has to make fun of other people to make himself feel better about his own physical shortcomings (small penis).

    f) has never studied history.

    g) has never actually listened to Air America: he just repeats what he is told to by Rush Limbaugh.

    h) thinks that FOX News is not biased and provides balanced news. ( that's why he's posting on CNN)

    April 8, 2008 at 2:35 am |
  17. AJ

    Great commentary and I agree with you completely. The reality is that the majority of the conservative talk show and tv hosts have no idea what they are talking about. They are unfortunatly very close minded and not open to the many sides of the truth. Before they speak as experts about the black church and throw MLK's name around as the utopic and only acceptable example of a black preacher they should read up on their history and show some respect to the man that they are referencing.

    Unfortunatly just another shortfall of the American Educational System which only covers MLK and Black History with a movie and a book report in February.

    April 8, 2008 at 2:10 am |
  18. gary mitchell

    I applaud your article and its conclusions. Republicans continually elevate Ronald Reagan to the level of demi-god when actually his greatest accomplishment was the fracturing of our society. By elevating some segments of voters and disenfrancising the rest, he created his Silent Majority. This event more than any other undid the social gains made by Dr. King leading us to a the place we find ourselves in now. And in light of these events, I completely understand the sentiments of Reverand Wright.

    April 7, 2008 at 11:27 pm |
  19. Annie Kate


    I'm not surprised they weren't there; I would have been shocked if they were. I sometimes listen to them and the only thing I get from their talk is that America and its constitutional rights are only for people who agree with them.

    You are one of the few hosts who try to be fair and consider other viewpoints. The rest don't believe in diversity and they show it daily.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    April 7, 2008 at 10:47 pm |
  20. Chuck in Alabama

    I'm more interested in why Obama wasn't in Memphis or at the State of the Black Union in New Orleans.

    Is Obama taking the black vote for granted?

    Is Obama trying to distance himself from everything "black" (including Reverend Wright) in order to woo white voters?

    Where the heck is he lately anyway? He's not getting ANY air play.

    April 7, 2008 at 9:18 pm |
  21. JIM

    Why should white conservatives go the Memphis. I am tired of hearing how great Martin Luther King was. I was there when affirmative action was enacted due to Martin Luther. I was a subject of reverse discrimination many times. A good example of Martin Luther King is Detroit MI. The blacks ruined it in 5 years. They ran the white folks to the northern suburbs. Now it is murder capitol of the world. I am willing to bet that Jack Cafferty (who should go to Hair Club forMen) would try to convince me it was the white's fault. However, it is a good example of what would happen if blacks ran the government in a state or being president. CNN is definitely the TV version of Air America totally biased

    April 7, 2008 at 7:48 pm |
  22. Bernice

    Like they were going to be there – their followers wouldn't know what to think after all those years of preaching superiority.

    It's funny because I liken the Sean Hannity's, Neal Boortzs and some of the other conservative radio hosts as being about the same or maybe worse than Rev Wright – they are all trying to lighten the fire up under their followers. I can remember when I lived in Atlanta, hearing Sean and Neal blatantly fanning racial animosity over the AM stations. And I have listened to John and Ken yell and scream about who and what they are against.

    Why do I listen, as a 42 year old black woman? Because I want to hear what they're saying, although I must admit that I turn when they get too outrageous and most of the time I only listen to Bill O'Reilly who is fair most times. I take what I can and leave the rest. The same as I'm sure many of Rev Wright's parishoners did.

    But it is amazing to hear these holier than thou 'patriots' get rabid if you don't show your patriotism the way that they do - that you're not a 'good American' . Please.

    April 7, 2008 at 7:37 pm |
  23. Kent, Illinois

    Home and "afraid", in a fetal position in the corner. They can talk and talk all they want. But, when it comes down to it they really don't understand what MLK jr. was all about, and how it relates to what is going on right now in America.

    April 7, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  24. Cindy

    We all know that the so called white conservative talk show hosts are all just blowing hot air! They are all talk and no do! Does it really surprise anyone that they didn't show up in Memphis to remember King!? They just want to start trouble or fights with people to further their shows and careers. They have no intent on doing anything that would make this country better. If they did what would they fuss about then?

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    April 7, 2008 at 5:32 pm |