March 23rd, 2008
10:46 AM ET
10 years ago

Martin: Race and faith take center stage

Martin: “Our view of America is also different. Justified? No. Just different.”

Martin: “Our view of America is also different. Justified? No. Just different.”

(CNN) - The revelation of controversial comments made by the longtime pastor of Sen. Barack Obama, and the equally hot aftermath from the general public that led to the junior senator from Illinois delivering a strong speech/sermon on race in America, has opened anew the explosive connection between three of the most volatile issues today.

If a poll were taken, there is no doubt that race, faith and politics would be the most emotional, passionate and divisive topics. Why? Because all three are so deeply personal. What one person sees as a negative, another would determine as a strength.

Republicans strongly believe that they are superior and right on the direction of the nation compared to Democrats. African Americans are protective of their culture and ways of living, while whites routinely ask why we can't just be one nation with no labels. Catholics contend they are the one and only true church, while Baptists will say that being dipped in the water after making a personal decision to give your life to Christ is the true way of salvation for the believer.

As a Christian, I've seen church members go toe-to-toe when discussing either one of these issues, and can remember some late night debates in college that would have made the toes of Lincoln and Douglas curl.

So why did the comments of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright strike such a core, and how did it lead to Obama to give a speech on race? That was the question posed to me in a number of e-mails, and like Obama stated in his speech, it's really America's lack of understanding - no, refusal to accept - how the different races live and act.

Full story

–CNN Contributor Roland Martin

Filed under: Roland Martin
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Jim, American in Paris

    What???!!! Making excuses for Wright and what he says will not change anything now.

    Obama should have left this church a long time ago and certainly after hearing such incredibly strange insults towards our country.

    No one will find this unacceptable and outrageous behavior in Hillary Clinton's personal life.

    March 23, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  2. sozzi

    Mr. Martin, you hit the NAIL ON THE HEAD. Plain and simply.

    March 23, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  3. whatever

    Anytime Martin makes a comment the other side should be given equal time. Isn't that the rules for officials of the 2 campaigns.

    March 23, 2008 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  4. Mike

    Roland... you are starting to sound like an angry man on the CNN broadcast... everyone knows that all of us come from different walks of life... all of us view the world differently...

    the problem is not race here... it is the fact that Obama in the eyes of most people not "justified" why he was involved with Wright for 20 years... if he did not believe what he was saying he should have looked for another church to go to... the problem is he is asking everyone to look at Wright as a whole person not just 30 seconds of tape... Obama is new to the political game... he is fairly unknown... the american public is trying to get to know him... they are trying to look at Obama as a whole person... the american public is asking him these questions to get an idea in their minds of who he is...

    You can not expect people to view him as you do or as I do... they will view him through their experiences and walks of life.... the problem you are upset about and do not understand is this...

    Most people do not want to hear negative things about our country especially when 4000 troops have died in Iraq... everyone believes that we are fighting against radicals that talk hate against the US and our way of life... everyone has been told that it is based on religious beliefs.. it has nothing to do with understanding or accepting other races... it goes to the basic core of what every human being struggles with everyday... what is right and what is wrong???

    March 23, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  5. marywendy

    A good friend of mine explained it this way: Black churches have historically provided a safe place for people to express their frustration, anger, and opinions in a society in which they have felt disadvantaged, disrespected, and powerless. This is a place where they could first give vent, be respected and supported in their pain and seek the comfort of fellowship,and the solace in justice and divine love that was for them .
    It was therapy. It was family. It was not in the public square. And it did not, certainly lead to hatefilled acts in public. It was a place to lay any hate or resentment to rest, turn over to God, to Jesus, one's heart to be healed.
    I think people who do not understand Black history and experience in America need to consider looking into their own hearts for that empathy that they lack. Though I am not Black,(I am a white woman over 60) am not religious at all and do not go to church, I believe I can understand this . I pity those who are so easily whipped into fear and indignation over snippets from some Jeremiah Wright's sermons from 6-7 years ago as to vote against the best presidential candidate who wants to bring us all together, heal the divisions in America and defend our country from the problems and forces that threaten us all.

    March 23, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  6. Maryzep

    Quatation: "Many people felt he as trying to make white voters feel guilted into voting for him".

    Americansshould be proud of their nation. You made it possible to defeat Hitler, the most evil racists ever, and his Nazi followers. I suppose that you cannot even imagine what would have happened if the Nazis had won the battle of Europe? Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright – violence does not always create violence. Sometimes it`s necessery to use violence to reach peace and to prevent racism.

    I also got an unpleasant feeling that Obama in his speach recently, without ever expressing directly, said – if you don´t vote for me, as a black candidate, it will not be possible to prevent racism.

    March 23, 2008 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  7. bimmer


    Pardon me for saying this.

    Every time I see you on CNN I say "Here he goes again!" You are happy when Obama wins, very sad when he loses. You defend him when he is in trouble.

    When are you going to stop speaking for Obama and defend his indefensible actions?

    You are a journalist. Perhaps CNN should should delcare each time you speak that you are an Obama supporter and a secret adviser.

    March 23, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  8. D

    I commend Obama for setting the stage on race issues. I'm an African American woman and have attended many churches where the pastor, preacher, or ministor said controversial statements. I didn't approach the pastor about the comments because I know what I believe and what is right from wrong. Although, the statements weren't as harsh as Rev. Wright's and even if he believes this, it is not what I believe. I feel that it is time for the American people to have diologue about race. I also think that the entire video should been viewed because I'm hearing various things that it was taking out of context because the Rev. Wright was making a comparison but his choice of words were damaging and hurtful.

    March 23, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  9. Jake

    With all due respect, I don't think the comments that Wright made were acceptable under any circumstances. Let's be real here, if those comments were made by a white pastor about a minority group, no one would be trying to justify them by giving them a "context". The comments are devisive and Obama's support of him at the very least shows a lack of judgement. No smart poliician would align themselves with such a figure.

    March 23, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  10. Margaret


    March 23, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Raman

    Marti, how can I forget that salt and pepper sermon !

    Like the proverbial granny used to say, the dinner is bland without either of them.

    March 23, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. Will

    With all the pro Hillary bias I do not expect my comment to go through, but....

    This pastor thing is a non-issue. It is simply the news networks attempting to keep the election close in order to maintain high ratings. Pretty disgusting how modern media is affecting politics. Seriously, if my priest said something controversial (which he has), I would not expect someone else to hold ME responsible. What a joke

    The Clinton News Network is getting a bit ridiculous. It's pretty obvious that a close election benefits them, so they're throwing everything they have into trying to bring down Obama.

    The fact that the boss of one of the contractors supports Obama is entirely a non-story. Seriously, it's a pretty unprofessional hackjob to throw such an article onto the ticker and then close comments after tons of people ripped Obama and got their posts through.

    Also, it's pretty disgusting that Hillary supporters are saying that they will not support Obama in the general election. Sounds like deep seeded racism to me.

    Finally, Hillary is pretty much mathematically eliminated from this election. It's time for her to step down and let Obama unify the party. If this was the other way around you all would be calling for his head. She physically can not win, and we need to throw all of our collective support behind Obama ASAP

    March 23, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  13. Mary - Independent

    Hi Roland – I enjoy your contributing articles to CNN and also your comments on various news presentations.
    We are experiencing a country with a Broken Government, a huge division of Race and Religion and it is overwhelming!
    What can we do about it? It is a disgrace that America cannot accept all people and all backgrounds. This is not what our "forefathers" intended and they were ingenious enough to form a Constitution for us to abide by and to have protection. We may be living in a different era, but how far are we going to go before we no longer have identity as Americans?

    March 23, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  14. Jake, California

    "Divided we fall, together we stand'

    America's years will be numbered if it doesn't come together as a nation, a nation where people are free and willing to celebrate[or at least embrace) each other's differences.

    From 'the get go' The Clinton's intention was to make this a Black candidate vs a White Candidate knowing fully well that Whites are in a majority!

    Today, I am sure she and her Husband are sitting somewhere very happy given than finally the race issue has began to hurt Obama...

    Hillary Clinton's disgrace at the end of this whole exercise will be too much to bear but what's good for the Obama camp is that it will be seen as a strong side having gone through all of these challenges. It will make Obama a phenomenon.

    March 23, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  15. Muhammad

    Thank you Roland for demanding that we listen to the whole sermon, I'm an independent voter in TX, Sen. Obama was right on the money with that speech on race. It was a very thoughtful and a correct speech to give at this time because of the race issue in which the Clinton's were trying to make him out to be and it backfire on them. I would never vote for them/her because of their behavior and lies! They are not good for the direction that this country, we need change and that's why I voted for Sen.Obama. I believe the media played a couple of sound bites and as a person of fairness, I would want to hear the whole sermon before I make a judgement. I'm not a Christian but what he said is what I believe a lot of " White's" feel about this country, but won't say.
    That's all they got from the Rev. after 30 years of preaching, three sound bites thats played over and over again. I will vote again for Sen.Obama in the general elections!

    March 23, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  16. Southern White Woman Who Remembers Being Bussed As A Child And Confused As To Why

    Amen, Brother Roland! I am white and born and raised in Texas. But I was from a poor single parent home located in poor neighborhoods. I played with white, black, and hispanic children. For me as a child, I didn't see a difference in those other children. They were my friends and playmates. We stayed overnight at each others homes and shared our toys and candy with each other. I had no pregudice. I remain that same person today. But I am not blind to what blacks had to endure in those times and beyond either. I never had a privilaged life either. Maybe that is why I can see how some who were treated so wrong by white Americans and could still to this day have some resentment for it. I can understand that resentment. Anger is a strong emotion and hard to deal with when it hurt so many lives. Yes, Rev Wright's words were offensive. But I don't feel offended by it and I don't blame Obama for staying with his church. Church is also a family. Even though you care for the family, that doesn't mean you have to sit and condemn every member who says something that can offend. That includes the pastor. People need to quit sitting in judgement of Obama. It's more offensive to me to condemn Obama for loving his church and church family.

    March 23, 2008 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  17. Tiredofit

    Obama is the smoothest and best public speaker the Democrats have ever had!
    If all the rest of the obama supporters would simply keep their mouths shut he might make some progress!
    It's not the media or the Republicans messing it up it is his friends, relatives, apologists and mentors. You too Roland.

    Talk about swift boat attacks. The Republicans need not bother.
    GOD BLESS AMERICA. Land that I love. All the time.

    March 23, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  18. Tim

    I always respect you for your contribution to CNN but stop being so anti Clinton. It shows you are an Obama supporter.

    March 23, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. Sue, Michigan

    I don't see this as my white refusal to accept how another race lives and acts. I see this as a black pastor attacking OUR country. He is the one who continually fanned the flames here. The very mission statement of that church says that they are TOTALLY Afro-centric, and concerned about preserving their African heritage. That's fine, but for a man who preaches about being the leader of ALL of America, it gives me pause. I do not now think Obama is the right man for this job. It would be the same if Hillary or John went to a white separatist church.

    March 23, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  20. Brenetta

    Some people like to call themselves a Christian but thier actions show otherwise. A true Christian forgives and pray for the goodness of others. I have yet to see a true Christian reporter during this ordeal...FOX news is the devil! Racism is strong in this GREAT country! People neither deal with it in a positive manner or SHUT UP! It as though Obama never gave a speech that could lead to an adult conversation about race. It another SAD time in this GREAT country.

    March 23, 2008 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  21. Dan (TX)

    The question will be what are white Democratic men most afraid of – an angry old white woman or a young black man?

    Forget about the issues and the candidates – Americans only care about the most primal urges: sex and race. 🙂

    March 23, 2008 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  22. pj

    a brillaint artcile. Roland, you are doing what Barrack hoped for, to have an open dialogue. you are sharing your experiences in an honest manor, and i happen to agree with you and am educated by some of your comments.

    however, some people may disagree and still not be able to see your arguement and i hope that they would voice those disagreements, ask questions and continue the debate in a respectful manor that is focused on learning and understanding, not hatred and finger pointing.

    March 23, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  23. David

    Their is alot of good points Rev. Wright said that i agree with. Their is others points, i think he went overboard, and out of reality. Obama stood his ground, and showed leadership to talk about these Issue's, which many politicians downplay and many citiziens ignore which only reinforces my support for him.
    American citizen's do understand that race exists and will always. Depending on each individual agenda, what they will profit out of it and how it will suit them.
    United We Stand
    US Airforce

    March 23, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  24. John New York

    Thank you for your analysis. As always, you are an extremely enlightened voice. I hope people listen to you. What I would add is that it is unnecessary to use the term "race" at all. In your piece and in what many other people write, the term "ethnic group" could be substituted for "race" with no loss in explanatory effect. The fact is that people are cultural beings, which is what the ethnic group concept refers to, and recent DNA analysis has supported what many anthropologists have contended for decades, that different "races" don't even exist, because no one has ever been able to find evidence that there are completely separate biological groupings of people in the world. Every attempt to do so has found that populations have significant overlap and that we're definitely the same species. "The Myth of Race" by Joseph Graves Jr. does an excellent job laying this all out. It is my hope that this knowledge can become part of the dialogue that Sen. Obama is encouraging us to have. The fact is that historically, the "race concept" was created to not only divide people, but to justify who should be higher and who should be lower. This concept, that "races" exist, has become built into many cultures created through colonialism, but it is NOT found in all cultures. If the goal, in having dialogue about "race," is to bring people together, we can't really be successful if we keep using a concept that functions to keep people apart and feeling unequal as human beings. We have to deconstruct and eliminate the "race" concept, and we have the scientific evidence to do so. I have tried to post this information to CNN blogs before but my posts keep getting deleted. I wonder why that is.

    March 23, 2008 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  25. It is a 50 state plus Electoral Process - Unity & Mandate

    Martin is CNN's best commentator and most judicious in how he choses his words and provides approachable, cogent analysis. I trust this man's viewpoint. If anything, I think he has been far too fair to Clinton when juxtaposed to Begala and Carville. I'm actually pleasantly surprized how even-handed and spot on Gergan has been. Blitzer, Crowley and Schnieder are out of touch and latently biased towards Clinton – no objectivity there.

    March 23, 2008 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
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