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. MD in CT

    For many people religion will always dominate their thinking. For them, 100 years of earthly life cannot compare to their stake in eternity. That is true even in countries like the U.S. in which there is an attempt to formally separate religion from government.

    Americans must respect the rights of theocratic countries that do not separate religion from government. America does not have the right to militarily force a nonreligious democracy to be embraced by Islamic countries any more than forcing the Queen/King of England or the Catholic Pope to be elected by popular vote.

    The best you can hope for is in our country is to not determine the rights, privileges and responsibilities of its citizens based on any one religion or even having a religion. Our country should be religiously neutral rather than blind.

    March 23, 2008 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  2. Bill, Covington

    Mr. Martin:

    I am one of the Obamas typical Americans. Your article claims "whites routinely ask why can't we just be one nation" I have never asked that question, nor do I know anyone that has. This nation is just great, has been for 232 years and will continue for many years to come unless some wild eyed knee-jerk liberal democrap decides to change it to something he?she thinks is better, and they may have a fight on their hands.

    March 23, 2008 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  3. Sue

    Come on!!!! If a white pastor said that it would be headlines immediately and would be called racist. Why is it okay for a Black Pastor to say such degrading things about Clinton, whites and our governement and you seem to side step it? It appears we do have a
    double standard in our media. This is not proper coming from anyone and if it was my pastor I would of left the church in search of someone new. Give me a break.

    March 23, 2008 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  4. given

    Roland you are a joke..I understand you are studying to be a minister that is good because CNN can't afford to have your opinion on television. I specifically now watch Fox because your views are so skewed towards Oboma. No matter how hard you try you will never get the world to see your view that matches Dr. Wright. You are a discredit to fair journalism.

    March 23, 2008 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  5. Joey D

    Wow, that was a great piece. Everything you said in there is true, question is will people actually accept the truth...
    Obama's comments about his grandmother is true, when you see an African-American in gang attire 18-25 youre going to have a stereotype.
    People try to pretend they have no stereotype on others but everyone does. It's okay to have one doesn't mean you're a racist.

    March 23, 2008 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  6. FED UP

    Your right a lot of us refuse to accept the black persons refusal to get past the past. We, white people didn't have it easy either, remember the Grapes of Wrath? Or do you believe that was a fairy tale? Why do they always blame white people for their problems? It is an excuse to stand on the corner and attempt to intimidate others. Poor me, I just can't get a job, or clean my yard. I have to spray paint the neighborhood, that's how I express myself. If you want to call me a racist, so be it. Accept who you are, be proud of who you are. Work to show us typical white people how wrong were are, that's my challenge.

    March 23, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  7. Jamaal Kansas City, Kansas

    Martin once again thank you for being the voice of reason on this network it seems that instead of talking about the brilliant speech Barack Obama gave that has actually brought more people from all walks of life to believe in his campaign and this is fact, but the want to talk about wright.Wake Up CNN!!!!!!!!

    March 23, 2008 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  8. Ardnuas

    You are a very, very smart man...... I TOTALLY agree with you !!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 23, 2008 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  9. Ardnuas

    This was Barack's 3:00am phone call moment.... He PROVED his judgement, and his ability to UNITE us....Americans are awesome when we are UNITED.
    Obama/Edwards08 Si Se Puede

    March 23, 2008 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  10. kathleen

    Has Rev. Wright did anything good for the world? Let's hear it.

    OBAMA 2008 or No one. Most Democrats for Obama are not EVER going to vote for Hillary. NEVER.

    Retired Professional White Woman of 63 !00% for Obama from Day 1.

    March 23, 2008 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  11. Mike

    Martin, are you out of your mind? we are not in 60's, America's is not lack of understanding. They show their willingness to accept, these shown on Iowa polls and others states that they even vote for African-American president candidate. America's want o live in harmony, inter-races and so forth. However, there are several US citizen, and one of them is Dr. Jeremiah wright who think we are still in a 60's era by preaching racist and anti-America issue to attract people into his church and this is not right. Martin, please stop giving a comment about this issue. You are not helping at all to heal this issue. You just create more deeper wound because you are not neutral in reporting this case. I wish Dr. Wright come out an apologize to America people about his 911 statement and then lets thing heal.

    March 23, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  12. Politra

    America is a great country, a global leader.
    The world is hungry ,for long time, to see an American leader who can be honored as great global hero. A leader who is ideological & charismatic HERO, a new chapter of the history. Obama is a gift of God for America. So protect him.

    March 23, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  13. Phyllis/ PA

    Obama scares me. Why? He claims to be a unifier but instead he does the complete opposite. Instead of simply accepting the fact that Rev.Wright gave sermons that were hateful and join another church, Obama choose to give a speech on race relations in America. Consequently, Obama has caused race to again raise its ugly head.
    Before Obama's speech, the county still had racial problems. However, thanks to MLK the country has moved forward and was continuing to do so. Because of MLK, flames that once roared were reduced to only a spark Now, I fear that Obama’s speech has opened wounds instead of healing them

    March 23, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  14. liz

    Mr. Martin, I have seen and heard you on CNN many times and I can see that you are biased aginst Hillary Clinton. But I suppose because you are also a black man, you cannot see beyond Obama's color and be neutral. You know it and I know it...if it was Clinton's pastor had said those words you and every other black political speaker would want her to denounce this person and you would also say that you are sure that she also thinks this way. If Obama cannot denounce this man then that tells me that he does think this way too. Obama does not think too much of the american people because if he thought highly of them, he would have done so. I don't trust Obama and his words...I feel there is something there thats just waiting to be exposed.

    Anyway, Clinton does not need your support because she has alot of people who are not turncoats and are supporting her. It seems that you and other black people have very short memories.

    Clinton is the stronger candidate and she will win with or without the black vote.

    March 23, 2008 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  15. Roger

    I don't get why the media is going on and on about a damage repair speech that turned into a vote for Obama or you would be choosing to go down the wrong path. As to what you in your article brought up about not standing up and pointing a finger at the pulpit and addressing hate messages about homosexuals when heard, all I can say is remember Edmond Burke: all that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. I have read the printed statements in support of Humus by the Trinity Church that holds anti-Semitic views, I have seen the tapes with the hate speech, the anti American statements, the racism against whites and I will tell you that a church membership and Rev. Wright spiritual adviser position by Obama regarding this church and Rev. Wright is unacceptable by most Americans. No matter the media spin!

    March 23, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  16. deb in az

    i dont believe that race was the center of the stage untill it was mentioned in sen obamas address.......but after listening to rev wrights sermon in its entirety. i personally believe that he meaning rev wright is a racist and a bigot....he uses the bible to promote his hate and i think sen obama is a racist and a bigot ? not at all.......hes a politician and hes just like every other politician..... they want to win.....does racism exist in this country? yes..............racism is something that is taught and continues to be taught in every time goes by i think that most people are more accepting.....then again some people will never change.....but i do find rev wrights sermons very offensive........he attacks the country, sen clinton, former president clinton, the jestures were so offensive.......the la pd on the oj simpson his message that it is ok to cut someones head off ? with his children in the house asleep? 3 strikes was created for the career affects everyone race creed or color.... one last thing this candidate bashing needs to stop on both sides......i know everyone has his or her candidate in mind that they want to win.......but it is not necessary to make such negative statements either me the media does a good job of it.......i want a democrat for president that can lead the country and make the right choices for america........

    March 23, 2008 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  17. Tony in Chicago

    THANK YOU.. Finally someone is providing commonsense coverage and analysis and not just grabbing sound bites for sensationalism sake or political purposes. The Reverend Wright Issue is viewed through different cultural lenses molded by each particular historical experience. What most of White America views as absorbed and unbelievable, many in Black America view as something they absolutely do not agree with but have the cultural historical experience, relationships, and understanding to put it in context. This is not to say either view is incorrect just that the lack of understanding creates these disparate viewpoints. In a weird way, this Wright controversy may ultimately be good for America. Instead of continuing the course of very slowly pulling the Band-Aid off this old wound, which although covered needs lots of anesthesia, this incident has snatched the Band-Aid off and conversations are at least beginning. I hope everyone in America will step up a positively take on this challenge – only time will tell.

    March 23, 2008 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  18. Richard

    I think that it is unacceptable to explain the comments of Reverend Wright by saying that the black church does things differently. If you are a Christian, you cannot say the things that he said and live with yourself honestly.

    March 23, 2008 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  19. Where the Beef?

    As an Obama supporter you are doing a great job of framing (changing) the subject. The problem is that the audience listened for the reason anyone would sit in a church for 20 years with their pastor using anti-american, bigotry, and racist remarks. This all comes down to "judgement". Obama has shown he does not have the judgement to be President. No matter how many times you try to frame (change) the subject!!!

    March 23, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  20. Twinkle Toes Mulligan

    I just find it AMAZINGLY hypocritical that people make excuses for preaching of hate when it pertains to African Americans.

    I think people are getting tired of what appears to be reverse discrimination and saying that because what happened in the past it is okay that we can preach hate to our the legacy can live on.

    This is the 21st century folks and that same old whine is not plausible anymore. As far as what is on tv, there are so many shows with exemplary content of blacks in american, whiche I enjoy watching, that it just creeps me out to see these people like Martin or Wright using their power to incite hate and then proclaim injustice...over and over and over again.

    And, it HRC points this out, she is called a racist. Something is wrong with the picture and all Obama pointed out is that blacks are as racist as ever and that it is excusable.

    March 23, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  21. MA from La

    I registered as a democrat in 1960 . Ihave voted in every election, locally, statewide and nationally since that time. I feel this election has parted America like none other! All my adult life we have been asked to try and understand how the black race feels about how they were treated in past history. I have tried to do that. Now I would like to know when the black race will try to understand how some of us feel. I am not a rich white. My father raised a family of seven on 100 dollars a month! My first paycheck for one month of teaching was a whooping 215.00! I resent being told that we have it better because we are white ! Obama lives in a house I can only dream about and yet his pastor yells about how no one can understand his plight! I have a bi-racial great niece and a bi-racial nephew who I hope does not grow up believing that America is so against them as being expounded by some in the black race!

    March 23, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  22. waldaL

    i agree fully that we must be willinng to open and create a dialogue of understanding. I just come to realize that people want to be angry. especially those who feel obama should denouce/reject the man. i think many people instead of wanting to look in the mirror woukld rather take a stand of defense, always engaging ina fight or disagreement. Many people are afraid to look at the true history of this country and how it has affected many lives nationally and internationally.

    it's time people stop acting like victims as if wright or obama did something wrong to them.

    March 23, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. Grateful in FL

    Thank you for giving perspective to what has devolved into sensationalism. I could not agree more that our healing as a nation with regard to race relations must begin from the ground up. It takes time to develop relationships, any relationship. If we knew more about each others' race/culture/religion by learning and spending time and then celebrating diversity even if we do not agree or even completely understand – my God, what would that look like? What might be the outcome? I have always had a very diverse family of friends – I went to a Greek celebration with one friend, a salsa birthday party for a Latina friend, the NYC West Indian Day parade with another ... and I know we can and do talk about anything and everything. It makes for a very rich life. I am blessed and deeply grateful. I am a mature African American woman.

    March 23, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  24. Clare

    While your article and obama's speech are well written pieces of rhetoric, like in all important matters, words don’t count, unless they are back by actions. The truth is there can never be healing before fully admitting the responsibility for one’s actions. That is something obama hasn’t done yet… and you Martin, you are just justifying, excusing and finding ways to “try to put words in to context.”

    Yes, prejudice, of any kind, is a serious issue; however, this time, the issue is about obama’s lack of judgment, to leave the church. Obama does not have a proven record of anything that qualifies him as the next President of the US, including this topic. His refusal to leave Wright’s church, his refusal to “disown” him, only proves that he was playing politics as usual, because he knew that without Wright, he would not get the black vote. So, who is racist, who shows prejudice? obama. If he really was the agent of change he says he is, then why not starting with his congregation, in the midst of “spiritual” growth? How am I supposed to believe that he will be able to heal the nation, when he can not come to terms with his own pastor? This is yet one more issue in which I only see promises, nothing else. No actions to back his words.

    Do not excuse or justify prejudice, by doing so you are using the race card. The issue is about obama’s lack of character to occupy the most important job in the world in one the most crucial moments in history.

    CNN you keep blocking my comments; I truly hope that you post this one today. The media bias had a HUGE role in the ascension of obama to where he is now. It is time; you TOO become responsible and start doing what you are supposed to.

    March 23, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  25. William Weaver

    R. Martin you are so right on this. Way back in the sixties my church fellowshipped with a with white church in Bloomington Indiana. I lived in
    Louisville Ky. There was a real love for one another in the Church. I think
    we were ahead of our time. I was young, but as a kid I didn't think about race. It was just black kids and white kids playing with one another. A lot of the problems with race in this country is we dont see things through other persons eyes. Alot of times though ignorance we want to blame someone else for our problems. The only way to solve this is to talk to one another, as Christ would do not being judgemental. We as Americans tend to see things through our experiences.

    March 23, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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