White Dem apologizes to Nina Turner after ‘Angry Black Woman’ backlash

Hilary Rosen told Nina Turner, a Black woman, that she didn’t have any standing to speak on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She got corrected.

This week Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen publically apologized to Nina Turner, the campaign co-chair for Sen. Bernie Sanders, after she made tone-deaf comments during a segment on CNN. But some say she’s only made things worse by invoking the racially charged phrase “angry Black women” in her apology.

Thursday evening, Turner became embroiled in a heated war of words with Rosen over words written by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. It quickly devolved into a tense exchange about how white moderates often fail to hold themselves accountable.

Turner was not amused. However, she did offer a suggestion on how to make this a teachable moment.


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Many believed Rosen very aggressively attempted to “whitesplain” to Turner about the legacy of Dr. King and the weight of his words. In response to the backlash, Rosen issued an apology on Twitter.

“On air thurs I said my colleague @ninaturner didn’t have standing to use MLK Jr. That was wrong. I am sorry for saying those words. Pls no need to defend me and attack angry black women. They have standing. I always need to listen more than I talk. We rise together,” she posted in the since-deleted tweet.

Rosen also declared that she called Turner to offer an apology. She further apologized for her phrasing.


Not surprisingly, the apology didn’t go over well. She was seen as being condescending in an attempt to mitigate the damage caused by her initial appearance on CNN.

During a recent exclusive with theGrio, Turner spoke about the challenges of being a Black woman in politics. She shared how she’s opted to reclaim the stigma of being seen as an “angry Black woman.”

“The stereotypes about black women? You know, these are generational stereotypes, especially the one that calls us angry. It bothers me. It burns my behind,” she admitted, “Yes, I’ve been stereotyped. I’ve been maligned. I’ve been called an Aunt Jemima. This is a P.G. so I’m going to keep it P.G. But it really does get to me a lot. We carry lots of burdens on our backs.”

“Black women are mad. We are angry. And I’m not ashamed. I embrace it,” she continued.

“I’m leaning into it. Yes. Angry black women unite. We are mad as hell about a whole bunch of stuff. And we need other people to join us. We are taking applications. You can be an angry black woman, too.”

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Turner added that anger could be viewed as a source of power.

“I believe that what people have used to malign African-American women is really what is our strength. That is where our Black girl magic comes from because it is our righteous indignation to say to this nation that we deserve better, that our babies deserve better, that our community deserves better,” she said.

“And maybe if you’re not mad. I mean, if people are not mad about what is going on in this country right now and even this world and something is wrong. So I lean into that.”

Dr. King’s true feelings about white moderates

For context, the comments being debated were penned by Dr. King in a letter from Birmingham city jail in April 1963 in which he reflects, “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate.

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says:

“I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.”

Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”

During her appearance on Cuomo Prime Time, Turner referenced the letter while making the argument that when Sanders speaks of Democratic Socialism, he’s referring to Democratic Socialism in the spirit of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

“That is the kind of Democratic Socialism that [Sanders is] talking about, even though [FDR] didn’t call it that … It’s in the spirit of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who, in his letter to the Birmingham jail, warned us — us being the black community — about white moderates,” Turner explained.

Several minutes later, Rosen doubled back to the reference of King’s letter and informed Turner that she had misquoted the civil rights leader.



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“That’s actually not what Dr. King said,” Rosen said.

“He did say that!” Turner pushed back.

“What he said was we should be worried about the silence of white moderates,” Rosen maintained.

Simultaneously, Turner spit back: “How are you going to tell me about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Are you kidding me?”

When Rosen began to argue that Joe Biden has not been silent on various issues over the years, Turner revisited Dr. King’s letter, stating, “He said it is the point that the white moderate wants things to be comfortable,” adding “The bigger threat is not necessarily the white KKK member but more the white moderate that is more comfortable with keeping things the same.”

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“You know what? Don’t use Martin Luther king against Joe Biden!” Rosen interjected. “You don’t have that standing. I’m sorry. You don’t!”

“Don’t tell me what kind of standing I have as a black woman in America!” Turner shot back. “How dare you!”

“You have a lot of standing as a black woman in America,” Rosen conceded “You don’t have the standing to attack Joe Biden using Martin Luther king’s words.”

“I didn’t attack anybody. You’re taking it that way,” Turner said. “Listen, don’t dip into what I have to say about the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.! How dare you, as a white woman, sit up here and try to tell me what I’m supposed to feel, and what I’m doing right now!”