Old, white, and unhip: that’s how the media writes off people in conservative spaces, whether it’s a Trump rally or the Fox News audience. Not too long ago, the anchors at MSNBC made a habit of counting the number of non-white individuals at Tea Party gatherings. On the left, stereotyping is in. Labeling conservatives as “old white men” allows them to discredit anyone to the right of Rachel Maddow, declaring that their “privileged” status means no one has to listen to them.
So how do liberals react to a right-leaning radio show hosted by a young African-American economics professor?
I joined the cast of the Todd Allyn Show in December 2018 when I learned they were looking for a female co-host. I would be the only white person on the show with three black men. This was urban radio—the studio was based in the Collinwood neighborhood of Cleveland, which abuts East Cleveland, the city’s roughest suburb. But I was up for the challenge. I loved the idea of getting involved with a show that featured people who don’t fit the left’s stereotype of what “all” conservatives look like.
Apparently, AM 1420 the Answer in Cleveland liked the idea, too. This major AM station started broadcasting the Todd Allyn Show in early January.
How did the Todd Allyn Show get started? It began as a podcast hosted by the show’s namesake, Todd Allyn, a professor of economics at Cuyahoga Community College, and his co-host Khalid Namar. It was broadcast by FCB Radio, a small, minority-owned radio network founded by Darvio Morrow.
Allyn and Namar know a thing or two about the left. Namar grew up in the Nation of Islam, the black separatist group founded by Louis Farrakhan. And when he was in college, Allyn supported Jesse Jackson’s presidential bid.
“In 1984 I was actively involved in Students for Jesse Jackson on the campus of the University of Akron,” Allyn told me. “hat election was the last time I said I would ever vote Democratic again. It was during this time that I started to ask questions. Why was I a Democrat? Did I really know the differences between the two parties or was I simply following along with everyone else in the black community?”
Allyn did some soul-searching and discovered a few inconvenient truths.
“I was a Democrat because that is all I heard mentioned in my family and those around me. I was heavily influenced by my peers and teachers in my predominantly black school in Akron, Ohio,” Allyn said. “The appeal of the Democratic Party was that I could comfortably be a victim. I believed I was not having the life I wanted because the boogie men—Republicans and ‘old white males’—were holding me back.”
After the 1984 election, Allyn began to study and the Republican Party. Despite learning his whole life that the Democrats were the party of “the people,” Allyn discovered it was the Republican Party that truly represented his views.
“I did the research and found that the very thing I had been speaking out against was really the Democratic Party all along,” Allyn said. “I am for freedom, limited government, self-growth and development, and the idea of if you provide more service to more people, you get to keep what you earn. Deciding to be a conservative, a Republican, a Booker T Washington libertarian, has certainly placed me at odds with my family, friends, and many in the black community.”
Allyn said he uses the show to educate others about conservative ideas, while upending their notions of what a conservative “should” look like.
“One of the biggest challenges I have found is that many conservatives are surprised to see black conservatives and think they should all sound like white conservatives. I am a black conservative and speak from a different frame of reference,” he said. “The FCB network gave us a platform where we can be who we are. I appreciate the opportunity to present ideas, educate, and let the listeners decide for themselves what they believe.”
Why aren’t more young African-Americans following Allyn’s lead and abandoning the Democratic Party? Morrow, the producer of the Todd Allyn Show and founder of FCB radio, says conservatives are failing at outreach to these voters.
“I think one of the biggest problems is that far too many conservative media outlets don’t even make an attempt to reach out to minority audiences. It’s a constant complaint among not only people like myself but among others in urban media,” Morrow said. “They don’t engage with us.”
But as the #WalkAway movement has shown, the opportunity to change hearts and minds is there.
“There are a handful of examples of a few conservative media outlets engaging with the urban market, like Salem embracing the Todd Allyn Show in Cleveland,” Morrow said. “Fox News giving a platform to people who advocate for the community like Lawrence B. Jones and Gianno Caldwell. Beyond that, the examples are few and far between. You have to go where those audiences are and engage with the people that they’re listening to.”
The Todd Allyn Show is available for download on iHeartRadio, and airs live on WHKRradio.com at 9 PM on Sunday nights.