CNN, the Atlanta based cable news channel, has suspended contributor Roland Martin for anti-gay tweets he made during the Super Bowl. Martin, who also hosts a Sunday morning political show on TV One, tweeted ““If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him! #superbowl.” He also tweeted “[...] he needs a visit from #teamwhipdatass” in referring to a New England Patriots player who was decked out in pink. Martin insists the comments about Beckham were aimed at soccer and not homophobic; a claim that is simply not believable.
Roland Martin should know better. He is too bright and too astute to succumb to such demeaning language, and to use a public media channel (Twitter) to engage in such rhetoric. Let me qualify my criticism. I have known Roland for some time now. We have shared the microphone during our stint as contributors on NPR’s “News and Notes” morning program with host Ed Gordon and then Farai Chideya. Roland also carried a couple of my columns when he ran an independent website, Black America Today. He is an intelligent man who I always believe has the best interest of the African-American community at heart when he is on-air discussing the important issues of the day. In this instance though, Roland has succumbed to the homophobia that is still pervasive in the Black community. It is why this episode is so disappointing and disheartening. We have too few African-Americans on news programming today and can ill afford to lose one who consistently brought a perspective that was missing otherwise.
Roland Martin meet Brandon White. White is a 20 year-old Atlanta man who was viciously beaten Saturday outside a neighborhood store by a gang of Black men hurling anti-gay slurs. White is also African-American. The attackers are alleged to be members of a gang. The beating was captured on videotape by one of the attackers, posted online and went viral. The victim did not intend to report the attack to police but when the incident was widely viewed online, he decided to speak up and come forward. Thankfully, members of the community are speaking out, condemning the attack and working with law enforcement to try to identify White’s attackers.
This is why the tweets of someone like Roland Martin matter. Words matter, and the words of someone over the airwaves really matters. Let’s be clear though. The offense is not that the words were published over Twitter. The offense is the belief that homosexuals deserve to be treated like animals. The videotaped beating of Brandon White, in the very city that is home to the network on which Roland appears, should send chills down your spine. It is barbaric. It is this denial of the humanity of individuals due to their sexual orientation that is offensive. And, it is time the Black community came to grips with the depths to which anti-gay attitudes exist among African-Americans. It is particularly troubling that Black men, subject to harassment and violence in our society as a result of their race, would condone such treatment of other Black men who happen to be gay. There have been similar attacks upon Black lesbians, with tragic endings.
We are sacrificing our humanity for our masculinity. The two are not incompatible. Take a cue from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who respected Bayard Rustin and recognized his value while aware of Rustin’s homosexuality during a period when “gay” was truly an underground term. The machismo that is expended on humiliating and oppressing gay Black men can be better put to use rebuilding our families and communities. The measure of our strength should be the wellness of our community. Our tendency to “flex,” diminishes us as Black men when we invest time in bashing gays but don’t seem to take our education seriously or our responsibility to set examples for Black boys. We are all in the same sinking boat; though we can all be saved if some of us would quit trying to drown others. The tendency to moralize the issue of sexual orientation, and then make religiously-based condemnations, has been hurtful and betrays what most of us have been taught: we are all God’s children.
I am hoping CNN returns Roland Martin to the air. No return date has been set and I assume he will have to make amends with gay rights advocates. We gain nothing by his absence from CNN, but can benefit from an enlightened point of view upon his return.