There is a growing outcry among some Blacks over the suspension of CNN contributor Roland Martin over his anti-gay posts on Twitter that gay rights advocates decried and the cable news channel determined were offensive. This is unfortunate and it misses the point. While we support Roland’s First Amendment rights and are generally ideologically aligned with most of the positions he takes on the air, his off-hand and casual reference to violence in his tweets deserves no defense. At a time when gay Black Americans bear the burden of daily insults, and worse, face violent attacks such as the beating 20 year-old Brandon White received in Atlanta last week, we need not rally the racial troops around a television commentator.
This is not about homophobia per se but the apparent loss of humanity in our community. What has distinguished the Black experience in America is not our ability to endure suffering, though it has certainly been heroic, but the fact that we have never sunk to the level of the oppressor. Our humanity has endured through slavery, Reconstruction and the Black Codes, Jim Crow and present-day economic dislocation. Sadly, we now seem to be in a race to the bottom. It perhaps explains the dysfunction in our community when there is more outrage over the suspension of a television pundit than the murder of children at the hands of street gangs, the permanent criminalization of Black boys, the abandonment of our children, the killing of unarmed Blacks by the police and our early death from a myriad of preventable diseases.
Where are the voices of reason and sanity in the African-American community? It is Black History Month and much of the outrage over the suspension of Roland Martin is targeted at a white-owned cable news network when we have television outlets that have yet to commit to creating credible news operations. Yes, we understand the symbolic and practical importance of having Blacks on-air on cable news channels that are helping to define the public debate on important issues. Still, history teaches us that without such inclusion on the airwaves we managed to change the course of this nation and in the process transformed America. Our aspirations have become so narrow that we are missing the forest for the trees.
Of course, there are instances when we must rise collectively and take action to protect one of our own who has been wronged. This is not one of them. We are not cheering Martin’s dilemma nor wish him the worse. In fact, we are saddened that he finds himself in this predicament. We cannot though dismiss the reason why he is now suspended and turn our anger toward gay rights advocates who called him out. GLAAD and other gay rights activists who took issue with Martin’s tweets are not the issue, as some now suggest. Would the Black community and Black leaders have been silent if similar words were directed, whether by intent or not, toward African-Americans? Of course not; just recall the Jimmy “the Greek,” Trent Lott and Al Campanis episodes. The truth is that in this instance the offense is acceptable because of the rampant homophobia in the African-American community.
We cannot have selective outrage or express concern for some suffering and turn a blind eye when certain groups are impacted. Whatever our personal religious beliefs, truly none of us can believe we have the moral authority to cast judgment on the right to exist of anyone created by the hand of God.
We are bigger than that and our history demands more than that from us. From the founding of our nation through the civil rights movement, Blacks leaders spoke truth to power and were validated by principled positions. Today, we are largely silent on the issues of homophobia, gang violence, police brutality, academic failure, discrimination against immigrants and Muslims, domestic violence and a range of addictions. We are the conscious of this nation and the moral ruler by which progress is measured. Is it any wonder that there has been little progress lately when the conscious of America is napping?
Perhaps it is divine providence that we are being confronted with the situation in which Roland Martin is engulfed. It is an opportunity to think about what our community represents.