Commentary: On Roland Martin – Twitter is Not Your Friend

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by Dr. Pamela D. Reed

I last wrote about a CNN personality and perceived homophobia in my article, “Don Lemon’s Assumption on Black Women Challenged.”  Lemon had alleged in his memoir that Black women are the primary source of prejudice against gay Black men. 

Ironically, it is now Lemon’s African-American male colleague Roland Martin who now faces termination for alleged homophobia. 

By now, everyone has heard that CNN has suspended Roland Martin from his very high-profile and, no doubt, high-paying position as a political analyst for the news network seen around the world.

And unfortunately for Mr. Martin, his ill-advised Super Bowl tweets also reverberated thusly. And how could they not have, when you consider the CNN man’s stunning missives, two of which contain action verbs that suggest, well, violence:  “smack” and “whip.”

After viewing David Beckham’s Super Bowl ad, featuring the scantily clad soccer hottie, wearing nothing but the form-fitting underwear he was promoting, Martin was inexplicably moved to write these now infamous tweets: 

‘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

‘Ain’t no real bruhs going to H&M to buy some damn David Beckham underwear! #superbowl

Martin was apparently shocked that his words were perceived as “homophobic” by GLAAD, the powerful Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, who was soon demanding an apology from both Martin and CNN, as well as calling for his termination.

As the brouhaha built, the next day, he issued a statement claiming that his comments were “meant to be a deliberately over the top and sarcastic crack about soccer.” 

But many of his estimated 90,000 followers —one of whom is author and prominent lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) advocate Keith Boykin, at one time “the highest ranking openly gay person in the Clinton White House” — were not buying it.

Boykin let it be known that he considered Martin’s words “dumb.”

@rolandsmartin I’m just now hearing about this today. This is dumb Roland. And the explanation about soccer fans doesn’t make sense.’

To make matters worse, Martin had earlier tweeted about NFL player Brandon Spikes, who showed up to the Super Bowl in his lucky pink suit.

‘Who the hell was that New England Patriot they just showed in a head to toe pink suit? Oh, he needs a visit from #teamwhipdatass’

(In fairness to Roland Martin, he has used the #teamwhipdatass hashtag as a sports reference on at least one other occasion, as I found in a cursory visit to his Facebook fan page.)

Also raising eyebrows is at least one article on rolandmartin.com that not only claims that his minister wife can, basically, pray the gay away, but also asserts that Christians see no difference in “homosexuality” and drunkenness. 

GLAAD points to these antiquated views as yet more evidence of Martin’s anti-gay bias, along with Martin’s defense of comic Tracy Morgan’s comedic license to make his outrageous declaration that he would “pull out a knife and stab” his son to death if “that little ni**r” spoke to him “in a gay voice” about being bullied.

So there you have it. 

After three days of silence, CNN issued the following statement on Wednesday:

‘Roland Martin’s tweets were regrettable and offensive. Language that demeans is inconsistent with the values and culture of our organization, and is not tolerated. We have been giving careful consideration to this matter, and Roland will not be appearing on our air for the time being.’

While most of the Black leadership, such as it is, has been as quiet as the proverbial bunch of church mice on “Bruh” Roland’s situation, some in the Black community have begun to defend the beleaguered man of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.

The Washington Post ran businessman Raynard Jackson’s piece “Roland Martin CNN, GLAAD and the silence of [B]lack leaders,” in which he “went in” all of the above for their treatment of Martin.

“But most disturbing,” writes Jackson, “is the loud silence from within the Black community. I know firsthand that many in the so-called [B]lack ‘leadership’ were quick to call Martin to appear on his TV show or to get him to write a supportive newspaper column about one of their causes. But now that he is in trouble, not one voice is to be heard supporting him. Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Ben Jealous, Marc Morial, the Congressional Black Caucus — your silence is so loud!”

Another is filmmaker and activist Cleo Manago, who coined the designation Same Gender Loving (SGL), which is preferred by many African-Americans in the LGBT community, has penned the article, “GLADD’s Blackophobia and the War on Black Men,” which is both a spirited defense of Roland Martin and a stinging critique of GLAAD.

But is GLAAD really being unfair in this instance?  This writer does not believe so.

While I find much of the organization’s activism troublesome, particularly their insistence on equating the struggles of the LGBT community to that of the African-American, I think they have every reason to denounce Roland Martin’s, at best, poor choice of words.

Violence against SGL peoples is a very real problem in our society. Thus, responsible persons, particularly of the stature of Roland Martin, with his CNN credentials, should know better than to use words that could result in unintended consequences if misunderstood by just one lunatic follower.

The case of Brandon White, the young African-American man who was brutally beaten, reportedly because he was wearing skinny jeans, should serve as a reminder to all of us, including Roland Martin, that some things should not be joked about.

In fact, I would not be at all surprised if White’s Wednesday press conference, combined with all the fall-out from the Super Bowl tweets, pushed CNN to suspend Martin indefinitely.

And perhaps that is why two African-American organizations issued responses yesterday, neither offering one word in defense of Roland Martin.

The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), who had remained mum on the matter until the suspension, issued the following statement.

‘This is a teachable moment for all journalists. We are reminded that what we communicate in print and broadcast — and now through social media — has considerable power. NABJ does not support any commentary in any medium that is insensitive or offensive.’

Mr. Martin is one of our most committed members. In lieu of his presence on CNN, until this matter is resolved, we encourage the network to continue to present a diverse offering of voices in its programming.’

The National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC) the nation’s largest Black LGBT civil rights organization, also responded to news of Martin’s removal from CNN’s “air.”  NBJC Executive Director Sharon Lettman-Hicks offered this.

‘While we are encouraged by CNN’s stance against language that incites anti-gay violence, we hope they also will make a commitment to shine more visibility on the hardships LGBT people of color face when trying to participate fully in their communities.’

GLAAD also acknowledged the suspension and spokesman Rich Ferraro said, in part:

‘We look forward to hearing from CNN and Roland Martin to discuss how we can work together as allies and achieve our common goal of reducing such violence as well as the language that contributes to it.’

There are now reports that a meeting of the parties will take place any day now.  Although anything can happen, I see this meeting as a good sign for Martin, who hopefully has learned a valuable lesson:  

TWITTER.IS.NOT.YOUR.FRIEND!!!

Lastly, I would advise Bruh Martin to follow his own advice, served up in “Roland’s Holiday Party Rules.”  Plus, he should add a Super Bowl Party chapter to his upcoming book ‘Roland’s Rules’. 

Rule #1: Put the smartphone down!!!!!

Dr. Pamela D. Reed is a cultural critic, public speaker and associate professor of Africana literature at Virginia State University. Her book, Black POTUS: From The Ideal To The Real: Collected Essays On Barack Obama, Race And American Culture, is forthcoming this fall.

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