CNN commentator Roland Martin was just having a little fun with his now-infamous Super Bowl 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." And "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."
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) responded, "Martin's tweets today advocating violence against gay people weren't an accident – they are a part of a larger pattern for Martin. Anti-gay violence in America is a serious problem."
Let's look at that larger pattern. In June 2011, Martin defended comedian Tracy Morgan's rant about killing his son if he talks "in a gay voice,'' because, hey, Morgan's a comedian. In 2006, Martin criticized Al Sharpton's pro-gay advocacy. He wrote that Christians are "encouraged to walk away from sin and live a more Christ-like life. In my church, this goes for the woman who is an alcoholic, the child who continues to be disobedient to his parents, the young lady who is hell-bent on stealing, and the person who is gay." He noted approvingly that his wife, an ordained minister, "has counseled many men and women to walk away from the gay lifestyle, and to live a chaste life."
CNN suspended Martin for the offending tweets. This did not quell the heated online debate. A Facebook page was set up titled "'Bruhs' for Roland Martin." Cleo Manago, CEO and founder of the Black Men's Xchange (BMX) and a proponent of the term "same gender loving" because he considers "gay" a white cultural construct, blogged on Politic365 that GLAAD "may want to consider changing their name to the GLKKK."
Manago doesn't do nuance. "GLAAD has been using the media to lynch a disproportionate number of well known Black men in recent years. These men include Tracy Morgan, Isaiah Washington, Kobe Bryant, Barrack [sic] Obama, and T.I. – among others. We can now add TV ONE host and CNN contributor Roland S. Martin to the list." He added that "lily-White organizations like GLAAD are not in the position to complain about alleged injustice from Blacks."
Alas for Manago, the folks at GLAAD are not Martin's only critics. Sharon Lettman-Hicks, executive director of the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), wrote, "Even if he meant it in a jovial manner, Roland Martin's words carry a real impact on the everyday lives of Black LGBT people, especially our youth. Given the number of rash murders, attacks and violent acts involving LGBT people of color, we cannot let statements such as this go unchecked."
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) stated on Feb. 8, "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."
As if to illustrate the message that violent words lead to violent acts, 20-year-old Brandon White, victim of a brutal recent anti-gay attack in Atlanta, stood before news cameras last week to call for justice.
Stating matter-of-factly that he is gay, White, who is African-American, referred to the video of the attack that his assailants had posted to the website Worldstar Hip-Hop: "By them going ahead and putting it on the Internet, I feel that they wanted the attention. They wanted to make themselves look like they were brave or strong, but in my opinion, I'm the brave one."
You are indeed, Brandon. Thank you for refusing to be a victim. You show what leadership is.
Roland Martin and others who joke about anti-gay violence are entitled to their views. They are not entitled to cable TV contracts.
Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.