As the controversy surrounding the tweets of CNN and TV One political pundit Roland Martin swirls unabated, one theme that continues to control the conversation is the perceived aggression of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in its “attack” on a man whom many feel was merely partaking in the time-honored Super Bowl tradition of “talking sh*t”:
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
Ain’t no real bruhs going to H&M to buy some damn David Beckham underwear! #superbowl
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
Though there has been a vitriolic back and forth between many members of the LGBTQ community — emboldened by the accusations of GLAAD — and many members of the Black community — emboldened by an archaic belief that we hold the patent on pain, suffering, and civil rights — what we’re going to do here is have a politically incorrect moment of truth.
Surrounded by beer, football, and testosterone thick enough to slice the pizza, what Roland Martin said would typically not be construed as homophobic or even encouraging violence and disrespect of homosexual people. Furthermore, gay men were probably the furthest from his mind.
It is only when placed in context of his Christian views on homosexuality and prior support of comedian Tracy Morgan’s disgusting “joke” that he would kill his son if he were gay — juxtaposed with the questionable views of his wife, Jacquie Hood Martin, who reportedly has a troubling habit of attempting to “pray the gay away” — that this story grows big hairy legs.
But that’s one issue; this is another.
Let’s be clear: With the laws and narrow-minded opinions that discriminate against the LGBTQ community lingering in our political discourse like an incurable disease, violence against them — whether physically or verbally perpetuated — is unacceptable and should be reprimanded strongly and swiftly. Unfortunately, homosexuality, unlike racial or gender bias, is something that every heterosexual man or woman can share a chuckle about because, for once, the joke is not on them because of their disability, their skin melanin-content, their poverty, or their history.
That is not, however, in any way, shape, or form what Roland Martin was attempting to do in his Super Bowl tweets.
As we move further toward the eradication of racial, gender, and other societal norms created to divide us, it is important to understand that of them all, the definitions of male and female are the ones most resistant to change.
Traditional masculine and feminine roles have not disappeared in our culture, nor should we expect them to in the foreseeable future. Martin’s statements were clearly not in any way intended as libelous, malicious, or even directed toward the LGBTQ community – and GLAAD knows it.
Martin merely provided the organization with an opportunity to further a much-needed conversation, and as a proud supporter of GLAAD, I cannot fault them for utilizing every avenue available to them to advocate for the rights of the LGBTQ community. What I will caution them against is crying wolf in the midst of much more serious battles than a series of they-could-go-either-way Super Bowl tweets, such as the young man who was recently beaten in Atlanta for being gay.
Dr. Amber Tillman, Associate Professor of Communication at Prairie View A&M University, believes that GLAAD was more than justified in their call for Martin’s firing:
His comments may represent the playful banter that some people in Black communities verbalize, however, it is dangerous and harmful because it spreads a discourse that normalizes, alienates, and destructs people. We can’t allow jokes to circulate that shun the behavior of others while praising the behaviors of some. If we want Don Imus out for talking about “Nappy Headed Hoes,” then we have to reprimand Roland Martin too.”
While I partially agree with Dr. Tillman’s assessment, Don Imus’ statements specifically targeted the Rutgers University women’s basketball team. He took pride in calling Black women “nappy headed hoes,” and even when defending himself he only acknowledged that he was wrong for the “nappy” not the “hoes” part, as if hair texture was the only insult. Just as we must focus on media responsibility and sensitivity, to honestly examine this situation, we must also consider context and intent. Doing so neither justifies Martin’s actions nor makes them less inappropriate in our discourse surrounding gender, what is does is enable us to say, “Yes, what he said was dangerous and needs to be addressed, but it was neither malicious nor purposefully intended to demean gay men.”
We’re not talking about a Juan Williams who used a platform provided for him by FOX News to share his fear of Muslims on planes. We’re not talking about a Dana Loesch who said that she would urinate on dead Taliban soldiers if given the chance.
We’re not even talking about a president who will “allow” our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to die oversees for this country, while still shuffling his feet or “evolving” on whether or not they should be granted the basic human right to get married.
We’re talking about one man, who made some traditional Neanderthal-esque comments on a social media platform during the biggest football game of the year.
And the crowd went wild.
Yes, it was wrong. No, I’m not buying the excuse that it was about soccer – unless by “soccer” he meant an inherently effeminate sport and if that’s the case, he was simply playing a game of semantics. What I am saying is that one has to dig through layers of ingrained societal roles to find anything remotely homophobic in Martin’s statement. When read in context, he clearly spoke as a sports-loving man dwelling within the narrow parameters of this society and in dire need of sensitivity training — not as a homophobic villain.
The focused targeting of Roland Martin by GLAAD is even more (let’s just use the word) “odd” when compared to their relatively civil discourse with country music singer Blake Shelton of NBC’s “The Voice.” When Shelton flew into the Twittersphere and dropped the following bomb on his followers, the homophobia was clear and not subject to interpretation:
Re-writing my fav Shania Twain song.. Any man that tries Touching my behind He’s gonna be a beaten, bleedin’, heaving kind of guy…”
Did GLAAD call for his firing from “The Voice”?
They asked him to apologize, and once he did, everyone picked up their respective balls [no pun intended] and went home. One has to wonder what their criteria for outrage is when Shelton had 300,000 plus Twitter followers at the time — now he has more than 1,000,000 — and Martin currently has a little more than 100,000.
With the call that Martin be fired, GLAAD has tipped the precarious scales between socially conservative Black Americans and the LGBTQ community into dangerous territory. Many African Americans who had previously taken a position of grudging support are now bitterly angry that Martin has seemingly been lynched in mainstream media for what many feel are innocent statements. Though some could argue that the media has been fair and balanced in its coverage of the situation, what about the racist insults hurled at Martin and his family?
GLAAD’s president, Mike Thompson, released the following statement in response:
GLAAD is aware that several members of the LGBT community have used racial epithets and race-based insults toward Roland Martin, his family and broader African-American community. We unequivocally condemn the use of racial slurs when addressing issues of homophobia and strongly discourage the use of hate speech in any context. We look forward to a healthy and productive dialogue with Roland Martin and members of the community.
So should that one statement be enough?
Should GLAAD escape vilification for the inevitable tension that they helped to spark between Black and LGBTQ communities by jumping on Martin’s statements and making sure that it reached far more eyes and ears than they ever would have without their assistance?
The answer is not a simple one, but neither is it that complex.
Racism is not around every corner and homophobia is not in every tweet. If we, as a society, are to foster a greater understanding of our diverse sub-cultures, then we must first learn to speak one another’s languages. Hopefully, both Roland Martin and GLAAD understand that it’s not always about what you say, but how the perception of what you say affects others — and perception is reality.
Marginalized groups have a tendency to believe that they hold the patent on discrimination and that could not be further from the truth. The quest for civil rights is an emotional journey, fraught with tension, violence, and often bloodshed. It is up to all people — regardless of race, sex, religion, or creed — to be mindful of where one group stands on their particular path and do our utmost best to aid in their elevation and safe arrival to equality. Just as homophobia exists within the African-American community, racism clearly exists within the LGBTQ community.
One neither cancels out nor minimizes the other; the presence of both simply illuminates that we all have some growing up to do.