By now almost all of America knows Roland Martin, the CNN analyst, on Super Bowl Sunday sent out a tweet criticizing a TV commercial featuring soccer star David Beckham in his underwear. Martin said, "Ain't no real bruhs going to H&M to buy some damn David Beckham underwear!... If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham's H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!"
That wasn't all.
Martin called for a New England player who arrived wearing a pink jumpsuit -- to get a visit from "teamwhipdatass."
I'm sorry. It can't be glossed over. Whether he realized it or not, words like that are the equivalent of cheerleading for violence against gays.
The Gay & Lesbian Alliance against Defamation, GLAAD, immediately began a petition to have CNN fire the analyst. Roland quickly defended his tweets, saying they weren't homophobic, but misunderstood. Days later, CNN suspended Martin, calling the tweets "regrettable and offensive."
Since the outcry, Martin has met with officials from GLAAD.
If you question whether this is much ado about nothing, the advocacy group on its website also added a video of a man being brutally attacked in Atlanta while people shout anti-gay slurs at the victim. "For some people, this is what 'smacking the ish out of them' can look like," GLAAD said. WARNING!!! The graphic violence can literally take your breath away.
Did Mr. Martin think he was being cool, perhaps funny with his tweets? Maybe.... but that type of language "normalizes" a culture of violence.
Baffled at why Martin would go public with such thoughts, I decided to go to his webpage. We don't know each other personally. Our only interaction was when I was with NY1 News as their Political Anchor, and Martin and I attended a social gathering where Oprah Winfrey was present. His apology is front and center on his webpage.
"As someone who has spoken out forcefully against bigotry against African Americans and other minorities, as well as sexism against women, I fully understand how a group who has been unfairly treated would be offended by such comments, and, again, I am sorry for any offense my remarks caused."
Reflectively I thought that maybe this issue is too personal to me on an individual level because many of my best friends are gay, from college to 30 years later.
However the sad reality is lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people -- and those perceived to be -- are bullied every day, and sometimes even killed. Severely beaten up for no other reason than their sexual orientation. Pick a region, any city or county in America. In fact this is a global problem.
It's just not right. It has to stop, and we cannot foster an environment for bullying or hazing for that matter where young people are literally dying to join in. We cannot help ignite the fire of hate, and then indemnify ourselves from any responsibility.
Mr. Martin in his statement also pointed out that he had been a victim of bullying and said he was disheartened his words would embolden prejudice. He went on:
When we witness violence in this country against someone because they are gay, or being beaten because they are Black, that speaks to a vicious cycle that seems to be never ending.
My joking about smacking someone, whether it was in response to a commercial or food they prepare for a Super Bowl party or wearing an opposing team's jersey, was stated in jest. It was not meant literally, and in no way would I ever condone someone doing such a thing.
As I said repeatedly, I often make jokes about soccer in the U.S., and my crack about David Beckham's commercial was related to that and not to anyone's sexuality. To those who construed my comment as being anti-gay or homophobic or advancing violence, I'm truly sorry. I can certainly understand how someone could come to a different conclusion than the one I meant.
On the pages of The Huffington Post, Mr. Phill Wilson the President and CEO, of the Black AIDS Institute had this to say:
"Roland's tweets were offensive and homophobic. For me that's not debatable. When I called Roland, he told me that his intent was to mock soccer as inferior to American football in order to rile his friend Piers Morgan. He seemed very sincere to me, and I believe him, but that hardly excuses using anti-gay rhetoric to make his point. We live in a world where lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people -- and those perceived to be -- are bullied and victimized every day, and sometimes even killed. Roland's tweets remind many LGBT people of humiliating insults they've suffered in the past. By implying that certain people are not manly enough, or commenting that men in pink suits need visits from #teamwhipdatass, he is feeding right into rhetoric that degrades gay people at best, and evokes violence against us at worst. Context matters.
What is also not debatable for me is that Roland Martin is not a homophobe. I've spent time with him and his wife. I've had both public and private conversations with him about his opposition to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," his support for gay marriage, and our individual personal lives and relationships. He is not the kind of person to advocate violence against LGBT people, or anyone else for that matter. Context matters."
All of us should have a renewed commitment to not use any language that demeans others.
I strongly suggest that everyone clicks on the Atlanta beating link where the victim is viciously attacked for no other reason by the mob than he is gay.
Yes, it happens in 2012.
That young man could have been my son, or your child.