Roland Martin Doesn't Get What All The Fuss Is About
New York, New York: Last night KQED, the local PBS station here in San Francisco, aired the excellent documentary “Stonewall Uprising.” There was an interview with a former NYPD officer, and he said something to the effect that they would raid gay bars, and arrest the patrons, because that was the law. He said you knew the law was suspect, but you did it anyway. I thought of Tracy Morgan, the embattled comedian, who hasn't just been vilified here, but who has been sharply criticized in the press.
Tracy Morgan is 42 years old, grew up in Bed-Stuy in Brooklyn, and is the father of 3 children. He has also been a working actor and comedian for almost 20 years. This frightening outburst wasn't the first time he made many of these remarks, and just a little research will turn up many instances where audience members posted comments that he made offensive, and crude remarks, targeting women, and the gay community. What he didn't do until now, was speak about stabbing and murdering his child if he or she came out as gay. That is the most heinous and offensive remark anyone could make about their child. And like the police officer in the “Stonewall Uprising” documentary, Tracy Morgan knew it was an awful thing to say, but he said it anyway.
Tracy Morgan made news again yesterday, because he made a commitment to go back to Nashville, and apologize to the fans he offended. He also made a commitment to speak with LGBTQ kids who have been thrown out and rejected by their family members, and he is going to meet the mother of a young man who was viciously murdered because he was gay. The Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) will be holding his hand, and participated in a telephone press conference, and will be facilitating his “rehabilitation” and setting up these meetings. Russell Simmons will also be holding Morgan's hand through this debacle.
During an interview with Russell Simmons on “Russell Simmons Presents Def Comedy Jam” Morgan said he thinks “Of all the sicknesses, there is probably none more abusive than homophobia. My heart is committed to giving everyone the same rights that I deserve for myself. I don’t care if you love the same sex as long as you have the ability to love someone. I am deeply sorry for the comments I made. What I am most sad about is the comments I made about kids and bullying.”
He added “If I had a gay son, I would love him just as much as if he was straight ... I might have to try to love even more because I know of the difficulty he would have in society.”I am optimistic that Tracy Morgan will start to understand how words hurt, and how words can incite and give license to people who want to harm us. I don't think he will change over night, but I do believe that if he makes the effort to listen, that the experiences he hears about will raise his sensitivity. It's a good start, and I hope he sees this through.
During the brouhaha surrounding Morgan's remarks, the only person that I've found to strongly support Tracy Morgan, is the CNN commentator Roland Martin. When he voiced his initial support for Morgan, he said he was called all kinds of names, from homophobic to racist. Some people pointed out that remarks advocating violence toward children, was what they objected to most, while others spoke of bigotry and homophobia. Martin contends that because Tracy Morgan has said similar things before in his act, and that other comedians make gay jokes, sexist jokes, racial jokes, that our reaction is too politically correct.
He says that we all have seen and heard comedians make jokes about people and things that are bigoted and racist, often pay money to see these entertainers, tell our friends how great the show is, and that we have a double standard when we say that bigotry has no place in our society.
“If all expressions of bigotry are wrong, then it's wrong on the comedy stage. If all sexism is wrong, then there isn't an exemption on the stage. If racism is always bad, then let's have zero tolerance. If all homophobia is unacceptable, then no one -- friend or foe -- gets a pass. If violence against women should never be joked about, then let's hold even comedians accountable. If we say that no one should ever joke about violence committed against children, gay or not, from this day forth, it ends.”
Admittedly, I would have cried foul regarding Tracy Morgan, albeit with a softer voice, if he didn't create the imagery of murdering a gay child. I believe that all bigotry, sexism, racism, homophobia, and violence toward women is wrong. I believe that the laws of our nation should reflect and encourage the elimination of bigotry, sexism, racism, homophobia, and violence against anyone.
Should we edit, or censor, comedians and playwrights and anyone with a voice? I say NO! I could fill pages and pages of writing to explain why I feel that way, though no one would appreciate reading that. I will say that I don't think Roland Martin understands the cathartic nature of laughter, or if he does, has not articulated it very well. If you study the origins of western comedy and theater, which is still true today, it is the catharsis, that makes the experience rewarding. The laughter, the tears, the joy, the sadness, or just feeling something, is the entire point of choosing to go to a comedy show, or enjoy a play. We don't go to be terrified, or go to hear an enraged comic talk about murdering their kid because they were born different.
Get out more Mr. Martin and you might understand, and read some Aristophanes while you are at it. You'll get it.