Social media: don’t Twitter your ascot off

My super, well-dressed friend Roland Martin–who is known for sporting colorful, broad neck scarves known as ascots, as well as for his brash, yet pithy remarks on various CNN political analysis programs, and for his commentaries on the Tom Joyner Morning Show (TJMS) and for his show “Washington Watch” on TV One–stepped in some deep doo-doo the night of the Superbowl, because of a couple of flippant remarks he posted to the social media network Twitter.

A musician friend who is far less prominent–and who therefore has much, much less to lose–posted a sharp comment about one of the musical managers known for helping shape the career of recently deceased pop music superstar Whitney Houston, on his Facebook page.

In one of his tweets, Martin commented about an underwear ad that featured soccer star David Beckham dressed only in his skivvies. “If a dude at your Super Bowl party is hyped about David Beckham’s H&M underwear ad, smack the ish out of him!” said Martin.

My wife thought the ad in question was in such poor taste that she turned her face away from the TV rather than continue to watch the burlesque in high definition. But what in the world did Martin go and say something like that for?

He wasn’t finished. Later, Martin made fun of someone who wore pink during the Super Bowl. “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,” Martin wrote. Oh, Lord!

My musician friend was very tame by comparison, calling the manager “a snake.”

I have some advice. I wish I could have shared with Martin a month ago. It comes from the lips of Brother Malcolm X, in the opening remarks of a speech delivered just days before his assassination: “Brothers and Sisters,” he began. “Ladies and gentlemen. Friends, and I see some enemies…”

We should all understand that everyone who is our “Facebook Friend,” is not necessarily our real friend. Everyone who is “following” us on Twitter, may not really be “following” us in the reverential, admiring way we might want to think.

The Old School interpretation is: “Every good-bye ain’t gone.” “Every shut-eye ain’t ‘sleep.”

We should all mind what we say on social media, just as we’ve learned to guard what we text, and to whom, just as we’re careful of what we put in an email message, just as surely as we know to be careful what we speak. And we should never, ever advocate violence. Urging people publicly to “smack” or “whip” anybody is unacceptable.

The price that Roland Martin is being made to pay is an indefinite suspension from his Good TV job on CNN. Ouch! That’s because the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) to offense at Martin’s tweets, calling them homophobic, and they got right up in the face of the suits at CNN until they decided to suspend him.

Thankfully, neither TV One, nor Tom Joyner decided to punish Martin, although Joyner had some sobering advice for his friend: “Make it right.” “Roland, we love you and need you full force to be able to do what you do – represent us and our views on CNN and other arenas,” Joyner wrote in an open letter on his blog. “In order to continue your role on that show, on the speaking circuit, etc., it’s time for you to make a sincere apology to GLAAD. When people are offended by something we say or do, it doesn’t matter what our intentions are. The job of the offender is simply to apologize and learn a lesson about what to say or do going forward.

“We’ve gone through this with another family member who refused to turn around. I sure would hate to see pride silence another important voice,” Joyner continued, referring most likely to Tavis Smiley, who preceded Martin as commentator on the TJMS, and who left the show in a storm of criticism over what many viewed as Smiley’s personal, rather than professional criticisms of Pres. Barack Obama.

“Make it right, Roland, so we can move forward,” Joyner concluded.

And as for sensitivity to the issue of so-called “gay-bashing,” and “bullying”–especially among Black folks–required reading should be the play “The Toilet,” written in 1964 by Amiri Baraka. The Toiliet, one of Baraka’s earliest plays, is “a tough, relentless study of tenderness crushed and destriyed by an adolescent code of violence.”

Read it. Then, tweet it, if you will.

Comments are closed.