CNN’s Roland Martin defends Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant because the audience laughed

CNN’s Roland Martin went off tonight in a bit of a harangue in defense of Tracy Morgan’s homophobic rant.  Martin’s two main arguments in defense of Morgan saying he’d kill his son if the boy turned out gay?  1) The audience laughed.  2) Other comedians are homophobic too, and their audiences laughed.

It’s not entirely clear why Martin thinks the masses laughing at the suffering of a minority somehow makes an offensive joke okay.  I’m from Chicago.  I grew up hearing lots of n-word jokes.  I still hear them when I’m back home.  And people laughed, and they still laugh.  That doesn’t change the fact that the jokes were and are racist, and I speak up when people tell them.  But CNN’s Martin would have you believe that my opposition to n-word jokes, and his embrace of them, makes me PC and him enlightened.

It’s therefore interesting that Martin had a different standard when Seinfeld’s “Kramer” went off and used the n-word against an audience member back in 2006, and subsequently lost his entire career as a result.

[W]hether we want to admit to it or not, it is the DNA of those in the chosen profession of comedy to say stuff that no one could get away with if they weren’t on a stage.

Oh yes, you’ll say, “But Roland, you criticized Michael Richards for using the N-word.” Sure did. What’s the difference? I said then and now that Richards directly attacked an audience member and his use of the N-word had nothing to do with his routine. If it was in the context of a routine, it would not have been received the same.

Have other white comedians used the N-word in a routine? Yep. Comedic genius George Carlin used the N-word in a famous skit where he talks about the context of who uses the N-word and why.

It’s the DNA? That’s one of CNN’s top talking head’s explanation as to why it’s okay for comedians to talk about killing gay people: Because being offensive is in their DNA?

Okay, let’s pretend we’re not 12 years old for a second. Let’s pretend that both of us, Martin and me both, have the privilege to go on CNN (he more often than I). So let’s drop the “it’s in their DNA” crap and think about this like adults. Comedians like to be provocative, but that fact doesn’t not suggest, or prove, that all provocation is acceptable. Is CNN’s Martin really suggesting that a white comedian with a history of belittling blacks in his stand up, could get on stage, start demeaning black women, suggest that black kids are all pussies, and then say that if he ever found out that his kid was biracial he’d put a bullet through the kid’s head?  That’s seriously your argument, Roland?

And Roland Martin would have us believe that he’d be the first person to speak up in defense of said comedian.

But it’s in their DNA, Roland?

In the real world, outside of the Ku Klux Klan, we don’t justify hate based on DNA. And homophobia and racism aren’t acceptable simply because some people find them funny. Context is everything. It’s the reason why a gay person can use the word “f-g” and it isn’t offensive, and a Klansman can use it and it is offensive. It’s why an African-American can use the n-word among African-American friends and not offend anyone present, whereas a white guy using the same word to disparage blacks would be supremely offensive. It’s because context matters.

As for Martin’s argument that Kramer’s racism wasn’t okay because the comments were directed at an audience member rather than an entire race, so Kramer’s only mistake was failing to put an “s” at the end of his slurs?  Then Martin would have been okay with it?  Right.

And weren’t Morgan’s comments directed against audience members? He said being gay was a choice.  He said that it had to be a choice because God doesn’t make “mistakes.”  He said that lesbians are lesbians because they hate men.  He then told gays who are bullied to stop whining and acting like pussies.  Other than the part where he said he’d kill his gay son, what part of that WASN’T directed at ever single gay person in the audience? If anything, demeaning one audience member would seem to be a much smaller offense than demeaning an entire race of people. It’s actually much worse when you target an entire race (getting back to that DNA again).

Here’s more from Martin:

There isn’t enough space on the Internet to chronicle the number of times a comedian has said nasty and vile things. Some of it leading the audience to fall out laughing or sometimes, or as in the case of Morgan, walk out in protest. If we are to demand an apology for every time a comedian is sexist against men or women, racist or homophobic, we might as well launch a website called www.comediansapologizedaily.com.

That doesn’t even make sense. Yes, lots of comedians cross the line, so let’s not ask any of them to stop. Huh? Not to mention, this one crossed one hell of a line that I’ve not heard others cross – calling for the death of gay people. And your own son. I’m not sure what kind of comedy CNN feeds its staff, but it’s not the kind of thing I’m used to hearing.

Say I’m wrong. Fine. Say I’m insensitive to gays and lesbians. Fine. I’ll wait for the usual bigots to say that I’m defending Tracy Morgan because he’s black. Fine.

You are insensitive, and it’s not the first time.  And I’m not worried about you sharing the same race, I’m worried about you sharing a taste for bigotry.

But think for a moment at all the times you’ve laughed at comedians based on the things they had to say. Then ask yourself: Did I laugh, and why?

Because a lot of people are racist and homophobic and sexist. Are you really that dense?

Sorry, if I’m being honest here and not focusing on political correctness. I just believe that many of you would be shocked and amazed that you laughed hysterically at some of the most sexist, homophobic, racist stuff imaginable by comedians of all shapes, sizes, ethnic backgrounds, genders and sexual orientations.

Maybe this guy really does fancy f-g jokes and n-word jokes and sexist jokes. This argument that people laugh at this stuff, and therefore it’s okay, is simply bizarre. We know from history that southern racists, back in the day, enjoyed lynchings – how does their enjoyment of something incredibly disgusting in any way make the thing itself somehow okay?

Maybe none of us want to accept that as a comedian, Morgan is keenly aware of what society actually thinks, and he simply said it onstage. Isn’t that what comedians have always done? Reflect what society actually thinks, but say it in a forum where we can laugh through our pain.

That’s not what good comedians do, tell the racist and homophobic jokes we all wish we could tell. And to the extent they do, and get away with it, it’s because it’s done in a way that even members of the class attacked can accept, often because the comedian is poking fun at himself or those who would attack the class.  Archie Bunker comes to mind – Archie was a bigot, and he was written that way to educate people about bigotry.  Tracy Morgan’s jokes were meant to demean and dehumanize a race of people, they weren’t meant to educate anyone, other than fellow bigots.  Then Martin quotes Bernie Mac, seemingly approvingly.

“It ain’t what you say it’s how you say it. It’s jokes. It’s fun. But it’s the truth. In the back of your mind, you be wanting to say this shit sometimes.”

Wow. I’m simply blown away. A paid CNN commentator is saying that he sometimes wants to tell people that he’d kill his kid if his kid were gay. Th
at he sometimes wants to tell f-g jokes. That he wants to tell n-word jokes.  And that the only reason he doesn’t is the world, including apparently his bosses at CNN, are just too PC.

Seriously, Roland?


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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