Headlines say a thousand words.

Roland Martin, a political analyst for CNN.com, has a new opinion piece up.

It’s called “Time for Obama to go gangsta on GOP”

In the piece, Martin says what a lot of us have been thinking: that President Obama needs to stop playing nice with the GOP, and concentrate on running the government and keeping his campaign promises.:

This is where the president needs to show his toughness and just do it. Forget the threats. The actions of Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, and other Republican obstructionists will continue if President Obama allows them to run roughshod over him. When you’re the top dog, you do what you have to do to govern. Allowing Republican senators to continue to deny your appointments is nonsense.

Unfortunately, this message is lost under a much heavier cultural message: that because President Obama is black, getting tough means imitating gang members, and use intimidation and violence to get what he wants. There are are number of problems with this message. One is the assumption that every gang member is black, so, every black man is a gang member. This is not true. We all know it, I don’t need to dig up statistics to show this. This plays into a fear White America has cultivated, that certain people are to be feared because the color of their skin is different. Skin color does not a violent person make, contrary to what messages like this imply.

It also implies that black men cannot be ‘tough’ or firm without resorting to violence, putting them into a homogeneous group based on a basic physical characteristic, leaving no room for differences based on upbringing, education, individuality, religion, and so on.  This kind of thinking puts black men in the same “them” or “other” category as women, differently-abled, GLTBQIs, lower-income folk, and so on: that every “othered” has the same behavioral traits, education, economic status. To put it simply, it is stereotyping.

Secondly, messages like this make it seem like gang membership and imitating actions associated with gang membership is culturally acceptable. Intimidation, fear, violence, and drugs follow into a community with gang membership. These are all problems our communities struggle with. Yet, associated President Obama with this demeans him, while at the same time elevating gang members.

Resorting to this kind of language is intellectually lazy, and irresponsible journalism. Print media has a responsibility to avoid headlines like this, that stereotype and degrade entire groups of people. Trading human dignity, respect, and good writing for page views is detestable.  Martin, and others like him, need to be reminded to think before you type.

Unfortunately, I cannot find a way to contact Mr. Roland. If anyone finds his e-mail, please leave it in the comments, so those who wish to comment on his piece may do so.

As a side-note, I would avoid reading the comments on the piece.

Update (13 February 2010, 2:15am): Just checked the opinion page on CNN.com, and it appears, at least on the main opinion page, that editors have changed the name of the piece to “Time for Obama to get tough.” However, on the page of the piece itself, the original title remains. It’s something, at least.


About Brittany-Ann
Brittany-Ann is a proud, self-identified feminist with fictional tendencies. She currently writes for LouisvilleKY.com and moderates at My Fault I'm Female. She smokes camels, reads Dumas, and navigates a conservative state as "one of them darn liberals."

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