Love him or hate him (and among my readership I’m sure there are both kinds), Roland S. Martin is a good leader and thoughtful people need to pay attention to him even if they choose not to agree with his conclusions. In this article, Roland Martin responds to those (presumably Democrats or at least anti-Romney and Santorum) who are reacting in disdain over the comments made by the Republican candidates about unwed mothers. Clearly, says Martin, there is a problem: too many children born out-of-wedlock.
Yet what is even more shameful about this issue is that any time it comes up, some folks get so sensitive that we can’t even have a real discussion about the problem.
Indeed. We desperately need to talk in this country, but you can’t start a conversation by polarization. But polarizing is the new positioning. Dialogue dies. Brave men (and I think Roland Martin is one of them) don’t mind getting shot at from both sides. They wade into the discussion and say something like this:
As I looked at the various tweets from folks watching the debate on CNN, some chafed at the discussion, as if it were wrong for the GOP candidates to even broach the subject.
And then shortly thereafter:
It’s also ridiculous to get mad just because two Republicans are speaking to the issue. It’s certainly valid to critique them on raising the question if they’re also against providing services in order to help that mother in raising the child.
It’s valid to critique them, but it’s ridiculous to get mad just because two Republicans are speaking to the issue. Mr. Martin, you sound as if you actually hope that we’d raise our conversations to the level of intelligent discourse. Surely you dream!
But he’s exactly right. And he presses the point home:
I’ve heard black pastors, grandparents, and schoolteachers do so. So why should I be offended if Santorum does it? President Barack Obama has pushed his fatherhood initiative since he was elected. Isn’t that also a way to confront the lack of fathers involved in the lives of their children? No political party has the moral authority to own this discussion.
The discussion in this case is out-of-wedlock children. But the discussion of racism, institutional racism, racism in the church, the gospel and racism, inter-racial fellowship is not the private domain of any political party either. And if we tie our partisan politics, personal biases, and prejudices to a crisis as serious as out-of-wedlock children and racism we’ll respond with over-the-top emotionalism and polarizing stances that shut down a conversation before it even gets going.
I don’t agree with Roland Martin on everything (of course), but I love to read him. He makes sense so much of the time and he’s truly courageous. He doesn’t just say unpleasant things about people “out there”, but he says what’s necessary and unpleasant for his own people. That’s what real leaders do. Thus, his final line in the article applies to many hot topics in American culture, including the travesty of the recently Trayvon Martin killing:
Denial or a fierce emotional pushback gets us nowhere. Acknowledging a problem and seeking solutions is the only way we can reverse this horrible trend.
I will never forget observing a room full of leaders discuss a problem student, an agitator, within their institution. Professor after professor issued remarks about the bad attitude that student had. After thoroughly condemning the young man and nearing the decision to evict him, the oldest professor in the room spoke.
Men, ___________ has a rotten attitude and unwholesome way of making his point. [pause]…. But he has a point.
I was only a visitor and very young. I could not speak. But my heart shouted out, “There’s a leader.”
He dared to see his opponent’s point.