Roland S. Martin is a nationally award-winning and multifaceted journalist. A nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate, Mr. Martin is the author of Listening to the Spirit Within: 50 Perspectives on Faith, and Speak, Brother! A Black Man’s View of America. Mr. Martin is a commentator for TV One Cable Network and also host of “The Roland S. Martin Show” on WVON-AM/1690 in Chicago. He can be heard daily from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. He is also a CNN Contributor, appearing on a variety of shows, including Paula Zahn Now, Anderson Cooper 360, Lou Dobbs Tonight, and many others. Clutch sat down with Roland to find out his thoughts and feelings on the state of our culture, the “N” word and being a Black man.
Q: You have accomplished so much in your career! What keeps you motivated?
I have a very simple philosophy. When I wake up and my legs work and my eyes work–I’m motivated. I think too many people get caught up in complaining. I say if God gives you another day–it’s a blessing.
Q: Clutch is a magazine for African Americans, and we understand you have a very beautiful and intelligent woman on your side. If you were to describe your wife in a few words how would you describe her?
If I had to describe my wife in a few words, I would say calm, fulfilled, spiritual and balanced. I feel all three are critically important because my life is crazy, hers is back and forth. In this day and age to maintain a strong marriage you have to be fulfilled, balanced and spiritual, cause that is what is going to guide you and keep all the craziness away.
Q. This year has brought many acts and symbols of racism all over the U.S. Why do you think so many cases uprooted this year into the spotlight?
First of all race is in the DNA of America. Race has been at the forefront of this civilization. It’s the one topic people do not like to discuss because it is so deeply embedded. I think we have always seen that, whether it’s Don Imus, Jena 6 or nooses. Racism has always been there. Primarily because we don’t like to be honest and confront who we really are, and that’s a problem. I think when you confront your inner most feelings and who you really are then that is when you are going to see a change. That’s why I have a history of being honest and challenging people. Because we don’t want to be honest with ourselves–we make excuses.
Q: In the controversy over the hip-hop star Nas’ s choice to name to his album The N Word how do you feel about him using the word for the album title, and what’s your stance on the use of the “n” word in the Black community?
First and foremost, I need an explanation and understanding from him on this issue. I need to know what’s the point, does it even have a point. See that is the difference. I just refuse to say “we are taking this word back.” There are some things I don’t need to take back, there are some things I don’t even want, and so I don’t understand the rationale behind it.
On the use of the “N” word:
When I ran the Chicago Defender we put in on the front page. I said two things; either we stop using it or stop complaining when somebody White uses it. I’m sorry, you can’t have it both ways. I don’t use the word anymore, and in fact, if someone around me uses it I say “hey, don’t use it,” and that is where it starts. People ought to just say enough is enough.
Q: In your opinion, what’s the one issue Black/African Americans need to fess up to and start to deal with?
Education. There is nothing else in this country, nothing that can remotely compare to getting out of poverty than education. We have to own up to the reality that in order for African Americans to escape this pit that we are in, we are going to have to confront this issue of education.
I don’t get folks dropping out of school. I just don’t get it. We have to be stupid, ignorant, crazy about the issue of education. We have to return back to the time before Brown Versus The Board of Education when parents preached, “I might not be able to get an education but, I bet your butt will.”
Q: What’s your outlook of the future of people of color in media? How has it change from when you first started to now?
Clearly what has to happen is we need more. We are seeing a change in the industry because of niche publications, online magazines, websites and blogs. So,we are seeing more people expressing their views and using their voice.
Q: What advice do you give to an upcoming journalist?
The same thing that Bernard Shaw would say which is simply, “if you don’t know how to write you won’t succeed.” I tell anybody that wants to be on television that looking pretty, having the right clothes means nothing compared to what comes out your mouth. So, people have to develop their skill set and then understand the skill set. You must know how to construct the story, how to add the questions and how to be aggressive. That is what is boils down to.
Q: What makes you proud to be a African American Man?
The rich history. People ask me all the time who is my role model–is it Bryant Gumbel, Martin Luther King Jr.? No..it’s my Daddy. My parents have been married for 40 years. My Dad has always been in our lives, he is the person that fed me, clothed me and raised me. So, I am not afraid to walk into a room confidently. I talk confident, so I am not going to be shy. I’m not going to be weak and just bow down. Because of what he taught me, I am the proud Black man I am today.