First Person Singular: CNN senior analyst and host of 'Washington Watch' Roland Martin

CNN senior analyst Roland Martin, 42, lives in Washington.
CNN senior analyst Roland Martin, 42, lives in Washington. (Benjamin C Tankersley - For The Washington Post)
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Sunday, February 27, 2011

When people come up to me and say, "You are a black leader," I tell them: "You're wrong. I'm a journalist who is doing what I do and staying in my lane." But I do believe, as one of the few black journalists on the air who is specifically commenting, that what my responsibility is, first and foremost, is to be true to myself. So, I am not going to say, "Oh, what will black folks say about this?" I will take a position, even if I know a lot of black folks disagree; that's not my problem. You see, that's the danger if you feel you are representative of the black community, because what that then means is that every time something comes up, your immediate thought is: What will the community say? Then you start predicating your position on what they might say; then you have no authentic view. So I start with the premise of: This is what I believe, this is where I stand, these are my values, these are my principles. But those values and principles that I hold near and dear are a result of growing up in a black family, in a black neighborhood, going to a black church, knowing full well my history, ancestors, being a student of history and making it perfectly clear that when I am standing there, I am operating like Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, Lerone Bennett, Vernon Jarrett -- African American journalists who said, I will use my voice to speak truth to power.

I don't filter. If it comes to my brain, it's likely gonna come out my mouth. I remember we were on the Anderson Cooper show, and he said, "Roland, what do you say about the people who believe that President Obama wasn't born in the United States and he's a Muslim?" I said, "They're stupid." And we're on the air. John Avlon said, "Roland, we can't call the American people stupid." And I said: "Well, actually, we can. The ones that believe he's a Muslim and don't believe he was born in the United States -- we can call them stupid." I didn't say all Americans. I'm sorry. You're thinking it; you know it, the issue's on the table, when you're having friends over for drinks or when you're talking with your co-workers. You're saying, "They're stupid." I just go ahead and actually say it on the air.

I've always found the notion of objectivity an absolute joke. Because the reality is, everybody -- they have an opinion. We all walk into a situation with our viewpoints, with our biases. And so the question then becomes, how do you control that? Do you give someone a fair shake? Are you willing to be able to look at multiple viewpoints? That's the real issue.

-- Interview by Robin Rose Parker

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