Apologies 101: Don’ts — The Racism Edition


With the recent news about minority kids being denied pool access, I can not think of a better time to post this.

In April, I wrote an article about why apologies fail, how to make a proper apology, and what the emotional benefits are of a properly delivered apology — for the receiver and the giver.

For the don’ts, Time writer Nancy Gibbs, wrote this:

Public apologies now play like vaudeville: …  the snarled ‘I’m sorry’ of celebrities who exude regret at being caught rather than being wrong

These two following examples of don’ts prove that it’s not just celebrities who exude regret at being caught rather than being wrong.

In June, Sherri Goforth, a legislative aide for Republican state senator Diane Black in Tennessee, sent out an email depicting President Obama as a spook. The aide sent the email to work colleagues with the subject, “Historical Keepsake Photo.” [link] The photo featured a collection of pictures of all the U.S. presidents; however, the last picture — the picture that should have featured the current president, Barack Obama, featured instead a pair of bright white eyes against a black background.

That image, is what you call a spook. President Obama was depicted as a spook.

For those not in the know about this slur, spook is a “quaint” Southern terminology to describe blacks. It comes from the thought that a black person’s skin is so dark they blend in with the night and that the white of their eyes are the only thing you’ll be able to see at night; like a ghost or “spook” in the night.

When news of Goforth’s email became public, the aide said:

I went on the wrong email and I inadvertently hit the wrong button.

Golforth was not apologizing for her racist email nor for sending the racist email out through state computers, but merely apologizing for sending her email out to “the wrong list of people.”

The Republican state senator Goforth works for, Diane Black, also went on the defensive; saying she has always been a friend to dark-skinned people everywhere and that she had no knowledge of the email being sent out.

Apology don’t? I think so.

The second don’t comes from Republican activist Rusty DePass, who made a comment about Michelle Obama on his Facebook page. In a status message, DePass compared First Lady Michelle Obama to a gorilla. DePass said, when called on his comment, “I am as sorry as I can be if I offended anyone. The comment was clearly in jest.”

You can view his story in this CNN video clip.

Maybe we can use this as a new way to shame kids into learning how to apologize: “Never don’t apologize Johnny, only racist don’t apologize.”


One thought on “Apologies 101: Don’ts — The Racism Edition

  1. Pingback: I Am Such An Apologist « Queens and Bees

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