Thursday, April 24, 2008

A note on apologies...

Apologizing is hard to do.

It's not fun to realize that you've fucked up. It's not a great feeling to be told that you were wrong. Hell, it's not really that great to be wrong. But, the reality is that we're all human, and we're going to make mistakes. And when the time comes, I think that the ability to stand up and take responsibility for our mistakes and to say "I was wrong" is really important.

But, the thing about apologies is that they don't mean jack all if they're not sincere. Now, a lot of times, particularly if you've really screwed up, the sincerity of an apology is going to be under question. After all, if you've made a major mess of things, there are likely some hurt and/or angry people questioning you and your motives. Which is to be expected. Part of making a sincere apology is realizing that people may or may not accept your apology. If you've hurt people, they're under no obligation to read your apology and say "Oh, well then, that's fine."

And it should go without saying, but clearly doesn't, insincere apologies are no apology at all. Case in point: Racialicious has a post up about an article appearing at cornellWATCH. A blogger there put up an April Fool's post that was allegedly intended as satire. It was some pretty vile and insensitive stuff. The blogger apologized, and removed the offending article, and later met with members of the Asian and Asian American Center, and issued a more comprehensive apology.

Meanwhile, over at Feministing, Jessica posted about a particularly vitriolic (and idiotic) letter she received from the Public Relations Officer of the Southern Illinois University College Republicans. In the comment thread, the author of the letter, Alex Kochno, eventually showed up to offer an apology, and inform the thread that he had resigned from his position with the College Republicans.

Now, the apologies themselves aren't what I'm particularly interested in. As far as apologies go, they're... well... they're apologies. It's what happened after the apologies that I think is interesting. When people didn't immediately throw out their anger and welcome Mulvihill's apology with open arms, the blogger responded:

Clearly, this is a very emotional subject for a lot of Asian-Americans, and I didn’t realize that. I’m sorry that I played around with stereotypes, and made fun of an ethnic group. Apparently this isn’t enough for you guys–what more do you want? You are reading a lot more into this than is necessary. Please let it go.

I signed the note. Happy?

Likewise, in the Feministing thread, Kochno responded:

You are absolutely right I thought of that after the post basically everybody that is offended by my remarks I am deeply sorry about that now could you please accept that.

Now, here's the thing... if you've fucked up, and if you've hurt people with your words? Yeah, you don't get to be pissy and short with the people who are angry at you. You don't get to cry "let it go" or "could you please accept that" like they're unreasonable for being upset. And, really, how pathetic does it make an apology look when you follow it up with that, anyway?

I'm still up in the air about whether a shitty apology is worse than no apology at all, but neither is good.

edited- 4:27

Or, as Kristen points out (taking 561 words down to 5):
"You're not entitled to acceptance."



Kristen said...

Shorter. You're not entitled to acceptance. :)

Excellent post!

Hugo said...

Yes, and perfectly in keeping with the title of your blog.

Kristen said...

Not that the first 561 words were not fabulous...